Successful Entrepreneurs and Chinese Bamboo Trees have a Lot in Common


Most entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s perfectly reasonable to quit after five years of not seeing results. In fact, I don’t think many business owners would last five years. I’ll be the first to admit that I would just give up after no results around year three or four.


Now, here’s an interesting story a coach of mine told me a while ago that has a great lesson for entrepreneurs. It’s the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.

To grow the Chinese Bamboo Tree, you’d water it, make sure that it gets enough sunshine — all the usual stuff. But even if you do everything right, you won’t see any visible signs of growth in the first year. Nor the second, third, or fourth year.


But in the fifth year, something magical happens! Your plant, which has been dormant all this time, suddenly shoots up by 80 feet in just six weeks, and it becomes virtually unrecognizable over that short span of time.

The Chinese Bamboo Tree story is pretty amazing in its own right, and it gets even cooler when you realize that this mirrors the situation that entrepreneurs face in real life. Here are three takeaways from the story that you can apply to your business to help it grow:

1. Work on your foundation.

If you’re working on a new business, the first thing that you should do is work on your foundation. Create processes and systems to streamline your workflow. Hire the right people. Train them, and teach them to solve problems.

Once you’ve put together a strong foundation for your company, it’ll start growing really fast — just like the Chinese Bamboo Tree. Just remember to be patient while you build on that foundation, and don’t fall into the trap of cutting corners.

As entrepreneurs, we all talk about scaling our companies and gaining traction, but keep in mind that this doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you pump in $50,000 into Facebook ads or Google ads, and get a ton of orders, it’ll be hard for you to fulfill those orders effectively and keep your customers happy if you don’t have a solid foundation to start off with.

2. Reinvest your money in your business.

Once you start making money, reinvest the money into your business so that you can keep growing and building upon that foundation.



More specifically, spend on customer service so that you can provide a better experience, spend on new technology so you can automate certain processes and boost productivity, and spend on coaching so you can identify your weaknesses and improve upon them.


Bambbo tree 1 20080318-BAMBOO2

Read More: 6 Success Lessons You Should Learn from a Bamboo Tree

Personally, I hired a coach to help me take my business to the next level, and after implementing his suggestions (creating operational manuals, organizational charts, etc), I’ve definitely noticed an increase in my team’s effectiveness.

Entrepreneur 1 download3. Stop chasing shiny objects.

Finally, stop getting distracted by every new tactic, strategy, or marketing channel that you hear about. At the end of the day, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin — this will hurt your focus, and make it hard for you to achieve your business goals.


Think about it: say you’re taking care of your Chinese Bamboo Tree, and after seeing that it’s not growing, you try giving it a different brand of fertilizer every week. I’m no expert on gardening, but even I can tell you that you’ll kill the plant by the end of the month.


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Why Nobody Wins When You’re A Disruptive Business — The Multiplier Mindset Blog

There’s a narrative we’ve come to accept as a fact of our technological age, and it’s this idea that every industry in the world is destined to be disrupted. People are doomed to lose their jobs, companies are doomed to go bankrupt, and everything we own, buy, or learn is doomed to become obsolete. And…

via Why Nobody Wins When You’re A Disruptive Business — The Multiplier Mindset Blog

One Decision Separates The Wealthy From The Non-Wealthy

Courage can be developed. But it cannot be nurtured in an environment that eliminates all risks, all difficulty, all dangers. It takes considerable courage to work in an environment in which one is compensated according to one’s performance. Most affluent people have courage. What evidence supports this statement?

Most affluent people in America are either business owners or employees who are paid on an incentive basis.”— Dr. Thomas Stanley

The problem with most people’s lives is that they are being shielded from the consequences of their behavior. There’s little to no accountability.

The fastest way to make success inevitable in your life is to only do work that is incentive-based. Only do that which you are rewarded and punished for the quality of your work. Everything you do needs to matter to the outcomes, consequences, and results you get in life.

So what is the decision?

The decision is to take complete ownership of every decision in your life. And how you do that is by only doing things in which you are compensated based on performance.

This goes completely against the norms in society. It goes against public education — which shields people from progressing at their own rates. It goes against most job structures, wherein a person is paid an hourly rate or salary.

If you want to make dramatic strides forward, you must only work in environments where the consequences of your actions are immediate and REAL. You need to be demanded by your situation to come up with a result.

This article will show you how:

Are You A Part Of The “Results Economy”?

Founder of the exclusive entrepreneurial coaching platform, Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan distinguishes between those who are in the “Time-and-Effort Economy” with those who are in the “Results Economy.”

If you’re in the time and effort economy, you are focused on being busy. You actually believe the amount of time and energy you put into something merits praise. Those who are focused on being “busy” are protected in some way from the consequences of their actions. They’re not being forced by necessity to come up with a solution. Chances are, they are an employee. They are part of a bureaucracy. And they’re striving to follow rules rather than break them.

