January 14, 2013

A Tale of 9 Startups

A Tale of Nine Startups

Jon was inspired by a blog post that told him to quit his job and start a business. He dutifully did so, firing off a farewell message to his boss and former colleagues. Having heard about becoming “location independent,” he bought a backpack and went off to the world. What was it about that business thing? How would he actually make a living? He would figure it out along the way, he assured himself.

Marie paid a lot of money for online materials that she never read. Whenever something shiny and new came out, she bought it, looking for the magic elixir that would show her how to earn money while she slept. But every morning, she woke up and her bank balance was the same. Maybe she just didn’t have the right materials yet? She kept shopping around.

Matthew was desperate to break free from his day job, but skeptical of reports that an entire generation of people was beginning to embrace creative self-employment. “It’s all a fraud,” he decided without much investigation, and returned to earning a low salary for work that didn’t inspire him. He channelled his frustrations into a new task: to join the ranks of the most active internet trolls, leaving negative comments on blogs and hassling those who had been successful. Unfortunately there was a lot of competition in this field.

April kept thinking about different ideas, asking people for their opinions. Because her friends were all employed at traditional jobs, they weren’t qualified to evaluate her business ideas—but they didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so they all said, “Yes! That sounds great!” She kept thinking and thinking, starting new projects but abandoning them before making them public.

Rae joined Twitter and wasn’t sure whom to follow or what to do. She discovered that for a small amount of money, she could purchase the accounts of 10,000 fake followers. She then signed up for a service that would send a message to each new person who followed her, asking them to click her links or “like” her page on another service. This brought her no money and no real community, but Rae was proud. (Later she became a Social Media Consultant.)

Nick focused his efforts on how he could borrow as much money as possible to “start well in a proven business.” In addition to a small business loan, he took advantage of credit card cash advances to purchase the initial investment in a franchise. Only after he was in too far did he realize he had effectively used his life savings to purchase a job for himself.

Josie was a planner. She planned her way into many a late night after work, thinking through contingencies and hypotheticals. Her business plan stretched to 70 pages, with lots of carefully-plotted charts and graphs. Problem was, the planning didn’t translate into action. False start led to no start. She continued to pour over the idea while spending the best years of her life making someone else rich.

Brenda followed a well-worn path: she saw what other successful people were doing… and then proceeded to copy it. The concept, the product, the website design, and even the exact messaging—all were up for grabs, as she attempted to replicate someone else’s success under her own name. Alas, Brenda underestimated how much work went into someone else’s success. She finally gave up and moved on, looking for a new person or company to copy.

***

Akira embraced the challenge and the effort. She loved the work. As she gained customers, she loved the customers. She wasn’t afraid to purchase resources, but she made sure to absorb the lessons before buying anything else.

Over and over, she asked herself these questions:

“How can I best serve?”

“What can I offer the world?”

“What do people need that I can provide?”

Akira learned about pricing, business development, and marketing. She planned but she took action quickly. She reinvested in her business, creating an entity that was created by her hand but could eventually exist on its own.

At night she went to bed tired from the day, but energized with the possibilities of tomorrow.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.

Comments here.

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Reminder: Wednesday is the final day of ticket sales for the 2013 World Domination Summit.

Image: CR

Comment on this article

63 Responses to “A Tale of 9 Startups”

  1. progress, not perfection

    Thank you for reminding me…

  2. Great insight from Akira’s story. One of the things I have learned is so important (and that Akira seems to be so good at) is acting on the resources she purchases and experiences she participates in quickly. I have realized that if I don’t read a book I purchase soon after I buy it, and if I don’t take notes or some other effort to process the information, then it goes unread or the advice unapplied. Anyone have some good thoughts on how to best capture and process information after reading/experiencing something? Just write blog posts about them or is there anything else that works better?

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  3. And what’s the lesson to be learnt? :)

  4. Great post. Made me chuckle, particularly this line: “This brought her no money and no real community, but Rae was proud. (Later she became a Social Media Consultant.)”

    Painfully true.

