I’ve been talking a lot about courage recently. I’m starting to conclude that it’s one of the most important characteristics for any entrepreneur.
I wrote last time— and in my book That Will Never Work — about how Netflix walked away from our lucrative business of selling DVDs to focus everything on rental. If you know me, you’ve heard me tell that story dozens of times. You’re probably sick of it. …
Ever since I left Netflix in 2003, people have been telling me the same thing:
You should write a book.
And I always have said the same thing in response:
Why the hell would I want to do that?
See, I’ve known people who wrote books. And they told me a couple things: It was hard work, it took forever, and most of them were unhappy with the finished product. If you wrote honestly about yourself, it sounded like you were bragging. If you wrote honestly about other people, it sounded like you were settling old scores.
In the years after I left Netflix, the company I co-founded, I didn’t want to puff myself up or tear anyone else down. And besides, I was still working — advising new start-ups, starting new companies, giving speeches about innovation and leadership at conferences around the globe. …
My first real job lasted for three years. It ended the day I was unceremoniously fired.
In retrospect, it was pretty clear I had it coming to me. I pushed everyone too hard. I didn’t tolerate fools at all, much less gladly. I ignored every warning, because “what did they know?” And it all ended the morning my CEO called me into his office to let me know that my services would no longer be needed.
Or at least it should have ended that morning.
You see, when I got fired I thought I could still beat the system. Having heard the old saw that it was easier to find a job while you still had one, I asked my boss to let me keep coming to work for another two months. …
When I was a kid, it was common knowledge that if you wanted to be a songwriter, you had to move to Nashville. That’s where all the music publishers were, all the session musicians, all the open mic nights filled with industry execs at The Bluebird Café.
The same was true for actors. Want to make it big in the movies? Move to L.A., home of the studios and the agents, the casting calls and the walk-on extras.
Nowadays, when I talk to aspiring entrepreneurs, many of them feel the same way about Silicon Valley. “If I want to make it in the start-up world, I have to go to where the start-ups are,” they tell me. “Where else can I rub elbows with venture capitalists and set up mentorship coffee dates with startup veterans? …
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it was opening up forty-six of its fulfillment centers to the public for twice-a-day tours. For years, Prime members have been getting practically anything they want delivered to them within twenty-four hours. Now they get to peek behind the football-field-sized curtain to see exactly how one-click-shopping works: A.I., robots, and humans working in harmony, in buildings the size of airplane hangars.
Now, I love a good factory tour. Drop me into a bottling plant, an automotive assembly line, or a jellybean factory, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide. Some of my fondest memories of the early years of Netflix have to do with our efforts to figure out the most efficient, effective, and fast methods to get DVDs to people all over the country. …
Back when I was in college, approximately 250 years ago, a friend of mine was a sculptor. She was taking a class with some famous visiting artist, the kind of guy who walks around in paint-spattered jeans and a beret, and every other day, he would come to her studio to critique her work.
At the time, she was making these abstract fractals out of clay. They kind of looked like ferns. Each one was two or three feet tall, and took her weeks to finish. They were pretty good, I thought.
The first time the visiting artist came to my friend’s studio, she had just started a new one. In maybe six or seven hours of work she had basically just done the stalk. “This is alright,” he said, slowly circling the work and nodding slowly. …
It’s June, which means that we’re in for another round of a particularly irritating genre of writing: The Graduation Speech.
You know what I’m talking about. The empty platitudes, the corny jokes, the airy advice. I doubt anyone wearing a robe and mortarboard has ever learned anything new in the twenty minutes between the processional and the handing over of the diplomas.
Maybe I’m just bitter. No one has ever asked me to give a graduation speech. But in my years of working with aspiring entrepreneurs, many of them in college, I’ve gotten used to giving advice. …
Last week, Google announced that it was acquiring Looker, the Santa Cruz-based data analytics company where I’ve worked in various roles since 2011. The day the news hit, I was working on the last chapter of my new book, which tells the story of the day seventeen years ago when Reed Hastings, my son Logan, and I flew to New York City to watch Netflix go public.
All last Thursday, as I fielded congratulatory phone calls from friends, part of me was back in 2002, on the Merrill Lynch trading floor with Reed and Logan. …
Twenty-two years ago, a year before I turned forty, I had a crazy idea. Actually, I had a lot of them.
What if you could buy customized surfboards online, based on your body type, ability, and surfing style?
What if you could feed your dog kibble that had been engineered specifically for him?
What if you could lather up every day with shampoo formulated just for you, based on a lock of your hair?
And the craziest:
What if you could rent DVDs through the mail?
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” one of my coworkers told me.
“That will never work,” said my wife at dinner. …