Monthly Archives: October 2018

How To Think Outside The Box

In this post you’ll find a few tips on how to think outside
the box.


The ability to solve the problems life throws at us is one
of the most important things one needs to have if one wants to be successful in
life and business. The simplest truth is that the more problems you are able to
solve, the more successful you’re more likely to be in your ventures whichever
they might be. When we ask for advice for some problem, the common solutions we
receive tend to come as suggestions for tools we can use to solve the problem
in question, and when no one can give us a “quick and dirty” kind of tool or
trick to solve our problems, what is called for is the ability to what most
people call “think outside the box”.


How to think outside the box

So, what is thinking outside the box all about? When we
think about the idea of thinking outside the box the first idea that comes to
mind is the kind of person who when faced with a problem for which the
available tools are not able to solve, is able to either find a new way to use
the tools he/she has at hand, or find/create new tools that can do the job, by
either looking into other areas of study or by inventing them itself. There are
a few things we can all do to enhance this “thinking outside the box” muscle,
and below are a few.

1. Look for some light from other fields

We talk of creativity as an important thing
to have for problem solving, but just like love is one of those things we all
wish for but we can’t define. For that reason it can be difficult to harness it
for our own purposes. The easiest way to find new insights is by looking at
other fields similar or not to yours, and make an inventory of the most common
problems and their solutions.


In science, it’s not far from common for
new discoveries in one field to have an  impact in another, creating a ripple effect of
discoveries, moving the common knowledge forward. So, for this reason, creating
the habit of reading more broadly might just like exercising be one of those
things that although we might not immediately see the results, over time its
the most helpful thing you can do for yourself. This way you save yourself the
time for coming up with brilliant ideas that already exist.



2. Question everything

Another strategy to increase the odds that
you do get to think outside the box is to question everything no matter how
established it might be. Sometimes, the most venerated ways are not the only
ones that there are, but most people behave as if they were. For such cases,
there is a lot of room for you to come up with your own creative breakthroughs
never thought before by anyone because of the simple idea that once we find the
solution for a problem, we tend to stop looking for new solutions. Eventually
we get so used to the old ways that we start to assume they are the only way to
get what we want. So, the trick is simple: question everything, no matter how
obvious it might seem to be. Because people make mistakes, and if they are
confident enough of the truthiness of their mistakes they can get the whole
planet into taking mistakes in reasoning as facts, there is lots of room for
disruption. Just think of the most respected people on the planet: scientists,
who more than once made claims about the world we live in which were bought by
the masses, and accepted as dogmas, until someone more clever was able to find
the flaws and led the world into a new way of looking at things. Taking this in
consideration, the question then becomes: 
“what makes you think that what you think you know is true now, really
is the truth?”


We can apply the same idea to pretty much
anything. From the limits science defines as unsurpassable, to the well-established
fail proof protocols your organization uses to hire the best possible people.
The downsides of taking such an approach are that 1) It’s very easy to convince
ourselves that whatever we’re questioning at the moment is actually the true
representation of reality, and as a result we assume that there is nothing left
for us to learn, 2) the fact that most of the time that will be the true, and
3) that the lovers of the old ways are likely to make the whole deal a lot more
difficult for us by trying in all ways possible to discourage us.


3. Find ways to enhance your creativity

Creativity is in essence the combination of
desperate ideas into something new. The whole idea of combining desperate ideas
 is in and on itself what we would
consider thinking outside the box. We start with the known, and our own set of
assumptions about the known, and in a creative moment we come up with something
outside the set of the known, which ends up expanding as a result the set of
what is possible for us. So, if we can find a way to enhance our creativity, or
at the very least increase the frequency of our creative moments, we in essence
gain some level of control over the moments in which we expand our mind, and do
what we call thinking outside the box.


