Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
It’s all about the tingle
You can apply all the spreadsheet modelling you like, but for me, business is all about the tingling sensations. They’re an underestimated force in getting you where you want to be.
I had a reminder of this walking around San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) district a few weeks back. (I promise I’ll stop the what-I-did-on-my-holidays stories soon but bear with me.)
There were warehouse office spaces for lease. I saw the signs, and thought: hmm, I wonder what it looks like inside? And what’s the rent?
I felt the tingle. The gut-level feeling of anticipation. Even though I have no use for office space now, not in my own town and certainly not in another country.
The office space stalker
Why did I feel that way? A fair while ago, my little ad agency was in its infancy. I’d done the work at home thing for six months after bailing out of my comfy corporate job. Now it was time for more people and an office.
I started stalking converted industrial space in inner-city Sydney suburbs. I’d find the big names in my field, and peer in through their office windows. (I didn’t have the confidence to just call someone there and ask for a look around).
From the outside, I’d soak up the feel of their exposed beams, their Herman Miller chairs, their neon logos in reception, their Wallpaper magazine-looking staff, and think: I want this so bad.
I had some clients in California, and on trips over there I’d hunt around SoMa for inspiration. At the time, it was a messy and semi-dangerous place. A lot of police tape.
But weird bars, marketing creatives and the first dotcom boom startups were starting to take root. I got in touch with the maddest of the creatives I read of in industry magazines. Because Americans like to speak to Australians, I’m still not sure why.
They were generous with their advice. I’d study their offices for ideas on how to create the space I dreamed of, the environment that would inspire genius ideas for clients.
I finally leased a place in Surry Hills that ticked all those boxes. I couldn’t afford the Herman Miller chairs, but spent so much time hunting around cheaper places looking for plausible-looking knockoffs. Endless hours designing the entry sign, the artwork on the walls, the perfectly-spaced row of potted cactii.
On top of a savage workload of client projects.
I fucking loved it.
So much that the sight of a For Lease sign still brings back those anticipation feelings.
High on infinite possibilities
Most business inspo is about where you’re going and what you’re going to get. The riches. The power. The house with a 25-metre tunnel from the garage, built by a team of off-duty opal miners.
Those things are cool, and might not happen. Then you’ve forgotten to appreciate one of the best parts of your life.
Year one of your business is the most fun. Infinite possibilities stretch out before you. Unburdened by the practical realities that can weigh you down later on.
You’re not going to get far unless you have a clear, glowing vision of what you’re creating. If you’re doing it right, it’s quite the emotional ride. Fear mingled with hope, and the exhilaration of every small win. It feels so great.
Remember to enjoy that stuff. Your first box of business cards. I haven’t handed out a business card in about five years but it’s hard to match the feeling of opening that box, still with its printer smell. Featuring the design you managed yourself, with no interference from anyone upstairs. It’s a powerful symbol of your control over your own destiny.
You pick up the keys from the agent, and swing open the doors to your empty, echoey space for the first time. It feels like … alright, GAME ON.
You will fill it with profitable activity. It seems so big, but you will need a larger space in a few years.
Early milestones are great
The milestones feel bigger. They are bigger.
We hire a lot of staff these days and it’s still a great feeling. But it’s hard to match that feeling of hiring employee number one, finally someone to take some weight off your shoulders.
Someone you can mould into a worthy ambassador for your brand, even if they’re changing tap washers or selling your sourdough in a market stall.
Humble tasks are a noble pursuit when you can see a glorious long-term future.
The first paying customer is a fist-pumping moment. It’s some kind of proof that your idea works. It might not be at global scale, but someone likes what you’ve come up with. A lot of new ideas never get to that point. It’s a big win.
You’ll have endless conversations about what lies ahead. Most of it won’t come true. Doesn’t matter. Other things you hadn’t thought of will come true.
The first profitable month, oh my God. Hard evidence that this thing can be sustainable, and that your gamble was worth it.
Appreciate the tingle.
You still need spreadsheets, it’s not all feelings
Don’t get me wrong, you still need the spreadsheets or the whole thing will crash into a ditch in year two. But without the tingle, you can’t sustain the energy and you can’t get others excited about it.
Cliched observation, but try to enjoy the moment.
I speak from experience here. You’ll look at photos from then, at a better-looking, super-energetic version of yourself, and think: damn, that was a time.
If you’re lucky, it keeps going.
I still feel that way about our businesses. I don’t need motivational books or speakers. I’ve tried most of them, but I still get so much more inspiration and energy from talking to my business partners. And friends with their own businesses in different industries. It is top-shelf entertainment, and it will never get old.
Got a comment?
I’ve stopped moderating the blog comments because I get like 50 Russian bot comments a day. But why not drop your comment over on LinkedIn? Let me know what gives you that early years tingle.
And if this story was useful or entertaining for you, why not help me out by sharing it? It’s a ton of work getting these stories out, and more readers really helps me justify the insane effort each week. Bless you.
Why not buy this nice book?
Make those magic early years better by making fewer stupid mistakes than I did. It’s all here: Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change out on Penguin Random House. It’s a step-by-step guide to how to set up a business that you don’t even have to work in day-to-day
Every week since it came out, it’s the #1 Review-Rated biz book on all of Booktopia. On paper, electronic or audio book with me reading it. Get it here:
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For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: