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A listener wrote in to ask if we’d do an episode dedicated to business lessons found in nature.
Boy, did we deliver!
Ben and I spent the past week gathering inspiration from nature for this metaphor-and-parable-laden episode.
From bananas, squirrels, water, and vineyards, this episode truly packs some exciting stories and unexpected insights that apply to business and life.
This episode was unlike any in recent memory and was a lot of fun to do.
Thanks for the suggestion, Robert!
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- A team working together can accomplish larger-than-life goals.
- If you cultivate the soil of your audience, the seed (what you’re selling) will take root and thrive.
- Good things come to those who wait, toil, and prepare for years before they plant seeds.
- Learn one new thing a day that you don’t need to learn. Expand your horizons.
- Remain fluid and be willing to explore other options to overcome obstacles.
- Put practices in place that rejuvenate you in order to continue doing good work.
- Scarcity Mindset is taking away your energy and keeping you from growing the way you need to grow.
- If you want to stay in business, you have to deal with ongoing problems.
- If you’re not selling, you can’t stay in business.
- Nothing is forever and change is constant.
- Don’t hold onto something for too long when it’s no longer in season, because it starts to spoil.
- 02:47 Sean: Today’s show is dedicated to one of our listeners, Robert Bruce. He’s been listening a long time, and he wrote us requesting this episode. He said that he was walking his dog yesterday and came across a tree that had been cut down. “The rings inside were vibrant, and I instinctively started counting them. There were well over 80 rings. Then, I saw something more. None of the individual rings on their own were very impressive. A single thin, delicate layer of flesh, but together, over many years, they had grown on one another to make this massive and powerful tree.” He said that he saw in that symbolism of patience and showing up every day. “I’m not really an outdoor type of guy at all, but there are many business lessons waiting for us in nature. I would love to hear you take this concept for an entire episode.”
- 04:42 Ben: We have a green belt behind our property, a strip of land that’s not developed where stuff grows. There’s a dirt road that runs through it for utility access and that kind of thing, but it winds its way through and between the various subdivisions of the neighborhoods in our area. Some places have nice trees, and there’s a creek that runs through. We go on walks back there every once in a while. One day, we were going on a walk back there, and I noticed a fallen log on the ground. I could also see what appeared to be termite damage—something had been eating away at the inside of the tree.
- 05:36 It may have been that the termites got to it after it fell down, or maybe that was the reason it fell down. Who knows? It got me thinking about the idea of teamwork. Trees are pretty strong. I couldn’t go up to a mature tree and push it over or pull it out of the ground with my bare strength. These termites, these little tiny things that I can smash with my foot, work together to do enough damage to this thing that it compromises the structure of the tree and it falls over.
- 06:17 They’re tiny, but they’re all working together toward the same goal. One of the things I’ve seen with Sean is that, as far as business is concerned, he’s a heavy lifter. There are a lot of things he can do on his own, but if he wants to do real damage, it takes a team.
A team working together can accomplish a larger-than-life goal.
- 07:16 I’m glad for some of the default processes these insects have for doing their thing, building their homes. What terrifies me is the prospect of insects having a collective consciousness and working together to destroy humanity. If they really wanted to, we would be toast.
Bananas: Perishable Commodity
- 07:48 Sean: Jeff Hoffman, I heard him speak at a conference last year, is the billionaire founder of Priceline.com. He shared this story. He talks about an idea called “info-spongeing,” and he’s constantly getting ideas, listening to things, and learning in new places. He doesn’t just have his head in the sand in his own industry, but he’s constantly learning. He says, “Take a couple minutes every day to learn something that you have no reason to learn. Push yourself outside of your boundaries. The rule that it can’t be in your industry and it can’t be anything you’re not working on is silly. It’s like if I give you one puzzle piece, and then two, and then three. Eventually, if I give you enough pieces of the puzzle, you’ll look over and say, ‘This thing is a castle, isn’t it?’ You can’t see those kinds of patterns until you have a lot of puzzle pieces.”
- 08:46 That’s what happens to him with info-spongeing. One time he went to Africa and there wasn’t wifi on the plane, so he was reading this African business magazine that was talking about bananas. He’s leafing through it, and he learns something about bananas, perishable commodities, and how to sell fruits and vegetables. “Why on earth would I ever need to know how to sell fruits and vegetables? That’s the point. I’m learning something, I have no idea why, and I don’t need to know. The story was about distribution systems and how you have five days to sell a banana.” When he was reading this thing, he learned about moving perishable commodities like bananas, which is different from selling coffee, which can sit for up to two years on the shelf.
