One thing that’s constant in life is change. For any business to survive, it is critical to be prepared every time the market changes. Andrew Carton says there will always be ups and downs, but you have to keep the business going and keep the business growing. Andrew is the Cofounder, President, and Misfit-in-Chief at Mobile Nations, a leading social media and social commerce business which operates the largest and most influential smartphone communities with nearly 40 million unique visitors per month. In this episode, he talks about entrepreneurship, the business transitions he made, and how he became enmeshed in the digital entertainment convergence space and became an expert in that area.
Listen to the podcast here:
Mobile Nations And The Digital Entertainment Convergence Space with Andrew Carton
I’m excited and energized by the amount of interest about this whole intersection of psychedelics, meditation and technology. I’m also inspired by the fact that these are a group of smart and motivated people. It’s not just some random people interested in it but these are conscientious entrepreneurs, investors, scientific researchers, therapists all coming together keen on the convergence of all these topics. That’s the number one takeaway. I am getting excited by the fact that other smart people are excited about this too.
The second take away from that is there’s a little bit of creative chaos there, which is good as in any new movement. There are a lot of questions but not a lot of people have a clear vision and/or answers to this. There’s still room for new ideas, new thoughts, new leaders, new opportunities to emerge from all this energy. These are my top two takeaways. Then also meeting you and meeting like-minded people that I have a resonance with, that to me is the biggest takeaway from all of these types of gatherings.
Thanks, I overlap strongly on that. It feels like a lot of people are gathering because of the sense of something. They are becoming present about trying to solve a problem that feels like it’s on everybody’s tip of their tongue but nobody has quite yet verbalized exactly what that is and what the end goal is. I think we’re all drawn for different reasons to consider that something is extremely worthy, whether it is purely to think about healing, growing, wisdom or many other things that may be attracting people, including general curiosity about making progress in an area that has not made progress in a while. I travel a lot and I’m very picky about the people I engage with. I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the number of individuals that I was able to engage with and respect intellectually and personally. Overall, it was a terrific event on so many fronts.
Why don’t you say a little bit more about the meeting people part? One thing that you did say was as you get older and more successful, your time is still the same. Everyone’s doing 24 hours and seven days. As such, you could be a little choosier about who you want to surround yourself with, who you wanted to engage with and who you want to get new ideas from. What are some of your mental models or criteria in terms of which events go to and who you want to engage with? Can you share a little bit about that with us?
I was talking about that with a friend and it’s funny that sometimes you may feel you’re in an environment and your gut response is, “I don’t know why I’m at this event. I don’t know what these people are talking about. I don’t know what I’m doing here.” That was not the case in this instance. It’s a question as to regards people. I have a very low tolerance for BS of any sort. That includes people who have not queried themselves deeply and therefore masquerading to the extent of something that they don’t want to show. I love engaging with people who have been able to transcend that a little bit and are open. They’re both giving and also demonstrating certain ability to open up to people that they haven’t met before. That’s hard and it’s sadly rare, people who are wanting to engage truthfully and wanting to maybe go on a path that I like to think as about wisdom.
I would like to think in my life about why things are the way they are and how we can make them better. I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years and that’s what’s on my mind. The great thing about entrepreneurs is the focus is always on making something better or having the ability to see something that other people don’t see. Having the ability to see what’s not working properly and come up with the idea that could make those things better. There were many numbers of those people at the event that are driven and passionate. There’s an integrated approach by treating the mind, the heart and the gut where you can see and sense that it’s something deeply personal that is driving them to do what they’re doing. I’m incredibly drawn to that passion and authenticity.
Are there any specific events, conferences or groups that you have found you have a higher probability of meeting such people and have such conversations and/or engage in such ventures together?
Not really. I wouldn’t single out any event. I’ve pretty much attended every technology conference of meaning. TED will be at the top of my list once a year. I’ve done many numbers of summits, now this and I’m beginning to do smaller events that people have engaged. I’ve been lucky to never leave empty-handed. I’m always able to connect with somebody that presents there but maybe not the entire event. For me, it’s rare to have both the organizers for the event as well as the attendees and the speakers to be aligned. I still see too frequently that the organization of the event can be driven by business and they are here to draw as many people with as many great ideas as possible. We need to put some monkeys on the stage so we can attract these people. That’s not what I’m interested in. This conference was one where I was taken by the synthesis of the three groups. The organization, the speakers and the attendees are all seemingly extremely well-aligned. Every day is quite unique from other events that I’ve attended.
One of the things I love to go to events is not so much for the content, although that may be sexy and interesting and like, “I wonder what so and so is going to say.” Most importantly for me is these types of off the side conversations and chance encounters. In the beginning of my own journey to go into conferences, I try to be as calculating and strategic as possible. These days I go with the intention of connecting deeply with one or two or three people because I trust that this is my belief. Whoever I meet is perfect. I don’t need to go seek or strive to meet someone. If that happens, I’m happy to do that but when I go to conferences these days, it’s more organic. I’m curious to know your journey and even meeting other human beings in general. Do you take on that same approach or is it more strategic, calculating and then layout things?
It is. I was smiling while you were describing that because I cannot recall a single event that I’ve ever been to where I’ve had any agenda or a plan. I’m very intuitive about that and I believe that if I have to meet certain people, it will happen. I do agree with you that stating an intention is very helpful coming into it or at least being clear about what you’re bringing to that event and not so much what you want to get out of the event helps a lot. The context of this particular conference, it was amazing to have any number of synchronicities. Let’s say for argument’s sake, “Have you met so and so?” It happened that three or four other people had told me exactly the same thing. I was like, “I think I need to talk to so and so.” You feel almost the connection across the group and you can sense certain ways of thinking and being that somehow draws you to like-minded people and you need to be attuned to them.
I want to come back to your own journey a little bit. Let me share with the audience. You’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. You have achieved a certain level of success and now you have exited from the business and effectively you are looking to see what’s next. What are the other opportunities? What are the new passions that you can tap into? In many ways, other entrepreneurs especially new ones are looking at you like, “Andrew’s made it. He’s achieved what I wanted in however many years.” To me, entrepreneurship is one of the ultimate transformational journeys that you can take on. Now that you have “arrived” to a major milestone, could you share with us about your own journey from day one of being an entrepreneur to now many years later from the perspective of, “What have you learned is the secret of being an entrepreneur?”
I’ll probably start more from the end. I think at the core, the earliest business starting you have different ideas. You have an idea that you think is cool or unique. You’re excited about it. You go that way. As you evolve, you’re thinking evolves with it. As the size of the business evolves, you also grow with that. One of the critical elements on this, my last business, I spent over fifteen years building with an amazing team and amazing partner. It’s has been more about getting to a stage where the business and myself were very aligned from the perspective that we never built a business to exit per se.