The big problem with creative moments is that
they are as unpredictable as they are amazing. I’m sure you had such an
experience in which you’re doing some sort of creative work, and you made the
mistake of trying to force the creative moment to come. Writers call this
writers block, when they create a viciously negative cycle where the more they
force the creative moment to come, the more away it’s pulled from them. The
common wisdom for such cases is to take the opposite approach. The idea is to
relax and let the mind go where it wants to go.


you went through the creative struggle sometime in the past and tried this
approach, chances are that you noticed its effects. You spend hours if not days
hitting your head on the wall looking for the solution, and only in the moment
you truly gave yourself  time of away
from the problem was when the insight came almost effortlessly to your


In the book Your brain at work by David
Rock, the author claims that one possible reason why such a thing to happen is
that the subconscious  parts of our brains
solve the problems in parallel with our conscious selves. Often what happens is
that the conscious parts block the answers that come from the subconscious, and
only when we take a break, that the subconscious is “free” to tell us what it


4.  Learn to trust your instincts

There is a lot we have learned over the
centuries about the world around us, so much so that we gained the ability to
adapt our environment to suit our needs in ways no other species was able to
replicate.  And with all that knowledge,
there is still lots to learn about our own brains. It wasn’t long ago that the
scientific community believed in the idea that the brain was fixed, and that
all of its connections were created in childhood. Now we learned about what
goes by the name of neuroplasticity, which forces us to question our own
notions of what the brain really is.


One thing we still struggle to understand
is creativity, or insights, which occur often enough with all of us, but we
somehow find it hard to predict when it will come, or to make it come from our
own will. The same applies to our subconscious processes. We hardly understand
them, and yet they never fail to impress us with their capabilities. With
hypnosis for example, a 10 year smoker who could never quit, then magically
quits in a few days if not hours. Simple and mundane things like the water or
familiar smells become in a snap of a finger triggers for phobias or  unpleasant emotions. We wonder how can that
be, and the answer is: the subconscious mind.


When we think of instincts the subconscious
would probably be the part of our brains that we would associate them with. We
face a situation, and in a flash we know exactly what to do, even in situations
in which we have no prior experience at. So, it should follow that if we have
such an engine somewhere within ourselves, with capabilities beyond our
comprehension, that we should once in a while, take the leap of faith and
follow it to where it leads us. If your goal is to come up with a creative
product, then one amazing strategy is to start with the first idea that comes
to mind.


5. Constantly expose yourself to the new

The ability to think more creatively, or
outside the box, is just like Health one of those things that can be improved
through some specified activities. Thinking outside the box can then be
improved by being exposed to more things. Since the ability to make connections
between desperate ideas is one of the marks of this kind of thinking and
creativity, we can argue that one can only can only make connections between
desperate ideas only if one knows about those same desperate ideas separately.
It’s the same idea that one can only cook a meal if one has the ingredients for
that meal available. Each field of knowledge you expose yourself to brings with
it new ways of thinking as well as new problem solving strategies, and  sometimes thinking outside the box is just a
matter of taking what works in one field, and apply it somewhere else where the
idea is needed.


So constantly exposing yourself to the new
means avoiding the ways of thinking that make you stick only to your field of
mastery, the kind of idea which makes mathematicians assume acting is not for
them, or dating experts think they don’t have the brains for computer

Remember, the goal here is not to become a
master of everything you get in contact with, since even if you wanted to it
would take an unreasonable amount of time and effort to attain. The goal is to
take as much as you can from everything you get in contact with. Just because
you mastered in web development doesn’t mean you can’t read on neuroscience.
So, the more you read about broad categories of subjects, the more raw
materials you give  your mind to
fabricate the kind of outside the box thinking you so desperately seek. Now
you’re certain you can think outside the box because you’ve been outside the
box. You’ve been outside the box of your field of expertise.



What makes thinking outside the box
complicated is the fact that just like creativity and love, it’s an abstract
idea. Our minds work better when they deal with things they can grasp, and
outside the box thinking is not in that category of graspable things. There are
however, things you can do to indirectly influence your outside the box
thinking machine. Some of them were discussed in this post, but there is
certainly more out there. So, along with everything we discussed here, try also
to build your own composite of outside the box thinking strategies from books,
and courses, and one place you can start is by reading the following books:


The rise of superman by Steven Kotler

brain at work by David Rock

Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger


It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to make good decisions

In this post you’ll find a few tips on how to make good decisions.

