Saturday, March 31, 2012

5 pearls from British entrepreneurs across the pond-Part 2!

[This is a continuation post.  In Part 1, I presented the story of Matt Stevenson and his aquarium fish to present the importance of understanding yourself and your passions. I also used the example of Sharon Hilditch and her informal knowledge of the beauty industry to present the necessity in developing your knowledge base in the field you are interested in.  I hope you enjoy part two! :) ]

3. Seize opportunities-hustle!
Chris Gorman, founder of DX Communications relates, “Good things come to those that wait, but only the things left by those that hustle.”  When he was convinced mobile phones had huge potential, he moved to London and sold to large corporate clients with extreme success.  Later, he left another job to found DX Communications in order to sell mobile phones through retail shops.  His company exploded from grossing $200,000 to $140,000,000.  He then went on to create an internet consultancy called Reality Group in 1999 which he was able to sell just after a year and profit another $28,000,000.  Chris states the secret of success is seizing opportunities while also believing that failure is absolutely essential.  “One of the things I love about America is that people accept failure as a natural part of entrepreneurialism.” 

4. Failure is necessary for success
Along those lines, Chris goes on to say, “Fear of failure stops people from doing great things but learning from failure helps you achieve even greater things.”  Despite losing $1 million to setup a recording studio and label, Chris considered it a great learning experience to feel the pain of failure.  He acknowledges being at the wrong place and wrong time and states it was better to lose $1 million than possibly more later in life. I am impressed by Chris’ ability to acknowledge and truly experience the gut-wrenching disappointment of losing big yet being able to look forward to even greater things.  Also, I note that instead of attributing his failure to his own shortcomings, he credits the circumstances.  Given his uncanny ability to see and exploit market timing, I’m sure few would say that his self-assessment is inaccurate.  It’s no easy task to delicately tread the line between honesty and self-immolation that accompanies failure in our lives

5.  Be optimistic. You will encounter set-backs. Never give up. 
John Mudd was working as marketing manager of a potato chip (also known as British “crisps”) company when he devised a market selling traditional hand-cooked chips in pubs.  When the board rejected the idea, Mudd decided he was going to see the idea through himself despite being in his early 50’s.  When he finally left the company to setup his own, he realized that his experience in marketing did not translate completely to managing a company.  For two years he worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day.  When his company nearly floundered, John was able to sell stake in his company in order to have his chips distributed by popular supermarkets. 

Another younger entrepreneur Mandy Haberman had never intended to be an inventor.  However having a daughter born with a condition which made it difficult for her to suck drove her to invent a solution to her problem.  After nearly 5 years of research and enduring skepticism from her friends, Mandy setup her own company when she was unable to find a company willing to license her product.  Despite having no experience in this realm either, she persevered and found it incredibly rewarding to see her invention used in hospitals throughout the world. 

Any endeavor will be beset by setbacks.  It’s critical to maintain your bearing and keep moving in the right direction however slow that progress may be.  Mandy was driven as a mother who couldn’t control the fact that her child had been born with an impairment.  Being able to help others motivated her to keep trying despite the numerous setbacks she faced.


1. Review the five principles presented in these two articles.  Which do you think is most relevant in this stage of your life?
2.  What do you find easiest to do?  Hardest?  Write down one thing you can do this week that would help you most in realizing your dreams.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

5 pearls from British entrepreneurs across the pond-Part 1

The inspiration for this blog is to help you the reader define and achieve the life that would give you lasting happiness.  Part of the original energy of this website came from reading a little known book called How I Made It by Rachel Bridge.  In reading the short biographies of British entrepreneurs, I attempted to discern a pattern.  Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  If there is a success habit, I wanted to find out how to develop it.  I re-encountered the following five principles in their stories:

1.  Understand yourself, your interests, your talents. 
Matt Stevenson suffered the loss of his first goldfish when he was 10.  His sister had cleaned the stones in his tank with bleach.  Young Matt was confused and forever influenced by how a seemingly well-intentioned action could have such disastrous consequences.  At university, he continued his passion for fish, even renting a house so that he could keep his fish with him.  While studying product design, innovation, and marketing, his mind turned to his hobby: “…I realized that the skills I was learning in engineering and product design were lending themselves to solving some of the problems I had in keeping fish.”  Creative juices stimulated by academic requirements, he concentrated his effort on a circular aquarium that overcame the limitations of a traditional fish bowl. 