- 09:38 When he was done with the article, he said that it didn’t mean anything to him. “I made a note that I had to learn something, and some period of time later, my coworkers and I were talking about airplanes and perishable items. I remember reading about how although a banana usually lasts for five days, it spoils almost immediately in flight and you can’t sell it anymore. I went back and found my notes on perishable commodities, and I got ideas that fit into what we’re doing at Priceline. It was one day later in my life that we were trying to figure out how to sell really perishable goods, like the extra seat on a plane, before the door closes and it spoils.”
- 10:22 Ben: It’s hard to think that way. A lot of the advice out there tells you to just focus on one thing and not to be distracted by other things, but I’m a big believer in the symphony and connectedness of ideas and concepts. I see how the things that I learn from this program help me be really good at figuring out this other program quickly. I see how the skills I acquired pursuing this artistic discipline help me in this other artistic discipline that doesn’t seem to have a connection. I agree with that. Some people might say that you don’t want to spread yourself too thin and expose yourself to too many different ideas or skills.
Don’t get distracted, but learn one new thing a day that you don’t need to learn.
Soil: Cultivating Your Audience
- 11:38 Ben: In gardening, generally, in order for plants to thrive, the soil has to have some nutrition. Apparently, plants don’t only need water and sunlight, but they need nutrition as well. The soil matters. If I wanted to plant a garden, I wouldn’t go into our yard and dig up a spot where our home developer cleared out all of the existing soil. I’ve dug in that yard before, and I’ve found pieces of building material and stuff. They get a little bit lazy with that. They dumped dirt back on it and laid down some sod.
- 12:53 I could plant something there and it might grow, but it’s not going to do very well. A plant is going to thrive and do the best in soil I’ve cultivated, where I’ve made sure that the nutritional content is good, that I’ve aerated. I’ve made it a hospitable environment for the seed I’m going to plant. I think about this when it comes to selling or trying to get buy-in from your customer, client, or audience. This is really similar to the Rule of Reciprocity. The cultivating of the soil looks like giving away value, but it’s also being purposeful about how you talk about things and how you prepare them for the thing you’re going to eventually sell or ask them to do.
If you cultivate the soil of your audience, the seed that is the thing you’re selling will take root and the plant will thrive.
Life: Find a Way
- 14:16 Sean: I was watching this mini documentary that was a projection into the future, showing how nature will take over when humans are gone. What does the world look like when there are no humans? It was fast-forwarding the first week, year, ten years, 100 years, 1,000 years, 10,000 years. It showed how things decay and change. Pretty quickly, within the first few years, growth from things like vines will completely eat up buildings. It was incredible to me how vines can penetrate things like bricks. They can loosen them up and take down entire buildings.
- 15:12 Even though that is a destructive thing, vines are representative of life. No matter what, it’s going to find a way. It’s going to find the light, an opening, and it’s going to wrap around and break through. Even if it takes time, it’s going to find a way, no matter what. It’s this determined attitude toward whatever is in it’s way. It doesn’t matter. It’s going to go above, through, around it, however it can get through it, it’s not going to be stopped. Unless you kill it, it’s not going to be stopped. I like that attitude. It’s contrasted with the attitude of excuses. Imagine if the vine ran into a brick building and said, “No more soil, I guess I’m done.” Instead, it overcomes, no matter what.
Water: The Power of Fluidity
- 16:22 Ben: I got this example from a Disney movie. The prompt wasn’t from nature, but the movie was Pocahontas, so it’s set in a natural setting, a Native American village. They’re talking about the river. Even though the river is really strong and powerful, it takes the smoothest course. You can splash water around, put it in a container, and manipulate it to make it do what you want it to do. At the same time, water is extremely powerful. If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you’ve felt the pull of the tide and waves washing over you.
- 17:21 I’ve been knocked over by water before. Water, over time, can erode rocks and cut canyons. It’s this really powerful force, but it doesn’t barrel through whatever is in it’s way. It’s fluid. It will move around obstacles and get to where it’s going eventually.
- 17:54 Sean: It’s going to take the most direct path, when possible.
- 18:05 Ben: Obstacles don’t bother it. It sees an obstacle and goes around it. I think about, in personal life and in business, the ability to be fluid. If one thing is certain, it’s that there are always going to be obstacles between you and your goals. These things might seem like they could cut off your path completely.
