Simon Sinek is a powerful author, marketer and public speaker. He now has one of the most watched TED talks in the world and his recent books are best sellers. But he wasn’t always this famous, I first came across Simon in a speech that he gave back in 2013 at the 99U Conference. At the time, he wasn’t that widely known, but I knew instantly that I’d found a kindred spirit and that he was going to be wildly successful. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since.
The best thing I did for my career last year was becoming a mentor for 500 Startups. Mentoring is a great chance to give back and to contribute to your local community. I found that being a mentor also had some great side-effects such as exposing me to fresh perspectives, clarifying my thinking on industry issues, and building my professional network.
When I moved to New York, I decided that it was time to start giving more back to the startup community, so I contacted the 500 Startups team about becoming a mentor. 500 Startups is one of the leading accelerators and seed stage investors in the world. Their new marketing-focused investment fund is called 500 Distro (short for distribution) and they had a couple of new portfolio companies in New York that seemed like a potential fit, so I started mentoring one of them in February.
I’ve worked in venture capital, management consulting and design thinking. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of working inside a startup. I’ve been lucky to have gradually absorbed the startup mindset over several years of working in startup incubators and accelerators. This mindset has allowed me to cope with the intensity of startup life. But the mindset needs to be learned.
Some of the things that you need to succeed in a startup are techniques and information, but the bedrock is the “startup mindset”. This mindset takes time to acquire. I enjoy a good TED talk or conference video. But spending a several hours listening to an audiobook written and read by someone who lives the mindset is one of the best ways you can start to think like a startup person.
These days I get a lot more requests for coffee. My policy in the past was always to say yes to meeting new people. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about why having coffee with 50 people could change your life. I pride myself on connecting with a random assortment of interesting people across all sorts of industries. I guess you could say that I’m a pretty friendly guy.
Recently I’ve started to notice correlations between whether a coffee meeting is useful and some common factors (that are obvious before we sit down). So I’m starting to filter my inbound coffee requests a little bit more than I used to. I still love meeting new people, but these days a coffee catch-up has to be short, sharp and effective.
Having coffee with fifty people is a great way to get input for a new project, startup or career move. I first wrote about the fifty coffees idea in Inc Magazine and it was based on an insight from Silicon Valley investor Mark Suster. Personally, I’m a bit shy so meeting fifty new strangers was a great project for me.
Last year, I wanted to immerse myself in London’s design and innovation scene so I had coffee with fifty people working in the industry. I learned a lot from their advice and even more from the questions that they asked me. I asked them about the future of innovation, design thinking and how different companies are adapting to social media. It was also a good excuse to check out some new cafes for my coffee blog the Coffee Hunter.
This year, instead of setting goals, I’m going to try creating systems. I’ve been reading a great new book by Scott Adams that dives into the psychology of why New Year’s resolutions and personal development goals don’t work. The book is called ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life‘ and it’s so good that instead of reviewing it, I’ve reprinted an excerpt so that you can hear directly from Scott. I’ve pieced together this except myself using a few of my favourite chapters. The excerpt is just a sample of the key ideas and you really should buy the book.
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular and widely distributed comic strips of the past quarter century. He has been a full-time cartoonist since 1995, after sixteen years as a technology worker for companies like Crocker National Bank and Pacific Bell. His many bestsellers include The Dilbert Principle and Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook. Enter Scott Adams…
Each time I make a significant change in my life I have coffee with fifty people to get their views on what I’m up to. If you’re raising investment for a startup, changing careers or moving to a new city then you owe it to yourself to have coffee with fifty people before you make the jump.
Setting the goal of having coffee with fifty people forces you to be clear about what it is that you’re up to. Making the goal public (one person at a time) also makes it much stronger. Having fifty coffees is good because then you have to commit to the specific move that you want to make and tell other people about. You’ll also get input from smart and interesting people to help you make a better decision.
It’s not an easy time for students wanting to figure out how to get a job in advertising. You need to fight hard to get your first job in the creative industries. I recently gave a speech to a group of students from Temple University about creativity in business. The most common questions afterwards were about careers, internships and jobs. It seems that finding a job in advertising is proving even more difficult than ever.
I’ve picked up a few tips over the years on how the industry works and what the best ways to get started are. London has an amazing array of advertising, marketing, communications and public relations agencies. Continue reading How to get a job in advertising
I have wanted to write a business book ever since I first picked up Tom Peters’ obscure business classic ‘Liberation Management’ as a teenager. I’ve always loved the overlap between business and creativity. Maybe it’s the seductive idea that business (and life) might just be a little bit better if we could get our institutions to act just a little bit more like people.
I’ve been working in branding and social media for long enough now to have accumulated some good war stories. I’ve tried out most of the best social media marketing advice and seen what worked (and what didn’t). I’ve known for a while that I had something to say, but I haven’t been quite sure until now that I ‘had a book in me’.
Reading the Steve Jobs Biography has made me realise how important his philosophical views were to his business life. I’ve made a point of keeping my own beliefs to myself, in my work, and on this blog. But Steve’s example is forcing me to confront the fact that the general attitude you bring to life really does inform the attitude that you bring to business.
Recently, several bloggers that I respect such as Olivier Blanchard and Seth Godin have been sharing more about how their personal beliefs inform their work. In this sprit, I’d like to share my own brief explorations with Zen and some practical things that I’ve learnt. Continue reading Being zen at work