Monday, December 29, 2008

Zen | 10 | Universe

To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.


The absolute most difficult task of an entrepreneur is to find inner-peace while everything around them is chaotic.  It is more than simply the inability to relax - it is a deeper problem of conflict - where an entrepreneur is in a constant state of anxiety.  It is near impossible for an entrepreneur to stop the mind - but it is critical you learn how.

The first step in allowing your mind to become still - is removing the feeling of guilt that you feel when you are not working.  So many entrepreneurs are not able to stop, because they equate stopping to failure or laziness.  Entrepreneurs are only comfortable when moving, in a chaotic way - toward some objective... and cannot live in the moment.

But there is something powerful in a mind that is still. There is a level of enlightenment and clarity that is difficult to achieve when in a constant state of movement.  

As the mind becomes still - it will begin seeing all of the current challenges, opportunities and events as moments in time. Where they have no permanence, but rather are just experiences that have a beginning and an end. A still mind will force and allow you to focus. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Zen | 9 | Speed

There is more to life than increasing its speed.


Everything you start as an entrepreneur has a pace. Some ventures have a fast pace. Some don't feel like they are moving at all. In either case, there is a danger of failure. Ventures require momentum, but the market sets the pace. A Zentrepreneur looks for the perfect balance of both.

It is more important to focus on the Path, than it is to focus on the Speed of a venture. If your venture is on the wrong path, then the speed you move will only drive you to certain failure faster.

The easiest way to accept that Speed is not crucial to success, is to look at any company (new or old) and how they were able to leverage and learn from the failure of companies before them that focused on Speed and not Path. You can be an innovator to a fault. If you take your venture too far beyond market demand, and too fast down the path - you will not be able to convert the innovation into revenue. This is one of the primary reasons why it is so difficult to commercialize technology out of University labs - because Professors typically push the limits of innovation with no concern (and no need) to commercialize their invention. There are a few that have closed that Gap, and those Universities have been the drivers of the new generation of technologies (e.g. Google, Yahoo, etc).

Many times entrepreneurs believe their idea loses value as the market matures, but it is the exact opposite. Only bad ideas lose value over time. Good ideas prosper as more competition enter the market, and as more customers begin to buy.

Just as Gandhi, appropriately said "There is more too life than increasing it's speed", there is more to a Venture than increasing it's speed. Of course Gandhi was referring to enjoying your life, and stop focusing on tomorrow - but I believe it speaks to the same point - which is focus on the essentials of life - the essentials of your venture.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Zen | 8 | Quiet

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.

Lao Tzu

There is a power that very few entrepreneurs leverage when starting their business and even operating their business. The power to listen.

There are three primary causes that I have seen in entrepreneurs who refuse to listen to advice.

The first cause is the ego. It is natural that entrepreneurs have above average ego's, especially young entrepreneurs - but when it blocks genuine advice from colleagues, investors or even customers, it becomes a liability that many times leads to failure.

The second cause is silence. Most entrepreneurs don't seek advice or conversation for that matter, and so they work in a vacuum and they have no critics or mentors. One of the most effective causes of innovation is conversation. If an entrepreneur does not invoke conversation, then there typically is very little innovation.

The third cause is bad advice. Many entrepreneurs I have met are unable to distinguish between good advice (with good intent) and bad advice. So although they take initiative to listen, they are unable to qualify the source. And when they take bad advice to heart and fail, they assume all advice is bad and become unwilling to seek advice from someone new.

Despite these causes, many entrepreneurs have learned the power of "Quiet". It may take a while to consciously remind yourself to seek advice and listen intently, but the quieter you become, you will begin to see the benefits of this powerful tool.

In every business you have a cast of characters. There is the entrepreneur, customer and typically an investor. When you are starting a new company, you may think that the only value potential customers can only offer is money - but you are wrong. In any business, the feedback and advice from both investors and customers is more valuable than money. It is by listening, that you are able to finance your business, build a better product and close sales. Too many entrepreneurs build a product in a vacuum and try to "force" it down the throats of investors and customers. These businesses typically never get finance, and never are able to succeed selling product.

By being a "quiet" entrepreneur and listening to the market, you can expand and mold your ideas to fit the demand. Instead of trying to convince thousands of customers to listen to you - focus your effort on listening to them and then build a company that serves there demand.

If you think about the process of innovation, it is not driven by a single voice going to door-to-door convincing each person that they need their product - but the opposite. Innovation is driven by the entrepreneur who stops and listens to what the masses want, and then build a product that provides them the solution.

Zen | 7 | Idea

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.


Everyone has a great idea. Very few take action. And of those very few - even less know how to take action.

There is a "action gap" between an entrepreneur and a Zentreprenur. A Zentrepreneur believes an idea only has value if it has action. Many (so-called) entrepreneurs believe that an idea with a business plan has value. To be blunt - it doesn't.

Before we discuss how to take action on an idea. I first want to discuss different "types" of ideas.

IDEA TYPE 1: The "Big" Idea

This is the classic "Think Big" type - where the entrepreneur wants to build something bigger-than-life, and not necessarily looking at just solving a problem but instead changing the landscape of the market. Some classic examples of this type of idea would include Disney World and FedEx.

There are very few entrepreneurs that can pull these type of ideas off, because they require a lot of industry credibility, capital and typically a lifetime of work. Another aspect to a "Big" Idea is the difficulty to start. Some businesses can start small, and they can scale to become large companies (e.g. Walmart) - but the "Big" Idea companies really start "big". FedEx started with a few jets and grew into hundreds of jets - but on day one, the company needed tens of millions of dollars just to open business. These are high risk - big return ideas, but takes a special entrepreneur to take action and succeed.

