Why you want hard problems and not difficult ones

Who doesn’t like a good challenge? I sure do. I love immersing myself in a problem and working hard to tunnel through its complexities to find a solution.

But, what makes a problem a good one to solve? Which problems should you avoid wasting time with, and which are worth jumping into to start your next wild ride?

Over the years I’ve compartmentalized problems into two categories that have helped guide me: “difficult” ones and “hard” ones.

Difficult Problems

A difficult problem is a problem that drains your mind and body. Everyone involved in these type of problems are spinning their wheels in circles, and are able to squeeze only a tiny of drop of value from each pass. Difficult problems are demotivating, repetitive and often fueled by dark clouds. Difficult problems are overcome, not solved, and one is driven to overcome them as a search for relief.

Their challenges are often emotional ones; often testing patience, not intelligence, persistence, or ideas. Most importantly, when a difficult problem is overcome the end results often places everyone in about the same place they started. A solution is a derivative of your current state at best, and incurs a great deal of wasted time and money. People tend to beat their head against the wall with difficult problems.

For example, problems that arise from convincing someone to want to be a better person, or to want to make better things, are difficult problems.

Hard Problems

Hard problems are a joy, but not at the least bit easy. They are motivated by “why”, “why not” and “how can we make it possible?” Much like difficult problems, they are filled with long nights, and little sleep. Unlike difficult problems (where a relief from the pain endured is what drives you), the pain you endure from hard problems are a bi-product of your insesent need to find a solution; you push-on in spite of the pain.

Hard problems are motivating, inspiring, and complex. They may never find a solution, or its solution is hiding right around the corner; neither of which changes your resolve . Working on a hard problem can feel like chewing on glass while staring into an abyss, but you chew with vigor and you stare like a hawk.

Hard problems create competition, new ideas and challenges with others or within yourself (e.g. “I can do better than that”). Rarely will you see competition arise from a difficult problem.

You know you’ve solved a hard problem when you end up in a place you haven’t been before, with a new perspective and new insight and a new direction to follow forthwith. With hard problems, you are not only avoiding going in circles, you have taken a rocket ship leap to a new planet. The harder the problem, the farther you will fly.  If only you can – just – get -to – the – next – solution! A hard problem requires focus. Neh! A hard problem fuels focus! A difficult one: a distraction.

For example, problems that arise from discussing how  to be a better person, or how  to make better things, are hard problems.

Final Thoughts

Avoid difficult problems if you can. Sometimes dealing with them is necessary, but recognize the difference; don’t let people (or yourself) mask one for the other. It can help both mentally and emotionally. Seek out hard problems by imagining what the world would be like if you solved them.  If you find yourself in a difficult problem see if you can’t upgrade it to a hard one.  How can you change “how come” into “why not”, or “no” into “let’s try and see what happens”?

Best of luck, and may your life be hard but not very difficult! 😉

9 Ways to start learning about (or investing in) startups and entreprenuers

imgres-4“I’m looking to start investing in (and learning about) startups. Where should I start?”

I get this question a lot, so I figured a blog post may the optimal way to answer it moving forward. 🙂

Of course, it goes without saying that investing in – well – anything really, comes with its own sets of risks.  [Blah blah blah, legal jargon]

For starters, Angel.co is a great launching point (if you haven’t already signed up I suggest you do so.) There you can learn about, and meet, all kinds of startups ranging from super early to the more later types. Meet entrepreneurs, people who want to work in startups, or find a startup or syndicate and place a bet on an idea you love.

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To get in on an investment round for a pre-IPO company start with FundersClub.com and EquityZen.com. They’ll send emails intermittently letting you know when a fund is being made available.

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If you want to get shares in companies that are NOT doing rounds or looking for an investment then you’ll have to buy shares from current or former employee on a private marketplace. Sharespost.com and SecondMarket.com helps facilitate that process.

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If your goal is to just find a way to invest with more upside than a bank and less risk than a stock, I suggest using LendingClub.com for microloan investments. There you give out roughly $25 per person to thousands of people looking for them. You’ll have to keep your money in for a couple years (although there are ways to liquidate sooner if needed) but you can see about 5%-20% annual returns depending on what you set your risk tolerance to.

