Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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Who Can You Talk To?

Entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or at least it shouldn’t. Entrepreneurship happens best out in the open, in community with others, and in the context of deepening relationships with family, friends, advisors, customers, shareholders, employees, and a close inner circle.

In other words, don’t do this alone.

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While myriad articles exist talking about the benefits of a solid founding team or helping the entrepreneur find reliable financial or legal help, other partnerships must be developed to ensure long-term success for the entrepreneur and his or her venture.

Here are three critical relationships entrepreneurs must have for success:

1) Someone outside the bubble

When focused on growing a startup, the founder can concentrate on one thing and one thing only: growing the venture. Industry metrics, past performance, business plans, and future markets cloud his or her mind continually, so in order to stay balanced, an entrepreneur needs to have someone in his or her court who doesn’t think about these things as much. Someone like a best friend, a partner, a therapist (even using online therapy), or mentor. Choosing someone who doesn’t live in the trenches means the entrepreneur can wrap his or her head around other concepts from time to time.

2) Someone who’s been there before

Mentorship is underrated. By finding the right mentor, the entrepreneur can save the time and agony of making certain crucial mistakes. The mentor doesn’t have to be in the same sector or industry, but they do have to have accomplished something the entrepreneur wants to: an exit, taking on a competitor, a significant capital raise, solid leadership, or multiple acquisitions or pivots. Setting your sights on finding the right person to show you the ropes means you’ll get down the path much more quickly.

3) Someone who can hear it all

Entrepreneurship comes with stress and headaches (sorry that this journey can’t be all-awesome, all the time). Therefore, in order to stay healthy inside and out, I think entrepreneurs need someone who can hear it all. This can be ranting on a run to a friend or even seeking out and investing in talk therapy. Given an entrepreneur’s busy and unpredictable schedule, resources like Talkspace can be invaluable in restoring sanity or just letting an entrepreneur share what’s happening internally with no fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Entrepreneurship is a journey that is long, often unpredictable, and full of challenges. It wasn’t meant to be traversed alone. Go farther and faster by having the right people to talk to.

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Community to the Table

What do you bring with you? 

To the meeting, to the night out with friends, on a first date, when you travel? What's coming with you?

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I bring my community to the table. Whether I'm serving on a nonprofit board, giving a speech, planning a wedding, helping someone network, or selling a client, my community comes with me. My network, my friends, my acquaintances, my family - all of this is in my back pocket to offer in hopes of making everyone better. 

Whether you're aware of it or not, you're bringing something with you everywhere you go, with each interaction. Maybe you're bringing:

  • Your fears
  • Your past
  • Your biases
  • Your optimism
  • Your hidden talents
  • Your pain
  • Your goals
  • Your needs
  • Your agenda
  • Your expertise

The other people in the meeting or at the bar or on the docket are bringing something, too. We're each more than the sum of our parts. Once we get out in the open not just who we are but what we have with us, we'll be amazed at all we can accomplish together.

Showing up empty-handed is impossible.

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The Hurdle is not the Finish Line

The gun goes off and the runners sprint out of their blocks. After the first 13 meters, they leap into the air over the first hurdle. They'll then do this every 8.5 meters, nine more times. 

But after they cross that last hurdle, they still have 10 and a half meters left until the race is over. The hurdles aren't the point. The finish line is. 

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It's easy to get caught up in the enormity and challenge of life's hurdles. We work hard to overcome something, and while that's cause for celebration, resist that urge until you reach the finish line.

Yes, you worked hard on the sales presentation, but the pitch isn't the finish line. Landing the deal is. Passing the midterm was tough, but there's more: graduation. 

Word hard and leap over any hurdle in your path. But by all means, keep your head up until the race is over.

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More Thoughts on Creativity

Sometimes, creativity is taking what others have done well and building upon it. 

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In that vein, here are some longer reads for your longer weekend to get those creative juices flowing. Dive in and let the creative waters wash over you. Here's to hoping you find that creative inspiration somewhere (because you do have to find it; it won't find you while you're idle).

Isaac Asimov’s Advice for Being Creative (Hint: Don’t Brainstorm) from Cal Newport

While group activities like brainstorming might be useful for lightweight projects, like coming up with a new slogan for an advertisement, if you’re instead trying to solve an unsolved proof, or, more pressingly, improve ballistic missile defense, there’s no way to avoid learning hard things and then thinking hard about what you learned, hoping to tease out a new connection.

Young Delacroix on the Importance of Solitude in Creative Work and How to Resist Social Distractions from Brain Pickings

I must work alone. I think that going into society from time to time, or just going out and seeing people, does not do much harm to one’s work and spiritual progress, in spite of what many so-called artists say to the contrary. Associating with people of that kind is far more dangerous; their conversation is always commonplace. I must go back to being alone.

The 10 Qualities of Creative Leaders from Farnam Street

One of the qualities that David Ogilvy looks for in creative leaders? The courage to make tough decisions.

And, here are my thoughts from last week on why you must make time to be creative.

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Easier or Stronger

When trying to motivate someone (to lead them somewhere, to inspire them), you either need to make something easier for them, or make them stronger in the process.

But these choices don't have equal consequences. 

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This is the hard work of parenting - deciding when to make something easy for your child or when to use an opportunity to make her stronger as she grows older. Likewise, it's the choice that leaders must make every day with those in their care. 

Of course, making something easier for someone is the more pleasant route, usually. You can play the hero and savior, the one who comes swooping in to save the day. Who doesn't like things easier, be they homework, office work, or yard work?

This is most true in sales. Will your invention or subscription make things easier for me? Easier to cook breakfast, tend the garden, or balance my household budget? If so, I'm in! 

