Reputation Markets Change Everything.

Take-Home Message: The rules of the game are rigged against you. Do not be dismayed. Entrepreneurs to the rescue.

Before long, we'll all be flustered, rushing to the accountant's office with a stack of papers and a shoebox of receipts, begging them to perform a miracle. Meanwhile, we're hoping not to get pulled over on the way to the office for speeding, or a seatbelt ticket, or for running a red light. Then, once we finally find a parking spot, we all hope that it doesn't take more than 45 minutes, or we'll earn a parking ticket.

You may have taken the highway to the accountants office, so, there may have been a toll. Of course, you're already in your car, with your state-issued driver's license, your mandatory insurance, tag, license plate, title and registration. Not to mention the money you put into the tank, or the oil, or the filter, or having the tire rotated recently. Those maintenance charges were all yours, though.

At every turn, there is a barrier. At every stop, there's a new fine, tax, expense, surcharge, fee, or request for "charitable contribution." On top of that, there are things to think about like putting food on the table, keeping the lights and water on, putting back for some future child's college (or paying tuition already), regularly maintenance the vehicles, mow the yard, feed the dogs, clean the house, and on and on and on...

We stretch every dollar, nickel, and cent as thin as it will go. We stretch every hour and minute to cross of item after item of perpetually multiplying checklists. And for what? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Is there a way for our burden to be lifted?

How do we manage to juggle all of the impositions, restrictions, regulations, licensure requirements, fees, taxes, and (I'll call it for what it is) bullshit that piles up commensurate our own lives' duties?

One of the ideas I've been recently examining focuses on the role of entrepreneurship and innovation as means to combat these impositions in our lives and to free back up our money and time so we can spend both of them where we would rather prefer. So we can spend OUR money and time on OUR lives.

It's basically the tangible application of public choice theory into the marketplace. , It's ideas like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Yelp!, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Tinder (Regardless of how you feel about it, Tinder achieves this), dating websites, AirBnb, HomeAway, and an exponentially growing number of other brilliant ideas from entrepreneurial minds.

It's this concept of what I'll refer to as reputation markets. Each of these takes the wants, needs,  and preferences of consumers, just like me and you, into account, and transforms not only the way we find businesses and people, but the way we perform transactions. And they're drastically reducing prices for these things we want.

Not only do these lower transaction costs, though. These applications also provide a means of feedback. They put accountability back into the hands of consumers and service providers alike. It removes the need for "regulations that keep us safe." It eliminates the middle man. It puts people with people. It's the Peer-2-Peer revolution, and it's dramatically transforming every facet of our lives–if we'll only embrace it.

So, what does this revolution mean for us? It means that with every new advancement, we achieve a new means for finding whatever it is for which we are searching.

It means when I'm landing in an unfamiliar city, I don't have to jump in a car with a cabbie about whom I know nothing. With the press of a button, I can signal my desire for a ride, while simultaneously checking out the reputation of the driver. And then I can punch another button and find a cool place to eat I've never been, and the driver can drop me off. And hell, if I have one too many drinks (and would prefer not to risk a DUI), I can just hit the same button again  to make it home safely.

It means when I'm doing an artistic portrait photoshoot and I need to find a lens that I don't own, with the touch of a button and a quick charge to my VISA, I can summon this lens from outer space via the magic of entrepreneurial innovation and the stork will drop it off on my front porch the next day.

It means when I'm taking a vacation with my family but don't want to stay at some cookie-cutter hotel or resort, I can search for someone's vacation home and rent it directly from them for the amount of time I'd like to stay.

It means if I need something done around my house that I don't know how to do or simply don't have the time to do, at the click of a button, someone other people have trusted into their homes before me will show up and trade me money to accomplish the task at hand.

It means you can find someone with similar interests and connect.

It means you can find something to buy or rent. It means, too, that you can sell your stuff for cash. Instantaneously.

It means that we don't need someone standing between us at every transaction. It means we don't need anyone to keep us safe. We've got 2 billion friends out there watching our back, using their experiences to rate services at every turn–and this number is growing each day as entrepreneurs find creative ways to provide affordable internet worldwide.

It means you can have your life back and your money back. And it's all right down the pipeline. So, pull out your Smart phone, visit the app store, and see what brilliant ideas entrepreneurs are cooking up to give you back your lives and hard-earned cash.

P.S.– As I spend more time in-depth researching these ideas, I will provide more data and scholarly resources to assess the way these innovations change human interactions in a positive way. (At least, that's what I hope to prove).

Free the Hostages. Or Else.

Take-Home Message: If you are not pursuing your valuable idea, you are keeping your standard of living and the worlds' lower than it has to be. Become the hero in your own story.