We were also very distinct in that we never raised any money. We never had any debts. We ran a fully virtual organization. People ask me, “What do you do?” Towards the end of the last few years, I’ve pretty much said, “We nurture misfits,” because we love to find these remote and passionate people about topics that nobody else seems to care about and they care deeply about. Those are the things that I love to engage with people that are like-minded. I don’t care what the passion is as it could be virtually anything. I just want to see that element is there. There’s something about the moment you go deep into a subject and you explore its richness, you cannot help but be a little bit bored and what happens in the process because that’s the journey.
Part of the elements with myself as the entrepreneur in the mix is not only one growing myself but about having the business structure as an expression of myself and that it helps me to grow in the process. It’s a feedback loop. As you learn, you help your organization to learn more and evolve. That’s probably the most rewarding part of the journey. The financial part always plays a role but I could argue that certainly for the last few years, I’ve lived in the state of being extremely grateful for many numbers of things. I had already reached a stage of contentment on the financial side.Instinctively, people can read when somebody is doing something with care and attention and when somebody is not. Click To Tweet
It’s with a full and meaningful exit that I feel that new challenges and responsibilities opened up that allowed me to continue to do some of the things that I’ve meant to do for a long time. In my personal case, I’ve felt that the financial portion of the journey was an important one. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I always felt that my journey would be reaching a certain level of financial success and then being able to use that position to impact then areas that are of interest or concern of mine. Now, the entire consciousness part is great interest that’s why I’m getting more involved, exposing myself, sharing ideas and sharing experiences.
I synthesized it in as few nuggets as possible. The way we operated the business was about focusing on number one, keep the business going. Number two, keep the business growing but never forget about number one. Particularly as we didn’t have a fallback position as a fully private non-funded company but at the same time, we’ve been profitable every year since inception. That was something that we were doing. Also, the way that we like to operate. For the longest part, fairly unconscious in any number of things we demonstrated that, I believe in value creation.
We’re focused and constantly investing in making our products better and the services that we offer and to have as much of what I was mentioning earlier, to find people who are genuinely passionate about what they do. What we found in the process particularly with the online business was that the one thing you can’t fake online is passion and authenticity. That became a competitive edge of ours as well to see that our team was free to be as creative as possible and that’s the way this nurturing environment was for them. The second one is to enable this value creation with as many values as we could bring to the table. I have certain beliefs about how we treat people and the types of people we find. We’re not looking for the Ivy League, Superman, etc.
You will find that we have people who are incredible individuals but they’re incredibly normal individuals. I hold the title of Chief Misfit in our business. Some people, when they heard this, “Andrew, we’re not quite sure about this misfit title.” I said, “No, problem. I’ll take the Chief Misfit.” I don’t have a problem with that. I may not look a little bit normal on the outside but I promise you deep inside, I’m the same misfits as they are. If it’s a misfit in the way that they look and think, it doesn’t matter. That’s what we’ve been looking on.
This combination of creating value and delivering it with values is something that we’ve seen has incredible resonance in the US market. It sounds over-simplistic but I would argue that anybody can truly deliver that consistently over a long period of time will get rewarded because that’s exactly what the system seems to lack. People realize that you care deeply about something and you are not designing everything to extract value from or engage with. We’re okay with the idea that we’re going to give you something first. If you feel that we’ve done a good job, then please give us something back, but it’s up to the way I engage.
I remember in the early days, I was a one-man show. This goes back many years ago. I was getting attacked quite badly for trying to monetize my blog at the time. I was one of the first bloggers who became successful, making a substantial amount of money from a blog. Somebody or a group of people decided that I was not cool and that they were going to let me know about it. It became so intense, I thought maybe I should stop. Then out of the blue, I got an email from somebody saying, “Andrew, I love the blog. Could you help me out? I’m looking for this product.” I forgot what it was. It took me about fifteen minutes to reply back to him. He almost immediately responded back and said, “Andrew, thanks so much for taking the time and the recommendation. I appreciate it.”
At the end he said, “Could you please let me know where I should click on your website so that you can get a commission on my purchase?” I had this epiphany. From that exchange, I understood what the real relationship was that I was creating with the audience. The real audience that I want to engage with were people like him who understood that there was an exchange and they were willing to share and to give back in return. I said, “There are going to be some free writers, people who don’t care or don’t like me or whatever.” I was fine with that because I understood they felt that the majority of people were there in a very balanced exchange of what was happening. I felt that I was being honest in what I was bringing to the table. That seeded a lot of the thinking for the rest of it. We’ll focus on saying, share the passion, share the ideas, find more people, keep building, keep growing and end up somewhere.
We ended up in an interesting place in our industry with companies that had raised up to $50 million or more. We were more profitable than they were, having raised zero. I take a small portion of the credit for having started the journey and things like that and continue to discern things. Ultimately, it was an amazing team effort from everybody involved, which is probably also an important learning certainly from where I started. In my case, the idea of this genius solo Superman entrepreneur did not buy. I found an amazing business partner where we had extremely shared business value. We found many other people like that across and ultimately it was an amazing team and culture that we built on the process that made things successful. That’s something that is not as often celebrated as the individual heroes. I feel more that there’s a leadership role, there’s mentorship stewardship but there’s also incredible things they work from an amazing team of people in that.
I have a follow-up question there because number one, let me address one thing. There’s a reason why we connect so well because I resonated with what you said about being a misfit. Part of my being is I don’t feel quite understood by others. There’s misfit to another misfit.
Only misfits understand other misfits.
To your point of charting the path, following your passion and then have that faith and trust that, “What you’re providing is a fair value exchange to the people that you serve.” In the beginning part of it, I wanted to talk about that a little bit because it’s easy to look back and say, “I always knew that this was going to turn out right.” In the beginning part of it for a lot of people and myself included, it’s like, “We are charting the path, following my passion, following my principles, but there’s not a whole lot of positive feedback coming in.” In that moment, how did you sustain your faith that this was the right thing to do, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of movement or momentum coming back yet?
We’re talking about this last business. I’ll focus on the beginning of this last business. It’s an interesting situation because about three years prior to starting my last business, I resigned from managing a company. I was only an employee for two and a half years of two different businesses then I transitioned. I realized very quickly that I make a very lousy employee and that I’m only comfortable running my own destiny so to speak. It’s not about not getting along with people. I feel I’ve always been driven by an individual mindset and about wanting to have that freedom. Three years prior, I had a very interesting package. I had helped a company IPO but I was by no means wealthy.
I was moderately comfortable and ended up investing all of the money in trying to set up different ventures. Probably the two that were of most interests to me that seeded the ideas for this business was one, I want to run Netflix in the UK and if that didn’t work then to set up a competing play to Netflix in the UK. There was some unique aspect that had a deep understanding that Netflix was going to radically alter the landscape. I was one of the earliest people to bring that out. I was based in the UK at the time. I did a lot of work on many different fronts. I looked at TiVo and the entire DVR revolution. I became very enmeshed in everything that would label digital entertainment convergence. I became an expert in that area.
