Posts from the ‘Entrepreneurship’ category

Websites

I’ve been getting asked for website help lately. I hate to say the same thing over and over again, so here we are.

If you don’t have a website

Do you need a website? Do you already have social media, which you never use? Do you post content to it? How regularly? If it’s less than once a month, you should focus on creating regular content instead of making a website. Kids will tell you, you need a website (pay me to make a website). But do you really need a website? If you can’t make regular content on social media, why would that change with a website?

So, you are ready for a website?

If you already have a website, you can skip this part.

Sit down with a piece of paper and draw an outline of your website. What’s your About page going to say? What’s your Homepage gonna have? Do you want a splash page or do you have enough content for a more robust website? Is a robust website even necessary? What’s your goal for the site? Do you appeal to donors, sponsors, customers, investors, partners? Are you b2b? B2c? B2b2b? B2c2c? Etc.

Ask yourself, am I going to pay someone to do this forever, or do I need to be able to do it by myself for the next 6-12 months? If you can pay someone, just pay someone by the project and for maintenance. Or you can pay someone to start it and teach you how to do it. Or you can just pay someone to do the SEO, although it’s difficult to find a really good person. There are a lot of fakers out there. But really, SEO and marketing is just good ole hard work.

If you can’t pay for anything except hosting and domain fees, ask yourself how much time you have to devote to it. Do you need a set it and forget it except for posting content? WordPress with an easy to access support person through your host, which may be a tiny bit more costly, but worth everything for its convenience. See if you can afford to buy a theme that you will be happy with for a while. Or will you be posting merchandise? Probably something shopify related. Otherwise, use one of the easy to build ones like Wix/Squarespace/Weebly/Webflow, which all have their own pros and cons.

Will you have other things that need regular updating? Is it a platform or does it require more involved coding? Is it an app? What kind of app? Does it incorporate AI? Could your coding result in revenue that could go toward the nonprofit? Regardless, if you website requires more involved coding,  you’re probably just going to have to learn if you can’t pay someone. Or get a cofounder who knows how to code. But how does that work for nonprofits?

It would be nice if nonprofits started thinking of more involved business models. Such as those that involve a product or service (beyond consulting). Anyway.

For free web development, get them super jazzed about your mission! If your nonprofit/company has legs, there’s someone out there willing to work for free. But working with free web developers? That’s a whole other blog post. Send me a message if that’s what you’re looking for information on.

You already have a website

What platform did you use? How’s it going? What features are you missing? What features do you have but don’t need? Are you unhappy with the platform or content?  If you are lower than a 7/10, you probably have to make some changes to get happy with it and for it to be useful. Perhaps go back to the first section of this post and ask yourself these things. If you’d like a website audit, I am happy to invest 20-30 minutes for $25. I can provide feedback and point out the highest ROI easy wins.

If you’re happy with the website and it’s helping you be successful, worry about other things. If it’s not helping you be successful, and you don’t know why, get a website audit. But before you reach out, figure out what your website goals are.

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The Kitten Who Died

My phone’s screen had been broken since December. Not shattered, but there were black lines flashing horizontally across all the time. Sometimes it would go black. I’d excitedly show someone a picture on my phone. But they’d furrow their brow, hand it back to me, and say with extreme judgment, “Something wrong with your phone?” I also couldn’t hang up on phone calls.

ron swanson smashing a cell phone

A demonstration of intolerance.

While on the New Jersey Turnpike, the screen started going black and pixelated colors every time I hit a bump. There are lots of bumps. I wondered if I’d make it or have to drive around to stores and gas stations until I could find a map. Or have to ask for directions, and remember what it was like to look for street signs. And Jersey drivers are not happy when you slow down while looking for parking, much less for a street sign. I drove the rest of the way delicately holding the phone and thankfully made it. But that night I had to call it quits, redo my budget, and plan my day around a morning Costco visit.

how costco pulled frozen berries before they were even recalled

One of my cults. And they pay fair wages with benefits too. What are yours?

I splurged on a Samsung Galaxy S8. And while trying to log into Lastpass for one last time, the screen started turning black and while tapping it, I accidentally called someone I didn’t want to call, like really didn’t want to call, who was still in my favorites. And I couldn’t hang up. So awkward.

