Are you willing to risk everything?

** Originally Published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com**
About Witness Protection Program
About Witness Protection Program

That was the question in a discussion with an entrepreneur this morning. This person was questioning how much he needed to risk, his finances, his family, his reputation. What if I fail? My answer was: What if you succeed?
The Entrepreneur route is scary, security is a dream; as it is in a non-entrepreneurial situation. You are writing your own check, conscious or not. The problem again is not the risk, the problem is on risk management.
Your entrepreneurship can be in many things, from shoemaker, to designer , to writer, and any combination of these and many other things. I have friends that cook, design, are marketers, writers, pilots, artists, it doesn’t matter, they are all entrepreneurs, they are building their dream. The problem is entrepreneurship will take a big chunk of time, energy, attention, finances and reputation, and many times all these elements bring the insecurities out, when you are not seeing the results you are expecting, you get frustrated, fear grows, and doubt begins to block the vision. At this time you start considering, how much are you willing to risk?
This morning I read a quote by David Eddings, and even though he was talking about writing, it applies so well to entrepreneurship:
A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin.
David Eddings
After reading this, I smiled, and discovered that Eddings could have been talking about entrepreneurship as well; read the following now:
Entrepreneurship apprenticeship usually involves a million steps (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin.
I am a writer, I have wanted to be a writer since I was 14 years old, but that was not socially accepted by my family and the people around me (most of them at least) and the people that were willing to support me were the ones that people around me called the weird ones, and you do not want to be associate with them.
By the time I was in my twenties, I sent my writer to a witness protection program, and I created a lawyer out of him. When the lawyer began writing again, I panicked and ran to protect myself, before people could find out about it, so I sent my writer to get an MBA.
Mission accomplished, I hid the writer so well, that it took him 10 years to find his way out, without fear, out of the hole.
I am again, at that time in my life, when  I am looking to making the hard decision, send my writer to the witness protection program again, or set him free, let it be, let him out, let him shine.
The problem is, how much do I need to risk in order to let my writer out of the witness protection program?
Writers, entrepreneurs and sales people suffer from the same problem, it is called insecurity. I have yet to meet any of these three kinds of people that do not doubt every morning of their abilities. When you combine the three of them, they make an insecurity bomb. Welcome to my world.
Are you willing to risk everything for that dream? If you are not, then send your entrepreneur to the witness protection program, make out of him anything else; but if you are going to take your entrepreneur out of there, you need to understand that people will judge you, people will be afraid of what you are doing, in many cases, more afraid that you will discover their own witness protection program than what you are doing. People will tell you that you are crazy and should follow a so-called normal life, in other words, send your entrepreneur, or writer, or designer, or artist, to the witness protection program, hide it well and be what they call responsible.
How much are you willing to risk? Are you willing to risk everything? Are you willing to take yourself out of the Witness Relocation Program?

Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar

** Originally published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com**
Coming from “Proverbios y Cantares XXIX” from Antonio Machado (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Machado) was as true in 1900’s as it is today in the 2000’s. The meaning in English from Betty Jean Craige, University of Georgia (http://www.cha.uga.edu/bjc/machado.htm) is: “wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.” Even to finish in a stronger way, this poem end up saying: Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea.
The question is if you are a Wanderer or not? The reality is you are a Wonderer if you like it or not, if you accept it or not, you are making the road, since there is no road and at the end of the day it is only wakes upon the sea. In 2004 people start talking about “like hacking” in 2008 people start talking about “life design’. I honestly do not know who came with the term, but the reality is life design is the precise definition of this 1900’s poem. The problem is that we get into the rat-race, and we are unable to see we are the rat, we can see our friends exploit, we can see out family in the race, but we are unable to see our long tail, we get so focus in our own race that we are unable to stop and see that we are not moving.
I have decided to step down from the wheel, no, I will not be able to get out of the wheel today, but I am writing the escape plan from the wheel, do you remember, have ever read: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Hayworth_and_Shawshank_Redemption ) or watch the movie Shawshank Redemption (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shawshank_Redemption) took Andy Dufresne some preparation time, as well as find the right tools, like the Rita Hayworth Poster, but his goal was on, he prepare the escape, was not a one day activity, but the goal was set, and the hope of be free was enough.
How many times you are sitting in your cubicle or office thinking on what you should be doing, playing golf, having a wine business, or just reading. Work as I learned as a kid is dead, I am not dreaming in spend the rest of my life working in a desk, or at least not in this desk.
Again this is my declaration of Escape, I am declaring that I am stepping out of the wheel, I am simplifying my life, I am hanging the Rat costume.

