Following on from my chat with Will, below is the mythical presentation on presentations. Hit me up on twitter if you have any questions!
Looking back is easy.
Recently I found myself semi-lecturing a friend on what direction they should take in their working life. But reflecting on it after the fact I came to the conclusion that in reality I’m not even remotely qualified to be giving people life advice. Well no more than the average Joe on the street in any case.
In reality before I set out on my self employment journey, I had no idea whatsoever about what I was going to do, I toyed around with the idea of management consultancy until an internship proved to me that I was a profound mismatch for that type of job. To this day I often refer to my business as an “experiment”. It just happens to be an experiment I am five years into.
“We’re all making it up as we go along.”
I read the above recently on twitter, and you know what, it’s pretty spot on. No one really has a clue what’s going on so we just make the decision that seems most correct at any given time.
When you really look closely at anyone considered “successful” in any field they have, more often than not, taken a fairly unpredictable journey to get to where they are! And those that claim they did have a plan all along are usually just retrospectively drawing a bullseye around an arrow they threw randomly a while back.
So, while we should probably just acknowledge that we are all just making it up as we go along, there must be some set of guiding principles or values that can keep our decision making on track, and if so what would they look like?
Two books that I have read in recent times have struck a major chord with me and I think in places offered a look into what those values/principles could be (for me). The first book was “Let My People Go Surfing” by Patagonia clothing founder Yvon “the reluctant businessman” Chouinard, and the second “Sacred Hoops” authored by arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time Phil Jackson.
So here goes the philosophical stuff… (I fully realise I am out of my depth on all this)
Choosing the mountain.
“A players responsibility is to execute the type of game he is best designed for”
– Phil Jackson, 9 NBA championships as coach, 2 as a player.
At one point or another you’ll probably realise you are better at one thing than another. Different people have different skills, different personalities, different wants and desires YET will choose to willingly ignore or suppress these facts so they can pursue the path they are “supposed to”.
Jackson has it right in saying that your responsibility to both yourself, and your team (friends/family) is to pursue what you were built to do!
Climbing it the right way.
“My dream was not just to win championships but to do it in a way that wove together my two greatest passions: basketball and spiritual exploration.”
“Winning at any cost didn’t interest me… I’d already learned that winning is ephemeral. Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day.”
-Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia Clothing
The “win at all costs” attitude seems pretty prevalent in most business arenas, some maybe more than others, but is equally flawed no matter what the situation. “Winning” really is only ever temporary, because as soon as any driven individual achieves their goal they usually have another one teed up straight away. If you don’t enjoy the process from one short burst of happiness to the next… what’s the point.
Why bother climb it at all?
There aren’t all that many waking hours in a day, so if you don’t feel that beyond a pay check you’re getting nothing out of it… why would you ever stick around? Similar to Jackson’s points about “winning”, it isn’t really the attainment of an end goal that should be viewed as the objective, rather than the taking part in the adventure/journey. You can in theory be flown by helicopter to the top of Mt. Everest. But that’s not quite the same thing as climbing up yourself.
Throw loads of arrows
Probably the easiest to understand and most easily implemented of all, just being open to new things! Coach Jackson says it about as well as anyone could!
Huge, giant caveat:
I’m not saying that I live up to any of the above, I wish. These are quotes that I have read from people who have achieved true greatness, on terms I think are pretty agreeable, so I only put them here as a way of sharing their wisdom!
So, yep, there you have it. We are all making it up as we go along, but there are things we can aim for.
In a few weeks I will be taking a train down to the South of Ireland, to Kerry, where I’ll be speaking at a fantastic conference called WASup. The last time I found myself down that part of the world was actually five years ago when I was working for a tech startup based in Tralee called Text Republic. I worked from home in Dublin for the most part, and this was my second trip down to the HQ. It would turn out that the trip there and back was basically the turning point that convinced me that I should (in fact must) try and set out on my own journey and see if I could make a living from my unique skills.
(To put things in even great context, just two years prior to this I (thought I) wanted to be a management consultant and would have never dreamed of working in a startup!)
I think there were two parts to this recipe that made this trip so pivotal:
1. A long train ride through beautiful country
2. Two books that covered first the “how” and then the “why” of starting a small business.
Firstly, I truly believe that there is nothing as good as a scenic train ride to give your mind a bit of time off to think freely. This is something that we just don’t do enough.
