I Bought A Grill At Walmart

Yes, I know, so you can withhold your scorn in the satisfaction that I’ve been promptly punished by the powers that be.

Upon initial assembly of my new $25 *Deluxe* propane grill, I assumed that the small Chinese boy manning the “‘L’ washer” machine at the grill factory simply hadn’t received adequate training from HR during the sweatshop orientation process. Or maybe he’s a union kid and was on a smoke break.. Or perhaps felt like leaving out the sixteenth washer in the knowledge that some American chump would eventually rifle though every inch of packaging looking for the part that never existed.

Approximately 2/3rds through assembly, I came to the realization that the shrink-wrapped parts smell funny: a contagious-like biological odor that I imagine a despair machine must smell like. While thinking about koala bears was much more fun than trying to remember what SARS stands for, I was brought back to sadness when I realized that Mr. NoPaidOvertime Jr. also left out a ‘C’ washer. GREAT. This wan’t going well and I still had a handful of parts left on the table.

Assembly completed. Wait… Nevermind, back to step six to add the metal thing to the other metal thing.

Assembly completed? Yes! And then, suddenly… EXISTENTIAL CLARITY.

This is, without a doubt, the worst grill I have ever bought, used, fondled and, possibly, ever set my eyes upon. It is not merely a poor devise, but in strong contention for *poorest* device. It is as if an investor found an abandoned warehouse of unrelated parts and had to decide between making radiators, fire extinguishers, or grills. The feet that are supposed to fold the damn thing into a tidy ball of grill were bent in six different ways out of the box, and the handle clearly didn’t come out of the sadness-injection machine correctly.

The whole supply chain here is crap. It’s not just the factory, but design, delivery, retail, economics, ethics.. Everything about this product and the devil spawn it came from is horrible for America. Is this news? No. But we all need a periodic reminder that the crap we habitually clamor for isn’t doing us any favors.

Please don’t shop at Walmart.

Mini-Review: Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and the Government Bailout Will Make Things Worse


Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Meltdown is a evidence-based, academically credible, and brutally honest analysis of the causes and effects of economic depression faced in the United States since the early 1900’s. Thomas Woods’ almost adversarial opinion of the Federal Reserve is approached via many different approaches and data sources, as is his affinity of Austrian business cycle theory. (As opposed to Keynesian economics primarily seen in the U.S.)

For those with interest in macroeconomic theory or the effects of government intervention on both business and individual finance, this is absolutely required reading. Those with politically libertarian leanings will also find many of the facts presented within outright shocking. I personally finished the electronic version of this book with over 10 pages of highlights, and plan to continue following Woods’ work.

View all my reviews >>

SEO Is Not A Product

One of my biggest business frustrations in 2009 has centered around Search Engine Optimization (SEO): peoples fundamental misunderstandings of what SEO is, what it theoretically accomplishes, and the large number of shysters scaring businesses into pursuing activities not nearly as important as they are made out to be. Inquires usually go like this..

Preston,

My business–ACME Tires–has a basic website for customers with our logo, contact information and such, and am interested in generating more business out of it. I have asked a few people for recommendations and am now talking to several SEO providers that can provide service ranging from $100-$1,000/month. What do your SEO services cost and what guarantees do you make? (I need to be #1 on Google.) Thanks,

Alice

My initial natural inclination is to leer at my computer monitor and internalize a snide response, however, it’s not the customers fault for having a convoluted understanding of SEO, so I often send a polite, brief response, from a science and engineering standpoint. At this point, the recipient usually dismisses the information and goes about spending 1000% more than they should on services. Here’s the lowdown in plain English..

Legitimate Motivations For SEO

ACME stands to see legitimate value in several key ways from having their web presence tweaked by an “SEO expert”. Notably:

  • Higher rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). When I search for “tires phoenix, az”, ACME wants to come up as the #1 organic search result. This increases visibility over competitors and thus increases the liklihood that the searcher will click on the ACME page synopsis (and be directed to the ACME website).
  • Low Advertising Costs. When ACME uses Google AdWords to pay for ad placement in search engine results pages, Google must determine an appropriate cost for a click-through event on the ad. (In other words, ACME will pay Google whenever a user click on an advertisement and is directed to the ACME website.) The algorithms for making the cost decision are not public information, but are based partly on relevance of content. If Google thinks ACME Tires is the best thing since sliced bread, costs will be lower than if Google thinks ACME is a bakery or jeweler.

