Twitter’s IPO vs. Blockbuster’s Failure

File:Twitter bird logo 2012.svgA friend asked me last night why I decided to blog about the Blockbuster failure over the Twitter IPO.

I thought it was a fair question, as the Twitter IPO was a much bigger story in the entrepreneurial community…

I pondered the answer for a few seconds, and delivered what I thought was a sound thesis:

There are more patterns to learn from in failure than in success.

There’s More to Learn from Blockbuster than Twitter

To say it in a more practical manner, I think there is more to learn by reflecting on this week’s Blockbuster news than the Twitter IPO news.

What I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t copy someone else’s success. On the other hand, it is very easy to copy someone else’s failures (go figure). Obviously, you don’t want to copy someone’s failures. So it makes sense to pause for a moment and look if you can find a pattern between current and past failures that you can learn from.

The business media does it the other way around.  The spend 80% of the time reporting success stories, and as business media consumers we eat it up. Most people are also naturally attracted to successful people and study books about success over those who fail and stories of failure.

Conclusion: Learn The Patterns of Failure

While I agree that the inspiration you get from success stories is important, I believe learning the patterns of failure is just as (if not more) important.

I’m sure you will learn more discovering the similarities / differences between the failures of Circuit City and Blockbuster vs. studying the similarities / differences between the Facebook and Twitter IPOs.

Was Malcolm X “Blacker” Than Martin Luther King Jr?

Was Malcolm X "Blacker" Than Martin Luther King Jr?This is a crazy question I know. Who would ever think to question Martin Luther King Jr’s blackness and go as far to ask if Malcolm X was blacker than him?

Well, I’m asking you this question after reading ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock make this point in response to the latest scandal to hit the NFL.

This scandal involves a White player named Richie Incognito bullying a Black player named Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins locker room. Bullying him to the point that he quit the team this week making national headlines.

The bullying is a side note, however. The media is making the story more about how Richie Incognito was considered an “honorary” Black player because he was tougher and somehow more “Black” than Jonathan Martin.

Whitlock states:

It points to our fundamental lack of knowledge of our own history in this country. We think the fake tough guy, the ex-con turned rhetoric spewer was more courageous than the educated pacifist who won our liberation standing in the streets, absorbing repeated ass-whippings, jail and a white assassin’s bullet. We fell for the okeydoke.

We think Malcolm X was blacker than Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve read X’s autobiography a half-dozen times. I own Spike Lee’s movie about X and watch it a couple of times a year. I love Malcolm X. But I’m not an idiot. MLK liberated me. MLK blazed the proper path to respect, progress and achievement. Barack Obama stands on MLK’s shoulders. And so does Jonathan Martin.

Richie Incognito is an “honorary” bigot, standing on the shoulders of Gov. George Wallace. The fact that a group of young black men in the Dolphins’ locker room can’t see that speaks to the level of ignorance unleashed by Mass Incarceration, Hurricane Illegitimacy and commercial hip-hop.

Whitlock also goes on to make a few debatable points comparing MLK’s non-violent persona with educated Black men raised in two parent households to Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” persona’s relation to the “Thug Life” culture.

This is a serious issue for me.  I am the father of two Black boys who will likely face stereotypes like this in their future.  I often think about how when I grew up it was by far more accepted to mimic Tupac’s thug life than to mimic the Cosby Show.

As a result, there were periods in my teen years that I attempted to follow Tupac’s example rather than Dr. Huxtable’s even though my Dad was there everyday leading my family like the latter.

In reality, Tupac was not Malcolm X  and Dr. Huxtable was not MLK Jr and all of these types of comparisons create a false dichotomy that is more about class warfare than it is about criminality, violence, and race.

  • There are plenty of politicians who are wolves in sheeps clothing and plenty of so called thugs who are sheeps dressed like wolves.
  • We should all practice nonviolence when our life is not in danger, yet be willing and ready to defend ourselves in the face of aggression.
  • Thuggish and criminal behavior is always wrong, but dressing like a thug is perfectly fine if that’s what you choose to do.
  • We always judge a book by it’s cover, even though we are told over and over that we shouldn’t.
  • I can write about race and sports today, and tomorrow write about startups, business, and technology

These are all facts every person in America must deal with.

With that said, Jason Whitlock’s conclusions in this Miami Dolphins bullying case are dead wrong.  His baseless assertion that most people think Malcolm X is “blacker” than Martin Luther King Jr. and relating this to how Jonathan Martin was treated in the locker room is irresponsible at best for someone with his influence and reach.

No, Malcolm X was not “blacker” than Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther King’s nonviolent movement would not have worked without the aggression promoted by Malcolm X.  Contrary to Mr. Whitlock, this has nothing to do with the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, and the plight of Jonathan Martin.

