We are all Entrepreneurs

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

This is it. The last post in this series. 14 weeks. 14 posts. This whole writing thing has been kind of fun. Thanks to anyone out there who read any of these posts.

In the likely event that this post remains at the top of my blog for the foreseeable future, I highly suggest reading the first post in this series. That post gives a great overview of my personal journey over the last decade in my career. It is a post that had been simmering for years before it made it onto this blog.

For the purposes of this post however, I have been asked to write about my final advice to anyone considering a role as entrepreneur. The core of my thoughts all come back to this:

We are all entrepreneurs. You’re already doing it. Where are you going to go from here?

What? How can I possibly say that? Obviously not everyone is an entrepreneur you might say. Let me explain.

I currently work as a plain old boring full-time employee at a company. Those who would disagree with me would argue that I am as far as it gets from an entrepreneur. I however know that I am an enterprising entrepreneur.

Headquarters for my enterprise is in my home. My wife and I co-founded our business 12 years ago on our wedding day. We currently have 3 interns on the payroll, but honestly some days it feels like they require more work to keep around than they they bring to the table.

We have a few contract employees as well. One is responsible for mowing the grass at headquarters. She also doubles as an interim manager for the interns when both of us co-founders have to travel for business. I told you, those interns need a lot of close care or I swear they would burn this place down.

Our revenue stream is severely top heavy. Nearly 90-95% from our single largest client (that full-time employer I was telling you about). We have a few other smaller customers, but based on our agreements with our top customer we keep ourselves pretty busy at the moment.

We are currently making large investments however in broadening our customer base. Shy of a couple key loans for real estate, we have bootstrapped all of our funding. With some of the revenues from our primary client we are setting aside funds for a few smaller investments that will hopefully be profitable with less time investment. I am also investing a significant amount of time in education right now which will assist in acquisition of future customers.

Our current business model is a tried and tested one. Full-time employment offers stable revenues for predictable work loads. Understanding the time commitments and risks of such reliance on a single customer, we are working to diversify our business model into a broader portfolio containing real estate, stocks, product creation, and media assets that will allow us to earn revenues in a more passive way.

I am an entrepreneur.

Now, I could have easily told you much of that story with very different language, but this is how I see the world. We are all self-employed. We all make choices on how we allocate our time and resources. Understanding how to allocate those resources, reaching new customers, building new products, and changing the world is all part of an entrepreneurial journey.

To those who think they are just getting started on this journey, the best advice I have is to recognize that you already started this journey a long time ago. The big question for you is how far will your journey take you, and how do you want your story to be told.

We are all entrepreneurs.


Do you even care?

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

This week I heard a bit of feedback that I have heard a handful of times before in my career. This feedback is the most frustrating piece of feedback I have ever received. The fact that it keeps coming up drives me absolutely crazy.

Before I share the feedback, let me start by saying how I tend to handle feedback. I love to learn. I love to learn how I can be better. I rely on the feedback of others to point out the places where I fall short that I can’t see for myself. If anything, I enjoy critical feedback that helps me see how I can improve.

So, what is this feedback? What feedback is it that sends me up a tree every time I hear it? It’s simple. “You care.” Those aren’t exactly the words, but that is the underlying theme. This last week, specifically these were the words:

“It’s always fun to bump into someone who takes this seriously enough to actually think it through! Sadly that is a rare, albeit refreshing experience”

It is a frustratingly low bar that is set by others that I routinely get this feedback. The concept that caring enough about the things I do is sufficient to be noticed by other people absolutely drives me crazy.

I think we all carry a bias with us that assumes everyone else sees the world just like we do. we use phrases like “common sense” and “it should be obvious” to refer to things that are neither obvious nor common to others who don’t share our world view.

This is probably the source of my struggle with this feedback. I always assume that other people care about doing a good job at least as much as I do. Maybe I listened to my grandpa telling me as a kid “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” But didn’t everyone else hear that too?

I always prefer to write posts with some sort of call-to-action for the reader. The CTA for this post is to beg you to care about what you do. If you find yourself doing things that you don’t care about, then don’t do them. Life is too short to waste your time doing a bad job at something you didn’t want to do in the first place. Whatever your ‘why’, find some reason to care about your work and do a good job at it. Your life will be better, and your work will too.