What if I told you I know your dirty little secret? What if I told you I knew how many hostages you're holding right now? I know how you're keeping them quiet. I know why nobody's going to do anything about it.

So, what's your number? Is it one? Two? Maybe more. How many dependents do you have? How many people do you interact with each day? How many neighbors, relatives or friends do you see regularly? Think about everywhere you frequent.

Now, think about the grocery store where you shop. Think if it wasn't there. How much further would you have to drive? What about your favorite barbershop/salon, what if the stylist you always visit wasn't there, where would you go, instead?

I want to paint a picture for you about what your standard of living would look like if someone else had not taken a risk, however small, to open their business in proximity to you. Your life would at least be different, right? I think so.

I think about where I would eat if the restaurants I frequently patron weren't nearby. I think about how much more I would rely on Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and (God forbid it) USPS to deliver the things I might need in lieu of the entrepreneurs in my area.

And when I think about that, I also think about my portion of the exchange I take part in on a regular basis. I'm not talking specifically about the exchange of my money for someone else's labor or service, though. I'm talking about the exchange that happens when someone else offers their service that makes my life better, and being able to only offer them money or a "thank you," as payment. Something is missing. Where's the value I'm creating, in return, for them?

This is what I mean when I ask how many people are you holding hostage. It's a question I asked myself last week when I got my haircut. It's a question I asked myself yesterday when I went to the coffee shop. It's a question I asked myself today when I ate lunch. Where is the value I'm creating in return for all of the benefits to my lifestyle others have contributed around me?

So, when I ask you how many hostages you're holding, I'd like you to take a moment and reflect on your own standard of living. Reflect, too, on all the people whose lives could and would be better if you turned one of your ideas into reality. Who would be stopping by your store to pick up one of the latest products you were offering? How would this change their lives? How could their standards of living be improved?

One of the most interesting things I've learned in the past year can be summarized in one word: alternatives. I could rant now about opportunity cost and foregone preferences, but I won't. Let's focus on the positive alternatives. After all, it's the lack of these that holds the world hostage.

So, what positive alternatives do some of the ideas you've been contemplating hold? What are you working on that's better than what the world already has? What's your secret ingredient? What angle do you have that no one else does?

The answer is simple. It's you. You are unique. You have your own background, story, experiences, and ideas. Without you, the product or idea you've been thinking of or you're going to think of next could never come into existence the way that it has or will by your mind.

"Because there are people out there looking for you—your people—who need you to be you, and do things exactly how you would do them. (And will ultimately pay you to do them your way.) They need your experience. Your skills. Your stories. Your thoughts. Your visions. Your advice. Your opinion. Your recommendations. Your ideas. Your expertise. Your knowledge. Your fuck-ups. They need you. No matter what you’re selling, YOU are the main product." –Ash Ambirge, You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts

So, when I ask you how many hostages you've taken, what I'm really asking is what kind of value could you add to your life if you pursued one of these ideas, made it a reality, and offered it to the world? By refusing to follow your dream, ambition, and vision for a better world you are effectively holding yourself hostage.

You're holding your family hostage. You're holding your neighbors, relatives, and friends hostage, too. You're holding everyone in the world hostage, too, whose standard of living would be better off through your creative idea.

You're holding them all hostage to the status quo. You're holding them hostage to the "way things are, and the way they've been" mentality. You are the one holding them all hostage, though, because you are the only one who sees the world the way you do, and therefore, the only one who can imagine, design, create, and implement YOUR idea the way you could.

Now, I'm not condemning you for this. Neither am I attempting to say you should feel obligated to do this for others. You shouldn't. I don't like altruism. What I do like, though, is the idea of man as the hero in his own story. i.e. You are the hero in your own story. You're the one living your life, after all. So, don't make yourself out to be a villain by keeping your idea locked away, forever untested.

You have the ability to test out your own vision on the world if you'll just try it. Just give it a try. What's the worst that could happen? You could fail. That's it. No shame in that. Plus, there's something about taking that risk that will change you in the process.

It will yield confidence, self-assurance, and alertness. You'll become sensitive to the needs, wants, and behaviors of others as you begin not only to look at them as acquaintances, friends, or family, but also as customers or potential customers. You'll begin to care about bettering their lives through your labor.

You'll come to appreciate the risk others have taken, too, in their own enterprises. You'll begin to witness the whole world as a series of exchanges, not just the kind where money is traded for stuff, but where creativity and labor are transformed into value for others.

But, sadly, you'll begin to see others who abuse this, too. And when you do, it will reinforce your drive to make the world better. It will make you want to accept your fate as the hero in your life. So, what's stopping you?

Do you really want to make the world a better place? Good. Set the hostages free.

For the Love of Words

Take-Home Message: Writing moves me. Writing composes my love affair with words.

Writer's Note: I dedicate this piece to addressing the first questions submitted on the Ask Me page. Here are those questions: What is your process or procedure for writing?  Do you begin with an outline in mind?  Do you sit in front of a blank screen and wait for inspiration?  Do you have goals as far as length?  Do you edit as you go?

It would be unfair to attempt to answer these questions without first telling you the greatest love story of my life. I enjoyed learning and using new words from a young age, but the manifestation of my love for these words did not take root until a few years down the road. I always crushed on them, but I played hard to get. When I fell, though...well, the rest is just history. Here's my story.

There are two important details from this story. The first being that as a tike Webster's Dictionary was my favorite book. I filled notebook after notebook with words I found as I scoured through it on numerous evenings throughout my childhood. (I still have many of these sacred symbols of our love, too.)

The second aspect sets the tone for the rest of the story. It happened in eighth grade English class. I had a teacher with whom I did not see eye-to-eye (go figure). Nearly every day of the year, she wrote a prompt on the board at the front of the classroom and told us to get to work. I felt like both these assignments and being forced to stay locked up in a room with someone who I felt was failing at her job were both complete wastes of my time. I was wrong on both accounts. Boy, was I blindsided.

Love always finds us when we're not looking for it, though, I think. I chose to undertake each assignment from a place of contempt. I'd ask myself, how can I earn an A without actually writing about the prompt? This is where I learned about flirting and foreplay–to brainstorm a while before spilling my guts on the paper, and to do so without caution. 

It was at this point, though, that I began to develop feelings for my craft. It wasn't actually ever contempt at all, but the humble beginnings of a romance. And a strange romance it was indeed. I wrote about the most bizarre things in order to touch the prompts as lightly as possible–some might even say deranged.

I wrote about squirrels eating human faces.  I wrote about feral children running the world. I wrote about animals breaking free from city zoos, stampeding, and trampling innocent by-standers. I wrote about school shootings. I wrote about the horrors of war and the evil of bombings. And the list goes on and on... This is where I learned to write without limits. Some might even say that my approach to these assignments turned me into a lunatic of my own merit.

I'll happily accept these indictments, though, because I pursue writing the same way I pursue all things I love: aggressively. I come on too strong. I vomit words that sound great until they're out in the open. When that idea comes, I run, not walk.  I sometimes send vibes that I need you (the reader or audience) to love me back, to make me feel wanted, or to give me your undivided attention. I don't. I'm independent in my creation process.

In fact, if I felt like I had an expectation from you or as if I knew what you wanted, it would entirely transform my writing into something that it's not. I would stray from the topic, and this knowledge would become an unwanted distraction. Distractions not only slow down my productivity, they flat out irritate me. While writing, I remove all distractions. When I'm wooing the piece I'm writing, if I truly love it, I am absolutely, unabashedly devoted to it and only it.

As for length, I never think about how much will go into a piece of writing until well after it's over. I begin each new piece as if I'll love it forever, and I just love it the best I can until it feels like it's come to an end. Sometimes, the words break up with me and simply stop flowing. Other times, I call it off, because I've come to resent what I once found to be beautiful. This is the only time I edit structure.

When this happens, I stop writing completely and I begin back at the beginning with an axe. I read through everything and I delete anything I find ugly, negative, or clashing with the overall arc. Sometimes it's just to substitute a word. Sometimes it's whole paragraphs. (It's like couple's therapy, really.)

Unless I come to despise the writing, though, I only spell and grammar check. I leave the rest in tact, as is. If I've loved the piece all the way through, or I felt like I was genuine in pouring out my soul, then I know there's nothing that needs to be changed. I know that I left nothing unsaid and that what I said was precisely what I had to let out. It's all exactly how I would have said it. It's authentic.

When I find myself uncertain about my feelings for a particular piece, though–and, this happens quite often–I abort the mission. I'll have one topic in mind and realize she's not the one for me only a page in. I find myself being a phony in the pursuit of these topics, usually. Hell, sometimes I've written half a dozen pages before I've even found real inspiration. Usually the inspiration I find at this, is to hit Control A + Delete. It's fake. Start over. We don't do fake, here.

Of course, sometimes I feel as if there's no love left, as if my love for the words has gone stagnant. I can't find even the slightest spark. It's these times, when I force myself to work through the struggles, to fight for my love of the words, that the flowers smell the sweetest. This is when writing hurts. This is when I'm the most honest, because I have to write about myself. I have to dump my flaws, pains, sorrows, and feelings into a piece. It becomes personal. It becomes confessional.

But, when I finish those pieces, I feel the best. It's like making up after a fight. Or embracing the words after they've hurt me. That's when I know how much the words really mean to me, and that my love for the words is real. And the whole romance comes full circle, my love for the words awakens anew, in a different light, and in a later chapter...the words begin to flow once more, effortlessly, and the story goes on.

