Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Focus on the 1% of the Activities that Matter

You might have heard about the Pareto Principle that says 20% of the actions produce 80% of the results.

Some people take the Pareto Principle to the extreme. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk says that 99% of the things don’t matter.

The art of success is finding that 20 % or in Vaynerchuk’s case finding those 1% actions.

Think about it. You only work one day a week and yet produce the same value as you would produce if you worked four days a week. Wouldn’t you like that? That’s basically what the Pareto Principle is saying.

The problem with the Pareto Principle is that it doesn’t work for employees. Employees are paid by the time they spend at work, not by the results they produce.

As a result, employees tend to do busy work, things that keep them busy, but don’t produce any valuable results.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, you need to perfect the Pareto Principle. You need to focus on the 20% of the actions that produce the 80% of the results. You need to let go of the 80% of the actions that produce low or no value at all.

Distinguishing between high and low-value actions is an art you perfect over time.

What are the high-value actions? In my opinion, these are learning, thinking, and applying what you learned and thought. I know that that sounds too general, so let me go into more detail.

The most valuable action is to come up with a vision. This is a long-term goal like a life goal. Then, the second most valuable action is learning and thinking about how to realize your vision. And eventually, applying the ideas that you learned and came up with in your life.

Your vision acts as a compass. It helps you find the 20% of the activities that produce the 80% of the results. Which activities bring you closer to the realization of your vision? Determine them and focus on them.

Let go of all the activities that don’t contribute to your vision. They are not only a waste of your time, but they are also potentially dangerous. The things that you do just to be busy can produce liabilities down the road. And they do.

Most of the time, doing nothing is better than wasting time on busy work. When you do nothing, you give yourself the space where new ideas can bubble up. You can also use that time to learn and think of course.

Eliminating waste, including waste of time, is crucial to making the most of your life. Distractions are obvious time wasters, but busy work is also a waste of time, and more dangerous than distractions because it gives you the false impression that you’re actually doing something useful.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, I recommend reading the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It will help you start a business by yourself or with a co-founder with limited resources.

How would your life look like if you let go of the 99% of the things that didn’t contribute to your vision and focused on the 1% that did?

Success, Sacrifice, Happiness, Work-Life Balance, Integration

When it comes to happiness and success, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to find out what makes you happy and what success means to you. In this post, I’ll give you three main directions. It’s up to you to choose the path you want to go.


The first direction is the good old sacrifice. It’s been touted throughout the decades in the success literature. 20 years ago, Jeffrey J. Fox recommended working an extra hour every day to get to the top of the corporate ladder in his book How to Become CEO.

Nowadays, working an extra hour per day might not get you too far. You might need to be productive 24 / 7 / 365, and you can. However, that takes some serious sacrifice. You might need to make a decision between happiness and success. In this option, you might not get both.

The pitfall of sacrifice is that you might become obsessed with doing and miss the essence. It’s easy to lose the sight of the big picture and get drown in busy work without producing any meaningful results.

The advantage of sacrifice is that you learn to let go of what doesn’t serve your goals, which is a critical skill for satisfaction and fulfillment.

Work-Life Balance

The second scenario is work-life balance. You might settle for an average income and average working hours, but more time for your family and leisure.

Average working hours don’t automatically mean an average income. Depending on your productivity, you can be more successful than sacrifice in this scenario.

The path of sacrifice might lead to a burnout, which might decrease your productivity. You might work 100-hour working weeks but not produce anything meaningful.

On the other hand, with a proper work-life balance, you might get energized in your downtime and work with more enthusiasm when it’s work time.

Work-Life Integration

The third path is to integrate your work with leisure. In this video, Tony Robbins talks about homeschooling his children and taking his family with him when he’s traveling the world to give his seminars.

Gary Vaynerchuk recommends working from 7 pm to 2 am to turn your hobby into a business.

Some people succeed at turning their hobbies into a business. When you can do that, you have work and leisure in the same activity. When all of your working and leisure hours go to the same activity, it’s inevitable that your output will increase.