When you remain fluid, you’re willing to explore other options to overcome obstacles.
- 18:52 Sean: It’s like the difference between a vine and an icicle. One can wrap around something and remain intact, but the other breaks. The opposite of fluidity is being brittle or rigid. If there’s any tension or any obstacle comes in your way, you break.
- 19:19 Ben: A lot of people value strength and rigidity. If you’re fluid and you don’t have a solid surface, they see you as weak. Those are the things that break. When you have enough calcium, bones that give a little bit do better under pressure than when they’re too solid. If you don’t have the proper nutrition, your bones aren’t as bendable. We’re venturing into unknown territory here.
The Vineyard: Years of Preparation
- 20:15 Sean: I went on a wine tour in July of 2014 with my wife when we were in California. We had a limo bus, and it was pretty sweet. You sit on the sides facing a few other people. It was a full, all day wine tour going through Sonoma. It was a good time. One of the places in Sonoma took a lot of pride in their particular vineyard, and they were talking about how much preparation goes into growing the crops and how the climate there is perfect, similar to ideal spots in Europe. It took years and years of preparation of the soil for it to be ready.
- 21:58 They had different crops to bring in the nutrients that they needed. They were cultivating the soil. They said that other vineyards come in and after two or three years, they try and get going. They were spending eight or ten years cultivating the soil. They were preparing and toiling, doing all of the preparatory work before they even started to plant the grapes and grow them, much less make the wine and wait for it to sit and be good. There was so much preparation, and it was very different from everyone’s instant gratification mentality in so many areas of the world.
Good things come to those who wait, toil, and prepare for years before they plant seeds.
- 22:59 How many of us are even thinking that far back? We think, “Yeah, I have to plant the seed and wait for it to grow.” Even before you plant the seed, you have to make sure that the soil is good so it will actually last. I was doing some research on agricultural blogs, and it was humorous how many of the things applied metaphorically to business and life. I read one excerpt that said, “Good wine growth during the first two years is critical to the future performance of the vineyard. Vines that do not establish well due to poor cultural management are usually set back several years.” The growth during the first two years is critical. We talk about showing up every day for two years, but if you’re not managing the culture of those first two years, any blow will stunt the growth for many more years into the future.
- 24:06 Ben: It’s interesting how delicate it can be. It’s encouraging that if you do show up every day, you cultivate that, you’re paying attention and tending your garden, you can maintain control of those things relatively easily. It’s similar to our house. We can clean up the house and put things here and there, or we can say, “This is the place where this thing belongs. This is the place where this thing belongs.” We have a place for everything. That’s like preparing the soil. You’re saying that these things have a place, so when it does come time to clean up, you’re not having to make decisions over where something should go.
- 25:08 When you’re maintaining the cleanliness, it takes some work. Every day, you have to do something to keep the house tidy. If you let it ride for too long, eventually that will fall apart, and it becomes a bigger mess to clean up. I think about that when I think about maintaining culture before it’s really had a chance to take root. You have to be vigilant, tending that every single day. I don’t want people to think that means that you have to be focused on this thing all waking hours of the day. It’s not like that, but you can’t let it ride either.
- 25:56 Sean: I liked how normal it was in these articles to talk about the concept of years. It’s a given. “Yeah, the first two years are really important, the the few years before when you’re preparing the soil…” This one vineyard prepared the soil for eight years before they even started. Garrett said in the chat right now, “The cool thing about the preparing of the soil beforehand, the preparatory crops, is that they’re able to make money off of the crops they’re using in prep. They’re making money with their prep work.” That’s a good point.
Set the foundation for yourself and get the soil ready with the nutrients you need, even though that might mean doing something that isn’t really what you want to be doing.
- 27:03 It’s getting you to where you want to go. You’re putting in that upfront investment, and you can still make money from that while you’re doing it. It can sustain you and maybe even allow you to put money in savings as a runway for yourself. I thought that was a good point.
- 27:19 Ben: Cory Miller said, “You can sell all your early stuff for $25 a bottle, but the eight year prep gets you wine you can sell for $1,500 a bottle.” These guys coming in, trying to make a quick buck, are pulling everything out of it that they can upfront. People who are doing the eight year prep have profit potential to pull out a lot more, but they’re just taking what they need. They’re reinvesting the rest so it’s more sustainable.