In the early advent, you have to remember that the first smartphone had been released then. The earliest smartphone was probably the handspring visor was around the corner. For some reason, the ideas were great. I had amazing engagements. I was able to learn a lot in the process. I was able to be exposed to some big ideas with some big people but none of this stuff that I was working on led to anything. Over the years, money had been taken down and I was running pretty much empty. I ended up with substantial credit card debt but I still held the idea that this was what I needed to do. Out of frustration with some of this lack of movement on this side that I was doing, a friend was running a large blogging company in Europe. He said, “Why don’t you start blogging?” I said, “Fine. I have something to talk about.” I started blogging on a B2B basis about all the ideas in entrepreneurship, about what I felt was happening in the particular area of visual entertainment convergence. Out of the blue, my phone would not stop ringing. There was a lot of support for my ideas, etc. There were a lot of inbound calls from the US with the likes of Best Buy, Walmart and so on and so forth. Everybody is saying, “We’d love to work with you.”
I was getting to the end of the maximum of my frustration, but B2B environment and B2B in itself had never been my passion. My real passion is the B2C market. I love engaging at the consumer level. It’s something I understand very well. I became curious. I said, “It’s interesting that out of the blue now, I’m getting so much interest in the B2B front. I wonder how the B2C market might respond,” but then again, I needed something to talk about. At the time I was reading an issue of Inc. Magazine and they had an ad for the Palm Treo, which was for me, the coolest first smartphone. I had this eureka moment where everything that I had been working for the last three years, I understood that the future of digital entertainment convergence I had been talking about was going to happen on this device. I had a wealth of ideas and knowledge about that and I started writing.
It took off very rapidly. My friend who was running this blog company would call me up once a month and say, “Andrew, how are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m great.” He’s like, “What are the numbers?” I’m like, “It’s rising with more and more people,” I forget what it was and then he would ask me, “How are you doing? Can I ask you this?” I’m like, “Last month, I made zero.” He called me the second month, “How are you doing?” I said, “I made $50.” He called me again on month three, “How are you doing?” I said, “I made $500.” He stopped calling me month six or seven when I was doing $5,000 a month and then it continued to grow from there. It’s like, “I’ll stop calling you now. I think you’re doing fine.” That was the launch. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to people to do what I did. I had this image that if I failed and I came close to the edge of that precipice, I might well end up living in the streets for the rest of my days.As a leader, risk management is a core skill that you develop over time. Click To Tweet
At that particular time, I was in my early 30s. I felt strongly that if I didn’t take that decision right there and then, I would not have the opportunity to take that decision again later in life. I would be too beholden to a particular decision that I made that I would no longer do that. It was right there or never. I went all the way in that one. It felt almost like a personal challenge of if I’m asked, “How far would you go for this?” I answered, “I would go all the way.” That’s when things start turning around. I would not recommend that people will follow that per se.
Did you have a family at the time?
I did not. I was very conscious of that, which was also why I was married in my late 30s. I became a father in my early 40s. A lot of it was delayed because I was very conscious that I was making decisions that were going to have major repercussions. Being in an environment like that where you have major financial repercussions is not something that I felt comfortable. Envisioning to have a family and have to put them through that is a little bit like driving recklessly. I’m okay doing that when I’m alone in the car and hopefully when there’s nobody else on the road, but I would not want to do that with other people in the car. Only as I started rebuilding financially that I feel comfortable to do that.
You accumulated a lot of knowledge in the digital conversions and then you stumble upon Treo. You knew that this was a trend that’s coming. You believed and trusted that. You’ve doubled down on the blog and you also happen to have a great support network like your friend who calls you regularly to provide that moral support, that checking, that accountability and make sure that you don’t do anything unwise should things hit the fan so to speak. That trend took off and here you are fast forward. Would that be a good recap of what you shared with us?
Pretty much. There were other inflection points along the way, but in terms of understanding the lift-off, it was a very rapid period of about a year where it went from zero to a meaningful lift-off that allowed me to continue then to grow the business on the back of that in over many years. The nice thing for me and I think it was Einstein who said that the seventh wonder of the world was in compound interest.” Having the opportunity of a business that runs relatively smoothly, there have always been ups and downs, but that is profitable consistently over a long period of time. We grew organically throughout but it ended up becoming a very meaningful business.
It was about maintaining that direction. Going back to what I said earlier, keep the business going and keep the business growing. If things hit the fan at any given time, then you stop growing. We had that. We’re talking about our company. I mentioned the Palm Treo is the key product that made our company and at one point, Palm accounted for 95% of our revenues. The company imploded very rapidly and most people were like, “Thanks for all the hard work. You were great but bye-bye, you’re out of the picture.” We worked because we had seen that with the demise of Palm, the carriers had increased dependency on BlackBerry and then you go, “BlackBerry, I’ve heard about that company.” It did rather well for also a small period of time.
We went from 95% dependency on Palm to 60% dependency on BlackBerry, but then again BlackBerry disappeared in a very short period of time. We had learned and we had a very substantial community, tens of millions of people. Our community members were typically much smarter than we were. They were telling us and saying, “There’s this thing called Android. They are around the corners. It’s pretty important. You should look at it.” We’re like, “Let’s have a look at that.” By the time CrackBerry, which was our site for BlackBerry fans started to die down, we already had Android Central at the ready for the next loop.
There were some major inflection points. It felt like our business was crashing every so often and it took about seven years or so. In 2007, we were the number one fastest-growing, by Inc. 500, on the eCommerce front. Because to monetize the media that we were creating, we were firing eCommerce stores in the beginning. Between 2007 and 2010, 2011, that entire eCommerce business also, not only we had the media decay, but we had the eCommerce decay and then we had to figure out ways to start monetizing advertising. It’s been a rollercoaster. Thankfully for the last few years, the rate of change is always there but there was enough no rate of change for us to maintain a much more accelerated growth curve and then we winded up. It was an amazing first few years and think you’re on top of it, then the business almost dies. We keep everybody on board and everybody’s keeping the business afloat for maybe another few years. In the last few years, things start turning around and we built a very meaningful business in that third phase.
Let me unpack that a little bit. What I hear is also cultivating a relationship with your end-user and then listen to them because they tend to be smarter. I also hear in between the lines of anticipating change because as they say, one thing that’s constant in life is that change is happening or something like that.
On both those fronts, I’ll start with the second one. This is very much on a personal basis. Managing change is my gift in the sense that I see quite far around the corners. I’m very good strategically. I had the benefit of not being the CEO of the business. I was the President of the business and my business partner gave me a lot of leeway to explore, wander around and make mistakes. I go out and look at what’s happening and how the market is shifting. I try to get a sense, then I go back to the team, report back from what I sense is coming and how we need to get ready for the next wave. I’m not the only one, other people are also keeping their eyes and ears open and they feed that back into the loop.
Based on that, we were lucky to have experienced all of these things at the beginning to understand that only those who responded very rapidly had a chance of making it. For example, with Android, we were slightly late maybe six months, but that was enough to give room to early competitors that had an edge. It took us longer there to regain the leadership position than I would like. We continue to learn and understood that it was critical to our survival to our resilience, to be prepared for every time the market changed. I joke that pretty much every eighteen months or so, we had to be prepared to be running a completely different company to what we had before and either completely different because the revenue sources were different or the mechanics of that revenue creation or there was a dynamic in the market about changing operating systems, whatever it may have been.
The second one with the community is superbly important. I’m very focused on a B2C environment. Traditionally, you need this early adopter crowd. They are the ones who are going to be your most fervent supporters, advocates and so on and so forth. They’re going to help you build the business. You go to phase two, you cross the cash, you went to the mass market and then you pretty much leave those early adopters aside. You go, “It’s too small to market. Thanks for having helped us at the beginning but now we’re focused on this mass audience.” I’ve seen this play out. It’s the same beef I have with Netflix, for example, that I have for the last few years was that part of my interest a few years ago was a crazy movie buff. Netflix had this amazing engine that you could keep hammering at and it was unbeatable. It was very much designed for that power-user. If you were a movie buff there was no better place to go than Netflix. Now, it seems to have left that entire market aside. I seem to lose myself there. I have no clue what to watch. I’m very picky and so the entire engine that they had previously to do that is no longer there. You see this happening. We were very clear that the only way that we could make it from generation to generation, let’s say every eighteen months was with the help and support of that core audience.
We understood that the needs of this core audience or “power-user” crowd and our average user were not the same. We understood that and we were willing to make an investment and continued to make an investment in that power-user base even if we lost money on it or we made no money on it, it didn’t matter. We felt very strongly that those people would help us along the way and that we would continue to support. One of the examples is we set up a YouTube brand called MrMobile. It’s very popular. I think he’s getting close to two million followers now. That channel or brand was created almost entirely to appeal to our user audience so that they can continue to feel that we were supporting them and we were. We knew that it was going to take a long time for us to start monetizing that and so we did.
Doing that consistently for many years, we’ve gained an enormous amount of goodwill from that community and from other people who have seen it. It’s the famous saying that, “You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time,” since that was never a game that we had. This also leads me to another point that came up. We felt very strongly and I’ve seen it many times over, it may be that because of the damage that we had of a private business where making a bad choice or making a big mistake could mean the demise of the business. One thing we’re very conscious about from the beginning is that we would not take shortcuts at any time.
If it was an SEO game, we weren’t going to play tricks on the SEO to have an advantage in the short-term, but risk the business in the long-term. It was like they made no sense and every time there’s always an opportunity, somebody says, “We can make more money faster. We can do this.” You start thinking about things that start veering off your core values or the ones that we had stated internally and we repeatedly said no. We have a lot of people that said, “This is not what we’re after. You don’t need to go there to try to figure out how you can extract more value, etc. because we believe that this will do nothing but ultimately kill our business in the long-term. It’s not going to go there.”
You had a commitment to stay within your core value rather than playing the gimmicks. That’s what it sounded like.Identifying and polishing the things you’re gifted at gives you a much better chance of leveraging those gifts going forward. Click To Tweet
It goes back with being honest and keeping in line with what we’re doing. We’re running a business. Everybody’s conscious that should we not be successful financially, then we don’t have a business. It’s not about not doing that. It’s about the way that we do it. We do so in a way that felt true to the idea that we had about what we wanted to do, the level of quality that we want to deliver to our users, the types of products. Whatever it may have been, we didn’t want to stop doing that just because there was a way for us to extract more value in the short-term.
I have two directions that we can go to. I wanted to help the audience because you’re an expert in building brands and building audience based on everything that you shared with us. Assuming you have no more brands, no list, no audience that you can leverage and you only have what you know now and nothing else. Can you walk us through what tactical things one may do going from zero to 100 people? Kevin Kelly’s 0 to 1,000 true fans, 0 to 10,000 and so on and so forth. That way, people are inspired by the lesson and want to take action and they can execute on that. What would you say if someone is reading this and wants to go from 0 to 100 to 1,000 to 10,000?
The thing that I would caveat is the operational sides. I’m no longer as acutely aware of how we go about building a new brand from scratch online now. I think it’s gotten incrementally harder. We even find that hard. I leave that aside in terms of that. The core for me, assuming that I’m talking about a B2C environment, having clarity of vision is core to be able to share that passion about whatever the topic might be. It might be a product, a service, an app, it doesn’t matter. To do it in a way that being honest with yourself and know you haven’t been cutting corners.
The other thing that I personally hate are people who go off to the market and they decide to target the least knowledgeable people in that market because they go, “These people don’t know anything. We can sell them a lower value product.” You can do the same thing to better inform people in the audience. I’m a firm believer that you want to from the get-go know that you have a solid product, you take the most knowledgeable person in that particular field and you put it to the test with him or her. If it passes, then you have an interesting product. In my opinion, if you’re service or solution in general, I don’t believe that they’re not interested.
I know people who do that and run successful businesses. It’s just not something I’m interested in. I want to go to the very top of the pyramid and make sure. If we can pass the lens and the filter of the power-user to demonstrate that we’ve given it our all and we’re doing it there, then they’re going to be the first people to support you to spread that audience. They may not necessarily interfere with seeing that there’s a proprietor in the market. There are people who don’t know who is buying this thing, but if you’re doing something that is vetted by that power-user audience, they become advocates for what you’re doing. As we’ve discussed sadly, there are too few examples or it’s rarer to find people who go that direction to push it hard. Those are the companies that stand out and make it.
I’m not necessarily talking here about the multibillion-dollar companies and most successful companies. Whatever size, I’m very focused and always assuming that there’s something in what we’re doing that you want to be as close or you want to be in the top tier performer. You don’t need to be the best but you want to understand, “What does it mean there?” For example, the design was a very important element in our growth. We had a particular design for our brand, a particular identity and all of that was a competitive advantage. We had the benefit of a phenomenal creative director but also understanding that it’s almost like you engage and you respect the best craftsmen in that area that you want to imbue your product or service with a dose of that and you’re not going to do it by bringing that.
Everything carries a particular message about what you want to do. I’ll describe a side story. My parents lived in Japan for a couple of years and I was studying architecture at the time. I went to visit them and I was amazed to see how almost every single interaction that I had was ritualized in one way or another and enrich the experience in the process. One day, I went to a paper shop and I decided that I wanted to run an experiment to buy the least expensive thing that I could find in the store. I set to one pencil. The pencils were displayed in a glass case and let’s say there were about 30 pencils there and I started poking up a pencil.