There’s a pitfall of this approach though. Once your livelihood depends on an activity, that leisure activity might not be as fun as before.


Everybody has their own definition of success, and happiness has different meanings for different people.

You have to find out what success means to you and what makes you happy. Once you find that out, you can choose one of the three directions to pursue success and happiness. They are sacrifice, work-life balance, and work-life integration.

Zugzwang and the Cult of Doing

If you read the term personal development carefully, it is obvious that it’s about becoming someone rather than doing something. But after a while, those two words lose their meaning. They become just a pointer to the meaning that we assign to them.

What comes to your mind when you hear the term personal development?

  1. Is it consuming a bunch of books, podcasts, videos, and participating in live events?
  2. Is it knowing the concepts discussed in those books, podcasts, videos, and events?
  3. Is it applying those concepts in your life?
  4. Is it becoming the person that the application of those concepts make you?

I had periods when personal development meant one of the first three explanations above. Nowadays, it’s more about the last one.

There might be a person who hasn’t heard the term mindfulness, who hasn’t read a book on mindfulness, and who hasn’t meditated for a second in their lives, but they might be more mindful than another person who read dozens of books on the subject, participated in multiple retreats, and meditates for an hour every day.

Consuming, learning, and even applying doesn’t make any difference. It is becoming that makes the difference.

That’s a critical distinction to be aware of. That distinction is missed entirely by our culture, which is obsessed with doing.

The Obsession with Doing

Our culture is obsessed with doing. When we are in the school, we are packed in classrooms and given a bunch of tasks to complete. As if that wasn’t enough, we’re loaded with a bunch of homework.

What’s the goal of that?

I’m afraid no one asks that question. When I ask that question and try to find answers, I come up with the following.

  1. Keep the kids busy while their parents are at work so that they don’t get into trouble.
  2. Make them hard workers in the industrial complex.
  3. Make them great at something like math.

The first one is a legitimate goal. If you let kids by themselves, they tend to get into trouble, for example by playing Superman.

The second goal is slowly but surely losing its meaning. Industry jobs are getting replaced by automation and outsourcing to developing countries.

The third goal is the only significant one among the three. Yes, some kids are naturally good at some disciplines, and some become great by sheer effort, thanks to their growth mindset, but we shouldn’t miss the point here.

It’s not about effort and doing things. It’s about becoming somebody.

We’ll get the best results only when we keep that goal in sight and make our plans accordingly. The alternative is filling our to-do lists with a bunch of stuff that don’t even matter and mindlessly checking off those tasks, or worse, just doing whatever is in front of us without even thinking.

The Cult of Doing

You can see the obsession with doing in the industry. People are supposed to work 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year and do something in those 2000 hours a year. You’re a bad employee should you do nothing in one of those 2000 hours.

One can clearly see where that mindset is coming from. Back in the day, there was a direct relationship between human effort and the output of a business. That is how the cult of doing emerged.

That relationship is already broken in most industries in the developed countries thanks to the automation and outsourcing, but most people haven’t realized it yet.

Nowadays, it isn’t the employee that works the most hours that produces the most value for the business. It’s the employee that comes up with the most valuable ideas and gets them implemented.

That ideation process requires taking some time off and reflecting on the problem. That’s literally doing nothing, not even thinking. The ideation process involves asking a question and letting the ideas bubble up from the depths of your psyche. The biggest enemy of that process is distraction.

Busy work is the most dangerous distraction. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The Virtue of Doing Nothing

Doing nothing is hard work. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for a day. Wake up, do your essentials to stay alive, like drinking water, having your meals, and so on, but for the rest, do nothing. Let’s see if you can succeed.

No, don’t turn on the radio or TV. No smartphone or computers. No working out. No chatting. No stuffing yourself with snacks or smoking or drinking. Just sit on a couch and do nothing. Soon, you’ll realize it’s an impossible feat. Yet, sometimes, we’re better off doing nothing.

