11 Pieces of Rebel Advice

Entrepreneurship

Ich lese ja im Moment nicht gerade viel (ich bin seit März am gleichen Buch und es ist mir wirklich noch nie passiert, dass ich so lange an einem Roman gelesen habe. Auch wenn es ein dicker Schinken ist, ist mir das als begeisterte Leserin ein wenig peinlich). Aber ein wenig einschlägige Unternehmer-Literatur zu lesen, bevorzugt in Form von kurzen Artikeln, bringe ich noch unter. Ein Artikel mit dem Titel 11 Pieces of Rebel Advice That Will Catapult Your Startup Success von entrepreneur.com fand ich sehr cool – einerseits weil ich mich mit dem Inhalt an vielen Stellen identifizieren kann, andererseits, weil ich auch noch einiges lernen kann – und weil er eine lustige Lektüre ist. Nun im Folgenden der Original-Artikel, der oben verlinkt ist, mit meinen Kommentaren in blau (die Bilder habe auch ich eingefügt). Ausnahmsweise nur auf Englisch, da der Artikel in dieser Sprache verfasst wurde.

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I am not reading much at the moment ( I have been reading the same novel since March this year, this never happened to me before. Though it is a book of more than 1000 pages, I still feel a little embarrassed about it because I really love reading). Still, I manage to read a little bit of relevant literature about entrepreneurship, preferably in the form of short articles. One article with the headline 11 Pieces of Rebel Advice That Will Catapult Your Startup Success from entrepreneur.com has been really cool. On the one hand because I can identify with a lot of content, on the other hand because I can still learn something from it. And it’s fun to read it. You can find the original article below, with my personal comments in blue (the pictures are mine as well).

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And here comes the article:

I’m not here to waste your time, and I hope you’re not here to waste mine. So, I’m going to keep this short.

Nothing like a little Ben Affleck in Boiler Room to get us going. (Watch it right now here so you get a grasp on the tone of this piece.)

These are strategies that have worked for me, but may not necessarily work for you, so take them with a grain of salt. Let’s get to it:

Yes, I will take everything with a grain of salt:

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1. F**k off

Make sure the timing is right. I work my butt off — more than 12 hours a day usually. My only true rest day is Saturday afternoon after I do CrossFit for a few hours.

The past two weeks I’ve been stressed out with some major project deadlines looming, Entrepreneur writing deadlines, juggling my other startups, planning for my wedding in October and planning for a trip to Europe in August. I’m not usually that stresed out guy.

I never play video games anymore, but randomly I downloaded this game called Boom Beach on my Android tablet, and have been playing it the past couple days. The game is similar to the old Command & Conquer. It’s been awesome to free my mind, and just f**k off a little.

Guess what happened? My projects were accomplished. My writing is on point. My startups are moving forward and Europe is not going anywhere.

Know when the time is right, and go f**k off — whatever that means for you. It will help your brain to disconnect.

I usually go outside for a run in such a case. If I am already too tired for anything and it’s at least 8 o’clock, a glass of wine and/or an entertaining movie will do it as well.

2. Work for free

Last year, Mark Cuban was persecuted for an old rant about not being able to hire free interns. Apparently, working for free goes against the majority’s thinking. I’ve used it to my advantage my entire life.

Early in my career I worked for free all over the place. It was the single most important activity I did. My experience doubled over night, and I learned how to create enough value at each internship that I eventually was offered a position. I typically turned it down and moved on at that point because I learned as much as I could.

To this day I’m not afraid to work for free if I see an upside. Also, most of the startups I build are bootstrapped. Guess what that means? I work for free. Yippee!

Working for free turns you into a value creating machine. You learn how to create assets that did not exist previously, and it can afford you all sorts of opportunities to work with people you may not have had the chance to otherwise.

During my studies, I did an internship in a small estate agency. I have been working pretty much for free – for a weekly salary of 30 Pounds. But that did not matter. Because I had responsibility, I had been given a project on my own (the creation of a marketing magazine as a project manager, including the design, selling of adverts and editing the content), I have been working voluntarily on it as much as I could – forgetting about time of office hours. I have been so satisfied in the end having finished successfully. And more importantly, I got enthusiastic about entrepreneurship through this experience and had learned a lot – thanks to my boss and other people involved in the project. Since then, I had the wish to become an entrepreneur some time in the future … 

3. Work on multiple projects

Most of the advice out there will tell you to focus on one thing, use all of your energy, blah, blah, blah. I disagree.

