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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Small Giants

This week, I had a chance to listen to Bo Burlingham of Inc magazine speak about his latest book, Small Giants. It’s about great companies that could have grown to be big, but decided to stay small and pursue other goals. As is so often the case when I’m confronted with a new concept, it got me to thinking. We all run a company called “me.” Me, Inc. must deal with the same issues as any business. What is the appropriate profit margin? How much debt should we take on? What sort of capital investments would be prudent? How many work hours should we expect per week?

Some people feel like these decisions are made for them, but they’re not. No matter how trapped you feel, you’re still free to do whatever you want. I know, you’re thinking, “right Bellinson, I’ll just tell my boss that I’m only going to be working 40 to 45 hours per week from now on. That’ll go over real big.”
I say, “Why not?” The worst thing that can happen is that you’d get fired. The best thing that could happen is your boss would say, “okay.” The most likely thing to happen would be that your boss would say, “quit screwing around and get back to work.”

Getting fired seems like a pretty daunting prospect, especially in these times. There are people who live on the streets by choice. They have given up material things in exchange for the right not to work. While that is certainly a long way to fall, it can be done. I’m not suggesting that you should follow suit, but if you had to work at a crap job for awhile, in order to create the space to find a job worth your full passion, maybe it would be worth it? Ultimately, the consequences of trying to build the lifestyle you want and failing might not be as bad as never trying.

It has been said that in order to rebuild a life, first the current one must be torn down. I believe there are two ways to go about it: incrementally or with a big bang. Personally, I appreciate the safety net of the incremental approach, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fantasize about the big bang. So, what is the “incremental” approach, you ask? Always upgrade your skills. I have a variety of activities that I enjoy. In each one, I strive to be better. Some of the activities I enjoy also provide me with an income. It stands to reason that as my skills improve, I get better – and people are almost always willing to pay more for better things.
It’s not always enough to do well; you also need to know how to sell yourself. I have quite a background in sales, so I am comfortable in the lead sales position for Me, Inc. People who aren’t will need to be that much better at what they do to get noticed. Everyone should learn to sell themselves.

I could rant on incessantly about everything “I think” you should do to make yourself “better.” What would be the point? We all need to decide for ourselves what our path should be. I just think that it’s a shame when people don’t even choose their path. They just let their parents or someone else put them on a path and they float along on that path without ever examining whether it is the right one for them or not. Worse yet, those who know they are on the wrong path, but don’t have the courage to change it. I say, take the jump. You probably won’t fall near as far as you think and you are much more likely to rise in the long run. Going up?


  1. Very thoughtful post, Tom. You got me thinking, too.

    Cheers, Bo Burlingham

  2. What's your 'big bang'?

  3. The "big bang" would be to quit my job, sell the house and become a professional musician. Or, something of that magnitude anyway. As much as I love making music, I don't really think I'd want to do it full time. I'm afraid it would take the joy out of it. More likely, I'd quit, liquidate everything and start a new business.