Brian Tam

Overcoming Fear and Excuses | Brian Tam, Let's Make Great!

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with my good friend, and co-host of Behind the Grind, Brian Tam, about the fear that holds many entrepreneurs back.

His insights on how to get ideas off the dashboard, the importance of small wins, and in learning quickly through rapid failures, are all spot on.

 


Quote


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organziations into action.

To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.


About Brian Tam

Brian is a Creativity Catalyst and co-founder of an innovation consultancy, Let’s Make GREAT!

Born in America and having graduated from the University of Maryland, Brian saw China’s dynamic growth and decided to make a leap back to the mainland in 2007 when he came to Shanghai to create more growth and innovation in China.

Follow Brian
Website: http://www.letsmakegreat.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brian.tam.56211
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamonline/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/letsmakegreat/


About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich
Website: http://www.richbrubaker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rich.brubaker
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richbrubaker
Snapchat: http://snapchat.com/add/richbrubaker
Instagram: https://instagram.com/richbrubaker
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/richbrubaker

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript

Brian: I am Brian Tam, I am the founder and CEO of Let’s Make Great!. We are a creative consultancy focusing on the next hundred years of innovation in China. So basically, what that means is that we do everything and anything to help people become more creative in China.

We were doing some Google research, just looking at different words that are popping up. And if you search "creativity in China", it’s very very low. All the new top 10 results are all negative results. “It’s not going to happen." "Education is not going to allow creativity to happen." But then interestingly, what’s changed is that if you search "innovation in China", the results are going up.

So it’s all positive news about how China is becoming more innovative, Chinese companies are becoming more innovative. So there is a change happening. It’s in wordplay, but I think it’s a real change.

China’s ecosystem for innovation

Brian: It is changing a lot. I started about three to four years ago now. And since I started, I can see that larger scale organizations are now starting to reach out to start-ups and build up connections and collaborations. So BMW now has an incubator. OMD is working with China Accelerator of course. Unilever and another New Zealand milk company, Fonterra, is also working with internal entrepreneurship and building up that innovation game that way.

So I think it’s happening, it’s starting to change. Three to four years ago, when I started, I was like “Entrepreneurship! This is the way to the future! This is going to make everything/the world a better place. You build a company inside a bigger company, how great is that? You get all the joined freedom of your own business and also you get the power and distribution of a large company.”

And I thought that was gonna be it. But companies don’t like that a lot of times. They are like, wait, you want them to be the boss? Then what is my job gonna be? So there’s a lot of people pushing back on that. But there’s also a lot of people making it happen ‘cause they do see it as a way for it. So those are the front runners and there is hope!

Do foreigners understand China?

Brian: I think there’s a lot of people who don’t get it. They are not really doing the homework of talking to the people who are going to be using it or getting in touch with their ideas. So that needs to change.

Rich: Do you think they really think that they know it better than the Chinese?

Brian: There’s a certain arrogance. Everybody has arrogance, so that’s always gonna be the case. "We are from the West, and we know better. This is what we should be doing." But is that always true? No. I mean, somewhere in the middle through the process, you figure out, “Okay, I do need to change.”

Hopefully, people are figuring out that they do need the change, because at the end, money shows how much impact you are really making or how much traction you’re getting. So I think there needs to be a significant/true metric. So a lot of entrepreneurs — actually let’s not call them entrepreneurs yet. They are not entrepreneurs yet, I can’t even say that.

They are just guys with ideas or people with ideas, and that’s nice and good. And usually, those ideas are about making impact and helping people to something better. But how realistic and driven are they? A lot of these people I work with are entrepreneurs, creatives, designers, architects, consultants — all knowledge-based people. They are not really thinking about, “How do I make this happen?”

They are thinking about thinking about thinking about making it happen.