One thing about being on a train is that the internet is usually either crap or non existent, or at some strange middle ground between the two. This provides a nice bit of (extremely rare) enforced disconnect-time from emails, tweets, Facebook posts and all the rest of it. The Dublin to Tralee train takes a good 4 hours from station to station and passes through some of the most scenic vistas you’re going to get on our little island. Staring out a window and daydreaming for 4 hours is a surprisingly worthwhile activity. I suggest you give it a go from time to time!
Trains also give ample time for reading, and as chance would have it my boss had lent me two books to read on the way back. He said he thought I’d like them… and I did! It turned out they’d be the beginning of the end for me in terms of being an employable person! (Once you’ve seen the light there’s no going back)
The straight talking author, Tim Ferriss, laid out a great cases for how to make better use of the short amount of time we have in each day, and pointed out the absurd things we seem to revere in modern society like being “busy”.
Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
More than anything I suppose the book posed tough questions that forced a bit of introspection. You quickly find yourself asking “Hmmm what DO I want to achieve through work”. Ferriss urges us to aim for greatness, and points out that it isn’t that hard to achieve… because most people don’t even try!
“Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre.”
The second eye-opening book was Small Giants. In this book the story was told of multiple businesses who made the choice to remain small, even though in theory they could have scaled like mad and become behemoths. The books tagline says it all: “Companies who choose to be great instead of big”
The shared mantra amongst all of these companies was the pursuit of quality, doing things the right way and growing at an organic rate. Another huge component of the stories outlined was the desire to own the whole process from end to end, to be directly responsible for creating something whole, something quality. While not always commercially optimal, for some people the money comes second in importance. I think this appealed to me to a great extent.
In retrospect maybe it was this book that resonated with me the most out of the two. It reminded me of the stories I had head about my grandfather, also named Ed, who ran a small but successful garage in a town just down the road from me. He knew that as a mechanic he’d most likely never be a millionaire, but he also knew he could run a quality service and serve a community that needed and appreciated his skills. He led a very good life. I suppose in a way I have become a mechanic myself, I just fix presentations instead of cars.
To me Small Giants provided a beautiful antidote to the “scale or die” and “win at all costs” mentalities that you see in business at large. The case studies showed me that you could be profitable and have pride in the business all while staying small. Again, this sounded right up my alley.
A quote from the founder of Patagonia Clothing comes to mind when I think about this book:
“Profit is not the goal, because, as the Zen master would say, profits happen when you do everything else right”
5 Years Later
I read a part of each of those books on the return trip from Kerry five years ago, and in the next few days wolfed my way through them, a week or two later I sent my (relatively new) boss an email telling him that I’d have to pursue a different journey.
Five years later I am looking forward to making the trip back down to Tralee, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It’ll be another great journey I’m sure and let’s see if I can come up with another epiphany this time 🙂
WASUP (Wild Atlantic StartUP) is an organisation that puts on brilliant tech & entrepreneurship events around the county, predominantly on the West Coast. I’m heading along to (and speaking at) their next event in Tralee, which will focus on Startups, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, you should come too!
In an overly simplified explanation of things:
- Oct 16th – Thurs eve – Pre-conference meetup/pints at a location TBD
- Oct 17th – Friday – The conference itself with amazing speakers
- Oct 17th – Friday eve – StartupGrind interview followed by a night out
- Oct 18th – Sat – For those still around there is some sort of outdoorsy type event planned.
As WASup themselves say, the event is about “Embracing entrepreneurial mindsets from a range of disciplines and aligning this with local Culture… this is not a normal Startup event.”
Why you should go
There’s a lot going on outside Dublin.
And we need to get out and see it! The tech/entrepreneurship scenes in different cities and towns in Ireland are just as active, interesting and engaging as Dublin, but are also on a more human scale. Heading along to events like WASUP allows us to get a proper look at what’s going on all around the country and at the end of the conference you’ll have met new faces from new places and have new insights, connections and friends.
Small conferences beat big ones.
I’ve never really understood the whole bit about selling your conference on the fact it’s “BIG”. At the end of the day any one person is only going to be able to have a fairly limited amount of meaningful interactions with fellow attendees, so I don’t really care if 10,000 people are heading to some other event… Small conferences mean that you’ll actually end up meeting with and chatting with a really high % of attendees/speakers and feel part of a real community.
Outrageous value for money.
As it stands early bird tickets for the event are €20. Yes €2… So for the price of 4 pints (3 in Temple Bar) you’re getting access to a conference that has a world class lineup of experts in PR, Finance, Social Entrepreneurship, Marketing (and presentation design) to name but a few. Seems like a steal to me.
