Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Practically Speaking, What does Giving Up Mean?

I was with another early stage entrepreneur recently, and we were comparing notes on how hard it is building startups.  He said to me “Some days, I think I’m getting ready to just give up.”

I encouraged him to explore that option. What if you do give up? What are you going to do? 

Get a j-o-b? 

Of course you will. And yes, you can get any job you want. You’re experienced, connected, smart, and talented. Any job you want. Do you believe that?

He said: Yes, I do.

Ok then, let’s say you go get this dream job.  How will you really feel about yourself every day when you go home and on the weekends?

Will you be satisfied? 

Will you see that big boat, hear about those big vacations, those super-cars that you love and feel that you are doing your best to get there for yourself?   

Or will you be satisfied knowing that you may be taking your big dreams off the table and working at your j-o-b?

Of course not!

Or let’s look at another option. Maybe you think you should have gone down a different startup path?   Do you really think it would be easier building any other company besides the one you’re building right now?

Remember how easy it looked when you set out to do this? You knew the idea was sound, the market was huge, and you had the skills and team to go after it? I bet any other idea you have looks about the same from the outside, but remember… they’re all hard once you get going.  So don’t fool yourself.

Remember that you chose your current path.  You can change your mind at any time.  But why would you? When you realize this, you take giving up off the table, and you have immense freedom to focus on moving forward. It’s the only option.

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Intensity in Everything

This week I’m traveling, so to keep my 2015 rhythm going of daily posts I plan to write a short post about one of my core values each day. 

One of my favorite core values is “Intensity in Everything.”  

We all can be more intense about the way we go about our lives. 

Our work, our family, our play, our study, our craft.  Not being intense is too easy.  Being normal, average, mediocre.   

Being intense requires being intentional. If you are just following the natural what-comes-next path in your life, you very unlikely are not going about it in a very intense way.  It took me about 25 years on this rock to realize the achieving intensity required being intentional

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Your Energy is Best Spent on These Two Activities

I received a lot of notes about the Hard as Hell post on Monday. It seems I struck a chord with CEOs.  I thought a follow-up post on how I “lean in” would be helpful.

What specific tasks can you do during the day when you feel beat up? Where can you get energy?  For me, it comes from two places: 1) talking to prospects and customers and 2) working heads down on the product itself. 

Talking to Customers.  There is nothing more energizing than selling to someone who sees value in what you need.   Having good question after good question that pulls you through a demo of your product is awesome.   When you start to feel like you’re slowing down, go find some customers to spend time with. Ask them how they’re using your product. Or if they aren’t, just ask them how they do their jobs. Ask them what tools they are using.   Consider it a challenge to get as much information from your target customer as possible.  Information feeds ideas, feeds product.

Designing / Tinkering / Playing with Product.  For tech entrepreneurs and non-tech entrepreneurs, thinking about what value you deliver to the customer should be a great way to keep your head in the game.   Even though you can’t expect to “build it and they will come,” the inverse could also be true: “if it sucks, there’s no point in trying.”     For me, this isn’t as much expanding design and ideas on what our startup can do, rather it’s imagining new use cases, new ways to describe it, new examples and user stories. 

It’s important to keep moving when building a company. Just be sure you are moving on the right things.   Don’t let yourself fall back into low-impact activities.

Trust that any time you are spending with customers and in/on your product is high-impact, high-value time spent.