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Tangentially, if you are looking to meet entrepreneurs and get in on a more personal level to invest, become an advisor or just learn about the startup community, there are a few options: StartUpTravels.com that connects you to entrepreneurs around the world (full discloser, it’s a project I am working on now,) FounderDating.com and CoFoundersLab.com where you can meet other founder types to start a business are worth noting.

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If you are looking for a more in-depth look at the risks that go along with some of the investing products above you can check out my friend Daniel Odio’s blog here: http://danielodio.com/show-me-the-money-six-strategies-to-put-your-cash-to-work

How Google Works

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It’s always hard to tell how far a company’s ideals are from the reality of what is truly applied in practice. With Google’s over 50K workers, it’s tough to imagine the ideals laid out in the book are carried out through each and every employee. I sure hope so.

Whether they are or not, I found the concepts put forth compelling and exciting. Their definition and support of what they coin as “smart-creatives” paints a pretty accurate picture of what the doers, thinkers and makers in the SF entrepreneurial scene are made of. Their layout of methodologies and practices that replace the old corporate mindset with those based on “first-principles” are is truly after my own heart. To hell with tradition and “shoulds” – the world is more dynamic than ever and a management team that is as dynamic and forward thinking is necessary to stay ahead.

This book is a must read for entrepreneurs, managers and those ready to partake in the new generation of our technological workforce. Yes, there were inconsistencies in some sections and from time to time it sounded a bit self-promoting, but for the most part it provoked the formation of great questions and thoughts for our book club.

Fair warning, if you are a recent MBA student I would suggest putting of reading this for a couple of years. There are many references to how the Google way is able to overcome what they consider poor methodologies MBA students are taught to implement. Since I was reading this while taking some personal growth online MBA classes it was clear that the two visions for what creates success diverge.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Google-Works-Eric-Sc…/…/1455582344

You can see my running read book list on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/sshadmand/books

 

 

Gyms as a service (GAAS): Finally, better gym options as product services

imgres-1Five years ago I walked into my 24 Hour Fitness Gym and filled out a cancellation form.

“Are you sure that’s all I have to do?”, I asked the front desk rep. “Yup, you’re good to go, good luck with your move!”

Six months later I got a call from a collections agency telling me that I had six months of unpaid membership fees needing collection. Needless to say, it was an awful experience. I am sure many customers end up foregoing upwards of $200 or more in that situation all the time – not me. After hours of phone calls and emails, I was relieved of my “obligation,” but vowed never to use 24 Hour Fitness again – what else could I do than that, right?

In a world when Taxi’s treated you like crap but you still rode in them every day, there wasn’t much you could do with companies like this. Except turn around, take it and walk away.

When I moved back to the area I was a bit hesitant to sign up at any gym, given my experience. I stayed true to my vow and avoided 24-hour Fitness (even though it was cheaper) and signed up at Crunch Gym instead. I had options! Or so I thought.

lsThe sales staff was friendly at Crunch and, as expected, paying for the initiation fee and last month’s dues upfront was a piece of cake. I was instantly a member and assured by the sales staff that, “there won’t be any hassles if you decide to cancel – anytime.” Since then, two years of dues that would have gone into 24-Hour Fitness’ pockets went to Crunch Gym; I had no complaints.

Then moving time came again and I went in to cancel my membership.

“Sorry, you can’t cancel your membership *in* the gym. You have to call this number.” The Gym rep handed me a card. It was a bitter tasting sentence to hear while watching sales staff effortlessly input credit card numbers for the Gym’s newest members.

I called the Crunch cancelation number. “We already charged you this month…” (I come to find this was NOT true) “… and we’ll use your deposit to pay for your last month starting in April. Plus a $2 charge for any differences remaining since we’ve increased membership fees.” It was March 2nd and I was now paying until May 1st.

robber_MGBasically, in one sentence, my “easy cancelation” turned into about $120 of dues over two months toward a gym membership I just canceled. Jackie had the same experience except with a higher monthly membership fee. Crunch Gym robbed $270  from our household. Poof, just like that, Crunch now has the money and we do not. There is nothing the service agent can do about it and he gives me an email address so I can contact a manager to “have it explained to me further.” Sorry, there is no explanation that justifies being fleeced. I asked for a write-up from him explaining why I am being charged for a service I am canceling so I can submit it to the BBB with my complaint. He said he couldn’t do that. He thanks me for my call and hangs up on me. Note: The things they can and cannot do at these Gyms seem heavily skewed in their favor. Weird, huh?

