... Xavier in Santa Cruz, California on the line. Hey, Xavier, what's on your mind today? "Ah, good morning, Thom." Good morning. "I wanted to talk about entrepreneurship" Yes, sir. "And idea development. There, to me it seems like there's different kinds of people. Some people are very good at coming up with ideas and there are other people who are very good at social skills and getting those ideas out to the public, and I think a lot of time people who come up with ideas are very afraid to move forward with those ideas because, you know, there's a lot of groups like inventors groups that will take your ideas and I think that there's a culture. We need to like try to figure out ways to get people coaxed out of their shells to come up with these ideas and get them to market."
Mm, yeah, the biggest challenge right now, Xavier, is the fact that a large corporation with an unlimited amount of money and the ability to sue like crazy can, can eat alive small entrepreneurs and there are very few protections for small businesses now, almost, as a consequence of 25, 30 years of "reforms" in litigation rules and laws and law suit and tort and this, that and the other thing. The playing field is extremely unlevel now in favor of very large corporations and against the small business person or entrepreneur. "Well, um...". That doesn't mean it can't be done. "Right." I mean, there's a lot of people starting up new and small businesses.
"Yeah, I've looked into this. I had an idea for a fuel cell membrane that I was going to try to develop and I realized that patenting it wouldn't be the right way to go." Why not? "Why not? Oh, it involves being a business person and getting capital." Costs about 10,000 bucks to file a good patent. I mean, that's... "Yeah, I'm a pretty low income person. That's not something I have; that's the other problem." Right. "But the point I want to try to make is kind of different than that. It's, you know, sometimes it's good to just get out there and do it, you know, and even be willing to lose a few ideas. Learn the ropes. Learn how to do future ideas and actually stay in relative control of them. So there are two things: you can lose control and lose money, like somebody else will make money off your idea, but there's also losing control of the direction that the idea goes in."
Well, if somebody else, if, for example, let's say that you developed some significant innovation in fuel cell membranes and you brought it to market without having patented it. It, now I'm not an expert on patent laws, but I believe that if somebody else filed a patent for it, they would have to demonstrate that you actually didn't already have it in production. This is something really you should get a patent lawyer on because I don't want to be giving you legal advice on this or patent advice but I think that you have some small level of protection. On the other hand, I do know that if you haven't, I do know that there are cases of, you know, where people have developed products, others have patented them and then they have stopped the original people from selling their products. And I believe that it has to do with at what point that product comes into the market place but I may well be wrong. You know, with the copyright laws, I'm quite knowledgeable about those because I'm a writer and, you know, I deal with those things. And the Millennium Copyright Act, some really nice changes. Now you no longer have to put 'copyright Thom Hartmann 2004' on things. Copyright is presumed upon creation. It's not true of a patent, however.
"Yes, well, I'm kind of getting nervous now, but I just want to bring that up about that idea." Well, what are you going to do with it? "Oh, the fuel cell membrane?" Yes. "I have a lot of ideas and that's just what I was using as an example." Sure. "But I think what we need to do is create a culture where people are supported in coming out with ideas." Yeah. "As people, not as corporations. You know, the Steve Jobs, the Hewlett and Packards, those days are gone, it seems like. If you get, say, chemicals to develop some idea, you might having the government knocking on your door thinking you were trying to build a bomb or something, these days." Yeah. "It's not geared towards private individuals.".
You're looking at the half empty glass, not the half full glass, Brian. "I know." I'll tell you, when I lived in Atlanta I had just a remarkable experience. In fact, this works so well, the Wall Street Journal did a front page story about us. There was a group of us who were small business owners in Atlanta, small and you could say medium size, I suppose, probably the largest of our businesses was Michael Popkins' "Active Parenting Publishing" company which I think he ? at ten million, something like that. And, but in any case, most of us were small business people, we had, you know, somewhere between five and fifteen employees. And a couple of lawyers, and what not, one guy was a city councilman, Doug Alexander and we put together a group, we called it the terminus group. And we got together once a month in a restaurant and we would just sit around and, you know, talk about everything from our personal lives to our business strategies, help each other out, brainstorm ideas and I did that for 4 or 5 years before I moved out of Atlanta.
