The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau is about how to start a business for a very small amount of cash. Guillebeau analyzes case studies about many different companies that have started with little cash and provide a substantial income to the owner. A substantial income is defined as at least $50,000. Many of his examples earn much more, but the low limit was set at a level where you can live a good life and provide for a family.

Clearly, the examples of the pioneers are the first place I turned for support of this idea. Many pioneers sold all they possessed to go to Utah where they would establish Zion. They started in Utah with very little, and many were called to go to settle other parts of the western United States, and start all over again. Guillebeau invites the reader to do the same thing: start with little money and “create a new future” for yourself. That is essentially the same call that the early prophets made to the early saints.

We will have to go to work and get the gold out of the mountains to lay down, if we ever walk in streets paved with gold. The angels that now walk in their golden streets, and they have the tree of life within their paradise, had to obtain that gold and put it there. When we have streets paved with gold, we will have placed it there ourselves. When we enjoy a Zion in its beauty and glory, it will be when we have built it. If we enjoy the Zion that we now anticipate, it will be after we redeem and prepare it. If we live in the city of the New Jerusalem, it will be because we lay the foundation and build it. If we do not as individuals complete that work, we shall lay the foundation for our children and our children’s children, as Adam has. If we are to be saved in an ark, as Noah and his family were, it will be because we build it. If the Gospel is preached to the nations, it is because the Elders of Israel … preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young

Guillebeau and Brigham Young both preach that we have to work, and solve our own problems to be able to create a new future for ourselves.

Guillebeau says that the not-so-secret to success is “passion or skill + usefulness = success” (17). Surely, the early saints had passion, and worked to ensure that everything they touched had usefulness. They learned the same lessons Guillebeau is teaching.

One of my favorite illustrations in the book is of the one-page business plan. There is a napkin, with the following written on it:

  1. Start today.
  2. Deposit money tomorrow. (92)

What Guillebeau is stressing here is the importance of doing something, of getting to work. He doesn’t guarantee that if you start today you will be able to deposit money tomorrow, but he does promise that if you don’t do anything, you won’t succeed. The emphasis is on action. In the LDS faith, we rely on this belief as well. One of the stories that I remember hearing many times from President Hinckley is as follows:

As a new missionary serving in Preston, England, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was facing a major trial in his life. He was sick when he arrived in the mission field, and he quickly became discouraged because of the opposition to the missionary work. At a time of deep frustration, Elder Hinckley wrote in a letter to his father that he felt he was wasting his time and his father’s money. A little while later, Elder Hinckley received a reply from his dad. It said, “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.” “Sweet Is the Work: Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church,” New Era, May 1995, 8

The impassioned plea from President Hinckley and Guillebeau is the same: “Get to work!”

There are many more great spiritual insights in this book, and I would write about them, but I need to get to work, so I can deposit money tomorrow.

Outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. Here is the synopsis from gladwell.com:

“Outlier” is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience. In the summer, in Paris, we expect most days to be somewhere between warm and very hot. But imagine if you had a day in the middle of August where the temperature fell below freezing. That day would be outlier. And while we have a very good understanding of why summer days in Paris are warm or hot, we know a good deal less about why a summer day in Paris might be freezing cold. In this book I’m interested in people who are outliers—in men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August.

Gladwell talks a lot about how environment, culture, and other circumstances breed success. On his web site again: 

I do think that we vastly underestimate the extent to which success happens because of things the individual has nothing to do with. Outliers opens, for example, by examining why a hugely disproportionate number of professional hockey and soccer players are born in January, February and March. I’m not going to spoil things for you by giving you the answer. But the point is that very best hockey players are people who are talented and work hard but who also benefit from the weird and largely unexamined and peculiar ways in which their world is organized.

What Gladwell is saying is that we do have to work hard to be successful, but we also have to give credit to other circumstances beyond our control. It is an interesting idea, to say the least, and he offers many great and interesting insights as well. 

One really interesting story is about the Beatles, probably one of the greatest bands ever. Gladwell tells their story in his chapter entitled, “The 10,000 Hour Rule.” In it, Gladwell positst that you have to spend 10,000 hours practicing something before you become a real master at it. The Beatles performed 1,200 times live in Hamburg before they ever made it to the USA and became superstars. They played 8-hour sessions in strip clubs in Hamburg to develop their talents. 