I gave it back to Costco (14-day no stocking fee return policy) when

  • google maps kept crashing
  • there were two homescreens and you couldn’t get rid of one
  • I kept accidentally hitting the Bixby button, especially when trying to unlock the phone with my fingerprint
  • I kept accidentally touching the edges of the screen
  • iPhones couldn’t text me, even when I deactivated iMessage both on the old phone and through the website
  • a million other things.

I was pretty disappointed. The only good thing about it was that you could search text messages (great for looking up wifi passwords!)

When I went to get a different phone, the salesman told me that he had just gotten three kittens. Well, they actually got him. He heard the runt of the pack cry and found the abandoned litter behind his house. He hypothesized that it had probably been crying for hours, if not all day, because the other kittens weren’t fussy or making any noise. I hypothesized that maybe the runt expended all of its energy crying, making it become the runt. But he said no, you could tell that it was much smaller than the rest.

kittens photoshopped with different colors

And then there were three.

This kitten, whether intentional or not, sacrificed itself for the rest of the litter. I’m sorry for telling you about a kitten who died, but that kitten was a hero. 3/4 was better than 0/4.

cartoon about glass half full or empty

Oh, hey. I was just an optimist. ::slow clap::

I often feel like a runt. I act like I’m the world police, constantly crying out loud for help, justice, and integrity. I’ve burdened myself with the suffering and troubles of others and the world, and while they did and will happen, most of them haven’t happened to me. It would probably help to limit my life scope, but that ain’t easy for a highly sensitive person.

Watching Lust for Life, a film about van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas, had me question what it means to suffer. Throughout the movie, relatives, friends, and random acquaintances support van Gogh’s insatiable thirst for painting and booze. They’re usually even-tempered people, considered more normal, and lack the emotional range of van Gogh. They admire, and in some ways, are jealous of van Gogh’s passion. They fund him because they know that van Gogh’s passion enables him to be creative in ways that they cannot. I’d argue how anyone could be as passionate as van Gogh, but maybe another time.

Van Gogh suffers throughout the movie. He suffers over unrequited love and frustration over many things. His drinks heavily and paints frantically. At one point, another character tells him to man the fuck up, but soon realizes that van Gogh can’t. Lead poisoning aside, it’s evident that from an early age, van Gogh’s brain was not the same as others’. It was probably a lot like a highly sensitive person’s brain, or less flatteringly, an MRI might show the brain of a manic depressive. His suffering was probably on the high end, but was more apparent because he did not, and arguably could not, contain it. I find the title of the film, Lust for Life, ironic because in the end he kills himself. Although historically, we don’t know who shot him. You could say that he had a love-hate relationship with life, but we’ll never know.

For reasons I have and have not explained before, and may explore more thoroughly a few hundred words from now, I have known nothing near the success of van Gogh. It hurts to passionately feel and to not express it, perhaps because I was told that any pursuit of art meant a poor, unhappy, and destitute life. And perhaps because I believed them and suppressed any artistic expression. Even after this discovery, I still can’t bring myself to paint; even the thought is absolutely terrifying.

But while reading Radical Acceptance, I can see how my thoughts and feelings aren’t me. In fact, Buddhism is a lot about accepting my thoughts and feelings as they come and go by saying yes to them. Who would van Gogh be were he a Buddhist? Or exposed to Buddhism? I don’t know if he was ever exposed to Buddhism, and I sure as hell wasn’t until I read Radical Acceptance. I have no doubt that a commitment to Buddhist practices would result in neurological improvements, but not necessarily an end to suffering. Turns out, suffering is real, and often, it’s relative. Can I say yes to suffering?

man reaching enlighted man on a mountain who says that suffering exists to make beer taste better

Apparently, you can’t appreciate the good without the bad.

Through high school to ARCBio, I savored and seized every opportunity to improve everything from the energy to the quality of work. Even those early days of wanting to contribute ended up being for nothing. For me at least. And once it segwayed into altruism, I didn’t get very far. And my circumstances only degraded once I recognized the altruism, and plummeted when I started to desire reciprocity with increasing financial insecurity.