This brings me to one last statement that my grandfather said to me a few years ago. I was already some years into my career of which I have loved nearly every minute. He said, “Wade has never done anything he didn’t want to do.” One could take that to mean I am a difficult to work with unmotivated slouch. He and I both know that isn’t true. My key to being able to say that is that when I choose to do anything, once my mind is made up that it needs doing, I pour my heart and soul into that task until it is done. If I don’t want to do the task, or if I can’t find my ‘why’ that it matters, I merely move on to some other task.

That may not be good career advice for everyone, but with my ability to understand why things need ti happen it has served me very well up to this point.

Please, go out into the world and care about what you do. I never want to hear anyone praise me again for caring about what I do.

A Good Business

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

I have talked on this blog before about working for my grandfather in his small manufacturing business. I learned a lot of things watching him run that business. Many of those lessons have come years after the time I spent working with him. One such example came just now as I sat down to write this post.

The thought that sparked this learning tonight came from another Harvard Business Review article that we read this week. The comment that stood out to me the most from this article was:

A good business is a community with a purpose.

The first company I thought about when I read this is Salesforce. Mark Benioff is one of my favorite CEOs. I have watched him over the last few years preach his concept of Ohana. He believes that all of his employees, customers, partners, and so on are all part of the big Salesforce family. More than that, being a customer of Salesforce feels like being in a community. With an incredibly deep and rich partner ecosystem, helpful forums of customers, and other tools, Benioff and team have built more than a product, they have built an ecosystem.  Maybe I am just drinking the Kool-Aid, but Salesforce is a great example to me of this.

There are plenty of other examples of this. iOS and Android have built massive communities of developers and businesses around their app stores. WordPress has a thriving community of designers, developers, and agencies around their tools and platforms. Communities are incredibly important, especially to business.

A purpose is just as important. My favorite purpose of all time comes from Steve Jobs, who has been quoted as saying “I wanted to put a ding in the universe.” As I sit here typing on my MacBook Pro, switching back and forth between this and my handheld device that greatly resembles an old iPod touch, I wonder if he felt that he reached his goal.

What does any of that have to do with my grandfather? Quite a bit actually. When I turned 8 years old, my grandparents moved from California to Kentucky. He brought his business with him. For many of us, the first community we are a part of is our family. Their new house in Kentucky was not only the venue for endless family dinners, parties, sleepovers, and events, it also served as the manufacturing plant, shipping facility, and headquarters for his business.

Sam Brown Shields was a major part of my formative years. All of the work was completed by family members. My mom and her sister did some of the more complex tasks, while much of the work was made available for the grandchildren who were interested in helping. I spent countless summer days sitting in their basement, listening to Rush Limbaugh, while my aunts talked, and I worked. This was a very tight knit community.

But what about purpose? Like I said, any of the grandchildren who were interested in helping were allowed and encouraged to do so. In fact, many of the business processes were tailored specifically to be easy to do with as little strain as possible so the grandkids could help. The entire business ran to provide for our family. This is a big difference from the purpose being to create wealth. The purpose was to create a life. To put food on the table. To pay for summer camps. To help us pay for college, go on missions, move across the country. Whatever we needed, our grandfather taught us all how to work for the means to make it happen.

All of the profits from the company have gone into investments to continue a legacy of working for your needs. My grandfather lived the concepts in The Richest Man in Babylon, and I can only assume he never read the book.

My grandfather has been a great example to me. I hope the lessons he taught me are applicable to your life as well.

The Richest Man in Babylon

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

My attitudes on money have changed a lot over the last 15 years. Growing up, I was taught that people with money were not to be trusted. Either they came by their wealth unscrupulously, chose career over family, or both. This concept was repeatedly reenforced with language such as “good ol’ country folk who are as poor as church mice”. Poor was good. Wealth was bad. The one person with wealth that I really spent any time around was frequently given a pass in the rhetoric because he was born poor, one of 12 children in a 2-room cabin in the hills of Kentucky.

My wife came from a very different background, equally as unhealthy. Money was plentiful but spending often extended well beyond their means.

This week, after having the concepts discussed several times in class, my wife and I decided to read The Richest Man in Babylon together. In 2 days I am more than half-way through, and so far I am very impressed with the content. Much of what I have read so far is very reminiscent of other books we have read together such as The Alchemist and The Jackrabbit Factor.  What is interesting is that at this point in our lives, we seem primed and ready to hear the message of this book in a way we weren’t ready to receive before.

It took us a long time in our marriage to find the will power to live on less than we earned. Now that we have developed that discipline, we are hungry for the next steps in our financial progression.

