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Following the Rules

How To Dream Big

Sometimes I wish I could lock myself away in a room for months at a time like Howard Hughes.

It would be so peaceful: watching old movies, eating chocolate bars, and growing out your toe and fingernails to super human lengths.

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Howard Hughes gets such a bad rap when he’s talked about these days, if he’s even remembered, but he was a really awesome dude.

Born into a semi-rich oil family and set for life, he inherited his parent’s company when both of them were killed before his 21st birthday. Sad, but and he actually ran the company successfully.

He took his company, ToolCo, from tool manufacturer to conglomerate, making stops in the film, aviation and casino businesses along the way. By the end of it all, he was the richest person in the world.

He was also batshit insane

Hughes lived for MONTHS at a time with no human contact, choosing instead to lock himself away in hotel rooms eating nothing but chocolate bars and drinking milk, trying to avoid contact with germs and other people.

There’s a human side to the way he acted – just like there’s a human side to everything – which is why I look up to him.

As the richest man in the world, all Howard Hughes did when he went into isolation was live the life he wanted to live, exactly how he wanted to live it, without having money as a barrier.

Would you do the same?

My dream is to live in a haunted house, rigged up by some acclaimed horror director and his team to scare the crap out of visitors when they stop by. I’ve wanted to build it for a long time, and one day I hope to have access to the capital to make it happen.

What’s your dream? What would you do if money was no object?

I’m not talking about traveling the world, something that gets boring very quickly, but something you would create, you’d BUILD, that would be 100% suited to your dream life.

That’s not a rhetorical question, I’d love to hear you reply with an answer.

-Alex

P.S. What’s holding you back from answering the question?

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Too Much Of The Same Thing

Recently I wrote about how awesome it is to walk around the city playing video games and listening to audiobooks, and I still think it’s a great thing to do, if you want to get a lot of reading done quickly, but there’s still a lot to be said for walking around in silence.

There’s so much you can miss in a city like New York if you walk around with headphones in, and the last few weeks I’ve found myself slowly losing awareness of the world around me.

The high point was when I was walking down a sidewalk in Harlem, playing games and listening to a book… when I smacked right into a tree.

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My worst enemy

Back when I was in school, I used to take walks most mornings — I’d walk around the lake and just think about things: life, love, whether all my friends secretly hated me, and it was great.

To experience that again, for the last three weeks I made a rule: no audiobooks or video games during the week.

It’s had some surprising results: I’m becoming more aware of the people around me, especially my coworkers, and their reactions to my behavior both good and bad.

That increased awareness is allowing me to see more opportunities to do favors and learn more about the people I work with; something I wanted to do when I started working, but I was too distracted by the audiobooks to make it a priority.

I figure balance is key, even though I’m terrible at it. For now I’m leaving my binge audiobook listening and gaming for the weekends, just to see what happens.

Which works better for you?

-Alex

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Copying Vs Replicating?

When I talk to business owners about why they make certain choices, their go-to response many times is “because it’s what our competitors are doing.”

That’s not a bad way to approach things, but often when business owners try to do industry best practices, they end up COPYING competitors instead of REPLICATING them.

Let’s take two fast food restaurants as an example: Restaurant A is the industry heavy hitter while Restaurant B is the competitor trying to catch up.

Restaurant A goes through a year of research and introduces salads onto a menu that original only served burgers.

Now, if Restaurant B wants to compete, they have two options: COPY or REPLICATE.

COPYING would be adding salad to their menu as well.

Obviously Restaurant A did their research, and added salad for a reason, so why shouldn’t Restaurant B add salad, too?

The other, more tactical, way to go about it is to REPLICATE.

Restaurant A saw an opportunity, and they added salads to their menu, but WHY?

That’s what Restaurant B should be asking.

Did Restaurant A add salads because they found that customers wanted healthier options?

If so, maybe Restaurant B adding salads isn’t the best way to capitalize on the opportunity: they might be better off adding diet sodas, fruit cups, or even lower calorie burgers.

Replication is going after the reason BEHIND your competitor’s actions, rather than copying them flat out.

How can you apply this to your business or projects?

-Alex

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Is It Worth The Struggle?

