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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

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:

LIFE IN BALANCE
Being in a start-up, scaling a business, switching careers or starting a social venture all demand an incredible amount of focus, investment and time.   It always takes longer than anticipated and as success is acheived trade-offs start emerging in the personal life.

HURRY UP
“If you don´t feel out of control, you are not driving fast enough,” said race car legend Mario Andretti.  
 

Mario is one of the most competitive and aggressive professionals to seek the role of apex hunter and champion.  He pushed his team, equipment and himself to the outer limits.  And if you strip away the showmanship and the cult of personality that emerged around him, you will see at the baseline, someone who was driven to realize a vision day in and day out.  

This culture is important in a hyper competitive world both commercially and in the social venture.  On the business front, it is a free market and clients are ever more demanding.  And on the social venture side, each non-for-profit is competing for scare donation dollars.  

Translation, work ethic, fierce focus and rapid response are key ingredients to acheiving expotential results.

SLOW DOWN
Yet, there is a trade-off to this culture.  There is the danger of spill-over into your personal life.  If you are going to shift into overdrive to realize a venture or switch, then you must equally build a complete Pioneer Mindset, which includes slowing way down in the off hours. 

This means repair, maintenance and respect for yourself, family, inner friends and your broader tribe.  You must check that hyper competitive attitude at the door and cultivate a spirit of sanctuary.  For many, they fail to do this, logging in 80 hour work weeks month after month, till they are isolated, burned-out and wondering what happened.

As important as it is to sprint during the day, it is essential to create the space and time needed to rest and restore.  One place to find inspiration is in the Slow Food movement.  The Founder Carlo Petrini is a brilliant character with a witty outlook on life.  Here is a small excerpt translated from a conference:

The bottom line message.  Place a real value on health, family and your inner circle of friends.  You will need them all throughout your pioneering journey.  

You must learn how to hurry up and slow down if you are to build a sustainable and successful path.

COMMITMENT
Pioneers usually go through a volcanic period of reflection and introspection. And during this period there is a frothy sea of brainstorming, evaluation of options and the emergence of promises to do something about it.  Yet, there can be a gap.

People fail to commit to action.  It is in commitment that the grit, resolve and clarity emerges to implement an effective transition into your new path.

STICKK TO IT
A professor from Yale created a fresh concept which puts it to people to commit to their goals.
http://www.stickk.com/

The concept is simple, you put up cash into an accountability fund, invite friends to witness your commitments and then you have third party friends or associates who are fair and honest dealers verify you are sticking to your commitments.  If you fail, there are a variety of ways in which to allocate the funds to charitable endeavors.

And while this site has had traction in helping others quit smoking, hit weight targets; I think it is also applicable to people who make resolutions to engage in a serious change in their professional landscape.

The Pioneer Point:  Commitment Creates Clarity.

THEN ROME
Military strategies apply here when thinking about launching a start-up venture or expanding into a new market outside of your hometown advantage.  The concept is simple:  small, tightknit, scrappy, underresourced groups driven by an almost maniacal focus gain their greatest number of victories in smaller villages and outlying provinces.

The speed and success they acheive in making their early wins in smaller neighboring towns emerges into a broad based and emergent voice that gains with each market battle secured.  People spread the word, join the team and become advocates of the mission.  Eventually, the big city will open its gates and invite in the oncoming group.

Trier:  Northern Hub of the Roman Empire

Trier: Northern Hub of the Roman Empire

 

SMALLER VILLAGES
Starting up on main street vs wall street might have less sex appeal.  Yet, it is here where you can afford to figure out what you are actually doing without drawing the attention of the T-Rex giants which dominate the cosmopolitan centers. 

This is particularly true in retail.  If you look at the bottom line of most retail chains, the bulk of their profit revenues come from the stores in 2nd and 3rd tier cities.  The flagships in prime locations are de facto counted under the marketing budget and are justified as brand awareness sites.

SMALL TO TALL
Once you overcome the mental barrier that you must launch your next great thing in a major cosmopolitan center, you can shift into winning victories in the places where the buildings are small, win a loyal auidence and build up a pool of capital and cultivate word of mouth champions.

Eventually, people will actually pull your product or service into their big city through inquiry versus you pushing, shoving and kicking the door down into the mosh pit of hyper competitiveness. 

WIRE IN THE TALL WHILE IN THE SMALL
Many urban pioneers feel they are out of the loop and in a castaway location when out of the megatropolis.  They fall into a funk.  This is more about the day to day social scene versus the reality of access to talent and know-how.  With high speed connectivity being relatively cheap and widely distributed, it is a matter of reshaping the mindset to accomdate for a decentralized way of life.  

LOCATION LANDSCAPE
Yes, there are major  trade-offs.  The opera, ballet, rock concerts, jet setter dinners and fancy shops are harder to find outside of the mega urban centers.  That is why it is important to select an environment that appeals to you visually and to your hobbies.

I for one, am almost always by the seaside, lake or mountains.  There is something powerful about those landscapes which energizes me.  One friend and former associate lives high in the mountains in Brazil in a village of 300 people, while he runs his company which employees 5000 that is spread across the country.  He and his family love the high-tech rural lifestyle. 

It is all a matter of figuring out what you want during those build up and frontier years.  Once you gain strength, you can take visits to the big city and then ultimately a proper return to the scene to participate in the market. 

RETURN TO THE FRAY WITH ASYMMETRY
Once your management muscles are developed and your scrappy team stronger in numbers, you can return to the big city and jump in the game.  The reality is, though, the landscape will be filled with well resourced players who seek to fend their client base.  This is when you must apply the know-how, skills and grit gained and focus on your strengths.  On the battle field, this is known as guerilla tactics or asymmetry.

You must find niches, subniches and innovations which win over the clients with your lean pockets.  And at heart, to stay strong in the game, always keep a spirit of asymmetry.

 

PIONEER FROM ANYWHERE
Rev up your brain, generate valuable concepts, plug in, jump in the crowd and most importantly, stand-out.  Better yet, generate a break through concept, open up a mini-market place and crowd source add-ons, potential team mates and potential markets.
 

WISDOM OF THE CROWD
Here is a quick visual tour of the Crowdsourcing Process.

 

 

 CROWD SOURCING REVIEW

Wikipedia does a great job summing up the history and different modelson crowdsourcing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds

ACT ON IT
There are a number of apps out there which enable you to pursue crowd sourcing.  One example is Idea Scale
 

FROM THE IVORY TOWER TO THE MAIN STREET
Crowd sourcing and decentralized collaboration is a mega trend whose first waves are hitting the society´s shoreline.

AMERICAN IDOL
The American Idol franchise is the ultimate example of a mega market place of opinion.  In the most recent season over 650 million votes were registered in the pop star machine in the making of Chris Allen into the American Idol 2009. 
www.americanidol.com

Imagine awakening this same mainstreet, bringing out their best and brightest thinking and then plug them into a market places for solving our biggest challenges. 

MIT GOES FOR THE MINDMELD
MIT is an intense and dense center of learning.  Within the world of MIT, the minds are simmering cross fertilization and the know-how of collective collaborations.
http://cci.mit.edu/index.html 

3 PIONEER POINTS ON CROWD SOURCING
If you open up a market place for your firm or your lead concept. Keep 3 points in mind:

1.  Keep it Simple
Make it simple, clear and easy for others to contribute.

2.   Reward Them
Respect and reward those who contribute value.

3.  Rapid Response Team
Cultivate talent, experience and expertise within your network that can be assembled into a rapid response team to act on an innovation.