Meredith's circuitous path to small-business success is hardly unusual. Few entrepreneurs' business ideas end up panning out exactly as planned, said Daphne Woolfolk, founder of Essati Consulting in Hyde Park. "I don't know anyone for whom success is a straight path," she said. "It's about moving through failure, not avoiding it."
Many entrepreneurs move back and forth between employment and launching their own businesses. Meredith, who has a degree in information technology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a culinary degree from Illinois Institute for Art, worked for IBM, McDonald's, Aramark, Lotus and his mother's data-processing company before launching AlterEatGo.
The real trick to making something great often has extremely little to do with the idea, and much more to do with the execution. That's where the real innovation occurs -- in taking an idea and trying to figure out how to make it useful. It's that process that's important, much more than the original idea. As nearly anyone who has brought a product from conception to market will tell you, what eventually succeeds in the market is almost always radically different than the original "idea."
It's not where you start or where you end up - it's the process that matters. It's about the journey. Which is why it kills me to see so many people dream of owning their own business, and doing absolutely nothing about it.
Location is 90% of success. As in, put yourself where you need to be to do the thing you dream of, and it's that placement that moves you forward. Because let's face it - you would look pretty stupid standing there in the place you need to be, doing nothing at all.
Let's say he picks Mitt Romney. Mitt comes with an organization. But why wait until two months before the election to get the ball rolling? McCain has squandered a lot of time. He doesn't understand the electorate if he thinks we're just looking for experience. And don't get me wrong - Obama is scary in his naivete. But that won't stop his voters from getting to the polls.
It's as though McCain thinks, like Hillary did, that he'll get elected just on his experience alone. That turned out to be rather dumb.
Every day matters. Hell, every hour matters, especially when you're behind. But I get no sense of urgency from McCain or his campaign.
I've hired somewhere north of 100 people throughout my life. The interviewing process is something I like doing. It's always interesting to see a person's reaction to questions. I like calling references in advance of the interview, and not after. It makes me a more informed interviewer.
The interviewee wants the job, or they would be not applying for it (unless they're milking unemployment benefits - I've met a few of those). A job means a paycheck, which is something they don't have, so it's in their financial best interest to clinch the work.
I also know of people who have multiple résumés, to showcase different aspects of themselves. That can be perfectly fine, but a few have twisted it. In the interview, they'll say anything. About three / four years ago, I interviewed a woman for a position. She was coming in to be a web developer. She was amazing, she told me. She knew a web development tool, but I explained that I needed someone who could get into the nuts and bolts of it. "Do you code well enough to write it without the tool?" Oh sure, she said. Might need a book nearby as a guide once in a while, but who doesn't?
So imagine her surprise (and consternation) when I produced a piece of paper and a pencil and asked her to write a bit of code by hand to perform a certain task. And after fumbling through it for 30 seconds, she began to question why this was even necessary. "Nobody writes code by hand. Everybody uses some sort of tool. This is pointless." I began to explain to her why it was necessary, and she kept interrupting me. She was flexibly trying to find an answer to suit me. And when that didn't work, to convince me that I was wrong in my request.
(I did end up finding and hiring two great candidates and hired them both.)
We look down on people who will say anything to get the job. Don't you? I mean, why would you hire that person?
The point of every job interview is not to land the job, but to find a fit. Every person will do a certain job differently, but the job has to be satisfying to the person filling it, and the employer has to get what they thought they were getting. I personally think that employers do a disservice when they post a job description and leave off the expectations. It's a disservice to both the employer and the interviewee. Somehow, qualifications are discussed up front (good) but expectations come later, for some reason. Maybe that because it's not always known what's expectated to be accomplished in the role...
Anyway, I'm watching Obama do flip-flop after flip-flop in his campaign. Some people have no problem with this. He's doing what he needs to do to get elected, they reason. That's a good thing, they tell themselves.
Why exactly is it a good thing to fill the most important job in the country with someone slippery like that?
Think in your mind, at this moment, what would thrill you. Down to your socks thrill you. Goosebumps, eyes-closed, ohmygod thrill you.
Got that in mind?
Now... that's the what.
How do you get there from here?
Get moving toward that image in your head. The thousand-mile journey begins with the first step... and comes closer with each footfall.
Consider Russell Crowe's Oscar acceptance speech...
You know, when you grow up in the suburbs of Sydney, or Auckland, or Newcastle, like Ridley or Jamie Bell... or the suburbs of anywhere... You know, a dream like this seems kind of vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. But this moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings. And for anybody who's on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it's possible.
Half a world away, the son of movie set caterers in New Zealand, he ambles through life and winds up winning for a couple of roles.
Anything is possible. How do you get to where you want to be?
