“Constantly seek criticism. … A well thought out critique of whatever you are doing is as valuable as gold.”- Elon Musk
“If you do the simple math, if somebody else is working 50 hours and you are working 100, you’ll get twice as much done in the course of a year as the other company.”
“Just work like hell. You’ve gotta put in 80, 100 hour work weeks.” – Elon Musk
“Starting a business. Number 1 is having a high pain threshold.” – Elon Musk
“You are always going to buy the trusted brand unless there is a BIG difference.” – Elon Musk
“Constantly seek criticism. … A well thought out critique of whatever you are doing is as valuable as gold.” – Elon Musk
“Usually your friends know what is wrong. They don’t want to tell you because they don’t want to hurt you. … Usually your friends are right. …. You should take the approach that as an entrepreneur you are wrong. You want to be less wrong.” – Elon Musk
This image came up as a topic of conversation in a meeting we had this morning and I wanted to share it. It is a pretty accurate description of the open source rewrite of Tendenci from the ground up over the last four years. And I’m pretty excited about the software moving away from the squiggly part on the right in this image from Henry Bloget’s blog post.
Oh don’t worry, we’ll attack new challenges and make new squiggles which will make people think we are off track, or losing it, or “freak them out” as we get to the end of a road and go “oooops, that didn’t work.” But now we know that didn’t work.
It also reminded me of some of Hugh’s quotes in his book Not Sucking that I have always liked. For example:
THERE IS NO SECRET SAUCE
WORK HARD. LIVE QUIETLY. BE FRUGAL. SIMPLIFY. NEVER COMPLAIN. CONSTANTLY ELEVATE YOUR CRAFT.
Sure, a bit of talent and good fortune comes in handy. It’s nice that you could draw better than any other kid in your small town, or that your parents had the money to afford tennis lessons after class.
But that just gets you to the starting line. The actual race is what happens after that, day in, day out, for many years to come.
And the ones who win, the ones who really elevate their craft, are generally the ones who work the hardest. Life is unfair.
People underestimate the power of hard work. I like that he simplifies it all into Creativity, Mastery and Meaning. He doesn’t lie to you about a four hour work week, or tell you you have to wear Gucci to be happy, he doesn’t even list being happy as a goal. Meaning, Mastery and Creativity are how you don’t suck. Being happy is what happens when you don’t suck. But not always, because it’s hard work.
The best way to not suck is to MASTER something useful. Obvious, yes?
The thing is, I know TONS of super successful people, but none of them fit this extreme, celeb-lottery-winner-Reality-TV model. Some of them are actually pretty boring, to be honest. But they lead happy, friendly lives and do VERY well career-wise.
THAT is what most success looks like, if you think about it. The stuff on TV or in the movies just isn’t REAL enough for us to learn that much useful stuff.
So I was thinking about this again, recently, HARD.
What model would work for folk like you and me? A model that didn’t mean you had to sell your soul to Wall Street, Hollywood, Washington or the tabloids? A success model that doesn’t rely solely on the unlikelihood of outrageously good fortune or acts of evil?
Then quite by chance, I saw a great documentary recently: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, a film about the world’s greatest sushi master, and a light bulb EXPLODED in my head.
Our man, 85-year-old Jiro Ono is the world’s greatest sushi chef– the only sushi master to ever have been awarded three Michelin stars. He’s also the oldest person to have ever been a recipient of that award.
The thing is, he doesn’t have a lot of money or own a fleet of trendy restaurants in all the world’s capitals, a-la Wolfgang Puck. No syndicated TV shows, celebrity-chef book deals or TV talk-show circuits, either.
He just has just a small, plain, dull, ordinary-looking, low-key sushi bar with ten seats in the basement of a Tokyo office building, near the subway, the kind of nondescript place you’d probably just walk by without stopping, if you saw it. Ten seats! Yet he REALLY IS the best in the world at what he does.
Jiro works seven days a week, over 350 days a year (he hates taking vacation), serves sushi and sashimi to people in very small numbers, and THAT’S IT. Just sushi. No salad, no appetizers, no deserts.
Like I said, JUST SUSHI. And by sticking to this minimalist, bare-bones formula, he’s become the best in the world.
A tiny little sushi bar in some random subway station. Yet people wait in line, people book a stool at his sushi bar as much as a year in advance, at prices starting around $600 a head. People have been known to fly all the way from America or Europe, just to experience a 30-minute meal. In an office basement!
I read that and felt humbled. And befuddled. And yes perhaps a bit justified.
I’m also really happy to know others are like me. I don’t particularly consider myself successful but I expect it will all work out. I have many blessings and I work with great people. I have a wonderful family. I’ve also had my share of loss and plenty of criticism, which I have learned comes with the role of CEO even for a small company (note: there are no books on how to be a CEO. You just do your damndest to learn fast!)
Back to Jiro. I get him. For me, I have been obsessing about one single software product called Tendenci built specifically for associations and non-profits for 13 years now. I’ve had a lot of help. I’ve never wavered nor lost the passion to keep improving it. I’m truly obsessed with making software in a way that makes our CLIENTS successful.
I started it in 2001, (the tech bubble had burst) on the premise, after reading hundreds of marketing books that clients who made money off of your software wouldn’t leave you. That they might forgive a missed deadline, but they would not forgive a security breach. That they wanted the freedom to leave at any time. So all of our clients were sold month to month, export your data and leave whenever you want. (this was before open source was an option and before PHP was around.)
What started on the Microsoft platform is now rewritten by a a great team of programmers who work here, and outsourcers, and hopefully more and more by people in the community. It is now Django/Python/Postgres and Ubuntu. We are working hard, and I am obsessing on adding donor management that integrates with Salesforce Foundation’s free licenses for non-profits. I’m completely obsessed with giving NPOs an alternative – that they can succeed on both bottom lines, financial and causes, and put more of their money and time towards the cause instead of spending 10k/user for Raiser’s Edge.
Can a 13 year old product built on Django give NPOs a real alternative to Raiser’s Edge and Blackbaud? And can it be an OPEN SOURCE product that you can integrate, extend, and experience with no vendor lock in at all? The odds are against me. And there are only 10 stools. And my obsession with achieving this success grows stronger every day, and it is not because I know anyone at Blackbaud.
I’m obsessed with collaboratively building Tendenci not because of what the software itself can do. I’m obsessed and seeking mastery because of what global-non-profits can do with the first open source Python software built specifically for them. That is my passion.