Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it. Begin it Now! (Goethe)

April 22, 2015

Doing a Startup? Learn to Fly!

If you're thinking of doing your first startup,
and want to know what it's going to be like,
learn how to fly...

I was fascinated with flying at a very early age.
At 23, about 50 years ago,
I finally made it happen, and took a lesson at the local airport.

I had no idea that what I learned that day would apply to my career in starting and building successful businesses.

Without even introducing himself, the flight instructor walked me out to a small airplane (not the one in the photo) and soon we were taxiing toward the runway...

I was completely dumbfounded with the bewildering array of instruments on the dashboard, and the buttons, levers, and lights that were seemingly everywhere. I was impressed with his ability to deal with all those mystical controls while simultaneously talking on the radio and constantly looking around for something, but I had no idea what it was...

All of a sudden the engine roared and we began rolling down the runway, and by god, we were flying! The dream of a lifetime and it was happening all too fast for me to appreciate.

The instructor must have noticed the dazed look on my face and asks if I'm ok, do I feel sick? I hadn't been thinking about that, but no, I didn't feel like I was going to puke, thankfully.

He looks me in the eye and asks: So, you want to learn how to fly, kid?
Yes, Yes! Of course I do...
Ok, then, the lesson begins!

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

His questions spilled out at great speed, each one like a droplet of water in a full-force fire hose:

What's your airspeed?  He points to the indicator.
What's your heading?  He points to the compass.
What's your altitude?  He points to the altimeter.
Look out the window! You see any traffic?
What is the engine speed? He points to the tachometer.
Are your wings level with the horizon?
Which way is the wind blowing?
Are you climbing or descending or flying level?
Are you flying straight or turning?
What's your oil temperature? He points to the gauge.
Oil pressure? Another gauge.
Where's the airport?
Can you make it back if there's a fire?
Fire?  Holy shit! Airplanes burst into flames?
Where would you land if the engine quit?
And then, I swear, he turns off the engine, and the once-spinning propeller is stopped.
The silence is like Death, and now I know I have a madman for an instructor.
Where?  Where would you land?  Look out the window, point to a place you can land.
I point to a place that looks like a field. He says No, too far away.
I point to a highway. He says, again, too far away.
The ground is getting closer all the time, and I'm convinced that this is the day I die...
Then he turns the engine back on and starts to climb to safety.

I'm totally confused. It's overwhelming.
He's a sadist, I'm sure of it. Insane!
Nobody can learn all this, let alone master it.

I thought this was going to be fun, but this is pure pain.
And I haven't even touched the steering wheel, but he doesn't call it that.
Everything has a special name, nothing is familiar.

Maybe this flying stuff isn't for me after all...

Welcome to learning to fly.
Doing a startup is the same.

So much to learn, so many things that can go wrong, so many ways to fail.

I stuck with it, and earned my solo permit after only 8 hours of instruction,
and then I quit flying for the next 28 years, while I focused on business.

I applied those flying lessons to the several businesses I started over the years,
and one of them (TeleMagic) was so successful that I finally bought my own airplane
(the one in the photo, a newly manufactured but 1935 design, Waco YMF-5, built by Waco Classic)
and flew it for the next 7 years, all over the USA and Europe.

Of course,
I did eventually learn about all those buttons and knobs and dials and gauges.
I did learn how to navigate, and communicate on the radio.
About the hazards of weather and how even innocent clouds can kill.
I did learn the federal regulations governing all things in the air.

I even learned how to have Fun while flying.
Aerobatics! Loops and rolls, and spins, and more.
Different airplanes: Open cockpit biplanes, The P-51 Mustang, the Spitfire, floatplanes, gliders, multi-engine airplanes, the B-17 bomber, more...
It was wonderful, better than I could have imagined.

But it took time, lots of time.
And practice.
There were mistakes.

Even the simplest mistake in an airplane can kill you.
As with business, not paying attention can have the most severe consequences.