- 28:08 Sean: Eventually, it depends on how long term your vision is. After you plant the grapes and you’ve waited two years with the soil, you’re going to get okay wine. At that point, you’ve got a full vineyard of okay wine. At some point, you planted the seed, and you’re going to reap what you sow.
- 28:54 Ben: This is something you’re doing with seanwes, Sean. It’s something I’m doing right now with the way that I budget. I’m going to get to a point in my business where I’m making more money than I need to pay all of my bills. I could go ahead and inflate my budget to match what I’m making because I have the extra spending room. Now I can have a coffee budget and a haircut budget and a lawn care budget.
- 29:28 I have this whole long list of things I could add, and some of those things might be smart to do, like things that save me time so I can make more money. Arbitrarily inflating your budget just because you’re capable of making that much money doesn’t help you in the long run. These guys doing the eight year plan probably have a greater profit potential than they’re using right now so that they can sustain what they’re doing until they’re able to plant those really nice crops.
- 30:07 Sean: It takes a lot of time and a lot of investment to be able to sell the $1,500 bottle.
Sabbaticals: The Off Season
- 30:35 Ben: From what I understand, there’s this idea of rotating crops. There’s also the idea of giving the land a sabbatical.
- 30:55 Sean: Every seven or eight years, in the off season, you want to let the land rest. That doesn’t mean letting it go dormant, but you plant a new crop to replenish the nutrients.
- 31:27 Ben: I’m thinking about this in terms of yourself. You could apply it to your audience, customers, or market, but for yourself, you need to give yourself a rest. You’re not an infinite resource to your business. You need to rest and replenish.
As a part of your business plan, put practices in place that rejuvenate you and give you the nutrients you need in order to continue doing good work.
Weeds: Scarcity Mindset
- 32:17 Sean: I was, again, reading these agricultural guides. It says, “It’s very important to provide excellent weed control in the row during the first three years of vineyard establishment. Young grape vines do not compete well with grasses and other weeds, and weed growth can lead to increased disease problems through shading, reduced airflow, and increased hours of leaf wetness.”
- 32:59 Ben: Plants don’t have the same intricate brain networks that we do, but many systems in nature work similarly. In the beginning, based on the conditions, the plant, organism, or whatever will grow a certain way. If the conditions are harsh and hostile, it’s going to influence the way they grow, and not just during that time. After the first three years, you finally deal with the weed problem. You say, “They’re taking route, but I have other things I have to deal with,” but finally, you get around to it.
- 33:48 Now, you’ve got a crop that has spent the last three years conditioning itself to grow among weeds. Even absent of weeds, I would assume that it would follow similar patterns. That’s true in child development as well. Children who grow up in a hostile environment may get out of that, but it takes them years to adapt. Their brains are shaped around dealing with a hostile environment, so it takes years for them to recover from that. They never fully do. It can set you back years. Someone who comes from that environment may have recovered, to a certain extent, but then something happens. A normal person without those baseline issues can deal with it better than a person who came from that environment. It’s all connected to me, and that’s why it’s so important to deal with the weeds in the beginning.
- 34:57 Sean: From ages 12 to 15, we lived on this property that was about five acres. It had chickens, sheep, and all kinds of stuff. There were apples and peaches and grapes and figs. We also had these stupid Crape Myrtle plants. Why do we not like those plants, Cory?
- 36:00 Cory: Once they’re fully grown, they look really nice. When they’re young, all kinds of weeds get into it. Sean and I and our other brothers had to pick weeds every Saturday, was it?
- 36:12 Sean: It felt like every day. Dad would call home from work and say, “Alright, each of you has to go get five plants.” There’s an orchard out there. The driveway was two-tenths of a mile, and there are plants along it and all these little weeds. We were out there in the Texas heat for hours in the afternoon with gloves that didn’t keep the spikes and stickers from coming through. It was a Calvin and Hobbes kind of thing. Looking back, a lot of character was built there.
- 37:01 Man, that was a brutal time. I didn’t understand it. I thought it was cosmetic. I thought, “Nobody’s coming out here. No one’s going to be looking at these plants. Who cares how nice the bed is around the plant?” I didn’t understand that the weeds were taking away the nutrients. We were renting the property, and that was part of the responsibility of being there. You can’t kill the owner’s plants. The weeds take up the nutrients, the water, everything. That’s Scarcity Mindset.
Scarcity Mindset is taking away your energy, sucking attention away and keeping you from growing the way you need to grow.