Zugzwang is a chess term. It means all the available moves are hurting a player, but they have to choose one and execute it. They’re better off doing nothing and skipping a move, but the rules of chess don’t allow that.

Unlike chess, life gives you the opportunity to skip a move, to say “no,” to let go of busy work and distraction, and to not indulge yourself in mindless, aimless action. Use it.

Here’s Why Your Online Marketing Doesn’t Work

And what to do about it.

When we are producing and marketing, we tend to look at our craft from our own perspective. Unless you build something for yourself and market it to yourself, that’s a mistake.

That’s a typical mistake that software engineers do. As a result, they end up with overcomplicated software that the end users can’t use.

If the prospective customers can’t use a piece of software, it’s a waste of time and money, no matter how good it is.

The antidote to that mistake is to put yourself into the shoes of the prospective customer. For example, I’m producing and marketing blog posts. Here’s a question that could help me.

How Did I Find My Favorite Writers?

I found Steve Pavlina from a Google search. I kept reading his blog throughout the years, bought his book, went to one of his live events, and recently purchased an information product of him.

I found David Hawkins from a post of Pavlina. I read his book Power vs. Force and then kept purchasing his books and audio programs.

I have the Kindle and audio versions of some of Hawkins’s books and read and listened to them multiple times. I came across the Letting Go Method in his book with the same title. It became one of my favorite personal development practices.

I came across a piece by Nathaniel Branden in the book Meeting the Shadow, and I read his books Breaking Free and the Disowned Self. Now, I’m going through his audio program The Psychology of High Self-Esteem with the intention to read and listen to more books and audio programs by him.

I really don’t know how many Brian Tracy audio programs I have in my audible account, and honestly, I don’t care. I enjoyed most of them, and the Magic of Self-Direction is one of my all-time favorites.

I guess I’m one of those 1000 true fans of these writers.

The point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t come across a favorite writer because they followed on me Twitter or Medium. They didn’t comment on one of my posts. They don’t have online link wheels. I didn’t find them via their Facebook or YouTube advertisements. Two of them aren’t even alive.

We’re all sitting on immense value, but we don’t care to stop and look inside because we’re too busy trying to catch the next shiny object outside.

Did I buy products that had just good online marketing? Yes, I purchased two information products like that, and I promised myself not to come close to those producers again. That gives me another lesson.

No matter how good your online marketing is, if you don’t have a decent product, you won’t have repeat customers.

If someone gives you marketing advice, please take it with a grain of salt, including this one of course. Ask yourself, how you came across your favorite writer, software, or whatever it is that you are producing. Then go ahead and emulate that.

In my case, one piece of content I came across by sheer luck was so good that I had to consume as much content as I could from those people. That makes my strategy to write the best blog posts I can and let the universe handle the rest.

The Linchpin of Any Online Marketing Strategy

You must have heard the story of the elephant and the four blind men. Four blind men touch different parts of an elephant and argue with each other what the elephant is like.

One of them likens it to a tree, the other one to a hose, yet another one to a sheet, and so on. It all depends on where they touch on.

In reality, the elephant has various body parts, and they all feel different. It doesn’t make sense to jump to a conclusion with partial data without having the big picture. Yet, we do it all the time.

Sure, there are times we have to move on without perfect information, but if you have a chance to access meaningful data, you better use it.

The Algorithm Change in Medium

With a recent algorithm change in Medium, I saw a sharp drop in the stats of my posts published there. This made me doubt the future of my blog.

Was I wasting my time blogging daily if Medium didn’t distribute my posts to readers? Was all the work for the last nine months for nothing? More important, should I stop blogging daily and move on?

Questions like the ones above floated around in my mind. I had decent arguments to stop blogging daily. I also had solid arguments to keep doing that.