The key text that jumped out to me from the book so far was this passage:

“A man’s wealth is not in the purse he carries. A fat purse quickly empties if there be no golden stream to refill it.”

I am looking forward to finding ways to build that revenue stream. Wealth is not a bad thing. We watched another video this week from Jim Ritchie, who after retiring at age 35 has spent much of his adult life in full-time service and do-gooding. I’m looking forward to finding wealth in healthy and appropriate ways, to be able to serve and build up those around me.


The Entrepreneurial Employee

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

This week we read a very interesting article from the Harvard Business Review. This article touched on a topic that I have very nearly covered in this series for the last several weeks. The concept of entrepreneurialism as an employee of a company.

The article was titled ‘The Heart of Entrepreneurship“, and is from the March 1985 issue of the HBR (that is the year before I was born). This issue was handled very well and prompted me to write my own thoughts on the topic.

Before I get to my own recent examples, As I was reading this article I couldn’t help but to hear the Agile Manifesto everyone in this article. This article was written 26 years before the manifesto was penned, yet it so articulately described many of the problems caused by a “administrative” mindset. While the administrative manager goes to lengths to preserve their bureaucratic position of authority, the entrepreneur (or agile) manager focusses on getting the right people in the room to do the job. Sound familiar?

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”

The other point from the manifesto that jumped out to me was “Responding to change over following a plan.” The administrative manager from the HBR article holds tightly to the plan, even when times have changed.

Now, for my own recent stories that has caused me to contemplate this topic. I work for an amazing company that is going through a major shift. As we leave the late stage startup and enter into a more sustained model for growth and maturation, there is a lot of work to do. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to work with dozens of business leaders in our organization all responsible for maturing their own corner of the business. I have seen some succeed, and I have seen some fail. The biggest correlation I have seen in those that succeed is that they are hungry to build something new. Those that have failed did so because they couldn’t execute on what they needed to build.

I realize that sounds like a tautology. They failed because they failed. However, I think that misses the point. The people we have hired in all cases have been experts in their respective fields. Many of them knew what needed to be built, and what their programs should look like. In nearly every case of failure, I have commented that these business leaders would be very effective at running their organizations if the tools and processes were already implemented for them. They would all have made wonderful administrators of their realms. I think it is important to recognize the strengths that these people bring.

However, in many of our departments right now we need people who can bring a vision on what the process needs to be, and work across the company to make that happen. HBR attempted to define entrepreneurship “with such terms as innovative, flexible, dynamic, risk taking, creative, and growth oriented.” As I have been studying entrepreneurship this semester (and throughout my career), I would likely use words such as builder or creator.

Whether building products, teams, or processes, entrepreneurs create where nothing has existed before. We find gaps in the market and create something to fill in that space. We may use tools to drive that creation, but managing the tool, process, or people is not the point. The creation is the point.

I love working with people that understand the desire to create. I believe there is a role for administrators of those creations. Goodness knows I would much rather hand off tools to those administrators than I would stick behind to manage my former creations. Understanding this distinction, I hope to better be able to guide individuals into right-fit roles in the future, at Liquid Web and beyond.

Simple Steps and Accountability

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

As I write this, it is 5 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. The day ahead of me is full of scout camp preparations, work and family commitments, school assignments, tending 3 small children, car maintenance, house maintenance, and 5-6 hours of driving in between all of those things. Today is a full day.

So what did I do first thing this morning? I worked on my wife’s business. It was a small step really, I just needed to login to her website. The password had been lost, the emails broken, so it was somewhat of a manual process to login to the servers to identify a path in. It’s something I have needed to do for months, but have never stopped to take the 10 minutes it took to do so. It really wasn’t that hard. It was such a small step. Why haven’t I done it before today?

Just like today, there is always something else to take my attention. For months, the todo list has been filled with items more pressing, more important, or more interesting at the top. Today could easily have been the same, but what changed?

All of this semester, we have been reading about the difficulties and trials that come with entrepreneurship. We have read and discussed topics around keeping your life in balance, and focussing on your priorities. We have written bucket lists and set goals. As I was discussing all of these topics with some family members at dinner last month, we all started sharing some of our own entrepreneurial goals and aspirations. All of us however put them in context of future things that we would do when we had the time, or energy to do them.