- 38:30 It’s something that you have to cut out. You have to be vigilant about it, and it’s not something that ever goes away. It’s not like, “Oh, we came up with a cure for Scarcity Mindset!” You always have to maintain the weeds.
- 38:43 Cory: I think weeds can also represent negative people in your life.
- 38:51 Sean: They could be perpetuating it, too.
- 39:00 Ben: It seems like weeds set roots so quickly and they can spring up so fast. As a collective, they seem resilient, but a single plant isn’t as resilient as another plant that isn’t a weed. In an industry, you’re looking around and seeing other people doing what you do, and they seem to be having faster success. They’re making compromises and operating from a set of values that is different from your own, so you start to think, “Maybe this isn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was. Maybe it would be okay to bend this rule. Everyone else in the industry is doing it, and it seems like they’re being successful.”
- 40:03 You have to hang around long enough to see that those things are not sustainable. At best, they’re going to have stunted growth. Establish deep roots over time and don’t compromise on your values. The weeds that have come and gone in the time that my Crape Myrtle has grown, there have been thousands that have just died. That Crape Myrtle is still there, and I don’t even water it anymore.
Herbicides: Poison to Big Goals
- 40:59 Sean: I was reading about this a lot, and they were talking about the potential damage of herbicides with vineyards. The trouble is that you have all of these pests that can damage the plant, but it’s like chemo therapy. It also hurts the plants. If the plant is too young, it can kill or damage it. Some places were saying to wait until it’s three years old, and other places said at least five years old. Otherwise, you can kill or damage the grapes. It’s going to be harder upfront to protect the plants without a tool like that, but you don’t want to risk damaging it.
- 41:56 That reminded me of setting big goals. In the beginning, when you’re trying to think big, there are a lot of people and messages in the world that are like herbicides. “You don’t need to have your head in the clouds. Let’s be realistic.” That advice means well and is coming from a good place, but it can be potentially damaging to someone who deserves to think bigger than their current situation, to set a goal for themselves that is outside of themselves, that is bigger than themselves, that is something they can aspire to.
- 42:41 There’s this weird thing with success. The things that are required to get it are things people look down on when you do them in the beginning. That can be anything from setting big goals, speaking positively, or working hard. It’s crab mentality; people want to average down. If you are different, strange, or ostracized, then people don’t want anything to do with you. Yet, it’s those outliers that end up becoming super successful. In the beginning, we ostracize them, and then later, we celebrate them. “Look at this outlier, this exception! How crazy is it that they were able to do this? Isn’t it great that they went against the grain?”
- 43:36 In the beginning, everyone’s fighting against them. That’s what it made me think of, the damage of the wrong message hurting someone in the beginning. You’re trying to keep them realistic, but maybe what they need right now is to have unrealistic goals. Over the years, you become stronger and stronger, to where the messages from other people don’t mean anything and you don’t care. You know where you’re going.
- 44:09 Ben: It’s hard in the beginning. There’s this side of you that, in order to be successful, you have to be super practical. You have to be realistic about certain numbers. You have to be thoughtful about growth and how much time you’re spending on things. At the same time, it has to coexist with beliefs that, according to conventional wisdom, seem impossible.
- 44:47 Sean: Gabriel just said, “Reminds me of how the personality traits which are so hard to deal with in children are the ones we admire in adults.”
- 44:59 Ben: That’s like my oldest son, who’s extremely hard-headed and focused. He knows what he wants. He won’t let it go. I recognized that about him early on, and I decided that as much as it would make it a lot easier for me as a parent for him to not have that trait, I don’t want to do anything to break that, because that’s going to serve him really well later on. It’s about taking those strengths that are annoying and shaping them into something that’s an asset.
The Black Squirrel
- 46:01 A few years ago, we decided we wanted to have a garden. I did quite a bit of work. I built some raised garden beds and purchased some soil from a local place. I barreled all of the soil from the front yard to the backyard and filled this thing up. We went to a local plant nursery, because I didn’t just want to get seeds. These are already planted and sprouted, but they’re little baby plants. I got baby carrot plants, squash plants, and cucumbers. I even bought some nice stuff in the soil for once you put the plants in and water them. We put the plants in, and we were starting to get a harvest. It’s an ongoing thing. The plants started producing cucumbers.