The woman there would take it out both hands, bow her head and present it in front of me. Every time she would do this and I’d pick one and I try the pencil. Eventually I said, “That’s the one pencil.” She grabbed the pencil, bowed her head again, acknowledging that this is the pencil that I had selected. She went out, got some silk paper, wrapped the pencil inside the silk paper, grabbed some gift paper, wrapped the pencil with the gift paper, grab the bow, put the bow, grabbed the bag, put some silk paper in the bag, put the entire pencil on the bag, bow on the bag, bowing to me again, giving me the bag. I paid $5 for this. I had the most valuable pencil I ever purchased in my life.
You’re present and you can see everything that’s happening. The same thing happens at an unconscious level. They may not know this but instinctively people can read when somebody is doing something with care and attention and when somebody is not. In the same way, we are very good at discerning if somebody is smiling or laughing generally. We’re equally good but more unconsciously able to discern with what values something has been created while it’s delivered. To think I’ve come across too many times of people who don’t care about the ultimate delivery of something thinking, “People are not going to notice.” I disagree completely. I think people always notice. One of two things that I would notice unconsciously or they can notice consciously. They may not just say anything about it, good or bad, but it doesn’t mean that they haven’t received a message about what went into the creation process of whatever it is that you’ve delivered.
Some of the intent from the beginning needs to be there. It needs to be a general intent and at least that’s the way that we felt we wanted to engage with our audience, with our team, with other people we worked with. That’s also why many times we’ve been selective with people working for us as we have people working with us, partners and others. It wasn’t just an issue of saying, “How much I can make with you guys?” The more strategic you are, the more likely it was that we want to make sure that we had the partner at least if not sharing all of our values, could be as well-aligned as we could and having the benefit of a company where we didn’t have any external investors. We could take the high road by saying, “I don’t want to work with you. We don’t feel that you’re the right party to work with us.” It ends up being a privilege. It was something very important for us to deliver from the get-go. Arguably, the real privilege of running a private company is a little bit of that.
As you grow your organization from 1 to 50 to 100 to 150, ten bars number. 150, that’s the extent of how you can maintain relationships with one another. The company continued to grow 200, 300, 500. The challenge for any founders or executives is how do you ritualize this message, these core values beyond the 150? One may say it’s easier to “maintain” a ritual, these values, these conversations and this focus on what’s important from the founders on top, downwards to everyone else in the organization. How do you continue to perpetuate that as the company grow at a fast rate?
First, our business got under 100 people. We didn’t have that. One of the ways that we did it is by creating sub-units, small units that might typically have between four and eight people. They could hold themselves accountable to each other. This is an environment where people will not stay quiet if they feel that somebody is not delivering what they need to be delivering to the team. They first would address that within the team. If they can’t address that within the team, then they would bring it further up. What we’ve seen over time is that it gets harder if you’re in a high growth environment. Obviously, we’re doing that. In our case, we have a gradual organic growth and it’s easier to manage. That’s one of the elements.
The second one is we have a filter of the type of people that we bring on board. Probably about 60% or 70% of the people on the team came from within our communities, so the people who were active on our forums and somebody reached out and said, “I’ve been doing this for so long.” They came on our radar and wanted to become more active at the core of the organization or the business. They already had all of the values and passion. When you have that, we’ve almost never been successful at using recruitment agencies for bringing the type of people that we want to the table. Most of the time it’s been from word of mouth or people that we’ve met in the community or we can put out the word to our audience that we’re looking for so and so. More often than not, somebody will suddenly appear that it fits the criteria that we’re looking for. Over the years, it’s held the culture in place rather well.
What about the internal process? As a leader and as an executive, your decisions impact everyone else. How do you then cultivate your own decision accuracy or your decision power as well as hone your own grit? That way you’re not rattled by the uncertainty that’s coming your way. You make certain emotional decisions and then it turns out to be wrong. Can you walk us a little bit through the journey that you had to go through to cultivate these capabilities?
At the core and certainly in my thinking and decision making, you don’t want to bet the house on any one bet. Risk management is a core skill that you develop over time. The way that we had it was in our particular case, we had the benefit of having resilience by multiple brands. The likelihood that something could happen at one brand level was okay when we started the whole shift. We have the same thing on the revenue front, let’s say with at least five major revenue sources and ideal scenario, each of them accounting for an equal revenue proportion and bringing that in 20%. Figuring out ways to build resilience and then we’re constantly testing new things.
We’ll put anywhere between one and three people on a new project and wait to see the effect. If there is traction, then we’ll start putting a lot more effort behind it. If it’s not, then we failed the test. We fail as often as we succeed on that. It’s constant experimentation. For the most part, after a while, you at least have a portion of the business that is running quite smoothly overall. It’s managing the parts that are running smoothly. Reassessing how much longer do we believe those businesses would run smoothly. Is this something along the lines? How rapidly are we building new businesses to manage the decline of the existing ones as well as hopefully, compensating and continuing to allow us to grow?You don't need to be passionate about everything; you just have to understand your core passion is. Click To Tweet
There are many different variables in the mix. The cultural element of the way that we’ve had in the past. I could not think of a team where we have more shared trust among the team. We’re very open at all times to what’s going on. We tried to not compartmentalize. People are empowered from a very early stage. The way that we like to talk about it for the longest time is typically companies may set up certain operational guidelines for the potential that 3% of people coming into the organization could be dangerous or could do something bad to the business. I need to build all of these defenses, processes, accounting and expense reporting, etc. We didn’t have any of them because we’re like, “Why do we want to make life miserable for 97% of people on the team with that when we’re just trying to protect the 3%?” We’re like, “When the 3% occurs, we’ll handle that separately.” We don’t need to hurt everybody else in the business.
You defaulted on trust.
My business partner is Swedish. If you know anything about Scandinavia, it’s one of the highest trust regions in the world. I think that there was some of that from the beginning empowering our team. Our experience has been that the more you trust and empower an individual, 90% of the time they will rise up to the occasion if we’ve done a good job at picking the right individual from the beginning. That level of confidence is essential. We’ve done that. Most people on the team would say that we’ve been very consistent on that. We treat everybody like a grown-up. We’re not here to run a kindergarten. We treat everybody like they’re making a make a contribution in their own area. Those are the types of people that we like working with. That’s also been an important element of keeping us go.
What about the great aspect of it?
Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit, I frequently think about it. I don’t know if this is something that you can teach. The way that we’ve operationalized and we’ve also had the benefit at the senior team to only use a couple of people over the last few years. People have had the benefit of seeing the story and realizing, “There was this inflection point and we could have gone bust but Andrew and the rest of the team did this and they set us in the best direction.” Typically, what we do on the circumstances like that is we would ask the team. We would share what’s going on. Whether we have a big problem, small problem, crisis or whatever it may be, we’d say, “We need your help because we need to get this. If we don’t handle this properly, it’s going to be a big problem.”