IDEA TYPE 2: The "Cookie-Cutter" Idea

The Cookie-Cutter Idea is based on a simple principal - "If it works here, it will work anywhere". When you look at companies like Starbucks, Walmart and Subway - these are Type 2 companies. They start as one store, and refine their business - and then with capital start to duplicate the store across the globe.

This type of idea requires less capital, but more patience. Starbucks operated for many years before scaling across the country. The first store has to be successful, produce operational history and show promise in being successful in other markets. Many times companies like this leverage franchising (e.g. Subway) to open new stores - which is another complex model for scaling the business.

Overall, this type of idea relies heavily on the concept in order to scale to different geographies. Unlike technology businesses, this type is based on geo-based marketing and addressing a demand not served by other "big box" companies. Some entrepreneurs look to an existing franchise with a known brand and solid operating history as their idea. This is sometimes a better approach if you lack a good idea and experience in operating.

IDEA TYPE 3: The "Garage" Idea

The Garage Idea is the classic "Silicon Valley" Idea. Where two guys in a garage come up with an idea and build a product on a boot-strap budget. These type of ideas tend to be based on technology because the funding requirements are much lower for a tech business than a bricks-n-mortar business. A Garage Idea relies heavily on the product and its unique value proposition to a market. Unlike Type 2 business where the product is more of a commodity (e.g. coffee, burger, etc) and you focus on market share.

Some examples of Type 3 Ideas are Microsoft, Apple, Google and probably 90% of all tech businesses in the world. Although these companies can build a product for little capital, in order to scale the businesses many times they require significant capital to market the products to a global market. And unlike Type 2 businesses where they can focus on a small geographic region and have limited competition, a Type 3 business has a wide range of competitors looking to build the next best version of their product.

IDEA TYPE 4: The "Novel" Idea

This is not too different than Type 3, but the origin of a Type 4 idea is much different. The Type 4 idea is the idea that you always say "Man, why didn't I think of that?". It is the obvious solution to a small problem. It is the classic "back scratcher" concept, that typically solves a common problem we all experience.

Some great examples of Type 4 Ideas are TV Remote Control, Post-It notes and Smoke Detector. These ideas took a very small problem, and created a practical solution. Many of these ideas rely heavily on "patent" protection, which does require some capital but nothing compared to starting a company. An entrepreneur has an option on whether they want to launch a company, or simple license their patent (if they get one issued for the idea). Like a Type 2 idea, this requires patience (Patents can take more than 5 years to be granted).

Of course, some ideas are a combination of these types. The reason to outline each type of Idea is to give some perspective on how to take action on ideas. Not all ideas are the same.

So, the first step in taking action on an Idea is to define the type. This will help you analyze what it will take to turn the idea into a reality. Lets start by looking at Type 1 Ideas. The bottom line is that very few people can pull off a Type 1 idea. These are BIG ideas that need more than just an inspired entrepreneur. When you talk to a lot of people with "ideas", they typically fall into this category. In my mind, this is why so few entrepreneurs take action, because Type 1 Ideas require much more than ambition and willingness to work - they require a lot of capital, years of experience, and typically a life long investment of work to accomplish the action.

You will here a lot of people say things like - "I have this great idea - why don't we invent a plane that runs on water?". Of course, this idea would be a big hit - but the reality is that there is not only a significant amount of scientific innovation and research required, but also the capital and time requirements would be unpredictable. A great idea - but impossible to take action.

Let me repeat this statement, because I feel like it relates to many ideas I hear from entrepreneurs - "A great idea - but impossible to take action".

The Type 2 Idea is much ore realistic for an entrepreneur to grasp. They can start small, and grow with the market. The first step of action can be as simple as taking out a small business loan, or investing savings into opening the business. Most of the Type 2 Businesses don't go beyond the single store front. Primarily because the objective of the entrepreneur is to create a lifestyle business, and do not want to take the risk and invest the time and money required to scale the business.

When taking action on a Type 2 business, it comes down to having a solid business concept and enough capital to get to profitability. Many times this is not a lot of money, and I would say that most entrepreneurial businesses are Type 2 businesses. Type 2 businesses do not typically require a lot of innovation, or even a unique product - but a solid business model, a good market and a motivated entrepreneur.

The Type 3 Business is the classic "technology-based" business. Typically there is a high level of innovation and novelty to the business, and the entrepreneurs are more product-minded versus business minded. Just like Type 2 business it doesn't require a lot of capital (and in many cases it requires much less, since it doesn't have the need to lease space, buy inventory, etc). The Type 3 Business is where the terms like "boot strap" and "sweat equity" have become cornerstones of success in launching new businesses. The attractiveness of Type 3 businesses is not just in the lower capital requirements, but in the scalability of the business model. Most Type 3 businesses have a product that can be sold globally and done so "electronically" without a large sales force or massive marketing budget. Type 3 Businesses like Google and Microsoft show that the potential of scale is limitless.

In my opinion, the optimal business to start is a Type 3 Business.

The Type 4 business is based on the novelty of an Invention. If you are an inventor, then you may be able to build a business from your idea if you are able to protect the concept through a Patent, and find a way to distribute or license the product. A Type 4 business may require a little capital to file a Patent, and to find a company to help build or license the product. The Type 4 Idea is very similar to a Type 3, but the main difference is that a Type 4 Idea is about a Patentable Product that can be sold via retail distribution to businesses or consumers.

