Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Energy from Clarity of Uniqueness

 

A lesson learned…

When you know why you are different, it is energizing. Being unique is good. Very good.

There are lots of people out there trying to make money, stand out, make a difference, and rise above the crowd.

If you know how you stand out, it’s empowering. Embrace it! Be confident that what makes you different is what makes you better. It may be something you have spent your life trying to overcome.  It’s entirely possible that you’ve been missing an opportunity to grow your confidence and success because you’ve been trying to be more similar instead of trying to become more different.

This is true for me. In the last couple of years, the differences between myself and others has become more clear; and as I’ve embraced those differences more and more, everything becomes more clear, focused, and aligned. Then I feel things accelerating all around me. Acceleration is awesome.

Be different, dude.

 

You Don’t Care About My Feelings, Dad

 

My 6-year old son had a rough week in school last week. A couple of visits to the principals office for different reasons. Excessive “armpit farting” one day (happens to be the first day he learned how to do it, so that was forgivable), then punching and pushing on the playground another day (not so forgivable).   During his weekend “consequences” (and they have been plentiful), he looked at me and said:

“Dad, look at me. Now look at the world. What’s different?”

Wow, what a great way to start a story, he certainly had my attention… and I was stumped where he was going with this!

“I don’t know Michael, what’s different?”

“The rest of the world is happy, and I am sad. You don’t care about my feelings.”

Ha! Just when I thought he was going to blow me away with something, I was relieved to find he hasn’t outwitted me YET.

I proceeded to explain to him that at the moment I was not concerned about his feelings. I told him that I am FIRST concerned about his actions, THEN his feelings.  That as his parents, we must deal with one before the other.

This morning, I think that applies to all of us. It doesn’t really matter if we feel like we’re doing great things in the world, like we’re unstoppable, like we’re amazingly generous, loving, intentional. What matters most are our actions first, and our feelings second.

Enough said.

And yes, it seemed to click with Michael too.

 

What if We Built Our Businesses Like We Were Building a… Dare I say it…

 


What if We Built Our Businesses like we were building a church
Going out on a limb here, but what if you thought about building your business as if you were building a church? How would you think about things differently?


Would you be more passionate? More on fire?

Think about how passionate you have to be to convince someone to come to a church. They have to not only hear you saying the right things, but they have to see that you are making a difference for others. They have to see that you are doing good and that if they join you, they will become part of the good that you are making.

 

You are a leader of people…

A church is a symbol in the community. What are you a symbol of? and to whom? People pay attention to what the church says, what the church does, and how the church things and acts because they know the church stands for something.    The church leads people.

 

Superfans perhaps…

Churches call them evangelists or disciples or whatever, but out here in startup land, we call them “Superfans!” We want people who are so excited about what we’re doing that they can’t help but Facebook about it, Tweet about it, tell their friends at bars about it. That’s what the church calls “overflowing” … how are you thinking about your customers, your prospects, your opportunities? Are you looking only for super fans, or are you looking for regular fans?

 

Members for life…

First do good. Only do good.  When we adopt this mentality, our customers, our users, our members will join us for life. Why would they not?  If you are truly doing good for the world, for your customers, for their lives, why would they ever consider their working relationship with you to be short term? They are committing to good, and people don’t commit to good lightly or passively. People commit with fire.

 

Long term view…

If you think like a church, your view on your organization is one that it will last forever. It won’t be sold. It won’t go under. It won’t be merged or acquired. It’s a doggone church, dude!   It’s a given that it will be there forever. That’s how we approach things that we do when we believe in them, we ONLY assume that they will last f-o-r-e-v-e-r.   Thinking in this timeframe should change a lot of your decisions as a start-up, as a sales guy, as anything… whatever it is that you are working on should be seen as bigger than you.

If you are like me, applying these principals to your professional endeavors is liberating. It’s energizing. It’s soothing.  Embrace the feeling and enjoy.

 

 

I FOUND IT.

 

I found perpetual inspirationThe tag line of this blog is “Seeking Perpetual Inspiration as Entrepreneurial Fuel.” I’ve been at it for exactly 6 months now (wow!)… and a funny thing happened this weekend.  I found what I claim to be seeking in my tag line. I found it! I struck it! Perpetual inspiration… yep, that’s right, success!!

It happened Saturday morning. I was working on the kids’ treehouse in the woods when I got a call from an old friend. He wanted to tell me… get this… about how my blog posts have inspired him lately and share some of the stories of the actions he had taken, the good things that he has started partly as a result of my encouragement in these posts.

After talking to him, I was on cloud 9!!! Even since Saturday, I’m just grinning ear-to-ear about the conversation and hearing the stories of the differences that I made. He credited that stuff to Me! ME!?

So that’s when I realized the pattern. Anytime I hear from someone that my words or actions made even the slightest difference in their life related to things that matter, I light up. It’s the highest of highs. The feeling is indescribable. To do enough that it causes someone else to do something just a little good… wow!!  And what if that person does something good too…!? Holy Moly!!!

