Theme 12: Opportunity Mindset

Find & create opportunities like an entrepreneur.

“Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you’re ready.”

Steven Pressfield, Do The Work

Why is this theme important?

The greatest escapes occur from learning to think like an entrepreneur, even if your escape doesn’t involve starting a business. Scan for opportunities, be generous with your ideas, and use the resources already available to you.

Core Ideas

Work with what you already have.

There’s a principle called Effectuation that our startup education partners Founder Centric introduce to The Startup Tribe. It’s a funny word, but essentially what it means is this: work with what you already have.

“Successful entrepreneurs don’t pick an arbitrary vision and then figure out how to get there; instead, they look at the resources they already have – people, partners, skills, expertise, credibility – and figure out how to use them to attack an opportunity that isn’t fatally risky and which they can go after right now.”  –Founder Centric.

Effectuation applies to entrepreneurship, but can easily be applied to your own Escape. Think about in the following:

  • What resources do you already have access to?
  • Which industries do you know well or have credibility in?
  • What communities and networks are you already involved in?
  • Can you combine those resources, industries, communities and connections to create a brand new opportunity?

While it may be tempting to want to immediately jump ship and burn bridges in your escape, try looking at all of the things you have accessible to you right now. They may be more valuable than you believe.

Be wary of choosing immediate goals that require resources you don’t have. This doesn’t mean that if you have grand dreams that are a 180-degree turn from where you currently are, you should avoid those — definitely still listen to that. But try to work with what you’ve already got to help you get there. They may be neglected mini-escape stepping stones leading into an even greater escape.

Work with what you have. Build new opportunities upon the opportunities you already have available to you.

Embrace the idea economy.

“Ideas are the only thing we have left…we’re in an idea economy now.” — James Altucher

James Altucher (introduced in Theme #4: Confidence & Creativity), has a reason for his 10 Ideas a Day practice other than just to flex his “idea muscle.” He believes we’re now living in an Idea Economy. Ideas, he argues, are potentially the only thing we have left.

We first lived through the industrial economy. This is what gave birth to the world of work and education we were born into. In the face of manufacturing being outsourced, this economy has passed. Then came the Knowledge economy, but even most knowledge work can now be outsourced.

“Ideas,” Altucher argues, “cannot be outsourced. We are in an idea economy now.”

But here’s the thing about ideas: they will do no good just sitting in your own head. We must set them on fire and release them into the world. Act on them yourself, freely discuss them with others, and even give them away.

Give your ideas away.

Sometimes Altucher will give away his ideas to people he thinks they can help.

“When you come up with ideas for someone else, always give ALL the ideas away for free if you think they are good ideas.”

This goes contrary to the scarcity mindset we seem to have grown up with. It’s a mindset that can hold back some of our Startup Tribers at the beginning of their time together. It’s common for some to be protective of their precious ideas and not share them openly with the room.

This is trap #1 to avoid as an entrepreneur or a career changer. By not being willing to share your ideas with others, it’s impossible for others to help you. By holding back, you’re banking on the notion that someone else is willing to quit everything in their life to focus on your idea (which is often what’s required to successfully pursue a new venture).

Sharing your ideas may open up opportunities for you. Of course, they may not. Either way, embracing a spirit of generosity tends to pull people toward you and more importantly, allows them to help you bring your ideas to fruition. And for the ideas that you don’t plan to implement, they can help someone else out.

Execution is hard (but it’s never been easier).

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” — Thomas Edison

Of course, there’s no easy way to successfully execute an idea. It takes sweat and time and usually a lot of luck. But here’s the good news: it’s never been easier in the history of the world to implement a new idea with a huge audience. As WIRED founder Kevin Kelley says:

“There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute.”

So, where do you start? Step #1 is to Google it. (We’re serious, this is a great first step.) For most things you want to do, chances are a flavour of it has already been tried and done and documented freely on the Internet in a blog post, article, podcast, or video.

In the meantime, here’s a head start on some ideas. If you want to…

  • Publish a book:
  • Raise money to build a new product:
  • Sell your crafts all around the world:
  • Gather together a group of likeminded people:
  • Use your skills to do freelance work:
  • Learn how to play a song on the piano/guitar:
  • Write a blog post to a large audience without setting up a blog:

This is just a sampling. Even if you aren’t a “techie,” things are getting easier each day for the least techie of us. The Internet is connecting creators and consumers like never before. It’s not about being online and the tech behind it, the tech is just enabling this change.

Start before you’re ready.

When co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped on stage to speak to a crowded hall in NYC, a slide behind him read:

“I have no idea what I’m doing and that’s awesome.”

If the co-founder of one of the most popular websites on the internet has no idea what he’s doing – what does that say for rest of us?

One of the greatest myths we tend to believe is that of the fearless entrepreneur and escapee having it ‘all figured out’ before they got started. Here’s the secret: they didn’t. Here’s another secret: they still don’t.

We’re hesitant to blaze new trails because we’re not entirely sure we can pull it off. We lack the skills, know-how, connections, money, and confidence we feel we need to get started. And so we never start.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman is famous for saying “if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

A similar tenet holds true for us in the ‘first version’ of our escape. If you’re not embarrassed or feel awkward or uncomfortable, it’s possible you’re not pushing yourself quite enough past the edge of your comfort zone.

Alexis concluded his NYC talk by saying something blunt but profound: “sucking is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

Having the courage to ‘suck’ – in whatever you’re testing out, with whatever you’re working towards, on whatever experiments you’re conducting – is the crucial first step in actually going somewhere worth going. Embrace that you’ll ‘suck’ and then keep stepping.

Take mini steps. Make experiments. Work on projects. Relentlessly focus (and refocus) on where you’re going. And remind yourself why you’re going there. Be generous. Be brave. Help another and remember to ask for help yourself. Celebrate your wins along the way. Wash, rinse, repeat. This might not get easier, but you will become more confident and courageous as you keep on stepping.

And when the time comes to make a larger leap, heed the advice given to a young Native American at his initiation:

“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.”

Your Objectives
  • Examine what it means to be entrepreneurial (as an employee or an entrepreneur).
  • Understand the importance of ideas in today’s economy.
  • Learn about various tools and resources available to you to quickly test out your ideas.
  • Learn the basic principles of the Startup Tribe.
Useful Resources

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