  5. It appears I’m on the verge of becoming a “Jon.” Whoopsies!

    Though the way I see it, with the cost of rent these days, traveling vs. staying put is about a wash financially. The key will be whether I can be productive while staying in hostels and whatnot.

  6. Wow!

    “It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.” – Love it!

    I love how in the end, taking meaningful, effective action seems to be the best recipe for success!

    I know I’m excited for tomorrow. I love today too! :)

  7. I’ve been Jon, April and Josie. I fight against the temptation to be Brenda and Marie, and I am trying to constantly remind myself that if I dedicate time and energy to just being Akira (well, actually, being Breanne – but that’s semantics), everything will be alright.

    (And at this point, I feel like giving out an internet-battle-cry… Akiras of the interwebs, unite!)

  8. Jon sounds like a fellow we “know” who enjoys travel and figuring things out along the way.I would bet on his success. Alkira (means “the sky” in Aboriginal) puts thoughts and words into actions—the hardest part of breaking away and being truly successful. I’ll also bet on her success.
    The others think they want to, but are not willing to bet on themselves—just as we are sometimes.

    Thanks.

    Stuart

  9. I am Marie although I do read everything, I just can’t figure out how to put it into action. The main problem is I am not confident I have anything to actually offer people. Still working on it though.

  10. As a recovering Marie (with a dash of April), I hope I’ve turned the corner. I want to be like Akira!

  11. January 14, 2013

    Kelly Dodge

    I usually don’t comment on stuff like this, because I always feel like Matthew – Just another Internet troll that’s either shooting ideas down or whining because he isn’t successful.

    I’m somewhere in the middle of several of these… I have ideas like April from time to time, but I usually rule them out before I talk to others about them. I’m frustrated with my regular job, but feel trapped with my bills and family. I love the idea of quitting my job, sinking my life savings into something and all of that, but that feels way too irresponsible for me. Especially since I’ve already failed at starting things three or four times.

    It basically comes down to trying to find something worth the effort for me. I don’t really know what I should be doing with my life, but like Marie I keep looking at online tools and books for ideas. I actually follow through and read them, but nothing has clicked yet.

    So bottom line, I end up like Josie. Or Matthew.

  12. Although I’m well into my (2 consecutive) start up biz’s , I find myself everyday being a ‘Josie’. I spend SO much of my time ‘planning’ what I woulda, coulda, shoulda instead of taking action. Thanks for the reminder to get off my butt and get to work! Going to go do some ‘production’ right now!

  13. “Social Media Consultant”… oh how I have met so many of these types at those dreaded networking events (that end up being traps into sales pitches for pyramid schemes.) Can I just swear off networking forever? I always walk away with dates for coffee (that end up being traps into sales pitches for pyramid schemes) or hooked up with a crummy client who wants to low-ball me at every juncture. Seriously. The thought of attending networking events make my stomach turn.

  14. I definitely identify with April. I have lots of ideas, but haven’t found a business idea that I am really, really passionate about. Like Stephanie said, I find it hard to figure out what is special that I have to offer.

  15. It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful. Yes.

    It’s just over 2 years since I ditched my job and I still catch myself sometimes, looking for it to be perfect. The problem with that is that if you’re looking for the perfect, you’re missing the beautiful.

  16. Laughed more than I thought I would!

    “(Later she became a social media consultant.)”

    I take this as a good sign I’m on my way. Thanks for providing contrast, motivation, and inspiration, Chris!

  17. Ouch….you had me on Marie!
    I have recently unsubscribed to most of the target-marketing, make-6-figures-instantly, branding and other on-line hoopla out there than jams by in-box. Going back to a referral-based, values-based approach. Works for me. Thanks for the reminder!

  18. Inspired by your work, I’ve become less of the rest and more of an Akira.

    Namaste.

    :)

  19. BEST. SUMMARY. EVER. That is all.

    (thanks for sharing!)

  20. Love this! :) Thank you for putting these into perspective, Chris. :)

    At night she went to bed tired from the day, but energized with the possibilities of tomorrow.

    It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.

