My “Entrepreneur Why”

I met with a trusted friend and business colleague today (who shall remain nameless until he publishes his book on this topic) because he brought to my attention recently that there is a clear psychology behind every entrepreneur’s reason for which they are just that—their “entrepreneur why”.  He piqued my interest when he mentioned it so I asked if I could take him to lunch to have him uncover mine.

I quickly shared with him that I am acutely aware of my developmental scarring and my rationale behind most choices I make.  I said this because I knew he was about to start asking pointed questions about my childhood, schooling, socialization, early work years, and current work environment. It felt odd to go from the type of lunch meeting I typically have where it’s a two-way dialogue to one that was entirely focused on me being vulnerable about myself and past experiences.

I won’t share here all of the details of what he uncovered, in part because I don’t want to steal his genius that will ultimately become a book, as well as that I don’t feel it necessary to share all of that here.  That being said, there were a couple items that he shared that stood out to me.

The first of note was that he identified that a motivator behind each of my businesses is giving back. He pointed out that I came from a supported background and that whether it’s my payments company that I continue to grow out of motivation to help business owners save money, my networking organization in which I’m driven to make valuable connections for others, or my financial literacy books for kids that aims to help kids have a stronger financial future.  Candidly, this caught me completely by surprise. I recognized from my narrative to him that I said those things, but I was caught off-guard because I’ve never characterized myself as someone who is motivated by helping others. I actually tend to admire people whom I’d define in that way, and out of no place of humility whatsoever, I simply never self-identified in that way.  It was eye-opening to hear someone hear the synopsis of my life story and evaluate that this is my motivation.

He also pointed out to me that I operate my primary business out of a place of security and rule-following.  He challenged me to identify when/where I’d be able to reallocate some/all of my time and energy into the other ones that tap into my “why” more purely.

It’s tough to open up like this to anyone. It’s also tough to hear feedback about yourself that one part surprises you, one part resonates with what you know to be true,  and in last part touches on doubts, questions and/or concerns with which you’ve already been wrestling.  I’m planning to spend some time further thinking through the “why” and other points he shared with me. Some times you just need a little kick-in-the-pants from an outsider to help you see the spot on which you’re standing.

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Nicaragua

I read a pertinent quote on a recent trip to Nicaragua that said “Travel: the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I was perched on a chair in my 3-story thatched hut, looking out into the jungle through the “walls” to the room which were entirely made of sliding screens, and listening to the howler monkeys.  It was one of those moments when you know you’re in the right place at the right time.

I traveled to Nicaragua seeking rest, peace of mind, time to turn off the day-to-day stress, tune into myself, and certainly to find a little fun.  After a 2.5 hour drive from the only airport in the country into a remote surf village up many dirt hills, I knew I’d come to the right place.

While only there for 5 days, it was a full trip and exactly the amount of time I needed to get away.  Each morning was spent in an open-air hut with a meditation practice led by one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever met.  The ocean breeze would blow through at precisely the moments of greatest challenge as well as the ones of great stillness.

The beach was a few minute walk away.  It was sparsely populated, although the waves were full of skilled surfers as it is known as one of the top places in the world to surf.  After a terrifying attempt at surfing in Hawaii almost 15 years ago that resulted in me thinking I may drown, I braved another attempt. When not being a terrible surfer, I’d walk along the beach, swim in the waves, play frisbee for hours, or lay and look at the beautiful landscape or the sunset.

There was one lonely taco stand on the beach that served “the world’s best fish tacos” and they might be correct with that superlative statement.

We ate our meals family style in an open-air dining area, overlooking the mountainside with the ocean in the distance. Food was made on sight and to-order with whatever was local and fresh by Nicaraguan chefs. After breakfast, it was a great time to head up to a hammock and lose yourself in a book (of which I finished three).

At night you’d fall asleep to the breeze coming through the screened walls of the hut and would be awoken to the barking of stray dogs or the howling of the monkeys.  There were even a handful of cats on the property so naturally we became best friends.

Speaking of best friends, I came into the trip with two friends from college and met so many other wonderful people in Maderas Village.  A couple with whom I’d imagine I’ll stay in touch for years. One night after a celebratory dinner for one of the chef’s birthday’s, 8 of us went into a lounge to talk about life and gratitude. Not your normal Saturday night but I could get used to that.

We traveled into the closest nearby city, San Juan del Sur, one evening to check out the nightlife.  It consisted mostly of tourists and was of no interest. What was of interest was sitting along the beach and watching the traffic patterns of the tranny prostitutes as they hit on drunk tourists.

