Archive: June 2013
The Nuggets Rocky – Entrepreneurial Actuary
If you are a Denver Nuggets fan you gotta love Rocky. The Nuggets mascot is as zany and entertaining as any mascot in the league. I’ve seen him beat his personal record for running up the seat armrests (and over fans) to the top of the Pepsi Center, bury a half-court shot with his back to the basket, and I still laugh every time he assumes the karate kid one legged crane pose behind the ref’s back.
He has developed a sixth sense about which of his antics a basketball fan will find the most hysterical and incorporates them into his act. And when Kenn Solomon—aka Rocky—saw the Spurs mascot fire a T-shirt cannon in 1996, he knew it was going to be a must-have for every mascot and stadium staff in the country. He also had two buddies, a welder and an engineer, who he knew he would help him make a cannon that was lighter, more powerful, and shoot a wider array of fuzzy objects to fans. And they did, founding a company called Air Cannons Inc that sells every type of air cannon imaginable including the top of the line model with a 16 T-shirt magazine; they created a place where fun meets business success.
But more interesting to me is the question of why Kenn saw the opportunity to turn air cannons into a business when others didn’t. Clearly tens of thousands of people had seen the cannon but chose to experience it as a consumer rather than an entrepreneur. The answer is that opportunities are typically seen most clearly by those who have pursued their passion the furthest and for whom the opportunity seems to be glaringly obvious. Like the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers, when you have spent more time in a particular arena than anyone else, you have insights that others just don’t have.
Admittedly this is a pretty simple example but the most sophisticated start-ups are born the same way. Somebody with a lot of relevant experience sees something that no one else does. I call this being an Entrepreneurial Acturary; being someone who not only learns to see and analyze the opportunities that surround all of us but also is able to quickly assess them by estimating the potential risks and returns. If you want to know more about being an Entrepreneurial Actuary, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the excerpt from the book that explains the concept in detail.
So…what are you passionate about? Have you found something that you love enough to commit 10,000 hours to learn about? If you aren’t working in an area that fascinates you, for heaven’s sake, make a change! If you don’t you’ll never have the staying power to develop the insight that you need to create the prosperity of your dreams. And don’t forget that, like Kenn loving to be Rocky, living a prosperous life is more about doing what you love than the financial return you earn from it. Having said that, the income that comes from a ground-breaking insight comes in handy when it comes to filling in the details your own portrait of prosperity.
This is the first post I’ve written at 40,000 feet. Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know if it was grounded enough for you!
Passion—THE Prerequisite for Prosperity
Rafael Nadal loves vaporizing the red clay at Roland Garros. He just won his 8th French Open there and has lost only one match in the 60 that he has played at that hallowed venue. Bill Clinton loves politics and people and sees any gathering of two or more citizens as an invitation to love and be loved. Jim Cramer goes to bed at eleven, gets up every day at 2:47am and spends most his 20+ waking hours crazily gesticulating on financial markets and stock opportunities for CNBC.
Do these guys love what they do because they are good at it or are they good at what they do because they love it. I sincerely believe it’s the latter. And if you are serious about pursuing prosperity you better be doing something you love. If you aren’t sure that you love what you are doing, you aren’t. People who have found their passion don’t drag themselves out of bed; they awake with a mixture of excitement and wonder that they get paid to do what they do.
If this doesn’t sound much like you, you’re not alone. I would guess that less than 1 in 10 people are earning a living doing what they love. Why? Either because they don’t think it is a realistic expectation or because they haven’t put in the effort to find the thing that they really love doing.
You find your passion by following your natural curiosity, doing some heartfelt journaling, soul searching, and a lot of trial and error—preferably while you are young. Once you think you have found it, I like Malcolm Gladwell’s guideline of investing at least 10,000 hours to develop a differentiating level of expertise. Your skill development depends a lot more on this investment of time and effort than on the natural abilities you bring to your chosen passion.
But is doesn’t take 10,000 hours to confirm your passion. See if you still love it after a thousand hours—six months or so if you are doing it full time—and reconsider. You probably won’t get it right on the first try so be prepared to follow your curiosity in another direction a time or two. You’ll know it when you find it, because like Jim Cramer, you just won’t be able to get enough of it.
That’s the real shortcut to prosperity. Try it!
Pro Cyclists Exemplify Teamwork
You aren’t likely to achieve prosperity without the help of a team. Pursuing prosperity by yourself is like trying to win a TDF stage with a solo breakaway at the start of the race—it is virtually impossible to do.
Brian Vandborg (right), of the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, inspired me to think about the parallels between bike racing and prosperity when his team sent him to cycle with a group of us for the day as part of our Cannondale/Duvine bike tour of Italy. He joined eight of us on a day that started out unseasonably cold and cloudy and quickly evolved into a torrential downpour.
Before the weather deteriorated we marveled at Brian’s seemingly effortless accelerations and the incredibly smooth lines he carved out on the winding mountain descents. As the wind and rain started to pound our nylon jackets and bare legs, Brian smiled and asked us what we wanted to do. Even though it was Thursday and he would begin a race on Sunday, he said he was game to continue if we preferred to complete our climb to the hilltop town of San Gimignano. Really? If this finely tuned athlete was willing to climb in the freezing rain with eight aging amateurs that he just met, what must he be willing to do for his Cannondale teammates. This was the thought that occupied my mind for the next hour after Brian was safely ensconced in the chase van and we continued our soggy way up a climb we would never have a second chance to complete.
The most successful cycling teams aren’t just a collection of the best athletes, but rather a combination of great athletes who have developed a synergy that allows the team to perform at a level higher than the sum of its parts. Each member’s role evolves effortlessly on a daily basis based on what the race strategy calls for as well as who’s having a good or bad day. How do the best teams develop this fluid and overachieving model of performance? The same way you will if you want the best shot at achieving your vision of prosperity.
Great Teamwork Looks the Same in Business
Unlike cyclists participating in a competitive event that necessitates a clear win/lose structure, you have the opportunity to form win/win teams both inside and outside your place of work—win/win because you help others where they compete and they help you where you compete. Your teams will be comprised of people who want you to succeed and come together on an ad hoc basis when you need them, and sometimes come together permanently when you have figured out how to orchestrate a situation (start-up or corp gig) where you get to work with your own handpicked team. In either case, the team of superstars who come together to create something special are attracted by six behaviors that you have developed.
Six Peer Behaviors that Support Great Teams
– Listening: Simple, I know, but you would be surprised how few people are skilled listeners. Good listeners patiently frame what they are hearing using their partner’s point of view. Rather than waiting just long enough to insert their own perspective, a skilled listener absorbs what is being said and combines it with their own experience to add value.
– Trust/Dependability: Trust is rare commodity that can only be earned by demonstrating the ability to put someone else’s interests first and by always doing what you say you are going to do.
– Competence: People love to be around competent people. Figure out what you want to be competent at and do more of it and learn more about it than anyone else you know. Don’t try to be something you are not. Competence can’t be faked but it can be earned.
– Can-do Attitude: There is nothing more attractive than someone who hasn’t seen a problem that they aren’t willing to tackle. It’s a lot easier to be a naysayer than a doer. Practice “Saying Yes!” [Page 112 from Shortcut—send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the “Say Yes!” excerpt]
– Understanding of Give/Get: The most coveted team members (and leaders!) are those who have figured out that life works better when you give freely without expectation of any return for your effort or for sharing your network. Of course it DOES come back to you—you just can’t predict the wonderful ways that it will.
– Caring: This is the most powerful and toughest behavior to demonstrate. Someone who knows you care about them will do anything for you. See Carefrontation for more.