On Business

Here are a few thoughts I have on entrepreneurship, income generators, and business more generally.

A lot of business success revolves around putting familiar ideas in unfamiliar environments. Take two ideas and combine them. Taxis as regular cars. Hotels as regular homes. PCs and phones with a focus on art and design. A search directory for the internet. You can get a lot of examples here if you think hard enough.

The best ideas make things cheaper AND easier to do, not one or the other. The world always moves toward convenience. Convenience, by definition, is cheaper and easier.

All you have to do each day is learn, think, make, and market. Learn to understand how the world was before you. Think to develop new ways of the world. Make to execute on those ways. Market to distribute it to others.

First, find something you’re good at. Second, turn it into something you’re passionate in. Third, sell it. Finding good work involves the combination of something that you’re good at, something you’re passionate in, and something that’s in demand. The easiest way to do this is to start with the first and work towards the last, slightly altering your skillset and audience with each iteration.

You don’t have to make something completely new. You just have to do it in a way no one’s ever done it before. See “putting familiar ideas in unfamiliar places”. 

Never do anything for free. You’re always worth some kind of price. 

The income generator path: Get a good-paying job. Dedicate a portion of that paycheck to funding the business. Keep doing such until the income of your business outpaces your salary. Switch to full-time. This is the safest way to get yourself on the income generator path — though some people will prefer the riskier way of going all-in at the start. 

Most people think they want to build businesses and prestige, when they really want income generators and freedom. A startup people build because it’s “in”. They want the feeling of getting accepted into YC and being part of a high-growth enterprise. That is, they think they want that feeling. But the reality is they’ll be much happier picking their own personal niche and building a smaller, single-person business that gives them a reasonable income. 

Never forget: the easier it is to do something, the harder it is to get into the top 1%. The mental model of market saturation cons many an entrepreneur. Don’t let it dissuade you — just understand why it’s better to be a generalist than a specialist. 

Don’t promote people if they’re really good at their job. That means they’re at peak performance in their position. Rather, promote after they start to tire of it. It’s the decision that benefits both the employer and employee equally. 

Learning -> Thinking -> Creating. This, in general, is a pretty good framework for getting anything done. If you want to develop a pretty good niche in life: learn what you want to learn, think about what you want to think, create what you want to create. There’s a good chance no one else in the world has done that specific combination. 

Learn everything until you find what you like. Build everything until you find what people need. This is very similar to the Learning -> Thinking -> Creating paradigm, in that it’s all about figuring out what your specific niche is. Yes, it takes time — lots of time — but it will give you an advantage you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. 

Make value, then get people to know you made it. This is entrepreneurship in a nutshell. All you really need is product and sales — the rest is superfluous. 

Nobody thinks quite like yourself. Use that to your advantage. There is no niche more powerful than the personal niche. You are a combination of a million different identity choices, packaged into one human being. There’s no better competitive moat than that. 

Optimally, you want to work on something that you love, that you’re good at, and that people need. But if you have to choose one, work on something you love — the other two will come with enough time. The first sentence here describes the “ikigai” system of work. It has often been criticized for being “too optimal to exist”. Fair enough. But if you work on just something you love, you may be at worst poor and destitute — but still be happy. If you’re poor and destitute and upset about it, then it wasn’t something you love. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. Try again. 

Start by bootstrapping. Build up with leverage. There’s no point in spending too much resources on an idea that you aren’t even sure will get off the ground in the first place. Start by experimenting with stuff, going fast and breaking things, seeing what fits — once you find something that launches off by itself, you know it’s worth investing the serious capital into. 

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