Illigitimate Terminology

The very legitimacy of the term and notion of “Search Engine Optimization” is debatable. The core function of a search engine is to guide people to content in such a way that the “right” resources can be found using brief, relevant terms. The job of the ACME Tires website is to provide information and services to ACME customers regarding tires. It is not ACME’s job to be an expert in the search engine marketplace. It could be argued, then, that the notion of SEO is a moot point, as it should be the job of the search engine vendor to figure out how to best index and present content in an optimized way. This being said, the Developer of the ACME website does have a list of technical tasks that need to be done to assure that content is well indexed and legitimate best practices are used–which I will not go into here–to put the most important site concepts at the forefront of search engine visibility. But we should NOT think:

  1. the ACME website is part of the search engine itself,
  2. the site cannot be “picked up” by search engines without extensive blackhat techniques, or most importantly,
  3. it is ACME’s job to make sure search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc.) function properly.

The term “optimization” as used by most SEO companies can be better described as “gaming”. Search Engine Gaming (SEG) is a more accurate term than SEO because it reflects that the intent of site tweaking is to gain marketing favor, and improving content from the standpoint of the consumer is of secondary concern, if at all. From this point forward I will refer to activities that both improve marketing value and improve content consumability as “SEO”, and activities that improve marketing value but are indifferent to or negatively impact content as “SEG”.

Blackhat SEG Shysters

An unfortunate number of sleezeballs sell ethically questionable “SEO” services. This is not to say that there isn’t technical work being done nor that they cannot show marketing results, but they choose to do so in ways that make reasonable engineers cringe in disgust. No definitive list of “black hat” activities is completely agreed upon, and as with issues like U.S. health care, it’s a highly subjective topic wherein opinions greatly vary. Unfortunately, those that have the most to gain (vendors) are often leading the debates and giving the seminars, which is skewing public perception of SEO and what is/isn’t necessary. Common activities that I consider black areas (or grey, at best) include:

  • Keyword Stuffing. One of the easier ways to increase SERP placement is to cram as many important keyword and search phrases into your website as possible. I personally define keyword stuffing to be, “Page copy intentionally packed with a set of repetitive phrases to the point of becoming frustratingly redundant, difficult to comprehend, or otherwise awkward to read.”
  • Referrer Parsing. Whenever you click the ACME ad, the server running the ACME website knows the website from whence you came. When you come from a search engines, the site may be able to determine the search terms you used to find the link. This detection can all happen before the ACME website is rendered, which means when you search for “tracktuff tires, az” and click through to the ACME website, the ACME webserver can dynamically generate a headline reading “TrackTuff Tires Now 50% Off In Arizona!”, regardless of how relevant the “tracktuff” name or brand actually is to the ACME website. Now, for some reason, all the SEO consultants I’ve met that are doing this seem to think they invented it. (Seriously, I even know one guy that’s trying to get a patent for it.)
  • Automated Article Submission. Databases of articles are a great place for users to do general research and discovery. If you’re automating “article” submission to hundreds of databases simultaneously, however, you’re submissions will almost certainly be little more than biased PR and marketing content oriented towards getting links to ACME. Actually, there are many “article databases” that fully acknowledge and support this as a way to increase visibility of their own ads.
  • Automated Link Generation. Business adopting social media as a form of customer service and marketing often complain of the time required to pursue the natural creation of inbound links. This makes the business very receptive to vendors claiming to have solved the “social media time commitment problem” by automating responses to social networking and social media comments. To an engineer, doing so obviously misses the whole point of social media/social networking technology and is another form of spam. Additionally, the value of doing this on blogs and forums is next to nothing (due to the rel=”nofollow” attribute). Plus, the best links will generally come from partner websites and large-scale references in protected, reviewed publications such as journals and newspapers, which cannot be automatically generated for obvious reasons. In short: it’s pretty safe to consider automatic link generation a form of spam.
  • Email Spam. This is obviously a Bad Thing to do, but that doesn’t stop tons of vendors from doing it legally. The U.S. CAN-SPAM act does not require people to explicitly opt-in to be put on a mailing list, given they have some form of “relationship” with the company. Also, certain types of organizations–notably religious and political–may be exempt from some of these laws entirely.

Stupid Guarantees

A SEG company making a “#1 on Google in 24 hours!”-type claim is almost certainly using blackhat techniques and/or getting you prime placement for a term so long and specific to the point of being useless. For example, it shouldn’t be surprising that “acme tires phoenix arizona” would turn up the correct page first on a search engine, because:

  1. the intent of the searcher is almost certainly to find this one specific business website, and
  2. there are probably only a handful of resources on the web that match these terms well.