I'm not sure what this means or how it will manifest itself, but I'm starting to feel colors. Painting has always been for me an act of seeing what it truly there. I get the sense that I will do that still, but start to paint what I feel from what I see as well.
Seeing things as they truly are is hard enough. Painting what I feel is much harder. It requires more sensitivity and more listening. More quiet to hear. It requires more trust.
It also seems like it will become more about the relationships between things.
So one of these days when I'm actually, you know, doing art instead of endless programming, I'll paint again. We'll see what comes of it.
I'm a banker, and here's my first loan that I've made, to a person wanting to expand their business and who has A-grade credit.
I'm not the only one who invested in this person. 246 other people did as well, at various amounts. All together, we loaned this person $10,000.
After 36 months of $1.79 payments made to me, my $50.00 investment into someone's dream will become $64.44. That's $14.44 in three years' time. That's a decent conservative return and it sure beats any CD or savings account at a bank. I plan to tell my folks about this. They're gonna retire soon, and I bet that they would love to invest in this. They'd think it was fun. I wonder what will happen when 79 million baby boomers start to learn about this...
A growing segment of student loans, car loans, home improvement, small business, and debt consolidation loans are happening like this.
Disruptive innovation happens on the fringes. Then it becomes mainstream. Then companies scramble to find a way to stay relevant. It'll be interesting to see how P2P lending plays out.
We live in an unprecedented age where we can have connection to so many people. Gifted people, who might otherwise be undiscovered, appear to us through the recommendations of others and it's easy for us to get to know them and see their talents.
Here's a guy that Kelly forwarded to me, just playin' guitar in someone's living room.
It used to be that you had to be right there to hear someone like this. Concerts were the only venue. Small audience, momentary, rare, and for a fee.
Then you could hear them on the radio. Large audience, periodic, really rare chance, and free.
Then you could view and share them on YouTube, like this. The audience is incrementally larger, the chance is pretty good that someone will view it, and it's free.
I expect that the next step for all of this is something like covalent bonding in nature, where the recorded actions, thoughts, perceptions of our lives and the reactions to our lives are connected together as a portfolio of what makes us "us." Like Wikipedia, but without editors.
Maybe it was the fact that the movie was so unbelievably loud in the theater we were in, to the point of disturbance. I mean, some of our kids were covering their ears. At least until I asked the employees to turn it down, please. Or maybe it was the person behind me kicking my seat. (Ah, the theater experience...)
But while it had its moments, it fell far below my expectations. Bummer.
It is the worst wireless router you can buy. It's bad because it drops wireless signal more often than Obama changes his positions. Literally every two minutes, it would drop connection. Just pathetic. Many others have had a similar experience.
(I had been using the old wireless router that came with my old Qwest DSL connection, which was super reliable, so I compare it to that.)
After a most family-filled weekend, orchestrated by my wife, of swimming, rock-wall-climbing, and theme park roller coasters and rides, we came home tonight pretty tired. I asked to learn how to do Tamara's nails for her.
I just have to say that anyone who can paint anything well with the thick, cumbersome brush that comes with nail polish is a genius.
This is the last public post with words here on beatcanvas. The gated playground goes up later this week, as the login process is now built and in testing. Once I'm done with testing, you'll be able to request access to the private, multi-contributor blog. That will be housed in a special place here on the web site, so these public pages and all of the previously public content will remain intact. The difference will be that roughly once a week during the weekend, I'll post picture(s) on the public space here. Might be art or photography. But no words...
I'll leave you with some favorite bits of wisdom and provocations.
"Human beings crave freedom at their core." - John Ensign
"Try to learn to breathe deeply; really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough." - William Saroyan
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"What I've learned to do when I set down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head... the vinegar lipped Reader Lady, who says primly, 'Well, that's not very interesting, is it?'" - Anne Lamott
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body - but rather a skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow, what a ride!'" - Tom Peters
"It is not success or failure that defines you, but persistent effort." - Unknown
"Crave function, not title." - Romeo Sebrowski
"'Love' is spelled T-I-M-E." - Unknown
And finally: "If someone is going to kick you, just point yourself in the right direction first."
Here you sit in gated playground at beatcanvas. Why did this happen? Because some people where I work at my day job read my blog to "spy" on me. Kind of ridiculous, and I don't need the drama. This should remedy that.
I have a few more things to do before the transformation is complete. One of those is to give you the ability to post content here. Should be up for you by the end of the weekend.
My family and I saw The Dark Knight at the midnight showing last night. Best movie of the year. A bit long, but understadably so.
The movie had perfect acting. Every actor was flawless. But Heath Ledger crystallized the movie. It would have been a great movie without him, but his performance was so memorable and so unexpectedly right that if they were to give one Oscar this year, it should be his.