Jackie said let it go, but that very sentence gave me a pit in my stomach. How many Gyms use this tactic to make up the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue they see each year? They know most customers will let it go, so they keep doing it. I told the story to a few friends, and, not surprisingly, they tell me that it has happened to them with Crunch and other gyms as well. Have gyms formed a Mafia? I guess they have the muscle for it…

The problem that occurs when companies become monopolies (like Comcast) or mafias (like Crunch Gym and 24-hour Fitness) is that customers don’t have much choice in the matter. In this case, either take it or don’t work out.

Uber and Lyft finally gave us the tools to allow us to ditch Taxi cabs (poor customer service standards and all.) And Netflix, Google, and Yahoo are finally causing Comcast to AT LEAST start honoring their “maintenance window” as they try to prove their worth before judgment day. (Gosh, I sure can’t wait for the day Comcast cries about how unfair it is that Google is taking their business.)

Well America, good news. The new world is being filled with products that focus on value, access, customer service and quality. They are starting to aim their slingshots at the Goliaths we know as gyms.

You have options! You can ditch your P.O.S (and/or overly priced) gym and actually get more for less in the process! A membership where your patronage goes toward the local gyms, you’re experiences are of higher quality and customer service is a tent pole. Now that the game has changed, your “gym membership” can get you into specialty studios, access to activities like Kayaking and sports, and a truly “cancel anytime” philosophy that ensures people that have to leave do so as happily as when they joined.

Here are a few:
fitmob_color.fw_1) FitMobfitmob.com – For about the same price as Crunch (and way more friendly cancelation policy and service) this company offers a membership to a multitude of different gyms and activities. For example, you get access to a awesome yoga studio, or (like me) you can head down to the shore and go Paddleboarding for the day. All free with the membership.

Currently Serving: San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Portland, Philidelphia, Austin, Dallas, Seattle

imgres2) ClassPassclasspass.com – Founded by Payal Kadakia ClassPath offers access to a variety of studios you can register online for free with your ClassPass membership. What is great about this experience is  you don’t get a class thrown together by amateurs working for a corporate gym. Instead, you get to go to the best studios in town that specialize in an activity for whatever you want to do. ClassPath is on to something having just raised $14M in funding and growing exponential into more and more cities month after month.

Currently Serving: NEW YORK LOS ANGELES/ORANGE COUNTY SAN FRANCISCO CHICAGO MIAMI BOSTON WASHINGTON, DC SEATTLE ATLANTA AUSTIN CHARLOTTE COLUMBUS DALLAS/FORT WORTH DENVER HOUSTON MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL PHILADELPHIA PHOENIX PORTLAND SAN DIEGO LAS VEGAS RALEIGH BALTIMORE TAMPA ST. LOUIS ORLANDO NASHVILLE KANSAS CITY LONDON TORONTO VANCOUVER

Sorry Crunch, you had your day and just like the Taxi mafia – your time is limited.

More comments available on the public FB post here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152976618217107&id=704372106

**UPDATES***

March 3rd – Still no charges (or pending charges) on my credit card bill from Crunch. The support rep told me it was already charged and there was nothing he could do about it as a result. Nice tactic – untrue after 2 full business days.

(March 2nd) Crunch asked me to contact a store manager – this is what I sent:
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Update March 4th: If you’ve had a similar experience you can contact Jasmine <Jasmine.Vega@crunch.com>. Below is her email and my reply.

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March 4th

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Zero to One


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I really loved this book. Peter Theil’s blunt and sometimes abrasively honest concepts are very “Purple Cow” and right up my alley. E.g. make big claims from observations and work out why they are wrong or right. Although there are some things I didn’t agree with they are done so in a way that pushes me to reevaluate my reasoning. For the many things I did agree with, it is always nice to have someone better articulate concepts and back you up with some solid experience.  10X yo self.