With metrics that have evolved with tested assumptions about myself, I’ve discovered that if I do my one big thing, I have a good day. I’ve discovered that if I socialize and collaborate all day, I have a great day. And over the past six months, I’ve discovered that I am almost always in the depths of despair when I experience or am headed toward financial hardship.

I don’t know how or why, but I deluded myself into thinking that my skills were things people would pay for. Now, I consider myself pretty damn good at marketing, but I suck when it comes to marketing myself. And I can definitively say that I failed at marketing any of this. Sure, I made $500 here and there throughout the years, but it wasn’t sustainable income.

Just the other day, on a call meant for catching up, I gave away a half hour of free business consulting. When I had $6 in the bank. And when it was over, I hated myself. I hated that I knew so much more than her, and that she was doing well, and I wasn’t. I hated the internal battle between ugly, resentful person and contributor. I hated that the little voice in the back of my head said, “shut up and steer the conversation back to catching up,” and I didn’t listen. And I hate that during the call, she said that she probably needed to hire me for further consulting, but by the end, said it again the same way a Seattlite says they’ll see you again, but then they give you the Seattle Freeze. She hadn’t been able to find any of this information, and my best estimate is that she wouldn’t have ever gotten this information given her network and geography. Because I was an idiot, she got it in half an hour. I gave her all of the relevant industry information and insights, an action plan, and questions for a potential client. Now that I think about it, this is probably why she’s so successful. She didn’t have to spend a dime.

living in seattle meme

Almost spot on.

When you run a company or head a project, you’re supposed to surround yourself with people smarter than you. I’m that stupid smart person who’s helping you instead of helping myself. Why do I think these stupid thoughts or have to write this stupid post to get it out of my head?

I’m just desperately trying to improve my circumstance.

I think I finally figured out why no one’s paid me for this kind of help on a consulting basis – cause I keep giving it away for free! During these conversations, I feel the urgency in my bones that they need to be helped NOW. It can’t wait weeks until we’ve created an SOP and signed a partnership agreement. There’s no time to waste!

But maybe it isn’t wasted time. Maybe it’s investing in my needs.

Oh shit.

I went to Hopkin’s Social Impact Bootcamp today. Make sure you sign up for next year.

It was amazing, but I kept feeling anxiety as my stack of business cards dwindled down to nothing. I did my best to stay present (meditation shout-out), but I kept drifting off to figuring out what I would charge nonprofits, worrying about how the speakers kept mentioning pro-bono work, jotting down a million new business ideas, questioning whether I deserved my seat, avoiding a cold from the guy sitting in front of me, writing and rewriting my “offer” post-its, wondering if anyone would even follow up with me, and other distractions.

I’ll post my notes soon, but here’s the good stuff:

  • It was an even mix of aspiring social entrepreneurs, up-and-running social projects, programs, and nonprofits, resource organizations, and a sprinkle of funders.
  • The synergy was outstanding. Not surprisingly, there were many partnership and collaboration opportunities in the room, in addition to several who were doing the same thing who could coalesce.
  • The speakers and curriculum was just what I was looking for. I documented the local language of nonprofits, fundraising, community engagement and activism. They shared a few case studies of the work being done. Most of the Baltimore-based nonprofit resource organizations presented. A well-assembled panel directly answered thoughtful questions from the audience and moderator. Mini breakout sessions resulted in useful and inspiring discussion and sharing.
  • I learned about the local social entrepreneurship scene, the current state of the community, community needs, and met people, which were my main goals.
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Mindless Self Indulgence

The Time Paradox? Sounds Contagious

I recently took Zimbardo’s Time Paradox quiz and found the results so unsettling, that I emailed the man himself.

I took your Time Paradox assessment. Other than present hedonistic, I ranked the opposite of ideal on every other scale. I have long suspected this, but am stuck; meditation helps incrementally. Will you please send the assessment answers that someone with an ideal time paradox would have? I’d like to experiment with patient, intentional, paradigm shifts of each question over a period of one month. Please send me the ideal responses to the assessment. I will happily share the results with you. While I don’t have an official background in psychology, I took many psyc courses during my bachelors in Biology.

