Category: mooc

James Altucher interviews Derek Sivers

James had a great guest on his podcast today, Derek Sivers. His backstory is that he wanted to sell some of his records online at a time when it wasn’t possible to do that, sometime in the late 90’s and so he learnt programming and built his own site. He then took on some friends who wanted to sell their records through his site, and then friends of friends asked and before he knew it, he had a business called CD Baby, which he eventually sold. He has some sage advice: “Bluntly put, you shouldn’t start a business unless people are asking you to.”. It’s a longer podcast than normal (about 1hr 24m) but well worth it – he’s got so much good advice and he and James are clearly having a great time.

Some resources and links:

Listen to the podcast on James’ site (no iTunes required, listen through your browser)
Derek’s site, and don’t miss the selection of books he’s provided summaries of.
Derek’s book is on Amazon:Anything you want: 40 lessons for a new type of entrepreneur (I’ve got the 1hr 31 minute audiobook and have listened to it over a dozen times – it’s exceptionally good). There’s a lot of good advice in there for people who took part in the Enterprise Shed MOOC a few weeks back.

Derek also did an amazing podcast (31m) with Tim Ferriss on the definition of success, unpopular beliefs and more – I must have listened to this at least a dozen times, and now I find that Derek has very kindly provided a transcript at his site…

Week 2 of the Enterprise Shed: The Insights Week

This week on the Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen MOOC we moved into another gear; we’re looking at where ideas and insights come from, whether they can they be made, and what inspires people and where people might go to find inspiration.

After the introductions of last week, there was a lot of communication back and forth between learners; offering advice, sharing experiences, pointing out nuances others may have missed in their own idea and a lot more – which was great to see. Later in the week, learners shared their problems with each other and provided feedback to each other, and this went down pretty well too.

Ideas make ideas which make ideas

There was a lively thread in the “Where do your ideas come from?” step, where someone said they hadn’t come up with an idea, so I suggested making a list of ten ideas based on ‘cheaper food in the supermarket’ (I think I’d been grumpy about the price of bananas at the time). I started it off, then someone else came up with a neat idea around packaging. I added another nine and challenged them to come up with nine more, which they did :). We were on a roll now, and I picked up on one of the nine ideas around making ‘old lady shopping trolleys trendy again’, which then lead to someone else suggesting that what was really needed was a ‘cute mobile grocery truck’ which played music as it traveled around. This then lead to a discussion about ice cream vans (which was the original inspiration for the truck, mainly because the music got you excited before you even saw the ice cream van) which lead to the truck selling other things such as coffee, pastries and donuts… This idea obviously and inevitably led to the idea of a musical Guinness van in Ireland. Now whether Dublin city council would be happy with a Guinness van meandering through the streets selling Guinness or not isn’t really the point, the point is that by starting with a simple thought ‘cheaper food in the supermarket’, we collectively went through almost thirty ideas and came up with something completely different. We could have picked any other idea than the ‘old lady trolley’ and ended up in a very different place.

It finally finished with us noticing that someone had thought of the truck idea, but for selling margaritas instead. The Margarita Van

Ten is better than one, especially with ideas

It is usually easier to come up with ten ideas than it is one – if you only have one idea, it had better be a great one – one that cannot fail, whereas with ten, you can afford to have a few of them be a bit duff. The podcast James Altucher/Adam Grant: How to turn your next idea into a (successful) business talks about this (about 28 minutes in) – but do listen to the whole thing, there’s advice on procrastination, creativity, ideas, sharing of ideas, testing ideas, entrepreneurship and a whole lot more that’s of direct relevance to the course (in fact a learner and I talked about and dissected this podcast in course comments). There’s also Become an Idea Machine which helps to get you in the right frame of mind for creating 10 ideas a day.

What was really great to see was that learners were coming up with ideas and insights, testing them out on each other, adding to them, critiquing them and encouraging other learners.

Resources and Comments

A lot of really interesting things were mentioned in comments – they’re extracted out here so they’re easier to find and to allow people not on the course to get them.