The harder sell is to convince someone they want to be stronger. Strength only happens when we're challenged or pushed to our limits. That's a place of discomfort, inconvenience, or struggle. A place where things are hard, sweaty, complicated, and confusing. Who's signing up for that?

But, when you emerge from that place, you're better for it. You're stronger, smarter, and more confident. The only byproduct of ease is apathy. Easy and meaningful are opposites, after all. 

Leaders and parents: we have to err on the side of stronger, not the side of easier. We're playing a longer game than the salesperson who is only striving toward that month's quota or that quarter's commission. We're in this for life, and so are our children and employees. We're not converting prospects; we're building people. 

When faced with the choice between easier or stronger, choose stronger. Even if it's not easier, you'll be stronger for it, too.

Sam DavidsonComment
What's Right

Are you doing the right thing? 

Or the thing that's right for you?

There's a big difference, of course. (And only one of those is the choice of leadership.)

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The Alternative

She asked me, "Who's your competition?"

I was speaking with a potential investor and they were doing their due diligence in terms of sizing up the market and our position in it. I wanted to proudly proclaim, "No one!" in order to stake our claim on market dominance and convince her we were a worthy bet. 

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Of course, that wasn't true. We all have competition. 

Yes, Wal-Mart competes with Target and Amazon. But they also compete with your savings account, a trip to the beach, or just not getting your friend a birthday present this year.

If you're a realtor, you're not just competing against other realtors. You're also competing with the thought that not moving is the better decision.

Hotels fight against AirBnB, but also crashing on a friend's couch or just driving home after the meeting. The burrito place is up against the pizza place, but it's also up against your grill, that steak marinating in your fridge, and this incredible weather.

Competition isn't just about an alternative product. It's also about an alternative activity. 

We're all competing. Even if you don't think you are.

Sam DavidsonComment
The Creative Hour

Creativity is not feeling. It is an act. And it is not something you do when the time is right. It is something you do. 

Period.

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What could you do in a single hour dedicated to being creative each day? How much effort could you put into your life's work in those 60 minutes?

You could write a blog post. Or three. You could get started on a painting. Or finish one. Design a website. Write a new speech. Perfect your slide deck. Read wise words. Write wise words. Understand a new topic. Take in a fantastic film. Make a fantastic film.

There's no telling what you can do when you carve out time to be creative. 

Go. Steal a creative hour today from your schedule and fill it with your wildest dreams.

(And you do have to steal it. It will not just be handed to you.)

Sam DavidsonComment
What We Say No To

I bought some underwear last month.

My goal last year was to not buy any new clothes. I was looking to save money, and the reality is that I have plenty of clothes already. So my resolution for 2017 was not to spend any money on new clothing.

I did it.

When 2018 rolled around, I was happy with what the prior year's discipline had taught me. I learned to make do with what I already had. I became more resistant in the face of temptation: to grab a souvenir I didn't really need or spend money just because the word "sale" graced an email promotion. 

I finally broke my new clothing fast by buying some underwear at Target, because hey - when you need 'em, you need 'em. But I'm still not back to my old ways of seeking out a deal or filling my closet.

More importantly, I've decided to keep abstaining from certain things. I fast on Mondays now. I've unsubscribed from a lot of e-commerce newsletters. And rarely do I stock my fridge or pantry with sweets or empty calories. 

It certainly matters what you say yes to in life. But take stock of what you say no to as well. What won't stand. What doesn't matter. What shouldn't belong. What you can let go of.

When we say no to the things we don't need, we free ourselves for the things we really want.

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The Problem with Everyone

I saw Justin Timberlake in concert last week. So did a lot of other people. 

In fact, on this tour, he's sold out every show so far. Thousands of people chant and cheer and sing and dance at each concert. Pyrotechnics and highly choreographed lights and sounds add to the spectacle. It's the perfect experience to impress tens of thousands of people at once. For 100 nights in a year.

I also went to a house concert not too long ago. A handful of us gathered in a room and listened to someone sing and strum a guitar. No lights. No microphones. No merch table. Just raw songs delivered in a heartfelt way to a couple of folks. The next time it happens, it'll be completely different.

Two different experiences. Two different feelings. 

Intimacy doesn't scale. Anonymity does. That's why the house show was unforgettable and the arena concert was just like all the others. That's why your marriage is meaningful and Twitter is a headache. 

From a business standpoint, one isn't necessarily better than the other and they each have their profitability models. So the question isn't where you can make money. It's why you want to do what you do. 

Building for scale can lessen the room for error, but it also lessens the space for connection.

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Maybe the Mona Lisa Isn’t Finished

Maybe the Mona Lisa isn’t finished. I have an idea. Let's find the best living artist to add some flair. Touch it up. Put a bird on it. 

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Would that make it better? Does even the thought that maybe it’s not done enhance your appreciation of it? Or does this idea make you nauseous? 

Musicians sample from other great songs endlessly. Sometimes, the results are mashups and remixes that sound quite good. They don’t make the original any worse; they just build upon a foundation to make something else that’s beautiful. 

What’s beautiful is usually what’s not done yet. 

Something is only done when you're ready to walk away, when you say it's over. Otherwise, keep painting something beautiful. Your masterpiece is waiting for you to get to work.

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10 Things That Stand in the Way of Progress

Any of these 10 things can derail progress toward a goal, a milestone, or an accomplishment:

  • Pride
  • Fear
  • History
  • Comfort
  • Routine
  • Superstition
  • Solitude
  • Haste
  • Ignorance
  • Safety

You thought it was risk? No - risk is the very thing that makes progress possible. If something isn't at stake, then there's nothing that needs improving or changing.

Stare risk in the face and move past it by leaving these 10 inhibitors where they belong: on the other side of history.

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