— Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking

computing_overload_man.gif“External notifications” — e-mail, instant messages, and the like — distract workers away from their primary tasks for an average of nine minutes. Worse, it takes these workers ten to fifteen minutes to get back on task, according to an article entitled “Disruption and Recovery of Computing Tasks” by researchers Eric Horvitz and Shamsi Iqbal.

The research was performed at Microsoft, the company that for the past fourteen years has been striving to get into the business of creating online tools and services that disrupt work. Apparently they’re now succeeding; every interruption consumed nearly a half hour of Microsoft employee time, according to Horvitz and Iqbal’s study.

Half an hour sounds about right the way I’ve been going lately. In fact, using that calculation I spend 28.3 hours each day being offtask.

Let’s be honest: “Multitasking” and “external notifications” are euphemisms for interruptions.

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I owe you an apology for the way I behaved last time.

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Having worked in the Internet professional services sector, I’m an expert on computer-generated interruptions. But I saw the light some eight years ago, and since have been extolling the virtues of avoiding e-mail, fixing a dysfunctional PC-dominated workspace, and turning off the computer.

But in past weeks, I’ve strayed from those ideals, because people have actually started reading Soul Shelter and commenting. In fact, our blog now has more than 1,100 subscribers (a thousand is a piddling number compared to the big blogs, but for us, it’s an enormous milestone, especially considering that we’re such lousy marketers).computing_overload_man_right.gif

The downside of Soul Shelter’s modest popularity is that the interruptions are more frequent and more intriguing. So today I’m writing to remind myself that “multitasking” slows, rather than boosts, productivity. Here are four things I keep discovering over and over again:

Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking
Every time I begin the day by not turning on the computer — and instead sit down with pen, paper, a clear focus on a single task (and a firm resolve to avoid “urgent” tasks) — my productivity soars.

Creativity on, CPU off
I can’t think of a less inspiring, more isolating work posture than sitting before a glowing monitor. Limiting PC use to recording, manipulating, or transmitting important information keeps productivity steady and spirits high.

Focus on the important
Facebook invitations, newspapers, 95% of e-mail, television, etc. have a common theme: Triviality. Protecting your soul in this wired age means focusing on what’s important — and important things rarely enter life via the computer, television, or popular media.

Never start a blog
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, never start a blog unless you really, really need to write. If you start a blog, you may find that you enjoy it, and start spending way too much time on it.

So there you have them: Four ways to avoid “multitasking” and do something about boosting productivity. In fact, I feel another Clark’s Rule coming on: I think I’ll call this one Clark’s Advice Regarding Multitasking Avoidance (CARMA):

Forget multitasking, rediscover monotasking.

Circling back to Microsoft: In an upcoming post I’ll describe how I once knocked Bill Gates flat on his back (I’m not making this up …).

* * * * * 

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Nearly everything that is true for music also is true for entrepreneurship …

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bto.jpgAs I pulled my rental car into an office parking lot at least eight times larger than any Costco location I’d ever seen, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s anthem to rock ‘n roll entrepreneurship came on the radio:

If your train’s on time you can get to work by nine
And start your slavin’ job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothin’ all day
And I’ll be takin’ care of business …

I twisted the volume knob clockwise a quarter hour and sat, blood pumping, until the song finished. Then, with a sigh, I straightened my tie, exited the car, and headed toward Building Five.

Building Five is one honkin’ big building. It’s so big that some employees are authorized to drive electric cars through its massive hallways, lined with yellow stripes, so they can quickly traverse an expanse that otherwises require a solid 15-minute walk (I’m not making this up). I was visiting the Dilbert-sized company as a new employee, just a year before Dilbert emerged to amuse the world with parodies of the soul-crushing realities of life lived in corporate cubicles.

By the time I reached reception, Takin’ Care of Business still ringing in my head, I knew I couldn’t be long for this job. The Canadian rock ‘n rollers had reminded me that, in the words of Nietzsche, “no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

**********************

Music and entrepreneurship have much in common. Both involve improvisation, uncertainty, risk — and low wages. Both, according to popular perception, depend on God-given talent, and are teachable only to a limited extent.

But I believe both music and entrepreneurship are more teachable than commonly thought. More important, while few of us will ever become professional musicians, we’d all like to become more musical. Similarly, few of us will ever become professional entrepreneurs, but we’d all like to become more entrepreneurial. In other words, we should strive to be better amateurs, at both music and entrepreneurship.