A search engine like Google might even return a map to the store in the first results page. Getting #1 placement for “tires arizona”, however, will be much more difficult since the search phrase will match many more web resources than the first, and, from the perspective of a small business owner, some of the competitors will have the time and money to put magnitudes more content online, and supplementing that content with marketing campaigns and PR.

Closing Thoughts

SEO/SEG is a technologically and ethically grey area, and vendors not defining clear boundaries of what they do for your money should generally be avoided. Do spend some effort making sure copy and syntax of website pages are thoroughly written, well-designed for usability and structured for search engine comprehension. But instead of paying a monthly service contract to an “SEO guy”, put that money into continued development of content that will please existing customers and help attract new ones. Pay attention to your placement in search engine results, sure, but at all times, stay focused on building value and meaningful business relationships over click-through rates and SERP rankings.

10 Joys Of Small Business Ownership

Don’t fret about those woes! For on a daily basis…

  1. You are building something greater than the sum of its parts.
  2. You set the mission, vision and values.
  3. You define the right people, right roles, and right rules.
  4. You will push constantly to explore and learn to think outside your comfort zone.
  5. You will often fall, but consistently stand up stronger… usually.
  6. You will grow leaps and bounds professionally and personally.
  7. You will come to understand the wisdom of those you admire, and fear.
  8. You are pursuing your dreams and will pity those that lack the courage to pursue theirs.
  9. You have no limit to your possible successes.
  10. You are the driver of your destiny.

I’d also like to emphasise that none of these items are directly focusued on the immense financial wealth of which we all hope. Over time wealth may or may not come, but the common factor amongst all great entrepreneurs is the primary importance of personal satisfaction regardless of monetary riches. At times–and during all stages of business–progress can require a certain amount of financial masochism and sacrifice, yes, but always should you be proud of what you’ve done, where you’re headed, and excited for the treasures of the next day.

10 Woes Of Small Business Ownership

  1. You work more than anyone else.
  2. You cannot take time off at leisure.
  3. You carry constant stress.
  4. You get paid less.
  5. You get paid last.
  6. You pay for other peoples taxes and benefits.
  7. You always deal with the “problem” cases, not the fun ones.
  8. You are asked for more-more-more, often by those who already have more than you.
  9. Your sacrifices will not be recognized, and rarely noticed.
  10. You will not be thanked for all of the above.

Offering Developers Startup Equity, A Dialog

I have this conversation about once a month, generally by a well-intentioned dreamer new to the software space who doesn’t understand why I can’t accept projects for equity. I may be exaggerating slightly, but it sure feels this way…  🙂

Preston: Hi Bill, nice to meet you. How can we help you develop your online venture?

Bill: I have a unique web startup opportunity worth $4B and am accepting HTML experts to implement it.

Preston: [immediately suspicious of the phrase “HTML expert”] Ok, you have my attention. What’s the business plan?

Bill: It’s essentially a combination of eBay, Facebook…

Preston: [senses where this is going]

Bill: …Slashdot and TheSuperficial.

Preston: It’s a news and auction site for celebrity social networks?

Bill: No no no, it’s more like Google meets MySpace.

Preston: Like.. Orkut?

Bill: Kinda, but simpler.

Preston: [completely confused] Back to the business plan part for a minute. Could you tell me about the nature of the business? Is this an ad-based site?

Bill: No.

Preston: Ahh, ok. Some sort of subscription thing then like Salon or TheOnion?

Bill: No way. Users hate paying for stuff. It’ll affect our bottom line. We’re going to keep it free for everybody. And green. We should probably add a database of sites using ecological products. And videos, of course.

Preston: [now confident of where this is going] Let me restate the question. Where did that $4B figure come from?

Bill: YouTube was bought out for $18B. Google will be all over this after we capture 10% market share.

Preston: [completely ignores the issues with those two sentences] I see. To be completely honest, I should share a couple general thoughts. [brings up telephone script #4 from personal wiki] We haven’t talked about budgets at all, but I assume this is an equity-share idea, and I’m really honored you thought of us. There are a lot of great people out there, and I’m happy and thankful to have stood out. Unfortunately, we’re not accepting equity-based projects at this time for two primary reasons. First–and again all in frank honesty–we have the technical, business and other resources to implement these things on our own without external partners. We have a lot of great ideas, and it makes the most sense for us to pursue them internally. Secondly, it’s our goal to treat employees the way we all want to be treated: with respect, recognition and great benefits. That comes with cash flow requirements we just can’t meet with equity-heavy relationships. I’m going to email you some contact information for other resources you may want to follow up with directly, and I think you’ll find that reputable software engineering shops will share these two sentiments in common as a matter of prudence. We look forward to working with you in the future, however, and we’ll keep in touch periodically to check up on you!