The ability to make good decisions on our day to day lives is one of those things that has a humungous effect on our professional side, as well as on our life in general. One great decision has the power to make even the worst projections turn 180 into the greatest results of all time. One wrong decision on the other hand, can take you from a winning streak to winless losses, where you stubble permanently away from what Steven Kotler in The rise of superman calls by  “The zone”.


So no wonder we struggle with the decision making process the way we do. We learn early in life the effects of the decisions we make from the results we get from them, and then making sure we make the best possible decision in each situation becomes one of our priorities. Some of us get lost in the array of possibilities, and become paralyzed, while others prefer to ignore that nagging and doubtful part of ourselves that makes us double check the choices we make. Like most things in life the extremes bring their own benefits, and in the same batch also an array of downsides which can be detrimental to our decision making.


How to make good decisions?

The way to making good decisions is one of those very important things that we don’t yet have a defined map to. Lucky enough for us, there are a few ideas that while not perfect, can bring us closer to the right decision. Below are a few.


1. Create your composite of rules of thumb

The first step towards better decision making is the accumulation of the so called “rules of thumb” to speed up your decision making process. The reason for this is that when we have predefined rules on how to behave in a certain situation such that we consistently get positive outcomes, we don’t have to spend time finding out what to do in the first place. Sometimes we have little to no time in our hands, and what is called for is the ability to make the right decision in the snap of a finger. When you have a premade recipe on how to succeed in the situation you’re facing time becomes irrelevant. It becomes less a matter of how quickly you can come up with the solution, but more a matter of how quickly you implement it.


The great thing about being born in the current times that most of us ignore is that since there are many who came before us, for a given day to day problem, chances are that there is a rule or group of rules already at place that allowed the ones who came before us to succeed. All we have to do is to look for such blueprints for success, and adopt them into our day to day lives. For that Google is certainly our best friend, giving us access to the collective knowledge of the entire planet in just a matter of seconds.


When you build your own composite of rules and blueprints, you stop worrying or thinking about problems which were already solved also called “reinventing the wheel”, and we instead compound on the knowledge accumulated by the ones who came before us, and spend more time solving the problems for which there is not yet a solution.


2. Assume you’re wrong

The next step for great decision making is to second guess your decisions. Try to always find a weakness in your reasoning, or something you might have missed, which would make you take the opposite route, or make the opposite decision.


The ability to self-criticize is one of the most difficult and yet most productive things any one can do for itself, since in the end of the day, although we can delude ourselves as much as we want, the truth will always remain what it is whether we like it or not.  Good decisions can only be said to be good if we put them against the truth, which means that in order to make good decisions we need to know if they are good because they are good in reality, not good just because we think they are good. This is by far one of the most difficult things for humans to do. How can you know whether what you think is true really is the truth and not the result of a bias you might be operating under? There is no clear and cut answer to this question, but one way to get you closest to the truth is to expose your thought process to people who have more experience in the kind of subject you find yourself struggling with. Even they can make mistakes, but assuming they have a good track record in their decision making, chances are that their answers are the closest thing to the truth you seek. 


3.Delegate as little as possible

The ability to make good decisions just like most things in life is a skill that can be exercised. The more decisions you make in a certain subject the better you become at making the kind of decisions/choices that get you what you want with the least amount of effort. The big problem with this point is that you won’t be able to avoid bad decisions, but with those you can learn what not to do the next time, and the next time you’re likely to do better.


The only thing you have to make sure you avoid is the kind of bad decisions that prevent you from even getting the benefit of learning from your mistakes, meaning the kind of decision that kills you instead of making you stronger.