Then, I checked the stats of my blog on my own domain. I realized that the traffic to my blog was fairly stable. Only 22% of the traffic came from Medium. 37% was coming from Google, and 31% was direct traffic. The remaining 10% was coming from the so-called long tail.

Those numbers were soothing. Probably, only a nerd would be soothed by numbers, but that’s what their effect was on me.

Sure, I’d like to keep that 22%, but if I couldn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world for my blog. 78% was still a decent chunk of my existing traffic. There was no reason to get discouraged. That’s why the ability to find out the truth is the most critical skill that you can develop in life.

What Social Media Does and Does Not Provide

Medium does a lot of things right. It gives the readers the ability to highlight and bookmark the posts they read. It gives the writers the stats about the views, reads, claps, and highlights. There is a community that exchanges comments.

My blog doesn’t have interactive features as Medium has, and I’m fine with that. If someone wants to bookmark a post of my mine, they can do so in their own browser or using their favorite social channel. If they want to highlight a section, they can clip the post and highlight it with Evernote.

My blog provides me with something crucial that Medium doesn’t. That is control.

Bloggers who didn’t bother to set up their blogs on their own domains and only published on Medium are in serious trouble after Medium changed their algorithm.

If I solely relied on Medium as a blogging and distribution platform, I’d lose 99% of the traffic to my posts. That would be a death sentence to my blog. There’s no way, I’d keep writing and publishing for only 1% of the traffic my posts used to receive.

Since I kept 78% of the traffic to my posts, I’m fine with continuing. Sure, I’d like to see that number grow and not shrink, but a 22% hit doesn’t kill my enthusiasm.

In a way, I’m grateful for that 22% hit. It’s a sobering event, but I can reframe that challenge as an opportunity to stop and look at my blogging practice. It makes me think about how to change my practice so that I can overcome that 22% hit and create further growth.

What Does Your Blog on Your Own Domain Provide?

With all the social media channels available to us, it’s easy to fall in love with a channel and to avoid starting and maintaining a blog on your own domain. After all, it’s a lot of work to do that. And who reads blogs on independent domains nowadays?

The reality is some people do. What’s more important? It’s a matter of time that your favorite platform will change their algorithms, ban you from publishing there, or go belly up altogether.

What are you going to do if any one of those events happen if you don’t have your own platform? You’ll lose all of your traffic overnight. That’s why a blog on your own domain is the linchpin of your online marketing strategy. It’s the little piece that holds everything together.


A blog on a domain that you control might look like a small, irrelevant piece of an online marketing strategy, but when your presence on other social media channels takes a hit, it’s usually your blog that survives that hit.

Game Theory, Relationships, Entrepreneurship

Let’s divide games into two categories for the sake of this discussion, games with perfect information and games with imperfect information.

Chess is an example of games with perfect information. You can see all the squares and pieces, all the time.

Texas Hold’em Poker is an example of games with imperfect information. Each hand involves two hidden cards held by each player.

Most real world transactions resemble closer to the games with imperfect information than to the games with perfect information.


Consider the following question about relationships on Quora.

“If a girl appears to dislike me while texting, but shows with her body language she does like me, then what do I conclude?”

This is a typical example of an imperfect information game. This person tries to reach perfect information, hence the question “what do I conclude.” The answer is you can’t reach perfect information in this situation.

Perfect Information Doesn’t Exist in a Chaotic World

We all have various subpersonalities in our psyche, and once in a while, those subpersonalities conflict with each other.

The woman mentioned in this question might be attracted to him on an emotional level, hence the affirming body language. However, she seems to dislike the idea of romantic involvement with him on a mental level, hence the negative texting.

Looking at the clues and analysis above, one can’t have a conclusion. Most probably, she doesn’t have a conclusion either. At one moment, she’d say that she isn’t interested and rationalize it with some convincing reasons. At another moment, she’d feel rapport with him.

When she can’t come to a conclusion, how can he? It’s impossible. Therefore, he has to move forward without perfect information.