Our last full day was spent on a catamaran we chartered out to a private island. We swam to shore, relaxed on the beach, “met” a few wild pigs who inhabited it, and on our ride back, were accompanied by a school of dolphins!

That night was topped off by a private beach bonfire and dinner on the beach.

En route back to the airport we made a stop in one of the larger cities: Grenada (which may be misleading: Nicaragua is the largest Central American country but it’s entire population is under 6 million). We took a horse-drawn tour of the city and walked and shot photos.  By midnight that night we were back in Atlanta, exhausted from 15 hours of travel, sore from days of intense yoga, but mind at peace. 

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Spoof: Part Deux

Apparently my writing is significantly better when it is comedic, rather than serious. Unfortunately, I don’t have the comedic writing gift. As it turns out, Peter Alan has been at it again and crafted this funny spoof of my latest Yahoo! Article (which was originally supposed to be titled, “The Shit No one Tells You About Starting A Business”). Take a read:

The Shizzle Nobody Tells You About Starting A Business

Did you know that like 96.4% of businesses fail in the first 5 years?  I made that stat up but seriously it’s pretty much like all of them.  The odds aren’t in your favor like your name was Katniss (or technically Prim but whatever).  But when you meet a successful entrepreneur they are all like, “oh man yeah it was hard work but it’s awesome.  And let me tell you something motivating!  Belief in yourself + solid work ethic x discipline divided by (can’t find that key on the keyboard) = a successful you!”  Wait what?  Yeah… I don’t know what the hell that means.  I don’t do math yo.

So I’m going to tell you the shizzle no one tells you about the hardships of starting a biznass and makin’ that chedda!!

1:  Its lonely as hell – One day you will find yourself having a full on conversation with your cat ‘Chairman Meow’ and your like, “hey do you think we should use blue in the logo?” and then you are like whoa I gotta get out of here.  But yeah it’s cool.  Cats have good ideas.

2:  Business partnerships are hard – BFF + your BFF really isn’t that good at stuff = suck.  Ok I guess I do do math.  Maybe I should start a math business with my best friend.  Crap.  Look for attractive people to work with so at least if your business sucks it isn’t a total loss.

3:  You will be poor for a bit – Unless you are like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, because let’s face it the rest of them are just pretending to be rich (gross) seriously though I’m pretty sure Bravo gives them all Range Rovers to make them look rich because how could they all drive the same freaking car and then all hate each other so much), then guess what?  Yeah it’s going to suck at first because you won’t be making any money.  So then what?  You quit the gym and get fat.  You stop reading magazines and then you don’t know what’s going on in the world so you have to start reading Perez Hilton but he hates Lady Gaga and you really like that Telephone song.  Ahhh man it is really hard.

4:  It is way less sexy than you think – See number 3!  Yeah I know I know, you started a business to tell girls at the club that you own your own business.  Things are going good but then you spend all your money buying her Grey Goose at the bar and then you go to take her home in your leased Kia and you realize that you are almost out of gas and you spent all of your money at the bar.  Then you start thinking, “Who really likes Grey Goose anyway?  This girl is a gold digger and I’m out of gold.”  So then you tell the girl you have a headache (and you feel fat because you quit the gym already) and drop her off but you don’t have enough money to get home so you sleep in the Kia.  I don’t see anything sexy in that scenario.

5:  You will doubt your abilities – While you know deep down inside that you are legit, after the 12th person tells you that your business idea sucks and that you don’t know what you are doing and that you look like you have put on some weight then you start to believe it!  But remember belief + ideas x you = bananas awesome!

6:  You will think you are the only person who has gone through this – But umm yeah what about the 3.6% of businesses that make it?  Don’t be a selfish drama queen!  You are already poor and fat so don’t add dramatic to the list.

7:  You will cry – Seriously?  You try to push your emotions down but then you are in line with you knock-off cereal that comes in a bag and ooohhh snap!

8:  Mistakes are inevitable – Remember the bumper sticker Forrest Gump made famous?  Yeah that goes here.

9:  You will feel clueless at times – As if!!  No but seriously you will feel like an idiot.

10:  Don’t compare yourself – Yeah I know it’s easy to look at Mark Zuckerberger and think, “man that guy is smart.”  But didn’t you see the movie?  He ripped off those two rower dudes.  You could rip somebody off too!

