Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged entrepreneurship
College and University Keynote Speaker

I'm proud to officially announce today that I'm part of the CAMPUSPEAK family. This fantastic organization helps colleges and universities find relevant and dynamic keynote and workshop presentations for students. Learn more about CAMPUSPEAK here. If your campus or students are in need of a message about leadership, community change, or social entrepreneurship, you can learn more about the keynotes I offer.

I'm excited to launch this next stage of my speaking career, helping university students think critically about their future when it comes to how they will use their lives to make the world a better place. 

What Does Your 10-Year Vision Look Like?

Recently, I've spoken to a handful of people about what they want their company to have done 10 years from now. In most cases, they start to rattle off business principles and bullet points:

  • Be profitable
  • Expand to at least five new markets
  • Be the largest company in their industry
  • Sell more products than ever before
  • Gain national exposure through earned media
  • Have a customer base over 1,000,000 strong

And so on. Each of these is nice to have, for sure. But each misses the mark.

If the 10-year vision we have for ourselves and our company is only about ourselves and our company, we've dreamed too small. We need to have a vision of what the world will be like 10 years from now because of our work.

If, 10 years from now, our work has made no change on culture, our clients, or our employees, then all we did was make money. While earning income is fine, cash without purpose is empty.

What will the world look like 10 years from now if your company is successful?

  • People will be able to spend more time doing what matters
  • Certain prejudices will be eliminated
  • The planet will be healthier
  • Couples and families will have better relationships with each other
  • Communities will be stronger and neighborhoods will be safer
  • Two common diseases will have better treatments

This is where our work begins. We imagine the type of world we'd like to see and then we can determine how we can get there. If we can picture a better world, then our organizations can start to develop products and services to make that dream come true.

It is this kind of vision that also captivates and inspires others. No one cares about your company; everyone wants to live in a better world.

The chief aim of your work isn't to make money; it's to create a better future. When you do the latter, the former always happens.

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On My Impending Digital Detox

This time tomorrow, I'll be boarding a cruise ship. And when I do, my phone will be off and I won't check email for an entire week. I'll be on vacation. A real vacation. For the first time in over six years.

When you start and manage your own business(s), you take vacation, but you're never really not connected. I've taken time off from work, but checking email via my phone just to stay on top of things still happened while lounging near a pool or taking in a new city. Yes, I've relaxed, but I've never gone off the grid.

But, I'm doing it. I won't be going to the handy (and expensive) Internet cafe on the cruise ship just to read that day's email. I won't be posting pictures to Facebook of my daughter with Mickey Mouse in real time. I won't check voicemail. I won't be tweeting. I'll be radio silent.

When I decided to do this three weeks ago, I was a bit nervous at first. But after that initial anxiety went away, I've been nothing but excited.

I'll have a whole week of in-between. Whatever comes in can wait. I won't mistake urgent for important (at least for this week). I'll do nothing digital.

Pre-scheduled emails (like Dose and Cool People Care) will still fly. Tweets and status updates that were pre-planned will still happen. But no blogging. No commenting. No tagging.

Just being.

See you in a few.

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Four Reasons to Start a New Business

If you're thinking about taking the leap to start a new business, there are lots of things to consider. You'll need to set a budget for yourself and your family, you may need to find office space, you'll need to get all the legal stuff in order. But I believe you must also consider the "Why?" behind starting a business. Your heart, soul, attention, and time will be poured into this endeavor. Therefore, you need a compelling reason to do it.

For me, when I'm asked to co-found a company, be the lead entrepreneur on something, or join a founding team, I have to have all of the following elements in place to jump in:

The right people

Who else is a part of this? Do I like working with them? Do they work hard? Will it be enjoyable to work with them? Do I admire what they've done so far? Will I learn something from them? Do we have similar values? Do we have different skill sets?

A big idea

I'm not interested in opening a coffee shop; I want to open 100 of them. Does this idea get me excited because it's a big, bold idea? Is it a disruptive idea? Is it innovative? Does it have the potential to reach lots of people? Will it change the way people think or interact?

A meaningful idea

Does this idea have social meaning? Could it change the world? Does it help people in some way? Does it meet a need that is currently being overlooked? Will I feel good or proud when I work on this?

A valuable idea

Will this make money? Could it possibly make a lot of money? What are the revenue streams? What are our costs? Would someone want to buy this one day? How big could this get?