This is not only relevant to him and to this situation but to all of us in most critical situations in our lives. We won’t have perfect information most of the time.

Proceed without Perfect Information

What he can do here is to make a step forward toward his goal even in the face of imperfect information. Make an offer to the woman and see if she accepts it or not. This can be asking her for a date.

If she accepts the offer, keep taking steps toward the goal, which can be a stable relationship, like marriage. If she refuses, then he has to deal with the pain of rejection.

That means he has to take action in the face of two possible results, the achievement of a goal or the pain of failure. That takes some courage. The alternative is to stay in limbo forever.

Even though staying in limbo seems to be less painful than the pain of failure, failing once and dealing with it is much less painful than the constant low-intensity pain of limbo. It’s always better to take calculated risks and fail than to do nothing and get stale.

What Does All of That Have to Do with Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship by definition involves imperfect information. No matter how many market surveys you make or big data analysis you do, there’s always a risk of failing. You can never reach perfect information.

That means you need to boil down your possible outcomes into two options, a success scenario and a failure scenario. The chance to fail is always there. Therefore, you need to accept it and embrace it.

One way to mitigate the risk of failure is to ask yourself what the secondary benefits are even if you failed. Lewis Schiff calls these the cherry on top in his book Business Brilliant. Your cherry on top can be more experience, extended network, and even a new idea for another business venture.


Unlike chess, most real-world games, like relationships and entrepreneurship, involve imperfect information. Therefore, a game like Texas Hold’em Poker with hidden cards provide a better analogy for real-world games.

When faced with a challenge due to imperfect information, the knee-jerk reaction is to try to get more information. This is reasonable to some extent, but in a chaotic world, perfect information is impossible.

What it all comes down to is to boil down the possible outcomes into two scenarios, a success scenario and a failure scenario.

You need to embrace the failure scenario fully and then move on and act anyway. That’s the only way to get out of limbo and to create an opportunity to succeed.

Be the Person Who Receives What You Want

You can approach a goal in two ways. You can try to get it. Or you can try to receive it. One is a direct approach. The other is an indirect one.

Our intuition is to go after what we want directly, but in my experience, receiving it works better. The reason for that can be explained easily.

Our intuition includes 4.5 billion years of evolution. In a significant portion of that period, we weren’t subject to a legal system as we are now.

Before the civilization, when we wanted or needed something, we simply went out and got it. That’s rarely the case right now. Now, we have to work, earn money, and then fulfill our wants and needs with the money we made.

A System of Voluntary Exchanges

Our system now is based on voluntary exchanges. That means we need to create the conditions that would result in us receiving what we want. That sounds obvious when you read it, but I believe that we carry a different program in our unconscious mind.

In our conscious mind, we know that our system is based on voluntary exchanges. In our unconscious mind, we still carry the program that goes out and gets what they want.

Most of the time, we act from our unconscious mind. We act out the unconscious programs that don’t work anymore. As a result, we get disappointed, frustrated, and wonder what’s wrong with the world.

Practice the New Paradigm Consciously

To achieve the results we want, we need to practice the new paradigm consciously until we make it second nature. In my experience, the best way to do that is to develop the identity of the person who receives what I want.

Let’s say you want to make a million dollars. Instead of asking how you can make a million dollars, ask who you have to be to make a million dollars.

Your answer might be to become an entrepreneur to make a million dollars. Now, ask yourself how you can become an entrepreneur. What are the differences between you and an entrepreneur? Determine those differences and work on eliminating them.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Entrepreneurs don’t trade their time for money.
  • Entrepreneurs work on unproven ideas.
  • Entrepreneurs don’t waste their time.
  • Entrepreneurs are open-minded.
  • Entrepreneurs are decisive.
  • Entrepreneurs take calculated risks.
  • Entrepreneurs are systematic in their approach.

And the list goes on. You might disagree with some of the points. You might have your own perception of an entrepreneur. That’s perfectly fine. The goal here is to define those traits and to work on cultivating them.