Conversely, when you are in the results economy, you are only focused on achieving a specific result. You are focused on results because if you don’t get the result, there will be consequences to pay — for you and others. You’re not worried about your reputation. You’re not worried about following the rules of ridiculous systems which are seeking to make you their slave anyways.

Dr. Thomas Stanley found in his research that those who are paid based on RESULTS are most courageous and also the most wealthy.

You actually have to take risks.

You can’t be sheltered from the consequences of your behavior.

And you certainly can’t be a part of a system which supports “busyness” to maintain the status quo. Hence, Dan Sullivan says:

Entrepreneurs have crossed “the risk line” from the “Time-and-Effort Economy” to the “Results Economy.” For them, there’s no guaranteed income, no one writing them a paycheck every two weeks. They live by their ability to generate opportunity by creating value for their clientele.

Sometimes, they — and you — will put in a lot of time and effort and get no result. Other times, they don’t put in much time and effort and get a big result.

The focus for entrepreneurs always has to be on results or there’s no revenue coming in.

If you work for an entrepreneur, guess what! This is true for you, too. Though you probably have a guaranteed income, it’s important to understand that the business you work in exists inside The Results Economy, even if you’re sheltered somewhat from seeing that.

I say this not to make you feel insecure, but to show you how to succeed in this environment: by maximizing your results while minimizing the time and effort it takes to get them.

Flow Triggers And “Forcing Functions”

Flow is a mental state where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing. You’re totally engaged. No distractions. In such a state, time slows down and you begin operating at higher and more subconscious levels.

One of the primary “flow triggers” is immediate feedback. Hence, in extreme sports where the possibility of injury is high, flow is a regular experience. If you don’t land that trick, you could be in the hospital.

Immediate feedback.

If you want more flow in your life, you need to get faster and harder feedback for your behavior. You need to feel the consequences of your performance. You need to be in the Results Economy — not the Time and Effort Economy.

In fact, one of the ways to produce more flow in your life is by creating much, much shorter timelines. Give yourself only 60 minutes to write the article and then, once the timer goes off, push publish regardless of what you came up with. Tell your partner or adviser that you’ll have your work to them far sooner than they expect. Make your goals public, with public deadlines.

You can create immediate feedback for your behavior in the form of “forcing functions.” According to entrepreneur, Dan Martell, “A forcing function is any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result.”

A forcing function is exactly how it sounds — something external that’s been put in place to FORCE YOU TO FUNCTION how you desire to function.

An example Dan Martell uses is a story between him and his younger brother, Moe. Dan asked Moe about his business goal for the next 3 months, to which Moe told him the goal.

Then Dan asked, “Based on today’s understanding of the work involved, etc. how likely would you be to hit your goal in 3 months?”

“Hmmmm, probably 60–70% I would guess,” Moe answered.

Then Dan asked, “Whose the most important person in your life?”

“My wife,” Moe replied.

“I then asked him to visualize a person with a gun to the head of his wife, and he knew — 100,000% that if he didn’t hit his goal within 3 months that the guy would pull the trigger. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the trigger would be pulled…. How likely are you to hit your goal?” Dan asked.

“100%, there isn’t a doubt I could do it” Moe said.

So what changed?


That’s the power of a forcing function. It’s something that’s embedded within the situation that forces you to succeed. It forces motivation to happen. Because if you don’t produce a RESULT, there will be immediate feedback.

To quote historian Will Durant, “I think the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded, if the situation demanded.”

Motivation and environment are two inextricably connected things. Motivation ISN’T INTERNAL — but situational.

If you want more motivation, you need a more demanding situation. Your behavior needs to be consequential — and the more immediate the feedback the better. The more consequential your behavior, the more flow you’ll have in your life. The more you’ll be forced to adapt and grow.

Do You Have Skin In The Game?

“Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In the recent book, SKIN IN THE GAME, Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains that if your behavior doesn’t bear immediate consequence, your performance will be low. Even more than that though —if your performance isn’t consequential, then you don’t really care about what you’re doing.

As Taleb explains:

“If you do not take risks for your opinion, you are nothing.”

“How much you truly “believe” in something can be manifested only through what you are willing to risk for it.”

From a psychological perspective, you are either “approaching” something or trying to “avoid” something from happening.

Offense or defense.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the Time and Energy Economy, you’re probably also “avoidance”-oriented. In other words, your only concern is about avoiding getting in trouble, or avoiding getting caught, or avoiding doing much work at all.

Only those in the Results Economy, whose behavior is consequential — the more immediate the better — are on offense. They are the one’s taking risks. They’re less concerned about the ground they’ve made and more concerned about advancing their position. They’re fine taking more risks. They’re fine putting important things on the line, because they are convicted about what they’re doing.