The lineup is still in the works, but already confirmed and speaking on the day will be:
- Bernie Goldbach – Topgold
- Christina Luminea – Thoughtbox
- Edmond Harty – Dairymaster
- Paul Hayes – BeachHut PR
- Breda O’Dwyer – CEED
- Lisa Maree Dominican – Grace App
- Ian Lucey – Lucey Technology
- Me – presentation stuff
And many, many more to be confirmed soon, I rattled the above off from memory, but you’ll get a better list over at their official site.
In addition to the main conference Darren Mulvihill (twitter) will be treating us to another quality StartupGrind Ireland interview with some of Kerry’s most famous entrepreneurs.
Here’s my plan… join me.
- So the conference takes place on Friday, October 17th, but I’m planning on heading down a day early so I can make the pre-WASUP meetup that evening.
- I haven’t made many/any firm plans but the 1pm train from Dub to Tralee would get us there for 5pm
- Shane (twitter) and Karen (twitter), the organisers are working on getting us a good hotel rate at the Fels point hotel in Tralee (it looks fancy)
- Friday will be conference day, which will kick all sorts of ass. Friday evening will see us have a great night out on the town.
- Then on the Saturday we can hop on a train back to the big smoke, simples.
You in? You’re in…
If you’re interested in heading along to the conference make sure to head over to here and get a ticket.
If you want to join together with cool people (and me) and take the train down to the Kingdom leave a comment below with your email and I’ll try and keep us all in the loop as to the plan! (Or send me a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finally, make sure you follow the WASup twitter account to get all the updates.
Update #1 – RE: Accommodation, WASUP organisers have said:
Our accommodation sponsor Fels Point Hotel are offering attendees of WASup Kerry 2014 a special nightly accommodation rate of EUR45pps or EUR65 for single occupancy for the nights of Thursday October 16th and Friday October 17th. This rate includes breakfast.
Fels Point is where the evening events for WASup will take place on Friday October 17th. To avail of this rate, please phone the hotel directly at 066 7199131 and let them know you are with WASup.
This weekend DCU played host to, and PCH sponsored, a fantastic Hardware Hackathon. Over the course of just 2 and a quarter days a lot went on! Ideas were pitched, products were worked on, and presentations were given in front of an audience of industry pros.
In case you didn’t get the chance to pop along yourself I’ve put together a list of the top 3 projects as ranked by the elite judging panel.
3rd place: Eco.pulse
Coming in at 3rd place was Eco.pulse with a piece of hardware designed to read water quality and alert home owners if their water supply becomes compromised by chemicals/compounds.
Pitched (expertly by @taraannosaur) as “smart rural”, Eco.pulse is aimed at rural households that are not connected to mains water and instead draw their water from wells which could easily become contaminated with runoff from farming activities.
Aside from selling units directly to customers Eco.pulse also plan to sell water quality data to relevant governmental departments who are tasked with doing water quality testing (but at the moment only do it at an impractically slow rate)
2nd place: HomeBox
We’ve all been there. Waiting at home for the delivery man to bring us a package between “12-5” or some other outrageously vague timeline. To put it lightly, it’s not a great user experience… Well HomeBox aims to make that history.
The smart (and sturdy) box would be mounted to the outside of a property, and only users with permission (such as deliverers) would be able to open the box and leave the package within it. The box is fitted with cameras that will photograph both the box opener, and the inside of the box to confirm that a package is actually there. Upon closing of the box a message would be sent to the box/home owner telling them their package has arrived. The box also comes equipped with a small compartment for household keys for the usage with the likes of AirBnB.
It was pointed out that this would also help delivery companies reduce the amount of packages they end up having to redeliver (circa 10%), and would mean they could actually deliver 24/7
The idea was pitched so well on the day by @ciaranmag that I’m convinced that I want this in my life, NOW!
1st Place: Pharmalytics
Most people think of pharmacies as stocking mostly dry stuff (powders, tablets), that will last for years on end at room temperature. Well as @Tracy_Keogh informed us, it turns out that pharmacies also stock very temperature and time sensitive medicines that are extremely high value that can be ruined very easily. (Even a small pharmacy might have €30k of stock in a fridge)
At the moment temperature and stock shelf life is recorded manually for the most part, Pharmalytics aims to automate these measurements and make life a lot easier, and a lot less risky for pharmacists.
