Welcome to the new site for Entrepreneurial Ninja and Daryl Lu (one and always the same). As you can see, the site has been restructured quite a bit. In short, I migrated from Blogger to WordPress on the backend. The cost for WordPress is higher as I am now hosting the site through Siteground where prior, Blogger was self-hosted and free.

Blogger was always a “good enough” blogging site. However, it lacked flexibility. This was apparent after working with WordPress for several companies. One of the primary areas I wanted greater flexibility was in formatting pages that were not blog posts. To this, you’ll see more updates come down the line starting with my My Story page. Then, I will redesign my homepage and so on.

As my roles continue to flex and adapt (as any good Ninja does), my digital presence must also flex and adapt. WordPress will allow me this flexibility.

All of this was spurred by the recent acquisition of the company I was building, Burner Rocket. I am unsure of what my long-term plans are. Building a new company from the ground-up is enticing. However, after 6 years of doing this with multiple companies, taking a break could provide some relief. Or, I can continue taking the plunge with another early-stage company. In any path I choose, I will have my personal mission to guide me – “to change the lives for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors.” Whatever step that is, it will be a step.

I’ll keep you in the loop of whatever that next step is. Till then, enjoy the new look and feel of Entrepreneurial Ninja.

– Daryl, Entrepreneurial Ninja

 

Side note: For those looking for a similar migration from Blogger to WordPress, there are a few things to pay attention to in particular:

  • Retain link structures to assume search engine rankings/ equity
  • Most posts, media, etc. will transfer easily between Blogger and WordPress, but formatting may be off depending on the WordPress theme used
  • Page links will likely be broken due to the page structure defaulted by Blogger. As such, redirects will be needed
  • Changing from Blogger to WordPress will require updating DNS and nameservers – typically on the domain provider. The change may take several hours to propagate
  • Here’s a great walk-through of how to migrate from Blogger to WordPress from wpbeginner
Happy new year! As is customary for so many, the new year calls for reflections and resolutions. Naturally, this means reviewing 2017 in the year of this blog.
Top posts from 2017:
Post from previous years that were still popular in 2017:
2017 was a productive one for me with 104 posts published. I’m going to start out 2018 publishing once weekly. There’s been a lot of changes at work, and I think there are good entrepreneurial posts upcoming. However, I want to focus creative resources for this first part of the year.
Stay tuned for great things ahead!
This just in – I’m worried. In my head, I actually said it, “This just in – I’m troubled.” This is a more personal post. (Arguable to say all of my posts are personal posts.)
I’m staring at the new year. Then, I’m staring at the work in front of me at SalesWise. Then, I stare at the glimpse of a life I aspire to achieve. Then, I stare at the reality. In many ways, they’re all in conflict. They’re not wholly exclusive from one another.
I’m thinking about the life I aspire for, but it comes at a substantial cost today with no promises of the future. How do I build a company worth a damn, and still meet (let alone exceed) the expectations of others around me?
I’m worried. I’m troubled.
Coming soon is my birthday. But more importantly, there is time passing by that I also realize is shared with others, like a girlfriend. I can sacrifice some of my time, but at some point, I am now expensing others.
Life won’t slow down. As much as I want to do certain things, visit certain places, build a certain life, it all comes with costs – opportunity costs.
Wanting to be an entrepreneur, and being one are completely different things. Right now, I want to be one since I am working for someone else’s company. I’m building the wealth for another. I’m forgoing much of the risk of being an entrepreneur. Though, I’ve also compromised. I’m forgoing, perhaps, much more security (money) than a larger corporation.
The great part is that the new year is full of decisions that have to be made, and they’re all my decisions. I’ll have to make many decisions soon. They’ll have big ripple effects on the future. They may even dictate if I should ever be an entrepreneur again.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m worried.
As I thought about how to start this post, I wanted to say, “I’m not a writer”. Except, I write – a lot. It’s fair to say, then, I’m a writer. I wasn’t always a writer, and I can’t comment if I’m good or not. I can say, however, that I am always improving.
Take this forum of “The ‘Rules’ of Writing” from StackOverflow. It’s fun to read what advice others give for effective writing. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Show, don’t tell. This one hits home perhaps because of my former online dating profiles. Yes, I said it. Too often, people state they’re “nice, like to travel, funny”. It’s incredibly generic and easy for anyone to say this. Instead, a well-written profile and accompanying pictures say much more, concisely, and accurately.
  • Give yourself permission to suck. Maybe I do this all the time? J Point is that when you relinquish the need to be good, let alone perfect, you get to write. You get to post. You become a writer.
  • Write, don’t edit. I adopted this perhaps 150 posts ago – write the post completely, and let it sit. Then, revisit day(s) later and only edit then. Too often writers can get stuck thinking of ways to rewrite what was just written before getting the full idea out.
  • You have to read, and read all the time. Effective writers (and entrepreneurs) are constantly curious – always learning. They’re always reading and soaking in the world. Reading (learning) provides perspective which provides creativity.

