Last week I had to break down and confess to my wife that I was… playing Pokemon Go. Like roughly 9.5 million other people, I was logging in each day and looking for rare creatures in the park, all the while pretending to play with my children. But I noticed, as I started to play, some really interesting similarities between my life as a small business owner and my life as a collector of rare monsters.
You Might Actually Like It
I’ve spoken to so many people who’ve gone on about how much they hate the game and how dumb it is. My wife said it’s “the stupidest thing she’s ever heard of in the entire world” (coming from a woman who is married to a man who once thought you could “grow” pickles) and this is a sentiment shared by a vast number of people…who’ve never played the game.
Now I’m not going to sit here and lobby for the merits of the game. Rather, I’m going to suggest that we tend to assume we know a lot about things that we’ve never tried. Welcome to the life of a small business owner. When I started, there were a lot of things I thought I would hate, that it turns out I love. There are a lot of things that I thought would be easy that I find brutally difficult.
So many people think that starting a business (or playing Pokemon Go) isn’t for them because they have a preconceived notion of what it entails. I’m not saying everyone should start a business but I do believe that everyone should learn more about starting a business before they abandon entrepreneurship for a 9-5.
Do The Research
I know several people who’ve thrown themselves into ventures without doing much planning. They thought they had a great idea and they ran with it. Some of them succeeded but most of them failed. When I started playing Pokemon Go I just jumped in and started running around looking for things. I found my first Pokemon and I was THRILLED…until I talked to my neighbor, a very successful local small business owner.
“Yeah…It’s cool that if you ignore the first three pokemon that come your way you get a Pikachu (highly sought after).”
You see, before HE dove in, he did some research. He knew the ins and outs before he ever downloaded the app. And that’s why he’s so successful. It is a trait that I’ve been working hard on in my own business. I love what I do but I know that it took way longer to get to where I am than it would have if I’d have figured out how to catch a Pikachu in the first place.
The thing is that running a business, especially a business that you start from scratch, is incredibly difficult. It’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s very hard. So if you start behind the 8 ball by not knowing what you’re getting into, you’re at a severe disadvantage.
Put In The Legwork
As a stay at home dad, there’s a lot of time when I, sadly, can’t go out looking for Pokemon. The kids are napping or it’s supper time and despite the fact that a Clefairy might be in my hood, I’m on lockdown. A couple of days ago, I found a workaround.
Apparently, if you have a jail broken iPhone or one of those Android thingies, you can play around with your location and there are actually apps that allow you to move around on the screen as if you were REALLY walking. Now, let’s ignore for a moment that fact that this is the epitome of lazy and focus instead on the practical.
First, if you don’t like playing Pokemon, don’t play Pokemon. If you don’t like being the boss, find somewhere that you’re not the boss. Don’t figure out a workaround for your life. Work out what you love. I will NOT be jail breaking my phone so that I can cheat at Pokemon.
Second, I know a few people who throw money at problems. Sometimes it works, but most of the time they’re just spending a lot of money to make things sort of work. You know the people I’m talking about. They have the nicest everything and they don’t know how to do anything.
When I was in junior high I was dating a girl (quick note, I was a huge nerd) and the two of us loved playing Star Trek: The Card Game. It’s similar to Magic or Pokemon and all those other things that nerds like me were really into. She was very wealthy and while on vacation she went out and bought the best deck you could have; unbeatable. And we stopped playing Star Trek together. We eventually broke up, not because of Star Trek…per se, but instead because in general, those aren’t the people you want to be around.
I want to be around people, in my work and in my personal life, that figure things out. I surround myself with hard working individuals. They don’t do work just for the sake of doing work but they also don’t take shortcuts that they know don’t lead to the right place.
Community is Key: The Lucky Egg
The other day I was hanging out on the Halifax Waterfront, vaguely watching my children play in a local water park. At the same time, I was playing/chatting with my best friend about Pokemon. A stranger; someone I have NEVER seen before in my whole life, leaned over during one of our conversations and said,
“and always use a lucky egg when you’re going to evolve a bunch of Pokemon because you get extra XP.”
Now, this might seem like a casual thing to say and not a big deal but if you look at the psychology behind this, it’s huge. First, she didn’t know which team I was on. (Timeout: In Pokemon, you can be a member of one of 3 teams and you’re more or less working together with everyone on the planet who is on your team to defeat the other teams). She didn’t care if I was Red, Blue or Yellow (yellow for life), she simply wanted to help a fellow player.
There are so many people that are so secretive with their business. They won’t tell anyone how they did anything because they’re terrified someone’s going to beat them. But to quote a guy you may have heard of (paraphrasing);
“I’ll share how I got where I’m at with anybody because I know I’m good at what I do. If you won’t, it’s because you’re afraid they’ll do it better.” – Ross Simmonds
Fear, plain and stark and simple, drives so much of our daily interaction but it’s entirely possible to work WITH a community rather than against it because competition breeds excellence and innovation.
Second, and to me even more important, is that she reached out. From our brief conversation I know some very basic details about where she’s from and what she does and if there were ever an opportunity for me to recommend her for anything, I would. And that’s been how I’ve driven my business. People know that they can ask me things. Even if they’re in similar fields. I don’t mind answering questions. There comes a time when I whip out an invoice, but if I’m just telling you how to use a lucky egg to get extra XP when you’re evolving a Weedle or hatching an Abra, that advice is an investment on my behalf.
The thing about Pokemon Go is that it’s supposed to be a lot of fun. And so is running your own business. If you’re not going to enjoy it, then why are you doing it? On both fronts. If I didn’t love being the captain of my own ship, I’ve got lots of people that would hire me. But I don’t want to work for other people (mostly). I want to work for me. And I want to play Pokemon Go. And the minute I don’t want to do one of those two things anymore, I’ll stop.
Now go Catch ‘Em All.