When you learn to fly, you learn from an instructor who has lots of experience.
And you fly with them until one magical day they certify you to fly solo.
But that is just an illusion, you may be able to fly without your instructor, just not with passengers.
No way are you allowed to risk other lives with your inexperience.

Only after many hours of book learning, and tests to be sure you know the material,
and many more hours of flying with an instructor to check you out on the finer points of flying... only then are you certified to be a pilot in the eyes of god and man.

Even then, it's really just the beginning; a license to learn more.
You'll never stop learning.

And so it is in Business.

The big lesson keeps playing out:
Either you are IN control, or you are OUT OF CONTROL.

As pilot-in-command, and as CEO,
you MUST be in control at all times,
in a constantly changing environment.

You must always be checking your current situation with your flight PLAN, and know what you are going to do if/when things conspire against you, as they most certainly will.

Pay attention. To everything. All the time.
Focus on the most important things.
What is the PLAN?

And, in the middle of all the chaos, you want to have Fun, right?


(more later)

April 18, 2015

Startup Reading 4.19.15

Prototyping is always worth it
Prototyping is always worth it - Futurice.com
Smoke Tests: Comprehension vs. Commitment - GrasshopperHerder.com

The Innovators Dilemma for SaaS Startups - Tom Tunguz
Management Myths vs. Facts - Results.com

10 Experiments to test your startup hypothesis - Founder Institute
Reward Success and Failure, punish only inaction - Berkus

Your Product Demo Sucks because you're focused on your product - First Round
The 5 Ps of Productive Meetings - Results.com

CFO to CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people, 
and then they leave us?
CEO: What if we don't, and they stay?
From Garry Ridge, CEO WD-40

You don't build a business.
You build people and then people build the business.
Zig Ziglar

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Peter Drucker

April 12, 2015

Startup reading 4.12.15

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Uncommon Ways to work Smarter not Harder - Quora
The Few Sentences You Need to Dominate Your Market - KissMetrics

How to Have Your Customer Build Your Product For You - Founder Institute
Onboarding New Hires to Maximize Engagement - Results.com

Set Yourself Up to Succeed - Results.com
Kanban Flow for Project Management - Kanban Flow

3 Ways to get your time back - Results.com

The two most important days of your life are the
 day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

None of the market leaders in technology
were the First Movers.
Steve Blank

April 3, 2015

Startup reading 4.5.15

source: http://fi.co/posts/14191

The tragedy of life
is not that it ends so soon,
but that we wait so long to begin it.
W.M. Lewis

I live in that solitude which is painful in youth,
but delicious in the years of maturity.
Albert Einstein

Save a little money each month and at the end of the year
you'll be surprised at how little you have.
Ernest Haskins

Only the curious will learn, and
only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning.
The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.
Eugene S. Wilson

Reading well 
is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
Harold Bloom

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
H.L. Mencken

The best way to have a good idea
is to have a lot of ideas.
Linus Carl Pauling

Look wise, say nothing, and grunt.
Speech was given to conceal thought.
Sir William Osler

You've achieved success in your field
when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play.
Warren Beatty

March 29, 2015

Startup reading 3.29.15

How hard is it to be CEO? - Quora
The Terrible Technical Interview - TechCrunch

Onboarding and the cost of Team Debt (not Technical Debt) - Kate Heddleston
Managers must weed the garden - Results.com

The One Thing that all Venture Capitalists Want - Founders Institute, Mike Maples (video)
Employee engagement requires difficult conversations, sometimes - Results.com

The only ones among you who will be really happy are 
those who will have sought and found how to serve.
Albert Schweitzer

I have only made this letter longer because 
I have not had the time to make it shorter.
Blaise Pascal

The predicament that you are in is probably all your fault.  
You hired the people.  You made the decisions.  
But you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
Ben Horowitz

What you get by reaching your destination
is not nearly as important as
what you become by reaching your destination.
Zig Ziglar

It has been my philosophy of life that 
difficulties vanish when faced boldly.
Isaac Asimov

The greatest challenge to any thinker is
stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
Bertrand Russell

You are today where your thoughts have brought you;
you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.
James Allen

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Genius begins great works;
labor alone finishes them.
Joseph Joubert

The first wealth is health.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone who got where they are
had to begin where they were.
Richard Paul Evans

I get up every morning determined to both change the world
and have one hell of a good time.
Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.
E. B. White

March 24, 2015

Of the two ways to become a billionaire, one is very easy!

