The Mentors
Mentors provide wisdom, open key doors + hold a long-term view on your professional development.

Mentors vs Friends
Mentors rarely are your best friend, though they may go to further lengths then most of your inner circle to help you materialize your vision.  Mentors are a precious resource to be called upon for strategic input.

Friends  provide solace when times are tough and are consistent cheer leaders when times are good.  Yet, friends often provide mixed results when it comes to championing your professional vision. They may hold back their best insights for fear they might hurt your feelings.

Mentors say as they see it.  And mentors endorse their candidate once they have earned their stripes.

Measuring A Mentor
All mentors are not created equal.  You must be selective about whom you ask to be a mentor.

Masterful Mentors Traits
A masterful mentor has five key traits:

  1. Honest
  2. Direct
  3. Committed
  4. Results Oriented
  5. Enduring

Be A Good Student
In order to attract a world class mentor, you must be a world class student.  You must demonstrate your focus, commitment and drive towards results.  You must also be humble and acknowledge what you need to learn.  The better the student you are, the more attractive you will be to a potential mentor.

Each mentor has a limited amount of time, for the best mentors are people in positions of leadership and people of action. As such, to accept being a mentor is a serious commitment  and they expect you to be mindful of their time. Most mentors are motivated by a sense of give back + they know their invested energies was worth it by the fruits of your labor.

The Ask
Sometimes mentorships  organically evolve.  Yet, we advocate that you invite your potential mentor to a lunch and make a formal request for them to be your mentor.   They will inquire what you expect of them.  Be clear in your mind why you selected them, be clear on how you see it unfolding and always be respectful of their time + relationships.

The best mentor – student relationships are low profile, high results and enduring.  They provide a sense of give back to the mentor and they help radically accelerate the professional journey of the best students.

PARTNER CHECK LIST
Selecting the right business partners can make or break a venture. What starts out all enthusiastic can lead to exponential growth, bitter bickering or suffocating stagnation.  In order to line up an A class team with the unified spirit and mission of the Three Musketeers, we produced a simple check list.

Careful consideration can make sure that you are aligned with the right people, for the right project and at the right time.

THE CHECK LIST

  1. VALUE: How do we create more value together than apart? Do you agree on the weight of that value in equity terms?
  2. COMMITMENT LEVEL: Is this a marriage, casual dating or simple flirting?
  3. ETHICS: Solid, Soft or Sketchy standards?
  4. EXPERIENCE + KNOW-HOW + KNOW WHO: Useful now, in the future or never?
  5. MINDSET: Hustler, hunter or farmer?
  6. RISK LEVEL: Same or Different.  Complementary or Conflicting?
  7. EXTERNAL VOICES: Supporting or Concerned?
  8. SURVIVAL FACTOR: Are you in the same boat in financial terms?
  9. SCALE: Small is beautiful, Go Large, Super Size Me?
  10. EXIT: Keep It or Sell It?

ORGY OF OPTIONS
This is 2010 and if you are reading this blog, you are of a privileged generation with an extraordinary access to know how and know who.  The formula is simple:

Computers + Connectivity+ Education + Social networks = Orgy of Options.

THE CHALLENGE:  MANY TARGETS
Choice then becomes the key challenge.  There is an itch to pursue many paths at once.  At the root of it is the question: do you want to be living a life in a state of peak performance  or perpetual wandering.  Both are valid and worthy life paths.  One is the journey of the master and potentially a virtuoso.  The other is that of the dabbler, amateur and bon vivant.

THE PATH = MINDFULNESS + PASSIONATE PURSUIT
Many people cough up a short list of makeshift new year´s resolutions.  The usual suspects are to trim back on the waistline, do better at work and make amends with family.   There is a buzz in the air and people feel moved to talk about it, perhaps even draft up a to do list.

Yet, the ink drys fast and the commitment levels to these objectives fades and wobbles under old habits and the hustle and bustle of daily life.

What is required to hit these targets is  a deep mindfulness of commitment.  It means knowing what are the objectives, evaluating them and understanding the trade-offs.  Then, once these trade-offs are understood, there is the call for a passionate pursuit.  These two energies twine together into a powerful tap root, the first step in cultivating a vibrant triangle of talent, skill and experience which blossoms into the ability to hit the target, even at the longest of ranges.

THE FANTASTIC FEW
Now, to get into that zone where passion and mindfulness meld together into an indefatigable force, you must choose your fantastic few.  You want to flourish and generate serious results.  And this means cleaning out all the noise, dumping distractions and being self aware enough to know when you are musing on something, which is essential to innovation and other great advances and when you are chasing your tail.