Barnes & Noble is Already the Next Blockbuster

File:Banes and noblestorenc.jpgYesterday, one of the most hated retailers in history announced that they’re closing their doors.  Yes, I am talking about Blockbuster and the dreaded late fees that made them one of the most hated companies in America.

No matter how hard Blockbuster tried to shake the “late fees” brand once the Netflix era was ushered in, they couldn’t recover.  Everything Blockbuster tried was too little, too late.  After hitting rock bottom, then being acquired by Dish Network, everyone knew this day would eventually come.

This inevitable demise of Blockbuster that came as a painfully slow death, is just about the same as what everyone is expecting to eventually happen to Barnes & Noble.  The main difference is that people never grew to hate Barnes & Noble.  How could you?  You could hang out in their store all day reading their books and magazines while not spending a dime.  Heck, people where I live loved Barnes & Noble.  So much so as they held protest when they found out that our local store was closing (it didn’t work).

Yet, even with the loyalty Barnes & Noble built with their “freemium” business model, missing the boat on innovation is still a death wish.  The design of the Barnes & Noble stores hasn’t changed in over 20 years. Their Nook ereader is a me too product. Their online store will forever be in the shadow of Amazon.com.

Today we say goodbye to Blockbuster, tomorrow we will say so long to Barnes & Noble.  All we can do is hope that there are hundreds of MBA professors out there somewhere teaching the next batch of CEOs how to learn from Clayton M. Christensen’s best selling book The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Finding out when you’re most productive

Millions of people around the world are underachieving because they don’t know when they’re most productive.  Are you one of these people? Chances are, you don’t know because you’ve never done a test to find out.

A few days ago I suggested a few ideas to boost personal productivity.  One of those ideas was to find out what time of day you concentrate best, and schedule your day to optimize that time.

My thinking here is that if you are a morning person, but don’t start working on the tasks that require the most concentration until the afternoon, then you will underachieve.  However, if you don’t even know you’re a morning person then you’ve got much bigger problems.

Most people go through life ignoring the fact that their body naturally has a productivity high. It may be based on sunlight or darkness, it may be based on the hours of sleep you get, or the time that’s passed since you woke up. It could even be after an afternoon nap or after sex.

They key is that you will never know unless you test out different variations to discover your productivity high.  This may sound like a difficult tasks, but your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it. On top of that, if you have extraordinary goals for your life, your success depends on you knowing this information about yourself.

There is an ancient Kemetic/Egyptian proverb scribbled thousands of years ago by a wise man above the entrance of a temple that states Man Know Thyself.  

I would argue that finding out when you’re most productive is a key aspect of heeding these wise words.

Testing Your Entrepreneurial Chops

Chances are you’ve thought about quitting your job and becoming a full-time entrepreneur.  If you’ve had this thought and not taken action yet, then here’s an idea.

My suggestion is that you test your entrepreneurial chops by finding a product to sell online. As part of this test, it shouldn’t be a product that you create. Instead, you should sell someone else’s product, a product that allows you to make a commission or affiliate fee for selling it.  The main reason you should do it this way is so that the time and effort to get up and running is minimal.

My suggestion is to find a high priced item on Amazon.com in a category that makes sense for your personal brand and network.  Based on my experience, you could spend about $100 on Facebook ads targeting a niche demographic to drive about 200 clicks to your landing page.

If you get a well designed landing page and a Facebook ad created by someone on Fiverr.com, 200 clicks could generate around 2 sales (conversions). However, if you are a rockstar entrepreneur it’s possible to get 8 to 10  sales.

Based on this data, try these 2 steps:

1. Short list 3 or 4 items to sell that generate the most commission/affiliate revenue.

2. Do the math on the affiliate fee to calculate the amount you will receive per sale and pick the item that makes the most sense based on the Facebook ad budget you want to start with.

Once you pick your item to sell, kick-off your Facebook campaign to drive traffic to your landing page and let the games begin.

Evaluate how comfortable you are with this process, doing the conversion math, designing landing pages, working with contractors on Fiverr, and buying ads on Facebook.  If you enjoy the process while at least breaking even (or hopefully making a profit), you’ve passed the entrepreneur 101 test.

Ideas for Boosting Personal Productivity

A few months back I came across a question on one of the Q&A websites asking for tips on how to be more productive.

Here are a few of the ideas I shared:

1. Only work on things you love to do and have passion for.

2. When you can’t do this, find a way to mentally connect those tasks to a desired outcome that makes you happy.  Then focus on the outcome instead of the task.

3. Find out what time of day you concentrate best, and schedule your day to optimize that time.

4. If you work on a computer, block the websites that distract you using a browser plugin.

5. Don’t drink coffee everyday as the effect will diminish. Choose no more than 1 or 2 days a week when you really need it to get maximum benefits.

6. Don’t over eat, it will make you sluggish. Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Never eat until you are full.

I know there are some other great ways to boost productivity that I haven’t thought of…Please share your ideas.