There seems to be only 2 ways to be a young billionaire: inherit it, or do a tech startup.

Not much you can do about inheriting it. For inspiration and education on the second way, check out the people on Forbes' list:

And when you get through reading the list, you'll probably want to check out the Billionaire Shop where the ultra rich can get their stuff online.

Go for it. But before you go to all that effort to become a billionaire, here's what the richest man in the world has to say about big money:

And then, there's this:

(because, most likely, you already have more than you need)

Be. Do. Have.


March 23, 2015

Startup Reading 3.22.15

Y Combinator stats for Winter '15 class
Y Combinator stats - Y Combinator

Effectuation Theory of Entrepreneurship - Necrophone
Fire yourself. Rehire a new you - Berkonomics

In Praise of Checklists - Results.com, Stephen Lynch
Are You a Smart Leader? - Results.com

The Importance of Images - RevTap.net

People who tell the stories rule the world.

When you are through changing, you're through.
Bruce Barton

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
James Joyce

They can conquer who believe they can.

The universe is full of magical things 
patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

No one can go back and start a new beginning, 
but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Maria Robinson

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.
Margaret Bonnano

March 20, 2015

The Importance of Images

Sure, you know that images are more important than words, right?  But just HOW much more important? Here's a little test for you.  Read the next few lines of facts about why Images are so important.

We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text
70% of all sensory receptors we have are inside the eye
93% of communication is nonverbal
90% of info transmitted to the brain is visual
50% of your brain is involved in visual processing
Today the average person is hit with 54,000 words/day
Visuals have been found to improve learning by up to 400%
The brain can see images that last for just 13 milliseconds
Our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour
We can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second
Hear a piece of information, and 3 days later you'll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you'll remember 65%

Got all that?

OK, now click here, and decide for yourself which is the better way to present those facts.

Why are your communications still so heavily text-based? When are you going to get around to doing that explainer video that you know will make a huge difference in your response rates?

Source: RevTap.net

March 15, 2015

Startup Reading 3.15.15

20 Great Books for Young Entrepreneurs - Medium
How Much Should You Pay Your Engineers? - Compass.co survey (see infographic below)

The Magic of Regular Feedback - Results.com

Action always generates inspiration.  
Inspiration seldom generates action.
Frank Tibolt

Conduct yourself in Life as at a Feast.

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself,
but talent instantly recognizes genius.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Only two ways to get enough.
Accumulate more and more, or desire less.
G.K. Chesterton

I have found adventure in flying,
in world travel, in business, and even close at hand...
Adventure is a state of mind - and spirit.
Jacqueline Cochran

We first make our habits,
and then our habits make us.
John Dryden

There's no such thing as a small act of kindness. 
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.
Scott Adams

It is what you read when you don’t have to 
that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.  
Oscar Wilde

Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens. 
Jimi Hendrix

March 10, 2015

Startup Reading 3.8.15

Finding a Problem Worth Solving - Lean Startup Circle
How to run an effective daily standup meeting - Results.com, Stephen Lynch

What's all this nonsense about Transparency in Business? - Results.com, Joseph Cole
The Striking Similarities between Teachers and CEOs - Medium, Aaron Schildkrout

A CEO’s first priority would be reservations of much time 
for quiet reading and thinking 
particularly that which might advance his determined learning 
no matter how old he becomes.
Warren Buffett, 

To Achieve great things
two things are needed:
A Plan,
and not quite enough time.
Leonard Bernstein

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern.
Every class is unfit to govern.
Lord Acton

March 4, 2015

Shark Tank

I have watched enough episodes to avoid watching any more of it.

I avoid negativity, and Kevin is a bummer.  There is never a reason to put people down.