I still keep in touch with these guys and I, this is an idea, Napoleon Hill called this the "mastermind group" and he talked, there's a whole chapter about it in "Think and Grow Rich" and it's really a useful thing to have people around you, people that you can, you know, you can learn from, and you can bounce ideas off of. So I would encourage you there in Santa Cruz to try and find some other entrepreneurs and pull together a group of people.
"Yes, well you know you mentioned it a week or two ago about the oak tree thing, about I think it was you tying in Napoleon Hill." Yeah. "It's good to kind of shelter your idea. I see that as a useful idea in some ways and, but" Well you want to shelter it from skeptics, but you may, you want to share it with those people that you can really trust, who are really close to you and who are going to encourage you, and that's where this mastermind group is a useful thing, it's a very useful thing.
We'll get into our NLP class here in another 5 or 6 minutes. Thanks for the call, Xavier, good to hear from you. Good luck with that, by the way. Stay with it. Twenty minutes past the hour...
... Brian in New Jersey on the line. Hey, Brian! Welcome to the show. What's on your mind today? "Ah, just wanted to give a quick shout out to the chat room and to that last caller. Just go out and do it, man, like, I sell didgeridoos - I make and sell didgeridoos..."
... Let's talk about neurolinguistic programming for a few minutes here. It's Tuesday, the second hour, the second half. Time for our NLP class of the week. Took a break from it last week but I want to get back to it, and in fact, was it Brian's? No, Xavier's call from Santa Cruz. Great stepping off point for this.
What I want to talk about is the whole concept of comfort zones. The NLP presupposition which defines this is, if you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always gotten. This is worthy of repeating, if you always do what you've always done, you're going to always get what you've always gotten. Therefore, consider doing something new.
Now the problem for most people with doing something new, doing something different, doing something in a different way, doing something new and unique, is that they, it's beyond their comfort zone. They can't push into it, or through it, or beyond it. They imagine a picture of themselves in the future doing this, and they get a frightened feeling rather than a positive feeling because they, there's uncertainty associated with it, or the possibility of failure.
Which brings us, of course, to one of the NLP presuppositions from previous, the idea that there is no failure only feedback, there are no mistakes, only outcomes. Once you convince yourself of that, no matter what you do, even if it doesn't work out the way you had thought it would or that you hoped, you will have learned from it. Something good will come from that. It becomes the basis for something else. And what that does, once you internalize that, what that does is it expands your comfort zone. This is true in business, it' s true in activism, it's true in personal relationships. comfort zones, for most people, can be expanded. Most of us, all of us, we can expand our comfort zones.
Now, there is a certain level at which our comfort zone is a function of our skill set. For example: I will never, as long as I live, be good at doing daily or weekly detail. If I had a job where I had to keep track of the bookkeeping for a company, for example, or I had to fill out daily sales reports or daily summaries of what I did. You know, anything that was boring and regular. It would make me insane. And the times in my life that I have tried to do that, I have failed. I've not succeeded. Well, there is no failure, there is only feedback. OK, the feedback ... don't do that well. There are other people who do that very well. The things that I've discovered I do well are pushing into new things that other people haven't done before. Brainstorming, creativity, trying out new things. I like challenges. I, you know, you could say OK, well that's ADD or not, that's a whole 'nother discussion.
The point is that I figured out that the way that my brain is wired, and we all have a sense of how our brains are wired, the way that my brain is wired is that there are some things that I'm particularly good at and there are some things that I'm particularly bad at. And those are just neurological baselines. Now within the context of those, you know, within that, you can expand some of those, you know, you can learn some skills. I've learned enough of the skill set of how to do regular things that I can balance a checkbook and keep track of my family finances if I have to, although, frankly, Louise does and has for a number of years. But I did for a number of years and I did fine with it. I figured out how to do it. But it's not, you know, if that was all that I did all the time, if I was a bookkeeper, an accountant, I just couldn't handle it, couldn't handle it. And it's amazing, I mean, this is how my father made his living for years. He ran a tool and die shop and took care of all the numbers, all the books, all the bookkeeping and stuff. He's very good at it. Our brains are wired very differently. I inherited more of my mother's brain, I suspect, than my father's, although that's a whole 'nother topic. But in any case.
