My first adult entrepreneurial venture was a flop due to values conflict. I started an on-campus marketing venture in college. I went to a number of on-campus restaurants, cleaning services, laundry services, tutors, and other service providers. I cut deals with a number of them to make and regularly distribute a flier that listed the best-of-the-best of the food and services that were available on campus and all of the current specials. Then once a week I would hike campus door-to-door and hang the fliers on doors, mailboxes, cars, and anything else that wasn’t moving (this was pre-Twitter days). After a couple of months I started to feel guilty because I kept seeing my best-of-the-best fliers on the ground around campus. I decided that littering for money was not something I wanted to pursue professionally, so I shutdown the operation despite having earned quite a bit more money than I was earning as a construction helper while pursuing my degree.
Tony Hsieh started LinkExchange about ten years after my venture and used the internet as his advertising media. There was no litter, at least of the paper sort and the audience was substantially larger (by orders of magnitude). Ten years after starting LinkExchange he sold it to Microsoft for about $250 million. He speaks of all his entrepreneurial ventures in his soon to be released book titled “Delivering Happiness.” He covers ventures from worm farms to pizza kitchens to venture funds and Zappos. Most of his ventures were at least moderately successful and some wildly so, but based on his writings not all were very fulfilling. He stresses that he’s most endeared to the ventures that brought him pleasure and happiness.
The guys that started 37Signals put a twist on the topic of entrepreneurial adventures in their book Rework. “Learning from mistakes is overrated” is a short passage starting on page 16 that discusses the common flaw in thinking that one must learn from mistakes. In the book they emphasize that it is more beneficial to learn from your successes. In their words, “It’s exactly how nature works. Evolution doesn’t linger on past failures, it’s always building upon what worked. So should you.”
Both of these books are worth reading and I am giving them away. All you have to do is make a comment to this post saying “I want the books” and send me your email, or send an email to your friends with a link to this post in the body and cc me at email@example.com. I will randomly draw on May 28th from the names that either posted a comment or forwarded an e-mail with a link to this post. I will send the winner both books at no cost.