To clarify, I’m not talking about multi-tasking, I’m talking about working on multiple projects simultaneously. For example, I have my main digital marketing company (that is spinning out a sister company that focuses on experiential marketing, guerrilla marketing and publicity stunts). I have a handful of startups, and am focused on building my personal brand. I’m writing a book, and constantly helping and mentoring other entrepreneurs.

There are always sticking points and risk with startups. Having multiple things going on at once helps you to constantly move rather than get stuck, and helps mitigate risks. I’ve learned how to prioritize effectively, and allocate more of my time and energy to the projects that demand them.

Yep, I have always been interested in many things. And I will never excel in something as I just do too many things at the same time. But I love being involved in many projects and having the freedom to organize my day the way I want to. At the moment, it looks like this: a LOT of planning for my project, some phone conversations with people who can help me, doing some sports, chatting with a friend on skype for 15 minutes, renovating a bit, and a bit of household in between, and finally doing some translation work to earn at least a little money. Not to forget some writing inbetween ;-).

4. Work whenever you want

My workload fluctuates, but I tend to keep a full plate. One perk of being an entrepreneur is that I can work whenever I want. Granted, I have clients and troops that I have to communicate with and be accessible to, but I can choose when to work for the most part.

Some days I’ll stop working in the day and go see a movie, or hang out with my fiancee and puppy. I like to work at night, and tend to stay up late. I use this flexibility to my advantage to accomplish my objectives during my peak hours.

I love to have this freedom. When I was writing my diploma thesis, I ended up working at night because it has been so calm outside and I felt less distracted. I like that atmosphere. On the other hand, I have become an early bird during the last months. Being woken up by the sun and early morning time are special as well. But I got into that rhythm by being physically active as well and simply too tired to enjoy a long evening. So I have been tired early and simply went to bed.

5. Work wherever you want

I used to have really nice office space, and then I shut it down. It was a waste of overhead and made me feel like I had a job.

I love the nomadic entrepreneur lifestyle. Everything I do is online, and it affords me the luxury to work wherever I want. This is another perk of being an entrepreneur. Take advantage of it. Go work at the pool or beach or at a co-working space with other entrepreneurs. You can even travel the world and use Nomad List to figure out the best places in the world to work.

I say with using a picture:

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6. Ask for more

If you don’t ask, you don’t receive, right? Push the envelope, any envelope, all the envelopes.

I do this in life and as an entrepreneur. For example, a few years ago I was flying somewhere for business. I saw that there were some empty seats in first class. I went up to the flight attendant, turned up my charm  and asked, “What would it take for me to ride up here where I belong?” She chuckled, and gave me a seat. Maybe this is a shallow example, but you get my point.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more. Ask for more from yourself, your team, investors, clients and the Starbuck’s barista serving your double shot mocha venti latte. A funny thing happens when you start asking, you usually receive.

I already feel more self confident having my own project and being able to be 100% authenthic and myself, but this is proabaly still the hardest part for me … something to work on.

7. Bend the rules

Of course, this would be in this list somewhere. Look at this awesome quote I got from Tucker Max:

As an entrepreneur, you always want to learn the rules, but only so you can know exactly how to bend and break them when needed.

Bending the rules will allow you to think outside the lines, and allow you to see the world through a different lens. It is that unique lens that can separate you from the herd, which will empower you to be a stronger entrepreneur.

I like this. I think that we are kind of overregulated in Europe. And it’s pretty easy to sit somewhere and make rules for others. Nevertheless, many rules do make sense and I am not fighting against everything. But I think it’s important to know and question the rules. And I think that NO regulation can replace THINKING ON YOUR OWN and HUMANITY – so they are limited in that respect.

8. Don’t take yourself seriously

This is important. Taking yourself seriously is a sign of inflated ego, and inflated ego is a weak character trait. Make fun of yourself. Share your quirks and awkwardness. Nobody is perfect. This will help build authentic relationships with people and show your true self.

