363 — Mindset (II)

I just started reading a book called An Accident of Geography written by Richard Blum, the founder of Blum Capital and also the Himalayan Foundation, an NGO doing impact work mostly in India and Nepal.

Last week, I attended Demand Solutions, an international competition led by the IDB in Washington. Blum was there with a paused demeanour and the simplicity that seem to share many accomplished persons who focus not only in building wealth but also sharing it. He shared a little about his life, his motivations and his book to a diverse audience from all walks of life. He explained his WHYs and how after almost 60 years of social impact work he enjoyed giving away wealth to create progress, over creating wealth, although he felt very passionate about the latter.

Why are you doing what you are doing: Your Users, Money or You?

Users. Are users your raison d’être? Without them, there would be no startup — service or product. “Do something people want”, in other words, have the courage to listen and build based on that. It seems quite obvious but as a human being your ego tends to get on your way hence you fall in love with businesses that make no sense to your market. These are the famous lean strategies or jobs to get done: build something that “makes sense”. But what happens when you are in a blue ocean market where at many occasions users don’t know what they want?

Money. Money is just a tool, it amplifies what is already there. The use you give to it is what differs and perhaps I have not reached enlightenment to judge between what is best or worst, so not much to say. What I can say thou, is that as an entrepreneur, money is a catalyzer that can play in your favor or disadvantage. You can raise millions of USD and realize you have not reached market fit yet. Your game boils down to keeping churn rate and burn rate as low as possible, increasing your margins or market share. Or you can have no money and become more creative, take care of the limited resources you have and hack a system in a more optimal way.

A few years ago, as I was studying cognitive sciences for my trading career I came across an author called Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged’s famous passage states the nature of evil is not money for:

money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

Yourself. Why do you do what you do? Is it ok to start with a main driver and then change it, as you change? What are your beliefs about you, life and your work?

Start with WHY is a very famous TED talk by Simon Seik that I recommend to watch prior to pitches or team building activities. Endeavors with purpose seem to last longer. There is another TED talk that explains intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators and the impact of each when dealing with your team. It is called The Puzzle of Motivation.

Whatever your beliefs and biases are I have find it useful to pause and stare sometimes. To stare at your mind, to stare at other people’s minds and to stare at other people’s WHYs. Non-judgemental approaches seem to be effective. Give yourself the chance.