The House of the Lord

President Howard Hunter said, True greatness “always requires regular, consistent small, and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps over a long period of time.” Ten thousand hours is truly a long time. How can a person get that much time in anything that they don’t do over the course of many, many years? 

Gladwell also writes the story of the world’s smartest man, Chris Langan. He lives in Missouri and writes about theories of the universe. He gets up in the morning, takes care of his animals and gets to working on what he was working on the night before. He says, “I found if I go to bed witha  question on mind, all I have to do is concentrate on the question before I go to sleep and I virtually always have the answer in the morning” (113). Langan does what we would call pondering or meditation. We know from scripture that pondering is what leads us to the answers that we need. 

In 1 Nephi 11:1, Nephi wanted to understand the vision of the Tree of Life that Lehi had explained to him:

For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot. (emphasis added)

Nephi not only wanted to understand the vision, but he took the steps necessary to see it for himself. He was not interested in merely having a general idea of the vision. He wanted to know it for himself. He did that when he pondered out the problem. 

Another example of the blessing of pondering takes place in modern times. Joseph Smith was pondering the resurrection as he was translating John 5:29, “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” He wanted to know more about the resurrection, for this verse caused him to “marvel.” He also pondered on that scripture and received one of the most glorious revelations in these modern times, D&C 76. He and Sydney Rigdon “…meditated upon these things, [and] the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about” (verse 19). When we ponder about things, we can receive revelation that we need to solve a problem. Sadly, it is not something that most of us do often enough. If it is good enough for prophets and the smartest man in the world, it should be good enough for us. 

Finally, tying this back to Outliers, Gladwell’s real point is that “no one–not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, [not prophets], and not even geniuses–ever makes it alone” (115). There are many scriptures which remind us that we cannot do it alone. We must rely on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is mighty to save. As we read in D&C 3:20, “…and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved…”

It is true as Gladwell states that we need to spend time to become masters at something. We need to rely on others to become something more than just a human. We need to rely on our Savior. 

Mindset, Part 2

One of my favorite beliefs of the gospel is the idea of the gifts of the Spirit. In Moroni 10, the gifts of the Spirit are listed, and then Moroni says:

 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will. (verse 17)

So, everyone pretty much gets their gifts. Christ gives them to us, and we can have many gifts, or not very many, but everyone can have at least one. D&C 46 reads: 

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby. (verses 11 & 12)

But where it really gets interesting and pertains to Mindset is here, in verses 8 and 9 of D&C 46:

…and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me…

Not only is the Lord willing to give us all at least one gift, but He also commands us to pray for and seek more gifts, so that we may have more opportunities to benefit those around us. This is truly possible. And it is quite spectacular that we can have so many gifts if we just ask for them. 

In Mindset we read:

Some people simply pick up these skills in the natural course of their lives, whereas others have to work to learn them and put them together. But as we can see from the “after” self-portraits, everyone can do it. 

Here’s what this means: Just becasue some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. This is so important, because many, many people with the fixed mindset think that someone’s early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future. (70, emphasis in original)

Sounds an awful lot like gifts of the Spirit to me. It doesn’t matter what we are born with. We can develop those things that we need to have if we seek the Lord and ask for the gifts. I love that the gospel teaches us naturally to become growth-minded individuals. 

Crucial Conversations [Book]

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition , by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switler is a book that is widely considered a must-read for anyone in a  position where they might disagree with someone. It walks you through how to have a successful crucial conversation, which is defined as:

A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong. (3)

There are many instances in the scriptures where crucial conversations happen. Patterson suggests that the best way to deal with these crucial conversations is to:

Prepare for high-stakes situations with a proven technique
Transform Anger and hurt feelings into powerful emotions
Make it safe to talk about almost anything
Be persuasive, not abrasive

One thing I really like about Crucial Conversations is that it never says you need to just be nice and worry about hurting other peoples’ feelings. The whole point is to be honest and totally open, even if that honesty is hard to hear. The important thing is that the dialogue happens, and happens continually. Dialogue is the “free flow of meaning between two people” (20).