Brian: They are several ways away from that. And it’s good, we need that. We need thinking. It’s important. But where’s the rubber meet the road? And that’s where I’m trying to push these people to get to: interacting with the Chinese market. Making sure that their idea really works for whoever they are targeting. That’s always an interesting thing to get people to move towards, because they are afraid. They don’t know.

Because if you actually — if you start meeting the road and you get resistance, then everything changes. You’re not sure if can really do it. You’re not sure. You hit reality, and reality is hard, and it sucks, and it hurts. So people are gonna get scared of that. It’s getting pushback. In idea land, in the dream world, anything is possible.

And that is fun, energetic, sexy, and alluring for a lot of these creative leaders to think about their ideas over and over again. But it doesn’t go anywhere. I think that’s one of the biggest things that needs to change for a lot of people. I don’t care if you’re a teacher, go make it real. I don’t care if you’re an artist, actually do something with it. Everyone got ideas, and it’s not about ideas, it’s about execution. But it is fear that’s preventing them.

No excuses

Brian: It’s interesting — I couldn’t say "on the Chinese side", because I’m not working with them — but just looking at the things that are coming out, I can see that they are very much based on other ideas. But they are mixing and matching, so it’s more plug-and-play and collecting different ideas together. And I think that’s a type of innovation as well. With the foreign entrepreneurs, maybe they are trying to do something different.

They are a little more disruptive. It’s just two different strategies. I don’t think either one is right or wrong, it’s just two different strategies. Yeah, so there’s a lot of entrepreneurs here. The community here has been developing, and that’s kind of cool. There’s a clear divide, though, between the Chinese entrepreneurs and the foreign entrepreneurs.

I mainly work with the foreign ones and the foreign creatives, and so they are pushing the line — but their impact is somewhat limited, as we talked about earlier. They are always looking for a Chinese partner, and they are always looking for the way to get their products into the Chinese market — a little bit more localized, right?

Or, they wait and make those excuses that say, “I can’t do that because I don’t have that partner. I can’t do that because I don’t speak Chinese. I can’t do that because…” I think those are excuses, and I really try to get these people to keep pushing on their own side to do what they can and what’s within their control. So that’s always been an interesting mind shift for a lot of these people, because we think we need help rather than we need to create momentum to attract help. And I think that’s a complete mental shift that a lot of people need to get towards.

Challenges of entrepreneurship

Brian: They are afraid of failure, is the biggest thing. They build up these fantasies in their head and they've got these big dreams. I mean, I got them, too. My big dream is a hundred years of innovation in China. That’s pretty big. Let’s think about that. One hundred years. China. Innovation.

This is like the three biggest ideas in the world right now. It’s scary. It’s unrealizable almost. But it’s not supposed to be realizable right now. It is supposed to be realizable in that time. So I try to separate people’s ideas and thinking into short-term and long-term.

And short-term, you need to have that action but be guided by that long-term vision. So that’s something I’m trying to separate for people, so that they do start taking action — because the fear of failure is this kind of ambiguous fear. You don’t know where it’s coming from. You don’t know what might cause that failure, and so it could come from anywhere. Here, there are different factors/drivers at play. The government have their rules, and we’re here playing by their rules. That’s the name of the game.

Dealing with fear

Brian: How do you deal with fear? It is everything. I say fuck fear, first of all, because it’s always going to be there. I’ve been doing this three to four years, and I’m still afraid. It’s just a part of it. If you are afraid that means you’re doing something new, which means you’re on the right path.

If you’re not afraid, then what are you doing? You’re so comfortable that you don’t have to think about. You are not putting yourself out there. Then what value are you adding to society, to your team, to your company and to the people around you? So you need to be doing something a little bit scary at least so that you can start to realize it.

So I say, first of all, fuck fear — it’s there, deal with it. Second of all, start small and get that feedback early so that you know if you’re on the right track or not. If you have those small wins, they build up to a big win at the end. So that’s a super critical step.

What is a small win?