The Breeding of the “Selfie” Generation

A few weeks ago I heard the term selfie for the first time. It’s not a new term, but it’s new to me.  I didn’t even have to think twice to figure out what it was because I have no less than 3 people in my Facebook stream who are notorious for selfies.

What is a Selfie

If you aren’t quite in the know, a selfie is a picture that someone takes of themselves to post on a social network.  Apparently, on Instagram there are over 50 million pictures tagged with the hashtag #selfie. I bet if you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen one of the infamous bathroom mirror or reverse phone pictures as well.

I never gave these types of pictures much deep thought until I heard the term selfie a few weeks ago.  I think giving a term to these types of pictures changes everything.  It doesn’t quite dignify the act, but it does allow people to put social context around it.

Personally, I always experience a moment of sympathy when I see someone post a selfie.

I sympathize with them since they don’t have anyone in their life to take the picture for them. I also cringe a bit when I see them post a selfie and get no likes, no comments, no shares. It makes me think that even though we are more socially connected than ever, there are still millions of people who are more lonely now than any generation before them.

However, I question if I am looking at this the wrong way.  Is our culture breeding a new generation of social connected lonely people? Or is selfie more like selfish. Is our culture breeding a generation of millions of socially connected people who are so self centered that they don’t see any beauty around them worthy of the camera except their own selfie pictures?

My Secret Weapon to Beat Procrastination

Procrastination is the #1 enemy of progress.  Procrastination kills dreams. Procrastination can ruin your life.

Everyone gets the procrastination bug once in a while, some more often than most.

If you’re one of those people who is a consistent procrastinator, to the point where procrastination is ruining your life, then you’re in luck.  I’m going to share with you my secret weapon that has helped me beat procrastination, and I’m sure it will help you too.

The Secret Weapon to Beat Procrastination is the Carrot and Stick Method

It may be my secret weapon, but it’s really quite simple.  I beat procrastination using a carrot and a stick.  The stick comes in the form of a deadline with a painful consequence, the carrot comes in the form of feeling better about life.

The stick works best when an outside party looms over me waiting to inflict the pain of the stick. The carrot works best when it’s something related to a need or very strong desire that makes me happier.

What To Do When Missing The Motivation To Beat Procrastination

The problem is that we face so many situations when the carrot and stick is not big enough to motivate us to beat procrastination.  In these situations you have to learn how to simulate the motivation.

One way to simulate a stick is to find an accountability partner who is willing to kick you hard in the but. Many successful people join mastermind groups for this.

On the other hand, to simulate the carrot, it takes an internal stimulant.  You must become a master of cause and effect and map out the indirect connection between your procrastination and some need or strong desire that will make you happier.  This requires practice, meditation, and tenacity.

Flowcharts to Beat Procrastination

Another method that I’ve used and I am sure will help you comprehend the impact of both the carrot and stick is creating a flowchart.  A flowchart that shows a series of steps you could take, decision boxes, and the carrot and stick outcomes based on different decision options.

The key for me is that I must put it on paper to motivate me.  By putting it on paper I can look at it often and it’s easier to visualize the connections between my decisions and the potential carrot and stick outcomes. These visualizations then turn into mental simulations that evoke the feelings that will result if I get one of the carrots or sticks.

This flowchart method will work even better if you use pictures and photos to represent the carrots and sticks on your flowchart.  Doing this extra step will create the ultimate vision board.

What do you think?

Have you tried using the carrot and stick method to cure procrastination?  Do you have another method that works for you? Please share what you think by leaving a reply below…

If You’re Not Early, You’re Late

This is what I was told as a freshman at West Point…

If you’re not early, you’re late.

To this day I hate being late, and don’t like being on time, as I prefer to always be about 5 to 10 minutes early.

Last night, I thought about this quote as a metaphor for a different context: expectations.

If you don’t exceed expectations, you won’t meet expectations.

My Georgia Aquarium Halloween Experience

Yesterday, my wife and I took our children to the Georgia Aquarium for Halloween.   Of course the Georgia Aquarium was nice; the sea creatures were a beautiful spectacle.  But we didn’t necessarily go for the fish.

We went because it was Halloween and we wanted to take our kids to a safe place to enjoy the Halloween festivities. The Georgia Aquarium website marketing made the case for it being the ideal family Halloween experience, and we bought it…hook, line, and sinker…

The Halloween part of the experience was just okay (possibly less than okay). My wife and I both thought that it wasn’t quite festive enough.  In hindsight, based on the cost of entry for the Georgia Aquarium, I would say the experience was disappointing.

We weren’t disappointed because we didn’t get what we expected, we were disappointed because we only got what we expected. They checked all the boxes, that’s it.  A little this, a little that, nothing more.

This type of thinking may apply to items perceived as pricey more than anything else. It may be a bit of a drag to know you can meet your customer’s expectations and still disappoint them. But this feeling is real nonetheless.