An Exercise.

Take-Home Message: General thoughts regarding my competitive edge as an entrepreneur.

Writer’s Note: This is a different type of post than the ones I have been doing. It is drawn from the challenges of Chapter 9 of You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts.

“Today, I want you to think about your edge as it relates to your thing. And once you find that edge, how can you use that to help you name your business? Or your project? Or your organization?”

–Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

This post is my own personal exercise for identifying my edge in the world. I had to get the words out. It hurt.

One-word Descriptors of Me. How I View Myself (Positive):
Eccentric. Confident. Strategic. Intuitive. Learner. Reader. Observer. Bold. Daring. Relentless. Achiever. Personal. Open-minded. Enthusiastic. Inspired. Bored. Eager. Hungry. Hustler. Persuasive. Resilient. Spiritual. Intrigued. Passionate. Fearless.

One-Word Descriptors of Me. How I View Myself (Negative):
Critical. Rash. Dramatic. Affected. Insensitive. Unsympathetic. Skeptical. Cynical. Sarcastic. Pushy. Aggressive.

How I Think Others View Me:
Determined. Cocky. Judgmental. Too critical of self. A bit cheesy, but somewhat inspiring. Sometimes-shy. Sometimes too loud. Troubled. Different. Anti-authoritarian. Well-meaning, generally. Argumentative. Unrealistic/Idealistic. Outside of the box. Contrarian. Hipster-ish. Artistic. Challenging. Driven. Wordy.

Important Background Details (Short-hand version, chronologically/Each of these is a story of its own):
Small town. Middle child (complex). Independent. Well-read. Imaginative. Agricultural. Athletic. Over-achiever. Arrogant. Grandiose. Subject to peer-pressure. Challenging of authority. Paying for my sins (I still have the receipts). Depressed. Determined to overcome. Humbled. Quiet. Reaffirmed. Inspired. Courageous. Motivated. Goal-oriented. Searching for answers. Fearless.

Ideal Lifestyle:
I will work from anywhere/My office will be the world. I will travel regularly. I will work with people from all walks of life. I will spend time with my family and prioritize them (someday when I have one). I will have and maintain a minimum of 3-5 sources of income. I will have a cabin in a mountainous region. I will work no more than 50 hours per week. I will feel a sense of community where I live and be involved as a contributor to that community. I will invest in businesses I believe in regularly. I will mentor less-experienced or younger men throughout the course of my life. I will work with [a] mentor(s) throughout the course of my life. I will write and publish regularly. I will read regularly. I will be engaged philanthropically and charitably. I will coach my son’s or daughter’s baseball/softball team (someday when I have kid(s)). I will work at least an hour every day for myself, be it for business or for self-improvement. I will live within my means.

Desired Fields My Business Would Fall Into. Into What Industries Would My Business Be Categorized (If someone else were describing it’s place):
Marketing. Communications. Consulting. Technology. Law. Media. Management. Organizational/Efficiency Specialty. Leadership. Self-Improvement. Education.

Components I would like to include in My Business for me to find it fulfilling. What I must do to feel like my skills are being utilized:
Writing. Speaking. Photography. Social Media. Marketing. Strategic problem solving. Networking. Sales. Planning. Inspiring. Improving efficiency. Utilizing technology. Brainstorming. Design. Leadership. Self-Improvement.

My Demographic/Criteria for clients (Whom I would love to and believe I can help most): People. Small-businesses. Middle-class. Entrepreneurial types. People who were once inspired, but have lost it. People who want more but don’t know how to get there. People who have lost their vision. People who want to add value with their labor. Hard-workers. People who work with their hands for a living. People who feel like there is not enough time in the day. People who have an inclination toward optimism, but are uncertain and indefinite about why. Natural problem solvers. People who share my vision for making the world a better place.

Why Does this Matter To Me?:
I want to see others succeed, especially the underdog. I have a passion for working with people who feel overlooked, under-appreciated, undervalued, disregarded, or underestimated. I feel a connection with people who have felt this in their life because I can relate. I want to empower others. I want my work to improve the quality of lives of others and myself. I envision a better world; I want to help others do this, too. I want to live freely; I want others to, as well. I want to have flexibility. I want to innovate. I want to constantly learn. I want to push myself and everyone around me. I want to incorporate as many, if not all, of my passions, hobbies, and skills into my business. I want to find better ways to do things. I want to be financially independent. I want others to be financially independent, too. I want my work to be built upon a platform that allows me to educate others about the things about which I am passionate–namely, individual and economic liberty, entrepreneurship, self-improvement and innovative technology. I want my work to be an extension of my belief system. I want to live virtuously. I want my work to create value at every move. I want to make the world a better place.


This was an incredibly difficult exercise. I will edit and add to this regularly as I continue to refine my ideas for entrepreneurial ventures. As I continue to work through the course, “You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts,” I will shape the ideas I have into a tangible business idea, and from there, work to develop a business plan from it for self-employment. Anticipated completion date of course: October 31, 2015. Deadline for completion of business plan: October 1, 2016.

Sentiment Sells.

Take-Home Message: We all like to feel special, connected, seen, relevant, and important. Accomplish this with your business, and never work another day.

Writer’s Note: These are my personal reflections upon completing Chapter 8 of Ash Ambirge’s You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts.

Let’s do a quick experiment.

Tell me about the first time you fell in love. Think about how you felt. What did the object of your affections say or do to make you feel the way you did? How did you respond? Contemplate on that for a moment.

I recently reflected on one of my own personal love stories: with writing (See For The Love of Words). I became enamored, nay consumed in my love affair with words and written language as a means of reaffirming my identity. It allowed me to discover things about myself–and it still does each time I make love with the words. It makes me feel relevant in this great big world.

Now, your experience with your loved one, or “soul mate,” if you’ve found him/her, is likely a much more passionate affair. It probably reaches much more deeply into your soul, reaffirming your identity, bringing out the best in you, and complementing your worldview in a way that brings you immense delight.

What else?

Now, imagine if you could develop a business model that made someone feel all of those things.


This is a good marketing example of a simple product whose message captures this concept.


The goal of this thought experiment is to think about this individual whom would be the likely consumer of your product or idea. It’s to think about the characteristics your product or service can offer to reaffirm what he or she already knows about himself or herself, and saturating this product or service with that message.

Business, after all, does not exist simply to provide things people need. It’s about giving people what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and at a price they can afford. But, it’s still deeper than that, too. It’s about providing something that does more than its intended use. It’s about adding value to lives.

So, when you can identify this individual, your intended consumer, and find out what makes him or her tick, you can begin to feel out what things reaffirm his or her identity. In so doing, you create the opportunity to add new, meaningful value to their lives through your product or service.

Once you’ve done this, you no longer have to sell anything. You merely have to be the friend who introduces two perfectly compatible people, and then let the magic happen on its own.

Business is about people. But not all people, it’s about finding THE people, the ones who can benefit most from what you’re offering and crafting the entire business to make them feel seen, relevant, important, and whole.

Here are the questions Ash posed which spurred my thoughts on these matters:

And so I ask you now: Who’s your business soulmate? Who’s the person doing the searching? What are their unique perspectives, ideas, and opinions as it relates to your thing? And, most importantly, what will you say to them that they’ll hear?– Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

So, who is your business soulmate?

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.

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.