Brian: Small wins are even just people smiling as you talk about the idea, and people are smiling and nodding, and they go, “Okay, I kind of get that." A small win is even, they give me feedback that I can use to improve it [the idea], so maybe sometimes a small win is everything. You just try to switch your mind into looking for the small win rather than looking for the failure or the reason that you shouldn’t do it.

And I think a lot of people who are very smart — these educators, consultants , designers — are very smart and creative people. But because they are so critical, they start looking for all the reasons they shouldn’t be doing it, all the “NOs” — and that adds up, so you don’t do anything. There’s no action then.

You just stop. You are paralyzed by fear. So I’m saying, look for that small win no matter what it is. There’s always a small win. You gotta look for it. And as long as you take action, you got a small win. So that small win and taking that small step is the key.

Is social entrepreneurship different?

Brian: So for me, I don’t give a shit about it. It’s not for me to label. I don’t care about labels. You can call it whatever you want — as long as you’re doing good, adding value, making the world a better place, I don’t care what you call that. But make sure that happens. If you are an entrepreneur, a businessman, a politician, or even a homeless person, make the world a better place. That’s it.

Why else are you alive? Why is your heart beating? Why are you breathing air and consuming things if you are not giving back in some way? My girlfriend is really amazing, because she’ll give to all the homeless people. I’m like “you can’t do this”.

But if they are playing music, she’ll take out the 10 RMB or the 20 RMB note. She’ll give them a little bit more. I think it’s because they are adding value. They are creating this atmosphere of positivity and enjoyment, right? Just like that. There’s a positive atmosphere that we can all live and love by. It’s amazing.

Ideas do not equate to action.

Brian: So everyone is different. I can’t give you an answer for how to start or where to start, but just start! That’s the wrong question to be asking — just starting, right? So, if you have one tool, go with that tool right now. If you have a million tools, maybe it’s time to start using some of them. All these ideas are all really nice, but the ideas are pointless until you start to realize them. And that’s what an idea is for, right? It’s for action, to make it come true.

I had that problem. I was a marketing guy doing project management. Then I was an English teacher. Then I was another marketing guy in another leadership development company. This was just ideas about ideas about ideas. And it drove me crazy. I wasn’t satisfied. And I thought, "Why not?" Because they were just in my head and weren’t in reality, and they weren’t a part of my reality. So I went out, and I quit my job, and I started Let's Make Great!.

And I decided that this would be my vision: By reflecting on my past, I looked at the "why's" of my past, and I saw that these "why's", these motivations, were all leading toward something that I didn’t even realize until I reflected. So I was lucky to have built up six to eight years of working experience before I started reflecting.

I know when you are a little bit younger, you don’t have enough experience to know "why" yet. You just haven't connected enough dots — some people say that, but I don’t think it’s true either. I think if I reflected earlier, I probably would have seen it earlier, but nobody was pushing me to think about it. So that’s on me, it’s just circumstance.

Self-assessment

Brian: Are you taking action? The first assessment. Are you taking action?

Research, and preparing, and planning is not "action" in my definition. Getting feedback, talking to people and building something, that’s action. I’m gonna call you out (points to Rich). I see you are stopping and starting, but have you actually put them altogether yet in video? I tried to shoot a video before, and I stop and start, but I couldn’t bring them altogether because there are these weird cut points.

That drove me crazy. So I was like “Are you taking action? Are you really following through with that?” All right, thank God for you (to Rich's assistant).

China and entrepreneurship

Brian: I think two things about this question. First is that entrepreneurship is the modern-day spiritual journey.

Because what is that? In entrepreneurship you find out who you are, what you are about. What you are trying to do, and what value you have to society? If those aren’t spiritual questions, I don’t know what is. It doesn’t matter. It just happens to be that if you do follow entrepreneurship, you’ll figure out these things.

And in China, it’s nice, coming from the West at least, because you end up in this place where all of the rules are different slightly or majorly — and you just go “why?” And by having that huge impact on your expectations and beliefs that not everybody is crossing the road the same way, not everybody is dressed the same way, not everybody is talking the same way, not everybody is treating me the same way.