Dr. Zimbardo, Stanford Prison Experiments guy, emailed me back that very same day, less than a month after his debut on Tim Ferriss.

What is the time paradox? I’m not going to link the book cause Amazon reviews said it was mostly academic, and otherwise useless. But here’s what you need to know:

The Time Paradox is not a single paradox but a series of paradoxes that shape our lives and our destinies. For example:

Paradox 1
Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives.

You ever have a conversation with someone, and when it’s over, you start replaying the conversation in all of the ways that it could have been better? All of the ways you could have been more compelling, likeable, smart, or witty? It’s living in the past, in an unhealthy time paradox. Playing into feelings and hangups and giving them power is a form of indulgence and can lead to depression. So, it’s starts with no longer indulging, which takes effort until it doesn’t.

tetris comic

Indulgence, aka left and right snakes, are not welcome here.

Earlier this week, I discovered a future time paradox with the same result.

After a happy afternoon and evening with someone, I subconsciously continued the conversation in my head to ask all of the questions I didn’t think to ask. But I had to stop when I couldn’t speak for the other side. This was very frustrating as I’d never had this problem. I kept getting a stick shoved into the spokes of my bicycle wheel brain that said, “But you don’t know what his answer would be. The conversation is just…over.” Then I became annoyed as I have no desire to get to know someone over the phone, and up until now, curiosity and patience have not gone hand in hand. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I have spent a LOT of my life having conversations with other people in my head. And I’ve talked with others who have too. #staypresent

Two things happened. I realized that I wasn’t replaying conversations, and instead trying to continue them. Hey, that’s better than normal! The other was that I had no control. Hanging out was over, and no amount of curiosity or impatience would get it to continue. That’s just the way it is. So I let go. Time will pass before we see each other again (and I’d sure like to). But even this, I cannot control. All in all, I’m happy with how this turned out.

OMG! I’m happy and let go. And I didn’t even have to do ayahuasca!

Some would say that thinking about this at all is indulgent. I have to disagree. What if you just suck? And no matter how different you wish it was, you’ll just always have to try?

This is how I’ve seen life lately, and I gotta say, the most useful thing I’ve done is accept it. And write. Cause I can peel myself like an onion much more quickly than anyone else can. I’m also reading Grit, and the reality is, I don’t have a lot of it. Well, not enough to do what I want. Oooobviously, I’m going to build it up, which thank god, the author says is possible. But the bar is pretty low at the moment. I’m pretty sure boarding school sucked up a big chunk of my grit, which is why I’ve been bringing it up lately.

grit book cover

Making up for lost time here.

Finding Common Ground

Earlier this week, I was talking with a recovering crackhead about the business he wanted to start. I don’t say recovering crackhead to be crass or politically incorrect, but because that was his identity. And recovering crackhead is concise.

I asked him if he’d gone to the library yet, the one thing standing between having enough money to start his business and not. He said no, “I need to get a library card.” I prodded, and he came up with more reasons.

I asked him what he says to himself when he thinks about going to the library. He responds, “I’ll go tomorrow”. What else do you say when you don’t go? “I fucked up…again.” I asked him if he saw himself as a fuck up, and he immediately responded, “No, not a fuck up. I just fucked up again.” Then he paused, seeing the story he’d been telling himself for a long time. It was a tender moment.

Several times, he mentioned that the values of his business were honesty, dependability, and something else. Each time, he got the same look in his eye as when he said he’d fucked up again. Finally, I asked, “Can you tell me a story about each of these values? Something you could say to a potential customer?” He couldn’t. I said, “I know that for me, the values that I used to hold onto were ‘aspirational values’. They were values that I wish I had or that I saw in other people and got jealous of. But they weren’t values that I actually lived into because they were the values I struggled with the most. They were wannavalues. And I struggled with them because I was getting rewarded for not having them.” He looked at me stunned for a moment, and then laughed. “You hit it right on the head.”

His story was that he was a fuckup, and that by living into it, he got to be right that he was a fuckup and avoid responsibility. He had gotten to the point where he was a good person doing what he knew he was supposed to do for society and family, but he had a barrier to doing it for himself. His values were indeed, aspirational values, but it didn’t mean that they were inaccessible to him. He could choose new values that were current, or he could stick with the old aspirational values intending for them to become authentic. Either way, he could choose them for his business because the business would be a reflection of him.