It’s possible to win the priority game

** Originally Published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com**
Kasparov playing in Harlem (Picture from thechessfrum.net)

This morning I read an interesting post from @ckfio on her blog http://sanityafineline.com/?p=94, out of frustration, she was talking about priorities.
I have won and lost this priority game many times, it’s like playing chess, pay too much attention to any of your pieces, and you will be checkmated too soon. I remember years ago a great friend that loves to play chess lost the game every-time he lost the queen; as soon as he lost the queen, he lost his confidence, and it was easy to beat him. His priority was to save his queen, mine (while playing against him) was to take the his queen, winning the game became secondary.
The priority game works in a very similar way. If you are unable to see the whole chess game, you are most likely going to loose. My priority is to write, I am a writer. Among other things, I have a Sales Manager job; but my priority is to write, to improve in the technique. At my Sales Manager Job, the priority is to sell, they do not care that I am a writer, they do not care about my priority, they need me to sell; it is upto me to define the rules, and find a way to win at both games.
The problem is, you can’t define the rules while you are trying to push and force priorities, you need to stop, regroup, analyze and set the rules, then you can enjoy the game. While playing chess with my friend, the rule was simple, take the queen. After that was done, winning the game with whatever you had left. In life there is more than the queen, it’s like playing Kasparov style, against 15 to 20 people at the same time.
How do you define those priorities?
In my case, I use a software called MindManager from a company called Mindjet (www.mindjet.com), I have many maps that allow me to help and guide me through the priorities of the day and all the the important stuff. I also use  my calendar that allows me to define the free time I have in the day (free to do vs meeting time, I mean), and my lists per contexts. But the most important tool is setting up the time to think, the first priority for me is to make sure I stop and think. Someone asked me, when do I get the time to think, my response is simple, I make thinking a daily priority, ust like taking a shower, rushing my teeth, feeding the dogs, working and many others, I have learned that if I do not stop and think, I will loose the game.
Every morning I begin my day by making sure that I stop. I make coffee, clean my inbox, read all my next actions (tasks) (at the time of writing this, my tasks are more than 250), open Mindjet MindManager (My Dashboard File), and stop. The first thing to check is what are the things that will die if I do not do today, my next actions, one by one and and complete the list I created (up to 10 items).
Now I have a guide. If by 10 am I got a ball of fire thrown at me (it has happened many times before) I just need to evaluate that ball of fire against 10 things, not 250; it makes a big difference, trust me.
In order to win the priority game, you need to define the rules, it is impossible to win a game that you do not know the rules of. While playing chess, all the movements are defined, all the things you can and can not do are established. Thanks to this, someone can win the game against the other person. If you do not define the priorities, you will never win, you will always have more things to do than the time you have to finish things, you will always have more things to do than the time of the day. There is always a ball of fire coming your way, the big question is, how do you respond to all those, keep your cool and move forward. The only way I know how to do that, the only way I have to win the priority game, is define the rules, stop, regroup and rethink. Even then, I have lost my fare share of games, but trust me, I am a more difficult opponent that my friend. If you took my queen, I know how to play the horse, the tower and the pawn.
Are you playing the priority game to win, or are you just loosing the queen and the game on the same move?

Are netbooks bottlenecks on your workflow?

** Originally published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com **

We finally saw it this morning, Sony, who for years had made the small and portable machines (for high-end executives) decided to bring a netbook into the picture. The new Sony W marks an important moment in the netbook timeline, the almost impossible happened, Sony joined the race. For more info you can go and read on this link: http://jkontherun.com/2009/07/07/netbooks-finally-exist-sony-vaio-w-to-hit-for-499/
Around September 2000 I ditched my desktop; I saw no reason to have it anymore. I used word, excel, powerpoint (now I like pages, numbers and keynote more) internet, email, and a couple of light resources applications. I did not need a really fast and powerful machine. At that time I decided to settle for an Orange iBook, ditched the desktop and moved to one computer and a palm. That set-up worked great with many new machines, Mac and Windows, and I always had a Palm (or Treo or iPhone) and one Laptop.
On 2008, on the verge of things getting busier and complicated (I was using PCs at the time, I had left Mac behind) I went back to multiple machines, set an Exchange Server up (to keep email, notes, contacts and calendars in sync) and set the files to sync between the different machines. I had a big and powerful laptop that acted as a desktop, connected to a second monitor, and in my office, that machine never left the desk, and a Tablet PC, that was the mobile laptop. I had an HP Tablet with an extended battery. I was able to work without charging the battery for more than 12 hours; a perfect portable machine. When the netbooks started to hit the market, I went and got one, those perfect little machines where going to help and improve the system. I went and got myself one, set it up, included it into my system and I now had a computer with me always (in addition to my iPhone). Four months later I bough a Mac.
At the beginning of 2009, I went back to the one machine (laptop) one palm (iPhone) configuration that serve me well, can you blame it on the netbook? the desktop? the tablet? (or laptop?)
The reality is that the system was too complex. I wear many hats: entrepreneur, sales manager, writer, podcaster, family guy,father, husband, son; and all these computers and complicated synchronization issues were slowing me down. After spending some time thinking of my favorite thinking tool Mindjet MindManager (www.mindjet.com) (and by the way, my maps used to sync in all those machines) I began thinking of the bottleneck. As an entrepreneur we need to always be in search of the bottleneck, the problem. In the book “The Goal’ by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox (http://www.amazon.com/Goal-Process-Ongoing-Improvement/dp/0884271781/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246986197&sr=8-1) the main character is explaining theory of constrains trough the novel, and explaining the concept of the bottleneck, the book clearly states that the system can only go, as fast as the bottleneck.
I have played with many netbooks and desktops, but I found that mostly they slow my workflow down. They become the bottleneck; and based on the principles of The Goal, they will set the speed of the rest of my system. I do not think that a netbook, as we know them today, will be a final solution. I typed for years on my Palm with the foldable keyboard, did the job, but it was not the best solution.
I established some years ago, that my play environment and my production environment would not mix. I use a Mac with an iPhone; I have another laptop to play with, if anything goes wrong on the play laptop, I fix it at the first available time.
Going back to the topic, the problem with desktops, laptops and netbooks is simply a bottleneck issue. I know people that use different combinations of these, desktop only, laptop only, personal-work computers, and many different others. I even have a good friend that had a laptop just for write, nothing else, the question is where is your bottleneck.
Again it all comes back to your workflow and your work style. In my case, I use one laptop and one iPhone. If changes in the future force me to change this structure, I will pay attention to the bottlenecks, but for now I do not see a netbook on my near future, the concept as it is today it is just a big bottleneck to my workflow.
Have you ever considered a netbook? Have you ever stoped and evaluated the bottlenecks in your process? Are you using a desktop and find that you cannot access to your information on the go? Lets open the discussion.


The Do not Do List

** Originally published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com **
I originally read about this concept from Michael Hyatt (http://michaelhyatt.com/2007/01/the-not-to-do-list.html) According to Hyatt: “the idea is to list all the activities you are intentionally going to stop doing for the sake of greater productivity”
The reality is that as life evolves, and more projects come to life, priorities change and evolve and interest drifts and grows. The numbers of things we do get to a point in which it is impossible to keep up. At that time you have 2 options: lower your standards or get rid of the things that are not worth it for you to do.
One example of this is  yard work. I hate that job, I am not interested in doing it well, and it is in my Do not Do list, I paid a service, my yard looks great and I can enjoy it and use my time for other things.
Not only can this list be used to make you more productive, this list in general contains  a series of lessons. How do you think many of the things on my list got there? I learned from past experiences .I  began my list sometime in 2007, my list is not big but it is full of learning experiences.
Here is my list at the time of this post, and I will go into detail on some of them.