You can see my running read book list on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/sshadmand/books

 

The 6 Books That Shaped How I Think and Work

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Getting to Yes
The first biz related book I read as a child. I learned early on that negotiating wasn’t just an art of cleverly persuading your counterpart  to yield to your will (which I believe many old and young try to do) but instead it taught me the notion around doing your best to find a situation that benefits both sides of the fence. This book is also filled with tactics and lessons that give you a whole new perspective on what is really happening when a buyer and a seller meet and a tool belt too.
thedipThe Dip
The first startup book I read almost a decade ago. It is a short book but a frank and honest one too. The dip sets a tone and map for what’s in store when creating a startup. I remember when I ended up facing a dip or two  along the way there was comfort in knowing that the rollercoaster ride was just a necessary step in a path towards…?
5tempsFive Temptations of a CEO
This book was suggested to me by the (former?) CTO of Zynga. Unlike most business books that are bullet point lessons and biographies this one is written as a fictional story of a man that has the conversation of a lifetime with a stranger on the subway. Often times when making harsh and rash decisions about setting expectations with employees, or when trying to manage my emotions or ego, memories of this book are triggered. It has helped me more than once find my way back to center.
madetostickMade to Stick
Fantastic book for those of us that didn’t come from a marketing background (although I am sure it is valuable to those that did too.) Often when I write letters, blogs, taglines or give presentations I use the lessons from this book to get a feel for whether or not it will “stick” with my audience and use some tactics to drive a message home.
reworkReWork
By the time I read this book  I had already learned many of its concepts through my own trial and error. Nevertheless it made my top 6 list because of how well it articulated those learnings. Reading this book is like sharpening your knives if you know the lessons of a startup already or it is a great set of building blocks to work from if not.

stumbling-on-happinessStumbling on Happiness
Boy did I love this book. It was given to me by my good friend Daniel and it was probably the fastest book I ever read. Dan Gilbert combines psychology, philosophy, history, and science beautifully to give a candid and thought provoking look at what happiness really means and why is it so different for everyone. I find myself referring to the lessons in this book quite often around relative happiness, how our imagination can be terribly misleading – but being aware is a big help!
Some other books of note:
The Fountain Head: A controversial book that seems to be either hated or loved. Which ever side you chose to be on I would be surprised if it was not called powerful. You don’t have to believe in the writers philosophy benefit from a perspective into  the power of ideals, confidence, and certainty in oneself.
Thinking fast and slow: A large dry read at times but making it through was worth it. I learned a lot about how great and poor the mind can be all at once. I learned not only to be more cautious with my assumptions  but a sense for where that cautions is needed more and why letting go can be a powerful tool as well.
Freakenomics: To see the world through the eyes of an economist is a gift. Thinking in terms of noise reduction, drawing data from samples and parallels and using statistics to prove how powerfully wrong our assumptions can be was thoroughly entertaining the whole way through.
The tipping point: I didn’t fall in love with this book like others but it definitely deserve a read for its historical observations around business that have succeeded and failed and the factors and people that contributed to them.
 4 hour work week: I hold the lesson passed down in this book around work/life balance with me. I truly believe that we should be working to make less work and using that reduction as a badge of honor instead of the more classic concept that more hours equal a better output.
Hard things about hard things: A glimpse into the mind and life of a entrepenuer that almost lost it all on more than one occasion and the lessons he learned about running a company are packaged up nicely for us to lern from with far  less scars

Work. Life. Love. Balance. Stories From Startup Folk

Startup LoveI saw this article posted by a friend on FB by Scott Weiss a VC at Andreessan Horowitz called Success at work, Failure at home

To me pulling back the curtains behind a life, relationship or personality allows us to see the truth: that there is no such thing as the “perfect life” to aspire to. Instead we are all simply working hard on the goal of being the best people, friends and mates we can be. So don’t be so hard on yourself, learn a little, and share a lot.

With that in mind his post inspired me to post this learning from my own life as a serial startup/”entrepreneur guy” in a relationship.

