Micro-entrepreneurship is changing the world. The best opportunities in the new economy are centered on creating your own assets.
There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you’ve built a mountain. Here are some things you might try (don’t do them all, just one of these once a day would change things for you):
Send a handwritten and personal thank you note to a customer
Write a blog post about how someone is using your product or service
Research and post a short article about how something in your industry works
Introduce one colleague to another in a significant way that benefits both of them
Read the first three chapters of a business or other how-to book
Record a video that teaches your customers how to do something
Teach at least one of your employees a new skill
Go for a ten minute walk and come back with at least five written ideas on how to improve what you offer the world
Change something on your website and record how it changes interactions
Help a non-profit in a signficant way (make a fundraising call, do outreach)
Write or substiantially edit a Wikipedia article
Find out something you didn’t know about one of your employees or customers or co-workers
Enough molehills is all you need to have a mountain.
We travel for many reasons – entertainment, growth, comfort, appreciation, ego, and, probably, some of each in different amounts at different times. I like to think that I travel to grow — ideally, uncovering some remaining piece of information that will help me be a better person. Hoping that I’ll assemble enough pieces so that the puzzle of life begins to resolve into something I might recognize. As Pico Iyer famously said, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.”
For the past 5 years, I’ve been on the road more often than not. To places and experiences remote in both distance and familiarity. I’ve spent sweltering afternoons in monasteries, sheltered in the high Himalayas, zodiacked around Antarctic Icebergs, cruised at the edge of Space, wandered among remote South Pacific tribes, ridden through endless tea plantations, worked the fishing lines in Indonesia, and cried at more than one sunrise. I’ve seen and experienced more than I deserve, hoping that somewhere along the way, I’d find myself. What self-respecting explorer communes with Buddhist Monks at the foot of Everest and doesn’t have a spiritual awakening? In the movies: none.
About two years ago, I began to realize that it just wasn’t going to happen for me. There would be no enlightenment in an Ashram or conversion in Jerusalem for me. Coming to this conclusion brought on a kind of “wanderer’s melancholy.” If the answer wasn’t out there, I might never find it. But having no easy alternative, I simply packed up and headed back on the road, doubling down on my search.
As the years have passed, I’ve collected a few more pieces. They occasionally fit together to form small archipelagos of knowledge in some enormous Terra Incognita. Nothing spiritually transformational but my lens on the world has definitely changed.
For me, those islands come in flavors of convictions or truths that I’ve observed and know to be true. Interestingly enough, none of these observations are novel. From philosophers to grandparents, we’ve heard them countless times. But, hearing something isn’t quite the same as observing it. I won’t bore you with specifics. Suffice it to say, I think the Buddha had it right when he said craving, desire and attachment are the sources of suffering. Everything else is window dressing.
I’ve observed that poverty and happiness are not mutually exclusive. I’ve seen more dissatisfied 20 something’s in SoHo than their counterparts in rural Jodhpur. I know that there is real joy and meaning to be found outside the secular system of wealth, status and eternal youth. It’s not our fault; it’s our programming. But the answers can’t be found in accumulating more. You knew that already. Well, so did I, but I’m not sure I really believed it. I do now. Happiness is reality minus expectations. And Americans, in particular, have some pretty high expectations. You do the math.
I’ve collected enough pieces now to begin to suspect that they don’t belong to a single map. They simply don’t all fit together. But, perhaps, knowing that makes the journey even more sweet. I may not have found myself, but I think I now know where look.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
– T.S. Eliot
They use stopwatches at McDonald’s. They know, to the second, how long it should take to make a batch of fries. And they use spreadsheets, too, to whittle the price of each fry down by a hundredth of a cent if they can. They’re big and it matters.
Small businesspeople often act like direct marketers. They pick a number and they obsess over it. In direct mail, of course, it’s the open rate or the conversion rate. For a freelancer or small business person, it might be your bank balance or the growth in weekly sales.
I think for most businesses that want to grow, it’s way too soon to act like a direct marketer and pick a single number to obsess about.
The reason is that these numbers demand that you start tweaking. You can tweak a website or tweak an accounts payable policy and make numbers go up, which is great, but it’s not going to fundamentally change your business.
I’d have you obsess about things that are a lot more difficult to measure. Things like the level of joy or relief or gratitude your best customers feel. How much risk your team is willing to take with new product launches. How many people recommended you to a friend today…
What are you tracking? If you track concepts, your concepts are going to get better. If you track open rates or clickthrough, then your subject lines are going to get better. Up to you.
One thing you’ll notice about the naturally athletic is that they all seem to be born with a certain grace, the ability to walk with lithe steps and catch a foul ball in the stands.
One thing you’ll notice about leaders is that they’re not naturally born. They don’t have much in common on the surface, other than the fact that they are leaders.
This is bad news is you’ve got the wrong genes but want to throw the shotput, but great news if you’d like to be a leader. It’s a choice, not the way you were born.