As part of the UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Emmy Award winner Seth Epstein and current Founder and CEO of SocialStay, described seven practical, hands-on techniques entrepreneurs can use to enhance their overall awesomeness.
Seth’s comments were particularly intriguing, as he attended UCSB but departed school before graduating in order to start a successful clothing company.
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You can watch the 11-minute excerpt from Seth’s talk below, in which expounds upon the Seven Tools Of Awesomeness. You can also view it directly on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/9VwiGOQ01H0
1. Be An Active Listener
I assert in an entry entitled Listen that most people in western societies are ineffective, passive listeners. We are trained to treat conversations like tennis matches, each person lobbing the conversation back and forth, with few thoughtful pauses between each volley. Seth agrees. He encourages entrepreneurs to be active listeners by, “Listening to hear, versus listening to get your damn opinion in. Waiting to talk, that is how we work. That is not listening, that is waiting to say something.”
2. Empty The Cup
Seth encouraged his audience to allow the other party to completely share their thoughts without interruption or interpretation. He has used this approach to transform contentious arguments into constructive, meaningful conversations, including the particularly angry confrontation he references in his talk.
3. Analysis Paralysis
Seth urges emerging entrepreneurs to, “Be on the playing field, not in your head. Too many people spend their time in the bleachers commenting about business, but where you are really going to learn something is on the playing field. On the playing field is talking to customers. Get on the playing field.”
4. Go Streaking
Seth sees a number of corollaries between streaking and starting a venture. “Sometimes when you go into meetings, it feels like taking off your clothes and going, ‘I’m here.'”
Seth goes on to state that although operating a startup is often frightening, it is also exhilarating. “It is such a thrill when you do it…you feel this incredible joy and high.” When confronted with the opportunity to streak, most people’s initial reaction is to recoil, which Seth believes is a non-entrepreneurial response. . “You got an idea, you want to go talk to someone, your brain goes cuckoo…like you are streaking. Your brain will talk you out of stuff. Jump. Go. Shut your mind up. Take action. Your know you are doing the right thing when you are pushing yourself. If you are safe, you are not an entrepreneur.”
5. Breakdowns And Breakthroughs
Seth explains that success at a startup is predicated upon a series of breakdowns, which are punctuated by periodic breakthroughs, as graphically depicted above. In Seth’s words, “How fast you can fall off the horse and get back on is how fast you can move.”
Successful entrepreneurs tenaciously grapple with each breakdown until they achieve a breakthrough. Individuals who do not have the stamina or creativity to master this process generally give up after failing to overcome the first few breakdowns.
6. Be Unreasonable
I believe that the Foundation Of Entrepreneurship is the willingness to be unreasonable. Seth concurs, telling his audience that,
, “You guys need to practice being unreasonable. People will call you…’crazy’, (tell you to) ‘get a job’, whatever. Going the extra mile, asking for more, having more conversations… this is a critical ingredient to being a good entrepreneur, being unreasonable. The more you can stretch, the more outrageous you can be, do it.”
7. Shut Up And Start
Seth’s seventh tool of awesomeness is the most straightforward – just start.
“I hear so many people say, ‘I’m going to write this plan and its going to go as planned.’ It’s not going to go as planned. So when you write your plan realize…it’s like writing a fairy tale. It’s not going to happen that way. Shut up and start. Have the courage to fail. Stop your brain. Sometimes, you just have to get back in the *ucking game.”
If you follow Seth’s advice, you might live up to the immortal words of startup sage, Kenny Powers, “…a true champion, face to face with his darkest hour, will do whatever it takes to rise above. A man fights, and fights, and then fights some more. Because surrender is death, and death is for pussies.”
Streaker photo courtesy VirginMedia