Be careful taking advice on your startup

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Founders generally fall in the category of knowing enough to see an opportunity, but not enough to see the obstacles. Which is normal, as otherwise they wouldn’t start in the first place, but this means that they need to rely on a community of people to get feedback, guidance and to learn from others experiences.

I’ve had a couple of instances of late where entrepreneurs with very viable businesses are told that their idea is not feasible, not scaleable or not worth their while. It normally comes from a VC (or incubator). The advice is not wrong – possibly misplaced – but the one thing you need to be very aware of is the motivations and perspectives of the person giving you advice.
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Work on Super yachts: Advice on everything you need to know

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Superyacht at night

I spent 4 years working on luxury superyachts (or megayachts or gigayachts) and every time someone I know is thinking about it I end up having the same conversation with them. I’ve decided to stop doing that and put everything that I’d normally say into this post. This is everything you need to know about working on superyachts, all in one place.

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Do you feel Lucky… Punk?

How lucky are you? I’m not a big fan of starsigns and superstitions, but some people just seem more lucky than others.  Isn’t strange how some people always seem to land on their feet in any situation and that everything always works out for them? With some other people, it’s the opposite. So, what is it that makes some poeple really lucky?

As I found out in The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, there’s actually a little more to it. Through over 10 years of experiments researching luck he reckons that it depends more on what type of person you are than what you star sign is. The old saying, “Unlucky at cards – lucky at love” seems to be slightly off the mark because generally people that are lucky are lucky in many aspects of their life. So what makes for a lucky person?

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Learn by thinking AND doing

I was at a party the other day chatting to a second year media student who wanted to major in digital marketing. She seemed really passionate about social media and it’s potential to be a major communication channel… blah blah blah. Wanting to shift from the textbook Social Media pitch I popped the question: “So, what’s your blog called?” After an initial confused blank look she went on to explain that she can’t start one because she does’t have her degree yet and that she didn’t know enough yet. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

I know I’m in a ‘unique’ position to be able to do a Real World Degree, but I still cannot understand why more people are not actively pursuing their passions in their spare time. Take the above example where this girl could have had 3 years of creating engaging, social media content behind her as well as her degree in Digital Marketing. Imagine how much more impressive her CV could be by merely practicing in her spare time what she is learning at varsity. Who knows, maybe she could have been working for herself by the time she has her degree.

This is a simple case where the barrier of entry is pretty low. But what if you look at a more intense field, say engineering? Some names that come to mind are those of Gates, Ellison, Brin and others who gave themselves a head-start by working on the side while at school or university. Even as a Civil Engineer Project Manager you would be far better off if you had actually spent a holiday or 2 working on a construction site. The same applies for a vet, teacher or a number of other fields.

I think the biggest mistake is that most people are trying to do it with a sense of entitlement. As with my Inbound Business Model I believe that the value of experience is heavily underrated by the young. Yet when you are looking to apply for your first job the most common reason for being turned down is lack of experience. Why not go out and get that experience? I have yet to come across a startup or an SME who would not be willing to take on someone willing to learn. Especially if they are not asking for money. If you approach it with the sole aim of trying to gain experience I think you will be surprised by what you get in return. I certainly have been.

It is the disparity between education and reality that puzzles me. It may be down to the fact that we are a very consumer driven society and that universities are so dependant on maintaining the importance of degrees that they undermine the most valuable asset in the workplace: experience. But for the life of me I cannot understand why more people are not investing time and experience to help them get the edge in the future.

What are you doing when your head is not in your books?

Can your hobbies make you millions?

What do Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Richard Brandson and Steve Jobs have in common? Yes, they are all very rich and successful – they also all dropped out of school or college. But what is the reason for their success? Is it because they are drop-outs and being over educated is a restriction to success? As there are many college dropouts not nearly as successful, I think not.

Not having a formal qualification does put pressure on you to be more innovative, but I think that important thing that most people miss is that with all these successful guys that dropped out were moving onto something else. It was a side project, a dream, a hobby that they managed to make a business out of. Some other project in their life just became more important thatn getting a degree at that point.

Most successful people that I deal with are the types of people who have laods of projects on the go, or at least did before they dropped everthing else to focus on one specific project. When they werre at university they were involved in other societies, clubs, hobbies or businesses. Like Steve Woznaic who designed and built the entire Apple I and Apple II computers in one year… all while working a 9 to 5 job at HP. It was Sergy Brin’s hobby to “donload the whole internet” that lead to the PageRank script that was the foundation for Google’s search.

The fact that many wealthy people don’t have degrees has very little to do with the value of a degree or not. I believe it has way more to do with what they do in their spare time. Hobbies and side projects are far less constrained by the rules of society and are often far more out-of-the-box than the convential 9 to 5 job that you rely on. After all, the more side projects that you run the higher the chance that one of them might just work out.

So next time you meet someone interesting, instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them what they do in their spare time.

True Leadership

I recently submitted an application to “The Chosen” and had to write a 400 words on leadership. Thought it might be nice to add here too and I would love to know what you think…

South Africa has inspired some of the greatest leaders of our time. From Mandela to Gandhi, people have been inspired – through some form of suffering – to lead the transformation of society and of the world. True leadership inspires and empowers others.

The most crippling action in our society is thinking small. Thinking that you are insignificant. It is the duty of our leaders to change that; it is our duty to change that. For this country to flourish and for real transformation to take place, people need to be lead to the door of possibility and empowered to open it. That is true leadership.

We need to shift the mindset from being constrained by the past and limited by the present to being free in the possibilities of the future. For us to live in an equal society, it is not the leveling of status that needs to happen but Continue reading

Dr Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules of Success

Arnold Schwarzenegger truly is an inspirational person. He has progressed to the highest levels in 3 very different fields: becoming Mr Universe, one of Hollywoods highest paid actors as well as being elected a governor of California. All this from coming from a very rural background, not being able to speak English properly and having a very heavy accent. His motivation, drive and detirmination is something that we can all learn from. Below is a great youtube clip on his secrets of success:

1) Trust yourself
2) Break some rules
3) Don’t be afraid to fail
4) Ignore the naysayers
5) Work Like Hell
6) Give Something back

I can’t help but think that the obstacles in my way of achieving what I want are insignificant compared to what he has had to overcome. Make me wanna get my ass into gear… How about you?

What I learnt from Billionaires…

I worked for 4 years as an engineer maintaining the systems on Superyachts. (Large luxury private yachts.) It was a great lifestyle and I learnt many things while travelling. The one thing that is very unique to the job was the close proximity to billionaires. Here are some of the things that I picked up form being around them… Continue reading