James Park is the co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.
Once upon a time, he was enrolled at Harvard (his parents’ dream for his life), but he dropped out to start his own business. Some time later, he had what he described as a “lightning bolt moment” when he first played the Nintendo Wii. The way they used sensors to track motion made him wonder: how do we take this outside? We now know that question led to the “gamification of fitness,” and put him at the forefront of a multi-billion dollar industry.
We’re kicking off 2022 talking about the origin stories of some of the most successful companies in recent times. It makes me think of this, aka our official origin story theme song. Hopefully you feel inspired knowing that every great success had to start somewhere, usually with pretty humble beginnings. An idea most people wouldn’t have thought much of, but that in the case of Fitbit was ultimately sold to Google for over $2billion.
I have a few thoughts on this…
First of all, how awesome that it all started while playing video games! It just shows, you never know when inspiration can strike. Next time someone gives you a hard time for playing video games, just tell them you’re looking for the next industry-revolutionizing idea.
Second, let’s talk about him dropping out of Harvard. Imagine how that conversation with his parents went. But to put it in perspective – they themselves had immigrated from Korea with the hope of finding new opportunities for their family. So you could argue, the risk they took was actually much greater than the one he took to drop out (let’s be honest though, I strongly doubt they appreciated that point).
This made me think: what’s stopping us from pursuing our new ideas? I’m sure we could all come up with excuses – a list of responsibilities that keep us from venturing out and trying new things… seriously, who has time to play video games and have a dream? Has your daily work become a “Harvard” that you wouldn’t dare drop out of?
However, the biggest thing that stood out to me when I heard James Park’s story is one little word that you probably skipped over in the first paragraph above: that he’s the co-founder of Fitbit.
The key question we need to ask about our world-changing ideas is: WHO? Who are you going to do it with?
James would tell you, without Eric Friedman, there would be no Fitbit. I love hearing him talk about their relationship. How in the most stressful times, they were able to help pick each other up, and being thankful that even though there were low moments of feeling down, “luckily we weren’t down at the same time.”
Do you have that person in your life? Maybe what’s really stalling your big idea is not a what, but a who. There might be a partner out there you could collaborate with who would turn your dream into reality. Who is your co-founder?
In the words of our origin story theme song, “We started from the bottom now the WHOLE TEAM here.” Here’s to dreaming big, together.
Don Katz is the founder and CEO of Audible.
Now imagine him jogging back in the mid 1990’s listening to a book on cassette tape which was checked out from the library. He put the tape in a clunky Sony walkman, put his fuzzy headphones on and started to run. Now, picture him trying to flip the tape over after 30 minutes of listening to hear the rest of it…while still in motion. Not ideal…and he thought…”there has to be a better way.”
This led him to do some research and find that 93 million Americans drove to work alone every morning. He then extrapolated hundreds of hours of time that people sat in traffic, matched that number with the sociological data that showed the most frustrating and least valuable time of people’s day was…sitting in traffic.
He thought, why don’t I create a device that would allow people to listen to the digital content they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Running the numbers, he realized if he could just penetrate 9% of the people sitting in traffic alone every morning at $10/month for a service that would enrich their lives…how big could this business be? Let’s do the math:
9% of 93 million = 8.37 million
x $10 per person/month
= $83.7 million dollars per month in subscription fees.
So at age 43, with a supportive wife and 3 kids, he decided to ditch his career as an accomplished author and a journalist (for Rolling Stone) and take a 85% pay cut to start his new adventure.
It took Don another 10 plus years of barely surviving the dot-com bust until his luck finally changed with the release of the iPod and the timely partnership with Apple. Then in 2008, Amazon purchased Audible for $300 million. Ummmm….did you hear what I just said? $300 million?
Everyone has a great idea…and that idea and inspiration to start a new business can last a few days, a few weeks, or sometimes even a few years. When asked what motivated him to leave the comforts of a financial safety net and persevere for another 10 years until he finally saw the fruits, he responded with these 3 points:
- His loving father’s sudden passing at an early age marked his life in so many ways…and he sees a lot of patterns of fatherlessness in highly entrepreneurial people…whether from abandonment or early death which sometimes includes taking ridiculous risks.
- He thought it was so interesting that he would daydream more about this idea of digital audio content and player rather than daydreaming about the next paragraph that he was going to write.
- He kept talking and trying to get advice from people that he respected and they all thought he was crazy. This motivated him even more.