- 48:03 We got these huge, really nice cucumbers for a couple of weeks. There was always something I could pull in that we could eat that day. After a few weeks, I started noticing that some of the stuff was being nibbled on by something. I asked the kids if they were messing with this stuff, and they said no. It got worse and worse. Pretty soon, I went out there and I almost couldn’t find a vegetable that didn’t have something nibbled on it. I finally discovered that under the shed, next to where the garden is, there’s a black squirrel that has taken up residence. That’s his personal buffet.
- 49:22 This is where I’m not a great gardener. I didn’t foresee the possibility of the black squirrel. I should have known that there would be birds, critters, and animals, who, once they discovered that we had all this nice food waiting for them, would want to get into it. On the one hand, I did a lot of work. No one could look at the effort I put forth and say that I didn’t work hard at this. I worked hard to get that garden up and going, but I didn’t think through the possibility of these other things that might undermine all of that hard work.
- 50:26 When it comes to business, it’s really important to pay attention to this. I should have talked to some other gardeners. I knew people who had done successful gardening, and I could have talked to them. I could have asked them, “Hey, in the first two months, what should I expect? How should I prepare this?” The other thing was that I didn’t deal with the squirrel. I let things keep happening the way they were happening. We were pretty overwhelmed at that time, because we also had the twins, so I didn’t do much with that. I could try to plant more to see if I could offset my losses, which would be dumb, because then more critters would just come. You have to build some kind of cage to keep the squirrel out, because it can climb and leap.
If you want to stay in business, you have to deal with ongoing problems.
- 51:51 Sean: Ben, you’re saying that people have black squirrels and they aren’t dealing with them.
- 51:55 Ben: Yeah. You can probably plant more, and you might be able to limp along. Maybe not. The best thing to do is to pause operation and deal with that problem.
- 52:11 Sean: It’s like a leak in a bucket. You keep pouring more water in.
- 52:18 Ben: It might be something like an employee that you need to have a conversation with or even let go. It might be a piece of equipment or software that’s not functioning the way it should. It might be something you’re doing that you really shouldn’t be doing because it’s wasting your time.
- 52:40 Sean: If you haven’t gotten into business yet, like Ben said, ask someone who knows about gardening already to help you avoid the squirrel in the first place. Talk to people.
Eat or Be Eaten: Sell or Be Sold
- 53:42 In the food chain, it’s a wild world out there. It’s eat or be eaten. Sell or be sold. You’re always selling. Everything you want in the world, you’re selling. If you want a promotion, you’re selling. If you want to convince your spouse to go to certain restaurant, you’re selling. Everything you do is selling.
- 54:15 Ben: This sounds familiar to me. There’s a book I’m reading that has a similar sentiment.
- 54:26 Sean: You have to go out there and eat or be eaten. That’s what happens. If you’re not selling, you can’t stay in business. You need to get products on the shelf and make some money. You need to transact. You need to sell.
- 54:49 Ben: Nobody’s going to go up to the lion and say that that lion is doing something wrong because it chased after a gazelle and ate it for dinner. That’s the way nature works. Nobody’s going to tell a venus fly trap to stop eating flies or a panda bear to stop eating bamboo.
- 55:19 Sean: It’s the nature of business and the nature of nature. That’s how things work. Survival of the fittest.
- 55:27 Ben: I’m a big believer in the balance of things and sustainability, the idea that there’s enough to go around if people are responsible and generous. Also, they have to understand their value and be willing to sell to cash in on that value. It’s not a dirty thing that people make it in their minds to be. Selling is something you do every day, whether you call it that or not. As long as you’re going to do it, why not develop that as a skill? Not so you can exploit people or get some unfair advantage over somebody else, but legitimately so that you can realize your value and continue to provide value in the world because you can make it sustainable.
- 56:30 Sean: You have to sell. It’s oxygen. It’s survival. It’s eating food. Everyone sells. If you’re a bum and you want to live at your friend’s house without paying rent, you have to sell yourself. Are you going to steal their stuff? Are you going to be a good person and provide something? Whatever it is, you’re selling the idea of you living there even if you’re a bum.
Everyone is selling, so why not be purposeful in developing that skill that you need?
- 57:08 You have to survive. When I heard this for the first time, it threw me for a loop. How many of us have been told that competition is a good thing? I’ve talked about it on this show. I’ve said, “If someone else is doing something, that’s an indication that there’s a market there. That’s good.” This idea of competition being a good thing is a way we all think. I thought this way until one or two months ago, when I learned this. Competition is a good thing, that phrase, comes from the perspective of the consumer. We all want there to be competition. AT&T, we want you to compete with people! Comcast and Time Warner, we want you to compete! We don’t want you to turn into a monopoly, because we get a worse deal.