In general, you just have to write. In many cases, constant practice is better than trying to be perfect. Constant practice leads to better writing.

Give writing a try. Give curiosity a try.
I’m reading Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You’re Here Won’t Get Your There, and early on, Marshall talks about the importance of what gets stopped. We often hear of the successes of others. As Marshall points out, though, there are many reasons why successful people succeed. What is oftentimes just as important (if not more so) and is not talked about is what successful people STOP doing.
What entrepreneurs may stop, for example, is down a path that would not yield successful outcomes. Successful startups are known for their successes; rarely for their failures or what they do to shift their focus.
Marshall writes how people try to change habits and create great processes. This can be challenging, however, with several steps required. Instead, folks could be better off by focusing on small things to STOP doing. Oftentimes, this is just enough to create noticeable, positive results.
When I read all of this, I think about self-awareness, being comfortable with the uncomfortable, and making small changes for sustainable effects. Case in point: I hate vegetables. I really do. However, I realize the importance of eating vegetables for their nutrients. To change this, many people think about the need to make big changes – start eating a lot of vegetables.
For me, I realize what I really want to do is to be open to eating vegetables – not be scared off by them. For me, I’m indeed adding a vegetable a day as part of a “30 Broccoli, 30 Days” challenge – consuming broccoli florets daily for 30 days. I’m not going for a lot because I know me well. Meanwhile, the goal here is not to be a vegetarian or to even start eating a lot of vegetables – that just wouldn’t be me (read: hardly sustainable). Instead, I want to STOP ignoring vegetables on my plate (or throw them away ?).
I want to be a better writer. I realized early on how often I use “so” in my writing. Now, I’m aware of this and am limiting (“stopping”) how often I use the word. I am also working on STOPPING filler words in my speech. I’m not trying to improve how I speak by taking speaking courses or studying a thesaurus. Instead, I’m stopping what I feel is not productive for effective speakers.
Think about yourself. Think about what you want to improve. Think about what you want to STOPrather than what you want to do.
I just finished the book the Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. It’s a classic – expressing the key to developing mental fortitude using tennis as the vehicle.
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey
I was intrigued about the book after Tom Brady cited it as a key reading for him in developing mental strength. This was cited in an interview after Brady orchestrated the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, coming back from 28-3 to defeat my Atlanta Falcons 34-28.
Being a competitive athlete (less so on a team these days and more in “self” settings) and an entrepreneur, developing mental strength is an ongoing practice. The pressure athletes like Tom Brady and great entrepreneurs face on the brink of failure (listen to any number of episodes of NPR’s “How I Built This”) is astonishing. Being able to keep going and overcome obstacles and have ­grit is hugely interesting to me.
Without further ado, here are my main take-aways from Gallwey’s Inner Game of Tennis:
  • Self 1 vs. Self 2. Gallwey points out the inner battle between the mental (Self 1; read: mind) and the “human” side (Self 2). A good illustration of this is when striking a ball with the racket, the human body and brain are smart moving in a way to strike the ball. However, when the ball is not struck well, a player can be frustrated – yelling at himself to strike it better. From here, the player’s mind (Self 1) is now in control with much focus on how to strike the ball which only motivates the player to keep thinking too much about how to strike the ball. This prohibits the natural learning process of the body & mind (Self 2) to make the right adjustments.
  • The “natural self” (Self 2). Gallwey points out how each person is the perfect version of himself or herself. However, the mind gets in the way trying to be “better”. The natural self, however, knows how to improve. Gallwey points out how young children learn how to crawl, walk, talk by themselves. Children’s minds do not interfere and try to teachthe body how to walk. Instead, the body moves, learns, adapts, and tries again.
  • Reviewing the self. As a tennis instructor, Gallwey used to instruct his clients how to swing. Most of the time, however, players would already know what they would need to do. They still did not do it. Then, Gallwey instructed players to watch their reflections in how they strike the ball. The players watched and realized how they should swing their rackets – it was not any different from what instructors had said. However, this gave clients the ability to self-assess and visualize the proper way of swinging. No other coaching was needed. Their movements would improve on their own.

I appreciated Gallwey’s book identifying Self 1 and Self 2. Unsure if there were many more take-aways that others would get out of the book. However, my focus points were about the need to bifurcate the mind from what the player (the true self) knows what to do. Overthinking is all too common which can paralyze the player.

In everyday practice in the business world, this appears when I, especially, can get caught up in how to perform sales calls. I know what I need to do, but developing and sticking to specific scripts makes me overthink. This, then, prohibits a natural conversation with prospects.
Check out the book, and see what you pick up. I’m sure you will also focus on Self 1 and Self 2. However, there may be other lessons from the book that resonate deeper than the concept of the bifurcated Self.
For fun today, I decided to speak to a friend who is a Grammy-award winning sound engineer and producer. He’s freelancing working with some incredible talents including an artist who boasts more than 300 million records sold. Given he works in Atlanta, he’s now taking on sound engineering work for the many film and television series. Needless to say, he’s quite successful. I’ll keep his name hidden for now, but wanted to share with you a few of his insights as to why he enjoys freelancing vs. working with a record label and the like.

So why do you freelance?
Love the freedom, hate the insecurity.

Any lessons or advice for others who are looking to freelance, too?
“Weather the storm: think long-term.”
He continues, “Think in-terms of years, not months. You can’t look at the financial status on a year-to-year basis. There will be months that go real well, but there will be months with no money.”
“In some industries, you don’t know what your good months or bad months are. It can go year-to-year.”
Reflecting on the unpredictable nature of freelancing (and perhaps very much associated with the music industry), “No way to predict it”. He points out how even this August, he can’t definitely say he’ll be able to take a vacation.

It doesn’t stop there…
“Even though you work for yourself, you’re at the whim of your client.” This is an important note a lot of people forget about when they toy with the idea of going solo. Being a freelancer or a CEO of your company does not mean you are truly your own boss. The people who pay you is ultimately who you must be accountable to.
“You have to make yourself available to them, or else they’ll go to the next person.” He laments how competition is always there ready to fill a position should he not be able to do the work. For his clients, they still need to produce music to be relevant. Thus, they’ll go to someone who can/ will do it.
“In some ways, you have more freedom and less freedom. Does give more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. But this also depends on the non-9-5 job.”

What’s more specialized for you in the music industry [versus a “normal”, non-entertainment industry]?
He continues highlighting the importance of servicing his clients – “Always there to serve the artist.”
In fact, he cites how professionals in the industry are “really only as good as your recent work.” This dictates your relationships and reputation.
As such, he points out the importance of network and having uncompromising work quality – “Letting other people know what you do, and you’re available to work with them. When you accept a job, you put in 100% effort to make sure the end-product is the best it can be.”
“Some people, work towards the budget – ‘small budget, small amount of work’.” However, when his name is attached to it, it’s his reputation.
“Compromises affect reputation.”