[exchange of pleasantries]

The Three Types of Start-Ups

At OpenRain Elite Web Software we’ve seen all the popular combinations of startup business models when evaluating new projects. Here is a breakdown of the three most common startup models based on financial structure, the pros and cons of each, and recommendations on which one to choose for your new venture.

 

1) The Pop-Start

The pop-start–short for “popular startup”–is the stereotypical venture capital (VC) or Angel backed venture wherein an initial product prototype is created with a small angel fund, pitched to investors once (barely) operational, and subsequently funded for $1M+ in a second, third etc. round to fund growth to a profitable status. As each round is collected, additional personnel are generally hired immediately to kick off additional production development in a (hopefully correct) high-velocity direction.

Pros

  • Should you raise enough in your initial rounds and find the right people, you’ll be able to keep the company operational in the early growth stages without incessant worry on keeping positive cash flow, which, depending on the idea, may not be possible.
  • Fast growth once the big investment dollars roll in.
  • A minimum of personal risk since only the initial angel round will likely come from close ties. 

Cons

  • Tons of investor pitches and marketing/sales-speak on vaporware which will drive technical people insane.
  • Legal issues from the get-go. Expect difficult negotiations with second round investors and costly legal fees.
  • You’ll have to put up cash for airfare, lodging, marketing materials, legal fees etc. up front for possibly dozens of remote meetings. The costs add up fast.
  • Large amounts of constant pressure from investors.

This is for you if…

  • Your idea requires a substantial capital investment to get off the ground, such as $100K in federal licensing costs or $500K in manufacturing equipment for a first line of production product. You legitimately need this funding to get off the ground, and the amount is too large to put up yourself.
  • Your exit strategy is getting bought out by Google for $100B.
  • You can afford the risk of working on this full time, with little (or no) compensation up front and no gaurantees on a second round of funding.

 

2) The Weekend Warrior

The proliferation of online services for company creation has allowed many dreamers to create legitimate legal business shells in free time for hundreds of dollars. The weekend warrior start-ups are those who believe in the idea, but cannot financially afford to quit day jobs.

Pros

  • Low risk. If the company fails, you still have your day job.
  • Low cost. You still have the income from your day job, so eating small operational costs should be easy. If you’re supporting a large family on a single income, this may be your best option.

Cons

  • Making progress is painfully slow since it’s an “in my spare time” project.
  • People will not take your business as seriously since you are not committing your livelihood to it.
  • The logistics of getting things done off-hours can be challenging, such as finding the time for calls during business hours without interfering with your day job.  

This is for you if…

  • You can only commit yourself to working nights and weekends.
  • You cannot accept large financial risk.
  • You do not require large capital investments to reach financially sustainable operation.
  • You can accept the fact that progress and growth will be slow.

 

3) The Self Serve

Self Serve businesses are full-time owner operated organizations which grow based on their own performance, rather than external investment. They are self-funded, full-time ventures which put the responsibility of success squarely on the owner(s) since there is often no formal governing board. OpenRain’s web development business started this way, and continues to be entirely self funded.

Pros

  • No pressure from investors.
  • Full-time personal investment gives you time to put operations in order.
  • Will be taken seriously by potential clients/customers.

Cons

  • Self-funded. This can be mitigated by limiting personal credit exposure, but there’s no getting around the fact that initial operating costs will need to come out-of-pocket, and losses may personally bite you regardless of the precautions you take.
  • Personal pressure to constantly generate income since your personal income will be determined by the performance of the company.

This is for you if…

  • External funding is not appropriate or necessary for your idea.
  • You (and you business partners) are comfortable operating the entirety of a business amongst yourselves, our are able to invest in quality people to fill in the holes as soon as possible. Technical work, finances, marketing, sales, human resources, operations and 8000 other miscellaneous tasks will crop up needing someone’s attention. And that someone is you.

Financial Primer For Self-Funded Startups, Part 1

You’ve considered starting your own business–ExampleTech–and have pondered the initial investment, opportunity costs and personal risks. Here’s a brief financial primer on what you need to understand before taking the big leap, and key issues you’ll need to grok for after ExampleTech begins operations.

