Up in My Business
I just read the following lines in a business magazine:
“Any woman who may want to marry me has to understand that I am already married. I am married to my business.”
This quote reminded me of a disturbing truth that undermines our cult of individualism in the West. That truth is this: you WILL love god.
No human being is free from desire. Every human has it. And every human attaches that desire to something, making it their god. It is disappointing news to radical individualists, but the conclusion is unavoidable: You WILL love god. continue reading this post
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. continue reading this post
When I first started this business, there were four people who helped me immensely: Dave Ramsey, Tim Ferris, Mark Cuban, and Seth Godin. These were my mentors. I didn’t replicate their work, but I combined the ingredients and made something that worked for me. If you want to start a business, listen to these people. Study their blogs. Listen to their talk shows. Find them on youtube. Read their books. Read the books that they tell you to read.
This is what I learned from each one:
Dave Ramsey: How and WHY you should run your business debt free. Read his book “The Total Money Makeover” and listen to his radio talk show. Sign up for email updates (they send them so infrequently that I actually read them), and about once a month, they do a show focusing just on small business and they will send you an email to tell you when to listen (the shows are recorded and stored online, so you can listen at your leisure). The lessons you will learn are priceless. Learn from the stupidity of others.
Tim Ferris: He does an excellent job of describing how to remove yourself from the process of cash flow in his book. It’s about helping you run the business and not letting the business run you. Must read material if you want to actually enjoy running a business. His book and his blog are both excellent resources. He also explains the value of doing things uniquely (Scarcity creates value. DUH! Few people follow this, however. Everybody is just trying to copy each other. Lame-o.)
Mark Cuban: He has some excellent blog posts, and I really appreciate his story of how he got rich. He states, “The 2nd rule for getting rich is getting smart. Investing your time in yourself and becoming knowledgeable about the business of something you really love to do. It doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever your hobbies, interests, passions are. Find the one you love the best and GET A JOB in the business that supports it. Before or after work and on weekends, every single day, read everything there is to read about the business. Go to trade shows, read the trade magazines, spend a lot of time talking to the people you do business with about their business and the people they buy from. This is not a short term project. We aren’t talking days. We aren’t talking months. We are talking years. Lots of years and maybe decades. I didn’t say this was a get rich quick scheme. This is a get rich path.” I love his emphasis on the fact that gaining wealth is a process, and the learning and the lessons are more important than the destination.. This is SO crucial to understand, because it explains what I have believed even more and more as I have journeyed down this path: I could do it all again. It wasn't a stroke of luck. It was an opportunity, and I took advantage of it. Anybody who has ever done this knows that they can do it again. Once you learn to take a few pennies and make dollars, you can do it over and over and over. Not overnight, but it can be done. If you took away every dollar from Bill Gates, he would have more money than me within a year, because he knows the process and has learned the lessons. Finally, this blog post is a fantastic story about Mark's process of getting rich and making money. Spoiler alert: it wasn't by being a lazy bum.
Seth Godin: I heard of Seth because he is labeled as a marketing person, but his book Tribes is what really helped me take initiative. It is about taking the initiative to lead (one of my favorite quotes: “Leadership is not a position”). I was just a 27 year old math teacher, and though there were better and more-experienced math teachers who could have done what I did, I decided not to wait for permission.
I have been working away in my laboratory for the last few weeks, cooking up a new book about what I have learned in my short tenure as an entrepreneur. As is the case with almost everything I start, I just woke up one morning and thought to myself, "I think I want to write a book about running a business like a Ninja." This book is the culmination of that thought.
I am stoked about the book for three reasons:
A. It meets my first Fundamental Law of Literature: keep it short.
2. I was able to provide illustrations throughout the book. I am sure you will be amazed at how much my artistic hand has developed since 4th grade.
D. When it was finished, I read through it, and I smiled at my work. If it makes me smile, then it has a chance of making you smile.
I hope you enjoy it!
Some people reject the idea that a school should be thought of as a business. Thinking of schools as a business apparently conjures up haunting images of greased-back hair, “market share”, and Enron. However, where there is the exchange of money for resources, there exists an institution that is influenced by the properties of a business, and any viable business knows that it should listen to its customers. In the business of school, the customers are the students (not the parents), but we usually do a pretty poor job of serving them. We spend a lot of time making the parents happy, the school boards happy, and the teachers happy, but the students who should be receiving the education often get put to the side as a secondary concern. This is problematic for (hopefully) obvious reasons.
There is one customer that is a product of American education to whom I think teachers should pay special attention. Her name is Jessica Mah. Her website states “Jessica started her first internet company at the age of 13, finished high school at the age of 15, and studied computer science at Berkeley. She is a member of the TED conference and has been featured in TechCrunch and Inc. Magazine for her work on internshipIN.com. She's now the founder and product architect of Indinero.com (a company that helps businesses manage finances).” So in case you missed it, she graduated from high school early and she continues to dominate college while ALSO running a successful business that she started. Is it just me or does anybody else think that this independence, entrepreneurial savvy, and desire to learn is something we should be striving to cultivate in our students?
When I run my own school (if I ever get around to it), I’m going to talk to people like Jessica. People like her are going to be the fundamental rudders that help steer the ship to uncharted lands. Instead of waiting for the day when I run my own school, I figured I would ask her some questions now, and she had some profound insights. continue reading this post
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. continue reading this post