Where there is competition, the consumer gets better deals and innovation.
- 58:08 That’s because they’re fighting at it. They’re hungry. In business, competition is not a good thing. You don’t want competition, you want domination. That’s the nature of business. You want to be the person on top. For a business, being a monopoly is the best situation. You have a greater share. Obviously, there are issues with that on the consumer side, which is where you get the idea of competition being a good thing.
- 58:41 That phrase and that mindset is not for the business owner. The business owner should be hungry, going after it. Once I heard that, I realized that I had never thought of it that way. For a business, competition is taking away business. You can try and spin it positively and say, “Well, they’re challenging me and I have to think creatively,” and that’s true, but you would be better off if you dominated them vs. competing with them.
- 59:19 Ben: It’s hard to ignore the benefits of coming up among competition. Maybe it’s less of it being a good thing and it’s more that it’s an inherent thing. If you get into business, there’s always going to be competition. You can treat it passively and say, “I’m going to do my thing and they’re going to do their thing,” and you’ll probably be okay, because your focus is on providing unique value. That’s where your focus should be first, before you even think about your competition. If you’re focused on providing unique value and then you add that to solving the problem of overcoming your competition, that makes you a really powerful force.
- 1:00:10 Sean: I think of Apple; if Samsung didn’t exist, they would have a greater market share. Objectively, their business would be worth more money. Even if there are radical people who just hate Apple, there are a lot of people who buy Samsung devices because that was one of the choices. They would choose something else if it was the only option.
- 1:00:45 Ben: I also don’t see Apple asking the question, “How can we overcome our competition?” They’re still in this place where they’re doing their thing.
- 1:00:55 Sean: No, they certainly are. Samsung is a step behind. The people on that side of the camp say, “It has better specs,” so I say, “How does it run? What is the experience like?” Everyone cares about the specs, but the specs for the sake of the specs doesn’t mean anything. What matters is the actual experience. In that sense, Apple doesn’t really care. They’re aware of it. I’m not saying that they ask the question, but if the competition didn’t exist, their business would be worth more. From a pure business perspective, the phrase competition is a good thing doesn’t apply as much as it does to the consumer.
- 1:01:51 You’ve got the two lion camps. There’s one head lion and another head lion, and they’ve both got their own camp. Some of the lions in camp two would say, “Yeah, I just kind of chose camp two.” They aren’t super loyal, but this is the camp they chose. There are 10% of them that are radical, that have “camp two” ripped out of their fur. They’re not going to go to camp one no matter what, but if camp two was dominated by camp one, camp one increases by 90%.
- 1:03:15 Ben: My boys come in, and they’re upset. I found out that they had kicked not one, but both of their soccer balls over the fence into one of our neighbor’s yards. I happen to have this neighbor’s phone number, so I figure that it would be irresponsible for me to hop into someone else’s property without asking or getting permission. Isn’t that illegal? I text the neighbor, “Hey, my boys kicked their balls over. Do you mind if I hop over and get the balls for them?” I get a text back that says, “That’s fine. We have a doggie door, and the black one is not friendly.”
- 1:04:44 I wrestled with it a little bit. I was considering texting back and saying, “In that case, when are you going to be home? I’ll come over and you can get the balls, and I’ll knock on your door.” Finally, I think, “I’m a grown man. I’m going to climb over this fence and get the balls, no big deal.” It’s a relatively long yard—almost the length of a football field between the house and their back fence, which connects to our yard. There’s plenty of room. I look down, and one ball is pretty close, but the other one is over there.
- 1:06:16 I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, as soon as my feet hit the ground…” She said that the black one wasn’t friendly, so I’m assuming that there are multiple dogs. One of them is not going to attack me. I imagine the dogs laying in the house, and as soon as my feet hit the ground, they run. Looking at the balls, I decide which one to get first before I toss them over. I can’t hold the balls while I climb over the fence. On their side of the yard, all of the surfaces are smooth. On my side, I have the cross bar. I have it figured out, but my heart is racing.
- 1:08:35 I imagine that the black dog is this huge, muscly dog that can tackle me. I have seconds, once my feet hit the ground. I hop down, and first I look right at the house. Nothing is coming. I don’t want to alert them to my presence if they don’t know that I’m there yet, so I go get the first ball. I don’t start freaking out until I turn from the first ball to get the next ball. At that point, I’m looking at the ball and I can’t see the house in my peripheral. I scoot a little bit faster, get the second ball, and I toss them over. I don’t want to look back, so I throw caution to the winds and grab the top of the fence, and I cut my hand. I pulled myself up and fell onto the other side on my rear end, and I was done. The dogs never came out of the house.