All those expectations that flipped you around — that flipped you mentally around — is very challenging, frustrating, and difficult. But that creates a better environment to think creatively and differently about doing something. So, China is great because of that — for now, at this time and place, there’s no better place in the world.

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

The 20-year old fresh arrival in Shanghai. I think there’s so many opportunities to go explore. A lot of times, we fall into these patterns. We want to be comfortable so we find people who look like us, talk like us, think like us — and that’s good to a certain extent, but where are you expanding yourself? Where are you pushing yourself? Again, feeling uncomfortable, feeling afraid, that is a good thing. So use that as your barometer for right or wrong.

How much does it scare you?

One of the biggest question is “What am I supposed to do?” I’m like, “What are you most afraid of?” and that’s the answer. That’s what they should be doing, because they already know, but everything is an excuse.

“I can’t do this. I shouldn’t do this. My mom, my dad, my sister, and my friends don’t get it. The market says I shouldn’t do it. The advisor, Brian, says you shouldn’t do it."

Fuck that. I’m wrong, you’re wrong, everybody is wrong. You got to figure out your own way. And so if people are telling you you’re wrong, listen of course, and make sure you get that — but move forward too. But don’t let it paralyze you. A lot of people let it paralyze them. It is really annoying and scary.

And when those people become 41, and they haven’t gone their own path, they become different people. They become shells of their previous self, where they aren’t really pushing the boundaries as much. They forget that they should, they forget how to — they forget that it’s natural, and everything becomes an excuse on why it won’t work, why they shouldn’t do it, why they it’s not their responsibility, and all this sort of stuff. So it is a strong contrast between these two types of people.

Advice to our interns

Intern: I’m thinking about all the ideas that I have, how do you pick one?

Brian: So what have you done?

Intern: So far, I have interned with Collective Responsibility and I’m trying to find my basis.

Brian: Good start. Big win.

Intern: My original idea is… but now my idea is…

Brian: Stop... stop... stop… I like all these ideas here, but what have you actually been doing to work towards it? I think the thing about taking action, small steps, and those small wins is that through those small wins, you’ll find your way.

But if you are just thinking about it, nothing happens. Like you started with “I’m thinking about…” or “I’m preparing to...” that’s like several layers away. That’s what I was talking about the “thinking about thinking about thinking…” We’re trying to get you to action right away in a small way, and that’s what needs to happen.

And through that action, whatever it is, it could just be these videos you can reflect that you don’t like interviewing idiots like this, "This just doesn’t help me in my career." Now you know that’s not what you want. Or, you find out that, "This is great, if I can do this times a million, whatever it is, in a city out of nowhere, I’ll be very happy." So you start learning from there. But it requires small steps, small actions.

Intern: So how do you pick just one?

Brian: You don’t pick, you just do.

Intern: Even if there’s all of these ideas, do you think I should take a direction and run with it and see where it develop?

Brian: I think a lot of times we are looking at different directions, and any direction is a good direction but until you know why. So why are you doing it? So list down all the 10 different directions that you might have and just do 10, please. Just start with 10. And then looks at all the "why's" behind it. So don’t look at what it is, but the "why" behind it, and look at which ones make the most sense. And probably from that "why's", you can even see that pattern in it — and then whichever one feels that most powerful to you, go with that and just do that and start.

Intern: I’m a very indecisive person. How does that play into finding an action and just going with it?

Brian: Indecision comes from those people who aren’t tapped into their emotions. I don’t know you, but typically that’s what happens. People are too logical, too smart, and they’re analyzing, and they are not feeling. So I’m going to ask you to feel the right answer — that’s why I asked you to look at the whys. And from the "why's", you feel that this one resonates with you, so you’re going to go with that. Of course, these are all ideas that you’re coming up with, so they should all resonate in some way — but we are talking about the ones that make you go, “Oh shit, I have to do this. This is it. Oh of course, why didn’t I think of that?"


