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I'm Brian Scordato, and this is the idea to Startup Podcast brought to you by Tacklebox. We accelerate ideas into real companies through the tacklebox membership, and we think through startup strategy every Wednesday on the idea to Startup Podcast. You're here because you're thinking about an idea, or you're ready to launch something, or you already launched something and you're running full steam ahead. We're here to help with the counterint, intuitive stuff. Onto it. Today and over the next week or two, we're going to talk through methods to help you be different, to act differently for most people so that you can get different results than most people get. If that feels like a big, unreasonably ambitious topic, good, that's the point. Last week, we kicked off a series starting an idea live. We're doing interviews and running tests and documenting it all, and we'll dive back into it in January. This week, we'll talk about what different means and why it's so important. Then we'll kick things off with the personal Venn diagram method, a way to find the idea you're uniquely qualified to start. The reason we're doing this mini-series now should be obvious. This is the time of the year people reflect, make big promises, and take unusual action.


Four of the five most popular days to propose are in the next three weeks. The most popular day to break up with someone was yesterday, and the most common day to quit your job is tomorrow. Change is in the air. As you know, you can't create momentum, but you can latch on to existing momentum. That is what we're going to do. If you need a concrete example of how big promises flow like wine this time of year, just last week when our family was deciding the menu for Christmas, which will be at my house this year and will have something like 15 people because everyone wants to hang out with the little guy, I piped up and said I'd be happy to make my famous lasagna. When someone asked if I'd ever made my famous lasagna gluten-free, I said, Of course, it's even better that way. Now, as you might have guessed from context clues, not only have I never made gluten-free lasagna, but I've never made lasagna, period. I don't know why I said I had or why I said it was famous, but here we are. It's the season for big promises and big action and figuring it all out along the way, so that's what we're going to do in the kitchen and for your startup.


Let's get to it. I gave a talk at Columbia Business School last week, and as I was preparing for it, I tried to think about what someone could have told me when I was graduating business school way back in 2011 that would have been useful. What would have made a difference? I wasn't expecting this, but the answer leapt out at me immediately, and it came the story I'd completely forgotten. To tell it, we'll have to go back to 2010, when I was a fresh-faced business school student at UNC applying for jobs. If you're wondering, the top songs were the story of Us and Me by Taylor Swift because time is a flat circle and the top movie was Inception, which we are not going to get back into today. Anyway, job interviews are a big deal at business school. That's the reason 95% of people are there. I wasn't totally in that camp as I had a bunch of interests and wanted to start a business directly after school, but the whole process was interesting to me, so I went on lots of interviews. Banking, venture capital, private equity, sales and trading, brand management, even won it, Gullp, Deloitte.


You could not keep me away from an interview. A massive chunk of time was spent coaching us for these interviews by the school because placement is a huge variable in rankings. One piece of that coaching was for the moment that happens at the end of every interview. When the interviewer says, quote, do you have any questions for me? We were given a stack of questions that were appropriate to ask in that moment, and my personal favorite was, quote, Tell me about your path to this role. It was supposed to let the interviewer brag a bit, which apparently makes them like you more. I asked this question repeatedly to super interesting people that were way up at their companies, the corner office folks, and I got consistently the same exact answer. It always started with some version of quote, Oh, don't model your career after me. I took a non-traditional path. You don't want to do what I did. During an interview at a VC, I asked the partner the question, and he gave the whole, You don't want to do what I did, spiel, then told me about a sporadic and haphazard career that went from his friend's parents' business to a two-year stint working at a small ski shop in Vale to selling insurance then back to Vale to sell ski boots, then a ski boot company, then a wholesale company for ski boot parts that he sold for a ton of money, and then finally this role.


In that moment, for whatever reason, it became so clear to me. I blurt it out, Hey, it seems like everyone who's in any interesting role in any company I interview with didn't take a traditional path to get there. If I want to be a partner at a fund like this someday, should I even take an associate role? He didn't seem surprised by the question and responded immediately, No. I remember being caught off guard. So if I want your job eventually, what should I do? I asked. Literally anything other than the associate role, he said. You've got a business school degree. That is your value right now. Everyone else trying for this job has that too, so it's a complete commodity. Maybe you can be marginally better than them at the associate gig, but that doesn't even really matter because when we hire for the big roles, we look for unique people. You're never going to get that here. What you really want to do is go somewhere where your business degree is rare. Go work at a farm or a local coffee shop or go to another country or go anywhere you can apply what you've learned to a place that isn't familiar with it.


To make your degree, not a commodity, you've got to combine it with something unique. The path to my job isn't something you can just follow. I remember sitting with this advice for a while after the interview, Go work on a farm, a coffee shop, go to another country, do literally anything except for the thing they were recruiting for on campus? That couldn't be good advice, and I didn't follow it. But as the years have stacked up since that interview and I've met more and more people who have made a dent in the world, it's clear it was the best advice. The more unique your background, the more unique your output can be with zero exceptions. You create something unique by connecting dots, which means your output depends on the uniqueness and breadth of those dots. The whole point is to get unique dots, and that was his point. Status and happiness. Back to the Columbia kids and why it is so, so hard to be different. The hidden but very real bad part of graduating from a place like Columbia Business School or having any early success in life is achieving any hint of status because status does two things to you.