The hardware itself comes in the form of shelf inserts that can easily be added to existing fridge units and contains both pressure sensitive and temperature sensitive sensors. In the event of the temperature exceeding safe limits an alert will be sent to the relevant people instantly.
It was suggested in the future RFID tags could be used to give further depth to stocking data available.
Aside from the top 3 the standard across the board was amazing and I think at the end of the day with events like this everyone from organiser to participant to attendee on the final day comes out winning.
Also, if you want a quick idea about what the other projects were check out the whiteboard below, nice one liners about what was on show!
If you liked this post, there’s a fair chance we’d get on great on twitter, so send me a nice/nasty tweet to http://www.twitter.com/clearpreso
A famous song of old proclaimed: “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, well I have evidence to the contrary.
In the last while I have taken 2 train rides that have helped me put a bit of perspective on the matter of travel time, and also opened my eyes to the great things happening in tech outside of Dublin.
The first train ride was a whopper 55 hour trans-continental train from San Francisco all the way to Chicago (via jaw dropping sights like the Nevada Desert and the Rocky Mountains). My time on the train helped me re-educate myself a great deal about what a “Long Journey” was.
This was the Mt. Everest of train journeys.
The second train involved a 2 hour trip from Dublin to Limerick (via the jaw dropping sights of Portarlington and Thurles) for the brilliant WASUP conference. Having had my eyes opened by what 55 hours of train transport felt like, I realised that travelling “all the way to Limerick” took an extremely reasonable amount of time.
It was the Croagh Patrick of train journeys.
Actually the shortness of the journey bordered on being inconvenient. It took so little time that on the outward journey I managed to only make a tiny dent into the book I had intended on ploughing through before I had reached the end of the line. On the return trip from the conference I was shocked when my great chats with a few good folk from the event were rudely interrupted by the intercom telling us we had arrived in Dublin. (I’m fully aware that the two previous points are the very definition of a #firstworldproblem)
So… why am I telling you these long rambling stories? I’m still not sure, but a few things hit me about Ireland and business, so here we go:
1. ‘Tis no distance at all.
We have a teeny tiny spec of a country, therefore we have no grounds for complaint when we have to travel for a few hours, in fact doing so should be a fineable offence. People in larger countries would look at our trips as mere commute-level distances.
2. There are wonderful things happening outside the Pale.
There are great things happening all around the country in terms of business/tech events. WASUP was just one of them, and there are plenty more happening all the time. Dubliners (like me) need to get off our collective asses and make the short hop out to these places and check these events out.
3. Regionalism in such a small country seems a bit off.
Our country seems too small for the OTT regionalist (is that a word?) approach that seems to be employed. I remember a speaker on one of the great panels at WASUP mentioning her organisation only had remit to work with businesses “West of the Shannon” and possibly South of some other river, this blew my mind and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. We seem to have an awful lot of Local Enterprise Boards and other entities that give us an absurd level of geographic granularity. Is this perhaps surplus to requirement? (If I’m way off on this do give me a telling off in the comments)
4. Getting across the entire country is not much more expensive than commuting within a city.
Considering a return DART ticket in Dublin will set you back close to €6 euro, it seems pretty good that you can get a return bus from Dublin to Limerick for circa €20, and a train for about €30.*
(*Funny story, if you don’t book in advance Irish Rail go nuclear on the pricing. I remember poor old @ paying the truly scandalous in-station purchase price of €55 ONE WAY)
So there you have it, some jumbled up nonsense thoughts about trains and Ireland!
If you agree, disagree, want to correct me or indeed lavish me with compliments do leave a comment 🙂
The inaugural WASUP conference in Limerick was a huge success, if you missed it you missed out! Here are some of the things that my trusty old camera saw on the day.
The first panel of the day consisted of some great local entrepreneurs who had great stories to tell and tales of hard lessons learned.
Ian Lucey showing us with the aid of jugs of milk, how to… Milk the system.
Some of the panelists were downright shocked at Ian Lucey’s charismatic power-poses.
Fearless organiser Shane McCarthy, and man-about-town Paul Hayes announcing some special prizes.
WASUP ended with a brilliant Startup Grind interview hosted by wunder-interviewer Darren Mulvihill who grilled Ian Coppinger of Teamwork.com and Connor Murphy of Datahug on the difference between bootstrapping vs taking on VC money, all watched over by the two Munster rugby players in the bottom of the photo there!
All in all it was a fantastic event, thanks to Shane and his team for making it possible, and I will be sure to add more photos/vids if someone sends them to me Ed@clearpreso.com