Here’s Seth Godin with some of the best advice I’ve heard for drawing (finishing) lines. It’s especially relevant for businesses.
Q: I’m wondering about personal financing your company and where you draw the line if you’re funding it yourself?
Rule number one is you never put up your house. Don’t laugh. This means you can’t sign a personal guarantee on anything. “You want to rent this? Ok I’ll rent this, but I’m not signing a personal guarantee on anything.”
I have not signed a personal guarantee. I was bankrupt for eight years. I was this close from having to close down for eight years and I still never signed a personal guarantee for anything. That is a line I have chosen to never cross and I encourage everyone to do. The minute you do, suddenly there’s a 3-year-old at home who’s going to have to live on the street if you make a mistake. I just don’t know how to take risks when that’s at stake.
Then the advice that I give people is, if we’re going to be intentional about this, you need to write down a number and a period of time.
The number, it can be as big a number as you want, is the maximum amount of money under any circumstances no matter what that you’re willing to put in. And when you hit that number you can’t put in another penny.
People hate this. They say, “But what if something blah, blah, blah.” NO. There just has to be a number.
The second one is, “How much time before you give up?” And again, it can be 20 years. Fine. But you can’t say, “19 years and 11 months into it, but wait there’s one more deal that might come through.”
You just have those two numbers because if those two numbers are in place and your spouse is aligned with it, you never have to worry about it again. It’s off the table.
This whole situational thing, “I just need $2,000 more,” that’s lying to yourself. The discipline early on is so valuable because then you can spend 100% of your time focusing.
So you raise more money than you think you need and you treat it like it’s the last money you’re ever going to have. It’s way better than always wondering where that next nickel is going to come from. Seth Godin – Start Up School Ep 11: Cash Flow
From a transcript by Kevin Evans
Seth Godin has written a lot about education – Stop Stealing Dreams (TED talk and longer e-book) is a good place to start.
Then it’s worth checking out what he’s actually doing: the altMBA reverses the usual 90+ percent drop-out rates of most online courses, and the Akimbo workshops (including The Marketing Seminar, The Bootstrapper’s Workshop and The Freelancer’s Workshop) get rave reviews.
In this article on Medium Seth lays out some of the core principles of his approach.
Also check out the videos at the Akimbo Workshops link above – especially the one at the very bottom from Creative Mornings, where he sets out his thinking behind the model.
That next person you hire – are you lowering the average, or raising the average? ‘Cause if you’re lowering the average of your team because you’re in a hurry, when are you going to stop lowering the average of your team? How low does the average of your team go before it’s over?
On the other hand, anytime you can raise the average of your team, it’s probably a smart move.Seth Godin – Entreleadership Podcast, Ep. 266
This applies to technical skills, but I think it’s even more relevant to team culture.
This blog post is brilliant, and asks a lot of key questions about what to do when your project isn’t making money.
If you haven’t already listened to Money Flows – an Akimbo episode about cashflow – it’s great. Seth talks about cashflow and payment terms, and the importance of setting up your project so that the flow of money through it will nourish it and help it to grow, instead of slowly draining it. The resources in the shownotes are worth a look too.
His Startup School covers some useful stuff too – especially episodes 6 (Raising Money) and 11 (Cash Flow).
See also: Show me the Money
Freelancers get paid when they work. Using our own fingers, our own skills, we do the work. So when I’m making a podcast, it’s me. When I’m writing, it’s me. When I’m giving a speech, it’s me. We get paid when we work and that’s the only time we get paid.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, build something bigger than themselves, they build assets. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re busy hiring the most easily available, best qualified and cheapest person to do every job… it means you’re hiring yourself. And if you’re hiring yourself to do all the jobs, there’s one job you’re not doing, and that’s the job of the CEO. Of the person who figures out how to build something bigger than yourself.
So the hard work of being an entrepreneur is hiring someone to do every single job that can be done by someone who’s not you. It’s a totally different way of being in the world.