Any recommendations for people to do when they listen to music? Anything you want to point out so listeners know what or how else to appreciate music?
“Listen to music for enjoyment.”
He reflects how it’s his job to listen to the “snare for 10 minutes”. He’s putting a puzzle of rhythms, acoustics, instruments, and the like into a “cohesive, single” song. It’s a lot of hard work that he pores over, and hopes everyone listens and enjoy the artistry.
I was talking to a Producer and Director recently who is starting out his business. He’s got his business set up, and is seeking investors for a film. He’s got the script. He’s ready to go. Except, the investors want him to slow down. The investors wanted to “de-risk” the investment. New to being an entrepreneur, the Producer shared the nuances he wasn’t quite prepared for.
  • Expected ReturnsSaaStr states that a 10% return on the totalventure capital (VC) fund is good while aiming to earn its total VC fund in profits is the goal. Understand what the goals of the investor(s) are, and have the model to illustrate goals can be met with even conservative achievement.
  • Legal Collateral– The Producer was shocked to learn how much he had to spend to validate the authenticity and originality of the script. Investors are looking at legal terms and insurance to not only cover risks of copyright infringement, but also the leveragability for greater valuation.
  • Long-Term Strategy – Are you a one-hit wonder? Do you have the creativity to be adaptable? Are you thinking big? Focusing on the now is good, but investors are looking for big returns. Long-term value creation enables bigger returns.
  • Traction– One of the “shticks” about Atlanta investment is how stingy investors can be. In the Valley, ideas can be funded pre-revenue. In Atlanta, the companies that garner investment are largely post-revenue. For the Producer, he had to collect and display written interest from film festivals. On “Shark Tank”, entrepreneurs can show letters of intent or purchase orders (POs).
  • Business Plan – The Producer lamented the pain of creating a business plan. Having never done one before and without a business degree, he sought help from others. However, many could not show him “good” plans. Business plans can be rare outside of startups seeking investment. However, they can be immensely helpful in thinking about the business holistically, not just about this “great app idea”. The business plan forces the entrepreneur to think of the risks and the opportunities – sometimes, it can show the opportunity isn’t as big as he might think.

I share these, too, because I’ve heard a lot of ideas from wantrepreneurs. Then, there are others who start out, and then fold up shop only months later. They weren’t prepared. Most investors are savvy as they should be with their money. So, it’s no surprise what some common de-risk factors included, and how important wantrepreneurs and new entrepreneurs should consider when starting out.

I recently received a question from an entrepreneur about how to start blogging. He saw me posting last week at a conference, and shared how he’s always wanted to write. However, he wasn’t sure how. One of the questions he asked was about blogging at a “personal” level or at the “company” level. I’m interpreting this as if he should blog on the company website about company interests, or on a personal blog about personal things (company interests, too).
As always, I’d say, “it depends.” Though, he added that his goal was for his company to succeed – “whatever leads that way would be great”.
Knowing he’s new to blogging and has a direct motive to help the company, he should write on his company’s blog about his company’s interests for a couple reasons. First, it’s clear he wants to grow the company’s presence and brand first. Given he’s the CEO, his personal brand will be tied to the company at this stage anyways.
Second, starting out blogging is simple. The difficulty is being consistent. It’s important for him to start very focused with his company’s blog with a dedicated cadence and focus. A personal blog (like this one) is great to develop personal branding and attract followers to the grander purpose.  Again, being the founder and CEO, his company will be tied to his personal brand anyways.
Even if his personal brand was very strong today, he’s starting out a blog. If he was a thought leader, he would still be starting this from the ground up. In this way, I still suggest writing for the company, and share his posts with his network.

There are so many ways to cut my lessons learned from 100 Strangers, 100 Days. Today, I’m going to give you a slice of the grander, big-picture lessons. I’ve written 24. Yes, that’s a lot. However, I probably could’ve written a hundred, and indeed, I thought about it. However, that’d be overkill, and you likely wouldn’t read it anyways.