My big leap is OpenRain, for which I manage financial planning and performance amongst a bagillion other things, so I frequently receive questions on the financial aspects of forming and operating a company. This failure-based example assumes ExampleTech uses accrual accounting as opposed to cash-basis accounting.

Understanding Your Initial Investment 

When you start the company books, the first type of financial statement you’ll need to understand is the balance sheet. The balance sheet is a snapshot of the company’s finances at a particular moment in time, and aggregates all the company accounts into one single formula which always remains true..

Assets = Liabilities + Equity 

Once you invest in the company, that money becomes a company asset, and is no longer yours. You are only given claim to this money by an equivalent amount of equity. The company is a living, breathing entity, and is considered to a be a distinct taxable entity by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you have formed an LLC (ExampleTech, LLC), S or C corporation (ExampleTech, Inc.). Even if you choose to do business as a sole proprietor (John Doe “doing business as” ExampleTech), which is not a distinct taxable entity, you should mentally consider your initial personal investment gone forever! Don’t event think about mixing personal accounts with business. ExampleTech accounts belong to ExampleTech and are maintained separately from your personal finances. Period.  It’s company money now, not yours, so get over it. You’ve invested $10K in ExampleTech to get it off the ground.

$10K Assets (cash) = $0K Liabilities + $10K Equity (ownership)

Since, the company has purchased $6K of equipment using $1K in cash and $5K on a credit card with an $8K limit (this will be important later). The balance sheet now looks like this..

$15K Assets ($9K cash + $6K equipment) = $5K Liabilities (credit card) + $10K Equity (ownership)

Where did these numbers come from? We have $15K in assets because we started with $10K in raw cash, spent $1K of it and received $6K of equipment in return. The difference is on the credit card as a $5K liability. Some interesting observations…

  • You (John Doe) still have $10K of ownership equity even though the company only has $9K of cash in the bank. It would not be possible to cash out 100% of your initial investment without liquidating (converting to cash, a.k.a. selling) the equipment.
  • If you bought the equipment out of warrantee and it breaks on day 1, ExampleTech will be down the $6K in equipment assets but would still need to pay off the $5K credit card liabiltity. The loss would come out of cash and leave the balance sheet looking like this: $4K Assets (cash) = $0K Liabilites + $4K Equity (ownership). Oops. On the plus side, you would realize what the term “equity-funded venture” means.
  • All book equity is held directly by you, the owner. This is a tremendous advantage over private equity venture capital (VC)-based start-ups, because you are the only person who cares about the eventual return on equity (ROE) investment. By using short-term debt instead of long-term equity, your creditors couldn’t care less about ROE as long as you’re making payments on time, so ExampleTech’s decisions remain yours to make.

ExampleTech is now ready to operate, and opens its doors with a slick new job for ClientComm.

Understanding Cash Flow & Income

After 1 month of operation, ExampleTech has performed and delivered $8K of services to ClientComm. Only $3K in credit card expenditures was need to complete the job. ClientComm has been invoiced and “the check is in the mail”, which should arrive and clear within 2 weeks. ExampleTech is now moving on to a much bigger project for MegaComm. Here’s your current balance sheet..

$23K Assets ($6K equipment + $9K cash + $8K accounts receivable)
=
$8K Liabilities (credit card: $5K initial equipment + $3K ClientComm job)
+
$15K Equity (ownership)

Note that you’ve increase your equity 50%, which is now $15K up from the $10K you started with. Woohoo! Here’s the ExampleTech income statement for the previous month..

Income
ClientComm: $8K

Expenses
Office equipment: $5K
ClientComm production expenses: $3K

Net income for period (last month): $8K (income) – $8K (expenses) = $0K

So in your first month you not only purchased reusable office equipment, but broke even! (That’s pretty awesome, go grab a beer!) Armed with $23K in assets and a renewed sense of self-confidence, you’ve signed MegaComm to a new deal worth $40K which will only cost $10K to deliver. You immediately start MegaComm production by writing a check for the $10K in materials and production costs.

..And you’re about to realize how you just screwed up.

To your surprise, you receive a call several days later that your check has bounced due to “insufficient funds”. What you forgot to consider is perhaps the most important aspect of financial management for the start-up phase of a self-funded new business: cash flow. Your cash flow statement for last month defines the raw dollars going in and out of ExampleTech during the given period, and looks something like this..