  • Claudia Azula Altucher – Become an idea machine – I recommended this a few times during the week, a really useful little book for getting you started creating ’10 ideas a day’ (part of the daily practice)
  • How to be the luckiest guy on the planet in four easy steps – I think this is the earliest point where James Altucher surfaces the ‘daily practice’, do four things every day; something physical, something emotional, something mental and something spiritual. It works.
  • For when those ideas hit you in the shower 🙂 Aqua Notes – Waterproof Notepad 40 Sheet Mountable Pad
  • Someone was asking about getting started with App development, so I suggested bitfountain which is an online training company for iOS and Swift. I’ve bought courses from them in the past and they’re pretty good.
  • One comment a learner had on what entrepreneurism means to them resonated with me: “there’s entrepreneurship with a big E and entrepreneurship with a little E. With a big E it’s the traditional concept of risking capital for a financial reward. But with a little E, there are so many benefits to expanding one’s capacity for entrepreneuship-ness; flexibility, responsiveness, sharing ideas, confidence, stepping outside one’s comfort zone etc.”
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World: Adam Grant, Sheryl Sandberg – not read this one, but it’s the book James and Adam were talking about in their podcast. It was also recommended to me by the same learner who dissected the podcast.
  • One step on the course recommended some TED and other videos for the learners, amongst them: Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?, Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation, Susan Cain: The power of introverts (this one was well liked by learners) . Two I really like are Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are and John Cleese on Creativity – YouTube – this is only about 10 minutes long, but is packed with hints and tips on how to be creative.
  • Recommended by a learner on the course, Philosophers’ notes: The Books is a service that distills optimal living books into very well designed PDFs and 20 minute MP3’s – I’ve not tried it out yet, but think I will as it seems to be similar to something I’m using called Blinkist, but the Philosophers notes PDFs look more information-dense.
  • Finally, I recommended Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big as it’s a fascinating book that pitches ‘systems’ vs ‘goals’. His proposal is that you will find most successful people follow systems, not goals and when you do hear of a goal orientated person succeeding in a big way, it makes the news, which makes an interesting story. It’s got a big section on persuasion as well – a skill all entrepreneurs need!

We’re into week three now, which is all about how ideas develop into opportunities, so better put a bigger thinking cap on!

Thoughts on week 1 of The Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen

This week the Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen MOOC kicked off. It’s run by Newcastle University, and last year I joined the course as a participant. This year, I’m a mentor for ShedTech: Technology and Engineering and as I’m located in Tasmania, I’m mostly online when it’s late evening in the UK. There are six other mentors in other areas of interest; ShedArts: Arts Crafts and Culture, ShedBusiness: Business, Sheducation: Education, ShedEnvironment: Environment, ShedHealth: Health and Wellbeing, ShedSocial: Social and Community, as well as the lead Sheducator, Katie Wray and Nuala Davis who is coordinating the behind the scenes activity. My role is mainly to welcome people and encourage them to talk about their ideas and how they might make them a reality. That means how they may better describe and modify their idea, come up with further ideas, share them with others and help to identify people who will help them to take the idea further.

Note: some of the links are on the Futurelearn platform and you need to be logged in to see the content. The course is free and you’ll be able to join until about the 10th of March.

Over the last week, I’ve made about 80 comments to people, ranging from quick “Hi x and welcome” to longer comments about jobs, education, idea generation, technology, and general encouragement. Some of those posts started to reference each other and include links, so I thought it might be handy to bring them out here.

A common comment was what happens if someone steals my idea?.

My response was;

A podcast (6 minutes) goes into just this “What to do if someone steals your website” and James Altucher says “No one can compete with you being you. If you have the passion and the enthusiasm for your business, then they’ll never be able to beat you”.

Many people are wondering about changing their job or career, and the course is one way in which they can ‘test the water’

My comment to one person was;

You’re in luck – this is probably the best time for people like you who want to move onto doing something else, the flexibility of Internet tools makes it far easier to do that now than previously. There are many options; firstly – do this course :), you’ll find many like minded people here, so do respond in comments and follow those who interest you, secondly – there are groups such as the ChooseYourself Facebook group that are populated by people who are looking to create their own career and (as the name says) not waiting for someone else to ‘Choose Them’ for the new job, the promotion or whatever – they are doing it themselves. I’m in that group and it’s very rewarding, thirdly – absorb some of the flood of information out there on these topics – I gave a list of podcasts on another (FutureLearn) thread , but I’d also recommend things from Tim Ferriss (4 hour work week) as he’s very practical too. Finally, anything by Seth Godin is worth reading – he recognises the world of work has changed dramatically and is on a mission to help others realise that.