First, it paralyzes you through loss aversion. Whatever accomplishment it is that's created that status is one you'll subconsciously cling to. Humans feel the loss of something multiple times more than they feel the equivalent gain. If you lose $10, it's way more painful than finding $10 is exciting. Once you've got something worth protecting, like finding yourself at Columbia Business School, what you perceive as the least likely way to lose that status is to do exactly what everyone else does, take an associate job at a bank or delete, maybe. But that approach, living your life so that you don't lose something, trying to ensure you avoid risk, is maybe the only strategy that guarantees that you do lose that thing. It is the riskiest thing you can do mathematically. Which we're going to get to. Think about someone joining a dating site with the sole purpose of not getting their heart broken. What is about to happen? Second, it creates massive internal expectations because expectations are relative to your peer group. If you've got status or ambition, that peer group you see yourself with will likely be a lofty one. You'll feel a lot of external pressure too, whether real or imagined.


Can you really tell your parents that after Colombia, you're going to work on a farm to maximize your degree? That sure doesn't seem like maximizing it as much as a banking job does. Status creates short-term thinking and fear-based decisions. It makes it nearly impossible to be different. Different tends to only look good in the rearview mirror, not in the moment. When that VC was telling me his story, I could piece it together. The insurance sales helped you learn how to sell, which helped with wholesaling later on, and working at the ski shop helped you learn about the boot rental industry. But back at the moment of those decisions, when he told his family he was going to go from ski boot rental to insurance sales, it had to look erratic. I asked him about this. What do people say? What do people say? He left, Who gives a shit? Then he thought for a second, Well, that's not entirely fair. People did care, but no one expected much of me. I didn't go to a great school or anything, so I went where things were interesting under the radar. There wasn't any pressure. I had six brothers and sisters.


No one was watching me. I asked if he had a master plan, if the sales was a purposeful step to better prepare him for the startup. If that's how he was able to confidently move between industries. He let out a huge laugh. There's no master plan. There never is. I just did things that interested me, then tried to mush them all together. I see now that collecting unique experiences was the key, but I definitely didn't plan anything. A quick note on happiness. The happiness formula is actually pretty straightforward. It's just expectations divided by reality. Whatever the gap between your expectations and reality is, is how happy or sad you are. So the happiness cheat code is always to just lower your expectations. But if you're a Columbia grad or an ambitious listener of idea to startup, that can be hard, which is why status becomes such an issue. Because when you put those two things together, people who are unwilling to do something different because they're scared to lose what they've built, but also have super lofty expectations for their life, you're in trouble. It's a nightmare scenario. High expectations with normal inputs. This leads to a gap between expectations and reality and without a seriously good therapist, an unhappy person.


It's hard to be different, and different feels heavy and seems risky, but it's actually the way less risky path. The standard path is the one that all but guarantees that your happiness formula will be out of whack. Different gets you to the corner office or anywhere interesting. The same carries all the risk. And that is what the next few episodes are about. Methods, ways of thinking and behaving that we've created to make acting different a little easier. To grease the skids, to build habit around it, to build community around it, to ingrain it, to diversify your dots so you can connect them in interesting ways. Because even if you have the desire to do the unique stuff, to act in a different way to get the unique rewards, you cannot rely on will, power, hutspa, or the Holy Ghost to consistently act differently. It's too tough. You need to build a system to be different because every single bone in your body will pull you away from different every time. Your instincts are always going to be to act the same as the person on the left and to the right of you. But that won't get you anywhere.


Let's jump in. After a little smooth jazz. Tacklebox is an accelerator for people with ideas and full-time jobs. If you aren't sure what to do next, we've got a step-by-step process that's helped people build tons of businesses worth lots of money. It's got 25 hours of content, examples, and templates organized into a tight seven-block path. If you get stuck and need feedback, I meet with founders every other week to organize sprints and help with tactics and approach. If you get lonely, we've got a bunch of other founders building alongside you. They're talented and driven in all an absolute delight. If that's interesting, apply at gettacklebox. Com and sweeten it. Code holiday gets you 50 % off your first month for the next couple of weeks. Back to it. The personal Venn diagram method. The goal of each of these methods is to answer a specific question. The question the personal Venn diagram method answers is, What should I do with my life? Or more importantly, What have I been subconsciously preparing to do for the past 10 years that I can take advantage of? This method has worked really well for people who want to start a startup, for people that have a few ideas and are trying to decide which one to pursue, and for founders trying to make their idea a bit more unique.


The question, What should I do with my life? Is one that if you're asking it, you shouldn't be embarrassed by. A good friend, she's probably the most successful person I know, starts nearly every one of our coffees by sighing and saying, I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. The personal Venn diagram helps. It shows places where you'll have a natural advantage over competitors. The best way to explain it is to teach you how to do it. The first thing you do is get a big piece of paper and start drawing circles on it. These circles represent one of three things: your skill set, your network, or your knowledge base. The size of each circle represents how unique that skill or network or knowledge base is. If you went to business school, you might have a finance circle that's big, but not all that big because lots of people go to business school and know how to do finance. There are probably a ton of people who know how to do it better than you. But in addition to finance, you might be the best cellist in the tri-state area.


