My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley - by Ben Casnocha

The Fringe-Thoughts List: Where Most Great Ideas Develop

Random ideas, quotes, people I need to talk to, a funny conversation overheard at the table next to me at a café, a book recommendation, a gift idea, a potential blog post, a short-term task, a long-term project, new business ideas. I try to capture, record, review, refine, and publish as many of these fringe thoughts as I can. Besides making you a better conversationalist, organizing your fringe thoughts is one way toward a more intellectually coherent worldview.

Write stuff down carelessly. Recording fringe thoughts is an exercise in creativity, and research shows that the minute we try to add a filter to our thinking--for coherence, approval, or completeness--is the minute the ideas tap goes cold.

Why Some People Get More Stuff Done (and Start Real Businesses)

  • People who get stuff done maintain a high commitment to themselves. They don't want to let themselves down. The chief motivation to achieve comes from within, not externally. It is easy to not keep promises you make to yourself.

  • People who get stuff done strive for "good enough." Good enough is a key principle in entrepreneurship. If your aim is "perfect," the future is so far away it may be hard to get going.

  • People who get stuff done think about the short-term future. It's easy to analyze the present or dream about the distant future, but actionable tasks over the next two to four weeks are most important for keeping the ball moving.

  • People who get stuff done "dream" and "talk" as much as the next guy, but they share these dreams and ideas with others. By sharing your intentions with others, you introduce yet another accountability mechanism.

  • People who get stuff done begin. Taking that first step can be the hardest. Act now! "A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.

If something is difficult, I break it down into parts and organize its related tasks on my computer. When I'm effective and productive, I treat myself by going to the gym, eating an energy bar, or making time to do a blog post. Do you want to be known as a doer or a talker?

Building Resilience--A Transferable Quotient

We all go through rough times. The most successful people don't just survive, they thrive. I believe resilience is a skill that can be acquired. It's all about the little things. You build resilience by finishing small goals you set even if you feel like quitting. Fighting through pain on the treadmill contributes a bit to the resilience quotient (RQ).

RQ can be applied throughout life--being resilient in one setting will help me be resilient in unrelated others. I want to get the job done and endure an uncomfortable day because I know that grappling with all that life throws at me on a day-to-day basis will help me be resilient in the face of a traumatic and extraordinary situation. If I can get up today, I can get up any day. During the perfect storm, you must have a high resilience quotient. Prepare for it.

Three Sure Ways to Maximize Luck

  • Expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. Attend conferences no one else is attending. Read books no one else is reading. Talk to people no one else is talking to.

  • Trust in probabilities of luck. I think life works in peaks and valleys. Every time luck doesn't go my way I believe a piece of good luck is right around the corner--you always bounce up after hitting rock bottom. Similarly, whenever I get lucky I prepare myself for weathering a dip. Knowing this, I can always mitigate a rough stretch and make the most of the good times.

  • Trick yourself. Self-deception is essential for high self-esteem. It's OK to take more credit than you deserve, in your own mind, for successes. It's OK to think that you can outwork and outpassion anyone who competes with you. It's OK to attribute soaring victories to a tireless work ethic. It's OK if these are slight exaggerations. After all, how many people attribute "good luck" to their wins? Far fewer than those who attribute "bad luck" to their losses! Stay humble, especially on the outside, but consider yourself (privately) as unstoppable.

Random Tips

  • Meet as many people as you can. Be open to randomness when meeting new people. Apply a "Who knows?" mentality to every encounter. After you meet someone, be meticulous in your organization and follow-up.

  • Write down everything.

  • Become a sophisticated listener. Try to discern hidden meanings.

  • Create an expert effect. Develop expertise in an issue that others will find valuable. Become an indispenable resource in something.

  • Travel somewhere. Get outside your normal frame of reference and see what happens. See if you approach an issue with a new perspective. See if a new physical place puts you in a new mental place.

  • Raise the bar for one day and observe results. Hold impeccable standards for one full day. Easier than you thought?

  • Write a blog. Put yourself out there. Share your ideas. Disclose yourself. Become transparent.

  • Put your heart into it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Total enthusiasm--straight from the heart--in all efforts.

  • Find someone younger/less experienced than you and help them. Give a little, get a lot back.

  • Find your pole. Life gets crazy sometimes. We all need to swing around something. Find your pole, your steadying center influence, and never lose sight of it.

  • Have multiple side projects going. Diversify your portfolio of interests and activities.

  • Be funny. Humor can be scarce in a serious world. Be that guy people want to be around. Research humor and good one-liners.

  • Make people feel like a million bucks. It all starts with people.