What I personally love most about this story is that even after selling the company to Amazon for…$300 million dollars, he continues his duties as a CEO and just recently in 2020 assumed the position of Founder and Executive Chairman of Audible. To me that says a lot about what this work means to him – that it’s less about getting paid, and more about seeing the original idea that everyone said couldn’t happen becoming reality. It’s a different way to think about our work – instead of just making money, we can be making our masterpiece.
I hope that inspires you as we go into this year – maybe 2022 can be the beginning of your origin story as well! It all starts with an idea…
“So… how you doin?”
If you watched the show Friends, you heard this line from Joey many times, and you saw how unsuccessful it was with the target audience.
But what if your company’s marketing is having the same effect?
As a business, we are often too worried about our own self-image, our own self-interest, and our own capabilities that we forget about what our clients really need.
The key question is you need to ask is, how ARE they doing?
Instead of looking at yourself, become a student of your client. Find out their wants, their needs, their hopes, their fears. Take the focus off you, and figure out how you can create solutions for them.
The irony of great marketing is: It’s not about you. When you do it right, you’re not trying to make yourself look good. You’re just the guide to help others achieve their goals and dreams.
It reminds me of the story that Gay Zenola MacLaren shared in her memoir, about a chance encounter with Mark Twain:
He opened the door for me himself. As we said good-bye, he put his fingers lightly under my chin and lifted my head up so that my eyes met his.
“Little girl,” he said earnestly, “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
At BOS Media Group, we believe that’s how digital marketing should work – it’s about making others feel that they can achieve greatness.
Maybe it’s time to re-think marketing. Know your audience, position your company to serve those needs, and make them the hero.
Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you shine!
In my last blog, I challenged you to come up with your worst idea. Hopefully, that opened up your mind to some new creative possibilities, but as you may have noticed: bad ideas don’t just automatically become a business (with the exception of the Shakeweight, of course).
The biggest question you need to ask if you want to turn your creativity into business is:
What problem are you solving?
It sounds simple, but most people don’t know how to answer this. You might have a product or service that starts doing well, but if you don’t know why, you won’t know how to build on the success.
You should be able to state this in a few words, or as Donald Miller calls it, “a one-liner” – a sentence that connects a pain point that people experience, and how your idea could resolve it.
Take a second to think about it: Where do you see someone having a problem? How could you address it?
Whether it’s a small idea to implement in your current business or a big idea for a new business, look around – the next great innovation might be right in front of you.
And that’s where flossing comes in.
NO, this isn’t about how people want to work with BOS Media Group because of my clean teeth (although obviously, it doesn’t hurt).
This is about a principle I once heard about how to develop healthy dental hygiene: if you’re currently not in the habit of flossing regularly, start by just committing to flossing ONE TOOTH.
It sounds weird, but you might be surprised – by lowering the commitment level, it removes barriers in your mind and increases your chance of success. One tooth is so easy, we don’t mind doing another, and before you know the small changes are big.
Which brings us back to your business. Start small. Look for a problem to solve. And please, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you turn it into a business.
For many Americans, July is a time to appreciate our Founding Fathers and their world-changing creativity.
Obviously, I’m talking about watching Hamilton on Disney+.
This might sound weird, but the thing that stuck out the most to me is what a BAD IDEA it is. Translating a history book to Broadway through hip-hop should not work, and yet, here we are, living in Lin Manuel Miranda’s world.
I’ve had a similar thought about Pixar movies – I seriously wonder if some of their concepts were born from “What’s the absolute WORST IDEA we can think of?” (A rat in the kitchen? Trying to understand a teenager’s emotions? An elderly couple who can’t have children where one spouse dies without accomplishing their dream?) It’s like the more they corner themselves with a difficult concept, the more they’re forced to rise to meet the creative challenge – “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
This is especially important to think about at this time in history. As we continue to navigate a global pandemic and its economic impact, one thing is certain: business has changed, and it may never be the same again. How do we pivot and implement new ideas to take our business forward?
You may feel overwhelmed, but look around: what opportunities do you see? It could be in the way you’ve shifted your operation in the past few months, or in the adjustments required to work from home. Even on a personal level, pay attention to the innovative ways that you’ve managed home life, fitness, and nutrition, or online engagement – what do you see evolving around you?