A recent Kauffman Foundation report on teaching entrepreneurship agreed. It concluded that teaching entrepreneurship, like teaching music, requires a strong population of amateurs:

Philosophers may write primarily for other philosophers, but entrepreneurs and musicians (both composers and performers) require a population of amateurs in order to be complete. For music, that population is the audience. For entrepreneurs, it is the market.

Entrepreneurship education, according to the study, operates along a continuum of learning that extends from the professional to the amateur:

In music, at one end of the continuum is the composer or the virtuoso performer. At the other end is the audience, which values what the composer and performer do. Along the way are multiple, discrete aspects of music — conducting, mastering a specific instrument, theory, history, etc. — that contribute to the overall intelligibility of the subject and improve performance … education in music … teaches the virtuoso how to improve and the amateur how to appreciate.

Nearly everything that is true for music also is true for entrepreneurship, according to the study:

Education in entrepreneurship also must be for the amateur, the consumer, who is the ultimate focus of entrepreneurship. The amateurs constitute the market.

Yes, the amateurs constitute the market. Aspiring entrepreneurs — and ordinary consumers who simply aspire to be more entrepreneurial — buy services and products offered by professional entrepreneurs, just as music lovers purchase music created by professional musicians.

This thought jibes with a new course I’m working on entitled “Entrepreneurship for Everyone” (also the new name for Soul Shelter’s Entrepreneurship thread under our upcoming site redesign).no_price_is_too_high_nietzsche.gif

The theme of the new course is simple: Most of us will not and should not be entrepreneurs, but all of us can and should become more entrepreneurial. Most of us are amateurs — we comprise the market.

And while we may not reach the sublime rock ‘n roll heights of a band like BTO, we can certainly thrill to music of our own making.

Postscript: BTO’s smash hit Takin’ Care of Business was originally titled White Collar Worker. The band’s demo tape was rejected 26 times before it signed the record deal that shot it to stardom.

You may enjoy other music-related Soul Shelter essays:

Bluegrass fans, don’t miss this one: “Are You an Amateur? Why Not?

Remember Devo? So do we: “Daunting Task? Learn to Whip It

The highlight of Billy Joel’s career? Not what you think: “What We Really Need to be Happy

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meg_whitman.jpgThe other day I watched former eBay CEO Meg Whitman being interviewed on The Today Show.Whitman, who is making a bid for the governorship of California, cited as evidence of her qualifications that over a million people now make a full-time living from eBay.

That statement gave me pause. Not to take anything away from Meg Whitman — no doubt she’s an extraordinary manager — but her statement made it sound like she was directly responsible for creating a million jobs.

I beg to differ with that implied conclusion.

While Meg Whitman apparently did a brilliant job growing eBay, what fundamentally made those jobs possible was not Meg Whitman herself, but eBay’s extraordinary business model, the brainchild of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who started the firm in 1995.

What exactly, you may ask, is a business model? That’s a good question, one practitioners and academics have struggled with over the past decade.

Here’s my single-sentence definition, a key element of the doctoral thesis I’ve been working on for more than a year:

The strategic logic by which an enterprise profitably acquires and serves customers.

In my view, the quality and strength of a business model is the single most important factor in the success of high-potential, scalable enterprises. In other words, it’s the model, not Meg.

This is a big turnaround in my thinking. During the go-go dotcom days, when I found myself called down to the Bay Area to pitch research services to smug, 25-year-old-paper-millionaire Stanford yuppies, I developed a deep disdain for the facile, selling-dog food-online “business models” pouring out of Silicon Valley. They were bogus on the face of them.

Some of my company’s customers, such as Amazon.com, went on to experience extraordinary success. Many others — including the online grocery and dog food sellers — bit microcircuit.gifthe dust. So it took years before I could bring myself to use the term “business model” without smirking inwardly.

But six years ago, after I formally started studying entrepreneurship, I discovered that use of the term “business model” stretches back more than three decades. It first appeared in the academic management literature in 1975, and over the next 19 years was cited only 166 times. Between 1995 and 2000, though, “business model” was cited more than 1,500 times in the same literature.