Aaron Eckhardt cemented his place on big marquees.
Maggie Gyllenhaal showed Katie Holmes to be the high schooler she is.
And the fact that it wasn't CGI-laden was refreshing.
On my way back from Minneapolis yesterday, after visiting my son who is soon to attend college there, I mused on building web sites. I did this while I listened to a seminar by a Google business manager on innovation. The fella who gave the talk said that Google doesn't care what language a programmer knows. Google never hires a .NET programmer, or PHP programmer, or a Java programmer. That's irrelevant to their search. They just want to know if you can program. That hard skill aside, they then want to know how creative you are. The language can be learned. The creativity can't.
I think far too many people, skilled in a trade, focus on building the product, but not on creating the experience. Said another way, it's not about whether it works (functional) but whether it's intuitive and empowering (presentation). The best route between A and B is not the shortest, but the one most easily remembered. Efficiency can come later...
Do we lose the best fit for our purposes when we pre-bias our selection criteria with hard criteria? Do we forget the purpose of what we're doing when we focus only on arriving at the goal, and not in remembering that we are often leaders who need to communicate to others how to follow behind us?
I've uploaded the ability for registered members of the beatcanvas gated playground to post content. If you go to the main page, you should see a link for the Gated Playground. By accessing that, you can create new articles and edit those that you've written.
One fun thing: you can select the template to change the way your post appears. Choosing nothing gives your post the default look.
I'm still messing with all of this, but it's getting there. If you run into an error, let me know.
Something I like to do now and then is look up the meaning of words. I think that's healthy, because other people try to game engineer my understanding of some words.
Consider the word: "govern." Here's its definition:
to rule over by right of authority
to exercise a directing or restraining influence over; guide
to hold in check; control
to regulate the speed of
to have predominating influence
So I ask you...
Do you expect others to rule over you? Do you give them the right of authority to do so? Do you want them to have a restraining influence over you? Should others have the right to hold you in check? Regulate your movement?
This is why those who founded this country wanted government to be limited in its powers.
I bought the book, Generational Housing: Myth or Mastery, for some research I'm doing for work. Get this:
Over the past 20 years, there has been an increasing disparity in the distribution of wealth [emphasis mine]. In 2001, those in the top 20% of the population had 86% of net worth in the country. They have on average over 500 times as much as those in the bottom 40%, whose average total net worth was $2,900.
Income [emphasis mine], however, is not nearly so unequally distributed, with the top 20% having only 10 times the income on average of the bottom 40%.
What they don't say about income, as they do with wealth, is that the disparity between high and low is increasing. But we always hear about the wealth disparity as an argument for higher income taxes. Remember: it's income tax, and not wealth tax.
I'm spending the week working on LocalsGive.com, which is going well. I'm almost ready to test the submission process. Once that's complete, next week will be spent getting Sherry (the woman who told me that she wanted to do this) what she needs to manage submissions and pledges. About that time, she would be ready for a test drive with real people.
I brought in a new QA person, someone with whom I've worked before. He hadn't seen Paragon247.com or LocalsGive.com prior to this. After giving Paragon247 a thorough look, he had this to say:
Brett, the site is a work of art. Everyone here agrees, it is beautiful. It is so fast, clean, simple, easy, straightforward, etc. that it is impossible to criticize. When I couldn't find a particular link it was a) at the bottom of the page, and b) it turned out I didn't really need to go there in the first place.
I've been working on this for a while, as you know. Hearing that gives me a boost. Seeing LocalsGive.com and Paragon247.com go live in the next month will do so even more.
And lest you think Chris' nice comments went to my head, he also sent me a list of 18 to-do items. I'll work on that next week as well.
(Chris will get 5% equity in this if he continues working on it as he has. I'm not afraid to share what I've built - I just want people as committed as I am to it. Passion - the number one attribute in anyone I want to hire.)
Got me a new job today. Just development, but more money and likely more mobility. I start in a couple of weeks.
Felt pretty much like I wasn't going to go anywhere at my current job, though I liked the work. But you gotta feel like you're growing and making a difference. While my immediate management appreciated and encouraged my thinking, the management above didn't get me. No problem - I move on. And make about 1/3 more money.
I also expect that I'll get no hassles about my little web site here or my work on 247, both of which became issues, unfortunately...
Yesterday, I received a call from a friend of mine who is signed up here for the gated playground. That person too, who works for the same employer, was hassled about blogging. There was nothing threatening about that person's writing nor my own, and yet our blogs became an issue at work for us.
More reasons for me to fight very hard to make 247 successful and achieve the freedom to do as I wish. I don't want to be governed.