 

Why You Can’t Optimize for Intimacy

The style of conversation that helps drive interaction, trust, and motivation within a business and its employees doesn’t translate completely with a person you have an intimate, loving, sensual, and sentimental obligation to.

Some things do translate well. For instance, the patience and even keeled temperament required to maintain a level of respect and openness is important to both work and home lives. On the other hand the levels of distance and tone you employ can have a stark difference between the two environments.

As an example, working on an emotional issue with a significant other doesn’t work well with checkins, progress updates, and check lists (which can be cold to a person you sleep next to every night.) While on the other hand focusing deeply on emotions doesn’t work well when communicating clear objectives and goals with peers and employees (that you hopefully don’t sleep next to – ever.) Again, there is some overlap, but the differences are monumental.

For me, being a startup guy in a relationship is a constant lesson in understanding those differences; not focusing on “optimizing” for your relationship but simply nurturing it together.

So in short as the title says: do not optimize for intimacy. And I know if you are a startup person you are thinking right now “I disagree, of course I can if I just…” Stop right there. I know you “can” – but don’t. — I know you think you can – but don’t! The other person may be feeling more focused and diligent (yay!) for now, but probably feeling less connected, heard, loved, or nurtured over all. Even worst they may be feeling like they are at work – and not in a “intimate relationship.” (boo!) :-p

 

 

Why You Can’t Just Show Up to Innovation Day

1B5778763-1301229_trophy_hmed_1228p.blocks_desktop_smallI often get the “Hey, how can we innovate as a company?” question with little attention to each individual employee’s drive to innovate in their daily work lives being a major factor in one’s mind. That is the equivalent of asking “Hey, how can I win the super bowl?” without having a team composed of NFL football players.

Innovation is a sport to be practiced not something you can just show up on game day and expect to win. How many NFL football players don’t practice being great football players everyday and expect to win games every weekend?

Like any professional sport: if you don’t innovate in your daily life you won’t innovate anywhere else.  The funny thing is if you tell someone who wants to be the greatest football player in the world to practice everyday and to push themselves to be a better player every time they practice you will get nods of support from just about anyone listening. (After all running the same drill with the same times will keep you playing JV your whole life.) Conversely, if you ask someone within a business that wants to innovate to constantly be thinking and implementing ways to change their best practices, improve their tools set, update their processes, or try new ways to be more efficient at the office you will often get a majority of employees supporting a resistance and responding with rolled eyes followed by something to the effect of “it’s fine just the way it is – and it has been for years. Why change it now?”

How can you expect to innovate a few times a year with a company filled with workers that don’t believe in practicing innovating with the tools they use, the environment they are use to, and the way they interact with one another on a daily basis? How would a superbowl NFL coach react to an athlete that would rather just run his usual drills when asked to try something new? You can’t expect a company of employees resistant to change or improve HOW they work to then all of a sudden change how a company or the world around them works, can you? It all relates – like the seeds in a root of a blossoming flower. (Sorry, probably too dainty an analogy for a football heavy post, huh?)

Furthermore, just like with football it won’t work with one star player or one small group embracing this ideal. Use the best tools, challenge the old ideas, and try out new processes when you get the opportunity. The more the WHOLE company pushes and adopts an ever changing, improving, and growing daily work life the more that company will get a shot at the innovation ring.

Happy Super Bowl Weekend to all those out there wanting to be their best every chance they get!

What a company manifesto means to me and what I would expect it to accomplish

A Manifesto reveals the strengths and values within a company, and does so in a way that decreases the number of complex decision making hurdles for its employees in the day-to-day.

The manifesto will be “the bible” (though only a page) of reasons that lead a team without a need for individual leaders to be present, and can help create the next generation of leaders to form in the same vein.

It relieves people from the stresses and distractions inherent to complex (or seemingly complex) decisions, in the middle of the workday, while fighting in the trenches.Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 12.22.05 PM

Picture this: A team of army rangers are falling back in the middle of an amazonian battlefield. They realize one of their platoon members went missing while under fire. What do they do? Unorganized soldiers may scatter under this pressure and lose their head. Should the next step be “Every man for themselves!”, or “Let’s hide it out until morning”? Luckily this group of rangers knows that there is one core value that prevails in situations like this: “never leave a soldier behind”. – Boom, decision made. They spend their time devising a plan to find him first and foremost  (no matter the hurdles – it will be resolved).