Here’s the FutureLearn comment with the list of podcasts for those not taking the course;

….I’d recommend almost all James Altucher’s podcasts – he’s a serial entrepreneur, shares his ideas, is very contrarian, has an easy writing style and has a good sense of humour too.

And in a twist of serendipity, the podcast he released yesterday is all about “How to turn your idea into a (successful) business

His most recent podcast series is with Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics) called ‘Question of the Day‘ (usually less than 20mins) – lots of business and entrepreneur-related stuff there.

My favourite though is “Ask Altucher“, usually less than 20 minutes, one a single topic. Sadly, not updated anymore, but a wealth! of good advice there.

Other people were asking about how to find audiences etc. and to them I’ve been suggesting they use Facebook ads as a simple and inexpensive way to find out who is out there, and whether a market exists for the product or service. My post from last year has some details of how you might use Facebook for that purpose.

There were people questioning the current educational model, and to them I suggested Seth Godin, James Altucher and Peter Thiel (I should also have added Peter Diamandis).

General Links to podcasts, books, apps etc.

I sifted through the comments I made and extracted out some of the links I talked about, I’ve added a few more in here for completeness. Hope this helps!

Don’t forget that all these people have blogs, podcasts, twitter accounts etc where a lot of their thoughts are available for free.

Kevin Kelly – a thousand true fans – talks about 1000 fans being enough for an income, and also that better technology is the answer to poor or no technology.

Claudia Azula Altucher – Become an idea machine – delightful book that helps you get into the habit of writing down 10 ideas a day, essential to exercise your ‘brain muscle’ and help you get better at writing and developing ideas.

Seth Godin – updated almost every day with pithy commentary on doing your work. Seth has written a lot of very good books; I’d say, based on what I’ve read of comments on the course so far, the ones of most relevance are probably Linchpin, Your Turn, The Dip and Tribes, but honestly, all his work is well worth reading.

James Altucher – I came across James’ work by accident and have devoured most of what he’s written since then. His book Choose Yourself helped me when I was deciding to change my own career and it’s so popular it has a Facebook group as well – the group is closed, but you just need to request access. James also got me into listening to Podcasts (I use Overcast – it’s got some good features).

Tim Ferriss does some superb, in-depth (1hr+) podcasts with some very interesting people. He recently talked to Seth Godin, which was exceptional. Tim does detiled show notes, with links and cues into specific places in the podcast – highly recommended.

Peter Diamandis is perhaps best-known for being the originator of the X-PRIZE which was initially known for putting private space exploits on the map, but which has now expanded into many different areas. He also co-authored Bold and Abundance, two books that budding entrepreneurs should really know about. He co-hosts an excellent podcast at Exponential Wisdom where the topics (usually about 20 minutes) range from innovation to robotics to AI to disruption to education. Highly recommended.

Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, is an exceptional book centred around the defeating of “Resistance”, the internal, eternal voice that is always knocking us. Seth Godin refers to a similar thing, calling it the Lizard Brain, and this video on “Quieting the Lizard Brain” is well worth watching.

I’d also highly recommend watching social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk Your body language shapes who you are, which is a superb presentation on the science of “faking it till you’re making it” and would be very helpful for people who might be lacking in confidence.

It’s been a really interesting and rewarding time and I’m looking forward to more of the same next week!

Off we go!

The Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen MOOC starts today, and I’m very happy to be a mentor in the ShedTech area.

I took the course last year (I wrote a few posts about it below) and got a lot out of it. I provided some feedback to the team and they asked me to be a mentor this year.

I’ll be providing feedback to participants throughout the course, and will be specifically looking out for people interested in Technology and Engineering (ShedTech), but I’m also interested in other areas too such as ShedHealth (harking back to a previous career!) where I expect to learn quite a bit…

Let’s get started 🙂