Chasing The Gleam

Entrepreneurs have something in common with coal miners and gold prospectors.

We have all chosen occupations that are actively shortening our lifespans.

River miners crush fingers, toes and even teeth shoving aside huge boulders to reach the gleam beneath. “I’ve been buried under the water three times,” says Bernie McGrath, a prospector and former pipeline worker. “It’s a treacherous way to make money.” From: Smithsonian Magazine

We destroy our health, relationships and (some) sanity with an extremely small chance of success. We are chasing the gleam, and (some) are willing to almost die to get it.

Founders that work 24 hours a day, that outwork everyone, that put it all on the line for their companies are our heroes. We are taught that we should be living as close to the poverty line as possible (when Next Big Sound gave their Techstars Demo Day pitch, one of their lines that got the biggest laugh: “…we are young and cheap to keep alive.”)

But what if I told you that all these years we have been lied to? What if the concept of working yourself to the bone was an antiquated as the Model T, and as effective in a remake of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift?

If effectiveness is doing the right things, efficiency is doing things right.

Tim Ferriss writes this line in his book The Four Hour Chef in his discussion on accelerated learning.

Yet, it’s applicable to startups. The path to success isn’t paved with a superhuman effort of work, but on a focused approach of understanding effectiveness an efficiency.

It only takes two simple actions:

Step one: It’s all about you. Or more correctly, its all about me.

Think to when you wake up. What is the first thing you do? Is it 100% for you, or is it for someone else? Is it email? Do you make breakfast for your significant other?

If the first thing you do in the morning isn’t 100% for you, selfishly, then the rest of your day will be spent not doing anything for you.

You know one of the reasons you are supposed to eat breakfast within 60 minutes of waking up? Because it tells your mind that you will be getting fed, and it settles down for the rest of the day. It doesn’t freak out and think you are going to starve and therefore stores fat.

Find something that is yours, and yours alone. I set two alarms in the morning. One at 7am and one at 7:30am. I chose to sleep to the second one. Its small, but its for me. I want to sleep more, so I do. Once up, i eat breakfast, feed the animals, and then walk for 2 miles. Shower.

Then check my email.

By 9am, I have accomplished a couple of things, and my step count is ~5000, which is 50% of my daily goal, making it well within reach.

I start the day by making success an eventuality, not a possibility.

What happens?

My production increases by at least 50% (measured in actual output). Quality increases. I make decisions more thoughtfully. My relationships with friends, coworkers, etc are improved because I am more focused and clear.

Step two:

Say no.

Everything carries an opportunity cost, and everything is a choice. When you decide to do something, that means you are not doing something else. Weigh the two decisions based on their potential, and chose the one with higher positive potential outcome.

It is impossible to say what one should say no to, that’s personal. But what I can tell you is that no one will think you are a dick if you say no (as long as you are not a dick while saying it.)

Stop letting boulders fall on you while you chase the gleam.

(side note: A short “tapestry” I wrote was recently featured. Check out A Journey Begins With a Single Shut Up.)


Now read this

Shut up. You Don’t Love Your Startup.

Best way to be happy professionally, is to find what you love get paid for it. Liar. As soon as I get paid for what I love, it becomes a job. Work. And I hate work. Man, things are just screaming at my startup. We’re kill-ing it. I just... Continue →