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How to start a business like a Ninja

I promise it was an accident. It wasn’t an elaborate plan. It just started with a need. I needed a test-prep book for my students to prepare them for a state math exam. I probably put in 4-5 different searches on Google over the span of 3 months, and I could not find what I wanted. Every time I would type in the specifics of what I wanted, Google would pop up with “No results found.”

Finally, one day it just hit me: why don’t I make what I want? Why don’t I just write this book myself? I had already conducted extensive research into the exam, I had spent 5 years in a classroom teaching remediation classes, and I have an irreversible tendency to do things before realizing how hard they will be. I was sitting in a rocking chair on a Saturday morning, and for five hours, I stared out the window and thought about what this book would look like and whether or not I would make the commitment. Suddenly, I made a decision: I decided to write the book. I arose from the rocking chair, went to my computer, bought the domain name for the business, and then I opened a Microsoft Word document and started writing.

It is important to note that I had never started a business and I had never written a book. I have no business background. I studied environmental science and theology in college, which means that I memorized the periodic table, played in streams, and studied ancient texts. This is not your standard foundation for business. I was just a crazy math teacher.

As it turns out, being “crazy” helped immensely. Starting a business is crazy. I am crazy. It was a good match. Read more »

I trust leaders, not stories

When someone gets told to do something that they do not want to do, they usually complain. In the complaining, the stories get changed. How do I know this? Two reasons. One, because I have done it before. Two, because it happens almost every time I correct a student.

It happens something like this. I tell a student to stay after school for twenty minutes because they were continually disruptive in class. The student mumbles under their breath and gets mad. Later that day, they go home and tell their friends, “Mr. Hollowell was so rude and inconsiderate. I got up to go use the bathroom, and then he yelled at me and told me to sit down and he gave me a detention. Can you believe he made me stay after school for twenty minutes just because I needed to use the restroom?” Actually, Billy, you have to stay after school for 20 minutes because you were a complete train wreck in class, and your final disaster was getting out of your chair in a disruptive manner and pushing two students on your way out of my room. You do not have a detention for going to the restroom. You have a detention for being a moron. Read more »

A lack of money breeds ingenuity

When you do not have money, you must get creative. If you don’t have money to get what you want, then you need to find ways to get what you want without the money. No, you don’t steal, but you begin to analyze the situation, to do the unusual, and get creative.

Every school, business, and person should understand this fact: a lack of money breeds ingenuity.

Money is not the biggest barrier to attaining a goal. The biggest barrier to attaining a goal is a lack of raging desire: a deep, pulsating desire to do something, to create something. When you have this raging desire but lack sufficient money, then you begin to get creative.

You learn to buy used goods. You don’t take no for an answer. You beg and plead your case to anyone who will listen. Things just start happening, and it is all happening without money.

Ingenuity is being born because you wanted to do something but didn’t have the money. If you have been in this situation before, you know it is so much fun! Read more »

Why Sports?

I just witnessed one of the greatest basketball games I have ever seen last night: Butler vs. Duke. Some called it David vs. Goliath. But really, it was Thor vs. Hercules. Patton vs. Rommel. Rocky vs. Draggo. It was two evenly matched warriors getting after it. And in the end, Butler came up short. Painfully, painfully, short. Read more »

How to quit your job and still have work

I understand that it is hard to find a job. There are not many companies hiring new employees, high school students can’t find summer jobs, and many school districts are facing employment cuts.

However, despite the lack of jobs, there is plenty of work to do. Read more »


No one is really afraid of failure. No one has fear of trying something and then failing. What people truly and deeply fear is criticism.

I wrote a math book last year, and when I was writing it, I would occasionally get filled with fear. I told myself that I was afraid of failure. I told myself, “You are afraid of putting much work into this book and then nobody wanting it.”

But when I looked at my fear, I found that I had no fear of failure. My greatest fear was not that the book would go unwanted, but that people would criticize me for it. I feared getting emails that said, “This book is horrible. Why would I ever use it in my math class?” I feared meeting someone who had used the book and having them tell me, “I can’t believe how many mistakes there are in the book. It is embarrassing.” I feared somebody telling me that my website is confusing and useless.

Fear causes a person to cave in on their selves. I often thought to myself, “Why put myself in a position of criticism? Why shouldn’t I just write a small manual for my students? Why should I risk criticism?” The fear at times was crippling, but it was NEVER because of the fear of failure. In fact, the fear actually caused me to occasionally desire failure. I would think to myself, “If I never hear a comment about this book, that is good, because no comments mean that I didn’t make anyone upset.” Read more »


People continue to ask me, “So what do you want to do with your life? What’s your plan?” I just put on a flabbergasted look and say, “Plan?”

I don’t know how to put this any more bluntly: I have no plan. I have no pre-set future. I have a whole lot of possibilities, but I certainly do not have a plan. I’m like the weatherman: I’ll give you a whole lot of estimates, but not a single certainty. Read more »


I often think that if I never learned to say “no”, it would have been the death of me. Read more »


Dear Person in Charge:

I’m so sorry I was late for your meeting. I was so busy doing important work that I didn’t have time for “necessary” work. I know this meeting is important to you. I know we are going to change the world with the objectives we talk about (but do not act upon) in this meeting. I know we are now left to desperation and despair because I missed the fist 10 minutes of the meeting. I know these 10 minutes were jam-packed with the casual opening salvo of introductions and the obligatory opening joke.

Please permit me to, just this once, explain why I was late. Read more »


Photo: Time Archives

Muhammad Ali is the greatest marketer of all time. He simply told people, “I am the Greatest.” He made it known, loud and clear, that he was the greatest in the sport of boxing, and he was saying that at the age of 20.

And at his retirement, after winning the heavyweight crown three different times (a record that remains this day), he proved his comments were true. Even to this day, he is acknowledged by everyone in the sport of boxing as the Greatest of all time.

One of my favorite quotes from Ali: “Some people say I’m cocky, they say I talk too much, and that I need a good whoopin’. But anything I say, I’m willing to back up.” This is why I think Muhammad is one of the greatest marketers of all time: his product delivered as promised. He talked a big talk, but he backed it up every step of the way.

Marketers and companies are really good at promising great things. A business claims that their product is going to help you, a politician claims to change society for the better, a school claims to build life-long learners. However, the business, politician, and school often do not deliver as promised. In many instances, the marketing is much better than the product. People get the word out, they claim that their product is amazing and going to change things, but it just doesn’t deliver. The problem is that many organizations spend more time developing their marketing instead of developing their product. Read more »

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