At BOS Media, we believe that creativity is an infinite resource, where even the worst idea can end up opening new worlds. Our hope is that this ends up being a transformative time, as you dream big and experiment with imaginative ways to solve problems. We’d love to join you in that pursuit – please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help as you begin thinking and strategizing, and eventually as you take action to make it a reality.
In the meantime, the big question is: WHAT’S YOUR WORST IDEA? Honestly, we’d love to hear it – it really could be the gateway to your most creative work.
Someone complained the other day about seeing way too many puns out there about having the perfect vision for the year 2020. So, you know what we say to that? We say, “here’s to the perfect vision for the year 2020!”. We know everyone goes into January with big dreams of making this the best year ever…and we do too! That’s a good thing. Don’t be cynical – let’s get our hopes up again, this is our year!
We are going to share 3 words for 2020 that can help you have the best year ever. Let’s unpack it together and get ready to be inspired, energized and excited for this year to unfold. It’s up to you. So, let’s make it matter.
Here’s our latest podcast episode #5
Are you a frequent podcast listener?
If you are, you can find us at the links below, please make sure to subscribe and share. We would also love to hear from you, so, just leave us a comment on the iTunes review or contact us here directly. In the meantime, thank you so much for being here and remember to always MAKE IT MATTER.
It’s 3 am. I’ve been thinking about this workshop for over a month now and I am about 3/4 way through preparing to teach it. I know it’s a subject that WILL help the small business owner, entrepreneur and dreamer alike, and I’ve had a feeling it was going to be a big hit. And it was, because it sold out in less than a week after just one registration post on my Facebook page. Well…sold out meaning, sign ups were full.I made $0 dollars. LOL. It’s a free workshop.
What sets you apart from anyone else? What makes you unique? Who are you? What is your promise? How are you achieving it? I ask these questions to clients that we work with in developing their brand. According the Seth Godin’s blog on “Small is the new Big“, all these questions can be summed up in one simple question; “what is your BIG?” For public companies, their BIG is the growth. For example, their BIG might be 10% growth year after year to infinity. This keeps the shareholders happy, keeps the doors open, the economy pumping and everyone making a profit. Their market to the masses and their ability to create products and services are at the highest performance rate with efficiency…that’s what they do. For us, we can’t even begin to compete with that. But we CAN offer something big companies won’t do that will add even more value. Our small is our BIG.
Okay, back to “It’s 3 am.” It’s a lot of pressure trying to prepare for a group of intelligent, talented and creative people from all different backgrounds…people with new incredible business ideas, people switching to a new industry, people with current successful businesses just wanting to do it better, people starting and running non-profits from an idea that birthed from their own pain and passion. I feel the pressure from my own doubts. “What could they possibly learn from me?” “How am I going to present this information so that it’s engaging and easy to follow?” “Is this even going to help them in their own entrepreneurial journey?” “Why am I offering this for free?” “How will this help me and my business?” I’ve poured a lot of time and energy into this workshop and according to my ROI calculation, a CFO from a public company would advise me to stop.
But I don’t. Because it’s 3 am, and I feel more energized than ever. I feel that I am in my element being useful, resourceful, relevant, and intentional. I feel this information I am about to share can motivate and help others to do well. And in helping others do well and helping others reach their dream, won’t it help me to fulfill mine? Yes! It will!.
This is my BIG. It won’t make sense in a P&L report, but it’s my BIG in the relationships I make and the lightbulbs that I help turn on and the inspiration and encouragement that I offer. So, what is your BIG? What is the unique piece of your business and culture you can call your own? What value can you continue to offer in exchange for your trust and your authenticity?
It’s 3 am, and I am more awake than ever! Let’s go BIG or go home.
We finally parked and started down the muddy trail. The first few hundred yards were mostly downhill which made it difficult to stay upright as my feet were slipping and sliding every which way. I was hanging on to the exposed roots from trees for stabilization and focusing on making sure everyone was doing ok. We saw a few hikers on their way back up the hill. As I made eye contact with one of them, I asked if it was worth all this suffering. “Oh yeah,” he exclaimed, “you are almost there; it will be amazing!” Hmmm, I thought, a word to the wise, don’t hype up the experience someone is about to have; you’ll create an unreasonable expectation and it will lead to disappointment. Feeling a bit annoyed yet still hopeful, we continued.
We eventually arrived at our destination. Our final climb was across the large area of lava rocks. As we stood and looked down, we finally saw what we’d been looking for. The fierce and powerful ocean waves smashing into the rocks beneath us and slowly losing its anger, with water then gently flowing between rocks into a cove creating a large pool of crystal clear, calm perfection. They named this spot “Queen’s Bath” and it met the hype and every ounce of my expectation….I thought to myself, this is what family vacationing is all about…exploration, adventure and finally…relaxation.
We climbed down and took full advantage of this body of water with our snorkeling gear and just enjoyed the beauty as we sat back and watched everyone around us do the same. Several people were jumping into the water from a ledge about 15 feet above the natural pool where we were swimming. We couldn’t help notice this little girl on the ledge, as well, trying to muster the courage to make the jump. She was looking down at us, and we were close enough to see the fear in her eyes. Her body language also made it obvious, and she spoke the words that would continue to paralyze her current state of being… “I can’t!”
Her father stood right next to her, holding her, then letting his hands go, he said, “you can do this honey…jump!” She said “no!”even more terrified, and he would continue to encourage her. She would then stand there in silence, studying the water beneath her…one…two…three!!! …then, nothing. Just fear. She was frozen, unable to make the decision, unable to conquer the situation she got herself into. This went on for what seemed like forever. People below were starting to not pay attention anymore and went about their own business…we pretty much gave up on her too. No more words of encouragement, yelling, counting down, even simple reassurance of her safety would rid her of her fear. She had seen others do it all day but she was still paralyzed. What would it take to get rid of her fear?
My wife of much wisdom, watching this event unfold with me said, “you do know that as entertaining as this is, it’s gonna get a bit annoying once she jumps right?” Why? I asked. “Because, once she jumps, she’s going to realize it’s not that scary…then guess what she’s going to do the rest of the day? She’s going to run and climb over to the ledge, and jump again, then you know what she’s going to do after that? Run and climb to the ledge, and jump again, and again and again. My wife is so smart, because that’s EXACTLY what happened. Finally after her initial jump, for the next 1/2 hour she must have jumped into the Queen’s Bath while screaming with glee 20+ times over. Oh my.
The crazy thing is that no matter what was said, yelled, whispered and/or encouraged, the fear NEVER left her. The fear only left when she jumped. The fear left when she finally took action. When she leaped into the air, then free-falling 15 feet, then splashing into the water, then as she lifted her head out of the water…something crazy happened….everything changed. She overcame her fear. I saw it happen right before my eyes. I saw someone that conquered their own fear and took a blind leap. I saw someone, a 10-year-old, look into the eyes of her own fear, laughed and shout out to the world with glee..”Wheeeeeeeee!!!” Over and over again.
I am reminded of my own fear and my transformation as I continue to move forward in my entrepreneurial journey. I am often stopped in my own tracks, paralyzed in fear of where my next decision will take me. Then I will be reminded of what a 10-year-old taught me about fear. Fear will remain until I take action. Fear will remain until I leap into the air. Fear will remain until I free-fall into the body of water and come out refreshed, alive and fearless, laughing and shouting out to the world with glee…”Wheeeeeeeee!!!” What is your current fear? Are you ready to jump?
It was a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon on a gorgeous spring day. The sun decided to hide behind the clouds, keeping it a cool 74 degrees. The extra wide residential street was aligned with huge oak trees stretching as out and up towards the sky.
Before the day began, I was taking an early morning run around the neighborhood and saw rows of tents being set up with a variety of offerings…jewerly, antiques, clothing, crafts and even some food vendors setting up their stations. I saw streets being block off with barricades and the calm and relaxed smiles on people faces as they conversed with each other, slowly setting up their stations. What’s happening here today? I had to come back later to find out.
As we strolled through the street, the rest of the tents were set up and there was a small, scattered crowd just wandering as we were; quietly, calmly browsing and enjoying the day. Then we heard it…it came from afar but we could hear it clearly. “Lemonaaaaadddddeee, cooooookies….” It was a voice of a young girl, about 10 years old, riding her bicycle down the street, advertising her booth. The voice was getting a bit louder as she got closer to us. “Lemonaaaaadddddeee, coooookies….” The voice was determined, bold, authoritative, yet gentle and authentic, not at all needy. She demanded respect, and it was obvious that she had it. The vendors around her wished they had the same boldness and charm. And she knew it. She was proud and she knew that once we tasted her lemonade and cookies, we would be changed forever. We looked at each other and smiled, “Wow! That girl is something. She’s gonna be somebody!”
We eventually made it to the lemonade stand. And immediately realized that this ain’t your mama’s lemonade stand. No offense to mamas. But, oh my! It’s was the lemonade stand of all lemonade stands. Oh the details…down to the sign that hung above the stand that was painted with a child’s font with a backward “E”. Three other kids (younger) were attending the stand; one greeted us and the two others were in the back prepping the cups and ice. Once our order was placed, the fresh lemonade was delivered immediately with a smile. One child then led us to the cookie display table and while we were browsing through the cookies…she came…on her bike. She was obviously the boss. She rushed to the stand and called out the order with her same authoritative, yet gentle voice. She handed them the $5 bill and they gave her (3) $1 dollar bills in change. She folded it neatly in her hand and held the new cup of lemonade on the same hand, keeping the (3) $1 dollar bills between the cup and her little palm. I looked over at her and said, “Oh, you deliver too?” Without missing a beat she said, “Yup, I know how to ride one–handed.” And with a quick turn of her handle bars, she took off down the street, into the sunset.
I don’t know how many people she inspired that day, but I am certain it was a big number. As an entrepreneur, I am easily inspired by those who are all in. Not just because they are passionate, but also because they believe in their mission. They believe in their products, and they believe that it can change those who come to be a part. It’s given by the way they speak, think and act. You can clearly hear it in their voice…spoken with determination, boldness, authority…yet with gentleness and authenticity…it’s not at all needy.
Oh, and the lemonade? It was the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted. It changed me forever…
Well, it’s February, and if you are like me, you’ve made your New Year’s Resolutions before the year began. And if you are like 95% of people who made New Year’s Resolutions, you’ve already broken most of them by now. Ouch.
I just heard this story, and it inspired me to write. It’s about a father and his daughter running the Boston Marathon. The male my age would have to run 26.2 miles in less than 3:25 hours to qualify for the race. That’s running less than a 7:50 minute pace. That’s really fast. I currently run a 10 minute pace. That’s really slow, but don’t judge.
Heartbreak Hill is a 88 feet vertical rise from an elevation of 148 feet to 236 feet, it comes during the last phase of the race between the mile 20 and 21 mark. Conveniently, this is also a time where a runner’s muscle glycogen storage is most likely to be depleted…a phrase referred to by marathoners as “hitting the wall.” (Data stolen from Wikipedia AND personally experienced). This is where we figure out what lies deep within us. With complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, and knowing there are still 5-6 miles left to go, what’s going to get us there?
At Heartbreak Hill, the daughter catches her breath and asks her father, “this is so hard, why are we doing this again? Without missing a beat, the father replies with the most profound answer….wait for it…. “We are practicing not quitting.”
Perseverance is one of the most important skills you can have as an entrepreneur. And it’s just that, a skill. Some are naturally talented in this skill. Some are not. But just like anything else, we need to practice to continue developing our skills to persevere, to endure, to NOT QUIT. How? Here are some ways to overcome quitting.
- Watch someone do something impossible: I don’t know about you, but I love hearing stories about each entrepreneur and what they’ve endured to get to where they are today. Small milestones in my own life which have redirected my paths were inspired by people I’ve met and from the stories I’ve heard. I’ve even gotten to watch close friends endure through the pain and got to experience, first-hand, the triumph that came after. It’s inspiring! Seek out the stories that will inspire you. I do this everyday through videos, podcasts and books. I hunger for it; I need it to keep me going.
- It’s just around the corner: We don’t know what we don’t know. But what if we knew it was just around the corner? Sometimes our biggest deals are one phone call away or just one meeting away. I don’t want to miss it. Stay positive and practice not quitting. Because today might be that day, if not, it could be tomorrow.
- Think about the why: Without knowing the “why” we can get lost in the journey. The marathon father knew the “why”, it was to help him and his daughter grow in their skill of “not quitting.” Maybe he knew that this skill, if mastered, would be a game-changer for him and his daughter. Maybe he knew that this skill, if mastered, would affect the outcome of his business, his relationships and his own success. Isn’t that what we are all hoping for? “Why” is our motivator, our roadmap and our guide to getting us there. Know your “why”.
It’s February. It’s time to buckle-up and re-motivate ourselves to finish the race. It’s just the beginning, but let’s start the momentum today, and let’s have a strong tomorrow. Let’s look for opportunities around the corner, and let’s figure out WHY we are going there. What’s at the end of the finish line? Is it worth our pain? Is it worth NOT QUITTING for?