So when looking at taking action on an Idea - it is important to first analyze what type of Idea do you have, and is it realistic you can execute the idea?

A true Zentrepreneur realizes their strengths and capabilities, and accepts that not all ideas they can take action on - and more importantly that Ideas do not have to be "BIG" to be successful.

Zen | 6 | Patience

A jug fills drop by drop.


Every entrepreneur has a dream. And typically it is a big dream. Most entrepreneurs expect their dreams to become a reality in a short period of time because they work longer hours (with the idea that they will reach their destination is a shorter period of time). In fact, one could argue that many are deceived into becoming entrepreneurs because they believe this is how people "get rich quick" or "change the world overnight", but in reality being an entrepreneur is the exact opposite.

Before we discuss the importance of patience to a Zentrepreneur, lets dismiss some of the great myths of entrepreneurship.

Myth 1: Entrepreneurs must work 80+ hours a week to make a venture successful

I am not sure who started this trend, but for some reason it took off. Perhaps it was a distortion of the famous declaration - "Hard work always pays off". Either way, it is definitely one of the most damaging myths of entrepreneurship.

It seems logical - If I work twice as many hours, then I get twice as much stuff done. The fact is that working more hours does not lead to success, and more times than not, it can lead to failure. Be aware of what is important to the success of your venture and focus on the priorities of today. The daily routine should not take 12 hours a day (and if it does, you need to change your daily routine).

Myth 2: Business moves at the Speed of Light

Certainly, it seems like in this Information Age everything changes overnight. Industries like technology and entertainment seem to be evolving at expodential rates. But does this really effect how you should work?

Even though technology advances daily, it usually isn't adopted for years. It may seem like there is intense urgency for you to work harder and faster to keep up with competition, but in reality the pace is set by the market. In most markets, the customers are not moving at the speed of light, in fact many companies fail because they over-innovate and build products that are too far beyond the market adoption.

Myth 3: If we are not first to market, we will lose

One of the primary reasons I think entrepreneurs work day and night on their new ideas, is the goal of being "first to market". The ability to be first, gives them an advantage in building a brand and having no competition.

I admit that being first to market has advantages, but only when the company has the ability to effectively market their product on a large scale (which means they need to invest millions into marketing). Most entrepreneurs boot-strapping their new company don't have much money to run a national marketing campaign, so in reality being first to market doesn't really matter.

More importantly, if you look at any industry - competition is good, it helps advance markets and increase adoption of new products. So although one company may be first, does not mean they will dominate the market. A classic example of this is Google. Google entered the market last, but had a better product and better execution.

Now that we have dismissed some of the biggest myths that make entrepreneurs impatient, lets examine other reasons why patience is important.

Patience is not just about waiting - it is actively practicing Zentrepreneurship. When you are paitent, you are living in the now. By removing the anxiety and pressure of looking ahead to the future, and accepting all things are in flux is by definition being patient.

By focusing on your daily routine and executing those tasks you control - you are practicing patience. You are ignoring all those external factors that you have no control over, and thus are patient in waiting for those events to occur as they may.

"A jug fills drop by drop" says it perfectly. It is a great metaphor for multiple aspects to Zentrepreneurship.

A practical man may say "we can fill up the jug faster if we pour water using a hose". But we know, that what is important is focusing on each drop (as a step) toward our goal. The drop can represent our daily routine and the focus on NOW.

A practical man may say "if its a small jug, we can fill it up faster". Again, this interpretation goes against the practice of Zentrepreneurship. It abandons the concept of having Capacity for Experience. By shrinking the jug, you shrink your capacity for experience and therefore gain no knowledge.

By exercising Patience, you can focus on those tasks you can control. Ignore the perceived urgency and pressure that creates impatience.

Some people say success is being in the right place at the right time. I interpret this saying different from most people. If you are patient, then you can wait in the "right place" until the right time happens. It is not a cosmic crossroads where time and place suddenly connect, but in fact it is simply the exercise of patience.

If you are patient, and diligent in your daily routine - good things will happen.


A Zentrepreneur must be patient. While focusing on the NOW, a Zentrepreneur cannot afford the anxieties that lead to impatience. Patience allows you accept that all things are in Flux, and you need only to focus on your Daily Routine.

Zen | 5 | Doubt

There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.


It is practical for someone to doubt. It is easy to see why something can not be done, instead of inventing a solution or doing the work necessary to get it done.

Before we discuss how a Zentrepreneur dismisses doubt, we need to understand the root of doubt and how it can destroy innovation.

If you think about basic fundamentals of entrepreneurship it becomes clear how doubt surfaces in almost ever thought and conversation. By definition Entrepreneurship is risky. There is more that is unknown, than known. And the natural response to the "unknown" is doubt. What makes a Zentrepreneur different is how they embrace the unknown, and how they interpret risk.

Instead of looking at a problem as confirmation of your doubt, you embrace the problem as an opportunity to learn. I realize this sounds like an over simplification - but in reality this is how doubt controls your expectations on success. In truly is a frame of mind that can change the most challenging tasks you face, into the defining moments of your success.

Start practicing this "frame of mind" in your every day life. If you feel challenged, then start with problems that are small. Instead of allowing doubt become a habit, create a new habit of looking at each problem as a moment to learn. As we discussed in the last chapter, the importance of having the capacity for experience. In order to adopt this frame of mind, you need to have capacity for experience.

As we also discussed in past chapters, we refer to living in the NOW as an important aspect of being a Zentrepreneur. When you begin to create a habit of doubt, you begin to live outside of the NOW, and hypothesize what could happen in the future. Doubt is fueled by projected events and not a pragmatic thought based on the here and now.

