Monday, October 20, 2014

Focus, Focus, Focus

As many who start up a company begin with a great idea, with a laser focus; it seems as soon as you get started, you start to get distracted by other priorities, or begin adding additional features or strategies for no apparent reason other than to please as many people as possible. As Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone."


With that in mind, there is a great Hindu epic from the 3,500-year-old Mahabharata, one of the three sacred texts of Hindu, that tells of a story about the five Pandava brothers: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva.

These brother where the great warriors of ancient India, and one in particular, Arjuna, has a fantastic story of purpose and calling in the Bhagavad Gita. But that is another story.  In any case, this story begins with the brothers' archery teacher's instruction on aim and targeting. The master ties a wooden fish to a tree branch over a basin of water. The master tells the Pandava brothers that they must shoot the fish's eye with their bow and arrow but only by looking at the fish from the reflection in the basin of water.

The eldest brother, Yudhisthira, goes first. Before aiming his bow and arrow, the master stops and asks him "Yudhisthira what do you see?" Yudhisthira says, "I see the sky, I see the birds and the fish."

The master asks Yudhisthira to not draw his bow and go and sit down.

Then the master calls upon Bhima, the second eldest son. Again he asks the question, "Bhima, what do you see?" Bhima says, "I see the tree, the branches, the leaves and the fish."

Once again the master asks Bhima to sit down.

Finally, it is Arjuna's turn.

Arjuna steps forward, positions himself with his bow and arrow above the basin, and the master asks him, "Arjuna what do you see?" Arjuna responds by saying, "I see only the fish's eye." The master tells Arjuna, "Then draw you bow my son, and shoot."

The point of this story is that when you are distracted like the first two brothers by other things, you cannot possibly hit your target. Arjuna knew that, and when he looked into the water all he saw was the fish's eye and that is all he aimed for.

In all things, we often get distracted by people, events, family dramas, and situations that do not really matter and take us away from the work and goal at hand. If you are doing a startup, this is critically important! If you do not focus on the 'fish eye' of you goals, you will waste valuable time, effort, and resources. You will oscillate between one task to another, essentially accomplishing little or nothing. Focus only on your fish eye, do not admire the fish even if that is the goal you want. This wisdom has been around for ages, and is as appropriate today as it was 3,500 years ago. I hope you heed it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Anatomy of a Startup

While starting a company has never been easier, the same facts still remain.  Most close in six months, and only about 10% will ever get to a break even state.  Still, here are some interesting facts about tech startups (hardware, software or internet based). First, most are started by 1 or 2 people; second they spend less than $1,000 per month on development, and if they make it past 9 months, have a good chance of making it a year.  I hope the infographic below adds some additional light on the subject.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Life is a Train Ride (Perspective)

We often ponder why we are here and what is our purpose.  What is it for and why certain people come and leave or lives while others become what I consider hold dear and I call “friend.” I think this story might help with how to see life as a train ride. 

Life is like a journey on a train...with its stations...changes of routes...and accidents!

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel by our side.

However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone….but not quite.

As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of our life.

Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Some will move to a another car for awhile and come back. Others will go so unnoticed we don't realize they left their seats!

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hurts, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.

Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers...requiring that we give the best of ourselves because we are all on this ride together.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way - love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are, including giving up our seat if necessary.

It’s important because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty -- we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life without us.

I wish you a joyful journey for the coming years on your train of life. Reap success, give lots of love and be happy.

More importantly, be thankful for the journey and enjoy the view!

Lastly, if you happen be on this train with me, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Capitalism with Cows

Although we in the US believer our brand of capitalism is the best in the world, other countries actually practice a form a capitalism that is right for them.  I thought to show how, an explanation of how the rest of the world sees capitalism using cows as a metaphor would be in order. I hope this makes you more internationally aware of how Adam Smith's invisible hand is a work.

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM:
- You have two cows.
- You sell one and buy a bull.
- Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
- You sell them and retire on the income.

AMERICAN CAPITALISM:
- You have two cows.
- You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy influence with a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You sell one, accept an LAW tax promised credit payable in 4 year’s time, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
- You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You go on strike because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce 20 times the milk
- You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

A BRITISH CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- Both are mad.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION:
- You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.
- You break for lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You count them and learn you have five cows.
- You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
- You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.
- You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION:
- You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.
- You charge others for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- You have 300 people milking them.
- You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION:
- You have two cows.
- That one on the left is kinda cute…