The billionaire investor Warren Buffet once talked about such kind of mistakes, and attributed the ability to avoid them as one of the reasons why he has become so successful in the financial world. So, the idea is not to avoid making mistakes, because you’ll make them anyway, but to choose the kinds of mistakes you make, so the idea is to stay away from the kind of bets or attempts that can prove to be deadly if you get them wrong. Notice that by “deadly” I don’t mean deadly in the true sense of losing your life which is also possible, but more in the sense that you lose the ability to go back and try again. This could mean getting so much into debt in a business venture that it becomes impossible for you to try starting something new.


3.Stress test your decisions

Here just like point #2 the idea is to find a way to make sure that what you think of as the best decision is actually the best, and not the result of a bias inherent in your thinking. In point # 2 you do it to yourself, by always second guessing your conclusions before you commit fully to them. Here you should get other and wiser people to do it for you by encouraging them to poke holes in your thinking, and give you their piece of mind on how they behaved in previous and similar situations.


The big problem with stress testing our decisions ourselves is that we are prone to dozens and dozens of cognitive biases which directly or indirectly affect our decisions and the way we perceive the world. Sometimes they can be so sneaky that even when we are made aware of their existence we still overlook them. So, we try to second guess ourselves, the flawed decision passes the second guessing and so we assume that we did a good job. Other people on the other hand, because they are not us, they can more easily spot the flaws on our judgement and more quickly get us in the right course. Notice that this is only possible or makes sense if the person judging your judgement is able to come up with concrete reasons why or where it might be flawed. This is why more experienced people can be of use, because unlike any other people they voice their opinions based on real life experience as opposed to just what they feel is right.


4. Free your ego from your decision making

One of the biggest problems with making good decisions is that the moment we make a decision and commit to it, it becomes harder four our egos to change positions, especially if the right decision is the complete opposite of what we thought it was, and we have been made aware of it by other people.


We tend to stick with our position when we notice that we are being observed by others because admitting our decisions are wrong, means admitting we are not as perfect as we want everybody to think we are. So, instead of doing our best to find the best decision we can possibly find, the goal then becomes to try to prove we’re right regardless of whether we really are or not. So, we lose the chance to make a good decision and learn how to make better ones in the future, and we also lose the respect of our peers when they start associating our names with the words insecurity and ignorance.


Assuming you might be wrong on your conclusions and decisions, and cultivating the spirit of curiosity to find the truth should then the be in set of tools you use on your fight against ignorance and close mindedness.


5. Avoid being certain of things you can’t possibly be certain about

From self-help books and motivational speakers we learn that we have to believe our ways into having our goals and dreams manifested. While it’s certainly important to be confident in one self in order to sustain the terrible moments of struggle in the pursuit of our goals, the same confidence can be detrimental in your decision making, specially if uncertainty is handled through wishful thinking based decisions. If we knew every single variable at play in each of our decisions, and how each interacts with another, chances are pretty high that we would be able to predict the future. The problem is that most of the time we’re not even aware of all the variables at play, and when we are, the number is so huge that it becomes unrealistic to try to take all of them in consideration in our decision making process.

When faced with such kind of problem, most of us resort to the “positive thinking” idea we have been taught, which does nothing more than putting our minds at ease even when we should be worried. 

When faced with uncertainty, resist the urge to assume everything will work perfectly, specially if the downsides of a scenario in which things go the opposite way are higher than the benefits when we are faced with the same scenario.


When we train ourselves to assume that the worst case scenario is not only possible but also likely to happen and we tailor our choices and actions to such scenarios, we build more robust solutions for the problems life throws at us.  Assuming the worst case scenario becomes then not a matter of pessimism, but more a matter of preventive realism.



It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to know if a business idea will succeed

In this post you’ll get a few tips on how to know if a
business idea will succeed.


We live in a time in which people who 10 or 20 years ago
never thought of starting a business, now not only consider it, but also take
the first steps towards it. The internet not only made it possible to start a
business with little to no money, but also to learn to start such kind of
businesses in the first place, in addition to pretty much anything  about the business world. So, the big problem
is more and more in being able to tell whether an idea will succeed or not,
since even though it is possible to start a business with little money, losing
is still losing, specially if the little money you were able to put in is the
only money you have available.


How to know if a business idea will succeed?