For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.


Amena Schlaikjer

Self Awareness and Delusional Entrepreneurs | Amena Schlaikjer, Wellness Works

Through this interview of Entrepreneur For Good, my close friend Amena Schlaikjer brings a bit of levity to the belief that our ideas (as social entrepreneurs) are "the ideas" that will solve the environmental and social challenges faced by our cities, communities, and countries.

She is someone who has some of the best ideas, and there are two that we cooked up early on that are now HUGE businesses... for other people. Yeah, we had the ideas, but as you will see in this interview, ideas can often delude individuals into thinking they are entrepreneurs.

When in fact they aren't. And that's ok.

It is a wide ranging interview that is really about personal growth, self-awareness, and creating personal processes and rituals.

I hope you enjoy the interview, and if you do, please remember to like, share, and comments!

"A master is someone who's established a process or a way of operating and its connected to some level of deeper meaning in their life and they want to put something out there in the world."

- Amena Lee Schlaikjer


HER JOURNEY IS ONE OF A BALANCING A CONSTANT FLOW OF IDEAS, SELF-AWARENESS, AND KNOWING THAT NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.


About Amena

Amena is a wellness innovator, health coach and facilitator of ideas that create change, and she is passionate about how people thrive and where health and creativity come into play in that process.

Amena grew up as a world traveler from my diplomatic childhood, enjoying the multitude of diverse perspectives life has to offer. Amena started my career by combining my Asian Studies from Columbia University and Marketing from F.I.T. to help entrepreneurs build new businesses in New York and eventually Shanghai - learning the ins and outs of attracting new markets and thinking outside the box for solutions.

Following a desire to facilitate ideas that inspire others towards healthier choices in a more sustainable world, Amena started her own socially-minded enterprise called The Wellness Works; where she co-create with brands using innovation methodology and find ways to support the community.

Follow Amena and Wellness Works:
Website: http://www.the-wellness-works.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amena-lee-schlaikjer-85b0412/


About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich
Website: http://www.richbrubaker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rich.brubaker
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richbrubaker
Snapchat: http://snapchat.com/add/richbrubaker
Instagram: https://instagram.com/richbrubaker
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/richbrubaker

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

My name is Amena Lee Schlaijker and I have a little initiative called the Wellness Works. My mission is to basically come up with creative ideas with other partners in order to empower people to take control of their well being.

WHY WELLNESS?

So it's been now, the era of connecting dots. I think you are only as good as the dots you can connect, otherwise your life is just complete chaos.

So I think since like college burnout and like trying to learn the tools early on and how to manage my own personal wellbeing, I realize that people are really lacking these tools. I had to got through like ya know 20 years of a career in the lifestyle industry, a lot cosmetics and fashion, and that was very much the thing, the what. I was attracted to the packaging, the marketing industry, how to get really funky cool products out there and then I realized it was extremely one dimensional.

As I got deeper, and in search of a process which I think a lot of us look for later on in our career, I came across innovation.

I was asking what makes people tick? Why do people want to buy things, hat look really cool and pretty? And why would they want to buy something that's, that's harmful to them and their health?

Then I think it was the fusion of those things where I wanted to just innovate things that were healthy for people.

WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?

Since the age of 16, I surrounded myself with entrepreneurs, like you, and was very inspired by them.

I went to night school at one point so I could work all day and a full-time job, and I always picked entrepreneurs because I just found them to be fascinating risk takers who were really adaptable people. Something I understood as I had grown up really uprooted moving every 2 years in my life. So yeah, I was just attracted to these go-getters and people who are ahead of the curve a trying things in different countries, and so I just kind of followed them around like a puppy dog.

So I was around these entrepreneurs and I was like well I gotta be like them. I gotta be like them when I wasn't recognizing that there was a place for what I was doing unconsciously.

