Business

Show up

Woody Allen

Woody Allen (Photo credit: ThomasThomas)

“80% of success is showing up.”

I always thought that was an Einstein quote, but apparently it was Woody Allen. One of the things that I love about Woody Allen is that he’ll try anything. Some of his jokes are really stupid, but there are others that make me cry from laughing, and he seems to deliver both varieties with earnestness. It’s like he throws as many darts as possible hoping at least one of them will hit the target. I really respect that level of effort and candor.

I’ve been a big fan of this quote because I see it’s truth all the time.

The other day was a perfect example. While volunteering with Defy, there was competition to see which team of two could do the best presentation. Every team was going to have two minutes to make this presentation and since there were 50 people in the room, there would be five rounds. We had ten minutes to prepare our speeches.

When they asked for five teams to volunteer to go first I raised my hand immediately. This is not my usual mode of operation, but since I’m a mentor I thought it would be good to exemplify leadership behavior.

When the five teams went to the front of the room the moderator announced that competition was over and that the first group automatically won. The people who hadn’t volunteered were upset, but it was such a valuable lesson.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re actually being judged on. One of my friends described an interview at Google where they asked a ridiculously hard question and it turns out they were judging how he reacts to pressure and not his actual answer. It turns out the competition was not about who can give the best presentation but about who was willing to take risks and step up to the plate.

How many times do we sit back and wait to be called on? How much time do we waste perfecting our arguments and never saying them out loud. This little social experiment was the epitome of Woody Allen’s quote. It doesn’t really matter if your the best, smartest, funniest, whatever. It matters that you’re eager, and ready to get in the game. The more time I spend with successful business people the more impressed I am not with their amazing intelligence or insight, but with their willingness to dive right in.

While we’re on the topic of Woody Allen, here are some other quotes of his that I love:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

“My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.”

Just Another Step in a Long Journey

Yesterday I met with Creative Engineering to see if my designs for the baby bed are viable and marketable, as well as get a better sense of the production costs. It was bittersweet. Paul Dowd met with me for 2 hours and explained:

  • Patent research
  • The difference between injection molding, blow molding, and vacuum molding (phew)
  • Certain design refinements
  • 3-d imaging software (Rhino and Solid Works)
  • Manufacturing in the US vs China

As if you didn’t know this already, but I learned that google provides a free version of pretty much everything. You can make 3-d models using Google Sketch Up. You can research patents using Google.com/patents.

The meeting cost $45o – a price which seemed astronomical to me at first. Now I’m realizing any amount you pay to avoid wasting thousands in the long run is totally worth it. I was really nervous before the meeting. I was afraid he would tell me I’m wasting my time. My fears weren’t based on him criticizing the idea, it was facing the reality that I might not make it as an entrepreneur. The meeting was bittersweet.

The Sweet:

He thinks the design is good and worth pursuing.

The Bitter:

Just to make the molds for the prototype can cost $10,000 -$20,000. I can work around this by making a prototype out of foam without breaking the bank. I won’t be able to test it out with babies, but at least it will  be able to give potential investors a better sense of my concept. But even so, eventually I will need to get the molds and they’re going to cost big bucks. The thing is, plastic molding is really expensive to make small batches, but in large volume it gets cheaper. But if I spend $20,000 on the molds, then $5,000 on website development and marketing, and $5,000 in miscellaneous costs, will I ever be able to order a large batch??? Will I ever break even??? Am I going crazy???

OK I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. I still believe in the concept and in my ability to follow through. And I know there is always a cheaper way to make something happen, and I just need to do my due diligence.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to stick with my goal, and not get bogged down with future challenges. Things will come together. One step at a time. A thousands points of light. And all those other great cliches.