Values help form a strategy. Most importantly, when things go wrong, values help keep the bigger picture moving tactically. Especially when “fires” make decision making  difficult. Plans fail, but values do not.


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More practically speaking, the battles on a tech company’s floor may be less tragic, but are battles nonetheless. Imagine there is a team developing a widget. It is done so with poor (if any) design, but  is backend-ready and functional. A discussion may come up around the pros and cons of deploying something that doesn’t look good but is ready to ship for testing. The debate could rage on, but, with a core manifesto that decision is already made: if the core value says design is key to our tests – then the decision is made to implement a design before deploying. If the core value says release when ready and iterate – again the decision is already made.

 

Those decisions shape a company and should not change week-to-week, problem-to-problem, or day-by-day from department to department. They shape outcomes and the character of a company through a decision tree that is easy to repeat. Consistent and efficient decision-making is more important than re-assessing the perfect decision for the situation each and every time it comes up. The written word is amazing at facilitating that.

 

Of course, we all have great thoughts and your company has awesome values already, but having them written down is the difference between an interesting legend shared by some and a religion followed by many.

Documentation, although necessary, does not substitute for a short list of values. Documentation is rarely re-read, and often forgotten; we remember “Go when green” not “Statute 32 Section 5: All those that use public road shall obey stop lights based on the following color …..”

Finally, it is extremely important that your list of values are glossed over. One lazy move away from following your values can easily turn into a utter mess over the years. That does not mean you can’t change your values. If a situation comes up, and your values does not represent how you want to act two things MUST happen: 1) You re-examine your values and change them accordingly or 2) You adjust the situation to fit your values. Period.

As for my suggestions regarding the setting for how a document can be built  as a team here are some thoughts.

 

  1. Make sure people feel heard (i.e. right down every idea)
  2. Help filter outlaws that promote restrictions (which end up being things people feel reprimanded for doing)  and turn them into the concept that create direction and productivity to help people grow, expand, and focus. It is a document of supportiveness.
  3. Use it to help give people clarity in situations that need tie breakers, or rules of thumb. For example, “future value does not trump current value” has saved our team from missing out on what we have while over planning for something we do not.
  4. Be clear on what an item suggested means when it is written (often times one person’s perspective on what “awareness” can be, for instance, is different than another’s) Be descriptive.
  5. Find a/the person that matches the essence of what a manifesto item describes. They will most likely be the champion of that thought and help keep it alive and well. Find the passion in the people and you will also find the strength in the doc.

I believe once the fundamental concepts are solidified into the manifesto it becomes a spine for current, and as importantly, new employees that come in so they can quickly latch onto and adopt the companies process/thinking as it expands in size.
There will be the debate over the items presented, and debate is good. As such, it may also be a good idea to nail down some keywords that keep the conversation on track to what we believe the manifesto points should adhere to.

The words I propose are:

  • positive
  • smooth
  • friendly
  • helpful
  • productive

If an item does not instill many of these words, for instance, then the item may be off track.

Erec Makes A Fire: A Children's Book About Entrepreneurism

What is the book about?

Erec Makes a Fire is a story of how a group of kids stumble upon a cave covered in ancient wall writings depicting the story of how a unique young cave boy (Erec) accidentally created his first great invention: fire. The story shows how, even in the most simplest of times, one is able to form a business, sell a product, and create a success. The book is written to subtly embed one of the most fundamental parts of business in a child’s mind: leveraging an opportunity when finding demand in your community for something, and providing a supply for it. Even before cash, computers, technology, LLC formation or business entities, business and entrepreneurs thrived through observation and invention,  and they still do so today. This story helps teach youngsters, and remind the parents reading it, that entrepenuerism is all around us and to keep an eye out for one’s own personal “fire” opportunity.

Why did I write the book?