When our time was up, I realized why I grow so much when I’m around other people – human relatedness through vulnerability and authenticity.

I never experienced either of these growing up. I think it started with my parents’ generation. Many of them believed that good parenting was pretending that they never did anything questionable or bad, and that they had grown up perfectly without making any mistakes. I looked carefully at this when I was in grade school. The most mature and wise kids had parents who admitted their hangups and failures – and their learnings! These parents allowed authenticity and transparency to serve as common ground with their kids, and as they got older, relatedness. Unintentionally, it was built on a foundation of acceptance. And because of that, these kids grew in leaps and bounds. Whenever I could, I called them my friends.

It’s possible for parents to lead by example at the same time as being real.

I have tried many times to read the autobiographies of supposedly inspirational people. Each time, I’d toss the book aside after a chapter or two and say to myself, I have nothing in common with this person! I may be imperfect, but at least I’m not inauthentic! Only after listening to Tim interview over a hundred people who have respect in some field in circle, I realized that everyone’s just as human as me. Tim does his best to bring out their authenticity, and this is what enabled me to listen. Turns out, authenticity doesn’t come naturally, is a muscle that must be exercised, and no matter how hard we try, we won’t always be authentic to ourselves or others. Everyone is a fuckup to someone in this world, so we may as well do what we want.

Thanks to Tim’s work, for the first time in my life, I experienced inspiration from another person. Well, a real one at least.

jean grey as phoenix

I think we’ve finally moved on.

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Why I Went to Graduate School

School sucks. I hated school so much that my brain would instantly fall asleep when I went to class. If I went to class. The same for when I got carsick or drove. Just an all around unpleasant experience. If I were an animal, I’d be a bunny. Who just passed out when shit got terrible. It all started in 3rd or 4th grade, when I started to get bored.

I had sleep studies done. They put me on adderall. Ritalin. I mostly just had more pocket money cause I hated that shit.

I tried everything.

Except going to a school that taught differently.

I went to Pinchot because it was what I thought school should be. You see, when I was looking at MBA programs like Stanford and MIT Sloan, they seemed like slogs. And they’d only teach me a tiny bit of the picture using a traditional teaching method.

Traditional is our tragedy as Americans.

I thought to myself, “higher ed should be taught on frequent, village-sized campuses, where everyone lives together in a community. And learns by doing at a rigorous pace with an inventive, memorable, workshop-based curriculum. The professors shouldn’t just be PhD’s like they are at MIT Sloan. They should have stories. They should have already made a big impact. And teach from experience.” I wanted entrepreneurial teachers who listened.

Sadly, I didn’t think this existed.

I opted out of getting an MBA even though it had secretly been a dream of mine to get those three, shiny letters. Walking away seemed better than throwing away a few hundred grand for something I’d do much better on my own (and did).

I put together a MOOC-based MBA. But only two weeks after I’d started, I found what I had been looking for.

At Impact Hub Seattle, we were suddenly awash with Sustainability MBA’s from upstairs. These new hosts were pretty great to work with. What’s more, they didn’t suck to work with.

Upon investigation, I learned about Pinchot (Chapter 3).

  • Taught systems thinking
  • Workshop and project-based
  • Everyone came from diverse work backgrounds.
  • The whole curriculum was integrated…like a system.
  • It was taught in the woods where we got to hang out and live together for almost a week.
  • The day I happened to visit, they were doing the Lean Canvas. Basically, my favorite thing to do.
  • The perfect amount of our assignments were, go out into the wilderness and write about it, then tell us about it.
  • While most schools studied systems, we did our own deep analysis by the end of December. It was also a white paper.
  • While most schools studied case studies, we wrote our own by the end of March. Our whole curriculum was a case study.
  • Our first field trip was living in a spectacular version of what’s possible on an island in the British Columbian wilderness.
  • While most schools took five months (a semester) to teach entrepreneurship and how to write a business plan, we did it accelerator style in three. We got one big assumption though (e.g. our technology works), so it was great for learning at the maximum speed. Cause the second year was for actually doing a business, not the first. But sometimes folks used both for a real business.

I’m not even mentioning the sustainability parts, which are HUGE. I think we are queued up more than anyone on the planet to deal with what’s to come.

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Even better, I transferred my second year to a Sustainability MBA program on Wall Street. It uses a non-integrated curriculum, so I can do deep dives into whatever I want. Which I have. And it still is almost entirely workshop and project based. Except now we work for clients at real companies to see what that’s like. Good, lord, I don’t know how people do it. Do meetings ever start on time? Seriously? How lazy can we be?

But I digress.

Can you imagine if traditional MBA’s taught this way? Both a sustainability-focused way and then a hybrid way?

The book, Makers and Takers, says that traditional MBA’s go into the program thinking that their job is to “benefit a diverse group of stakeholders.” But by the end of the second semester, they think that “greed is good”. And they think that the way to be greedy is to “increase shareholder returns at any cost and produce less high quality goods and services.”

What the fuck.

What’s worse is that every year we churn out 156,250 of these people. Not you, of course. Because you’re not in a traditional MBA program.

Just the majority of 156,250.

Yikes.

Giving Voice to Values says that in traditional MBA ethics classes, they learn how to rationalize and justify unethical behavior and choices. Literally, a handbook of arguments.

So, I joined Pinchot cause I didn’t want to be an asshole.

MBA’s aside, most education in the US is garbage compared to what it could be.

Everyone knows the story of the Indian kids who were given a computer.

A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.

If children have interest, then education happens.

Arthur C. Clark

Our education squashes curiosity, so it’s no wonder that our skills gap is being filled with immigrants. Except that we stopped letting immigrants here. So we’re still going to have a bunch of unemployed people, and on top of that not enough skilled labor. Then American businesses will just die. And we’ll get wiped out because other countries are educating their people properly.

Great.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Hypotheses for the Successful Adoption of Mental Models around Entrepreneurialism

  1. Learning
    1. The vast majority of people have experienced oppressive, suppressive, overly structured, unimaginative, wasteful learning methods for the majority of their education. These methods are based on the industrialization of the world in the early 1800’s and haven’t been updated with the pace of technology and science, despite being scientifically disproven and one-upped again and again. Bureaucracy and insecurity prevents us from improving education. It’s our greatest tragedy in America.
    2. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper workshop with a proper team in a proper space. Experiencing this would make a positive and profound difference on how they see the world, themselves, and their life. Some percentage of these people will have a viral difference on the people around them.
    3. It’s been a while since Americans learned by doing, such as apprenticeships. Which is such a shame, since they’d be so easy and economical now, and other countries are doing them.
  2. Empowerment
    1. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper work environment and culture.
    2. The vast majority of people do not know how to plan for the future and are not prepared. They also have no hope for retirement.
    3. The corruption behind ITT Tech and University of Phoenix continues to set off a tidal wave of disenfranchised, negatively impacted students. When ITT Tech closed in Sept 2016, just at that time, they had 40,000 students and 8,000 employees. Students have been suing since 1998. That’s a lot of people, their families, and a giant chunk of our country.

Hypotheses for the Target Audience (at least one is true)

  1. They have no hope for retirement.
  2. They don’t want to have to work for anything.
  3. They’re afraid their job will be replaced by a robot. For example, truck drivers, factory workers, and accountants. In addition, I predicted that self-driving cars would predominate major cities within 4 years. Last Friday, Tim Ferriss predicted 3.

In which direction should I go to run a beta test? A small pilot with about ten people in the boonies. Eastern or Western Washington?

I say this with urgency as I’d love to just target kids and the education system. But the reality is that no one’s invested in our kids for a while, especially not us. And, we don’t have enough time to wait for them. We need engaged adults now. Like, right now. Now. Yes, now.

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New Job

A few months ago, I said to my friend, “I think something interesting is about to happen around community. I have no idea what it is, but I want to find out.”

I got a new job. Turns out, hanging around Seattle for two years and doing a lot of stuff gets you cold email referrals.

The job is building community. A very special one. 

cartoon bowing perpetually

Boom

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