All four of these qualities must be in place for me to consider launching something or helping to start something new. If they're not, then I pass. And if they're not in place for your business idea, I'd suggest you move on to the next idea on your list.

Starting something you don't care about with people you hate might still make you rich, but it won't make you happy. And if you can't be happy starting something, then stay where you are.

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A Manifesto for the Rest of Us

I have no desire to be location independent. I may like to travel or go on vacation, but using my laptop on the beach doesn't sound fun. I don't want to work just four hours a week. I don't mind work if I enjoy it, use my talents, and am appreciated.

I want a job I love.

I want my kids to admire, appreciate, and adore me.

I want to be around to do fun things with my parents, my siblings, my friends, and my family.

I want to settle down, plant roots, and watch my legacy grow for a while.

Instead of being wealthy, sexy, or hip, I really just want to be happy.

And if I go to the ends of the earth looking for happiness and it turns out that it was right in front of me all along - in the form of stability, family, and simplicity - then that's on me.

What I need then is to find a place where I can use my talents and gifts and be rightly rooted in community.

I don't want to miss out on a great life because the one someone else was living looked more alluring through the rose-colored glasses of the Internet.

Beaches and independence don't have a monopoly on fun, meaning, belonging, happiness, or impact.

Being the master of my fate and the captain of my soul may mean that I decide to leave the vessel in port for a while. Parties happen there, too, you know.

I don't want to miss out on where I am because I'm always thinking about where I should be.

Community can happen in lots of ways, but it happens best when you show up, shut off your phone, and create memories together.

The real journey I'm on is the quest to be me. That's the one I'm chasing; not the one someone else is after.

Here's to the rest of us, the ones who are learning to be our best selves, to be happy where we are, to dream bigger than ever before, understanding that dreams can move us without moving us.

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Is $500 All That Stands in the Way of You and a Dream?

As I meet more and more people who want to chase a dream in order to start a company or live their lives more fully, I also met more and more excuses as to why people don't take the risky leap and chase their passion. Here are some of the excuses that people seem to have on why they can't follow after something:

  • Not enough time
  • Don't know how
  • Don't know enough people
  • No passport
  • Little experience
  • No one will trust them
  • Too much competition
  • Lacking confidence
  • Fear of failure
  • Need money

Most of the things on the list above can be quickly overcome, especially the last one. Many ideas we have for new companies or ways to live a more passionate life don't require millions of dollars, but rather can be started with just an extra $500. And if you think you can't find that kind of cash, then stop complaining and start looking around your house.

To find $500, you could:

Don't think you can do it? Then you may as well admit that your passion isn't as important as TV or clothes. Maybe once you say that out loud, you'll be willing to make the hard decisions to sacrifice what can be sold so you can earn what can't be bought.

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Finishing Well [Video post]

Starting things can be an exciting process; the newness, the frenzy, and the unpredictably is often intoxicating. But, finishing things is just as important. I think our legacy depends on it.

In the clip below, I share a story of why we need to finish well. The things you're working on right now matter more than you may realize.

Can't see the video? Click here.

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You're Still Fighting

A few weeks ago, while listening to sports radio in my car, a basketball coach was being interviewed. His team did not make the NCAA Tournament and was instead invited to the less prestigious NIT Tournament. When asked if he was disappointed and whether or not his players would respond positively and play hard, he said:

We're still playing, and that's important. Whether you're in the middle of the ring in Madison Square Garden fighting for the heavyweight boxing championship or you're caught in a street fight in a back alley, you're still fighting. You have to size up your opponent and go to battle. The location doesn't matter. Either way, you're still flighting.

In our life and work, we clamor for the big stage. We yearn for recognition and accolades and can easily assume that if it's not well known, it's not worth it. Why play on the small stage? Shouldn't we just risk it all and work hard and only worry about landing big clients, big PR opportunities, or big money?

Nope. You need to do what it takes to keep fighting.

The interview with the local weekly newspaper is just as important as the one with USA Today.

Guest blogging on a small niche site can reap rewards just like getting mentioned on the large tech site can.

Selling something one at a time may not give you the same rush as selling 1,000 at once, but hey - you're still selling.

Whether you're managing one employee or 100, it's important that you work together as a team.