The thing about telling if your business idea in particular
will succeed or not is that there is no specific method to do it. If there was
such a thing, investors would never lose money, and the thousands of people who
lose their money in the stock market every year would be in a comfortable
place. What there is however, is a few time tested points you can look into,
which if positive  tend to point to the
possibility that the business idea will succeed. Sometimes even when it’s all
right, the business fails, but with the data and knowledge we have today, being
able to sometimes finding winners as opposed to always, is way better than
never finding winners in the first place. Below are a few things you can look
into to help you answer this question.

1. Make a poll on your potential costumers

The one thing I learned when I started
thinking about business was that what you offer has to deliver value to the costumers;
otherwise chances are that no one will buy it. Since the only people who can
tell when you whether what you offer (product/service) delivers value or not is
people you’re building the product/service for, the strategy is simple: if your
poll on your target costumers is negative, this is a sign that you might either
have to change the product or change the costumer, and if it’s positive on the
other hand, a sign that you might be onto something. The thing to pay attention
to here is to make sure that 1) you poll a realistic sample of your potential
target customers, since friends and family members are more likely to be biased
to give us a “thumbs up”, and 2) that you take the results of the poll to heart
(i.e take it as an approximation of the truth whatever it is).


2. Talk with people in the industry you’re planning
to enter

Another way to get some valuable feedback
on your idea is to talk to people in the industry you’re planning to enter.
Here you could either talk to people who work for businesses similar to the one
you want to start, or the owners themselves. There is one problem however, and
that is that you have a far greater chance of getting valuable information from
the first group of people more than you would if you were to try to talk to the
business owners themselves. I learned this lesson indirectly a while ago, when
me and my team were looking for advice from the founder of a business similar
to the one we were trying to start but in a different market. Because the
person believed we wanted to build the same thing, and implement it in the same
market as theirs, we could barely get any valuable information.

So, you have more chances if you talk to
the people who work for businesses in the industries that you want to enter.
Which means that you want to start a restaurant as an example, you have greater
chances of obtaining valuable information if you talk to the waiters, and cooks
as opposed to the owners of the restaurants.

3. Is it in a new and not yet crowded market?

Another thing you can do to be able to tell
whether your idea will succeed or not is to think about the market you want to
get into. In general new and unexplored markets have the potential for amazing
success, although they tend to be risky if it comes with some sort of change in
thinking/culture in your target customers.


Saturated markets on the other hand are
known for being difficult to succeed in, due to the elevated number of
competitors. Another thing you can ask yourself is where the kind of
products/services you plan to offer will be in the future. Ideally you want to
make sure that your idea will succeed not only in the short term but for the
years if not decades to come. This is the approach the billionaire investor
Warren Buffet is known to take in the process of looking for new investments.
Here the question is not just “will my business succeed when a start it”, but
“how long after I start my business will I be able to stay in business?”


4. How hard will it be for new competitors to take what
you have?

Another important question is whether it
would be easy for new competitors to appear in the map, and to take your market
share. This is what investors call by barriers to entry, when the nature of the
business makes it difficult for new comers to replicate it.


In general you want to make sure the
business you plan to start has some sort of barrier to entry, or you have what
Warren Buffet calls “competitive advantage”, so in case a new potential
competitor tries to start a business similar yours, its either difficult for
him to do it, or even if he does it, that you still keep what you earned. This
touches in the same idea of the previous point, meaning that the real question
is not whether you’ll succeed when you start, but how long will you remain in
business after you start.