Initially, his friends thought he was foolish to be abandoning traditional pathways to well paying jobs in order to chase a quirky hobby.  His company now grosses the equivalent of $11 million annually.  His company mission is in line with that significant experience as a boy with a dead goldfish.  “When people go into a fish shop…most people don’t want to know how to wire a fish tank or what chemicals to add.  They just want to keep fish.”  Matt maintains a keen understanding of his market while combining the ideas he learned in university with his passion. 

2.  Do what you love.  Do what you know. 
Sharon Hilditch grew up in a working class area of Liverpool, struggled in school because of a severe hearing problem in one ear which affected her speech development, and left school at 15 to work in a beauty salon.  She eventually took a job in a cosmetic surgery hospital caring for patients with aging skin.  Sharon enjoyed bringing new ideas to her patients and realized she wanted to stay in the anti-aging market.  Part of her success is directly attributable to her desire to find new products and treatments for her patients.  While visiting an Italian dermatologist she encountered micro-dermabrasion and designed a gentler machine which was the start of her company Crystal Clear.  I find it admirable that despite not having done well in school, having a speech impediment, and no formal engineering or medical training, Sharon was able to learn enough to create a product and company worth millions... 

...Part 2 of this post to follow!  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't get carried away by that boxfish!

In the coral reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans lives a most peculiar boxfish. In order to deal with the changing currents, this fish has developed a very unique shape. Unlike the long, streamlined shape characteristic of other fish Ostracion cubicus has a small face, and a box like body with relatively small fins and tail. Despite outward appearances, the boxfish astounded researchers by its speed and agility.

Air foil
The fish was noted to have a drag coefficient of 0.2 (which is comparable to an air foil) which astounded researchers given its unusual shape. Furthermore, the dorsal and anal fins which propel the fish are way off the central axis of the body. Puzzled, researchers studied the movement of beads around these fish. They discovered that boxfish have keel fins at the edges of their body which establish and amplify little vortices tightly around the body towards the more powerful posterior fins.

These facts probably would not be well known if they were not adopted by luxury automobile maker Mercedes-Benz. A concept car that they produced had a drag coefficient of 0.19 and when combined with other fuel saving measures, achieves over 70 mpg. Although the car never hit full production (my guess—aesthetics?), I still find it admirable and humbling that once again the world’s best design teams learn something from a humble fish.

It would have been understandable if Mercedes-Benz had modeled a car after the faster animals in the ocean. For example, various automakers have modeled the front of SUV’s to mimic the proportion of dolphin noses. The front of some ships also exhibit these proportions in order to reduce drag.

It’s important to note that the boxfish is adapted to the turbulent flow of coral reefs. It would be foolish to think that such a shape would be as suited in the open ocean or with stronger currents that aren’t damped by coral.  Mercedes-Benz was able to achieve something incredible with a box design.  However, they probably could have done even better had they adopted more established streamlined profiles.  Likewise, the danger is to take a sensational idea and try to apply it too generally—and I am definitely guilty of this. Therefore when you do receive well intentioned advice, it is important to not forget the accompanying conditions and assumptions.

To say it another way, take advice with a grain of salt. The first recorded use of this phrase was in Pompey 77 A.D. Supposedly an antidote to poison was to be taken with a small amount of salt to be effective. Likewise, it is important that you supply the salt and seasoning with which to evaluate the ideas and advice you encounter. Remember, opinions are abundant; talk is cheap.