The car and the yard are simply two things I hate, and I if I can pay to someone to do it for me, I will.
The next item, I will not finish a bad book or a book that I did not enjoy. This  was something that I read in Steve Leveen book: The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life (http://www.amazon.com/Little-Guide-Your-Well-Read-Life/dp/1929154178/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246899969&sr=8-1). I tend to finish most of the books I start, but I must admit that after I read this I got permission to dump the ones I didn’t  like and even during 2007 and 2008 I just dumped one book  a year, I am happy I did.
I learned about back ups the hard way, I lost everything, and yes, more than once. One time on my PC, trying some software and once on my phone the same way. I learned the hard way, that rebuilding information is not a fun thing to do, it is painful and can drive you mad. Now its on my list, so I remind myself not to do it.
Finally, on December 2007, I decided that I was going to change my life. At the time I was overweight (more than 70lbs) and I was a heavy smoker. I set a three year plan in motion, from January 2008 to December 2010.
In 2008 the main goal was to stop smoking. Happy to report, that I quit smoking as of January 30th 2008, and I have not touch a cigarette since then. In 2009, the main goal was to get to the doctor and get my health checked (my last visit was a long, long time ago) and I began the process of changing my eating habits, losing  weight and get ready for my 2010 goal. 2010’s  main goal is to exercise, to create the exercise habit.
During 2008 I really did not have to write my goal of not smoking on my Do not Do list, I just did it.  In 2009 (more than 50lbs lighter) I continue to, once in a while, eat my frustrations. During a chat on Do not Do list with the wonderful group of GTDers of the GTD Virtual Study Group (http://gtd-vsg.blogspot.com/) something hit me in the face (isn’t that how this things usually happen?) I should just write on my Do not Do list not to eat my frustrations. I did, that was the item number 6 of my list; and the process of writing it on the list has created a powerful bond to the compromise. I can’t guarantee that I will not eat my frustrations again, but I have done it less, and that it is a good start, something that I am proud of.
Do you have a Do not Do list? if so, will you share it with us? If not, why not? Have you considered creating this list as a way to stop certain things and put on paper other lessons that you have learned.
My Do not Do list has been a great tool, and even though it looks short, it has been a great complement to help increase my productivity, and help me stay focused on the important stuff.

Standup desk as a productivity tool

** Originally Published on www.theentrepreneurnotes.com **
Image from: http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/thomas-jefferson-declaration-of-independence.html

I am not the first person that tries a Standup desk, Thomas Jefferson, Donald Rumsfeld, Sir Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway among other famous people have in the past, for me it’s a first
I started firting with this idea 2 months ago. For the last couple of months, I have been pushed around by urgency and the loudest things in my lists, forcing me to work more on what’s showing up instead of  the work I have already defined and planned. After some weeks living on the urgent quadrant, I was in need of some action-taking to change the course of things. I knew I can only last at that pace for so long (and I probably was getting close to the burn-out point). I spent the next weekend playing with certain ideas, and doing some planning, you know sometimes when you need to go fast, the best thing you can do is slow down. I decided that I was going to try to standup, and work from a standup desk. I spent a lot of time on the internet doing some research on how tall this desk should be. Some testing and playing as well. By Monday morning I was getting ready to work standing up for the first time in the office.
The looks of people walking into my office were interesting; some people asked me about back pains, some simply looked at me like  I was mad. The result, at the end of the week, was incredible. By Thursday afternoon I had knocked off of my list more things that the prior month, and I was beginning to feel calm and in control. I was beginning to hold some control on my crazy affairs. Friday (I tend to work from home when possible) I did the same. I fixed my desks, and moved my desk to 37” (around 94cm) so far this is the height that it is working fine for me.
This was an interesting change. Number one, I noticed off of the bat that I am spending less time fooling around and more time on productive activities. I have tweeted less, checked my RSS Feed less, and accomplished more than the previous weeks.
I also noticed that I don’t miss my second monitor, I am not sure at this time if it is because I can concentrate for longer on the screen and less on the multitasking myth or what, but the fact is that I am using only the laptop and so far the productivity has been incredible, and at least for now I do not miss the second monitor.
I am planning to continue testing this, but at this time I am noticing a direct relationship between my standing up work and my productivity.
Have you ever tried a standup desk? What do you think about it?