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Figuring out The Why

When considering the possibilities for your life and your career, I recommend stopping and asking yourself some questions.

The Short Version

For those of you who want the points without reading the story, here are my cliff notes. If you are looking for the how to, go to part II. But, before you do, if you are not in business yet, and even if you are, take the time to read this.

80% of businesses go under in the first 5 years. When I asked Tom, one of my mentors why, he responded that it was because they got distracted by life and did not focus consistently on the things that would have made a difference. Maybe those things are uncomfortable, perhaps they didn’t have a mentor to guide them. In his opinion, they didn’t have a big enough reason why they had to succeed. Having personally closed the doors on a business, I could relate.

Being in business is phenomenal, no bones about it. I’m in it for the freedom, the choices, the influence and the money. To pull it off you are probably going to have to do things you don’t necessarily like and you are definitely going to have to change. You need to have a reason why bigger than just having fun or loving the business, simply because when things get tough, you need something that drives you through the struggles. So before you start, ask yourself, Why?

In Part II, we will go through the abc of how to get it running properly.

Wish you could read this in Polish? Luck you, this article has been translated and is now available thanks to Witold Rugowski.

A Question: Why?

I asked my dad one of those questions when I was 25.

“My sister and I are adults. Now that you see who we have become, what would you have done differently when raising us?”

It was a tough question. There was a few minutes of silence and then he responded in his careful manner,

“I would have taught you to dream beyond college. You see, we pushed college so hard thinking that you would figure it out on your own and never helped you prepare for what came after.”

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting but I knew what he meant. I went through five majors in college. It wasn’t that I had a hard time, I was pretty much a 4.0 student, I just had no clue what I wanted out of my life. My sister had panic attacks her final year as she approached graduation. We had the skills, the motivation and the energy. We just had no vision, no dream, no Why.

So I ask you: why?

No, not just why do you want to be a business owner.

My second mentor in business led me to a conference where I heard Mark Victor Hansen (the chicken soup for the soul guy), who during his talk said the following:

“Most people go to school, to get some form of job, that provides a certain amount of money and time, from which they carve out what ever life they can. The problem is, that is entirely backwards. Truly successful people figure out the life they want to live. They figure out what they want to have, what they want to do and who they want to be. Then they go look for someone who has that lifestyle, ask what them what they did and if it is legal, moral and ethical, they grab on their coattails and do it.”

I remember asking Tom,

“What if it’s selling toothbrushes or shoveling shit?”

He laughed and responded,

“If shoveling shit got you everything you wanted out of your life, wouldn’t you be happy?”

He had a point. He proceeded to explain that there are always things we love and things we hate about what we do. Do you think the Olympic athlete loves every work out? Does the nurse love cleaning bedpans? The question is really, what do you want from your life and are you moving towards it.

If you don’t already know – I highly suggest you make a list, like we did. I found it really hard. For my wife Julie, it was like firing a machine gun. She rattled off 140 things she wanted to have do and become on the spot. My wife is an amazing visionary. I managed to get to 20 before I started writing, more surfing, more travel. I showed it to Tom and he laughed, “details” he said, “dreams need details.” So I started over. My list is well over a 100 today and the crazy thing is, I constantly cross things I achieve off there, & I know I am living a life of purpose. I am going to include my list of a 100 at the end of this post.

The Dream

I usually get up when I want to in the morning. I surf. I meet new people all the time. My wife & I like to swim mid day. I love working in coffee shops. I face some fascinating and incredible challenges, and I make an impact within the team I work with and the customers I serve. As a team, we serve fortune 500 companies, receive international accolades, and make a pretty significant income, more than we ever could have as employees. And we work from home. It is about freedom, choices, making a difference and income. Plain and simple.

Is it worth it? Is it right for you? I don’t know. For that freedom, choice and income, we trade in stability. That doesn’t mean stability won’t be there some day, it comes, but there are no guarantees. Of course, companies don’t seem to offer the same guarantees to their employees that they offered my parents. It takes serious discipline, the ability to focus, a willingness to learn, change, maybe do some thing you don’t want to do, and a really strong work ethic. Can it be done? There is no doubt about it. We are proof. Many others are proof.

So what made me decide?

I was a part-time teacher & programmer who went through a number of jobs. Between you and me, I wasn’t a stellar employee, I never really liked being told what to do. I loved surfing, my girlfriend (now wife), meeting people and making things happen. For me, it is about the ability to choose, and even though I am pretty conservative, I am open to taking risks. So when I met Quinn McLaughlin, it was the right place and right time.

Quinn was sitting at Lulu’s (same place I first met Peter) typing on what had to be the smallest laptop I’d ever seen. I checked it out, and we geeked out looking at some of his cool toys. He had just closed the doors to Osiris, his video game company, and was living it large. He surfed (now kites) or biked every day. He worked out of coffee shops, some times on the beach in the shade, or in a park – anywhere you could take a laptop. He chose when he worked and when he didn’t. He made enough money to cover a good life style in Santa Cruz (no simple feat) and still had enough to wander throughout China and Mongolia for a few months on top of it. Basically he lived the life I wanted. So, I bugged him to hook me up so that I could do whatever it was he did. And he did. And I thank him to this day. He gave me my first client and lent me his credibility when I was ready to branch out and get my own clients. Quinn showed me a vision, a life where I could make the choice on how to live my life.

Then I met Tom, and he taught me that a contractor is truly a business owner, not some cut rate employee who doesn’t get benefits. He and his wife had built businesses, some great and some small, and in the process learned how to create systems that enabled the business to continue on whether or not they were personally involved. Basically, they got free. They showed me that a business can lead to personal financial freedom, control of my time, and helping others in significant ways. They showed me another vision and this vision drives Julie & I every day. We want people to come play with us.

The What

The first day I met Tom, we discussed how to analyze a business opportunity. Three things stuck in my mind and are a key part of my decision making today:

“Your income will be in direct proportion to the problems you solve. The greater the problem, the greater the income. That is why heart surgeons make more than stock clerks. After all, which is more valuable to you? When you are looking at any business, always ask yourself, what problem will that solve?”

“Timing is everything. A great businessman sees trends and act on them. The best way to make money in today’s world is to place yourself in front of a trend. Ask yourself, will more people participate in your industry next year than they did this year? Is the need for what the business offers increasing?”

“Find someone who has made it in the industry who has a vested interest in your success. There is no greater thing in the world.”

I could write books on each of these, maybe some day I will. If you are lucky enough to already have something that you love to do, go do it. If you are looking, the thoughts I have to offer is the following: look for something that you stay up late about because you are too enraptured to go to bed. Then figure out how to make it a business.

What do we do? We solve problems. That’s what Peter & I love to do. Oh, we happen to play with computers too, but that isn’t the heart of what we do. Computer are just the how, not that what, nor the why.


Because a few people asked me to add it…

The Top 100 Things I Want to Have, Do & Become

I wrote this list the same year I started my business. We’ve accomplished a number of these and have quite a way to go on others. Every time I see this I still get emotional. I’m sharing it because seeing Julie’s list inspired me to stretch to make my own. Sometimes you need to see someone else do it for inspiration.

