I live with the belief that once you become comfortable, your chance at reaching your full potential in life dwindles rapidly. Therefore, you must never be satisfied. If you achieve this discipline, you will have lived life to your fullest potential when your time is up.
As I was about to turn 30 years old last year, I concluded that I needed more discipline. More challenges. More adventures to scare comfort and satisfaction away from my mind and vocabulary.
“Discipline equals freedom.”
On July 20, 2017, I launched the challenge to myself of climbing 4 mountains in 4 years (#4yrs4mts everywhere on social media. This will end up being far more than 3 mountains, before Everest is attempted).
2018 would be a 14er in Colorado.
2019 would be Mount Kilimanjaro.
2020 would be Mount Denali.
2021 would be Mount Everest.
To create discipline from day 1 of this challenge, I gave up added sugar and alcohol.
Today, I celebrated 1 year without either, and I’m not turning back—I also gave up meat just over 6 weeks ago, to more efficiently cut weight.
For added discipline over the past year, I forced myself to start running more than I ever had before. The target was 100 5ks before turning 31.
Today, I celebrated having run 120 5ks between turning 30 and 31. Along this journey, something magical happened.
I became addicted to running.
Now, between turning 31 and 32 years old, I’ll complete 12 marathons or longer distances. My first marathon is tomorrow, July 21. My first ultra race is October 27; a 50k. I’m learning to love the pain.
The running will increase my stamina for the mountains. The running increases my stamina for boxing. The running increases my ability to handle higher stress situations which occur within the ventures I’ve co-founded—and life in general.
With the mountains being the largest targets, I’ve decided to climb for causes I care about.
Next month, on the week of August 20, Mikayla and I will be climbing Grays and Torreys in Colorado. With it being 2 14ers, I want to summit for 2 causes.
The first is for the Iowa State University Boxing Club. From now until I climb, I’m encouraging you to donate, so the club can purchase new equipment, which will better accommodate our growing program.
The second is for NewBoCo. From now until I climb, I’m encouraging you to donate, so they can provide additional resources to the programs fostering entrepreneurship, which include the Iowa Startup Accelerator, EntreFEST, and Vault Coworking.
While I’d rather you make the donation directly (you can through this Facebook fundraiser, to NewBoCo), I’ll accept and deliver it if you’d like. 100% of funds I receive will go to their respective causes.
Thank you for reading and for being in my life.
With Grit & Gratitude,
KinoSol began with 5 co-founders day 1, in September 2014. Because of that uncommon, larger founding team, we experienced moments of growth much earlier than most startups do (both good and bad moments).
By April 2015, we had to let 1 co-founder go, as the vision and drive did not match that of the other 4. That was a tough conversation, with a flurry of emotions swirling around my striving-for-stoicism mind.
The core team has since been as large as 7, and as small as 3.
I assumed everyone needed to be a salesperson. Months of time and money were spent on team challenges of "who could make the most cold calls," and "who could receive the most nos."
I was excited to have additional team members, but we didn't have our own roles and responsibilities clearly defined.
We came to the realization we needed everyone playing to their strengths. This helped us to clearly define our roles and responsibilities.
If a task can be outsourced for the time being, we outsource it.
We're currently at 3 core team members, and outsourcing work to 2 teams of 5 people each--1 team for market research and the other for engineering our 2nd product.
Nebullam began with a more classical startup founding story. Danen had an Aha moment with technology and a problem he wanted to solve, and he went in search of someone who could help build a business model for the technology in 2015 (CTO finds the CEO).
We threw ourselves into the startup circles and went in search of candid feedback from investors (it's never too early to talk with investors) and community members.
After 12 months of progress and a plethora of feedback, we realized the future of vertical farming was in automation, which meant software and robotics were needed. At that moment, Mahmoud Parto appeared as our Chief Software Architect and our 3rd co-founder.
We are aware that our technologies (High Pressure Aeroponic growing and Artificial Intelligence) are capital intensive, but I was afraid to recruit outside of internships, for the fear that we couldn't recruit candidates without large sums of money to offer.
I thought this meant we couldn't recruit until after we had closed our seed round.
My recent trip to San Francisco was eye-opening. Through very candid feedback, I realized you should not have the excuse of needing the money before you have early core team members in place. Use deferred payments, milestone payments, or probationary periods. Sell the vision on your platforms, and you never know who will reach out and want to help or join the team.
The CEO needs to also be the Chief Recruiting Officer. Right behind speaking with investors for our seed round, the majority of my current time is spent in recruiting.
Since December 31 of 2017, the team has grown from 4 team members to 10. Everyone's roles and responsibilities (which play to their strengths) are clearly defined on our Trello board.
If you're reading this and thinking about your core team and who you need, introduce yourself, your company, and end the sentence with, "and I'm looking for a bad ass ___________ to join me," at your next networking event.
If you're a 1-person team and know exactly who you're looking for in a co-founder, apply and present at a 1 Million Cups. On the team slide, have a silhouette and question mark beside your photo. Point to the audience and say, "this could be you!"
Lastly, "Be so good they can't ignore you." - Steve Martin
If you're results oriented, can you learn from failure?
I'd argue you can't. At least not as efficiently as if you were process oriented.
KinoSol had made it to the final 6 companies of an elevator pitch competition while in Texas, and we had a 50% chance at a larger payday. Mikayla delivered the pitch just as planned, with poise.
We didn't make it into the top 3. When we had the time to sit down as a team and reflect, the first question asked was, "what should we have changed in the pitch?"
It's easy to assume we did something wrong, because we didn't win. And while it's much easier to remember when the pitch didn't work, we had cashed in multiple other competitions, with that exact pitch.
Each semester, I help students work on and launch their ventures through Iowa State University's Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative Business Incubator.
One semester, a cohort member sat out to complete their early customer discovery. Their hypotheses were well thought out, and they had a strong starting point for who to interview. After a 1-week sprint, their customer discovery was not going according to planned, and they were beginning to become discouraged.
We sat down to talk about it, and I quickly realized they had only interviewed 3 of their 10 target contacts. We reviewed their questions. Their process was above average for this stage. I nudged them to "get out of the building" for those final 7 interviews on the week.
By semester's end, and having stuck with their process, they had interviewed over 70 people. 45 had validated their hypotheses. They're still building their company today, because they didn't let the 0-3 start stop them.
While at the final table of a larger online poker tournament, I found myself to be 5 of 9 in chip stacks, of the remaining players. If the tournament had ended right then, I would have taken about $4,000 for 5th place. But 9th place was only a little over $1,000, and 1st place was over $20,000. A common scenario for a tournament.
The player to my immediate right was someone who I had played against before; a fellow professional. He barely had me covered in chips, and currently sat in 4th place. It folded around to him in the small blind, me in the big blind; just the 2 of us. He shoved all in with a little over 20 big blinds to my 16. With Ace Ten, I quickly called. He had Ace Three, and he hit a three on the turn. I was out in 9th place.
In that moment, my correct play was not rewarded. It's easy to feel as if I had missed out on at least $3,000, maybe more. But it was the correct play, mathematically, and that would be just one of millions of hands of poker I'd play in my career.
While it's disappointing to work hard, only to see something pay off with failure, what does it mean to "fail fast," "fail and learn," or my personal favorite phrase, from mentor and AgEI Director, Kevin Kimle; "fail successfully?"
Maybe it's simple. Maybe we as founders should stop beating ourselves up over the results and trust the process more often.