11:  It may not work at all – Didn’t you read the stat I made up from the start?  Your business will probably fail.  And based on the previous 10 things I just said you will lose your best friend because they suck at work, you will get fat, be lonely, you will cry all of the time, feel stupid, and it gets worse.  Want to keep reading this article?  Sucker!

12:  Fancy words just cover up real issues – I’ve got some acquisition indigestion because the ROI for my biz is technically moribound which should have been axiomatic due to the horizontal integration, cross-elasticity of demand, and of course because the lack of a sustainable competitive advantage.  Translation:  I’m broke because as it turns out I have bad ideas.

13:  You will be afraid of not being able to pay for your bills – I mean yeah you slept in your Kia last night but check it:  They won’t cancel your cable for like 6 months, your power for about 4, and the housing industry is so backed up you could probably live for free for at least a year.   Feel better?

14:  Your family and friends will question or doubt you – Who needs those haters?  Say it with me!  “Let them be your motivators.”  People love that crap.  If you want to invent an amusement park for the homeless don’t let your parents try and make you doubt yourself with their logic being, “They can’t afford homes how will they pay the entrance fee?”  People need fun in their lives!  Live your dream playa!

15:  You won’t work 9-5 anymore – But let’s face it, did you really work 9-5 before?  You know you were playing Candy Crush for like 4 hours a day at work anyway that’s why you started your own business in the first place!  But actually this gets worse because you are going to have to work pretty much all the time because you spent 6 hours playing Candy Crush while your friends were doing their normal jobs and then when they want to go out at night you are like, “Oh crap yeah I have to work tonight.”

16:  Say sayonara to a good night’s sleep – That means “good bye” in Japanese.  God, get some culture man!

17:  If you build it, they might not come – Field of Dreams would have sucked if that happened.  And yeah that could be your life but “there is no crying in baseball!”  For those of you keeping track that was the 2nd Tom Hanks movie referenced in this article.  For those of you not keeping track then you just learned something new today so… you’re welcome.

18:  You can’t have black without white – Racist!

19:  There is no such thing as “overnight success.” – Unless you open a business checking account and then you go to the ATM and take out $10.  With that $10 you purchase 10 lottery tickets.  1 of those lottery tickets hits the PowerBall for 480 Million Dollars.  And then I guess you could say that your business was an overnight success, but don’t forget you had to pay a $2.50 transaction fee at the ATM.  Oh snap!!  The man is always trying to hold you down!

20:  Ummm, Yeah somehow I miscounted.  Oh well, trust me it was going to be awesome!

If this article didn’t scare you away then you are cray cray!!  If it did then call me and I’d be happy to purchase your idea from you for like $10.  Sucka!  I’m going to be rich flying around in my cat plane with your ideas!

*The content of this article does not accurately reflect the viewpoints of Darrah Brustein.

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I’ve Been Spoofed!

I don’t think you’ve really made it until strangers begin to poke fun at you. And I think you’ve really made it when you have a Twitter account that someone with too much time on their hands created to mock and/or harass you.  Fortunately, I grew up with two brothers and a father who poked fun at me incessantly, but certainly hadn’t “made it” at that point.  I still haven’t, but I do have my first satirical spoof of one of my recently published articles on ways to improve your reputation.  And since I think it’s hilarious I wanted to share it here. Thanks Peter Alan for sending this my way!

Reputation:  a 4-syllable word that can either rhyme with termination or “give that girl a big promotion” give or take a few syllables.  That’s right people, it is kind of a big deal so don’t screw it up.  And I am not just talking about how you present yourself mano y mano.  I’m talking about hashtag drunk selfie over here too!  You don’t think your boss has Instagram and Facebook?  Man they are on you like white on rice or brown on brown rice.  But… follow my 10 guidelines and you will be taking them checks to da bank!  Poppin’ Cystal like it’s H2O and buying jets with pictures of cats on the side.  Hashtag living the dream!!

1:  Do what you say you’ll do.   Sounds easy right?  But then you are talking to this customer and you are all, “Yeah I can do that.”  But you know for reals that A:  you probably can’t do that and B:  even if you could it’s after 3 on a Friday so it ain’t gonna happen.  But check yo self!  Nobody likes a liar, nobody likes a punk, and nobody likes a narc.

2:  Go out of your way to help others reach their goals.  I know what you are thinking here.  What people?  What goals?  Remember in Kanye’s song, “Gold Digger” when he says “this week he’s moppin’ floors next week it’s the fries”?  Yeah those kind of goals!  A wise man once said, “do good stuff to others and good stuff will happen to you.”  Boom.