5. Does it have early adopters?

The next thing to think about when it comes
to a product or service is whether it has adopters to it. For new ways of
thinking for example, the job of making new idea take root is much easier if
there are already people at place who are predisposed to adopt it. When the
idea you’re trying to implement doesn’t have any early adopters, your job is to
find ways to convince people, which tends to be more and more difficult when
what you have to offer challenges one or more of their already existent
beliefs/ideas. In general the youth tends to be the most fervent
follower/adopter of new ideas and ways of thinking, as well as new


6. Who are the biggest players?

Another question to make along with whether the market is
saturated or not, is to know who you’re competing with, and more important than
that, who are the biggest players in the niche you plan to enter. The reason
for this is that sometimes the size and resources of the competition happens to
be their moat, making any attempt to compete difficult at best and impossible
at worst. So, does your idea imply that you’ll have to compete with  giants? One example of this is in the search
engine world with Google and Bing dominating the biggest chunks of their niches.
If anyone of us tried to compete with their size, popularity, and resources, we
would be facing an uphill battle most certain to result in a loss. The same
resources and mental energy we would be spending trying to fight with giants
could be employed in other products/services, or in other markets. It’s
certainly not impossible that anyone of us could come up with another search
engine that takes the crown away from Google, but it would take more than just
a good idea to do so.

7. How are you planning to obtain resources?

Resources just like a good idea lay the foundation of a
great business. Without resources such as money, and people, the idea, no
matter how great will be one with no legs: something we all look at and think
of as valuable, but nothing more.

The thing about great ideas is that they come with an
expiration date. If what you have really is of value, and could potentially be
a million, billion or even trillion dollar idea, chances are that eventually
someone else will think of it, and if they have the means to implement it, they
might be the first to reap its rewards, even though they weren’t the first
thinking about it. If you’re even slightly creative, chances are that you’ve
thought of something great at some point, to later discover not only that
someone else already did it, but that they have become wildly successful
through it. They found a way to have the resources required to give life to the
idea. So, if you’re sure you have something great in mind, the next big
question is: “how can I raise money?”

8. Is there a big enough market?

This question goes on the lines of question 5 but with an
extra point. While in point 5 we ask whether the idea has people who would be
willing or predisposed to implement it, here we ask whether that number of people
is big enough to build a business around it. Anyone can have a good idea for a
business that delivers real value. What is difficult is to find an idea with
real people who really need the value the idea has to offer, and even more
difficult is to find an idea in which the number of people who would benefit
from it is large enough to build a business. Sometimes the value is there, the
costumers also, but the latter is not enough. If you’re a creative kind who
spends time coming up with new business ideas, you’ve probably came up with an
idea or two of that type. When you think about it, the idea sounds genius, when
you talk about it with your immediate circle the responses are overwhelmingly
positive, some even going as far as saying that they would be willing to pay
for what you have to offer. The thing is that your immediate circle is often
biased into telling you what you want to hear, with the fears of hurting you,
the relationship or both. Sometimes however, it goes the opposite way. Meaning
that your immediate circle is assertive and they don’t shy away from telling
you how much likely the idea is likely to fail. Here they worry about you, they
are not necessarily trying to hurt you, but the complete opposite: they want to
protect you from deluding yourself.

So the point is that if you try to answer this question by
talking to your immediate circle(friends and family), there is always the
chance that you’ll get a false positive or a false negative. The solution is to
just like scientists look for unbiased sources of intelligence. Instead of
looking for that kind of information from family members, you should find ways
to poll real and potential customers, who have nothing to gain or lose by
telling you the truth and nothing more.

Knowing if there is a big enough market for your idea is
perhaps the one thing that can tell you if the idea will or won’t succeed.
Unlike the way we all think, it won’t be because of the weakness of the idea,
since the idea could be great, but more because in spite of the greatness of
the idea, not enough people found it valuable enough to pay for it. And when no
one is willing to pay for what you have to offer you don’t have a business.



The ideas here are not conclusive. Meaning that we can easily
find real world examples about businesses that went against one or more of the
points discussed above, and still succeeded. The ideas above are just a
description of a few rules of thumb you can use, but in the end of the day you
have the final say.


It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

How to build a killer start-up team

In this post you’ll find a few tips on how to build a great
team for your start-up.