Here at the Pioneer Mindset, we encourage you to consider:

1 Professional Target + 1 Social Mission  + 1 Personal Vision = The Fantastic Few

ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET
There is a natural flow to the entrepreneurial mindset.   The creator, innovator and game changer engage in a continuous cycle that emerges into a flux and flow of ideas which take form and burst onto the scene as sustainable contributions to business, civic commitments or governmental improvements.

REFLECT
129996787_aa15c7c8ab Society places a premium on action, action, action. And in our hustle bustle, go go go world, the culture of reflection slowly faded to the background.  And in many cases, those who took the time to ponder the imponderable were labeled day dreamers.

Yet it is precisely in the power of reflection, mental wandering, exploration games and playing around with the what-if questions that pushes the boundaries, feeds the spirit of innovation and produces substantial game change.  Reflection is the primal spark that ignites the entrepreneurial fire.

RUNcheetah-sprinting
Once an idea or concept is vetted by the fury of an entrepreneurial mind, the action muscles twitch, adrenaline surges and the ignited embers build into a blazing fire that fuels the sprint into action.  There comes the laser focus, the continuous concentration and the unrelenting move towards bringing the vision to realization.

RESTSnow monkey
A big challenge for entrepreneurs is to rest during and after building a sustainable enterprise.  They keep pushing, driving and advancing without resting, appreciating and savoring the journey.  It is crucial in the pursuit of the vision and dream to build in periods of rest, returns to the reflection zone and then a re-engagement of the run towards the vision.  And regardless of whether it is a sprint or a marathon, the successful entrepreneur requires rest.

RELAX_src0078c
The biggest challenge for an entrepreneur is to relax and to permit those close to him or her to cultivate relaxation into their lives.  It is through this relaxation,though, that the entrepreneur can be stirred up with fresh ideas, energies and glowing networks.  We will again see that the entire flux and flow which churns inside of an entrepreneur will once again:

REPEAT!

OPEN OCEANS VIEW
The open ocean is vast, daunting and competition can be fierce when people are hunting in the same territory.  Here is where it pays to understand who you are today and to gain an understanding of the different styles of hunting. As you can see here, in tight, dense markets, all the players show up seeking to stake their claim, from the big to the small:

We will review some of the apex players shopping for sardines and how to understand them in the context of building your team and selecting investors.

SHARKSOSFLD-00003183-001-FB
Sharks are overrated as partners and investors. People envision the great white shark, king of the open seas, blazing the path for their start-up or venture. Certainly a fearsome creature, formidable competitor and a world class icon of the A class apex hunter ruling the ocean, sharks are serious players.  The challenge is, though, building a team of sharks results in a chronic tenuous situation for everyone involved, unless you are the alpha in the group.  The first bite rules apply.  And this is particularly so when inviting a shark into the investor pool.30_david3_large

In some cases, if you are a beta at heart and need an alpha to lead, then by all means invite the lead hunter into your waters.  That said, if you are small but want to grow into an alpha, be mindful of the impact it has when you bring them on board too early in the game. And in the end, regardless of stage, track record, your skills and know-who, they will maneuver, fight for and seek the pole position:  51% control, final say and first bite rights when the bounty is at hand.  It is their nature.  What is sad to see is when the entrepeneur goes into the waters thinking that the dorsel fin he or she sees in the water is a dolphin, but in fact what he wakes up to is a serious chomp by a ferocious set of teeth.84-oceanics-elphinstone

And if you insist that it is with the sharks you wish to swim, understand 90% of the time, you will be the pilot fish along side that great hunter.  And if you are up for keeping pace, working hard to stay out of the jaws of the alpha and at peace with eating the scraps, then by all means navigate those waters.

SHARK RULES:
RULE 1:  SHARKS HAVE FIRST BITE RIGHTS
RULE 2:  SHARKS CONTROL THE PACE OF THE HUNT
RULE 3:  SHARKS USE SPEED + STEALTH
RULE 4:  SHARK´S APPETITES DEMAND CONSTANT FEEDING

If you doubt these rules, sit back and watch the ABC show Shark Tank:
http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/

DOLPHINS
Dolphins are strong, coordinated and fast.  They understand team work.  And in the video above, if you look carefully, it is their coordination which keeps the sardines3406129176_70b1e0f2c6rising to the surface. They build a net of bubbles which drive the school of fish to the surface and keeps corrals them into an accessible point of attack. Now, if you can implement the pod mindset into your firm and into the culture of you are building it is fantastic.  And make sure to be able to distinguish the dorsel fin early on, so that you bring on board dolphins versus a shark.