So, here are 24. 24 because… that’s just where I decided to draw the line. Enjoy them, but please… learn some lessons on your own, too. J
  1. It doesn’t take much to start something important to you. I came up with theidea for 100 Strangers, 100 Days while hiking one Saturday morning in September. Within two hours, I interviewed my first Stranger. Within six hours, I had 100Strangers100Days.comup and running. It doesn’t take much to start, and get something off the ground. Just takes focus and commitment.
  2. It takes a lot to be consistent. The hardest part of the journey was not meeting Strangers. It was meeting one and writing about the interaction each day for 100 days. Some days, I wasn’t feeling up for it. However, I did it because that’s what this journey was about. Being consistent. Being deliberate. Meeting people. This is what separates the true doers from the wanters – executing.
  3. You can meet people everywhere. I walked up to Strangers with familiar faces around the office, Starbucks, and yoga, primarily. However, I also met complete Strangers in these places plus while shopping, walking on the street, hiking Stone Mountain, in line for a restaurant in Boston, everywhere. Meeting new faces is not as hard as many believe. Couple this with explicit networking events, and you can meet like-minded people and build new and existing circles.
  4. Things may always be awkward, but you’ll be comfortable about it. I was pretty natural, I think, at the beginning. However, I was still uncomfortable and anxious walking up to complete Strangers to ask them to share their stories with me. That was true up to Day 100. However, I only need to be confident and happy with what I’ve done, so far, for many of those feelings to melt away, and even give light to excitement. I wholeheartedly believe I can walk up to anyone today, and strike up a conversation.
  5. Each opportunity has one thing in common – you. Even when I got rejected, the next person was a new opportunity. I remember being rejected three times in one day before finding a Stranger to talk to me. But each subsequent Stranger knew nothing about the person before rejecting me. I was the only person who knew. It’s important to know what happened, but to keep positive and keep authentic with each Stranger. Think about that if you’re in sales.
  6. People want authenticity. By the end, I had a near 80% acceptance rate. More than half of those who turned me down either because they didn’t have time, or just weren’t open for the picture to be taken. Otherwise, people were very open to just talking to me and sharing their stories. I approached many Strangers who were staring at their phones or working on their computers. Yet, they allowed me to interrupt them, and many smiled as I shared my journey and asked them to be the Stranger of the Day. All of them smiled at the end of our meets.
  7. Support comes in many forms. I had several friends share my journey on their many different social media accounts, and one friend who helped me troubleshoot my website when it went down a few times. Then, I had friends who would ask me questions about how it’s going, but weren’t open to sharing with their friends publicly. There are segments of support in almost everything you do. Know who they are.
  8. Some of the closest people are the most skeptical. I was surprised I was still surprised at this. That is, when I shared #100Strangers100Days with some family and friends, they laughed at the journey with heavy doses of skepticism. They were more skeptical and teasing of the journey than others. Again, realize the segments of support.
  9. Familiarity makes everything so much easier. I did meet a lot of Strangers who I had seen before, but never spoke to, or gotten to know, them. This made introductions, obviously, much easier. Some of these Strangers with familiar faces, I’ve seen for years. I can go on forever, probably, and never say hello to these people because maybe too much time has elapsed that it’d be “awkward”. However, being late is better than never. In fact, it can help break the ice with some laughter – “so after four years of seeing each other, I’ve decided you’re safe to meet!”
  10. It can be hard to be a good listener. Sometimes, my head was running with what else was happening around my life that even listening to the Stranger in front of me for 10 minutes was hard. Couple that with the nature of this journey, I had trouble at times listening to connect and understand. I was listening to respond/ react. This made me, at times, want to interrupt. Be careful if you’re not listening and truly connecting. (I became more conscious when a Stranger mentioned how interrupting others can create silent, negative behaviors long term.)
  11. We don’t see ourselves as beautiful as others do. I took hundreds of pictures of Strangers – several takes for some. I found many takes to be great the first time, but the Strangers would laugh awkwardly and tell me they thought they were ugly. Meanwhile, I took many candid pictures by snapping pictures while they laughed or looked around. Despite many Strangers posing for the camera, these same Strangers wanted me to share their candids.
  12. Not a lot of people think about who they are, or what drives them. A lot of people paused for long moments when I asked them, “Who are you?” Many admitted they didn’t know, and had to think hard. Meanwhile, I had Strangers talk to me days after our meet to share they thought more about the question. It’s interesting how people describe who they are by what they do for work or their relationship status – typically, modes that are extrinsically influenced.
  13. It’s not rambling, it’s sharing a passion. I remember running into a Stranger weeks after we met, and he felt that he rambled on during our meet. I told him that’s not how I felt at all. Whenever someone put me on a path and carried it, I liked that a lot. They shared what was on their mind, and in many cases, they shared their passion. Their excitement helped spur a little bit of a monologue, but that was a great thing to hear. Not everyone allows his/ herself to have a passionate monologue.
