Today is a special day for me.
Here’s why: I was born just under 11,000 days ago. In other words, today I’m turning 30.
The big 3-0.
Yep, I know. Yikes is right. Does this make me a grown-up? 😉
Anyway, I used to have this birthday practice of writing myself an “annual report” letter, about everything that went well in the last year, everything that didn’t, everything that I learned along the way, and how I intended to try and be a better person going forward.
(And I’m talking about *real* successes and failures; there won’t be any references to sales figures or dollar amounts here.)
I’d send that letter to all my nearest and dearest, and ask them to hold me accountable to the commitments that I’d made to myself.
Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve done that, but since I’m starting a whole new decade, I decided to revive the practice.
So let’s start with the good; the things that I’m happy about, and proud of myself for having done or achieved…
Some Reasons to Look Back and Smile
Business and life are all about people and contribution, and any success that I can claim must be rooted in the positive impact on others.
And maybe this is my unfair advantage to being successful: I’ve been truly blessed to be surrounded by wonderful, thoughtful, kind, and contributive human beings, who inspire me on a daily basis – and living up to your ideals, and contributing to those around you, isn’t very hard when you’re surrounded by examples like these.
This starts, of course, with my wife, who has been the greatest blessing I could ever hope for since our wedding almost two years ago. I’ve done my best to be a good husband, partner, and friend to her in the last year, but she makes it very, very easy, so she deserves much of the credit.
Likewise, I’ve been blessed with incredibly loving and supportive parents, who have always been more interested in my work than you could reasonably expect a parent to be (the reason why you hardly ever see a typo on the blog is that my mom reads everything as soon as it’s published, and if there’s an error, she catches it), offered insightful guidance, reassured me through setbacks, and celebrated my successes. And while I’ve done my best to be a good son, and made the effort and time to stay in touch at least a couple of times per week (which isn’t always easy when you live half a world and seven time zones away), all I’m really doing there is following their lead and example, so they should probably get most of the credit.
And my good fortune has extended to the people that I have the privilege of working with every single day. Yes, we definitely have a good process for finding and hiring great people, but it’s still difficult to create and maintain an organizational culture of learning, contribution, and growth, and I’m *very* grateful that I’ve been able to do so.
Finally, supported by all of these wonderful people, I suppose it’s no wonder that I’ve been able to create something special in the form of our community here at Mirasee, both on the blog, and within our training programs. To borrow from an email that one reader sent to me, we’ve somehow managed to create “a pocket of the world where people actually care about each other”.
Turning a Corner, and Taking on Big Things
Finally, and very importantly (for me, at least), is that I feel I’ve really turned a corner in the last year in terms of my readiness to take on truly big things.
Many of you know my story; you know that I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen to start my first business, and that I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since. You also know that before Mirasee, my last big project was a literacy education technology start-up that crashed and burned in 2008, leaving me with massive amounts of debt.
The thing about a big failure like that is that it’s not just the money that you lose; it’s also the confidence, and for a long time, I felt very gun-shy about even thinking about taking on something truly massive in scale. I just wasn’t ready, and I had to work up to it.
So I did things, bit by bit; one guest post at a time, then several, then my book, then Write Like Freddy, then the Audience Business Masterclass, and it actually has grown into something a lot bigger than I had set out or expected to create.
It’s only recently, with the Heartbreak, Debilitating Fear, and the Craziest Risk We Might Never Take post that led into our Business Ignition Bootcamp, that I really owned up to that fear, and mustered up the courage to move past it, towards a *much* bigger vision of what I’m looking to do and create.
It was a very, very difficult thing for me to do, and I’m proud of having done it.
My Proudest Moment of the Last Year
The single proudest moment of my year happened just a few weeks ago, in the student forums of the Business Ignition Bootcamp.
Now, you might remember that the Bootcamp was my big attempt to level the playing field, and provide a real, deep, and robust business education to people who really want and need it.
Well, the Bootcamp consisted of three modules, and the first was all about the different components that make up a business model, based in part on my Engagement from Scratch! co-author Randy Komisar‘s excellent book “Getting to Plan B”.
So right after the first module was completed, one of our students, Charlie from Sahel Design, posted this question in the forum:
“Ok I know we have moved on to Module 2 but I still have an unresolved question lingering from Module 1 and would be grateful if anyone can clarify. I have a business making bags from leather. Each bag uses between 1 and 3 hides each, but I have to buy hides in quantities of 15 or more per colour. I don’t always make to order so sometimes I have a few hides of leather left over in a certain colour. Does the total cost of that colour leather come under the cost of sales (Gross Margin Model) for that colour of bag or Operating Model (as I would have bought 15 hides regardless of how many bags in that colour I sell)?”
Now, first of all, I want to point out that this is a very sophisticated question to be asking after just two weeks of introduction to this sort of content.
And I was all set to jump in and give an answer, but two other students beat me to it. Nicola from Daylight Bloggery responded first:
“I am not any kind of expert – the business model components were totally new to me in module 1, so this is me talking out of my back pocket – but I personally would put this expense under the cost of sales (Gross Margin), but it has an effect on your working capital model, as there is a significant gap between you incurring the expense and being reimbursed by making the sale.
“One of your priorities, therefore, would be to look at ways you might either reduce this period or reduce the expense, sourcing your leather elsewhere, or sharing the purchase with another craftworker, etc.
“You could use lateral thinking and come up with ideas like setting up your own cooperative of craft workers who use leather and re-selling the leather you have to buy but don’t need, on the basis that there must be other craft workers with similar problems.
“As I say, I know nothing, but I hope my ramblings help in some way!”
And then Emilie from Accounting In Cloud jumped in as well:
“I am not an expert on the business models or leather bag making, but from where I stand, I think that both Nicola and yourself hit the nail on the head. The unused leather fits under both of the headings – Gross Margin (cost of sales) and Working Capital (timing of money in/out).
“Although it might be a good (or only available) option to buy the leather in bulk to get a better price (better margins), you have working capital/money tied up in unused material – and also in inventory as you do not seem to make the bags to order.
“As you suggested, there might be a couple of ways how to improve the working capital ‘cycle/balance’; you could make bags to order, only use classic colors of leather, sell unused materials, or make different products using the left-over material – e.g. ‘exclusive/unique/boutique/designer’ pieces – bags as well as something like small purses or other accessories. These could be sold on your website or eBay, Etsy, in local markets, etc.”
Wow – that’s some *very* good and insightful advice from two people who claim not to have any expertise, isn’t it? 😉
In fact, it’s *excellent* advice – I couldn’t have offered a better answer myself, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to see my students thinking with such a level of sophistication and insight in such a short period of time.
So thank you, Charlie, Nicola, and Emilie (and everyone else in the Bootcamp, and in the Audience Business Masterclass) – you’ve made my year! 🙂
So I will definitely be celebrating today, because you have all *demonstrated* to me that my convictions were based in reality; that this deep level of business ability doesn’t have to be reserved for the select few who have been blessed with the good fortune and circumstance to attend schools like Harvard, or who were able to survive the painful experience of getting things wrong until they’re able to get them right.
And I hope you’ll join me in a celebratory birthday drink!
*clinks glasses* 😀
Times When I Stumbled, and Wish I Had Done Better
Now, as pleased and proud as I am with the successes and good times, they also brought challenges that I didn’t always meet in the way that I would have liked to, and there was more than one occasion when I stumbled, disappointed, and fell short of the person that I’m aspiring to be.
These challenges always begin at home, and there have been times when I fell short of being the husband that my wife deserves for me to be. Too often, she would raise a question, issue, or concern, and instead of listening to her, hearing her, and supporting her, I would take things personally, make the issue about me when it may not have had to be, and offered less in the way of support and understanding than I could or should.
With my team at Mirasee, I’ve sometimes forgotten that just because I know how to do something doesn’t mean that someone else does, and that if I’m working with great people who aren’t producing great results, it’s (almost) always because I’ve either placed them in the wrong role, or given them bad instructions, guidance, or support.