So I extended a challenge. We all should set a specific entrepreneurial goal. We each identified a single step that we could take before our next family dinner to push our entrepreneurial goals forward. These goals were literally written down on the back of a paper plate, a picture was taken and we were off.

One of those many commitments on my list today is that family dinner tonight. Guess what my goal was for this month. Exactly, it required logging into my wife’s website to help her make some changes for her business to fuel growth and expansion. The accountability to my family to meet this goal pushed me forward to finally tackle this small step that has needed doing for months.

I’m looking forward to get us all together tonight. Not only will we get to discuss everyone’s progress over the last month, but we also plan to set another goal to tackle before our next dinner. I believe this group will become a hub for pushing all of us forward into entrepreneurial pursuits, and I can’t wait.

That’s Not the End of the Rainbow

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

My main insights this week came in the form of a story:

There was a king who liked to work, and wanted his people to learn the same. One night he placed a large rock directly in the middle of the road in front of his estate, and hid in the hedge to see what happened. As the day progressed, each person who encountered the rock cursed at it, complained about it, or simply walked around it. As the day wore on I imagine a path even became visible going around the rock. At the end of a long hard day, the miller’s daughter spotted the rock. Wishing to prevent the inattentive passer-by from stumbling she toiled to remove the stone from the path. After succeeding, she spotted a large sum of money in the road where the stone had been. You see, the king had set a reward for whomever had the work ethic to remove the stone from the path.

This story intrigues me. My first thought is to replicate this story in a way to teach my employees and children a good lesson about hard work. Manipulative aspects aside, that is a good lesson to teach. However, the aspect that is most interesting to me in this story is that of the miller’s daughter’s intentions. She was not worried about the stone in her path, she was alert and cognizant enough to realize the stone was there and to walk around it. However, her concern was for those coming after her, as darkness fell. She wanted to leave the world a better place for those coming behind her.

This is a very noble motive, and one that is not often rewarded externally. I am at a crossroads in several regards right now. Specifically in our congregation there are several stones that need to be moved. The problem comes however, is it even possible for them to be moved without significant effort and time commitment. I identify closely with the farmer or soldier in the full recounting of the king’s story, the men who go around the rock towards their other duties.

This whole semester has been focussed on identifying our purpose and mission in life. While this story sets the daughter apart as a hard worker, there is value in the work the farmer and soldier were focussed on as well. They were not lazy, merely focussed on the task at hand. If we are to focus on every stone that comes across our path, we might never reach the end of it. If we stop to clear none of the rocks however, we might find that the path wasn’t worth traveling to begin with. It is a great balance that we each must find.

Think Win/Win – The Mutual ‘Thank You’

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

The concept of writing a book fascinates me. I have never been a big fan of reading as an end in itself. I tend to be too antsy to sit down and read a book without some sort of external motivation to do so. This tendency has been made even worse after reading a few books that felt a lot like bloated articles. Drive by Dan Pink always stood out to me as the ensign of this problem. The entire contents of this book can easily be summed up in a 10-minute video (this is one of my favorites). After watching this video, I wanted to know more, so I read the book. After spending several hours making my way through the book, I realized there really wasn’t much more to the book than the basics that were laid out in the video. I felt a little taken advantage of. What did I gain from those hours that I didn’t already know from watching the video? Not much.

If I didn’t gain much from reading the book, what did Dan Pink gain from writing it? The best answer I have come up with after contemplating this question for a few years is this – you can’t sell a 5-page paper for $15 and get on the New York Times best seller list. Pink did some interesting research, and put some interesting studies into a layman’s terms for the masses. That was a valuable pursuit, but all of it could have easily been done in 5-10 pages as opposed to 150. It seems the book selling industry is built around turning 5-page ideas into 150-page books. Even the other book we finished this week, Mastery started as a magazine article that got a lot of attention, and the author turned it into a full book.

The irony of that, is that there are a lot of people like me, that don’t have a ton of time to sit and read those 150 pages, so there is another industry that takes these 150-page books and condenses them into easy to consume 5-10 page summaries. Spark Notes is one that I remember students would use to cut through classic literature in school, but this exists in non-fiction space as well. Blinkist is one that I have been using lately to make my way through some interesting books in the business, leadership, and social sciences topics. I learned of another player in this space this week as we were asked to read a summary of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits from summaries.com.