  14. You’ll never be yourself as long as you’re being what everyone wants you to be. A recurring theme I heard from others, and one that I lived the premise of through this journey, was being comfortable with who we are. There were Strangers who kept their passions from loved ones because they didn’t believe friends and family would appreciate the passions like they did. Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, I had my own skeptics from friends and family. If I was truly worried about what others thought of this journey, I probably would’ve stopped this long ago, let alone not started. Don’t be like everyone. Don’t mind whatever “weird” is. Be yourself. 
  15. People are acutely interested in whatever true happiness is. I asked the Stranger of the Day if s/he could ask anyone anything (effectively, the next day’s Stranger), what would s/he ask the Stranger? A very common question was what happiness meant, and what was “true” happiness. I’m not sure why that was so common. Was it because they wanted others to think happy thoughts? Was it because they weren’t sure what made them happy? Were they looking for inspiration for what happiness reallyis? A question for another Stranger. J
  16. People just need moments. People need moments to connect. People need moments to escape. People need moments to get in gear to talk about themselves – what drives them. People need a few minutes to set the day-to-day aside. It doesn’t take long or need extraordinary effort to do something or to achieve a smile. It just takes one moment.
  17. Every meeting was just a snapshot in time. Important to recognize we’re all dealing with different things at any given time. I remember a couple Strangers who shared how you never know how others are really doing. Being nice requires no money or skill. Opening a door with a big smile can transmit energy. Someone might have just sold an important life memento of a loved one while burying a best friend. Take a moment. Live in the present. And recognize the power of a single connection right now.
  18. Look up and connect. Over time, the journey became more engaging. Yes, I got better at the approach, but really, our conversations started to flow as my style evolved. At the beginning, I took notes with a pen and paper and a bank of questions. Over time, I stopped asking set questions except for the first question – “Who are you?” Then, I let the conversation flow from there. I then used a voice recorder, so I can look up during our entire interaction, and let the conversation flow. Readers recognized this shift, and responded accordingly telling me how the stories were much funnier, more engaging, and just flowed so much nicer. Let this be a lesson as you’re around others and you have that itch to look down at your phone.
  19. Small goals can work against your much grander goals. Goals are a funny thing much like a Stranger once told me about reaching goals. I kept my eye on Day 100. By doing so, I also had “pocket” Strangers – referring to something like a “pocket veto”. In this case, I knew there were Strangers around that I had seen enough that breaking the ice and engaging them would be really easy. With that, I wouldn’t meet them unless I knew I may have a “difficult” day coming up – like, I would be extremely busy, or would not see as many people. So, I saved these Strangers for difficult days, just in case. What this really did was give me too much comfort and delayed the grander ambition to make connections. Be aware of those goals and those metrics you measure.
  20. Get to know people to break biases and judgements. I caught myself a couple times looking at someone and making a snap judgement. When I realized I made a negative judgement, I told myself to go ask that person to be the Stranger of the Day. I wanted to force myself to get to know people, and beware of snap judgements. Each time I did this, I discovered something great about the person.
  21. People think you need a novel concept to start something. You don’t. A lot of people (friends and Strangers) were amazed by this journey. They were inquisitive about how this journey came about. They were fascinated about the stories. They then thought they couldn’t do it, or they could never think of a journey like this. Here’s the thing – meeting Strangers is not novel. Writing about them is not novel. I just wrapped it all up in a package, and did it. It’s almost always about execution, not the idea.
  22. Each connection is a connection that can change lives. I had several friends who read about a Stranger they had seen before, and then, they actually went to meet the Stranger. They used the Stranger story as a foot in the door to get to know the Stranger even better. I’ve even connected some because of business synergies. The most obvious connections are sometimes hidden in plain sight.
  23. People are great. People are beautiful. You can connect with anyone. To the point above, we all have some amazing story somewhere in us. The people around us are not that strange after all. The people around us are not as foreign after all. We are all connected in some way, and you’ll find that when you take a moment and say hello, and go beyond the hello.
  24. You’re sometimes never really ready, but you kind of assimilate to whatever success looks like just by doing. This lesson kind of wraps up a lot of the entrepreneurial lessons above. That is, the level of effort I put into this was a lot more than I originally thought. Had I known this, I’m not sure I would’ve started. I was nervous walking up to some Strangers, but once I put my feet together or said hello, there was no turning back. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to fire before you ready yourself and aim. Happily, I’ve found I’m pretty good at this whole make-it-up-as-I-go-along-and-learn-and-adapt thing. Just go.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats