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8 Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur

Into the Wilderness with the Children of Israel

To have a start up in the 21st Century is definitely an adventure. It is like trekking on the mountain range of trends and techno waves. The mountain range is more virtual than ever; the reality is that it speaks of a great deal of opportunities as well as uncertainties for the 21st-century entrepreneurs. Therefore, it is important to glean some guiding principles to tread the “foreseeable” terrain of uncertainties.

Here are the 8 principles I am about to share in the coming weeks for the entrepreneurs who are at their start-up stage.

1.      Get your “Manna (what is it?)” supply daily

2.      Don’t get more than you need on Sundays (What is it?)

3.      How to keep your never-worn-out clothes

4.      How to walk on never-worn-out sandals

5.      Be led by the pillars of cloud by day

6.      Be protected by the pillars of fire by night

7.      Egypt vs. the Promised Land

8.      Meat or Manna

This list of principles is a wonderful source of encouragement for the journey ahead. The principles I am about to share are somewhat ancient as their wilderness experience took place over one thousand four hundred years ago. You may wonder if the Children of Israel have anything to do with today’s nation of Israel. The answer is definite. They were the forefathers of the Jews. The nation was named after Israel, who was the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham.

Before I carry on, I would like to state why I think these principles are applicable. First, the start-up journey is comparable to the experience of the Children of Israel when they first started out into the wilderness. If you can recall in the movie The Ten Commandment, there was one guy called Moses. He was the person who led the Children of Israel out of Egypt through parting the Red Sea. The movie often ends there, but I would like to bring you to the scenes afterwards – into the wilderness with the Children of Israel.

To begin with, why did the Children of Israel have to leave Egypt in such manner?

Let me explain. The Children of Israel had a love-hate relationship with Egypt – another familiar name for today’s known world. Jacob (Israel), a Hebrew, favoured his youngest son Joseph more than the other sons. Out of jealousy, Joseph was being sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. The story did not end there. Joseph had then become a legend – a former slave who rose to power in Egypt when he turned only 30 years old.

How did a slave turn into Prime Minster? The answer was simple.

Joseph gave Pharaoh king of Egypt a win-win business proposal that could save Egypt from a 7-year famine, and that would also make Egypt very rich. Pharaoh gladly accepted his grand plan and as all wise boss would do, he appointed Joseph as the project manager. After Joseph’s successful project, he became the second person-in-charge other than Pharaoh.

Was this your experience? Or someone else’s?

And just as most Asians would do when they realised a brother was doing well elsewhere, Joseph’s family moved temporarily to Egypt to stay with him. Their stay was longer than expected and became permanent that lasted for generations; they lived in Egypt for 400 years. As soon as Joseph were being forgotten, the Children of Israel had become slaves again. It was a sad story.

Crossing the Red Sea

Now, back to where the movie The Ten Commandment ends, the Children of Israel have crossed over the Red Sea. They were no longer slaves. They were free, but was it true? What was next? They were now walking (no vehicles, no aircraft or helicopter) in the wilderness, going towards their Promised Land.

Do you see the parallel here? The analogy is that the wilderness journey is comparable to the start-up journey for all entrepreneurs; you have left your full-time slavery job, now you are free and looking forward to your financial freedom. What is next? There is some distance between where you are now and the success you see in the future. What are you going to do?

The Reachable Goal

Mind you the Children of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years. Their experience was full of extreme tastes of life: sour, bitter, sweet, … etc. Most probably, by learning from them, entrepreneurs like us could take the shortcut, that is the “eleven days to get out of the wilderness”.

I am certain that financial freedom is reachable in the shortest time possible if we apply these ancient principles – they are wisdom and they are gold.

Get your first step right by following the 8 Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneurs, the next article is “Get your Manna (what is it?) supply daily”.

Stay tuned!

[3 of 8] Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur

3 of 8

Building a Personal Brand that Lasts

Into the Wilder{ness}with the children of Israel IV

“… During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.” Deuteronomy 29:5, The Holy Bible

If the experience of being in the wilderness were like the entrepreneur start-up journey, what would the never worn-out clothes be?

To answer this question, we need to look at some characteristics of the never worn-out clothes especially its never-worn-out nature.

First, clothes are for the external or for the outside world to see. As an entrepreneur, “clothes” could mean the image we put before others. In other words, it is the personal branding that we present before the world. Coca-Cola, Disney, MacDonald’s, Apple, Facebook just are some of the examples of popular brand names that are of this nature. Many started as personal brands and today these are the representation of great corporations and platform that nurture many other brands, yet retaining the iconic original personal brand with a niche.

What can we learn from here? Personal branding can be last if this is established and set right at the early stage. The entrepreneur’s start-up stage is crucial for the establishment of this personal branding. Whether you like it or not, a personal brand sticks with you for the longest time. So, let us examine further what a personal branding entails.