Before I highlight my favorite of the 7 habits (per my assignment this week), I want to make a brief comment on self-help books as a genre. Having made my way through several of these books this semester, it seems everyone has their own mix of tips and tricks that helped them through life. I have no problem with reading these books, as there have been small tidbits of wisdom hidden inside the dogma that I am happy to take and apply in my own life. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote about trying to wake up earlier based on the Launching Leaders book. a month or more later, and I am still waking up at 5 am every morning, and I love it.

Maybe one day I’ll write a self-help book of my own.

7 Habits is one of those books that has always seemed very dogmatic to me. Covey is an interesting organization. They took a good 5-page paper (the 10-page version we read was still a bit pithy), and instead of translating it into a 150-page book, they transformed it into a $200-million dollar company. That’s pretty impressive. I should have expected at some point in my time at BYU-I I was going to be expected to engage with this material in some way.

My favorite of al the 7 habits was number 4, “Think win/win”. Covey talks about how important it is to get out of the mindset that for one person to win, someone else has to lose. These win/lose (or even lose/lose) situations do exist, but I agree with Covey that we should be looking for ways to push everyone forward, not just ourselves.

I understand that lots of people need to read a book to learn this lesson. I had the chance to learn this lesson as a young man working for my grandfather. He ran a small manufacturing business out of his garage and basement. Many of the grandkids had the opportunity to help out at one point or another. I remember one day when I was probably 14 or 15 asking for a paycheck for some of the work I had completed. When my grandpa signed the check and handed it to me, he told me ‘Thank you’. I raised an eyebrow, confused. Why was he thanking me, when I am the one that should be thanking him for the check in my hand? He explained, “In every business relationship there should be a mutual ‘thank you’ in the exchange. The employee is grateful for the generous pay for the work completed. The employer however is grateful for a job well done.” He taught me a lesson in those three sentences that took Covey 40 pages in his book to cover.

My grandpa also added that for that win/win situation to stick, both sides need to make sure they are treating the other side with respect. If an employer pays less than a fair wage, that abuses that relationship. If the employee slacks off and doesn’t do a good job, they are taking advantage of their employer and wage. If both parties are honest in their dealings, it remains a win/win, a mutual thank you.

I have been reflecting lately on just how blessed my life has been to be able to learn lessons like this at such a young age. As I look around and see individuals and families struggling with concepts that seem so basic to me, I have been wondering how to share the things I have learned with them. Maybe I’ll write a 5-page paper (or a few blog posts). Maybe I’ll write a book. What are some lessons you have learned that you wish you could share with others?


To Prepare or Practice?

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

There are 2 competing ideas that were presented in our readings for class this week. I always enjoy coming at an issue from multiple angles, but I land pretty squarely on one side of this coin.

Let me start by presenting the 2 main concepts we read about this week

We cannot afford to waver in any way. We should always keep in mind that we are trying to prepare for missions, temple marriages, and activity in the Church and to be examples for good so that others will be influenced by the way we live. – N. Eldon Tanner – First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This is very strongly worded guidance that our entire life is a series of goals that we need to be very careful not to stray from our goals. Contrast that to the book we are currently reading for this same class:

In a nation obsessed with the achievement of goals, devotion to the goalless journey might seem incomprehensible if not bizarre. But behind the slogans you read on the sports page and in the business section there’s a deeper reality: the master goes along with the rhetoric about scoring and winning, but secretly cherishes those games filled with delicious twists and turns of fortune, great plays, close calls, and magical finishes – regardless of who wins. … The truth is, they love to practice-and because of this they do get better.  – George Leonard – Author of Mastery

This second quote fits into a broader context where the author is teaching us that aikido is not a series of goals, but a lifelong practice that one never completes. This contrast to me felt so striking when I first read each piece that I knew I had to comment on it this week. If you don’t remember already where I stand on this position based on the first post in this series, let me tell you a couple stories to help you understand my thoughts.

Roughly 9 months into my tenure at Bluehost Mat Heaton, the founder and CEO, walked through the support floor and tapped a few people to come have a conversation with him. I remember very clearly nervously sitting at the table in the executive break room with several of my peers and superiors while Matt made small talk waiting to begin. Matt started the conversation by trying to understand how well we thought we knew and understood several technologies that were key to our business. He asked us to rank our own knowledge of each area on a scale of 1-10. 1 being barely familiar with the technology, 10 knowing pretty much everything there is to know about that topic.

As others began to answer the first question, I was quickly filled with dread. The founder of our company is sitting here with me, wanting to know how much I know about how to do my job! If I answer too low, he will think I am a fool. Who knows what impact that would have on my reputation with him. If I answer too high, he will see through my over confidence, and know I am lying.