  21. CG, keeping it real.

  22. Great summary!!

    Although I’m certainly guilty of having built myself jobs in the past rather than businesses, I’m very happy to identify with Akira these days.

    Current earworm: The Hues Corporation _Rock the Boat_ “Rock on with your bad self”

  23. I’ve been almost all of those people at one time or another. When I read this, I could see my progression from one to the other, gradually pulling it together until it became a real business.

    The important thing is to recognize where you are in the progression (which one of these people is you right now). This shows where you might be stuck and what you need to do to move to the next level.

  24. It’s amazing how just a few words can be so powerful when it embodies the lifestyle we are all striving for.

    “It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful”

    Says it all!

    Great post.

  25. What is the purpose of this article? Normally I would expect to gain a pearl of wisdom, a bit of inspiration or a moral of the story. This was incomplete. No intro, no conclusion, just a snapshot of people struggling. No note before or after explaining anything. Am I missing something?

  26. would it be bad if we decided to copy Akira? : )

  27. Thanks, great post… I think in the end it all comes down once again to taking action. We are on a journey of discovery, we don’t know what is ahead, but that is what drives us. We are cursing a path through the jungle that others may follow.

  28. I really, really needed this. Fell for the junk in the mail because I was going to be rich and not have to do anything, but just watch the money fill up my bank account. Now, I’m going to aim for Akira and come back down to earth while still looking upward.

  29. The one that I decided that I would no longer do is make other ppl rice while I am still struggling to make it myself, I seen myself doing that for a long time. But on more!

  30. I am kind of like April, in the sense that I keep thinking about ideas, asking others for advice and input, but never actually getting anywhere. I think the real reason is that I ask myself the same questions that Akira asks, but cannot come up with any answers. I’ve spent over a year brainstorming and still can’t come up with anything I can do that anybody wants or needs, even for free. Ah, well. I think once I can answer those questions I’ll be set, it’s just a matter of getting there. Lots of food for thought here.

  31. January 14, 2013

    Peggy Dallmann

    I wish I had read a post like this a long, long time ago.

  32. I would add to Akira’s list of questions:

    “Am I being authentic to myself in my business?”

  33. Thanks Chris for pointing out so clearly that each of us must find our own way but do so with awareness of what works and what will work for us.

    You have to do you, but you can use ideas of others that have been shown to work.

    It takes courage, effort, focus and a willingness to move out of your comfort zone. Then you can create freedom and your unique expression in ways that make a difference for you and those you serve.

    Peace and joy for 2013 to all.

  34. Ideas should always translate into action. Great post, Chris! h

  35. ha ha -definately a Josie, but still on the hamster wheel two years down the line!

  36. I firmly believe that everybody should have their own business. Be it part time, full time or even a hobby business. Your stuff is the best I’ve seen when people ask me “how do I start a business?” This piece is the best summary of the different types I’ve read.

    Keep up the good work.

  37. What a unique post style Chris. If I’m honest with myself I can see parts of me in all the avatars you describe. In some ways embodying these characters and failing because of their weaknesses only makes me stronger.

    I wish everyone who reads this success in achieving an experience similar to Akira’s as quickly as possible. But please embrace your failures along the way!

  38. Great post Chris! Waiting gets us nowhere and action must be taken daily to reach our goals.

  39. I see myself as a mix of Brenda and Josie. I take my inspirations from successful people and try to apply it on my situations. I take guidance from others but use my own inituition as well. I plan a lot, some of it get executed, and some get buried in my To-Do list :)

  40. Hunter Hodge – One of the best tools I’ve found for the “revist” part of the “learn, capture, revisit” cycle is a tool called Anki (http://ankisrs.net/). Anki is a free tool for learning using a “spaced repetition system.” Basically, its computer based flash cards (wait for it) that are displayed to you at intelligent intervals based on how quickly you are leaning them. You enter information (say from your notes on a seminar) and then Anki calculates the optimal time in the future to quiz you on each piece of information based on how well you have remembered it historically. That means you don’t waste a ton of time reviewing information I already remember pretty well and you also don’t wait too long to review things that are trickier.