Seth Godin – Akimbo: Math Class is Hard
See also: The Akimbo Workshops: Freelancer or Entrepreneur?
The Freelancer’s Workshop
The Bootstrapper’s Workshop
Seth Godin talks quite a lot about cohorts: “The people who get you. The ones who have been through it with you. Who see you.” An emphasis on peer-relationships is one of the defining features of his highly rated and very-low-drop-out-rated online workshops.
He’s got me thinking again about the value of a group of people doing similar work, with similar levels of experience. These are people – ‘fellow travellers‘ – who can relate to your struggles, share what they know, encourage you to keep going, push you to get put there and do better work. By turns they might be sounding-boards, collaborators, mentors, sympathetic ears, or champions of your work.
Where’s your cohort?
It’s relatively easy to find them among peers when your training for something – in school, on a course (although I’m agnostic about finding them on an online course), in your time in the army (!), or in the trenches doing your job. When I was teaching, colleagues at about the same stage of their careers were definitely my cohort.
But having a good cohort becomes harder if you move around, or as you start to manage and lead – by default there will be fewer ‘people like us’ around, and there are fewer natural opportunities to meet. Maintaining a cohort becomes something that you need to do deliberately by seeking people out and having conversations, by asking questions, looking for opinions and advice, and sharing resources with people who find them helpful.
Five Questions and – slowly – the Driverless Crocodile podcast are a way of doing this.
That saying (wherever it’s from) might be right: “… if you want to go far, go together.” Find friends for your work.
If you haven’t, go and read Seth Godin’s posts here and here.
It sounds hard, but daily turns out to be easier than weekly or fortnightly. If you do it daily, you don’t miss.
Daily writing. Daily exercise. Daily prayer or meditation. Daily time with the right people.
Daily accumulates by a magnitude. Low bars and high cycle-speeds will see you on your way far more effectively than the fits and starts of enthusiasm, and one day you’ll find yourself, if not at the top of a mountain, then at least on a small hill with a breeze and a half-decent view.
Seth Godin and Brian Koppelman have had a great series of conversations on Brian’s The Moment podcast. Here’s a little something on the subject of mentors and feedback:
Seth Godin: The memo is only four sentences long. That’s all I needed. That a fellow traveller who knows how to do the craft of giving me feedback gave me those key lines, that’s the kind of notes that I need…
Brian Koppelman: Fellow traveller is a great expression and a great way to think about who you should enlist in your journey. And a fellow traveler doesn’t mean someone who’s already in Wyoming if you’ve starting out in New York. A fellow traveller is someone somewhere along the path that you’re going, somewhere close to where you are. Perhaps they’ve made the trip before.
SG: The whole mentor thing is way overrated… First of all, the math of it doesn’t scale, because the number of people who are successful who can mentor the number of people who need to be mentored doesn’t work.
Number two is, it’s usually an uneven exchange, in the sense that you’re asking someone who is busy and leveraged to stop that and start doing something else with you.
But the real reason is that people who are successful are almost never good at actually coaching people who aren’t successful yet. It’s a totally different skill set…The Moment, 1st January 2019
This touches on and unpacks my motivation for writing Ordinary People. Good Work. and adds a some extra ideas into the mix. Find fellow travellers.* Start talking.
*WordPress wants me to spell it one a single L.
I one-hundred-percent agree with the idea that to be human is to be ‘tensioned’, to be in conflict in some ways between two conflicting ideas at the same time, and it’s not just between our expectations and what we want for certainty, but other things, like when you’re making something new you have to be both a realist and a fantasist, you have to do something that will ship but also will reach for the stars and be impossible at the same time, and that’s part of the tension of being creative.Kevin Kelly – Cool Tools Podcast, Ep013 with Seth Godin
This feels like a KK version of the old T.E. Lawrence quote, which incidentally was very nearly the first post of DriverlessCroc:
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. This I did.T.E. Lawrence – Seven Pillars of Wisdom
May we dream by day.