Starting a business is one of those things that although has
gotten relatively easier and easier as time went by, it’s still challenging. If
you’ve read enough content about businesses, you’ve probably stumbled into the
notion that most start-ups fail within the first year of operation. This could
be due to various reasons, among them having the wrong product/service, as well
as having the wrong people at place. So, along with the need to have a killer
idea, starting a business also requires us to have a killer team. One can just
assume that if people are a part of the problem when new business ventures
fail, that he/she might be better off without anybody. The truth is that
although interesting and even appealing, starting a business by yourself is
harder than it seems, unless of course, that the business you plan to start is
both small enough to be successfully ran by you and you alone, and that you
don’t plan to see that business grow into something bigger than it is. Because
either you want to admit it or not, you’ll need people at some point, being
that at the start-up stage, or  when you
want your business to scale.


How to build a killer star-up team?

So the question is: how can I build a great start-up team?
Well, while there is no exact science to this process, there are a few long
lasting ideas, that might be of use when you chose to start your own business
journey. Below are a few.

1.Chose people with a track record for starting
what they finish

This is one of the most overlooked ideas
that  has a major impact on a start-ups
ability to thrive. There are people who like to stay where they are, and don’t
have any grand visions of the future. Those are the ones who enjoy having their
9-5 jobs, and wouldn’t trade them for a possible shot at making it in the
business world. You’ll have a hard time even convincing these people to get on
board with you on your venture, so don’t bother.

The second kind of people is the kind of
people who likes to think about the amazing possibilities of the current times,
and dreaming of prosperous moments in the future. These are the people who you
don’t have to try hard to convince to get on board in a new idea. From the
dreamer land, we have two kinds of people. The ones who are just good at dreaming
and the ones who make the dream a life mission, reshaping their routines and
life just for the sake of being able to see the vision come through.


The big problem with the dreamer category
is that it’s often difficult to distinguish one kind of person from the other
at first glance. We can spot a dreamer by the passion of their words, and their
enthusiasm when the subject is a rosy future. They both share our passion in
the early stages of a venture, and depending on their subtype, one of them
becomes a no show after a few months, weeks or even days after the real work
has begun, or sticks with the vision until they see it come through, or until it’s
absolutely clear that there is nothing that can be done for it to succeed.

So, distinguishing which is which is a very
big deal, since at the early stages of a business it’s not uncommon for the
founders to be responsible to all parts of the business without having any
clear distinction on who takes what position. Everybody does everything, and
this is not for the sake of bonding, but for necessity. At the beginning there
is barely any money to put in the product/service, let alone to hire people who
will probably be expecting to be highly paid.

When we build a team with unreliable
members in it, you eventually find yourself alone doing everything, and after a
while even you end up quitting on the whole idea.


The solution is to, as much as you can, do
a background check on your prospective team members. The idea is to get passed
the excitement some of the prospects might be showing at first, and try to get
a clear idea of what kind of people they are. If they  have completed multiple personal projects,
specially of the difficult and time consuming kind, there is a big chance that
you have in front of you a potentially great team member who will stick with
you until the end.

If the person however, has many unfinished
past projects, or have never been in any project by themselves, or in a team,
this is a sign that either they are likely to “mentally check out” on the
project when results don’t come immediately, or that they might not know what
they’re up against, and might later abandon the project when they figure that
it wasn’t what they had in mind.


2.Chose people whose big picture goal is to
see the venture succeeding


The second thing to think about when
building your own killer start-up  team
is about the personal goals of each member. We all have our own list of
personal goals. At the top lie the most important ones, and as we go down the
list the least important ones.  On our
way to checking off the items on our lists, eventually it is the case that we
have to choose between two different tasks both of which will allow us to make
progress in some goal on our list. If they target different goals, the most
sensible thing is then to drop the goal with the lowest priority in the list.
So, if our team is made of members whose main goal is something other than the
venture the group is engaged in, then nothing prevents everything from falling
apart when that day comes where one or more members is faced with that goal
conflict and is forced to “call in sick”.


Another reason for the same idea is that
sometimes we can have something worse than two tasks for different goals
conflicting in time. Sometimes in order to get what we really want we literally
have to kill something else we also want. It’s the old idea of opening a door
by closing another permanently. When the needs of the venture are competing
with the needs of another more important venture, it’s not difficult to imagine
a scenario in which one or more members consciously chose to slow down or stop
the progress of the venture because doing so might get them to get something
else they want more.