I loved the movie Jersey Boys — it’s a biography style film about this group of kids from the Jersey streets who go on to become the band The Four Seasons, and all the crap they had to get through for that to happen.

And it was A LOT of crap:

This is a group of people who had to struggle for YEARS before anyone would even listen to a song of theirs, and the members of the band had to go through several members before finding a line-up that actually got market traction.

I love movies like these because they let you see how much work it takes to make it

In the film, the writers try to speed up the learning process and get to the fun stuff, so on screen you see Frankie Valli learning to sing for a bit, breaking into cars and getting in trouble before making it big, and that part of the film lasts MAYBE 20 minutes.

To the guys actually living it, that part of their lives went on for years and years

It took sixteen years for all of them to grow up, and five more years working in a hair salon during the day while hustling and performing at night, all before any radio station would even look at the cover of a demo record.

It’s the same in real-life: lots of people work their asses off for years at a time and get nothing… NOTHING to show for the hours and years they put into a project.

Then, some give up and become average

Devoting their time to their kids 100%, losing themselves in the lives of their children while they watch their dreams and abilities slowly fade away because they aren’t using them.

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Victory in life

Others keep trying… they don’t let a couple years of debt stand in their way. They ignore almost EVERY SINGLE PERSON in their lives that tells them to be realistic, and they keep working, because it’s the only thing they can do.

Some people can adapt to being a worker — they have the skills to get very specialized in a job, work as part of a giant machine, and are content with being a tiny piece of a cog inside of it, not even a full cog, for their entire careers.

Other people aren’t like that….

They know there’s going to be down time, time where they don’t feel like getting out of bed, and worse — time when it feels like they’re so close to finally achieving their goals only to have that short term success destroyed in seconds by an email or phone call from a person with more power than them.

And when that happens, they know they need to push through — to learn from the people who’ve done it before, because they see the humanity in the success.

All the great entrepreneurs I know have fucked their lives up multiple times — they’ve gone down career paths unrelated to what they finally ended up doing, most dropped out or nearly dropped out of college, and they ALL kept going no matter what happened.

The future successful people among us know that we NEED to go through similar things if we want to do anything great.

Keep it up, man — you’re on the right track.

-Alex

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Finding Passion In Your Work

I was at a coffee meeting with a kid who went to my college a couple days ago. He was new to the city and wanted some advice on how to move forward when it came to work. First of all, it’s amazing that other people are reaching out to FGCU alumni in New York, and that he thinks I’m one of the people worth reaching out to.

He asked how I found a job in a new city, moving here with no connections, and I told him the main thing I did: pick one specific job title, then meet people with that job title to make sure it’s one you like — if it isn’t, pick a new job title and start over.

Following your gut

Two years ago, when I was about to finish Junior year in college, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I started working, I would have said “an account manager at an advertising firm in NYC.” I knew that’s what I wanted to be, but I got a lot of push back from the market when first moving here, and ended up taking a business development job at a startup.

While there, the team and I grew the company considerably — the thing is still growing like mad, spreading across the country — but I had to leave. Some aspects of the job were fun, the marketing and user acquisition parts, but I was on the phone all day cold-calling dance classes and karate instructors trying to convince them of the value of what my company did.

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I thought coffee was only for closers

Don’t get me wrong, some people LOVE doing that sort of thing — my parents’ entire business was built on it — but it’s not something I can do consistently and get enjoyment out of, so I left.

Me and the company are still on good terms and they hired an amazing sales guy, someone who LIVES to develop new business, and I went on to sell flavored marshmallows, then swingsets. Now I’m back in the city and I’ve come full circle: I’m a Digital Account Manager at an interactive agency in the city, and it’s fantastic so far, but I had to go through a lot of shit to get this job, and it’s only the beginning of a career.

“I’ve come full circle”

I don’t have a solid memory before high school — just bits and pieces of events. So I’m happy where I am right now career wise, and probably will be for another 3-4 years, but everyone understands it’s just a stepping stone, jobs end but lives continue, and people have different paths.

Am I passionate about marketing? Who knows. Do I find it fun when people use a product that I had a part in creating, or when I go to Google Analytics and see a few hundred or thousand people using a site I helped pitch, design or ideate? Hell yes.

Explore a little bit, and you could be in a similar place.

-Alex

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