March 2, 2015

Warren Buffett's 6 Investment Criteria for Berkshire

From the Berkshire annual shareholders' letter, 2014:

Berkshire’s Six Investment Criteria
Berkshire makes a plea to hear directly from principals, as opposed to investment bankers, for new acquisitions. Berkshire mandates the following six criteria: 
1) $75mm of pre-tax earnings unless it is a bolt-on transaction; 
2) Demonstrated consistent earnings (no turnarounds or startups); 
3) A track record of a superior return on equity with little or no debt; 
4) Quality management; 
5) Simple businesses; and, 
6) A clear offering price (this needs to be stated upfront).
What is interesting to me is that nowhere in the criteria does it say what sort of products he is interested in. Could be anything! What is important to him is the business case. Period.

Another aspect of his acquisition strategy is that he prefers to pay Cash, not stock.  The value of cash depreciates over time, the value of his stock appreciates.

March 1, 2015

Startup Reading 3.1.15

Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine - Jim Citrin, Yahoo Finance
How I Conquered my Inbox with the Trusted Trio - Bob Thordarson

The Daily Routines of Geniuses - Sarah Green, Harvard Business Review

Don't Manage with "What" without "Why" - Berkonomics

3 Lessons learned when developing with the Minimum Viable Product - Lean Startup Circle
10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon - ExpandedConsciousness.com

If you think it's expensive to hire a professional,
wait until you hire an amateur!
Red Adair

Those who contribute to the company should own it,
and that ownership should be proportional to that contribution.
J. Robert Beyster, founder SAIC

Think in the morning, 
act in the noon, 
read in the evening, 
and sleep at night.
William Blake

Excess on occasion is exhilarating.
It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.
William Somerset Maugham

Being broke 
brings an incredible amount of discipline and focus.
Brian Chesky, AirBnB

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is
in the end, of little consequence.
The only consequence is what we do.
John Ruskin

You will be the same person in five years as you are today,
except for the people you meet and the books you read.
Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

One should count each day a separate life.

It has been my observation that most people get ahead
during the time that others waste.
Henry Ford

If money is your hope for independence you will never have it.
The only real security that a man will have in this world is
a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.
Henry Ford

Dedicate some of your life to others.
Your dedication will not be a sacrifice.
It will be an exhilarating experience because it is 
an intense effort applied toward a meaningful end.
Dr. Thomas Dooley

Disruptive? (Doonesbury)

February 27, 2015

The happy secret to better work

An excellent TED talk that upsets the generally accepted wisdom that states we will be happy someday when we are more successful.


Click here for the video: The happy secret to better work

February 21, 2015

Startup Reading, 2.22.15

10 Successful Entrepreneurs Share Biggest Lessons Learned in the Journey - plash.in
Negotiating tactics - James Altucher, on Quora

Do You Tell Your Direct Reports HOW To Do a Job? - Berkonomics
An Addict's Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit - Zen Habits

The Daily Routines of Geniuses - Harvard Business Review

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; 
Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer

You were once wild here.
Don't let them tame you.
Isadora Duncan

A purpose is the eternal condition of success.
Theodore T. Munger

Success is the sum of small efforts
repeated day in and day out.
R. Collier

February 17, 2015

The Poster In Jony Ive's Office

There's an article in the New Yorker magazine about Jony Ive, Apple design chief).  It mentions a poster that hangs on his wall, and it's about design principles. Every sentence has one completely unnecessary F-bomb.  Here are those 25 principles, without the redundant verbiage:

Believe in your self.
Stay up all night.

Work outside of your habits.
Know when to speak up.

Don't procrastinate.

Get over your self.
Keep learning.

Form follows function.
A computer is a Lite-Brite for bad ideas.

Find inspiration everywhere.

Educate your client.
Trust your gut.

Ask for help.
Make it sustainable.

Question everything.
Have a concept.

Learn to take some criticism.
Make me care.

Use spell check.
Do your research.

Sketch more ideas.
The problem contains the solution.

Think about all the possibilities.