So, you've got your comfort zones and what happens is when people start businesses or they begin any kind of new venture, including, for example, activism. Activist ventures. I have seen this so often, both with entrepreneurs and with people who get involved in causes. "Let's promote the candidacy of a particular candidate. Let's get a particular party going. Let's get a local, you know, group going. Let's get a study group going, let's, you know, around corporate personhood or around democracy, or, you know, let's participate". Whatever it may be.
You see, there are some people who are really good at starting. Their comfort zone, that's fine, that's within their comfort zone. But they may not be really good at following through. And so one of the more common problems that you find is that there are people, like Henry Ford, for example, seven bankruptcies before he finally got it together. And when he finally got it together it was largely in part, it was in part largely because he had hired a partner. He brought in this guy who ultimately retired a multimillionaire to be his bookkeeper. The guy really ran his company for him. So Ford didn't have to do the follow through stuff. Edison ended up having to have a business manager and then when he tried to overrule the guy he made ruinous decisions.
So there is some value in determining where your comfort zone is. What are the things that you're good at? And then when you start something, and you grow it to a certain size where it's no longer within your comfort zone. You know, we started a, we started a community for abused kids in 1978 in New Hampshire, the New England Salem Children's Village. By the time it got to 4 or 5 people we needed management. We hired Hal Cohen, he was our first program director. Louise managed the program for a number of years. Now there's an extraordinary woman, Jane Merrithew who runs the program. I'm just president of the board of directors here now, 26 years later. And Jane is so good at following through on the details, we've hired the details and kids are getting services and the program's going great. Louise and I started a travel agency, a travel business, International Wholesale Travel in Atlanta back in 1983, built it up to the point where it was really bigger than we wanted to manage. So we sold it in 1986.
That's another thing you can do. Number 1, when things get outside your comfort zone you can sell them or hand them off to somebody else. In the case of the children's village it wasn't a for profit so we handed it over ... In the case of the travel agency we sold it. Or you can hire it. We had an ad agency in Atlanta that we started when we came back from Germany in '87 and 4 or 5 years into it, it reached the point where it had about 15 employees and it was doing well and I couldn't manage it any more. I was incapable of managing that many people. I couldn't do performance reviews, I couldn't do evalu-, I mean I could, but it was like, it made me miserable. What I was good at was going out and getting accounts, brainstorming things, teaching people, you know, how to do marketing and communications, stuff like that. I wasn't good at being the CEO of the company that I had started. So we hired a president for the company. And we brought this woman in, Tandra Bowen, she's brilliant, and I became her, not really employee, 'cause I owned the company, but she ran it and she did this fabulous job of running it. And so, you know, ten years ago when we decided to sell that business we sold it to her.
So these, you know, it's about figuring out your comfort zone, figuring out where you can go with this. Now, a couple of other things that can expand your comfort zone. Number one, experience. Pushing though. Pushing though fear, pushing through concern, pushing through reluctance, and just doing it, as Brian from New Jersey said. Just do it! You will discover once you're on the other side of having done it that hey, this ain't so bad! That will expand your comfort zone.
A second way to expand your comfort zone is with coaching. That's that mastermind group that I was talking to Xavier about. Get some like-minded folks who are having the same experience. Don't, don't sit down with a bunch of people who love bookkeeping and complain about your problems with bookkeeping. Find people who have the same problem with bookkeeping you have, for example, or the same love of bookkeeping you have if that's your thing. And find out how they have solved that problem. People who share your neurology, your, you know, people who share your view of the world. People who share the way that, their brains are wired the way your brain is. And coach each other. There's a huge tradition of this, from fraternities and secret societies and the masons.