Our genetic inheritance includes programs of going out and getting what we want. That approach doesn’t work in our society anymore because we live in a system of voluntary exchanges.

In the system of voluntary exchanges, we need to receive what we want. In my experience, the best way to do that is to become the person who receives what we want.

To achieve that, determine the traits of the person who receives what you want, and cultivate those personality traits.

When you become the person who receives what you want, what you want comes as a byproduct.

Why Do Your Side Projects Fail? And What Does It Take to Succeed at Them?

Have you ever started a side project and failed at it? You’re not alone.

Why do so many people fail at their side projects while they are doing perfectly fine in their day jobs?

I’ll provide my answers to that question. I also encourage you to join the discussion and write your answers in the comments.

The answer lies in the question. Let’s reformulate the question.

What do people do differently in their day jobs compared to their side projects?

The answer to this question is also the reason why people are attracted to side projects in the first place. Let’s write a few of those reasons.

  1. Day jobs involve strict working hours. Typically 9-to-5.
  2. Day jobs require you to be present in an office between those hours.
  3. Day jobs require you to work with a group of people whose skill sets are complementary to yours.
  4. Day jobs require you to report to an authority.
  5. Day jobs involve working on the same or similar projects for years on end.
  6. Day jobs involve working on projects demanded by the marketplace.

Day jobs compensate all of that with regular rewards, with a monthly paycheck. You can add more reasons to that list, and I encourage you to do that in the comments.

Apply What’s Working in Your Day Job to Your Side Project

Most people fail at their side projects because they don’t apply what’s working in their day job to their side project. You might object to that argument and ask “what’s the use of a side project if it should be the exact copy of your day job?”

That’s not necessarily my argument. My argument is to give up some of the fun of your side project to make it actually work. If you don’t do that, it won’t be a side project but a fun hobby.

  1. Work on your side project between set hours on set days.
  2. Work in a serious environment without any distractions.
  3. Work with people whose skills are complementary to yours. Hire freelancers if necessary. Don’t hesitate to invest in premium tools and services. If you’re writing blog posts, try to get them published in venues with a massive following.
  4. Have accountability partners. Get involved in an online mastermind group if necessary.
  5. When you start a project, stick with it for at least six months. Don’t start multiple side projects in parallel.
  6. Measure what the market responds to and steer your work toward that direction.

Last but not least, reward yourself regularly.


We are attracted to side projects because they are more fun than our day jobs. We fail in our side projects because we don’t use the same principles that we use in our day jobs.

We don’t need to make a boring job out of our side projects to succeed, but there are definitely a set of rules that we can borrow from our day jobs and apply them to our side projects.

What are your rules to succeed at side projects?

Dealing with the Frustration of Failure

In yesterday’s post, I argued that there’s nothing worthwhile in the domain of known. You need to get into uncharted waters to find something valuable and bring it back to the domain of known.

If you get into the domain of unknown, there’s a good chance that most of your actions won’t produce the results you’re aiming for. This is how Jordan Peterson defines the domain of chaos.

If you stay in the domain of chaos long enough, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with frustration sooner or later.

You have to go through that frustration to reach success. Think about Thomas Edison failing at thousands of experiments to find the correct setting for the light bulb that worked.

How will you deal with the frustration of failure when it hits you? Are you going to give up and go back to what’s familiar? Or are you going to persist until you succeed or exhaust all possibilities?

Expect Hardship

James Stockdale was a senior American officer and a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He survived a seven and a half year brutal imprisonment with a mindset called the Stockdale Paradox.

The Stockdale Paradox involves cultivating faith in a positive outcome while expecting and facing the brutal reality of the situation.

What Will You Do Next?

In my day job as a software developer, there are times when I have to use a new piece of technology that isn’t well-documented. Often that becomes a typical experience in the domain of chaos.

In such times, I use the trial and error approach. When I come up with a solution, I expect it to fail. I ask myself what I’m going to try next when this attempt fails. In other words, I come up with a backup plan before trying a solution.