Cash at period start: $10K
Equipment investment: $1K
Net cash flow: -$1K
Cash at period end: $9K

Remember the $6K of equipment you purchased before you opened your doors? It’s only represented as $1K on the cash flow statement because $5K was put on credit, and creditors have not required ExtremeTech to pay out. The $3K shelled out for ClientComm production isn’t represented here at all because you chose to finance the entire amount with credit.
Thus, your bank only has $9K of raw cash even though your balance sheet showed you at $23K of assets, which also includes accounts receivable: money that has been counted as income on your income statement but has not yet been collected. Accounts receivable did not contribute to your cash flow statement since no money actually exchanged hands during the period, even though the job is completed! The cash flow statement will not reflect the ClientComm job until you..
  1. Cash the ClientComm check (which you really need), or
  2. Pay the credit card bill.
ExampleTech was cash flow negative last month despite having positive income, a non-intuitive but not infrequent business occurrence. Being cash flow negative isn’t in-and-of-itself a problem, but puts you in a short-term pickle because you don’t physically have enough cash for the materials, and your credit is already maxed out at $8K. You’re looking your next big client square in the face but don’t yet have the assets to pull it off, and you’ll be scrambling for the extra working capital to push forward rather than getting actual work done.

In Summary

Self-funding your company comes with the perks of directional freedom, less time pressure and fewer legal complications at the cost of pressure to stay cash flow positive from day 1. The self-funded company cannot grow–let alone survive–without an early, consistent trend of positive cash flow as we’ve just demonstrated. ExampleTech won’t have much wiggle room for strategic ventures and operational improvements until these numbers provide an ample financial buffer.

Next

We’ve glossed over quite a few important details such as taxes, loans, interest, accounts payable and, of course, paying yourself. So if you’ve found this information helpful and would like to see more content on the practical financial aspects of start-ups, let me know you’d like a Part 2 and the specific topics you’d like to know about!

Handling Self Doubt

I’m an engineer. Always have been. I cronically worry about small flaws which could spiral into unsalvagable disaster,  and spend a great deal of time focusing on risk mitigation. I can thus completely identify with Riyad’s “cronic almost-achievement” issue because I felt like a raging victim of self-imposed mediocrity up until several years ago. I realize I can be harsh in self-judgement, but nevertheless came to several conclusions..

  1. I have tons of great ideas that aren’t going anywhere. (..or worse, are getting somewhere but at a pace slower than the end goal is moving.)
  2. I really don’t like being told I suck.

Any leader that says they can completely shrug off even the most meaningless criticism is full of crap. Putting yourself on the line by saying, “I did something. Check it out.”, dangles your ego over a boiling pot of water. You know the potential for greatest is there–you wouldn’t have done it in the first place if you thought it was a bad idea–but your heart still sinks when you’re about to demonstrate your competence level to the public at large and have absolutely no guarantees on the outcome. Ego roulette is clearly not an engineers game.

…but then, I decided to change.

  1. If I have a great idea and the time/resources to pull it off well, I’m going to look fear straight in the eyes and tell him to STFU.
  2. I’m done with looking back and saying “I should have done more.” Whether it’s writing about a controversial opinion or pulling people out of a car wreck, no more inaction. Maybe I’ll collect an inbox full of hate mail or painfully burn to death in a firey explosion. So be it. At least I tried to change the world and did my part to the best of my ability. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi.

Now, I still have the same self doubt and self confidence issues at the next guy, but I finally feel like I’m doing something about it. And doing something is an engineers mantra. I’ve you’ve really got a great idea, it’s infinitely more important than your fragile ego. Here’s a couple of thoughts that may help entrepreneurial pessimists like myself..

  • If you screw up on project XYZ, no one is going to care in 5 years. Take the small wins and build on them. It’ll feel good.
  • What’s the worst that can happen? ..people will laugh at you? …you’ll loose your investment? …you’ll have to go back to your day job?  Are those the best reasons you can come up with? Really!?  *Please* … If you’re reading this you’ve got food, water, shelter, internet access and probably some good folks to lean on should things get tough. That’s more than most of the worlds population, so quit whining on the $10K it’ll take to do that new project and take a calculated risk. Even failure can feel good when you know you did all you could. You’re going to regret it if you don’t.
  • Criticism is the easiest form of feedback, so there will always be haters and sometimes more negative commentary than positive. Learn to extract the meaning from the negative feedback, remember that those with the loudest voices don’t necessarily represent the population, and make it an opportunity to hone your game rather than pity yourself.