‘8’ answers the first person at the table, a senior technician who has been with the company a number of years.

Now I have an upper limit, clearly he knows more about this than I do, he has is the one I go to with questions when I don’t know how to fix something.

‘9’ answers the next. Another senior technician who frequently helps me and the first guy when we get stuck.

Now it’s my turn, but what do I say? I am still trying to weigh the options in my head when i almost instinctively blurt out “4 or 5, I’m not sure”. A 4? Really? I just told the founder of our company that I know less than half of what I should know about this critical technology to do my job! What was I thinking?! Several more of these questions came around, the first 2 all giving similarly high marks for themselves while I gave middle of the road answers. I didn’t say anything higher than a 6 through that whole series of questioning.

While the rest of that conversation is a story for another time, I have often reflected on my responses to how to rank myself in terms of knowledge on any specific topic. I have been asked similar questions in interviews and conversations several times in the last 15 years and have given very different answers from that 20-year old kid in the Bluehost break room. As I have grown in knowledge, confidence, and success in my career, my default answer to that question on a topic that I am very familiar with is ‘3’, with a qualifier that I am familiar enough with that topic to know that there is so much that I don’t know. I may have more than sufficient knowledge on that topic to be effective at my job, but I recognize that almost any topic worth learning about has such depth and complexity that I would never be able to know more than about 30% of the knowledge on that topic.

On the other hand, if I feel like I do have a pretty good grasp on a large percentage of the topic in question, I am more likely to answer with a 1 or 2. my assumption there, if I don’t know enough about the topic yet to recognize that there is a lot that i don’t know, then I clearly don’t know enough to consider myself an expert on the topic, and should scale back by self-ranking.


My second story on this topic restates some of what I recounted in the first post for this blog series of this class. Growing up, both in school and in the LDS church, I was always told to prepare for the next thing. Elementary school was preparing me for middle school. Primary was preparing me to be a Deacon. High school was preparing me for college. The young men’s program was preparing me to server a mission, which would prepare me to get married. College would prepare me for a job. There seemed to be an endless array of preparations, but I was anxious to start living my life.

Imagine my surprise when I finally did get married and started a family. There was now nothing left to prepare for. No prize at the end of the year. No graduation, or ordination, or celebration of another preparation completed. This must be that ‘endure to the end’ part that we always talk about. While that lack of goals could seem a little jarring, honestly, it was very freeing for me. Every day I now wake up with the goal to be a little better than yesterday. A little better husband, father, employee, leader, follower, etc. In the concepts of George Leonard, I am now bettering my practice of life every day.

I think those stories both illustrate well where I stand on this dichotomy presented at the beginning of this article. Life to me is so much more than a series of goals that we check off the list, it is a process of continual progression that is never really done. The concept of eternal progression resonates deeply with me, as we continually grow into better and better versions of ourselves.

History has its eyes on you

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

When I first read the syllabus for this course, my first thought was that this process of defining my life was going to require a lot of work, and a lot of collaboration with my wife. How right I was!

We have been anxiously engaged for the last 5 weeks discussing the life that we want to build together. With so many options and decisions in front of us, it is incredibly overwhelming at times. Then I saw this video from Randy Komisar and shared it with my wife early in the week. Komisar talks about the propensity to become paralyzed by the amount of choices and passions that are possible. His guidance is to set a direction, as opposed to an ultimate destination. Once that direction is set, near term decisions that point you in the right direction can be much easier to make. The quote that stuck out the most was, “My career makes no sense at all in the windshield, it only makes sense in the rear-view mirror.” Chewing on that thought this week has driven most of the conversations I have had with my wife.

With that conversation as the foundation of this week, last night my wife and I were able to experience Hamilton, the incredible musical by Lin Manuel Miranda about the story of Alexander Hamilton and the early days of our nation. One of the most piercing concepts from this story is just how focussed Alexander Hamilton was on the mark that he wanted to make on the world from an incredibly young age. Much of his life was focussed on building his legacy. To Komisar’s point, Hamilton didn’t set out to create a national bank and financial system as a young man, but he did know that he wanted to be part of building a nation. From the Revolutionary War, to a legal career, to the Secretary of the Treasury, his career made much more sense in the rear-view than it did in 1776 looking forward.

I look forward to more reading, contemplation, and conversation next week.