As a person who loves the world of entrepreneurism, I also love telling a story around how anyone can turn a will and an idea into a business. I have enjoyed telling that story, and giving tips on how do it best, for a number of years through various mediums such as interviews in print, in person, and on TV.

Now that more and more of my close friends are having kids I want to share that passion and story through a form that their kids can benefit from. I noticed there wasn’t much out there in the world of children’s books that took business concepts and simplified them into stories kids could love, as well as learn from. So, what what else was I to do as an entrepreneur but to fill that void. Erec Makes a Fire is the first in a hopeful long series of books that builds a foundation of business mindedness in our children.

Beliefs that inspired

Two major beliefs of mine contributed greatly to the creation of this story: Fist, immersion is a great key to early developmental learning, and secondly, kids are extremely capable of learning and understanding complex concepts early on, especially when it is told through story and analogy.

In regards to immersion, I believe that even if a child does not understand a concept introduced to them directly, being surrounded by that concept will help them become more comfortable with the subject matter as they mature. This makes the principles taught far less foreign to them, and therefor more easily consumed when they grow up, as compared to those learning the same concepts for the first time later in life.

I also believe that children can grasp complex concepts, like supply and demand or finance, far earlier in their lives than is generally taught today. I have always been amazed at how kids pick up core concepts so deeply. Yet, adults at times “protect them” from complicated concepts for worry of it going over their heads. Supply and demand can have complexities within – yes, but the basics are – well – basic and building stories around those concepts can most definitely be consumed by children. Look how well they understand other stories we give them like ones around “how to share”, a concept that I find many adults still struggling to grasp. I remember sitting with adults during dinners as a kid while they talked to one another about their businesses around me. Over time and many family diners a grew more familiar with many of the things they talked about while still being a child. Although I was unable to articulate my perspectives on the subjects at the time I mades notes to remind myself that one day, when I got older, I would remember that: that kids get more than you think.

Stickers
Sticker Collection Available Through KickStarter

Erec Makes a Fire is a new kind of children’s book that immerses young people in concepts they should be given the chance to understand early in life sothat they can have a foundation for understanding it more deeply as they grow up. As such the company under which the book is created is called “Small People. Big Ideas. LLC”

How and When Can I get it?

The first few copies will be made available as gifted items through a fundraising drive on KickStarter. I have my initial proofs and prototypes complete. Based on how much I can raise through KickStarter I am shooting to making it available by the summer of 2013. There will be special gifts given out through KickStarter in addition to the books themselves to make thing more interesting, such as: signed copies; custom printed copies; packages including digital, print  version and stickers; as well as custom designs where our artist injects a characterization of your child  into a character in the book! Books will be made available through softcovers, hardcovers, and ebooks.

About Kick Starter:

KickStarter is a crowd funding platform that allows projects to get funded before they start. It is a great way to start a business or project up and works perfectly with the Erec Makes A Fire book as the funds are only released if the book gets enough demand. The simplest way to think of KickStarter is this: think of those PBS drives on TV, the “If you pledge more than $50 you get this free tote bag” type of promotions. For a project like mine my gift will be an early copy of the book and other creative unique offers mentioned above that only funders will be able to receive. You can read more about KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics#Kick 

Erg: Erec's first customer as a Sticker
Erg: Erec’s first customer as a Sticker

Why Did you Spell “Erec” with an “e” instead of an “i” ?

The names of the book are witten with some historical significance in mind. Homo Erectus and Homo Ergaster are the scientific names for the two homonids believed to be around during the time period fire was discovered. So, the characters names in the book take each half of each of those names: Erec, and his friend Tus are the first two characters introduced. Followed by his first two customers Erg and Aster.

Slides of Creative Process

Original Idea Draft
Original Idea Draft

Draft Rewrites
Draft Rewrites

Preliminary Sketches and Character Development
Preliminary Sketches and Character Development

Backdrop Scene Development Sketches
Backdrop Scene Development Sketches

Story Board Final Sketches
Story Board Final Sketches

Final Sketches Converted to Digital
Final Sketches Converted to Digital

Final Layout Colored for Publishing
Final Layout Colored for Publishing

The books as shown in Large Hardcover and Regular Sized Soft Cover