Ben Franklin figured this out. He needed a mastermind group. He needed a group of people who could share ideas with him, that he could bounce ideas off of, who could say to him, "No, you're not crazy." And so he created the Junto Society or Junto Society, I'm not sure how it was pronounced [who-n-toe, - ed], I'm not even sure anybody knows. J U N T O, the Junto Society in Philadelphia and it was a group of small business people. They were entrepreneurs, by and large, and inventors, and, you know, eclectic folks. Back then people didn't have so much 'a profession'. I mean, there were a few folks, they were apprenticed to become a silversmith or something like, but a lot of people did a lot of different things. Ben Franklin had 34 careers in his life. And this group of people became his mastermind group. People are still doing this. Very, very powerful stuff. So I encourage you to create or find such a group that you can bounce things off of, share things with.
And finally, a third way to expand your comfort zone is by bringing into the work that you are doing, that pushes up against the edges of your comfort zone, passion and vision. If you're doing something that you really believe in, that you really care about, or that you see as a means to an end that you really believe in and care about, you will discover that the barriers melt away. It's really important to get very involved in things, to really care about this. "We've got to make this happen" The world hangs on this. This is really important". For you. It has to be something that is really important for you. And that vision of that future that you're trying to create becomes what motivates you. You internalize that.
Creativity. Louise loves to say, creativity is pushing things to the extreme. It's taking them all the way out to the edge. There's this technique called brainstorming. It's been around forever, you know, a lot of business books write about it. Brainstorming, in brainstorming you get a couple of people together, like-minded folks, and the one rule of brainstorming is there's no such thing as a dumb idea or a bad idea. No ideas are rejected. And you just sit around and you say, "OK, we have a problem, how do we bring this fuel cell membrane to market, or how do we engineer it, or how do we...?" You know, and everybody throws out ideas, and they can be absurd ideas, doesn't matter, because you never know, the absurd idea may lead to another absurd idea which may lead to the perfect idea. And so you just write them down on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard or whatever, until you've got just a whole pile of ideas. And then you have a discussion out of that and then you winnow it down to what's the best idea and you'll be amazed at how effective this can be at helping you bring things about, bring about change, bring about transformation.
So, so, the key to summarize this:
Number 1, if you always do what you've always done, you're always going to get what you've always gotten. In other words, if you stay within your comfort zone, you know, you're not going anywhere. For some folks that's fine. Some folks say, "Well, you know, I kind of like my comfort zone". And there are some people who are just wired in a way that, you know, they just want to work their job every day, and as long as they still have that job, and, you know, they just do the same thing all their lives and that's fine! God bless them. They keep the world going. Part of the problem is, in the business world, that a lot of that security is gone, number one, and number 2: in the political world, everything has been turned on its head. So, you know, whether we liked our comfort zone or not, with the New Deal, the cons are out there aggressively trying to dismantle it, to take it apart. So we are going to have to go beyond our comfort zone and get out there and start being aggressive speakers of truth to power, even if it doesn't feel comfortable. So we push beyond our comfort zone by the experience of doing it. Just like jumping into cold water. As soon as you've jumped into cold water, you know, after a few minutes it doesn't feel so cold any more. That actually can be fun. It starts feeling normal. Number 1.
Number 2, coaching, finding a group of people that you can work collaboratorily with.
Number 3, holding a passion and vision for that. And then, number 4, when what you are doing gets larger than you can handle, than it, gets outside your comfort zone, but in a way that is successful, either hire somebody or bring somebody in to do those parts of it that you don't do well so you can do more of what you do well, or intentionally keep it small, or hand it off to somebody else. One of those three.
Brian? ( 79:00)
he ? at ten million? ( 79:30 )
Recording skips from feedback to don't do that well? (c 98:05)
Hal Cohen? ( 102:00 )
Recording skips from handed it over to In the case? ( 102:30 )
Tandra Bowen? ( 103:30 )
It starts feeling normal or numb? ( 110:00 )
© 2004. Copyright Thom Hartmann.