An excellent advice you can read a lot in guidebooks. I had to think of it all the time I put on my rain clothes on the Camino the Santiago. This picture reminds me of it:

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9. Embrace your haters

You will have many haters if you follow my advice. Sometimes they’re undercover haters, sometimes they’re out in the open and most of the time they like to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.

I have lots of experience with this. Have you Googled my name? Yep. Thanks haters. Who cares. I’ve learned to embrace them. If it wasn’t for the negative online slander against me, I probably wouldn’t have ever started writing. So, thank you haters.

Very wise. Not the point of the author’s advice, but this reminds me of the following Bible verse: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27 … and there are similar passages)

10. Be controversial

Don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial. That’s lame and a waste of everyone’s time. However, if you’re passionate about something, stand up for it. Even if it goes against the norm.

Nobody in their right mind would write the type of articles I write, such as “6 Life Hacks Learned In Prison That Will Maximize Your Productivity” or “How My Life As An Entrepreneur Shaped My Time In Prison.” In fact, some of my closest friends and contacts urged against me sharing so much. Personally, I felt the risk was worth the payout though.

And guess what? It has been.

My “6 Life Hacks Learned In Prison” column has afforded me all types of opportunity. It was picked up by TIME.com, FOX and other notable media outlets. I earned new business. I picked up a new contribution role for another media company and I continue to build authentic relationships with people through my brand.

I totally agree. I have been a rebel as a teenager because I found it cool. I am not doing it anymore. But so often, I realize that I am just not mainstream in what I like, think and how I act. Not because I want to be a rebel, but because my personality and convictions are different. And I want to be myself.

11. Take a stance

Almost in the same vein of the above point, don’t be afraid to take a stance. Too many people are afraid to stand up for what they believe in these days.

This is my favorite Steve Jobs quote:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

I think I don’t need to specify this. I have bought my house and now I will continue working on this project instead of blogging …

Here’s the plain truth, not everyone is going to like you. Who cares? Get over it and live your life without regrets.

This has turned into more of a motivational speech than I planned for. My editor rushed me to finish though, so this isn’t the right time to f**k off. Remember, life is short. Take risks, live without regrets and go download that Boom Beach game (you’ll thank me, it is seriously fun).

If you like and agree with all of this, and even if you don’t and want to create a dart board with my name on it, go sign up on my website. I’m going to start sending off badass, fun, motivational, insirational, 100 to 200 character messages Monday through Friday to help you stay on the grind throughout the week.

Verantwortung übernehmen – taking responsibility

Entrepreneurship, Thought

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In meinem Artikel „Der Bezug zu dem, was ich tue und konsumiere“ habe ich mich vor allem auf den „Konsum-Teil“ konzentriert, weshalb ich nun noch ein paar Worte zum „Tun-Teil“ verlieren werde. Dem liegt der gleiche Gedanke zugrunde, nämlich dass ich das Gefühl habe, dass in unserer modernen, komplexen Welt viele Leute den Bezug zu dem, was sie täglich tun, verloren haben. Auch auf beruflicher Ebene, in den Jobs, um ihren Lebensunterhalt zu verdienen. Und bei der Arbeit verbringen die meisten von uns den Großteil ihrer Lebenszeit! Eine Gesellschaft in der es Arbeitsteilung gibt, ein Erbe aus dem Industrialisierungsprozess, hat auch positive Aspekte, aber ich denke, dass wir es in mancher Hinsicht zu weit getrieben haben. Wenn man die meiste Zeit für jemand anderen arbeitet, aber gar nicht mehr versteht, worum es eigentlich geht und nur ein kleines Rädchen in einem riesigen Konstrukt ist, verliert man den Bezug zu dem, was man tut. Es besteht folglich die Gefahr, dass einem alles egal wird und dass man sich auch nicht verantwortlich für das fühlt, was man tut. Und sobald das für ein paar oder einige Leute in einer Organisation der Fall ist, können Dinge außer Kontrolle geraten – unabhängig von der Position in der Hierarchieebene (ich will das jetzt nicht näher ausführen, nur das Stichwort „letzte Finanzkrise“ einwerfen).