If my solution fails, I do the same with my backup plan. I expect it to fail and come up with another backup plan before trying my first backup plan. If my solution succeeds, then I’m positively surprised and move on.

Cultivate a Positive Attitude

Remind yourself that you’re going through hardship because you’re going through uncharted waters. You’re going through uncharted waters because there’s nothing worthwhile in the domain of known.

Remind yourself how Thomas Edison failed at thousands of experiments to come up with a light bulb setting that worked.

Don’t overinvest time or money in your experiments. Keep them simple. Fail fast and move on to the next one. If one of your experiments succeeds, then you can invest more time and money into it to scale it.

Remember that success in the domain of chaos comes after long stretches of dry spells. Keep your expectations low but your involvement high. That way you can go through those stretches as fast as possible and reach success at the end.


Success requires going into the domain of unknown, discovering something valuable there, and bringing it back into the domain of known.

That exploration phase is usually a long and frustrating process. The best way to deal with that frustration is to expect hardship for a long time but to have the faith that you’ll succeed at the end.

During the day to day operations, expect failure and ask yourself what you’ll do next. Keep your experiments simple and cheap. You can always scale an idea later when its prototype proves to be successful.

If all else fails, remember Thomas Edison who had to go through thousands of experiments to find a light bulb setting that worked.

We’re All Sitting on Immense Value

Yesterday, I wrote a post about setting being goals and cultivating personality traits to achieve our doing and having goals.

I shared the big five personality traits, the 13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin, and a link to 600+ primary personality traits.

One of the personality traits that I want to develop is resourcefulness.

When I reflect upon resourcefulness, immediately a short story in the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle came into my mind.

The Beggar and His Box

A man is sitting on a box, begging on the street. Another man approaches him and asks what’s in the box that he sits on. The beggar says that he doesn’t know. He never checked what’s inside.

They open the box and find out that it’s full of gold. The moral of the story is that we all sit on a box full of gold, but we don’t bother to look what’s inside. In other words, we all have access to resources to create and deliver value.

In this day and age, a lot of products and services are provided for free. Think about all the open source software, social media channels to promote your products and services, and even free versions of premium software like MailChimp and Evernote.

You have to add your creativity to the mix and produce value using those free resources. In essence, you don’t need more than $100 to start a business and to start making money. It’s not easy, and it requires a lot of sweat equity, but it’s possible.

Acres of Diamonds

The beggar story reminded me of another one, Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Cornwell.

A farm owner sells his farm to travel to search for diamonds. Eventually, he runs out of money, can’t find any diamonds, and dies in desperate conditions.

The person who buys his farm finds some black rocks in the soil, which turn out to be raw diamonds. The moral of the story is that we look for opportunity far away while missing the opportunities under our feet.

Think about all the developers trying to make it to the Silicon Valley. I’m sure there are advantages of living in the center of information technology. Yet, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any opportunities where you live.

In this day and age, all you need is a laptop and an internet connection to tap into immense opportunities.

The Gold Miner Who Quit Too Early

Today’s third and last story comes from the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. In the days of gold rush, a miner works really hard to find a vein of gold. After a while, he gets frustrated and quits digging.

Another miner picks up digging in the same location and hits a gold vein after a few feet. This story points to another personality trait, persistence, but it fits nicely with the other two.


Sometimes, a short story brings a point home much better than a post of thousand words. That’s why I shared three short stories today.

The moral of these stories is that we all sit on immense value, but we don’t recognize the opportunities that are in front of us.

While we are looking for opportunities far away, we are missing the ones that are under our feet.

Opportunities come with subtle clues. They aren’t served in golden platters. It’s up to us to discover them, work on them, and to persist on them until we get the results that we’re looking for.

If you feel hopeless, remind yourself the stories of the beggar and his box and the Acres of Diamond. If you feel like quitting an endeavor, remember the gold miner who stopped too early.