It is difficult to envision a daily routine as an entrepreneur not riddled with doubt. It is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur to overcome. However, if you are successful in adopting the core principals of being a Zentrpreneur and consistantly live in the NOW, focus on the daily routine and have capacity for experience - than the challenge of doubt becomes non-existent. Not because it won't exist (certainly other people will continue to have their doubts) - but because it has no relevance to what you are focused on. You have reduced your challenges and barriers to what you can control today. You take away the strength of doubt, by not focusing on future challenges, and you just have faith that your path will find its way to success.

So how do we dismiss doubt?

Re-affirm the principals of Zentrepreneurship

1. Be in the NOW - Doubt lives and prospers in the future and past. Past experiences give others ideas of doubt, and the future (unknown) events are what make doubt difficult to dismiss. As you build your path step by step, the risk diminishes and the doubt becomes non-existent.

2. Focus on your Routine - Doubt is fueled by the unknown. By focusing on your daily routine, and those tasks you can control - you are consciously avoiding anything that is unknown. Even as your routine expands and changes, you are adjusting based on experience and not focusing on hypothetical events.

3. Dismiss by accepting Impermanence - If you truly accept that all things are in flux, then you can clearly conclude that by having doubt you are accepting there is permanence. Everything is possible, because everything is in flux. Doubt can be easily dismissed, once you accept that anything can happen.

4. Have capacity for Experience - And most importantly, by expanding your capacity for experience you will learn. The problems you face are opportunities to learn. Instead of creating a habit of doubt, create a habit for learning.


A Zentrepreneur dismisses doubt. Instead of focusing on what could happen, or all the potential variations of the future, a Zentrepreneur focuses on the NOW, and keeps their mind on their daily routine.

Zen | 4 | Experience

We do not learn by experience, but by our capacity for experience


This statement most likely goes against what you have been taught about business. For the most part - "experience" is how one is measured in the professional world. The length and depth of your resume is how you are valued as a professional, and it typically dictates your path. But is that the right way to define and value "experience"?

An Experience can range from something simple like seeing a movie or reading a book - to working at a job for 3 years. Some experience we gain through constant repitition during our daily routine (e.g. Driving a Car, or typing on the Computer). These experiences become second nature and we can perform at a subsconscious level. Other experiences are moments in time, where we are not as effected (e.g. eating at a restaurant). Some experiences we will never forget, and most we forget the minute after they are over.

So do we actually learn from every experience? No. We learn by our capacity for experience.

Let's first look at the definition of capacity

ca·pac·ity (kə pas′i tē)

  1. the ability to contain, absorb, or receive and hold

  2. the amount of space that can be filled; room for holding;

  3. the point at which no more can be contained filled to capacity

  4. the power of receiving and holding knowledge, impressions, etc.; mental ability

When we refer to the capacity for experience, we are going beyond simply the "experience" as an event in time - and focusing on the ability to contain the experience. And even beyond the ability to contain, is the mental ability to accept new experiences. So we are really talking about two aspects of learning - containing experiences and accepting experiences. Only through capacity do we truly learn.

So now that we have clearly defined 'capacity' - how does this relate to being a Zentrepreneur?

The Zentrepreneur must have capacity for experience.

To simply go through the motions of a day, without having capacity for experience will allow you to learn nothing. Although you may have many experiences in a day, you will not learn anything. In order to truly grow as a Zentrepreneur you need to learn each and every day.

Just as we discussed in previous chapters about the importance of being in the NOW, and focusing your energy on your daily routine - the ability to have capacity for experience allows you to grow as a Zentrepreneur. As you learn, you expand your ability to take control over your daily tasks, and thus expand your daily routine.

If you recall from last chapter - we said "A Zentrepreneur focuses their energy on events they control, and accepts that all other events (past and future) are meaningless."

By learning, you are able to control more events and thus expand you capacity for experience. It essentially becomes the fuel for your growth. It becomes a cycle.

The first step in embracing capacity for experience is having an open mind. Try to remove all pre-conditions or pre-notions. Be willing to experience outside what you already know. To truly learn you must embrace the unknown. The greater your capacity, the more you will learn.

Think of it like a glass. If the glass is full of water (low capacity), it will never be able to hold more water, thus never learning anything new. A Zentrepreneur focuses on growing the glass so that is has infinite capacity. Most people accept the glass as a constant, and once it is full, they settle with what they know, and do not bother with the unknown.

To accept the possibility of infinite capacity is not easy. This is why most people are not entrepreneurs and accept that their glass is full, and they become inflexible and "stuck" in their daily lives.

Once you achieve infinite capacity, you will have a sense of confidence and freedom that empowers your abilty to innovate, execute and truly build something great.

Balance this ability to learn, with your focus on the Present... and your daily routine will be highly focused and constantly growing and in flux.

Zen | 3 | Flux

"Impermanence is, of course, the essential fact which must be
first experienced and understood by practice."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin

Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or Three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that every conditioned existence, without exception, is inconstant and in flux.

Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, "It is always flowing, day and night." The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible.

If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. This concept as it relates to Zentrepreneurship is very important. It is Impermanence that defines the entrepreneur. It is through change, entrepreneurs can exist.

As most of the world is stuck in permanence, the Zentrepreneur finds strength and path by seeing the world in a constant state of flux. It is through this lens that the Zentrepreneur can tap into innovation and continue to strengthen their ability to see the invisible.