But wait, it get’s better… the real magic happens when one of those people goes back up the chain and gives gratitude. For my friend to call me and thank me for making a difference, puts me in gear on a whole new level! I’m now even more fired up than I was before when I wrote whatever it was that he thought was meaningful.

That is PERPETUAL INSPIRATION, my friends.

Go GIVE some.

 

 

Self Pity Binging

Breaking Bad - Self Pity

 

I’ve never done meth. (But I do love the show Breaking Bad.) I also have heard the ad campaigns about the dangers of meth saying “Don’t even try it once… you’re hooked.”

I believe there is something just as dangerous for high-performers. Self-pity.

Once you try it once, it can become addicting. Once you feel sorry for yourself, you chip away at your confidence.  In the house of cards that is intense mental focus, confidence is the foundation row of cards.  You must maintain confidence in your passion, in yourself, in your abilities.

Self pity can be attractive. Maybe just take a day and mope. Maybe just give into the feeling that this month you just won’t hit your numbers, so why even try.

What happens next is that you become the victim of everything. If only I had _____.   I can’t be expected to ____ when I’m so ____. Poor me, poor me.

Then you’re stuck. It’s almost impossible to get out of self-pity binge. Even when your personal Master Mind forum and alliances try to smack you back into shape, you’ve got all the excuses lined up as to why they are wrong about you. You aren’t as great as they say. They don’t even know how pitiful you really are.  Poor you.

So you see, just don’t do it. Avoid self-pity binges like… well, like you avoid meth….  I HOPE!!

 

 

The Incredible Value of Deep, Meaningful Relationships… in Business!

 

Forum Relationship BuildingWe all know the difference in a real relationship and a superficial relationship. It’s about trust. It’s about really knowing and understanding what makes someone tick and knowing that they know what makes you tick.

In business today, the most successful people are the ones who bring real, deep, lasting relationships into their business world.   Call them “friendships” if you must, but because these friendships are built in a setting where things get done and differences are made, they are typically even more powerful than best friends.

THIS ISN’T NETWORKING… Networking is forming a new contact. Networking doesn’t create deep relationships, it only puts you in the right place to build the relationship. You have to use disciplined structure, routine, and intentional actions to turn a contact into a relationship. All too often, our focus is on networking: forming as many contacts as we can, at the cost of forming deeper relationships. That matter.

A few key benefits from deeper, more intentional, more structured relationship building:

….TRUST…

Every relationship that is functional, productive, and meaningful starts with trust. Not coincidentally, the most successful business arrangements in the world are started from a position of trust. For a company to invest money in you, someone must first trust you. For you to provide your service to a company, someone must first trust you.   The reason spam cold calling has such a low response rate is because it is approaching people without first establishing trust. Even e-mailing “contacts” who have signed up for an e-mail list performs not nearly as well as warm introductions from trusted contacts. Nothing is more powerful than an introduction attached to a recommendation that “I trust this person, you trust me, so you can trust them.”

…MORE POWERFUL IDEA SHARING FUEL…

When we have ideas and we share them, those ideas are processed from their own viewpoint, their own experiences, their own needs, and their own observations. That’s the default nature of humans. However, in a true deep relationship there is a stronger understanding of what the other person is thinking. We are putting ourselves in their shoes. We are thinking about the world from their perspective. If a truly deep friend comes to us with an idea, instead of thinking about the idea, the innovation, the invention from our own experiences, we typically know that we must first process their idea from their own viewpoint of the world. From their life experiences, pains, challenges, and dreams.  When this happens, we collaborate on a level that people in a shallow, business-only relationship cannot achieve.    Ideas are fueled. We annex our creativity in the minds of our friends and deeper ties.

…MAKING THINGS HAPPEN…

Once ideas are born, it takes crowds to make them happen. Turning innovative ideas into meaningful action requires groups of people, not individuals working alone.  Without deep relationships built on trust and true understanding, it is difficult to rally others, to inspire, to move! When people leverage deeper relationships they extend their own abilities, their own excitement, inspiration, and personal energy. Inspiring others to act on your behalf is a requirement of great leaders, and inspiration rarely happens from shallow contacts and wide networks. It happens from deep friendships.

…ACCELERATING WHAT MATTERS…

Maslow had it right. We are all looking for the same things. Food, shelter, love… but at the top of the pyramid of personal needs is self-actualization. Aligning purpose and passion with work and industry. Deep relationships are the key driver to helping you achieve self-actualization.   The people around you, who know your goals, your passions, your skills, your weaknesses- are the most suited to helping you become self-aware enough to achieve true career satisfaction.

…HAPPY LIFE, MORE SUCCESS…

Good makes more good, as we all know. Confidence in itself accelerates our abilities. Deep bonds, friendships, close professional relationships all give us a satisfaction that we cannot gain from superficial relationships, no matter how many of them we have. The value in career and life satisfaction for building a successful career and a thriving industry cannot be ignored.