1. Do you give unsolicited advice to other people? Do you preface by explaining the circumstances of your experiences and opinions?
2. When seeking advice or a solution to a problem you are facing, do you look for people who have been through similar circumstances?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Head + Heart = Moving on from disappointment

Another week has gone by that you will never get back.  If you had to evaluate your work, your interactions with people, and your overall happiness and satisfaction with your life would you say that you are doing well?   As for me, I’ve had somewhat of a disappointing week.  There are times when I feel like I’m failing in every aspect of my life.  It’s incredibly disheartening and frustrating—causing a weird mix of agitation but unwillingness to do anything about the situation. 

When you’re down on your back looking up at the world, it’s easy to react emotionally.  Disappointment is after all, intensely emotional.  However in order to get back on your feet, you really need to effectively incorporate both your thoughts and emotions. 

Those messy things called emotions:
·         The first thing to do when encountering disappointment is acknowledge how you are feeling.  Once you’ve stopped ignoring the problem or denying how you feel, you can begin the painful but necessary process of progressing towards a healthier outlook. 
·         You may be angry at yourself, others, or at the cruel universe.  Realize that in every situation you bear at least partial responsibility for the way things have turned out.  Once you’ve accepted that truth, move on to forgiving yourself and others.  None of this will be easy, but having awareness and attempting to move through these steps is better than doing nothing to address your heart. 
·         Resolve to focus on the things you can influence and letting go of things that are outside your sphere of control.  Remember, the only person you can really change in the world is the one looking back at you from the mirror. 

Those confusing things called thoughts:
·         Look for the potholes, falling rocks, cyclists.  When you’re driving a car on a winding mountain road it would be foolish to ignore all the things that can cause you to lose control.  In life, these obstacles are not often clear.  Using your past experiences, try to recall if there were any events or factors which drove you off your preferred course.  Is there a particular person you can’t stand?  Are you unbearably cranky when tired and hungry?  What can you do to either avoid or minimize the effect of those land mines?  If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail again as you hit those same obstacles. 
·         Likewise, it is important to develop or recognize guard rails in your life.  What are the warning signs you can implement or use to signal when it’s time to modify your trajectory?  Biometric monitoring (heart rate, temperature, etc.) is being used to help those in stressful situations recognize the warning signs of distress.  Your guard rails can be as simple as that feeling you get in your stomach, or the sweat you get on your palms.   The important thing is recognizing your early warning signs and either modifying your environment or your reactions.  We’ve heard countless stories of individuals who reacted extraordinarily in difficult circumstances.  I want to encourage you to be intentional rather than reactional. 
·         Deal with your discouragement.  Everyone likes to think that their situation is unique but there really isn’t anything new under the sun in terms of human experience.  If you think it’s helpful, identify mentors or learn from those who can help you get through your experience.  Talking to someone else can help you see things outside of your perspective
·         Suck it up.  In the end you have to decide whether you are going to do something about your situation or not.  Are you the type of person who gets easily discouraged?  If so, realize that if you can’t find a solution to your problem, you really aren’t desperate enough.  Count the cost.  Decide if you would rather live with the pain of regret or the pain of the process.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peyton Manning: The way you play the game

As Peyton Manning leaves the Colts, many think on the impact he's had on the team and city.  I enjoyed reading ESPN Rick Reilly's ode to Peyton because of two reasons.  First, it underlines Peyton's discipline and hard work for the game.  Peyton demonstrated integrity and lived to his own standard rather then buying into the hype and developing complacency and ego common in professional athletes.  Secondly, we see that Peyton really is a normal guy who hasn't been changed by his success.  It's all too easy for reality to get distorted but you see that Peyton truly enjoys drinking cheap domestic beer with his friends and singing bad karaoke--all the while demonstrating class and patience to his many fans.

Wherever he goes, I'm sure his work ethic and integrity will allow him to accomplish more things than others in his situation.