Hence, Telab explains, “What matters isn’t what a person has or doesn’t have; it is what he or she is afraid of losing.” If you’re afraid of losing what you’ve currently got, you probably won’t risk it. You’ll probably do everything you can to AVOID losing it. And therefore, you’ll have given up your WHY. You’ll have stunted your progression.

The more you have to lose, the more fragile you become. The more you become a slave to your current position and thus stop seeking to take risks for what you believe in.

The Only Types Of Relationships That Become “Exponential”

There are two types of relationships: transaction-based or transformation-based.

Most relationships are transactional — where one party makes the rules and the other party submits. Once one of the members of the group is unsatisfied by the terms of the relationship, it ends. People in these relationships are usually “takers,” not genuine givers.

In transformational relationships — both people are “givers” who contribute to the ongoing evolution of the relationship. The whole becomes different from the sum of the parts. There is high expectations in these relationships, but also openness.

Both parties are completely invested in the relationship. Yet, unlike transaction-based relationships, both parties are also completely free. They give because they WANT TO, not because they feel obligated to.

That is perhaps the definition of successful relationships — to get other people to help you BECAUSE THEY WANT TO, not because they’ve been manipulated to.

According to Pearson’s Law: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Transformational relationships have embedded accountability. Performance matters — because both parties are invested in the relationship and both parties deal with the consequences/outcomes of performance. Complete honesty is essential.

Does your behavior matter to those around you?

What about the people around you? Are these relationships transactional or transformational?

If transactional — then one person is a slave to the other. They are walking on egg-shells. They’re doing everything they can to avoid a negative outcome. They aren’t really contributing. No one in these types of relationships can truly be happy.


If you are paid based on performance, your pay will go up.

If you get immediate feedback with natural consequences of your behavior — you’ll be in a flow state more. Your performance will increase. Your pay will increase. Your happiness will increase.

It’s not great power that creates great responsibility. It’s great responsibility that creates power.

It’s not confidence that creates success. It’s successful behavior that creates confidence.

It’s not personality that creates behavior. It’s behavior that creates personality.

If you want to true freedom in your life, you need to take responsibility. Freedom can only exist with consequence — not from the absence of consequence. You are only free when your behavior matters.

The only way to increase the freedom in your life is by making your behavior matter more — and by experiencing the REAL consequences of your behavior.

The only way to have freedom in your relationships is when both parties have skin in the game. When both parties in invested. When the consequences of each person’s performance impacts the whole — and everyone involved embraces this reality because there is mutual love, respect, and responsibility.

Ready to Upgrade?

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The Coming Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation: YouTube Video

Published on Jan 18, 2018

Mobility Disruption – A Presentation by Tony Seba, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Lecturer at Stanford University

The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model.

It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

 Bold Predictions

“The industrial age of energy and transportation will be over by 2030. Maybe before.” – Tony Sena

Exponentially improving technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, and autonomous (self-driving) cars will disrupt and sweep away the energy and transportation industries as we know it.

The same Silicon Valley ecosystem that created bit-based technologies that have disrupted atom-based industries is now creating bit- and electron-based technologies that will disrupt atom-based energy industries.

Clean Disruption projections (based on technology cost curves, business model Innovationist as well as product innovation) show that by 2030:

– All new energy will be provided by solar or wind.

– All new mass-market vehicles will be electric.

– All of these vehicles will be autonomous (self-driving) or semi-autonomous.

– The car market will shrink by 80%.

– Gasoline will be obsolete. Nuclear is already obsolete. Natural Gas and Coal will be obsolete.

– Up to 80% of highways will not be needed.

– Up to 80% of parking spaces will not be needed.

– The concept of individual car ownership will be obsolete.

– The Car Insurance industry will be disrupted. The taxi industry will be obsolete.

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The Knowledge Entrepreneur: A New Paradigm For Preparing Tomorrow’s Engineers And Scientists

Knowledge Entrpreneur Engineering-Researchers.Jan18-1200x801
Photo courtesy of UVA EngineeringWorking in the Link Lab for cyber-physical systems, engineering students at the University of Virginia are designing the next generation of intelligent devices for smart buildings and homes.  *** Special Re-Post from Forbes Leadership – by Bernie Carlson

The Knowledge Entrepreneur: A New Paradigm For Preparing Tomorrow’s Engineers And Scientists

It is tempting to apply the old saying, “East is East, West is West, but the twain shall never meet,” to science and entrepreneurship.  In the popular imagination, scientists discover new knowledge while entrepreneurs build companies to launch new products.

Most people assume that scientists are motivated by the high ideal of advancing human progress while entrepreneurs are driven by the base motives of ego and greed.  Like oil and water, science and entrepreneurship, it would seem, don’t mix.

Yet to solve the major problems confronting humanity—disease, hunger, global warming and terrorism—science and entrepreneurship need to mix. The world needs STEM specialists who possess not only a deep understanding of scientific theory and laboratory practice but also the skills needed to move ideas from the laboratory to the wider world.

At the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, we call these new experts Knowledge Entrepreneurs.

By Knowledge Entrepreneur, we don’t mean all our STEM students will launch a new startup business [though we hope that some do] but rather that they possess the habits which will allow them to be agents of change, to intentionally shape their research programs and careers in ways that address major challenges.

We share with KEEN [the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network] the vision that engineering students can transform the world by developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Douglas E. Melton, Ph.D, shares why the entrepreneurial mindset is the key to success for engineering undergraduate students.

An entrepreneurial mindset is particularly important for students pursuing advanced masters and doctoral degrees.  Generally speaking, undergraduate students in engineering and science are passive consumers who master the material in textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises.

However, when they move up to graduate studies, we need to teach students how to be active producers of knowledge, to have the skills to not only generate new ideas and designs but also to be able to implement these solutions in society.

To become active producers of knowledge, graduate students should acquire five habits of effective entrepreneurs:

First, as Knowledge Entrepreneurs, students must identify a problem out there in the world and frame it as a question that can be investigated using available scientific techniques. 

While Thomas Edison is often criticized for tinkering and trying random solutions, he always began work on an invention by defining a specific problem that he could solve.

With his electric lighting system in the late 1870s, for instance, Edison decided early on that he wanted an electric lamp which could be substituted for the gas lamps people were already using.  This electric-to-gas analogy led him to experimenting with incandescent lamps and to concentrating on finding the right material for a high-resistance filament.brain-quantum-2-b2b_wsf

Problem definition means engaging multiple stakeholders; for Edison, this meant studying the economics of the gas-lighting industry, talking to potential customers and consulting with leading scientists.

For contemporary STEM graduate students, problem definition requires talking with funding agencies, fellow professionals and end users in order to understand each group’s needs.

In our course on Knowledge Entrepreneurship in UVa’s Engineering School, we borrow customer discovery techniques from the I-Corps program of the National Science Foundation, teaching our Ph.D. students how to ask people from different backgrounds open-ended questions about their problems and wishes.  Depending on their project, we encourage students to reach out to researchers, manufacturers, patients and end-users.

Thomas Edison talking about the invention of the light bulb, late 1920s. Newsreel clip from the Motion Picture Division of the U.S. National Archives.

Second, once they have defined a problem, Knowledge Entrepreneurs mobilize a network of people and resources needed to convert that problem into an opportunity.

To develop his electric lighting system, Edison assembled at Menlo Park a first-class team of technicians and scientists and provided them with laboratory instruments and machine tools as well as technical journals and books.

As Edison’s team zeroed in on a vegetable-based carbon filament, his network became global and he dispatched agents to collect plant samples from around the world; eventually, Edison found that Japanese bamboo made the best lamp filaments.

Drawing on the entrepreneurial effectuation principles of our Darden Business School colleague, Saras Sarasvathy, we show our students how to build a social network that includes faculty advisors, lab support personnel, equipment and space, and data.

One of the most popular lectures in our Knowledge Entrepreneurship course is titled “The Care and Feeding of Dissertation Advisors,” during which we help students to understand how to manage relationships with their mentors.  Emulating Edison, we encourage our students to recognize that science and engineering are complex enterprises and they need to collaborate not only across disciplines but across cultures, seeking opportunities to work with and learn from experts around the world.

Third, Knowledge Entrepreneurs recognize that innovation involves not just the development of a single idea in the laboratory but also the strategic positioning of ideas in the larger world. 

Tesla Elec Semi I 4w2a6750A clear example of this can be seen if we shift from Edison to his rival Nikola Tesla.  Along with perfecting his alternating current motor, Tesla vigorously promoted this invention by securing strong patents, writing papers for engineering journals, giving newspaper interviews and doing spectacular public demonstrations.

By doing so, Tesla secured a lucrative licensing deal with Westinghouse and established himself as a great electrical wizard.

Principles of Effectuation

This Video gives the summary of “Principles of Effectuation”. The original author is Prof. Saras Sarasvathy, Darden University.

While we don’t expect our graduate students to market themselves as wizards, we do work with them to create a strategy for promoting their work through a variety of channels—papers in key journals, presentations at conferences, elevator pitches, popular articles, blogs and websites—which ensure their ideas and designs are accessible to multiple audiences.

In particular, we push our graduate students to view the popularization of their research as not “dumbing it down” but rather as an opportunity to focus and clarify what are the essential elements of their work.  We remind them that every paper and every talk has to answer the question “So what?” in a way which is meaningful to the audience.