Every fight matters. Concern yourself less with the stage and the audience and get to work.

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Am I Here to Encourage or Criticize?

Many times, people keep plodding along with an idea because no one has told them it's not good or viable or possible. And, many times, people give up on a great idea too soon because they didn't receive enough encouragement to keep going. When you have an idea, solicit feedback. Ask friends, family, and strangers what they think. And when you do, be crystal clear that you'd either like them to encourage you to see it through or criticize the idea in a very honest way.

You need to know whether to plow through or stop in your tracks.

Lots of kids on American Idol should have been told a long time ago by a parent or a friend that they're not good at singing. And I bet there are thousands of people who should have shown up to audition because they have a great singing voice but no one has told them.

It hurts to hear that your idea doesn't have merit or legs, but that pain is much duller than finding yourself bankrupt or hopeless because years of trying never paid off.

I've mentioned before that we all need cheerleaders. This is a great role for family and friends to play because it's a natural fit. But don't let their cheering voices drown out the handful of objective strangers that can tell you honestly whether or not your idea has a chance. When you get the meeting with the investor, the experienced entrepreneur, or the potential co-founder, before you pitch, ask them to be brutally honest whether or not your idea is worth chasing.

Then, they'll have your permission not to sugarcoat anything. And this is good. You don't need candy. You need the nutritious power of open and honest feedback.

What you don't want from anyone are polite smiles and nods. That doesn't tell you anything. You need someone to either jump on a couch or laugh in your face.

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Go Beyond the Tools to Find Your Passion

You're not passionate about social media. You're not passionate about entrepreneurship. You're not passionate about nonprofits, and you're not passionate about making money. All of these things are mere tools that you use to live out a passion. Saying you're passionate about these things is like a carpenter saying he's passionate about his hammer. He may prefer his hammer to his screwdriver, but what he truly loves is building something.

Social media is a tool that a person who's passionate about telling stories uses.

Entrepreneurship is just a tool used by someone who is passionate about making new things or awesome things or who wants to share an idea that matters.

People passionate about helping others may use the nonprofit sector and structure to do that.

When I ask people what they're passionate about and they start listing tools, I stop them and ask them to get to the core of what they love and who they are. One way to correct ourselves when we start listing tools as passions is to ask ourselves what we'd be passionate about if it were 1972 - 40 years ago.

Back then, you couldn't be passionate about social media or online marketing or computers or Apple. But you could be passionate about storytelling or community building or difference making.

Here's a list of passions that transcend time. I bet you get excited about a few of them:

  • Helping people
  • Communicating
  • Sharing ideas
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Navigating change
  • Solving problems
  • Good design
  • Innovation

Any of these things could build a great career for you for a very long time. Understanding that the available tools will change over time to help you articulate these passions means you'll be flexible in an ever-changing world of work.

Don't go praising the tools. Use them. That's what they're there for.

What would you add?

What's your passion that transcends time?

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Skin in the Game

If you want to get someone connected to your cause, mission, or company, let them put skin in the game. When everyone thinks like owners, better work gets done. Michael Hyatt tells a very exciting story about putting up his home as collateral for a loan that could make or break his young company. While the bet was big, it was the only option. Had the stakes not been so high, his energy, action, and follow through would not have been so focused and passionate. When you have skin in the game, it gets serious.

Employees work harder if you can give them a stake in what you're doing. Maybe it's equity, maybe it's a solid vision, maybe it's a benefits plan. Give them something more than a job.

Investors and board members care about strategic decisions being made. Their time and investment is at stake. That's serious.

This is why you have insurance on your home or life. Things are serious and life is real. This stuff matters.

You need to start looking at your career and dreams the same way. The "What happens if this doesn't work out?" question needs to have an answer that puts you all in. Push your chips to the middle of the table and call your passion to see what kind of cards it's holding.

If the answer to that question is:

  • I'll just go back to doing what I do now.
  • I'll find something else to do.
  • I guess it means that it wasn't meant for me.
  • I'll find work that I don't care about or can slog through each day to get a paycheck.

...then you may not work hard enough to turn your dream into reality.

But if the answer is:

  • I couldn't go on. I want to do this or I want to do nothing.

...then you may have the inner passion to see this thing through.

Raise the stakes. Keep betting and calling yourself until there is no other option but to lay all your cards on the table and see what you win.

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