Don’t Start A Business Without Answering These Questions

A Forbes writer recently developed 23 questions to isolate “the fundamental reasons for success and failure” for anyone “trying to make money, create a job, or get a better one.” The focus, however, really seems to be on what it takes to start your own business.

Five of the 23 are questions focused on relationships and your network:

  1. Who is my role model?
  2. Do I have the right people?
  3. Am I outsourcing the right tasks?
  4. Do I have the right customers?
  5. Do I have a good lawyer?

I especially liked the author’s comment about the importance of having the right people in your corner: “Having the right people also includes cultivating outside advisors whose opinions you respect and who aren’t afraid to share them—assuming you’ll listen.” Straight out of the myGreenlight playbook.

What questions would be on your “must answer” list for an entrepreneur about to take the leap?

Ritu Walia is myGreenlight’s Member Coordinator.

Ram Dass-Style Entrepreneurship

Be here, now. – Ram Dass

The value of presence – “being here, now” – has come up in several recent Social Capitalist interviews. Christine Comaford talked about its importance to leadership, calling it the quality that gives Bill Clinton his charismatic juju. Jonathan Fields talked about the importance of mindfullness meditation to creativity.

This morning, I’ve got a new spin on it, thanks to a conversation I had at Lucinda Duncalfe‘s Grubwithus dinner last night. Presence is incredibly important to the entrepreneur’s ability to generate ideas. (So perhaps this is really another take on Jonathan Fields’.) Entrepreneurs need to be present in the moment so that we’re sufficiently sensitive to life’s minor PITAs to recognize them, pause, and think about solving them.

James Altucher, yet another Social Capitalist guest, recommends “building your idea muscle” by writing down 10 or 20 fresh ideas every morning. But my new friend Ramya from the dinner had a different approach. She talked about paying attention so that every time you experienced a problem or an inconvenience, you flipped a switch to think, “Wait, is there a way to solve this?” In other words, cultivating a constant habit of identifying problems and brianstorming solutions – and “carrying a notebook everywhere.” It’s not unlike the myGreenlight mindset of constantly looking for opportunities to be generous to people – being here, now, so you’re truly listening and responding authentically – which brings us right back to Comaford and Bill Clinton. And actually, entrepreneurship itself is a form of win-win generosity and mutual self-interest.

Ramya’s thought brought me back around to presence – paying attention, exploring sensation, experience, and the tug of an inchoate idea, rather than wandering around in future-goggles thinking about what’s two weeks out.

If you’d like to get the transcripts or recordings for the Social Capitalist sessions I mentioned, here are the links:

Does Your Success Require a College Education?

My parents, both of whom earned master’s degrees and were front and center in my school’s PTA, taught me that some of the best learning opportunities are outside the classroom – for example, when they let me skip class to visit a local criminal trial in 8th grade. Though I loved school, I was still anxious to finish college early and find ways to learn that I would not only be paid for, but that would have some use beyond my GPA. Some of the brightest, most successful people I know today are autodidacts, high school and college dropouts. And in my work with myGreenlight, I’m part of a rapidly evolving world of online learning options that lets individuals close self-identified skills gaps affordably and on-demand.

All this is to say that I’ve been thrilled and excited by recent public debate around the value (and cost) of higher education. The conversation has been fueled by economists (e.g. Richard K. Vedder of Ohio University and Robert I. Lerman of American University); by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs (Peter Thiel and Seth Godin); by online educators  (startups like Udemy and sprawling organizations like the University of Phoenix) and by writers — most recently, Michael Ellsberg, whose new book The Education of Millionaires (recently discussed in his myG Social Capitalist interview and you can get a free first chapter at his site) seeks to teach vital success skills in sales, networking, and self-marketing that are neglected by university degree programs.

This week, Michael’s book provoked a tart review in Time, which Michael then rebutted in The New York Times.

Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and a former leader in several top universities, writes in Time that he welcomes “the kind of robust debate about the value of higher education that this book may engender.”

Unfortunately he doesn’t use his space in Time to contribute to that debate. Continue reading