Typically, everybody stops doing or at least allocates a portion of their time to help us solve that problem. We’ll get on board together and everybody paints the house, puts the thing and helps along. When we’re done, “Thank you very much,” then everybody goes back to doing what they’re doing. When we have this camaraderie among everybody from the senior team to everyone in the company, it was an understanding that if there’s a team or a brand that is having a problem it’s like, “What do you need? How can we help?” We will get all hands on deck, we help and we fix it and then we move on until something else or another hole opens up and we need to fix that.
Do you believe that it can be tested as new people joining your team?
The new people joining the team, it depends on how senior they are coming in. Typically, people will earn their seniority. We have had a tendency not to hire senior people. We haven’t had the need for it and if we have that need, we would rather hire a consultant or contractor that has a unique skill that can assist us for whatever time period it is. If it’s somebody we feel we need or we would like to or need to work with on an ongoing basis, it would be different. We’re not so focused on that because the core of our team, at least 60% have worked with us for a minimum of five years and then within the core team in a minimum of ten years.
Over that period of time, you build a rapport and a friendship that transcends a lot of things. Perhaps also running a virtual organization means that we surprisingly bond better together because we don’t have the physicality and we had the opportunity to engage with each other. You want to make the most of that. It has not been our experience to have a problem with new people coming on the team. On the contrary, they have the opportunity to demonstrate how they are making their own contribution. I don’t know every stage with something because they hear all of the stories of all the other things that we haven’t been done before.
I ask these questions because I believe all entrepreneurs, people who are eager to operationalize or build high performing organizations or even better themselves as leaders, they want to cultivate these skills. That’s my core belief that these skills can be cultivated. Part of everything that you share help demonstrate that is not just knowledge. You have a theoretical level. It’s not just the experience but through the narrative that you share with us, you embody your own journey. It’s not just from an empty place that you share these stories. However, you do have 30-plus years of experience doing it. I wanted to perhaps share with the audience who are in the middle of building their very new organization. They do want to get better at it. Are there some educational resources or books that you can send them to or do you believe that you’ve just got to go through the process and you earn all that wisdom?
It’s a bit of both. It happened in my case. I started architecture. I didn’t even have a business background. If there was one thing that I learned in architecture, that was learning to learn. Everything was new projects. When I set out to entrepreneurship I was like, “I’m becoming an entrepreneur. Now I just have to learn about entrepreneurship.” For the first few years of starting, I read a book a week. That was probably about the average. I knew I had to immerse myself in the area and I was also following my instinct. I was absorbing everything that I could.
Are there any books that come to mind that you say, “If you are new at this or if you’re between the revenue of this and this, read these three books,” or anything like that?
There were books that had particular relevance for me at different times. I can talk to how certain books inspired me because they played a very important role in my thinking of when I was starting this last business. One was called Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got. The book caught my attention because of the title. The other one was Now, Discover Your Strengths. For the first one, there was an important element that as an entrepreneur, you always think that somebody else knows something better than you do. You need to spend a lot of time fixing the things that you don’t know and that you’re not doing properly. At least at the time, I was conscious about all the things that I wasn’t doing properly and my certain lack of confidence in my own ability to run the business.
The premise of the book is that if you’re spending all of your time fixing things that you’re not good at, you pretty much can spend the rest of your life doing that because there’s always something that you’re not good at. If instead, you focus on first identifying and polishing the things that you’re truly unique at or that you’re gifted at, you’re going to have a much better chance of leveraging those gifts going forward. The second book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, does the same thing. I’m probably one of the few Angel investors who always start by telling people that, “I’m going to try very hard to figure out ways for you not to raise money and to certainly think about you’re not wanting or needing the money.”
This was from my experience, my own problem at the time. There was such a long list about what I felt I needed to start my business. I need the money so I need fund investors. If you hire the people, I need these people with those technical skills to do this. It’s all of these things that you don’t have, all the pieces. What Now, Discover Your Strengths helped me to do is it says, “Sit down, take a deep breath and start writing your asset list. What can you think of all of the things that you have that might be considered unique to you?” I did that exercise and I looked at it and I was like, “That’s not bad. There are a lot of unique things.” It gave me a level of confidence. The combination of the two, I was like, “I’m going to try it differently.” I did everything on my own.
Before we move on, can you share with us what are those two superpowers that you have?Wisdom is the largest amount of knowledge contained within the smallest piece of code. Click To Tweet
One of my ability is to see very far. My friends said that I have a telescopic vision. I’m able to come to logical conclusions about something fairly far out. Perhaps in the same status that I had when I saw the first smartphone and understood that in the earliest days that everybody was going to have a smartphone. Probably the best quote that I recall from that time was that only geeks would ever want to have a computer in their pocket. That proved to not be the case. I felt very strongly about that. In the same vein for some reason, this very hard approach to business is perhaps merging. I tend to have more design and creative sense but it’s now fused with business acumen. It’s somehow also not necessarily things that seem to go together very well. I felt strongly that’s what I wanted to do from the beginning, which is why some of the elements that I mentioned earlier about the design thing a unique role. I also have a pretty good intuition where I’m able to find people and understand very rapidly with people whether we are aligned. That has allowed me to find an amazing business partner and to also attract other similarly-minded people to the business.
That segues nicely to my next question. Going back to that juicy question that we promise the audience, the consciousness aspect of it. Now that you have exited from the company, can you share with us what inspired you to your interest, your new passion around consciousness?
It’s a confluence of any number of things. One of them started around early time with my son. My son was two years old at the time. I started asking myself, “What would make me a good father?” I asked myself that for a while and eventually I had the epiphany that if my son could leave home at whatever age or let’s say at eighteen with the best habits that I’ve been able to form in him or support in him, that I think he has a huge leg up in life. Correcting bad habits is difficult, time-consuming and draining so starting with depleted battery is not exactly what you care for him.
Personally, I don’t think that any amount of money would compensate for that. It’s not something I believe in. I think that money tends to be a shortcut as opposed to one that pushes you to bring more creative thinking to problems, as opposed to assuming that you can fix problems with money. That’s definitely also skilled over time in the business. What has been amazing to have is that we solve problems using our heads and on our hands as opposed to trying to mitigate our ability to think through those problems. As I was thinking through that, I was focused on habit formation. I realized as I was beginning to study habits that the number one habit that he’s going to pick up on is going to be his parents and myself included. I was like, “That’s interesting. That means now I need to start focusing on my habits, the good ones the bad ones, and what I’m going to do about that.” It made me conscious about that element. I was well-served on both fronts about this full journey.
I had an episode of a double heart attack a few years ago. There was a punch line in the end but for 72 hours I had a terrible heart attack. I had a cardiac catheterization to demonstrate that. It’s a centering moment when you’re confronted with your mortality. In my case, it was an interesting synthesis. First, a lot of guilt towards my two-year-old son and my young wife in terms of how long we were married. The second one was a sense of no regret. I wasn’t blaming anybody for where I was. I was very happy that I was in a time and place that I had proved myself, which is exactly what I had wanted to do all along. That felt liberating. The third one is a sense of peace. It was like, “I’m here. If I have to go, I’ve done my best. I’d rather not but if I have to go, there’s nothing more to do.”