Ideas’ Lives Matter

Take-Home Message: Don't add to the infant-mortality rate of newborn ideas. Record these. Hold them dearly. Use them to better your world.

Where do you record your ideas? Or, do you at all? I find this to be an important practice for me in my own life. For the most part, if I don’t empty the noggin’ every now and then with what I like to call a brain dump, I get all obfuscated and can’t focus on anything.

The ideas start to distract me from everything else I try to work on. They’re like little brain gnomes roaming around in the garden of my mind. So, sort of like that Mucinex commercial, I decided to send the gnomes a-packin’, and started eradicating them. Well, not completely, but I keep a physical notepad and a notepad in the cloud, too, filled with ideas I’ve been working through for years. I get them out of my head to be explored later and free myself up to focus on whatever task is at hand. This has immensely aided in my productivity.

Now, the reason I’m confiding in you about journaling my ideas is because I think it’s one of the most important steps toward freeing yourself. If you want to start a company, or you want to earn some money on the side, or write a book, or even research a topic later, write it down so you don’t forget. As they say, “The sharpest mind is duller than the dullest pencil.” Or however the phrase goes, you get the picture. If you’re not recording your ideas, you are cheating yourself out of your own creativity. It’s like you’re planting the fruit but never picking it.

Stop doing that. Stop doing it now. Write down an idea you had today before you go to bed tonight. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. And then tomorrow, do it again. Keep a notepad by your bed when you sleep. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night with a story idea or some crazy thought I wanted to keep for later and didn’t have my notepad—or was too lazy to get out of bed to find one. It’s like I burned money every time I did that—even if it was only fiat currency, I could have been on the verge of a breakthrough or something.

More importantly than simply writing down the ideas, though, is developing a practice of revisiting these ideas on occasion, and cultivating them. If it’s a business idea, in particular, fleshing this out some more could be the first step toward breaking the chains that currently are keeping you chained to your cubicle. Your billion-dollar idea isn’t worth the time you took to write it down if you’re never going to take action with it.

The important part is to develop the habit of doing so now, so later, when you have your BIG idea, recording and reflecting on it is already second nature. Even if it’s just an intermediate idea standing between where you are and an even better idea down the road, if you don’t develop the practice of doing it, you might not ever get there.

So, once you have a basket-full of ideas, spend a couple hours some evening working through a few of them. Test them to see if they hold water. If it’s something you want to know about, do a Google search and find some info, or find an online forum and start asking questions. If it’s something you want to do, look at your calendar, or just book the trip.

Since the risk with ideas is minimal or nonexistent, you're not committing to anything by reflecting on them. But, if it is a business idea, there is a potential huge risk of never exploring the feasibility of this idea being put into practice. Ask yourself, is that a risk you are willing to take?

And, if it’s an idea you’d like to monetize, there are tons of resources available via the internet to find out more details about putting your idea into motion. Or, you could start by writing up a mock business plan. Whatever it is, just get to cranking.

If you've refined your idea, and think it's possible, though, go a step further, and identify if it's more than just a good idea in theory. Spend some time thinking about if there's an actual demand for your idea. Figure out if it's something people want.

Here is a quick litmus test for answering those questions. It's from Ash Ambrige’s You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts:

Make a chart that addresses these.

  1. What is your idea?
  2. Who does it target? Be specific with the demographic.
  3. Is your idea something your target market would actually want?
  4. If they want it, are they able to buy it?
  5. And finally, if they want it, and they’re able to buy it, are they willing to buy it?

I did this exercise with a couple of my ideas today, and figured out a lot of things through a few minutes of Google research that I hadn’t factored in. It was a helpful practice. It helped me sort through the reality distortion that usually takes place when I become passionate about a new idea I have. That’s important. You can love your idea and think it’s brilliant, but, if it’s A) Impossible to implement; or, B) Nobody is willing to pay for it, then scrap it, or attempt to refine it.

If you don’t ever spend the time recording or reflecting on your ideas, though, you’ll never even make it this far. So, we’ve discussed why you should record your ideas. We’ve discussed  why you should vet your ideas. Now, what are you waiting for? Join me today in living more freely. Grab a notepad and start scribbling away.

About Mitchell


Mitchell is a cowboy turned startup professional and Director of Marketing @ Crash. He’s a former champion meat grader. Author of Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. Narrator of Why Haven’t You Read This Book? And previously Chief of Staff at Ceterus – where he helped scale a team from 20 to 150 while quadrupling revenue.

He’s radical about creating a better future and helping others do the same. Unsolvable problems and conspiracies are his favorite conversation genres. The keys to his heart – fine Bordeaux and Hemingway novels.

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