That becomes a huge circle because you're literally one of the best in the world at it. When we do this circle exercise, people tend to have a knee-jerk reaction of being a bit upset. They've got a bunch of medium-sized circles. None of it looks extraordinary, but the magic hasn't happened yet. The magic of the personal Venn diagram comes from the combination of your circles, the overlap. Maybe you have a green thumb or interested in audio visual stuff and you sell learning management software to colleges as your day job. Each of these circles might be somewhat small, but through your sales work, maybe you realize that a lot of the colleges have terrible backgrounds for their virtual lessons like just the kitchen of the professor and the audio is terrible. It's just an old pair of AirPods. When you combine those circles, opportunities arise. Maybe you can help colleges with their staging and production for virtual classes. I'm obviously spitballing here, but the circles exercise is magic. Combining circles dramatically amplifies them. The bigger the circles being combined, the bigger the amplification. The more diverse circles you have, the more likely there will be unique value.


Lots of people ask how they can prepare for entrepreneurship before they have an idea, and the answer is always add circles to your personal Venn diagram. Get unique hobbies, read unique things, follow your interests, and combine your circles and explore the intersection. This is an extreme example, but a founder of ours had been a consultant for a few years working with smaller companies to help them grow. He decided that he wasn't sure exactly where that'd be most useful, but he was interested in agriculture. He took a job at a local high-end market on the operations side, interacting with farmers and understanding how they ran their businesses. After a year, he had a good understanding of how farmers in local markets and restaurants interacted, and he wound up building a piece of software that helped them do it far better. His perspective as a consultant with the Porter's Five Forces and SWOT Analysis and whatever the heck else those people do helped him identify the gap in the market. But he only saw it because he added a circle, produce operations. That company is now growing like a weed. Unique actions lead to unique rewards. Adding circles gets harder the further in your career and life you go.


But it doesn't have to be a full-sale ad. If you're interested in vertical farming, make a personal investment in it. Spend an hour a day for six months learning about it, reaching out to people in the industry, exploring existing products, hacking stuff together in your garage. The bigger point is that the circles don't add themselves. A commitment is needed, and the beginner's mindset is needed too. Any ounce of status you have has to disappear. I read a story about people who learn languages as a hobby, and the thing I took away was that none of them were necessarily great at learning languages naturally. One failed high school French. Their key was the beginner's mindset. The second they learned a word or two of a new language, they would try to speak it. They'd be fine with being wrong and being corrected all the time. They recognized that discomfort, signals, growth. The whole point with adding circles is that they're going to be tiny when you start. Just because you are successful in one area doesn't make you automatically an expert in another, and that is good. Embrace that beginner's mindset and recognize that even a tiny circle, when paired with others is an amplifier.


When I was writing more blog posts back in the day, something I might do again soon, I took a beginner's course on digital illustration. I was terrible, but I can make the type of charts and graphs and stick figures I wanted, and that plus my writing amplified the output. People loved it. Implementation. Each method we'll cover will have a suggested implementation tool, and this method is no exception. The tricky thing with the Venn diagram is twofold. First, finding the time to do that first exercise. An hour with just a piece of paper and a pen to draw out your circles. My recommendation is to schedule time early in the morning or late at night in the next couple of days before people are up or after they go to bed, whichever is easier. Then the ongoing advice is to use the day one journal. Now, this journal is going to be useful for us for a few of the methods, so I'd recommend grabbing it. I'll pop it in the show notes. I use it as my startup journal. I write it in it every day as though I'm sending a letter to my future self explaining why I'm making the decisions I'm making.


You can create your own custom prompts, and one that gets sent to me each Wednesday is this, What circle am I currently adding? When I write down the answer and hit Enter, I get a follow-up question. What time have you scheduled this week to build that circle and what investment are you making in growing it? It is an annoying little follow-up, but it tends to work really well because I end up putting something on my calendar. It ends with a reminder, three words I need to hear every day. Discomfort equals growth. Doing something different, adding circles when it feels way safer to protect whatever status you've got by following the herd is risky because it's comfortable. Anything comfortable probably is. Discomfort is where you want to live if you want those disproportionate rewards. The end. We'll keep it to one method today since the intro I went a bit long, but I've got a few more we'll get through next week that'll set you up nicely for the new year. I'll come complete with ways to implement and stay accountable to them. The next two are my absolute favorites. I am excited to share them.


I've got some more details on this one and the others that I'm going to send out to gettacklebox. Beehive, B-E-E-H-I-I-V. Com if interested. I'll pop it in the show notes as well. And in the meantime, if anyone knows how to make a freaking gluten-free lasagna, but please do not be a stranger. I've dug myself a little hole here. Famous gluten-free lasagna? What the hell was I thinking? This was the idea to Startup Podcast brought to you by Tacklebox. If you have a startup idea in a full-time job, apply at gettacklebox. Com. We'll get back to you in 72 hours and can be working together on your idea by the weekend. Have a great week.