  1. Julie has the option to be a stay at home mom
  2. Julie gets her PhD
  3. Buy a house
  4. 5br / 4ba home on the ocean overlooking good surf, with palm trees, mediterranean style, outdoor shower & hot tub.
  5. Honeymoon on a warm tropical location
  6. Buying Julie’s wedding present cash
  7. Get completely barreled in an aqua-marine hollow reef wave
  8. Time to read fun books
  9. Own 12 properties
  10. Camping in Baja on a good south with close friends
  11. High Proformance 9’0 longboard
  12. Have 6 months expenses in savings
  13. Remodel our kitched with limestone counters with fossils in them, old spanish tile floors, cheery cabinets, high end pro-gass range & stainless steel appliances
  14. Heli-boarding through deep powder
  15. Romantic diners with Julie at 5 Star Restaurants
  16. Surf a tidal bore
  17. Sunshine streaming into the windows of a new house I build or designed myself
  18. Scuba dive with hammer head sharks
  19. Give ‘Edward Bloom Days’ to people around me
  20. Die in peace with a smile
  21. Visit my parents often
  22. Spend time with Orianne
  23. Climb a 5.11
  24. Climb Mt. Kilamangaro
  25. A cute puppy
  26. California King Bed
  27. A home in a spanish speaking country
  28. Live in Nanny
  29. Play flamenco guitare
  30. Safari in Africa
  31. Eat wierd animals at the carnivore club
  32. Fall asleep every night knowing Julie is proud of me
  33. Be a leader of men
  34. Help provide a moderate presidential candidate – financially conservative and socially liberal by today’s standard
  35. Heal my back pain
  36. Grow an herb garden
  37. Eat grain fed beef
  38. Learn salsa dancing and go out with Julie
  39. Pay cash for daily living
  40. Light weight laptop
  41. Go deep see fishing and catch a marlin
  42. Surf whenever and where ever I want
  43. Ride horses through mongolia
  44. Tour New Zealand on bicycle
  45. Teach my kids to dream, set goals and push through failures
  46. Donate time and money to set up a teens entreprenurial project
  47. Donate time and money to set up a parent & child finance management class
  48. Support Julie’d charge for justice
  49. Have a strong friendship with my kids
  50. Create and teach a semester course on leadership to graduate students – after all they teach our kids
  51. Own a huge personal library
  52. Make Julie feel loved & love to my Julie often
  53. Surf Sunset beach
  54. Speak in front of a 100,000 people
  55. Get massages whenever I want
  56. Have friends all over the world
  57. Our kids feel like winners and know their parents are too
  58. Julie loves, respects and edifies me to others
  59. A car with air conditioned seats (I hate sweaty back)
  60. See my Abs on last time
  61. Make my children laugh & be the shoulder they can cry on
  62. Make people smile every day
  63. Inspire others to push beyond their own fears
  64. Take cooking courses with 5 star chefs in six countries: Italy, Morocco, Thailand, Japan, France, Lousiana
  65. Never run out of clean sox or underwear
  66. Buy Julie sexy Lingerie
  67. Take Julie somewhere with a beach, private cabana, reef, where its warm and she can wear those sexy clothes
  68. Sail around the pacific & ride amazing unridden rights
  69. Go to a couples retreat every years
  70. Have big weekend BBQs with friend on patio
  71. Good friend to share workouts with
  72. Never worry about the cost of medical
  73. Develop a strong relationship with mom and dad
  74. See antartica
  75. Be 20 feet away (safely) from an Orca in the wild
  76. See mardi-gras in new orleans
  77. Hike the trails in Machu Pichu
  78. Own a vehicle with a navigation system
  79. be positive and uplift people
  80. Help friends (& even strangers) in need
  81. See arches, zion and grand canyon
  82. Expand my circle of close friends
  83. Sit around and spend time with multimillionaires
  84. Go through pre-race / defensive driving school
  85. Surprise Julie with gifts
  86. Stay at the closest hotel to each business event
  87. Have lunch with Mark Victor Hansen
  88. Have dinner with John Gray
  89. Take a long walk with Joe Caruso
  90. Wake up to Julie’s genuinely happy laughter in the morning
  91. Overcome my fear of loosing my relationship
  92. Make my own furniture with dad
  93. Provide seed money for inovative business ideas
  94. Have time to cultivate intimacy
  95. Fly my kite with Julie & kids on a field of flowers basking in the sun
  96. Fly to good waves when its flat at home
  97. Live a life of purpose surounded by love
  98. Have on demand hot water and get pruned every day
  99. Take singing lessons
  100. Court my wife until the day I die
  101. Surf santa cruz island
  102. Go abalone diving and eat one
  103. Get 2 meal tickets at the culinary olympics
  104. Own a billboard on a major freeway where I can write whatever I want. Make people pause and think.
  105. Receive an x-mas card from the whitehouse

… to be continued

Go to Part II: Setting Up Your Business