The Practice of Impermanence:

1. Observe how things around you are changing, and adapt your daily routine. In the last chapter we discussed the importance of focusing on a daily routine and to avoid creating dependency on hypothetical events in the future. However, what is also important is to address impermanence by adapting your routine. Watch yourself change, your colleagues, your customers and the market change each day, and you will find strength in impermanence.

2. Do not trust that everything you believe is true. Your experiences of the past have a powerful influence over what you believe to be true. By holding on to these truths you are practicing permanence. Re-affirm your thoughts and beliefs each day when you are faced with an important decision. It is not just experience that enables wisdom, but the ability to accept that impermanence exists in all things - even your own truths.

3. Don't just observe impermanence, accept your impermanence. As a Zentrepreneur you need to accept that everything is in flux. As the saying goes - "Men plan, God laughs." By being focused on the plan (e.g. the future) - you are not only not focusing on the NOW but also not practicing impermanence. Accept that your thoughts, ideas and ultimately your business will change.


All things we know are in a state of constant flux - Impermanence. The Zentrepreneur must adapt their daily routine to the flux around them, and also accept that they are impermenent as well.

Impermanence empowers you to make the changes necessary to build your path.

Zen | 2 | Routine

"Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our
usual everyday routine"

Shunryu Suzuki

Once you are able to focus your thoughts and actions on the present - the NOW - the next step is to build and follow a routine. Build your routine with actions that you control and you can ultimately finish. Do not create a routine that is dependent on anything but you.

A Zentrepreneur focuses their energy on events they control, and accepts that all other events (past and future) are meaningless.

In my experiences, I have seen myself and other entrepreneurs become fixated on a future "event" that they believe will propel their business to the next level. This event can be signing a big customer or partnership or hiring someone who promises they can elevate the company to new heights. These "false expectations" can cloud your judgment and distract you from what is real and most important - your daily routine. Once you are distracted from your routine, all progress stops and you are no longer in the Present.

A perfect example of how a business can easily fail by not following a daily routine, and placing expectations on future events is in the fund raising process. When an entrepreneur is trying to start a venture, the first thought that comes to their mind is "I need to raise capital to start this business." If you really think about this statement - you can begin to see how it is a completely absurd concept. Essentially the translation of this statement to an investor is "I have no operating business, no customers and no product and I am not sure if there is a market - but I would like for you to give me money".

This statement is not only absurd to the investor, but also it shows that the entrepreneur has made a critical mistake - by making their business dependent on a future event (e.g. funding). Instead of "waiting" for funding to start the business, the entrepreneur should focus on building a daily routine to build value and grow the business.

And more importantly - the daily routine must only contain tasks that you can control the outcome. If you cannot control the outcome of a task - then you may need to reconsider your path.

For example, if you want to start a Internet e-Commerce business, and you have no experience building a web site - it may be difficult for you to control the outcome. However, a Zentrepreneur would find a way to build the website by leveraging their network and finding someone with experience to execute the task (and therefore re-claiming control of the outcome). Controlling the outcome does not mean that you must execute the task alone, it means that you are able to find the resources to execute the task.

Here is a sample Daily Routine that I use for one of my businesses that may give you guidance on building your Routine.


1. Wake up and answer all critical emails

2. Focus on top tasks that drive revenue

  1. Building Product or improving product

  2. Address any existing customer's concerns.

  3. Execute marketing/sales tasks to gain new customers.
3. Research and Learn
  1. Keep up with industry news / blogs

  2. Have conversations with customers / partners

  3. Brain Storm - white board new ideas
4. Have Lunch

5. Answer all new critical emails

6. Evaluate team progress on any projects

  1. Re-affirm critical path tasks with team

  2. Add new critical tasks (based on results of the day)
7. Go workout or go for a walk to re-engage with the Present and to
evaluate the day.

Of course, this routine is just an example, and relates to what I do when I am building a new company. If your company is pre-product, or pre-revenue your tasks will be oriented toward tasks related to launching the company. Either way, the key point is to build a routine that gives you steady and consistent progress each day.


The Zentrepreneur is not distracted by potential events of the future or past. Each action you take is independent from future events and is under your complete control.

The first step is to focus on the Present (the Now), and the next step is to execute a daily routine that builds your path.

Zen | 1 | Path

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they


The essence of being a Zentrepreneur (now on referred to as "Z") is not based on following another's path, but instead focusing on your path.

If you follow another's path, you will only learn what they have learned. You will only see what they have seen. You will lose focus on what you seek. The essence of Z is centered around your entrepreneurial spirit.

It is important to define what you seek and clear your mind of external influence. Define what you want to create. See the world not the way it is, but the way you think it should be.

Once you are able to live in the moment and remove the dependency on past and future events to define your path - you will be able to embrace Z.

Before you can truly take the first step in your journey as an Zentrepreneur, you need to accept that the past and future have no relevance to your achievements today. Certainly, there is value in your experiences in the past and your vision for the future, but they do not effect positively or negatively your actions today. Focus on the present.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future,
concentrate the mind on the present moment.


Once you are focused and absent of all external influence - define your next step. Release your mind from the limitations of goals or milestones you have defined. Everything is meaningless and irrelevent that is beyond the next step. The path has yet to be defined, therefore the destination does not exist. You are building the path in the here and now, and no longer following a path paved by others.

I know what you may be thinking - "If I completely ignore past and future thoughts, how do I define my goals? My plan?"

The answer is "You don't". By ignoring past and future thoughts, you are now able to truly focus on what matters - the NOW. You are liberating your time to focus on what you need to do today in order to continue to build your path. A plan is worthless if there is no action. Each day you focus on the NOW, you will gain new enlightenment on where your path is going.

Think of it like holding a flash light and walking through your house with no lights on. You are forced to depend on your instinct and what you can see directly in front of you. By focusing your mind and time on the next step, everything else becomes irrelevant. You eliminate all distractions (past and future) that are on the path, and focus on what is critical - your next step.

By focusing on NOW, you will be able to direct all your energy and time to what is most important, and remove all distractions of past and future. If each step you take is successful and receives your full attention - then the path you follow will lead you exactly where you want to go.


Focus on your next step, and let each step build your path. Like a bricklayer building a road, focus your attention on the next brick, and remove from your mind the last brick laid and the road yet built.

One of the foundations of Z is to focus on the NOW and you will create your own Path.

A New Day - a New Book

I am officially starting my new book - working title "Zentrepreneur". Like my last book, I will use my blog as my work place, posting each chapter.

Instead of focusing on lessons for young entrepreneurs (like my last book), I will focus more on the internal aspects of being an entrepreneur.

As some level, being an entrepreneur is like adopting a philosophy on life, and it effects the way you think and live. Not unlike the same path of a Zen Buddhist.

Thus, the working title - ZENtrepreneur.

As a great mind Lao Tzu once said:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The "Ego Brand"

I always find is fascinating watching companies evolve in the tech arena. It seems like there is always a single "ego" that defines the company (even if the company has 5,000 employees). With Apple was Steve Jobs, Microsoft was Gates, Facebook has Zuckerberg, and of course Google has Page and Brin. Within the "founders" ego you can learn a lot about a company and its future.

The ego becomes so strong and so embedded in the operations of the company, it itself becomes the dominating brand of the company.

The days of manufacturing a brand is over. Where 10 marketing executives sit in a room, and ask the question "what do we want our brand to represent?". The seismic shift of advertising and marketing to the user and away from the spoon-fed medium of TV and Radio, has made it close to impossible for a company to control their brand. They are at the will of the people.

So, what tends to happen is the company brand is created from the founders ego. This trend started with the bigger success stories in software - but now on the Internet is seems to be the absolute trend in all tech companies (big and small).
So what does this mean for an entrepreneur? Focus on your Ego, not your brand. You can try to spend thousands of dollars building a brand, but you will fail. Your brand will be built around the people who use your product and their interaction with you (via email, blog, website, etc).

Some things to consider:

1. Don't be Fake. The best advice in building a brand is to be authentic. You can try to "pretend" you are something you are not, because you may think that is what people want to buy - but at the end of the day - you can't pretend to be You. You are the brand, the brand is you. Whatever passion inside you that caused you to create your product - is what people will see. Not your logo or tagline. Just you.

2. Don't be a Jerk (to your users). I think its obvious that no one likes jerks... but it may not always seem this way. Steve Jobs is kind of a jerk, but people still buy IPhones. Mark Zuckerberg is a jerk, but people still join Facebook. The reason that their "jerked-ego" works - is because they are not Jerks to their users - but jerks to their competitors. Both are famous for their anti-corporate antics - but you can see some level of humility and dedication to their users that rises above the "negative" press they get from industry pundits. Its because the users decide the brand, not the media.

3. Don't ignore your ID. There is a certain quality in entrepreneurs that I believe most people embrace - the ID (alter-ego - the sub-conscious passions). It's the darker side of the brand, that is not necessarily always front and center, but looms in the unconscious. Typically, when users hear from the ID, it is in the form of an unconfirmed rumor. If you ask any marketing (self-proclaimed) expert - they will insist that "negative press" will kill your brand. We need to control our brand and message to the letter. Wrong. The brand (like you) is human. Its ok for the dark side of the mind to influence your message. Do you think Facebook turning down 2 Billion dollars was a sound business decision - or the ego at work? Do you think Google building a gPhone or funding a launch into Space is good business or ego? These actions based on pure ego is what creates the buzz around these companies.

So, if you are looking to brand your company - look in the mirror. Ask yourself, what made you want to start this company? What is my Ego telling me (after all, the fact that you think you can start a company, build a better solution to a problem, and build an empire proves that you have a big ego)?

Then, communicate with your users, and they will do the rest.


According to Freud,
...The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world ... The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions ... in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces [Freud, The Ego and the Id (1923)]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Why Entrepreneurs will Save the World" (Part 2: Three American Illusions)

When you look at the major problems facing America (and the World for that Matter), you can't help but feel helpless in what seems to be an impossible task for government to solve. Much like seeing a magician entangled in chains - wondering how he will get out? But never once thinking that it may be an "illusion", and in fact the magician is simply tricking us to believe its impossible....
Perhaps the biggest problems we face as a country are not steel chains around our hands and feet... but simply illusions created by special interests and the media - as a way to get us on the edge of our seats???

Lets start by looking at the 3 Major "American Illusions".

1. Energy
Our dependance on Oil is hurting our country on multiple levels - both on political and economic bases. To quote our President when asked what can governement do about the rising Oil costs and our dependance on oil - "If I had a Magic Wand, I would wave it... but there is not Magic Wand Solution" - George Bush, at his finest. Perhaps he can atleast show us how the "Illusion" works?

Ultimately, you hear politicians and experts talk about finding "New Energy", and reducing our dependance on oil. At the end of the day, what is shocking to me, is that we have had the technology for 60 years to reduce our dependance on Oil, but the American People weren't ready to accept it as a safe and clean energy - NUCLEAR.