Debates have always been on ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ and how these two influenced a person’s development and success rate; this debate has made these two processes rather incompatible to some extent. However, when we apply ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ in building personal branding, they need not be incompatible options. Rather, personal branding should be a combination of the two and it becomes a formula like this:

NATURE + NURTURE = PERSONAL BRANDING

‘Nature’ is what was given since birth or inherited from your parents. In business sense, it could also mean your business DNA that you inherited from your mentors or the influencers in your life. ‘Nature’ also includes your basic personality and natural inclination towards a field or an expertise in an industry. Without this inclination, you would not feel drawn to this field or industry. To some, it could mean a calling in life or the giftedness they recognized; it could mean also the life opportunities opened for them.

Next, ‘nurture’ is what you gathered and get yourself trained up in on top of what was given (nature). You may have a family of musicians, but if you do not cultivate your life musically, your family history does not form part of your personal brand. ‘Nurture’ includes your knowledge, credentials, working experience and connections, or things that you have been building for years.

Second, personal branding is not fashion. No fashion can last, trends come and go, fashion by nature is meant to last only for a short time. Some fashionable style might be able to make a comeback, but the fact is that no fashion styles are everlasting. So, when you are determining your own branding, be careful not to just do what is trendy; trendy stuffs last only for a moment, if you want a lasting success, a non-fashionable idea is better than a fashionable one. To discover the seed is important than the fruit, as the seed the where the continuing power being stored. For example, the success of one social media is not its brand name, but it is the user experience they offer. Without deciphering the seed (user experience) from its fruit (successful brand name), it is not going to be useful to land you into the success you desire.

Third, personal branding cannot be purchased. Building a personal brand is not an easy task, it takes observations and understanding for an extended period. If you are considering buying a brand name and make it your own, the chance of it having the same tenacity of the original brand is rare. This strategy seems to work only for beating competition, but it can never be your personal branding strategy.

The originality of a brand is one that stems from something that money cannot buy. Money cannot buy passion, creativity, character, integrity, experience, credibility and resilience. A personal brand that are built upon these qualities are one that lasts. It takes a careful observation and adjustments to reach its full potential.

Last but not the least, be sure to build a personal brand that is expandable or that allows future expansion. By nature, anything personal or unique will also set its limitation. A niche is good for a start-up, but if it is narrow and rigid, then it is not expandable. For example, you are in a training business, you might have a niche on communication, your personal branding ought to be above the niche that you might expand to the field of social entrepreneurship later.

So, if you position your personal branding on your skill sets rather than special field, you are making your personal branding expandable. It is always good to ride on skills rather than filed or industry, because after sometime when you have exhausted the specific avenue, you can always expand your training business into the more profitable market without sweat.

Overall, it is a delicate balance between being a generalist or having a careful-thought-through personal brand. To work within a niche and yet not limited by it is a tricky business; however, it is possible if you pay attention during the start-up stage of your entrepreneurship journey, look out for those elements that are persistently staying strong and keeping you successful. Remember you are building a personal brand or brand that lasts and it is also the “never-worn-out clothes in the wilderness”.

After all the internal building of discipline of the small things (Manna), now it is time for the external – a personal brand that lasts. After discovering the personal brand, you ought to establish something that keep you constantly on the go and that is to wear your “never-worn-out shoes”.

In the next article, the hidden principles relating to the “never-worn-out shoes” will be explored, stay tuned!

[1 of 8] Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur

Getting your Supply of “Manna” Daily

Into the Wilder{ness}with the children of Israel II

“The analogy is that the wilderness journey is comparable to the start-up journey for all entrepreneurs; you have left your full-time ‘slavery’ job, now you are free and looking forward to your financial freedom. What is next? There is some distance between where you are now and the success you see in the future. What are you going to do?”

~ Louise Lee, 8 Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur

Let’s recap what happened to the children of Israel in the earlier article 8 Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur”.

Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and ended their slavery, they were starting their days in the wilderness. How then should they live? There was no food, no plants, no groceries store, and no market in the wilderness, and there was absolutely nothing out there.

Wasn’t that kind of expected in the wilderness?

However, by divine arrangement, the children of Israel were having a supply of manna daily that was sustainable for the entire journey in the wilderness.

To have their fair share of supply of manna, the children of Israel had to collect them every day – early in the morning after the dew laid on the ground. Each one was to collect as per their needs. There was no use to collect more, the extra manna would breed worms and stink. The only day they would have double supply was on Saturday because there was no manna to collect on Sundays.

Adopting a new lifestyle of small things in the wilderness

Here I see a change of lifestyle into the wilderness or the start-up journey of entrepreneurship. Instead of waking up to a life of slavery, now the children of Israel were awakened to the lifestyle of discipline. The discipline of going out of their tent (the comfort zone) to the open field of wilderness (opportunities). How much opportunities one could obtain was entirely based on their needs.

It is a fair deal, isn’t it?