NOT AN ENTREPRENEUR. ENTREPRENEURIAL

So, I wanted to qualify something and maybe this is a bounce because I don't consider myself a pure entrepreneur.
I think there are grades of entrepreneurship, and while I think I'm very entrepreneurial, but I don't own a company, a team or throwing a, a produce or service necessarily out into the world.

I work with clients as in independent and someone who gathers ad hoc people on a project as I figure out what their problem is and then I become their best supporter of that problem and I want to solve it with them.

I have this awesome toolkit of how of how to be adaptive and how to come up with ideas that you didn't think you had and how to sense in areas that you forgot how to sense them so we can envision something really new for your company. I've gotten really realistic about that's my sweet spot, at least for now. And um, and I think that's an entrepreneurial.

IT'S OK TO BE #2 OR #3

Yeah, and I, ya know, I got comfortable with this when I went to a school of creative leadership called THNK (in Amsterdam). They have schools around the world that present themselves as a school of entrepreneurship, and they were punishing everybody to come up with their amazing world saving idea, and and it dawned on me like, actually, most entrepreneurs are delusional.

I think, I think when you can get really honest with yourself and understand what your scale and your scope is, that's when you can start seeing real shifts happen with yourself and not set yourself up for failure or create a stretch that's unrealistic only because it seems fashionable. … and you know very well as I do that we're in a phase of entrepreneurship being fashionable.

Everybody and their grandmother is trying to be an entrepreneur, and I think that's great. It's a skill set that everyone should have, but that doesn't mean that they have to be an entrepreneur. They can be in a corporation and be entrepreneurial, or they could be an innovator, startup catalyst of that kind or they could be someone who works for an entrepreneur and understand the culture of how to get things off the ground and add value.

REALIZING BEING #2 WAS OK.

I think it was, I think it was a maturation of self and that I was just accepting that, this is a really good place to be. I don't want to cut myself off from being an entrepreneur in the future.

That a may very well happen and I welcome it and embrace it, but I think I settled into like this is a horizon now that I need to pay attention to and be present to and be proud of and do really, really good work here. Instead of show up and do my consulting projects and all these amazing ideas in my computer you know?

There was a naivety about that and I know now that the way I came up with those ideas is what I had to offer.

MASTERS AND DABBLERS

So there's a big difference in working with somebody who is dabbling.

I don't know if they're inexperienced or if they came into a ton of money, and they're going to try something, or they're new to an industry and think its trendy and it’s going to be a hot opportunity, but a master is someone who's established a process or a way of operating and its connected to some level of deeper meaning in their life and they want to put something out there in the world.

There is so much clarity, in masters. They have a set of filters, a set of pillars and values that a dabbler couldn't express s they're just following whatever is hot, you know?

So I think there is a difference between like people who do a lot of stuff, like you and I. I think we are innovators, and I think we help other people also come up with ideas and be entrepreneurs.

We're entrepreneurial. You're much more of an entrepreneur than I am. But we get masterful at our process. You get so good at it, you can get in front of your class and teach it I a heartbeat. Right? Because it's the way you attack the world.

I think dabblers don't have that.

They just kind of drop whatever and move on to the next thing, and that distraction is the biggest inhibitor to success.

THE ART OF DABBLING

Yeah, ok, so I think there's a necessity in dabbling in order to achieve levels of mastery because people who don't experiment enough to land, to hone in on. Like this is the piece I want to start focusing on, and to understand if it gives (me) energy or does it zap (my) energy?

If they are honest about that, then they have kind of the cornerstone to which they can start building their mastery, right? Because you have to dabble in order to get there.

Then, I think once you get to this level of mastery, which I think you have arrived at, it is around the process. You're a master at like how do I get the startup pieces, the chess pieces in play so that I can step back from the board and approach another board with these exact same process.

So again, I think maybe master dabbler is a great way to describe that because you have honed that skill.

WHEN SHOULD YOU STOP DABBLING?

This is where the lessons of deep practice come into play. Where you can start calibrating and you're not like sort of pendulum swinging between different modes of operating, ideas, jobs, partners or whatever it might be.

So I learned this in the practice of iterating through the innovation process, which entrepreneurs do naturally because at some point you have to create enough constraints. While I spend 80% of my project setting up constraints in order to be creative, even though most people think that's blue sky creativity blueish and stuff.

For me your idea is only as good as your constraints you set up and the more you do that, the more you go ok, exactly what is the challenge question? What am I articulating? Where the values we're working by? What are the filters that I'm operating in? How am I scoping this? What are the high and lows of this project?

There are so many tools that I use to get like razor sharp, polishing down the challenge.

Then boom...something opens up to how you can create and then you have to decide how many times do I want to iterate this? Or how many ideas is enough? Because I could go forever.

Especially if you are with a creative being, you could just go non-stop. You just get better at making the call.

I think this comes into every field of any master of domain will do this.. in athletics, in entertainment, in politics, in business.

You get to a point where you know when to stop.

SUPPORT NETWORKS AND CONFIDENCE

If you look back on human history, we've had support systems that no longer exist in uprooted urban transient expat cities in particular.

That's really the bulk of your audience, but in any sort metropolitan city where you don't have elders anymore. We don't have channels of wisdom and knowledge that come to us in a very practical sense.

We're in highly competitive environments, so we don't have sober neutral advice from others. There is always something. There is always a lens that people are talking to you with.

We don't have religious people, gurus, priests, like this ilk of support that, that again give us kind of like the pillars of thinking even or kind of hone our value systems.

So without this some sort of, it's not like a, it's like an ethical support system and we've talked about sustainability, actually, frankly is just a like a new set of ethics, right? It's not this new market or new horizon, it's just the way should be operating. Uh, when you don't have those things instilled as a value set, I think people can feel really lost and I think all of us as entrepreneurs feel extremely lost at times.

I also think that's the reason why this whole coaching industry has taken off even though it has a lot of holes in it, but I think we are really lacking coaching, mentors, advisors, neutral opinions, hard constructive feedback as to why you are not doing things right.

AVOIDING (SURVIVING) BURNOUTS

So I am a long sufferer of burnout, depression in my early 20s and I think I had 3 bad burnouts in life where like, ya know at one point I didn't sleep for 10 days straight.

I mean people die from stuff like that.

It was intense and just incredible lows, and I think this work that I am doing is just trying to figure out what are the tools we can hone to pull ourselves out of that… or catch ourselves before we fall into it.

That whole process is just kind of a self-discovery process. It's just learning who you are and what makes you tick, and I just don't think a lot of people have the patience, the time carved out, the focus to go there.

So I really believe entrepreneurs need to have a dedicated practice of some kind. Somehow meditative or mindful, even though they don't have to do formal meditation. But it needs to be a checking back in so that you're able to calibrate before you totally burnout or pass out

If you have that self-awareness, and it's all about a practice of self-awareness to just check back in on a daily basis (because that is how frequent it needs to be for you to get good at this), then you won't fall to such lows.

So much of it is energetic. It's in the body. We get so used to relying on the cerebral body because we let the rest of our body be transportation systems for this is it, this who I am? If we don't tap into a deeper intelligence and I think every person let alone entrepreneur, needs that as a practice.

You also need support so you need camaraderie so you feel like you're not alone in that situation.

I think isolation is probably the worst aspect of anybody who deals with depression or deals with hard times. Making sure that you have great friendships and cultivating great friendships that aren't just acquaintances that show up to your parties or your events, but people who you can call on and they can hear it in your voice that something is going on.

I think it's those two.

Have a practice and have a support system and as you have those two modes of feedback, your internal and external, you start developing what the meaning is that you want to make in this world.