    I hope that serves you!
    Les

  41. Like many others here, I can recognise myself in the various stages. Finally at the doing stage now. Thanks for this. :)
    Hunter Hodge, try googling mindmaps as a possible tool. Main idea/issue in the centre of the page, as related areas come to mind make lines with single words written on them, these will lead to further branch lines with single words. Any branch can then become the centre of a new map for specific detail If you can draw simple images instead of words its even better. You get a visual overview thats easy to recall.

  42. Just what I needed to take the final steps to stop being a Marie and an April. I’m currently reading the 100 Startup and that has helped immensely to move me into the ‘action’ phase, scary as it can be.

  43. I love how supportive everyone was of April-of course they want their friend to succeed. This makes it really hard to tell if an idea is actually good whether you should do it or not.

  44. I’m going to pin those three questions on my wall. Such a great post Chris, thank you
    Amy :)

  45. As everyone else, I love the last statement. But I made mental note for myself ‘translate planning into action’. Happy New Year Chris.

    Anna :)

  46. I love the way you wrote this post – so creative and effective!

    I just want to let your readers know I have one ticket to WDS 2013 that I need to sell – for face value. If anyone is interested, they can contact me @NikiMathias

    Thank you Chris!

    == niki

  47. I see myself in Jon.

  48. What an insightful post! :) Learning through continuous action is definitely the best way to go. I’m taking baby steps myself, but certainly headed in the right path. As you said, it might not be perfect, but it’s definitely a beautiful sight to behold, to see one’s little business ideas grow and flourish with constant care and attention. Love it! :)

  49. OMG! I’m April! : /

  50. Perfection comes when there is nothing left to take away then their is clarity and action becomes mechanical whilst timing becomes intuitive because you see suggestions in every thing that comes your way, that’s what makes Akira’s creation beautiful, it is animated.

  51. To my regret, I am Marie and April rolled into one…. though I do read the material. The ideas and details have become overwhelming, now it’s just indecision and inertia, and and I’ve accomplished nothing I wanted to by this time.

  52. I want to be Jon :)

  53. This one was very helpful. Love the contrast of each of the people. How true they are. Good thing Akira didn’t give up.

  54. Simple and effective way of communication.

    Even if you have written a long post about how one should & should not be, things would not have been conveyed in a pretty much condensed fashion.

    Everyone above wants to be Akira but as long as they are moving towards AKIRA from other characters, it is fine by me.

    Simple & effective post, Chris.

    Cheers,
    Vickram.

  55. Ah, Jon, if only I could be more like him; carefree and confident. Still chained to my 9-5 because my business hasn’t taken off yet, and I have responsibilities to my spouse. I’m still working out exactly what that business IS, even.
    Learning everyday, I guess, which is invaluable.

  56. Ah great synopsis. Quips of stories that remind you to follow your heart even if it doesn’t make sense after haha. It will always be figured out when you follow your heart, always. Thanks for the post! Don’t give up, if at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

  57. I just started a business, and needed some motivation today — this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you for the reminder. :)

  58. This post tells a lot to me.

    Thanks (obrigado)

    PedroJ (AKA Vela)

  59. My name is April and I am April.

  60. Rethinking my plan to start a social media consulting business. :)

    Seriously though–I am struggling with the same issues many of you are. I strongly believe however that almost all of these issues are masks for fear born of a lack of self-confidence. It’s easy to ignore the fear if you can point to some other obstacle. You don’t have to face it then. There is only one way to overcome fear, and that is to act. Action will at some point lead to failure. (Perhaps not of your entire enterprise, but certainly of a lesser goal.) The key would seem to be to expect failure, to learn from it, and to try again. It has to be treated as a learning experience. We are, after all, trying to start a new job (granted as our own bosses) with only on-the-job-training to make it work.

  61. Great insights. Humorous but makes you think really as it is all too easy to go down a fruitless path. Good read. Akira summarises the aim perfectly.

  62. March 9, 2013

    Olorunfemi

    One of the best articles I have read today. Right action and not just action is the key word. Get the correct knowledge and apply it. Thanks.

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