Daher mache ich die Aussage, dass Firmen zu groß werden können. Hinter jedem Unternehmen, das zu einem Weltmarktführer geworden ist, steckt unbestritten eine gute Idee und ein tolles Geschäftsmodell. Aber ab einer bestimmten Firmengröße überwiegen die Nachteile. Ich habe den Eindruck, dass Manager großer Firmen keinen Bezug mehr zu den strategischen Entscheidungen haben, die sie treffen, sofern sie nur zum Managen und Heranscheffeln von mehr Geld eingestellt wurden. Das gleiche gilt übrigens, wenn auf eine oder mehrere beim Staat angestellte Personen zu viel Macht konzentriert ist. Öffentliche Gelder werden so leicht ausgegeben und zum Fenster hinausgeschmissen. Menschen verhalten sich anders, wenn sie ihr eigenes Geld ausgeben und direkt mit den Konsequenzen ihrer Entscheidungen konfrontiert werden. Und deshalb fasziniert mich das Konzept des Unternehmertums so sehr. Ein Unternehmer fängt normalerweise klein an, oft nur mit einer Idee. Und er hat einen Bezug zu dem, was er tut. Er tut es mir Leidenschaft und vollem Einsatz – aus idealistischen Gründen aber eben auch weil seine Existenz von seinem Handeln abhängt.

Und anstatt eine Karriere in einem großen Unternehmen anzustreben (was ja seit der Schulzeit mein Antrieb war), habe ich mich nun für den Weg entschieden, irgendwo klein anzufangen. Aber mit dem Wissen um die Freiheit, nach meinen Prinzipien handeln zu können. Und ich will Verantwortung übernehmen – für Dinge, die ich hoffentlich kontrollieren kann.

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In my article „The relation to what I do and consume“, I have focused on the „consuming part“. And now, I want to say a few words about the „doing part“. The same reasoning lies behind, I do have the feeling that in this modern and complex world, many people have lost the relation to what they are doing on a daily basis, also on a professional level, in their job to earn a living. And this is what most of us spend most of their time on! Division of labour, a heritage from the process of industrialization, does have positive aspects, but I think, in some cases, we have taken it much too far. If you spend most of your time working for somebody or something and you are not able to get the whole picture anymore, you are just a small part of an intangible big thing, you automatically lose the relation to this. And as a consequence, the danger is that you do not care, you do not feel responsible any more for what you are doing. And if this holds true for a few or many people in an organization, things can get out of control – independent of their role or position in the hierarchy (I do not want to go into details of this, but just think of the last financial crisis).

That’s why I make the statement that companies can become too big. There is a great idea and business model behing every company that has been able to grow to a world market leader. But still, at some point, you can observe that negative aspects of it prevail. I have the impression that managers of big companies have no relation to the strategic decisions they take if they are just employed for the sake of managing and growing/making more money. The same applies if too much power is concentrated on one or a few persons who work for the government. Public money is spent and wasted so easily. Because people act differently if they spend their own money and are directly confronted with the consequences of their decisions. That’s why I am so font of the idea of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur usually starts small, with an idea. He is related to what he does, passionate and he cares – for idealsistic reasons but also because his existence often depends on how he acts.

And instead of aiming for a career in a big company (this has been my motivation during the last 10 years until I quit my job), I have chosen to try out the way to start small somewhere, but having the freedom to act according to my own principles. And I want to take responsibility – for the things I can hopefully control. 

Über Erfolg und Scheitern – about success and failure

Entrepreneurship, Thought

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Als ich im letzten Jahr einen ehemaligen Chef von mir kontaktiert und ihm von meiner Situation und meinen Gedanken erzählt habe, bekam ich eine lange und inspirierende E-Mail zurück. Übrigens die Person, die mich als erstes und nachhaltig für das Thema Unternehmertum begeistert hat. Einer seiner Ratschläge an mich war, dass ich „Erfolg“ für mich selbst definieren soll. Genauso wie das jeder für sich selbst tun sollte, eine individuelle Angelegenheit also. Im Folgenden zitiere ich die relevante Passage aus der E-Mail:

„What, to you, is ‘success’? Money? Love? Contentment? A legacy? Lack of fear? Or lack of certainty? No two people have the same answers. No ONE person has the same answers every day. […] You need to decide, though, what ‘success’ is. If I had some advice – which I think you probably don’t need anyway – is: don’t ever benchmark success by money.“

 „Was bedeutet ‘Erfolg’ für dich? Geld? Liebe? Zufriedenheit? Ein Vermächtnis? Keine Angst zu haben? Oder keine Sicherheit zu haben? Keine zwei Menschen werden die gleiche Antwort haben. Nicht einmal ein und derselbe Mensch hat jeden Tag die gleiche Antwort […]. Trotzdem musst du dich entscheiden, was ‘Erfolg’ ist. Wenn ich dir einen Rat geben würde – den du wahrscheinlich gar nicht brauchst – dann dieser: messe Erfolg nie am Geld.“

Seit ich das gelesen habe, war ich sensibilisiert, wann immer mir das Wort Erfolg zu Ohren oder Augen gekommen ist. Und ich war überrascht, wie oft es als Synonym für Geld benutzt wird. Oft wollte ich widersprechen und sagen: Nein, das geht so nicht, Erfolg impliziert nicht automatisch finanziellen Erfolg, jeder darf das für sich selbst definieren…

Das Konzept der eigenen Definition von „Erfolg“ kann ich doch nun auch auf das Gegenteil, das „Scheitern“ anwenden. Natürlich hat ein Unternehmer Angst, mit seinem Business zu scheitern. Wenn ich „Scheitern“ für mich aber so definiere, dass es heißt, „es erst gar nicht zu versuchen“, dann kann ich im klassischen Sinne gar nicht mehr scheitern.

Bevor ich diesen Blog gestartet habe, habe ich mich mit der Tatsache auseinandergesetzt, dass ich einen Teil meines Lebens öffentlich Preis gebe, indem ich den Fortschritt über mein Projekt dokumentiere. Und ich will nicht nur die positiven und tollen Momente an der Sache teilen, ich bin mir bewusst, dass es auch harte Zeiten geben wird. Aber auch im schlimmsten Fall – einem der folgenden Szenarien: falls ich nicht mal soweit komme, die Pension wiederzueröffnen, völlig überfordert bin, finanzielle Probleme bekomme oder das Haus wieder verkaufen muss (bzw. mich dafür entscheide, es zu verkaufen)  – gilt Folgendes: ich werde den Mut haben, hier ganz offen davon zu berichten. Auch wenn ich nach meiner Definition dann nicht gescheitert bin, wird das natürlich nicht schön sein. Aber ich werde ehrlich sein!

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When I contacted a former boss of mine about one year ago to tell him about my situation and thoughts, I got a long and inspiring email back (by the way, the person who first got me enthusiastic for the idea of entrepreneurship). One of his pieces of advice was that I should define myself what success means to me, just as everybody should do this for himself, hence rather an indvidual thing. Let me quote that passage:

 „What, to you, is ‘success’? Money? Love? Contentment? A legacy? Lack of fear? Or lack of certainty? No two people have the same answers. No ONE person has the same answers every day. […] You need to decide, though, what ‘success’ is. If I had some advice – which I think you probably don’t need anyway – is: don’t ever benchmark success by money.“

Having read this, I immediately paid attention all the time I heard or read the word success. And since then, I have been surprised, how often I came across that it when it was used as a synonym for money. I often felt like contradicting: No, success does not automatically mean financial success, everybody is free to define for himself what it means…

If this concept the personal definition applies to success, it can also be applied to its contrary, „failure“. Of course, an entrepreneur is afraid to fail with his business. But if I define it the following way and say if failing is never having tried it out, I can’t fail anymore in the classical sense.

Before I have started this blog, I have dealt with the fact that I share quite a bit of my life by sharing the progress on my project. And I don’t want to write exclusively about the positive and bright sides of it – I know there will be tough situations. But even in the worst case – one of the following scenarios: if things won’t work out at all, if I should be unable to cope with the whole thing, if I will not even get to the point to reopen the guesthouse, if I will run out of money and be forced or decide to sell the house – let me make this clear: Even if I haven’t failed according to my definition, this is not going to be nice. But I will have the guts to be honest about it on this blog.

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