Tension, friction, creation, and entrepreneurship


I look like this too often. Do you?

(I am not the first to express thoughts in this direction. I give great credit to Steven Pressfield, Tim Ferriss, Noah Kagan, Scott H. Young, Maneesh Sethi, Julien Smith, and Ryan Holiday for influencing my thinking into more/faster/more accurate doing, even if they would all tell me I’m not there yet or even close. I would agree.)

On my Google+ feed, I was lucky enough to find a question from Louisville Innovative (a startup social media consultancy out of the eponymous Kentucky ‘burg), reproduced here for context:

Question for you guys and gals. So, we’re a newly formed, two-person social media strategy & web development company in Louisville KY. Anybody have any creative ways they were successfully able to get their brand & name out there when they first started?

Hmm. I can recall asking the same question. It always feels as though everyone else has more buzz than product, and that just isn’t fair. And while it would be nice to not feel the eyes of our peers and loved ones looking on our will to enterprise as so much wankery, we simply cannot generate the smoke we need to signal our success without building a large fire. And as a very wise pastor once told me, “When I met you, you were like a smooshed, barely smoldering, windswept, almost completely put-out little ember, and now I see a candle…but God wants you  to be a burning bush.” You’re not Christian? Suck it up; you get the point. You may think everyone is getting over on you or taking a shortcut, and you may know ontologically or teleologically that you have It and need only your moment, but just as you cannot see the actions of your competitors at all times, neither can the inner game of your “potential” buy a cup of coffee without 50 cents $6.75. And even if things did work that way, ultimately the trappings of “legitimacy” or “success” are ultimately useless without the bona fides behind the process that gets them.

Now please take note: I have nothing against Louisville Innovative. I want them to succeed, I’m willing to help however I can, and I am not accusing them of fostering any of the above thinking errors. I’m just providing a frame for my answer to the question (in two separate comments, here concatenated for the sake of turning a “found” post into something more readable). Here’s how I think “authority”, “credibility”, “notoriety”, “thought-leadership”, “brand-equity” – whatever you’d like to call it, but let’s be honest; we are simply talking about a set of group-identifiable, sustainable operations that create an adequate stream of well-paying, well-satisfied customers, also known albeit simplistically as “a successful business” – are built:

Do the work (Hello Mr. Pressfield!), prepare and sharpen at all times, publish your insights, help everyone you can, and show that your experience (the experience clients receive as a deliverable AND the one they receive as your clients) stands above the crowd for reasons measurable or experiential. Easier said than obsessively drudged and honed and underfunded, I know.

The biggest problem is that most of the entrepreneur’s thoughts are of some indeterminate value or at least worthy of further inquiry, but as a resource- and time-poor startup, one must choose to action only those lines of effort that create necessary value facing either internally or externally.

That is, prioritize the things that can answer in the affirmative – and withstand further discernment by degree of impact -the twin questions “is this really part of our signature customer experience?” and/or “does this really enhance our processes?”

Of course, to answer these questions profitably requires further introspection into one’s own strengths and flow as well as investigations (quantitative and experiential) of the ever elusive “customer archetype” (persona, avatar, user story…hell, make up your own verbiage if you want).

But then, once on this bent, the only way to avoid analytically “stepping back” ad infinitum is to begin validating assumptions and analysis. Which is a whole other can of worms. More to follow (if you like).

I’m not perfect, of course (or, at the very least, this blog would have many more and more frequent posts, if not have started in, like, 2005 to begin with). But I think I’ve encapsulated the wicked problem that arises out of the existential miasma: the tension of limited resources and time, the friction between planning and reality, the inner game of creatives, and the market-operational meat grinder of entrepreneurship. It can all swarm and overwhelm, or it can be defeated in detail. But you’re going to feel many of the same (mostly unpleasant at first) feelings regardless, so you may as well set yourself up for success. If you want to be known for good and helpful work, you’re going to have to work at helping people, over and over. It applies to every sector of the economy, and this truth remains even when, like me, you yourself are the product, pursuing sales strategies in several different applications. I ought to take my own advice and focus. That’s why a sequel to this post will tackle “the other can of worms” regarding validation of market, assumptions, and process.

*If any of you influencer types linked above should happen to click over and read this, I wonder if you think my throwback, manic-elegiac “freeze-frame baroque” writing style is an asset or if it needs to be changed yesterday. But thanks for checking this out!


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