FINDING SHELTER IN THE STORM

It's just the simple things in life. It's so simple.

I'm sure it's like waking up and seeing your kid..or I know very well now the things that make me happy. Whether it's as simple like my favorite desert or my favorite thing to do on a Sunday. Or a book that I want to reread and just this practice of constantly getting present.

Ya know, a lot of people think this idea of mindfulness practices or meditation is about getting calm or being existential in some way, but actually it's honing your ability to focus and be self aware so that you can start from zero again and you can look at the world like a kid.

If I could talk to my 20 yo self, I'd say, honey, what's the practice you want to try? Right? that really connects your mind and body and allows you to kind of calibrate your self-awareness. What's the meaning you're searching for and who are you going to talk to, to develop that meaning? And then who's out there that actually has a great process?

Like the way they approach stuff just seems super ninja like and anytime they attach anything, they use the same process because there is a lot of wisdom behind that.

CAN'T HACK SELF-AWARENESS

I don't believe in hacking. I don't think hacking works. I don't think it does.

I think it works in sort of many steps when you're solving tangible problems in a business because you can kind of jump ahead, but I also think that it doesn't work in the long game and it absolutely doesn't work when it comes to self-awareness practices or getting to know yourself.

Because again, that just takes experience and maturity and time.

But I think if there were a way to sort of hack it in a sense, it is just understanding that failure is part of the process and all entrepreneurs say this and theorize this but, you almost need to practice it.

So I have this self-practice of 80/20. I can only control 20% of my life, and I look at it like if you were to look on it at in terms of time management and draw yourself a wheel and you know you're going to try to carve out 6-8 hours for sleep.

How would you carve up, that's maybe a good 30-40% of your day, how would you carve up another 30% of your day on stuff you are just like hardline focused on...you're always going to show up to that on a daily basis whether it's creation or connection or something very specific in work.

The rest of it you just let fall away.

You don't know who you are going to meet, know what crisis is going to come into your board, you don't know what economic down turn that's going to throw you off your game.

You just need to have kind of control on that 20% and be okay with failure as an option and practice it.

Actually go, I'm going to do this project for the purpose of failing and see if something else comes out of it. If I can detach enough from my ego to go there is something else in this that's not this thing that I'm going to learn from, that is a great exercise to take on.

Do these mini projects for myself. Not start-up companies, but mini initiatives where you learn little bits and you get feedback and I think if you get good at throwing things out there and reading the feedback.

Then you start to get elegant as an entrepreneur, as leader, as a parent, whatever it might be.

CHINA AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

I think the big things that pop up for me and keep me here is one is the dynamism.

So, things keep reinventing themselves and I'm constantly surprised. There is never a point that I get to where I am an expert in this area, I know better than someone else so it challenges me in its dynamism.

Another one is you're constantly surrounded by smart people so it's a place that attracts interesting talent, even if they are coming in and going back about. You have access to these people to have great conversations.

Another one is it's pretty easy to set up a business in a sense and to experiment that business. So you can get your hands on pretty inexpensive resources to trial stuff quickly. Now it might take a lot longer to get to success here, but the experimentation phase is really easy. And I love, like there are a lot of things about China that drive me crazy, but I love the optimism and sort of the beautiful nativity sometimes of Chinese people.

They're just always ready for something new, something positive, something interesting, and I think in a lot of sophisticated markets you deal with cynicism. You deal with bogged down thinking or a lot of competitive attitudes and sarcasm.

Where as here, it's like..yeah, cool, let's do it!!!

And you're like right on, lets go for this and it's not easy.

It's definitely not an easy place and it's getting harder as it gets saturated with everyone and their grandmother and every wealthy parent telling their child to go be an entrepreneur, but I think for those who are dedicated to it, it gives them the playing ground to sort of witness and be aware of who is really good at the game and who's work listening to and then being really careful with your time and not wasting it with random people and random shit.

Shit full circle!


For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.