It’s a very serene moment in that respect. The fourth one was a bit of regret in so far as I felt I had built a very strong foundation for my life and my business. When people look at the foundation, there’s nothing to look at. You can be as strong as you want on the ground and people would be like, “What am I looking at?” I said, “It would be nice to have a little bit more time to put something on top of that foundation so that people could have a better look about what my intent was.” Shortly thereafter, I have a dear friend who invited me to a meditation retreat and I came to that. I was at TED at the time a few years ago. For some reason, while I was at TED, one of the top things on my mind was about the idea of reconciling in my own head the difference between the me and the we.
On a personal note, as people wouldn’t know this from my accent, I’ve lived in ten countries on four continents. I’d been exposed to a lot of different cultures and different cultures have different levels of understanding of the me and the we. It’s something that I had been doing into a deep meditation. I’m like, “Let’s at least make this thing productive. This is the question that I have or the challenge that I have.” I was able to do a full synthesis of that in the turn of days. It’s almost like if you had the experience, you know that you have this total synthesis. You have the essence of the fault that is able to come out. I had this nugget that came out as a poem that I wrote after deep breathing exercise and synthesizing how I had experienced this between the me and the we. In the process, I also had what I was then told something called the overview effect, which is what astronauts experience seeing Earth from outer space. It’s a unique experience and it feels like you’re connecting with the whole universe.
I brought all of that together. From that moment on, I was pretty hooked on the whole consciousness journey bringing that in between me and being a good father, thinking about my mortality and coming out of that and suddenly being awakened to something that for the first time felt that I could think of myself outside of myself, which was not something I had been used to. The heart attack episode makes you much less concerned about your ego. It liberates you in many different ways to think about more meaningful things. Suddenly, I had these three things coming together in a relatively short period of time, about eighteen months to gel a particular path. Ever since then I’ve continued on this analysis.
The fourth step is that I came to a point in my life where I had been seeing a lot of things with this for many years. I didn’t do anything about it because I felt I was too young, not smart enough or not knowledgeable enough in a particular area, “What do I have to contribute? Somebody else is much smarter than me and much more deeply involved and is going to comment and do something about it.” As I grew older, I saw very few people did something about it, at least not bad. I said, “Now, I need to add my own two cents to the mix.” I decided to support a nonprofit financially and as they onboarded me, they asked me a question. They said, “Andrew, we don’t need you to be passionate about everything because we cover many different areas. It would be helpful to us if we understood what your core passion was.”
That question led me on a journey of a couple of months and eventually I came out to understand that my core passion is understanding how we distribute knowledge in the system and how we grow through that knowledge. That’s the core of my thinking. Our entire society is ultimately based on this fusion of knowledge and I’m using the word, knowledge. They touched upon knowledge and wisdom. I preferred to go further into the wisdom but those two elements are critical to me. I see that the more we veer away from considering that’s an important pursuit as a society, the more bad things happen or the more people decide to create smoke and mirrors to hide this. It’s a very complex thing. Having run a media company for many years gave me a little bit of an insight on that as well, but that was key. I believed that somehow as I was developing that thesis of diffusion of knowledge, it uncovered any number of other things that started making sense of the world about how things operated and why certain things were not functioning properly or decaying or dying or something like that.
I had some experience in that. I lived in Venezuela for a number of years. It’s a country that I adore and to see the country so rich in potential and the wealthiest country in Latin America to now be in a humanitarian crisis. It’s very sad to see and also showcases some of the difficulties. As an entrepreneur, I look at it and said, “This has infinite potential and now it went from the possibility of infinite potential to an incredible amount of hurt in the process with people having to suffer all kinds of things from hunger to having to depart the country.” It’s something that was very much on my mind. Part of the process of this knowledge led me to structure, the framework of trying to understand what happens in this fusion of knowledge and I saw that.
Before you share the framework, I want to ask you a follow-up question about some terminologies that you used. There is no shortage of information given on the internet. I don’t remember the number of information that comes up.
Let me define that. If you Google it, you’ll see that since about the ‘70s, the advent of personal computers or slightly earlier, the new word came out, raw data, to define this raw information that was coming out of computers. We have four buckets. At the lowest end, we have data. It’s vast in quantity and it’s humongous and growing exponentially these days but on a point basis, it has almost no value. A data point has almost no value. The second bucket is information. You have less of very slightly more value and you go up to curve and you start getting into an exponential curve. With knowledge, you have considerably less amount of what you consider to be a higher value. It grows very rapidly from that. Wisdom is at the very top of the exponential curve and it’s a very tiny and of incredible value, almost invaluable.
Can you give us some examples given those? I get it. I intellectually crack it. For the audience, what would be an idea of knowledge and then wisdom? What would be an example?
Knowledge would be an example of how to treat a particular disease. A whole field of whether it’s a technical field, engineering and so on and so forth, about the functioning of mathematics, whatever you want. All of that is pretty contained within a vastly growing and very interesting bucket.
What would be an example of wisdom?There needs to be a starting point. If you don't think about that one thing, you’re wasting time doing other things you shouldn’t be doing. Click To Tweet
Wisdom for me would be things that transcend knowledge. That is a synthesis of that. Wisdom is thinking about the love that a mother has for her child, whether it’s an African, Asian and South American in the United States. There’s a natural state of things to that wisdom or to think about any number of sayings, pervasive and multiple cultures about the way you treat others will have an impact on the way they treat you. Somebody asked me at some point and I’ve been asked the question a lot of times, “What do you mean by wisdom?” I said, “In my point of view, wisdom is the largest amount of knowledge contained within the smallest piece of code.” That’s what also became an important element tying it back to the habits is that knowledge and wisdom are ultimately pieces of codes. What I find interesting or at least the way I’ve been thinking about it is like this interview, we’re all made up of stories. We’re hundreds of thousands of stories from very tiny ones to bigger ones. I see those stories as a piece of code and there are good stories and bad stories.
Wisdom has a tendency to be the cream of the crop. It’s the caviar. The knowledge part is an ideal scenario and that’s the only thing that you would like to be coded with, but that tends not to be the case. It becomes about understanding your environment, understanding how are you being coded, how conscious are you to that coding or how unconscious you are. That brings us to the original question. This is where this emergence of consciousness came to think of yourself and what you do and how you’ve done it, your past and your future. Being able to see that coding and trying to expand upon it, then also look under the hood and say, “Where did this piece of coding come from? Do I like it? Do I want to change it? How do I change it? What do I change it to?” Things like that and you can only do that by being in a state that allows you to be conscious of that process. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do for many different reasons.
Because it is Meta-Meta, how do you become aware of the awareness itself? That in itself takes a lifetime to do it. When people hear about, “I’m awakened,” they assume once you’re awakened, then that’s it. The reality is to say moment by moment, continue the choice of, “Now, I’m aware.” Very easily, it takes no effort at all, no energy at all to go back to being affected by circumstances and believing those stories because they’re so ingrained in all of us.