Fourth, Knowledge Entrepreneurs understand that innovation requires fostering a positive environment for learning and creativity. 

In developing the first stealth fighter jet at Lockheed in the late seventies, engineer-entrepreneur Ben Rich devoted significant energy to shaping the culture of the Skunk Works, the company’s famous R&D lab.  As Rich recalled, “We encouraged our people to work imaginatively, to improvise and try unconventional approaches to problem-solving, and then get out of their way.”

In doing so, Rich and his team “saved tremendous amounts of time and money, while operating in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation with our Government customers and between our white-collar and blue-collar employees.”

For Ph.D. students in STEM, the critical environment that they will shape will be the classroom.  In the course of their careers as researchers and teachers, they will mentor the next generation of scientists and citizens.

Teaching, however, cannot simply be the transmission of scientific facts and data; as Knowledge Entrepreneurs, our students need to master the latest pedagogical techniques—such as flipped classrooms and maker spaces—so that science is accessible and useful not only for future experts but also ordinary citizens who need to understand the underpinning of modern technology.

Along with doing breakthrough research on electricity, the British scientist Michael Faraday initiated in 1825 the Royal Institution’s Christmas lectures on science, seeking to ensure that Victorians of all social classes had the chance to learn about the wonders of the natural and technological worlds.

60 Minutes feature on author and aeronautical designer and engineer Ben Rich with Ed Bradley. Rich talks about his work in designing the F-117 Stealth Fighter and other spy plane projects while Director of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. Aired on CBS in 1994.

Fifth and finally, Knowledge Entrepreneurs are ethical and compassionate, mindful of the principles of conducting responsible science as well as being aware of how their research can help people.

Complementing our course on Knowledge Entrepreneurship, our Ph.D. students can also take a course on the “Responsible Conduct of Research,” which introduces ethical theory as well as the practical research guidelines mandated by the National Institutes of Health.

Our Ph.D. students are inspired by contemporary entrepreneurs such as Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, whose motto is “The business of business is improving the state of the world.”  Benioff is leading a movement where he invites other high-tech leaders to join him in committing 1% of product, time, profits or resources to addressing major world problems.

UVA maxresdefault (2)But compassion isn’t just about philanthropy; we invite our students to consider how compassion is integral to innovation.

One story we tell them concerns a Japanese basket-maker and a fisherman.  One day, a fisherman asked the basket-maker to fashion a basket for him so he could carry fish home from his boat.  While the basket-maker pointed out the fisherman’s design would not work very well, the fisherman insisted that he weave it for him.  A week later, the fisherman returned and found that the basket-maker had made him two baskets.  “One basket is the one you asked for,” the basket-maker explained, “and the other is the one that you will find works better.”  The basket-maker only charged the fisherman for one basket and the fisherman went away happy.

The best entrepreneurs know that innovation should be about delighting people and enriching their lives.

As STEM graduate students acquire these entrepreneurial habits, they will possess the skills needed to set themselves on career paths which will allow them to thrive in a variety of settings—in academia, industry or government.

Indeed, an entrepreneurial mindset will help them become leaders in whatever setting our graduates find themselves.  But most importantly, they will have the tools they need to apply their scientific training to the major challenges facing the world.

As Louis Pasteur advised young scientists, “Live in the serene peace of laboratories and libraries.  Say to yourselves first: ‘What have I done for my instruction?’ and, as you gradually advance, ‘What have I done for my country?’”  The Knowledge Entrepreneur understands how to move ideas from the serene laboratory to the bustling, needy world.

Bernie Carlson is professor and chair of the Engineering & Society Department at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age (Princeton, 2013).

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What Happens When You Change the World and No One Notices?


Wilbur and Orville Wright conquered flight on December 17th, 1903. Few inventions were as transformational over the next century. It took four days to travel from New York to Los Angeles in 1900, by train. By the 1930s it could be done in 17 hours, by air. By 1950, six hours.

Also Read:  Supersonic jet will travel from New York to London in 3 hours at half the price of the Concorde

But here’s the most amazing part of the story: Hardly anyone paid attention at the time.

Unlike, say, mapping the genome, a lay person could instantly grasp the marvel of human flight. A guy sat in a box and turned into a bird.

But days, months, even years after the Wright’s first flight, hardly anyone noticed.

Here’s the front page of The New York Times the day after the first flight. Not a word about the Wrights:









Two days after. Again, nothing:









Three days later, when the Wrights were on their fourth flight, one of which lasted nearly a minute. Nothing:


This goes on. Four days. Five days, six days, six weeks, six months … no mention of the men who conquered the sky for the first time in human history.