- 1:10:52 There’s your perception of what will happen once you jump over that fence, and then there’s the reality. You don’t know what the reality is going to be until you actually hop over. The information you have might be as vague as, “The black dog is not friendly,” but you’re the one who tells yourself the story of what that black dog looks like and what they’re going to do, how quickly they can run. You tell the story of all of those things, which factor into your decisions. In my case, because of the stories I told myself, I wasn’t cautious when I was jumping back over the fence.
- 1:11:49 There’s something healthy about being cautious and considering the danger, but it can also paralyze you. I could have not gone over the fence. It can cause you to do things and compromise in a way that is harmful to yourself or others. I could have texted back and said, “You said the black one isn’t friendly. What kind of dog are we talking about?” I could have gathered more information. If anyone needs to get into your backyard, give them more information than that. As entrepreneurs, we’re faced with scary decisions all the time, often bringing us into territory where we’ve never been and we only have our past experiences or the stories of others to go off of. As a defense mechanism, our brains will often take us to the worst case scenario.
Take charge of the story-telling process and don’t tell yourself a story that paralyzes or harms you to avoid a danger that may or may not exist.
Seasons of Life
- 1:13:30 Sean: We have seasons—spring, summer, fall, winter. There are also seasons of life. Sometimes, the seasons of life last many years. Sometimes, there’s a dry season. Sometimes, there’s a season of plenty. Sometimes, the temperature is comfortable. Other times, it feels unbearable. Nothing is forever. Depending on where you’re at, it’s a sobering thought or an encouraging thought, but that’s the only thing we can count on. Change is constant. If you’re in a season of plenty, don’t spend like you’re always going to have that. You don’t know. You have to store up and be smart. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy yourself, but most people who win the lottery end up bankrupt.
- 1:14:31 Similarly, if things aren’t going well, if you’re pinching pennies and it’s tough and scary and you can count on one hand how many months of payroll you have left, know that that is also not forever. You can take that into your own hands. It’s similar with seasons of pursuing your passions. I miss music a lot. I think about it a lot. I see that piano in the corner a lot. I have ideas of producing music on the sabbatical, and I end up committing to other things or projects. I underestimate how much rest I need on the sabbatical, and I don’t end up doing it.
- 1:15:21 I have this idea in the back of my mind that, someday, years from now, I will return to music. I don’t know if that looks like my year long sabbatical in 2020 or if it’s well beyond then. I’m not so naive to think that the thing I pick to do next or what I choose to focus on now is for sure the thing I’ll do for the rest of my life. It’s almost certain that it’s not. It’s going to change. Things will look different, and I take some solace in knowing that just because I’m saying no to music now so I can focus doesn’t mean that I’m saying no to music forever.
- 1:16:37 Ben: That was a really difficult one for me. Our family started growing and my responsibilities started growing.
Don’t hold onto something for too long when it’s no longer in season, because it starts to spoil.
- 1:16:56 That’s why you go to the grocery store in most places in the world, and during certain seasons, they won’t carry certain fruits or vegetables. Maybe they’ll have a limited supply of them or they’ll be noticeably smaller, because they don’t yield as well. I realized that the more I hung onto something that wasn’t appropriate for the season I was in, the more it started to spoil. If you really love something, you’ll let it go for now, if it’s not in season.
- 1:17:49 Sean: You wait for the right time. Do you love it enough to not have it now, to have it in the right time?
- 1:17:59 Ben: When I think about seasons, I also think about rhythms. Seasons that are a little bit less predictable exist, but within those seasons, there are natural rhythms. In nature, there’s a rhythmic quality to it. Recognize the rhythm of business, the ebb and flow of the year. Lock into that rhythm and anticipate changes, adjust to those things. Now might be the season for your business where you’re just cultivating the soil. Then, it’s going to come time to plant the seeds, and then it will be time to harvest. You’re going to want to give the soil a rest. There are a lot of ways to approach your business.
- 1:19:14 For someone who has launched multiple businesses, they’ll tell you that there’s always this rhythm, even in completely different industries. If you can strike this rhythm and replicate that, you can be successful in just about any industry.