So, for this point the idea is simple to
understand but difficult to implement: only allow people who are more likely to
take the whole venture as a priority.


3.Chose self-driven/ self-motivating people

We’re all used to the idea of the corporate
leader who’s able to motivate his company into success over the competition.
This is amazing if the leader of the group has that ability, and is also able
to stay present, but it might be a problem if he/she is not able to be with the
team at all times, or for whatever reason leaves the team altogether. The best
solution is to find people who are able to motivate themselves. The kind of
people who don’t need a motivational leader to help them go through the moments
of struggle in which they search and search and fail to find solutions. The
kind of people who actually enjoy to some extent the moments of difficulty that
make life, life.


If the team needs a motivational leader to
work, and often teams are just like that, what we observe is instead of steady
positive results, instead what happens with people who are addicted to sugary
foods. Their blood sugar shows spikes and valleys, and never consistency. The
team might from time to time deliver extraordinary results, or meet with goals
before the deadlines, and just as likely also deliver mediocre results and
failing to meet deadlines. It’s all tied to the leader’s ability to motivate
the team, which makes it all an inefficient strategy for progress.


If the team is made of self- motivating
members, progress, and results are more likely to remain positively steady. The
self-motivating member is able to tell when his/hers motivation levels dropped
below normal, and take the necessary actions to get it back up. Because it’s
only when you know yourself that you can more easily motivate yourself. Another
hidden problem of relying on the leader to motivate the team at all times is
that often different people are motivated by different things. Some are
motivated by fear of some sort of loss, while others are motivated with the
prospect of a potential win. Which means that for the leader to be able to
motivate everybody it must somehow know everybody in a personal level, which
tends to become an unreasonable demand to put on the leader, as the size of the
team grows larger and larger.


4.Think about culture

In the recent years, the idea of corporate culture has
infested many of the recently published books, and that was so for a reason. We
can think of the culture you adopt for your team as a way for each member to be
able to make better day to day decisions, without having to go to the leader to
ask for its opinion. The set of values and desired behaviours defined in the
culture will be enough for most kinds of problems each member will face. Think
of religion for example. A small set of rules often less than even 20 are
proven to be enough for billions of people to make decisions on their day to
day lives, from the way to raise their kids, to how to interact with their
neighbours. One can argue that some of the rules given by religion are the
reason of trouble, and even deaths, but that would be missing the point. The
point here is that by defining a culture, and the set of values that come along
with it, you not only get your team to be more united, but also make the
decision making process easy for each member, which allows the leader to be
more flexible with its time, getting in to solve problems only when the already
defined rules of thumb fail to meet the task.

One very publicised example is that of Google with their
“don’t be evil policy” and certainly dozens if not hundreds of problems can be
avoided and/or solved by following this simple rule.

5.Think about personality

The world we live in is composed of all
kinds of people. Some who work well alone, some who need to be in a social
environment to come up with their most creative work, and those who change
according to the weather. Some people make the groups they get into more
united, while others steer fights and contribute to the division of once united
teams. This is why it’s important to know the kinds of people you bring to your
team. The right person can cause an otherwise average team to become a dream
team, and the wrong person can make a team of superstars fail to deliver
results. Knowing how to do this requires life and people experience, and when
you find out you made a mistake on bringing a new team member, the best solution
is to remove the person as quickly as possible, before the damage in the team runs
so deep that is irreversible.


So, along with all your efforts to finding
motivated and goal oriented people, also comes the need to find the ones who a
fit the kind of personality trait you believe would be best for your new
venture. This is one of these very difficult things that come with the job of
recruiting people, since in interviews, people are more compelled to behave in
a way they think you would want them to behave. Their real insecurities and
even strengths might be covered behind the new manufactured interview ready
version of themselves and the common solution for this problem is to observe
the person when they are not aware of you. This is for sure a difficult task,
but still worth the effort when you do it correctly.


It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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