The filp side is to carefully consider the dolphins as investors.  These often come in the form of a venture caplitalist in a suit. natu-650And perhaps you have a few of them interested in taking a stake in your firm.  And like the shark, dolphins are alpha oriented and coordinated. As venture capitalists tend towards the same set of metrics, they again will be naturally driven to squeeze out any management risk, stake their first right to the bountry and are compelled to drive the entrepreneur to the surface and in a single direction, the one set by them and their investors. So be mindful, while the dolphins appear friendly, they too must follow their nature.

DOLPHIN RULES
RULE 1: DOLPHINS COMMUNICATE
RULE 2: DOLPHINS COORDINATE ATTACK AND PLAY IN TEAMS
RULE 3: DOLPHINS HAVE STRONG WORK ETHIC AND FAMILY COMMITMENT
RULE 4: DOLPHINS  USE INTELLIGENCE AND STRENGTH

FISH
Perhaps you will emerge or morph into either a dolphin or shark, yet the fact is, most ventures start out as little fish.  And to that extent, it makes great sense to builddc819ffa9a synergies, a niche hunting strategy and a fine tuned awarness of threats and opportunities closer to the reef.  Often people see it as less sexy.  I mean, who likes to say, I am swimming with the fish.  Do see what those apex hunters are doing to those sardines, you exclaim!  Yes, being in the mighty mass of sardines, makes you the target of everyone. That is why you set out to be an entrepreneur.

Yet, there are different ecologies and different dynamics all together in the smaller ranges and geographies of the ocean. And we say, go into the shallow sea, build your skills and find your niche. This is the reef, vibrant, dense and thick with niche opportunities.

Here it is a colorful scene of different players with a wide variety of options and many synergies to be had an collborations. Scope for keeping a low profile and room for growth.  Then, as you build, build, build and you want to venture out to the wider seas, you can evolve and determine which player you want to be, where you want to hunt and you will have the strength, skill and mindset needed to make a proper run of it.  Note, though, entpreneurialism on that scale demands courage, constant refinement of your skills and the ability to throughly understand yourself and will to keep in the game, day in and day out.

FISH RULES:
RULE 1:  FISH FIND MICRO NICHES
RULE 2:  FISH CAN BE SOLOISTS OR IN SCHOOLS
RULE 3:  REEFS ARE THICK WITH SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPS
RULE 4:  SMALL FISH CAN GROW BIG


THE POWER + IMPACT OF CHOICE STYLES
Building effective teams demands total clarity on how potential candidates make choices.  Powerful teams align the different decision making styles.   Failure to understand this can weaken the venture´s foundation and slow down growth.  The three main styles are: generators, selectors + de-selectors.

GENERATORS
green paint brush Generators see the gaps, visualize alternatives and produce options.  The best generators are called visionaries.  The upside of generators is their ability to constantly open up fresh doors of opportunities.  The challenge of this profile is diffusion.  Generators tend to be the founders, CEOs, heads of business development and the engines of research groups.

SELECTORS

two blue doors Selectors see the gap, yet struggle to visualize endless options.  The best selectors apply strategic and operational logic.  They keep focused on measurable results.  In other words, they convert a generator´s concepts into concrete value. The challenge of this profile is missed opportunities or worst yet failure to recognize serious competitive threats. Selectors tend to be the COOs, line managers and responsible for profit + loss centers.

DE-SELECTORS
single green door
De-selectors are tough ones.  Everyone knows these types.  You ask them what they want for dinner.  They respond with a smile and say whatever you like, what do you have in mind? You say this, that and the other thing.  Each time they give you a disapproving look until eventually you say Swamp Stew.  They respond, perfect!  You see, the de-selectors only ever had ONE option in mind.  And anything short of that is a threat, problem or fails to get them fully engaged.

Now the challenge is, that de-selectors enter the ranks every single day.  They make solid YES MEN at the lower ranks in non-democratic companies where they have relatively little decision making power.  Yet, as they rise into positions of power, this weakness can undermine a department and even an entire company.  This mindset stifles debate, starves innovation and disregards external dynamics.

While there are some powerful minds who operate through the de-selector lens, it is far better to keep them as friends versus professional team mates.