February 15, 2015

Startup reading 2.15.15

When I have a little money, I buy books; if I have any left, I buy food and clothes. (Desiderius Erasmus)

A Dozen Things Learned from Cheryl Sandberg about Management and Business - Tren Griffin
You Are Watched More Closely Than You Think - Berkonomics

No Marketing Isn't As Impressive As You Think - Instagator.com
Hierarchy: Good Thing or Bad Thing - Results.com

Efficiency is doing things right; 
effectiveness is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

What a man can be, he must be.

A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?

Robert Browning

People overestimate what they can do in a day 
and underestimate what they can do in their whole lives.

Business is like a man rowing a boat upstream.He has no choice; 
he must go ahead or he will go back.

Lewis E. Pierson

February 12, 2015

33 Productivity Tips

1.  Just start.  Starting a task makes it easier to finish; our brains are wired to complete tasks.
2.  Work in short bursts.  You can do more in less time, if you're focused and energized.
3.  Be unavailable during your peak performance hours, so you can use your energy for big projects.
4.  Quit whining.  You don't have to feel like doing something in order to do it.
5.  Forget Perfection.  Get things done.  If you aim for perfection, most tasks will never be completed.

6.  Increase productivity by 15% by taking 20-minute breaks in between 90-minute work sessions.
7.  Take a vacation.  For every 10 hours of vacation, performance improves by 8%.
8.  The best performers across many disciplines work in 90-minute sessions, no more than 4 hrs/day.
9.  Create a productive office space.  Warmth and natural light make us happier and more productive.
10.  Take a nap.  Recommended nap time varies from 10-30 minutes.  Pick a length that energizes you.

11.  Practice meditation.  Studies prove mindful meditation improves concentration and strengthens memory.
12.  Wake up earlier.  Studies suggest that many successful CEOs start their day before 6am.
13.  Go offline.  The Internet, social media, and email are all productivity killers.
14.  Make a to-do list.  It can give you the feeling of accomplishment you need to be more productive.

15.  Plan out your week in advance.  Adding some discipline in your routine will help prioritize what's important.
16.  Have someone keep you accountable.  The pressure may be enough to keep you firmly on track.
17.  Apply some enthusiasm to your task.  It's how Jerry Seinfeld maintains momentum and keeps up his energy.
18.  Finish your least favorite task first.  This will encourage you to get to the stuff you enjoy doing.
19.  If you can, take one day a week work from home. It can be a distraction-free place to work.

20.  Learn to say no. Creating a stricter daily schedule for yourself can help you eliminate distractions.
21.  Turn important tasks into habits. Habitual habitual routine will make The work feel comfortable.
22.  Delegate tasks when possible. Use the extra time to focus on larger goals.
23.  Break up your tasks into chunks, and then work until you've completed one chunk.
24.  Stopping what you're doing and get some sleep

25.  Reduce your to do list to two or three items. keep it simple and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
26.   make some time for wasting time. schedule your brakes so that they don't turn into lengthy procrastinations.
27.  Consider using off-line tools. A whiteboard, a large notepad, or a sheet of printed paper.
28.  Buy a real-life alarm clock to set reminders. The one on your phone will only tempt you into procrastination.
29.  If it's a task that will take five minutes or less tackle it now!

30.  Work where you feel most comfortable, but don't feel confined to one place.
31.  Work in 10 to 15 minutes increments using a timer for bursts of efficiency.
32.  Eat a big breakfast. it's proving to energize you and make you more productive throughout the day.
33.  Turn your to-do list into physical appointments and scheduled events to keep your checklist short.

source: ethos3.com

February 10, 2015


With the arrival of my new license plate, I am drawn to the opportunity for low cost advertising, I just ordered a black custom license frame bracket with "BeginItNow.com" printed on the lower space between the screws. On the upper space, the single-word question: "Startup?" (SeaSweet Software is too long)

To compensate for the extra clutter, I should de-badge the rear end, removing the Audi rings and the S5,  darken the tail lights, and paint all black that completely superfluous silver air splitter. That would focus all attention on the message, not the medium.