In the Book of Mormon, Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom have a crucial conversation. It starts by Alma preaching to Zeezrom, then Amulek gives it a shot. Zeezrom says that he will give Amulek money if he denies the Christ. Amulek refuses, then calls Zeezrom on his foul ideas.

This qualifies as a crucial conversations for the following reasons:

  1. Stakes were high because Zeezrom had the potential to destroy a lot of work that Alma and Amulek had been doing.
  2. Alma and Amulek were devoted to preaching the gospel, and Zeezrom was devoted to derailing their teachings, so opinions varied greatly.
  3. Emotions were running strong. Amulek snapped at Zeezrom after Zeezrom tried to give him money to get him to deny his testimony, “O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me?” (Alma 11:23)

In Crucial Conversations, the authors state that the best place to start with crucial conversations is with heart: “Skilled people Start with Heart. That is, they begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused no matter what happens” (30). Alma and Amulek were there to preach the gospel. They had no intention of forcing anyone to change their mind or forcing anyone to do anything they didn’t want to. That is not how the gospel of Christ operates. But, they did stay focused on sharing their testimonies and trying to help all come unto Christ.

In the end, Zeezrom was silenced by the power of their testimony of Jesus. He was wracked with guilt, and was near death when Alma and Amulek saw him again. He gave in to the concensus method of decision making (which is really the only method that can be allowed in salvation-related crucial conversations). Zeezrom “honestly agreed to one decision” (166), the decision to believe in Christ. When he made this decision, he was saved from death.

What other crucial conversations happened in the scriptures?

Amulek, Alma, and Zeezrom

QBQ! By John Miller

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life may win the award for having a title that takes longer to read than the book itself. This is a quick read, and a good one. There are so many parallels to the gospel that it is hard to find where to begin and what to highlight. Miller even invites you to read the book again when you are done (a good strategy).

This book is about personal accountability. Miller invites the reader to not just whine and complain when things don’t go the way she wants, but rather asks the reader to ask a couple more questions. “What can I do?” becomes the clarion call of the QBQ thinker.

There are two ways I want to illustrate how we learned this simple account of personal accountability.

First, the hymn, Have I Done Any Good (Music), is the exemplification of Personal Accountability and QBQ!

Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.

QBQ! is about finding ways to be the solution to the problem, not another complainer. This hymn is great because it reminds us to go out of our way to solve problems and help others. One of the great stories Miller shares is of a server in a busy diner that saw that Miller didn’t have anyone helping him yet. When Miller asked for a Coke, the server mentioned that they only served Pepsi products, so Miller asked for water instead. Much to his surprise, a couple minutes later, the server returned with Miller’s food and an ice-cold Coke. When Miller inquired of the server where it had come from, he learned that the server had sent his manager next door to the grocery store to buy one so Miller could have what he wanted (needed). Personal accountabilty is about “making better choices” (14) like the server did to get what someone needed.

Second, there is the story of Nephi. Miller relates a story about a girl and her father flying in a small airplane when the engine stopped. The pilot (the father) told his daughter he would have to fly a little differently than usual. He put the plane into a nose dive right over Lake Michigan and tried to get the engine to start again. When that didn’t work, he tried again, still over frigid Lake Michigan, and a few hundred feet closer. This time, it worked. Miller says:

When faced with a new situation, [the father] took action and solved the problem. But if he had resisted the change and instead spent his time whining and complaining…things might have come out much differently. (30)

Like the father in this story, Nephi, the Book of Mormon prophet, saw a problem and he fixed it. When the bows of his older brothers had lost their spring, and Nephi’s bow broke, everyone else immediately started complaining. Nephi had personal accountability and asked himself, “What can I do?” Then he did something-which is essential for a QBQ thinker-he made a bow, and asked his father where the Lord would have him go to find food. 1 Nephi 16:23:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did amake out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Nephi gave the most excellent example of a QBQ thinker throughout his life, but this is one time where he  did what truly needed to be done. He didn’t blame others for their weak bows, nor did he blame his father for dragging him out into the wilderness. He saw a problem, and dealt with it, the best way that he could, by finding personal accountability and taking action. Nephi didn’t just solve the problem, he also didn’t even blame anyone. “Who do accountable people blame? No one. Not even themselves” (49).