I think you get there by progressively tackling point by point. The problem is everything is a dynamic system. As you tackle or heal one, another one may spring up. It’s a continuous process but at least you’re given the tools to do that, which previously you didn’t have to be able to look under the hood. You become an actor, a participant and a creator in the process as opposed to being affected or just a spectator where you don’t have the tools to engage at that level. That’s my opinion or at least that’s my pursuit within the consciousness movement is to get to them.
Since we were at the conference for a good two or three days, have you seen anything promising that will help scale the awareness of oneself?
I think it’s early days. I would treat it like the birth of the smartphone. Since I’ve lived through that entire story rather intimately. Let’s say that we’re entering the year of a more meaningful mass adoption of this. There are many flavors of it, perhaps in the same way that there were multiple operating systems in the smartphone wars here. There are different flavors with people coming at it either with the plant-based medicine, with the technology, the meditation and substance of meditation. Maybe exposure to nature, which would be another one. I’ve seen some very interesting people doing some amazing stuff there. Breathing, there’s an entirely new belief on that. You can think of anything simpler to affect change and to rethink the way you breathe. There are a lot of things that are emerging and you alluded to it earlier. It’s very exciting.
I don’t know if I have the certainty that this will happen and that it will have an impact and that it will touch as many billions of people as the smartphone revolution has. I don’t know what flavor that will be right now. I think it’s too early. It speaks more about a focus on the space as a whole that is meaningful to me. As you also alluded to earlier, to see the caliber of the people entering the conversation, what impact I may have on a very forward basis. We know where we’re going and it will grow with increased intensity. What the dominant flavor is, I don’t know. I hope that it doesn’t end up being a war of operating systems with the drug camps saying, “No, my solution is better and we get better consciousness doing this or no, it’s the other ones or no, you can only achieve it through meditation,” and so on and so forth. That would be a sad outcome.
Hopefully, everybody’s coming together and realize that what needs to happen is a synthesis of understanding that there will be different strokes for different people. Some people who can attain what they’re searching for by drugs or technology or meditation or combination of is something that should be looked at. I also don’t think that we necessarily have that portfolio but understanding about how would you engage with somebody and rapidly be able to determine what’s the best path for that person would be in helping a friend or helping a family member. Would you recommend drugs to them? Would you recommend the technology, meditation and so on and so forth?
Hopefully, we’ll have a better sense of that as well. I hope to see some of the people who are most involved of funding certain areas and individual areas may become equally focused and taking a very broad understanding of something that is, whether you want to call it healing or positive consciousness or whatever your flavor for that is. They can see that the entire ecosystem needs to be supported and not just one flavor of it. That would certainly the way I’m starting to think about it.
You are one of the converted. You had what you call the overview of fact and experience. You go to these conferences and you’re engaging in a very metaphysical type of conversations. Also, people who are reading this are already bought into this conscious conversation because we inquire about what does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to be fulfilled? That’s the purpose of this show. To the people who are not converted yet about the inquiry of all of this, what would you say to them? “I’m now here. I have achieved “monetary success.” This is the thing that I’m thinking about these days and you might want to consider that too.” What would you say to people who are not even aware of this consciousness movement?
I started my first company when I was 23 years old and for the longest time, you’re on a quest that you think that there’s only one thing you need to think about. If you don’t think about that one thing, you’re wasting your time doing other things you shouldn’t be doing. That one thing is to build your business and make money. At one point, after a number of cycles, let’s say within seven or eight years of thinking like that, I came to a conclusion where I was like, “If I do just that, there’s something wrong in the whole message here.” I started building an outline that I call the seven pillars about what I felt the things you needed to look at should be.
Those were, in no particular order, the personal, the professional, the financial, health and fitness, faith and spirituality. Let’s say there was a broad spectrum of things in you to think about at least that nobody had properly verbalized. I’ve read hundreds of business books and I still have every single one of them so I can attest to that. None of the literature I had ever read even touches upon this thing. How do you build a life on top of being an entrepreneur and how do the two commingle? I got to understand that there will never be a perfect balance. The way that I started thinking about it is each of the pillars can be at zero or ten. If all of the pillars are zero, you’re dead. If all of the pillars are at ten, you’re not human. There’s going to be a baseline somewhere, whether physically or something that’s a mild injury or a bigger one or you’re having financial problems, you need to set what’s your map at any given time, then you know that you have 100% of energy to dedicate. If you dedicate 100% of your energy to only one pillar over a very long period of time, it means that you’re not applying any amount of energy to any one of the other ones to build the cake. If they do that, that means that at one point you’re going to have to put a lot of energy there.
Ultimately, what makes the most sense is to become aware of it. At least think about it. Add it as a list of they may be secondary or third-degree priorities but they cannot be zero. You need to think about that and then decide how much you’re willing to allocate to each other. It may be 5% here, you can still do a lot by saying, “I’ll allocate 30% to my six pillars but I still allocate 70% to the professional one of the business.” That’s fine but it wasn’t something that I was doing. I was all head in the business. There’s just not any mistake. Anything else just didn’t make any sense to me. That helped me to begin to build this framework that you need to build more than one thing at a time. It applied both within the business that it’s not just about making money within the business. There are other things they need to think about. It gives me a more granular vision of what I wanted to do then than where I started.
Thank you, Andrew. Let’s leave it at that. What a beautiful way to complete our conversation. We went to a lot of different spaces in this interview. Thank you so much for dropping your wisdom, your experience and your knowledge. I’ll have it that this will help propagate and disseminate the knowledge of the world. Thank you so much. I appreciate you.
Thank you, CK. Thanks to your audience also.
- Andrew Carton
- Ben Tauber – previous episode
- Conscious Capitalism
- Android Central
- Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got.
- Now, Discover Your Strengths
About Andrew Carton
Andrew Carton is an entrepreneur, futurist and change agent. He started his first venture in Venezuela some 11 years ago and he has to date founded three businesses. He was most recently the managing director of one of the largest online advertising networks in the UK. Previous to this he was an Internet strategy consultant, co-founder & CEO of an online beverage startup in the USand co-founder & managing director of a promotional marketing firm in Caracas.
Andrew launches his latest venture, alteraxion, in late 2001 with the mission to “Explore, Discover & Exploit the Next Big Thing”. Following a great many failed experiments he eventually leverages his fanatical interest in personal video recorders such as TiVo to develop an ambitious proposal for a next-generation gaming console, completes the business plan for an online DVD and games rental company, explores the relaunch of TiVo in the UK, other hardware and software PVR solutions as well as negotiating the acquisition of an EPG software developer. None of these take off in a meaningful way but the combined learnings soon become priceless. After repeatedly being told that his ideas were too far ahead of the curve, digital entertainment convergence finally hits the front pages and investors get serious.