…BUILT TO LAST…

Industries and companies are made first and foremost of people. The stronger the relationship glue that holds together an industry, the stronger the industry or profession becomes. The cycle continues by continuing to build stronger individuals.

…PERSONAL LEGACY… 

We aren’t just making deals, building industry, we are building your personal legacies. We will be known for the work we do, and the difference we make. Even if our work doesn’t directly give us warm-fuzzy, we are surrounded with opportunities to help others accelerate in their career, in our industry. The opportunity to give of ourselves to others to help them achieve a higher level of happiness is the greatest opportunity we have to leave an impressive, memorable mark on the world.

 

 

We Gon Lie Down and Bleed a While

 

GT Startup SemesterLast night I had the humbling privilege of spending time with an amazing group of undergrad students at Georgia Tech in the kick off night of a program called Startup Semester.  This is a student organized, student led group of people starting companies. They’re going to use the strength of each other, of mentors, and of the institution to work to “DO EPIC SH” over a period of 10 weeks. I think the founders, Aswin Natarajan and Jerome Choo did an amazing job of preparing, securing phenomenal meeting space, and reviewing applications to only allow serious future-prenuers in the room.    Honestly, there are so many “startup meet up” events out there that are disappointments to me that it was refreshing and energizing to be at an event that I thought really has a chance of making a difference in these startup companies.

At the event, to inspire these Startups, the guys played the video below of a GT  football pre-game speech that has become legend. I love this video. Applies to anybody doing anything of meaning. Watch it early and often!

It’s about FLESH and BLOOD!  Fight, til you can’t fight no mo!

 

ps. Go Startups and Go Jackets!!

Burn the Ships

 

Burn the ShipsThere is a legend that Cortez, while conquering the Aztec empire, reached the shore for battle and ordered his troops to burn the ships so that there was no chance or opportunity to retreat.  The options were to win the battle or die trying. They were there to stay.    Whether it really happened or not, it’s an inspiring lesson for those of us tackling something big. To truly commit, we must burn the ships and know that success or death are our only two options.

If you claim to have decided to pursue a goal, how serious are you? Do you still have the ships ready and waiting to abort in case it doesn’t work out, or have you decided that it’s victory or death?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can mentally conquer the huge challenges that await if your subconscious is aware that you can cry “uncle” at any point.

Side note:  There is certainly a risk management side of this debate and the wisdom of burning your ships and going “all in.” But I write about inspiration not risk management.

Either way you look at it, the lesson is the same:  Be bold.

 

 

Teaching, Doing, Moving

 

Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster CyclesHopefully you’ve noticed the tag of my blog is Seeking Perpetual Inspiration as Entrepreneurial Fuel.  This means a lot to me. Doing another startup, I am fully aware of the emotional roller coaster that comes with starting something from nothing.  Being that this isn’t my first rodeo, I’m finding the highs are higher and the lows aren’t quite as low… but still they are there. I’m also noticing that the cycles are faster. Being well aware of the roller coaster of ups and downs, I can appreciate when I’m in a low, and I’m more efficiently able to move to necessary steps that get to the next high.

The most useful tool for me personally in all this has been this blog. The writings and “teachings” of how to create and hang on to positive energy, good thoughts, and courage, are even more powerful to me personally when I’m publicly touting their importance. When I hit those hard days, it has been neat to read my own writings and find motivation to power ahead.

I should also mention I also get a ton of good energy from helping other startup entrepreneurs through their hard times. By reaching out and giving to others, it’s the most refreshing thing I can do. It’s action. It’s movement.  It’s just good stuff.

 

 

The Thing That Matters in Anything that Matters

My Kids Birthday Present Photo

My 3 kiddos' birthday present photo to me.

Giving.

It’s the one thing in every thing that matters that makes things matter. (say that 5 times fast!)

Ask people what they believe are the things that really matter. Here are some the answers you’ll get.  I propose that giving is at the center of each one.

Love.

Love isn’t about you. It’s not about what you get. It’s what you give to the other person. It’s how much you can lift them up. That’s what love is… it’s humble, selfless giving.

Healthy Living.

It’s all about giving to yourself. Giving away your pride and laziness. Giving energy to the commitment to exercise. Giving it to the trails. Give it to the water. You have to put in and overcome your desire to keep the unhealthy ways and put in. Only then will you experience healthy living.

Gumption.

Gumption to me, is the act of giving energy to things. Rolling up your sleeves and getting s**t done. It’s all about giving.

Faith.

Whether it’s religious faith, faith in yourself, or faith in the goodness of people.  It’s about giving energy towards hope and belief. Giving effort to the positive feelings and actions that good faith creates in you.

Peace.

Give focus. Give quiet time. Give faith. Give love. Give gumption. Giving all of these things on a regular basis leads to Peace.