3:  Make other people look good.  Most people don’t like ugly people.  Enough said!

4:  Go a step beyond what is expected.  If someone asks you for 1 beer give them a 40oz not one of those tiny Coronitas (I think that is Spanish for tiny Corona).  People don’t like liars, punks, narcs, ugly people, or cheapskates.  This list keeps getting longer – don’t be on it.

5:  Look the part.  When you are going on a job interview pretend you are going on a date.  Not like try to look hot because you are hoping to get some but like you are meeting your girl’s parents for the first time.  Nobody likes a liars, punks, narcs, ugly people, cheapskates, or sloppy people.   Unless you are Daniel Day Lewis rocking some Method Acting for a role as a sloppy person and then probably people would probably still like you but mainly just because you are Daniel Day Lewis and not because of your dress.

6:  Consider your body language.  Ok remember the scene in Clueless when the teachers are sitting next to each other on the bench drinking coffee and their legs were crossed towards each other and then Cher (Alicia Silverstone not the singer) is like “that’s an unequivocal sex invite”?  That’s right!!  So, point your feet at people and get your work on!

7:  Be consistent.  I get’s hard remembering all your lies right?  Do I have an Australian accent or was I pretending to be British?   Was it proper British or more like Cockney?  Did I say I went to Yale or Harvard?  Pretty soon you are walking around like an idiot with a bogus accent and multiply Ivy League degrees.

8:  Act with Integrity.  This should be number 1!  Why is it number 8?  Because I wrote the article and you didn’t!  Get off my back already.  If you think the value menu is a crap value then don’t sell it.  If you know you aren’t going to call someone back then I guess don’t tell them you are going to.  If someone flat out asks you “hey when will you call me back?”  Then pretend you are on your cell phone going through a tunnel and hang up the phone!  But don’t forget to turn your phone off right after then change your number.  Integrity for the win!!!

9:  Get engaged with your community.  Kind of like that Mormon show “Sister Wives” but with your office.  Get all up in their business.  People love that crap!  “Did you hear about Susan?  Oh snap…”

10:  Be likeable.  Not sure I even need to say anything here.  Don’t be stupid.  Just be yourself, unless the real you is a liar, punk, narc, ugly, cheap, or sloppy.  Because remember nobody likes those people!  If you happen to be one of those people then learn the Australian accent and pretend to be a big wave surfer.  Everybody loves Aussies.  Call everybody mate.  Eat out at Outback like a champ and ask people if their babies were eaten by dingos.  Fake it until you make it!!!

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5 Years in Business!

I’m about to celebrate my 5 year benchmark as a self-employed person on Feb. 8th.  I got an alert today that this article I wrote was published on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor and I thought the timing was fitting.  It’s called “20 Things People Won’t Tell You About Starting A Business”.  It does a fine job of helping me recollect the ups-and-downs of this path over the past 60 months. While I’m displeased with their poor editing as they changed some of my wording to make what I think are no longer adequate sentences and oddly deleted some numbering and kept others, you’ll still get the point. Happy 5 years to me!

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Snowmaggedon and Forbes…

It’s a declared State of Emergency in Atlanta due to winter weather and I’m feeling grateful to be safe at home unlike so many others who have been stuck on the roads for up to 24 hours.  It’s actually been beautiful to hear stories of people coming together to help strangers in need. While I stay safe and cozy at home, I was able to enjoy something that seems silly in comparison to what people with no food, water, or warmth are dealing with currently, but I wanted to share nonetheless.

Yesterday I had an article of mine published on Forbes.com and am sharing it here in case the tips might be of value to any of you.

If you’re in the Southeast, stay safe, warm and off the roads!

 

 

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What Happens When You Combine Reading and Shopping?

Answer: You get the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com.  I read this book over the weekend and really loved it.  It was a great example of the well-known but often forgotten fact that the majority of people who find success were first met with a lot of failure. It also incorporated some evidence from studies on the science of happiness. So, it basically combined fashion (shoes), business, and psychology, so all in all, a great read for me!

As many of you know, I run a networking organization called Network Under 40. There were many things I took away from the book, but one of them motivated me to write this blog post for that organization. I trust it could be relevant to others of you since the concept of networking is universal and plays out for each of us daily in it’s own way. I hope you’ll take a read and even consider picking up this book!

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