The Library of Congress, where I found these papers, reveals two amazing details. One, the first passing mention of the Wrights in The New York Times came in 1906, three years after their first flight. Two, in 1904, the Times asked a hot-air-balloon tycoon whether humans may fly someday. He answered:


That was a year after the Wright’s first flight.

In his 1952 book on American history, Frederick Lewis Allen wrote:

Several years went by before the public grasped what the Wrights were doing; people were so convinced that flying was impossible that most of those who saw them flying about Dayton [Ohio] in 1905 decided that what they had seen must be some trick without significance – somewhat as most people today would regard a demonstration of, say, telepathy. It was not until May, 1908 – nearly four and a half years after the Wright’s first flight – that experienced reporters were sent to observe what they were doing, experienced editors gave full credence to these reporters’ excited dispatches, and the world at last woke up to the fact that human flight had been successfully accomplished.


So .. What’s the Point?

The Wrights’ story shows something more common than we realize: There’s often a big gap between changing the world and convincing people that you changed the world.

Jeff Bezos once said:

“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention.”

It’s such an important message. Things that are instantly adored are usually just slight variations over existing products. We love them because they’re familiar. The most innovative products – the ones that truly change the world – are almost never understood at first, even by really smart people.nano-and-four-ways-051416-aaeaaqaaaaaaaas7aaaajdgyy2flngq1lwuzy2etndqzns04odkwltrmm2mxnwi4ymi1ma

It happened with the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell tried to sell his invention to Western Union, which quickly replied:

This `telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us. What use could this company make of an electrical toy?

It happened with the car. Twenty years before Henry Ford convinced the world he was onto something, Congress published a memo, warning:

Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action. The cost of producing gasoline is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry… In addition the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.



Also read: How Nanotechnology and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ Will Change Everything


It happened with the index fund – easily the most important financial innovation of the last half-century. John Bogle launched the first index fund in 1975. No one paid much attention to for next two decades. It started to gain popularity, an inch at a time, in the 1990s. Then, three decades after inception, the idea spread like wildfire.


It’s happening now, too. 3D printing has taken off over the last five years. But it’s hardly a new invention. Check out this interview with the CEO of 3D Systems in … 1989. 3D printing, like so many innovations, had a multi-decade lag between invention and adoption. Solar is similar. Photovoltaics were discovered in 1876. They were commercially available by the 1950s, and Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House in the 1970s. But they didn’t take off – really take off – until the late 2000s.

Big breakthroughs typically follow a seven-step path:

  • First, no one’s heard of you.
  • Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.
  • Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
  • Then they view your product as a toy.
  • Then they see it as an amazing toy.
  • Then they start using it.
  • Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

This process can take decades. It rarely takes less than several years.

Three points arise from this.

1. It takes a brilliance to change the world. It takes something else entirely to wait patiently for people to notice. “Zen-like patience” isn’t a typical trait associated with entrepreneurs. But it’s often required, especially for the most transformative products.

2. When innovation is measured generationally, results shouldn’t be measured quarterly. History is the true story of how long, messy, and chaotic change can be. The stock market is the hilarious story of millions of people expecting current companies to perform quickly, orderly, and cleanly. The gap between reality and expectations explains untold frustration.

3. Invention is only the first step of innovation. Stanford professor Paul Saffo put it this way:

It takes 30 years for a new idea to seep into the culture. Technology does not drive change. It is our collective response to the options and opportunities presented by technology that drives change.

Re-Posted from MORGAN HOUSEL

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The One Question to Ask Yourself Every Morning


Original Post by Marissa Levin, CEO of Successful Culture and EO Baltimore member

I had the opportunity this week to learn from one of my most inspirational mentors who happens to also be a great speaker: Warren S. Rustand, a lifelong entrepreneur and former NBA player.

Warren is the CEO of Providence Service Corporation (NASDAQ; PSC) a $1.2 Billion social services and Logistics Management Company. He was previously Managing Director of SC Capital Partners an investment banking group.

Warren was Chairman and CEO of Rural Metro Corporation, a $600 million, publicly traded emergency services company.

He also served as Chairman and CEO of TLC Vision, the world’s largest Lasik eye surgery company. He has served as Chairman/CEO of 6 other companies.

He has served as a member of the Board of Directors for over 50 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations. The range of these organizations is from multibillion dollar public companies, to midsize, early stage, and startups. As CEO he has taken two companies public, one of which is the largest in its industry and the other is the second largest in its industry.

In 1973 Warren was selected as a White House Fellow through a nationally competitive process. He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce and led the first ever Executive Level Trade Mission to the Soviet Union. He joined the staff of Vice President Ford on the day he was sworn-in. In August of 1974 when the Vice President became President, Warren was asked to serve as Appointments Secretary and Cabinet Secretary to the President.

According to Rustand, the potential for a life of greatness lies within each of us, but we must be committed to five specific principles. Before I get to those, let’s talk about the concept of greatness.