With my students, my failures have been particularly disappointing. There have been times when I unwittingly bit off a bit more than I could chew, and the promises of service and support that I had made went unmet. There were also times when mistakes were made; like a Bootcamper that was asked to leave the program because they weren’t keeping up with the content… except that they were, and it was my team and I had that had gotten the wires and records crossed. Of course, I apologized, but the fact is that it never should have happened in the first place, and it could probably have been avoided if I had spent more time investigating before acting.
With my community, my shortcomings have centered around patience and attention. My commitment to all of you is to support you to the best of my ability, and specifically to answer your questions in a timely and *helpful* manner. Now, I’ve always done that, but I can remember at least a few occasions when I dashed off a quick, off-the-cuff answer to someone whose question would have justified more attention and thought. Did I answer the question? Yes, I did. But did I give enough thought to why the question was being asked, and what the more helpful answer would be? Maybe not enough.
And with myself, my stumbles have been around integrity, and while I’ve never truly transgressed, there have been a few times this past year when I was tempted to toe the line. My barometer is always to ask myself whether I would be comfortable sharing something with my parents, wife, and future children, and while I’ve never done something that I would hide, there have been a few things that I wouldn’t be enthusiastic to advertise.
So yes – plenty of things that I could have done much, much better. Which is fine, because there’s always next year to improve…
What Next? My Plan for Being Better
Now, despite what I may have believed as a child, life doesn’t end at 30. 😉
In fact, I’m realizing more and more that the majority of my life, and the majority of my contribution is still ahead of me, and to that end, I know that however the last year may have gone, I must strive to do better.
To my wife, I will strive to be a better husband. I will listen more and better, set my own ego aside, and support her in any way that I can. I will also ask her to point out to me when I fail to do so, and in the times I will strive to listen with an open mind, step back from whatever my position might be, and remember these words that I’m writing today.
To my team, I will strive to always listen, understand, communicate, and explain. I will do my very best to create an environment that supports growth, accepts mistakes, and aims to learn and teach rather than reprimand or punish.
To my students, I will strive to always be patient, supportive, and helpful. I will strive to treat our work together as the partnership that it is, and do everything that I can to support your growth and help you to become the capable and successful entrepreneur that you’re becoming. I will strive to always remember that none of this is about me, and that your success *is* my success.
To my community, here at Mirasee, I will strive to act with integrity, and guide you towards the success that we are all working towards – success that is robust and based on real value for all. I will do my best to serve as an example that you can trust and respect, and continue to push myself and my team past our comfort zones, in the same way that we ask you to do.
And to my dreams, my goals, my values, and myself, I will strive to remain true. I will resist the temptation to become complacent, and overcome the fear that could stop me from acting in the way that I know I must act. I will remember that love is a verb, and trust is a choice. I will remember that principles like integrity and generosity are more important than any individual goal I might like to achieve, and I will treat others the way I would like to be treated in their situation.
Now, with all of these plans, I wrote that I will strive, because that’s the best I can do. I will try, and sometimes, I will fail. But when that happens, I will accept responsibility, pick myself up, and try again to do better the next time.
And I hope that you will help me.
Will You Hold Me Accountable?
I hope you’ll find it insightful. Or at least entertaining.
And now I’d like to ask you for a favor.
In this post, I’ve made some commitments to myself, and to my community; things that I want to try to do, and aspirations that I want to live up to.
So the favor is this:
When you see me veering off course… please remind me of these commitments.
Please (gently) call out my shortcomings, and steer me back to the path that I’m striving to walk.
Could you do that for me?
Now, I’ll be away from my computer today (or at least, I hope I’ll have the discipline to stay away!), but I’ll be back tomorrow, and look forward to spending the next year…
…and the next decade…
…and the rest of my life…
…helping you, and the rest of our community, in any way that I can.
In the meantime, I’ll just say thank you.
It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m grateful.