The lifestyle of discipline tells a lot about being on your own. There are no more 9 to 5 drudgery routines, no overtime, no boss demanding you to perform, now how you use your time is entirely your call. However, the transition could be drastic to some, if a new entrepreneur does not maintain a different lifestyle of small things, they are heading for disasters.

Why do I say that? It is true that there is a great danger ahead of your entrepreneurship journey!

The danger is that the under-disciplined start-up will turn to relying on a wandered mind that filled with images of the bare land of the wilderness; it could be scary to realise that you might have made the biggest mistake in life. There would be moments of doubts, moments of negativism, the tendency to make complaints against the Heavens. You are likely to look back and then make a U-turn back. The worst-case scenario was like the children of Israel: the generation died in the wilderness, never managed to get back to Egypt (as the Red Sea wasn’t open to cross back) and never entered the Promised Land (the desired success).

Don’t estimate the small beginnings

So, now what? To ensure that we do not share this tragic end of some, the best thing to do is to cultivate the discipline of small things on a daily basis. The small things or habits include collecting ideas, fine-tuning ideas, looking out for opportunities, consolidating them and consuming(or executing) them. Morning by far is the best time to do all these small things. Timing is everything; have a structured plan daily, weekly, monthly for your future and have the end in mind when you plan. No plan is planning for failure.

Manna, Manna, what are you?

What is this “Manna” thing anyways?

Manna was a substance, as small as frost, left on the ground after the layer of dew lifted. It looked like a coriander seed. Its taste was like wafers made with honey. And to be exact, the children of Israel did not know what it was, so they called it “Manna”, meaning “What is it” in their language.

Whatever your belief may be, Manna is a divine supply of bread for the journey in the wilderness; it is like the supply you have in the early stage of your start-up. For your start-up to take off, other than your own effort, there is a whole spectrum of the economy and the world situations to take into consideration. The fact that you can consider a start-up, the divine opportunity in a broad sense is in your favour. However, l am not applying the principles at a macro level but on the personal level of what are within your control in your unique situation and environment.

Manna, Manna, where are you?

The manna (opportunities) out there are made up of the capital(s) you have when you started this journey. It is not necessarily only financial, but also about ‘who you are’, ‘whom you know’, ‘what you know’ and ‘what you do not know’.

1.     ‘ Who you are’ sets you in a right direction

Often experienced entrepreneurs would advise the newbies on finding their niche in the early stage of start-up. Your passion would give you a good hint of what brings you satisfaction, joy and that can keep you going even in face of great obstacles. Along the way, instead of consuming you, your passion will inflame you and hence steer you to the right direction.

2.      ‘Whom you know’ would help you to get to where you want

Finding mentors is another top advice given to newbies in any business ventures you are going into. Study the success stories, learn from these gurus and learn from their mistakes as well. Networking with the community of the like-minded people would bring you on to the path to the Promised Land. Never go alone and be reminded that ‘in the company of three you will always find a teacher’ (A Chinese proverb). A community shares your concerns and might have already found the answers for your problems. Remember: “There is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (The Holy Bible)

3.      ‘What you know’ is your knowledge and experience that would help confirm if the opportunity is for you.

Your knowledge and experience should form the broad base for your first start-up business venture. If you need to be dependent on your business partner for knowledge and contacts, this opportunity is likely not for you. Your knowledge and experience will attract the right match for your business venture. If not, it is better to be a sole proprietor for a start.

4.      ‘What you do not know’ tells you what new skills you need to acquire to succeed.

Invest in yourself. Don’t allow your lack to limit you, but instead rise to the reasonable standard of every essential skill required in running a business. If a full-time position has set delimitation on your life, now it is time to take a step out to upgrade your skills and expand your horizon. Basic business and finance management is a must for all entrepreneurs. For the 21st century businesses, online marketing skills are essential.

I always admire my father when he started his own business in the 1980s back in Hong Kong. He did not have formal education due to WWII, but he strived to upgrade himself in literacy and financial knowledge. He learned by reading newspapers daily simply because he knew that one day he would need to write invoices and manage his business. His effort paid off; He successfully started and maintaining a growing manufacturing business for over two decades in his lifetime.

In application, the “manna” concept in the start-up journey is the small but just enough opportunities that get every entrepreneur going. The origin of these opportunities is divine, but you need to work hard to consolidate and make good use of them. The discipline of doing small things every day enriches your experience; it sharpens your skills and boosts your confidence. After all, you will discover that opportunities are not entirely external, there are more stored up in your DNA than anything else. Start-up journey is your personal brand-building path, it is too critical to enter carelessly. Continue stepping out helps you to step up. The most amazing effect you will discover is that it helps distract you from the harsh wilderness conditions and keep you going. It simply encourages you not to give up too soon. Success is not immediate but it requires hard work and well-executed short-termed and long-termed business plans.

Lastly, “Manna” experience does not end here. There is yet another layer of insights I would be sharing in the next article “Don’t get more than you need on Sundays”.

Stay tuned!