Greatness is  a CHOICE. It is not a function of circumstance. It is a matter of conscious choice and discipline.

To perform at a level of greatness, we need to commit to a higher level of energy, time, and effort than most.

To quote Gandhi, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.”

If you dream, you have to plan. If you believe, you have to act.

Complacency and acceptance of the status quo is the death of greatness. Think about all of the great people that have crossed your path, either personally or indirectly. Think of those that inspire you on a personal level, as well as those that have changed the world.

These are the people that are always trying to improve. These are the people committed to greatness. It is their commitment to greatness, and their decision to never settle for mediocrity that makes them so.

Embrace the possibility of your personal greatness… never underestimate your power to move to a higher level and change your life.

Following are Warren’s five principles of personal greatness that have allowed him to pursue a higher level of achievement in all aspects of his life.

  1. Commit to Personal Discipline.
    We must put our mind in the position to compete with everyone else. When you correct your mind, everything else falls into place.

All that we are is the totality of what we have thought. We are what we think. best-views-hardest-climb-090616-2b309363f2a61427a58f97c227e70d67

  1. Live With Purpose.
    Warren begins every morning by asking himself, “What is my purpose today… Why am I alive?”

Think about how powerful this question is. Think about how intentional you can be in all of your decisions and actions throughout your day if everything you do is aligned with the answer to that question.

We must proceed through life with clarity of purpose. This brings us to Warren’s third principle:

  1. Act With Intent.
    Intent in all aspects of our lives – personal and professional – is everything. When we align our intention and our attentionwe achieve our desired outcomes.

What are your intentions for your life? It makes no sense to leave outcomes to chance. All must be pre-meditated. If there is an outcome we desire, we must plan and execute against the plan.

  1. Make Conscious Choices.
    Stephen Covey talks about three great moments of discovery – the points in time when a person discovers who they are at the core of their being:
    – When we identify our core beliefs and values
    – When we make a commitment to those values
    – When we behave according to those values

Defining our ethics, values, and beliefs are decisions that we make once. Once we have defined them, all of our decisions flow from them.

  1. Answering the Call to Serve.
    Warren’s final principle is our obligation to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Greatness is an equal-opportunity quest. Regardless of vocation, we can all commit to greatness. We can all commit to helping others, to building up our communities, and the people within them.


“If you have not helped someone else today, if you have not served others today, then you must constitute that as a bad day.”

Warren also gave great advice for living a happy life.

“Do you want to be happy? Never compare up. Never compare yourself to those that have more. Instead compare yourselves to those who have less. Then you will live from a place of gratitude.”

Your Call to Action:

Commit to one change to bring you closer to greatness.

  • Sign up for a volunteer effort.
  • Make one small shift in your health habits.
  • Read one book about a leader that inspires you.
  • Write down 5 ideas about your higher purpose.

Own Your Journey. 

This article was originally posted on the Successful Culture blog and has been reprinted here with the author’s permission.

** Warren Rustand is also a Founding Board Member of 

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Don’t believe the hype – Silicon Valley is not the be-all, end-all for tech companies

Don’t believe the hype – Silicon Valley is not the be-all, end-all for tech companies

October 20, 2012 8:00 AM
Bill Karpovich
This post was contributed by serial entrepreneur Bill Karpovich.

Like many other engineering types, I dreamed for years of starting my own high-flying technology company. Like a moth to light, I am inherently drawn to the idea of creating something from nothing and seeing it grow. It was thus no surprise when I left my big-company career at Accenture a few years out of college to join the startup world. It was Mark Andreessen’s cover shot on Time magazine in 1996 after Netscape’s era-defining IPO that finally pushed me over the edge. Sixteen years later, I am on my fifth startup. It’s been a phenomenal ride that has culminated (so far, at least) with my current startup, Zenoss, of which I am co-founder and CEO.

In startup circles, nothing about my story is particularly surprising on the surface. In fact, to the degree that there is a “typical” entrepreneur story, mine would be it. What is novel and contrary to conventional wisdom, though, is that I don’t live in Silicon Valley (or even Cambridge). I live in Annapolis, Maryland, the nation’s Sailing Capital. And most of Zenoss is in Austin, Texas, the world’s Live Music Capital.

I agree with Eric Ries that, indeed, “entrepreneurs are everywhere.” My experience takes me a step further – I feel it’s actually a competitive advantage to build startups outside of Silicon Valley.

Can You Guess Birthplace of the Cloud?

At the risk of channeling Al Gore, let me set the record straight and share with you that the cloud as we know it today began in Maryland. It was two Maryland-based startups that pioneered the early Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings that are the cornerstone of the modern cloud. Not coincidentally, these companies are where I first cut my teeth in the startup world.