Once again, the technology is available - and offers a very clear path to solving our problem with Energy - but the average American when they hear the word "Nuclear" think of a mushroom cloud in their backyard. What they don't understand (e.g. Quantum Physics) is that there is more energy available at the sub-atomic level of our world, then there is in all the oil fields of the Middle East.

So in summary, maybe we need to re-consider why we aren't building Nuclear Energy Plants throughout the USA to move rapidly toward energy independance??? Is the complexity of Energy independance an illusion??

2. Health Care
Health Care is one of the grandest illusions. I won't lie to you... its a complex illusion, but I will do my best to break it down.

People get Sick > See Doctor > Doctor gets Paid via Insurance > Insurance gets Paid by People. And the cycle continues. (of course, there are a lot of people that don't have insurance - so the cycle looks more like this >>> People Get Sick > No Insurance > Hospital gets Stuck with bill)

The problem behind health care is not the process or the quality of care - it is the overhead. Like any business, you can't make money if your overhead is too high. Why is Health Care overhead high - because the industry refuses to "upgrade" to the 21st Century.

If you took two Doctor's offices, one which is completely digital (from patient records to billing) and compared it to an office which runs everything through paper-based system, you have a difference of up to 25% in profit. This is a big difference. Not only does the Digital office make more money, but it is more efficient in providing care, and ultimately is able to reduce the overhead in all its partners as well (Insurance Companies, etc). So not only does the Digital office make itself more efficient, but also the entire Supply Chain as well.
Once again, the illusion has been presented to us as something that requires heavy policy changes and government intervention. Wrong again. The technology is widely available. In fact companies like Google have been looking at solutions for building digital medical records. The talent and technology is readily available. We just need to give medical companies, insurance companies more incentive to build a Digital Supply Chain to lower their overhead and thus be able to maintain competitive rates for Insurance and Health Care.
And much like our fear of "Nuclear" Energy, we need to get beyond our fear of "Privacy", and accept that we live in a connected world - and Digital Medical Records and Electronic Billing will save us all money.

3. Education

The 3rd grand illusion is education. We hear buzz words like "Leave no Child Behind", but do we really understand the basis of this Policy? Is the problem that we are not giving every kid a good education? Is this a problem of our education system? or is this just the nature of our society - that each person has their own capacity for learning? It just seems like this policy is focusing on the kids that are falling behind, instead of perhaps looking at the entire system of Education.

Think about this - do you see Video Game companies complaining about their inability to market their games to any kid or do you see Television struggling to entertain every kid? For some reason kids from all different backgrounds have the ability to play a very complex multi-player interactive video game by just picking up a controller, but they can't learn their multiplication tables at School???

The illusion is that 80% of our kids are doing great, and we need to make sure we get the other 20% on board. The are just falling behind....

Wrong. All kids are falling behind. Our education system is out-dated, and for the most part the things we teach our kids are not applicable in our current economy or society.

School has become boring, irrelevant... and the problem is that the illusion has worn off. Kids are aware that school is behind the times, because they go home login to the Web or watch TV and see the world as it really is. The level of entertainment and education they receive through other outlets overshadow the average classroom 100 times over.

Once again, the solution presents itself in our every day lives, but for some reason we ignore the obvious. The Internet is one of the most powerful mediums our society has ever seen. It has advanced our society, economy and lives in the past ten years more than any other technology has done in 100 years. Yet, we don't leverage the power of this medium nearly enough in schools or at home.
The capacity of a child's ability to learn is a direct consequence of their interest in the process. Why is it our society is so close minded? Why can't we teach our children using video games? We teach our soldiers how to fight and our pilots how to fly using virtual video games? Why can't we have children do homework on the Internet? Leverage multimedia and interactive studies to peak their excitement? What about Social Networks to enhance their ability to meet new friends? Why are we teaching the same way that we did 1,000 years ago?
Our fear of that our kids will have "fun" learning is ridiculous....

The Illusions of Energy, Health Care and Education. Are they really Problems with no Solution? or are they Problems with Solutions that we are not able to accept because of our ignorance?

Much like a good magic show... even though it happens right before our eyes... we still can't believe it......


Sunday, April 20, 2008

The future of the American Economy

I meet and talk with entrepreneurs on a daily basis, and I read hundreds of business plans a year -so at some level, I feel I have my fingers on the pulse of American innovation. It may not be enough to make some conclusions, but I think one conclusion I feel I can make is that the opportunity of new ideas and new companies is shrinking and NOT expanding. This is not a statement of pessimism, but a statement of change. And unless, entrepreneurs embrace this change and understand the new dynamics in play for building new enterprises, they will continue to beat their head against the "wall" on why their ventures are not being funded.

Let me explain:

1. America can no longer be competitive in the "manufactured" product industry.

The global economy, cost of labor, taxes and the Internet have made it close to impossible for an U.S. based company to manufacture a product, assemble and ship and be competitive on pricing and quality. It is not just China making it cheaper - it's the inability for a local store to compete with the global store. If someone can buy a piece of furniture on the web for 20% less than they can at the local furniture store - it spells certain death for the local merchant. Whether the furniture is made in China or not, there is a clear GAP in operating costs and overhead in running a website versus a 4,000 square foot store front.

So, the next question would be "Can a U.S. Based economy become a distributor for these products?". Essentially trying to leverage outsourced manufacturing, and add value through distribution, sales and marketing. The answer is "Yes, but not for long". In fact, this is what we have been doing for the past 10 years. Many businesses transformed their business model to being more of a middle-man - but this is only life-support for a business and not a long-term business. As foreign companies continue to control the price of product, they will squeeze the profits from the middle-men, and ultimately find cheaper ways to ship direct and market their products through larger outlets (e.g. Walmart, Target, etc). So for the small business, they will not be able to be survive just a distributor. They won't buy enough to get lower costs of goods, and won't be able to compete with pricing and distribution of large outlets.