CHOICE PAIRINGS:
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Pairing of decision makers:

GENERATORS + SELECTORS         = EXPLOSIVE GROWTH

GENERATORS + DE-SELECTORS   = STUNTED GROWTH

SELECTORS + DE-SELECTORS      = STAGNATION

THE GREAT COMPLAINT = CLEAR OUT THE NOISE MAKERS
STOP NOISE
We live in a culture of complaint.  Growling grumpy attitudes rumble and rage. It is the lazy man´s take on a call to action. They think that by pointing out a problem they are participating in the solution.  Yet, problem finding is lifeless without a passionate approach towards creating solutions.  In our books, we call that noise.

Peak performing teams must dial down the noise and amp up the pursuit of passion.

PASSIONATE + PERSISTENT PURSUITS
It is far better to build a small, tight knit and highly passionate team, then keep noise makers on board. The objective is to build into the endeavor one team member at a time an individual that gets the vision, brings to the table that passion level of energy and who thrives on persistence.

Pioneering in particular calls for that crucial mixture of passion plus persistence.  The persistence is the X factor that drives an individual or team well past its competitors.  When the noise makers drop out from frustration, the passionate and persistent team pushes past that point and seeks an alternative route to the peak.

They tackle it until they have exhausted all their possibilities.  And when they do find the solution, create the value and reach the peak, they savor it and then move onto the next big challenge.  They keep that passion at their core.

World class rock climber Sharma embodies this pioneering mindset of persistence + passion:

RIPPLING WISDOM EFFECT
ripples

Exercising choice is powerful.  Its effects ripple out in every direction in our lives, personally and professionally.

Yet many individuals compartmentalize their lives, forming a faulty foundation for making effective clear decisions.

It is in this ability to take a full spectrum view on one´s life, that effective paths are forged.  It is a sign of maturity and ultimately of wisdom.

PUT IT INTO PERSPECTIVE
Another factor we encourage people to take into consideration is the span of time in which they evaluate their trade-offs.  In a culture of quarterly returns and hyper-drive, short-termism creeps into the scene and clouds long-term thinking.  This in turn shuts out the voice of perspective.

While it is impossible to estimate the full impact of any given decision, it is possible to be value driven. And these values are enduring and last a life time. The best pioneering minds we have met to date have character built on rock solid values.

Sit back and enjoy this reflection:

UPLIFTED
UP is a film in the theaters now. http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/up/

It is a must see.  While most of the reviews focus on the humor and box office sales figures, we focus on the message of this film.  This is a story of substance that brilliantly displays the spirit of adventure, collaboration between generations and the value of leadership, team work and commitment.

THE FRONTIER
The story is driven by the spirit of quest, discovery and exploration.  All key elements which drive the innovator, builder of social ventures and individuals that seek to pursue a fresh professional path.

QUEST
US President Woodrow Wilson said, “We grow by dreams.  All big individuals are dreamers.  They see things in the soft haze of a spring day, or in the red fire on a long winter´s evening.  Some of us let those great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nourish them through bad days until they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”

The quest is the adventure that calls us.

DISCOVERY
Discovery is the fuel that drives the quest and moves us to explore.  The film´s setting is rooted in a powerful tradition started by Arthur Conan Doyle´s Lost Land.  The backdrops to these stories take place in a real remote part of the planet situated in the depths of Venzuela and Brazil.

It is easy to see why this land sparked a burning curiosity:

EXPLORATION
Most people appreciate the AH-HA feeling of discovery and most get excited about the quest.  Yet, the vast majority of individuals stop short of exploring.
And it is in the commitment to action and exploration that a true quest is commenced with the potential for discovery. It is in this union of questing, discovery and exploration that one begins to exercise the muscles which advance the Pioneer Mindset.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The Skoll Foundation www.skollfoundation.org  is at the cutting edge of searching, selecting and backing the best and brightest social entreprenuers. They point to Muhammad Yunnus´s Grameen Bank, the world leader in micro-finance, as the birth point of what is social entrepreneurship.  

The founder of the Pioneer Mindset had the fortune to witness the rise from the Grameen´s small beginnings over 15 years ago as an early adaptor of the organization´s intiative.  It went from a small, clear, focused endeavor into an platform that has extended over $6billion in micro-loans, keeping its original values and reaching expotential growth.

Here is a great clip from the Skoll Foundation telling the story of social entrepreneurship:

The social entrepreneur sees massive possibilities where others see massive problems.  Social venturing demands a pioneering mindset and an enduring commitment to expotential results.