The first was Digex, Inc., one of the first Internet backbone providers that stumbled upon the web hosting business in 1994 (think IaaS v1.0), and ultimately went public in 1996. The second was USinternetworking, the first pure-play SaaS provider, which went public in 1999 — back when we were called “ASPs” (initially for “Application Service Provider,” ultimately for “Awful Stock Price”).

Chris McClearly, who also lives in Annapolis, was the CEO of both of these companies and remains my entrepreneurial mentor to this day. For an entrepreneur-in-training, there were no better experiences to be had than working with an experienced executive like Chris. We created new industries from scratch and became global leaders; we changed the world, created billions in market cap and crushed our competition in Silicon Valley – all from our perch on the Chesapeake Bay.

Breaking Out

The idea to start our own company came directly from our experiences at Digex and USinternetworking. Both companies were essentially large-scale IT operations, and our biggest struggle was our management software platform. After blowing millions of dollars on failed efforts with legacy management framework vendors, we ultimately succeeded by building our own custom solutions.

Living it twice, it finally dawned on us that the world needed a new IT operations platform to take on the new challenges of the cloud area, and that’s what Zenoss is all about. We formally launched the business in 2006 and have enjoyed strong growth since that has brought us to more than 100 employees, over 300 customers and over 100,000 active members in our global user community.

Choose Passion over Profile

After we closed our Series B funding round, we were confronted with the problem that all emerging growth companies eventually need to address – how do we scale the team without compromising passion and know-how?

We had built a great core team in Annapolis, but there simply weren’t enough people there who had the requisite experience with IT operations software to grow at the desired pace. Mind you, this story would have been very different if we were building a world class sailing team.

To the surprise of many, we ended up expanding 1,500 miles away, in Austin, Texas. For us, this was a no-brainer. The key attraction was – and still is – the fact that Austin is a Mecca for IT operations software. As a result, there is a disproportionately large population of folks who are not only experienced with the nuances of building our kind of software, but they are also passionate about it.

In Silicon Valley, they appreciate what we do, but it’s not the latest shiny object that drives the region’s never-ending hype cycle. More so, Silicon Valley lacks the talent pool of Austin when it comes to IT operations software. While you could certainly find the technical talent there, it would lack the passion and context that we have found in droves in Austin. This is largely a product of Austin’s rich heritage of successful IT management companies — a list that is headlined by Dell.

In the end, startups succeed by being closer to and caring more about the problem they are solving than simply having a Silicon Valley address. In this game, passion trumps profile every time. The key is to design your company to tap into the deepest reservoirs of energy where you can find it, no matter where it is. Who knew that Austin was not only the world’s “Live Music Capital” but also the world’s “IT Operations Management Software Capital?”

Be Wary of Groupthink

There are many great thinkers in Silicon Valley, and there is of course tons of innovation. The latest ideas spread like wildfire up and down Highway 101, and even faster along Sand Hill Road – home of most of that area’s sizable and influential venture capital community. Ironically, the efficiency of this ecosystem can at times works against itself in the form of groupthink.

Entrepreneurial memes are always on the rise and fall, and there are undoubtedly always shared lessons to be learned. Over the years, though, I have noticed a surprising orthodoxy among the entrepreneurs and investors in the Valley. New ideas are rare in Silicon Valley. Once they are proven (watch for the latest IPO or billion dollar acquisition), they spread quickly and, in the wake of intense competition – as well as fear of missing the latest wave – a template forms. If you are not aligned with one of the fashionable templates, your mojo in the Valley can quickly whither.

Innovation is by its very nature non-conformist. The groupthink that occurs in Silicon Valley is one of the area’s clearest and most significant downsides. I certainly find it valuable to keep a pulse on the hot ideas on the West Coast, but operating outside of that ecosystem provides a degree of independence that is very healthy for budding companies. Startups need to be focused on the needs of their customers, whether or not the latest entrepreneurial technique applies.

The Money Factor

The last point I’ll touch on is funding. Here again, I think the advantage goes to those outside of Silicon Valley.

While there is a great supply of money in Silicon Valley, there is also much more competition. While there is a wonderful ethos of risk taking, good ideas can drown in the noise and groupthink.

My experience is that good ideas and strong teams will get funded no matter where they live – and sometimes an unknown address can even help you stand out from the pack. At this point, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is sufficiently global so that no matter where you are, there is capital available for viable ideas.

Finally, if you need or desire money from Silicon Valley VCs, it’s certainly not limited to local companies. In fact, Silicon Valley VCs are very accommodating to out-of-towners. A day trip is all it takes to access the central bank of technology. As an out-of-towner, you may even find it easier to get a meeting. The good ideas that get famous in Silicon Valley have to come from somewhere – and it’s usually not there.

[Top image credit: Peeradach Rattanakoses/Shutterstock]