So, the final question is "Well, sure but what if the US Based company invents the product, and just has it build in China - won't it still make good money since it owns the product?". Sure, for a little while, and if it is successful, China and other countries will copy the product and distribute its own version for less money. Even if you have a Patent, do you have the capital to pursue legal action against a company in China? Probably not.

So in conclusion, there is no business for small businesses in manufactured products. Even if your product is innovative and unique, and you can sell it to millions of people - you will be forced to embrace outsourced manufacturing, lose control of the intellectual property and be limited to distribution which will shrink profits and ultimately lose to a competitive "copy-cat" product built and distributed directly from China or other country.

2. America needs to embrace the Digital Economy.

If there is one industry we can still claim to be #1 - it would be the digital economy. Whether it is content like music or film - or applications like Google and Microsoft - we are not just the leader - but we are the sole innovator in this industry. Despite our leadership and clear success in changing the way we live and work with technology - it seems the U.S. economy still refused to embrace technology as the path for our future. The amount of investment made in technology by our government has decreased, not increased. States like Florida cuts programs that fund technology innovation, but do anything they can to save our Oranges. While airlines, car companies and manufacturing plants are going bankrupt, companies like Google are reporting 30% increase in profits?

The transition to a Digital Economy will be a challenge, and it will mean a dramatic shift in unemployment and a divide will be created between older workers who have expertise in the "old" economy and new workers educated and trained on the "new" economy. Anytime there is an economic shift of this proportion, there is massive pain in change. And the current state of the economy is demonstrating it is not an option - the change is happening now.

In conclusion, America has always been the pioneer in economic shifts, and we should continue our legacy as the dominating economic power by embracing change and position ourselves as the leader in the Digital economy. Not only will this secure our ability to bring our economy back in strength, but also nullify the competitive advantages of foreign countries like China, who will not be able to undercut cost and distribution. They will have to compete on a level playing field.

3. America can make it an easier transition by supporting the Service Industry and investing heavily in Technology.

I don't have all the answers (I am not an Professor of Economics), but I think to make this transition we need to look at our strengths and pave a road that lifts our existing work-force and introduces the new wave of workers over the next 20 years. In order to do this, I feel we need to lessen the burden on services businesses in the U.S. and invest heavily in Technology.

One industry in America that will continue to thrive is the services business. Primarily because services businesses are required to be local and serve the community, and do not suffer (as much) by overseas competition. (You can't buy a beer or get your laundry cleaned by a company in China). However, they still need to improve profits in order to hire new people and expand their business. Therefore, the government needs to look at policies that help local service businesses expand and not just be profitable but keep our economy strong during the transition.

Secondly, I think the government needs to invest billions (not millions) into Technology. It is the only sound path to building a strong economy (digital based economy), independence from an oil-based energy policy, and bridging the gap of education in-equality. Both Federal and State governments need to accept the risks of investing in innovation and technology, and show leadership to the universities, business community and finally (most importantly) to the entrepreneur.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why George Bush gets a "F" as CEO of America

I try to be fair and balanced in my views of politicians. I realize its hard to serve millions of people, political interests and a very complex international community. However, I feel when it is all said and done, the President needs to be treated like a CEO of a corporation, and should be judged and graded accordingly.

Instead of dwelling on "approval ratings" and the political opinions of radio show hosts, I will judge President Bush on the basics. Much like when you look at a Company's Profit and Loss and Share price... I am going to attempt to do the same.

#1 - National Debt as Percent of GDP

This is an interesting way to measure the economic policies and spending of a President, because the GDP may vary, so it gives a fair way to compare how he manages spending. Under Bush, it went up around 10%. Not Good.

#2 - Annual Gross National Deficit

Another good way to see how a President manages money is looking at the Total National Deficit. Bush has taken us from a Surplus to 600B deficit. This is like taking a company from Profitable to Bankrupt in 4 years (see the graph how quickly the debt mounted). If Bush were a CEO, he would have been fired in 2002.

#3 - Strength of the Dollar

As we all know, our currency is our stock price in the International Market. It effects all aspects of our economy, and our ability to strengthen trade with other countries. You can see the same trend patterns going from 2000 to 2008. Our dollar was becoming stronger pre-Bush and then from 2001 onward the dollar weakened significantly. (btw, the graph is going up, because it is showing how many dollars it takes to buy a Euro)

#4. The Price of Oil

Usually I wouldn't consider the Price of Oil to be a major component of grading a President, but since this is a very relevent to this President, I think it makes sense to review. Notice during Bush's reign it had gone from $30 to $100 per barrel. So not only has oil tripled in price, but our dollar has weakened almost 50 percent.

In conclusion, I don't care if you are a republican or democrat. I don't care what you opinion is of the war, global warming or same-sex marriage - you have to conclude that George Bush may be the worst economic president in the history of the US.

You cannot argue against the facts:

1. He increased spending
2. He increased the debt
3. He weakened the dollar

As an entrepreneur and a small business owner - It makes no sense to me how someone could perform so horrible as the CEO of America. You can assign some of the blame to the tech bubble, 9-11 and the recent housing market... but every President has gone through similar crisis and was still able to not completely destroy the economy.

George Bush gets an "F" as CEO of America.

... and if you don't agree with me, then you are in the minority. Here is another graph of Bush approval ratings.... pitiful.