In short, the dotcom era popularized — and trivialized — an important idea that today is even more crucial, since software and telecommunications technologies have fundamentally altered price and performance equations in many business sectors.

I’ve changed my mind about the importance of business models, too. In fact, I’ve started editing a new book about business model innovation written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (plus more than 300 collaborators from 28 different countries).

So I care deeply about business models, and their importance to enterprises of all kinds (I’m also growing intrigued by the notion of personal business models: How we each structure our economic activities to create a livelihood — more on that later).

For now, though, I’ll wish good luck to a potential future governor of California, while humbling suggesting that with respect to eBay, it’s not Meg — it’s the model.

You may enjoy other entrepreneurship-related posts:

The Surprising Truth About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

Quiz: Are You the Entrepreneurial ‘Type’?

Entrepreneurship: A Primer

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In Praise of Salaried Employment

Entrepreneurship: Why It’s Not about You

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— Because the true self is never a fixed thing —

There are successful entrepreneurs and there are what I call Entrepreneurial Thinkers, people who don’t necessarily start new enterprises, but who consistently pursue opportunity regardless of resources currently controlled (more on this in upcoming posts).

Kuniyasu Sakai is both.

Almost unknown outside Japan, the remarkable Mr. Sakai founded several dozen successful manufacturing companies, then wrote a series of books describing bunsha, his overarching business method apple_and_orange.gif(bunsha refers to spinning off growing operations into new companies before they become too big; today we would call it intrapreneurship).

Mr. Sakai briefly drew international attention in 1990 with a stunning article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “The Feudal World of Japanese Manufacturing.”

The article revealed that, contrary to popular perception, Japan’s diversified technology conglomerates are essentially industry overlords heavily dependent on low-status manufacturing subcontractors — like Mr. Sakai’s many bunsha firms — for their much-vaunted technological expertise. Nearly two decades later, “The Feudal World still reveals more about the true nature of Japanese industry than many self-styled Japan experts will ever know.

But I digress. Apart from his stunning insights into entrepreneurship and Japanese manufacturing, what I really love about Mr. Sakai is his enthusiastic, jovial embrace of contradiction. Here’s what he wrote in one book:

Occasionally one of my listeners will point out that what I have said at the end of a speech contradicts something I said at the beginning. Or that what I said on Wednesday contradicts something I said on Monday. Or that what I wrote last week contradicts something I wrote ten years ago … every now and then I run across somebody who intends this comment as a criticism of my whole system. The implication is that because my ideas seem contradictory, they must be worthless.

Mr. Sakai sees a world that is often unclear and confused — sometimes even contradictory (as with the perception and the reality behind Japan’s technology giants). But, he asks, should this stop us from living our lives?

… the charge that what I say is full of contradictions is one that has never bothered me. To me, the whole world is full of contradictions and so it is only natural that human beings are full of contradictions. Any system of ideas that is logically perfect in every place and time belongs in the world of mathematics, not the world of people.

What a relief to hear such an accomplished person say this! Maybe a writer’s task is to articulate truths readers believe are forbidden.

Here’s Brenda Ueland in If You Want to Write:

… remember always that the true self is never a fixed thing. And do not try to be consistent, for what is true to you today may not be true at all tomorrow, because you see a better truth.

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‘Nuff said. Let us march forth, and gladly contradict tomorrow what we say today.

You may also enjoy:emerson_consistency_callout.gif

The Soul of an Entrepreneur, the DNA of a Business

Know Your Gift

The Surprising Truth About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

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I just did - to a strange and wonderful company 

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KDDI, one of Japan’s leading mobile telephone operators, recently released a cell phone for kids whose selling point is that it prevents users from sending e-mail or browsing the Web.unplugging.gif

In other words, in the world’s most advanced mobile communications market — the first to create a wildly successful Internet-enabled mobile telephone sector — “disconnectivity” is now a selling point.

This on-purpose disfunctionality is squarely aimed at parents concerned that children will view objectionable Web sites or become victims of online bullying. But can it be long before the value of being less connected becomes a desirable “feature” for adults?

Not long ago I read an article predicting that future elites (by which I presume the writer meant subjects of Wired magazine features, etc.) will be those unreachable by e-mail, text message, or cell phone. True privacy — real disconnection, the opposite of always-on, always-reachable — will be the new “cool.”

That prediction is already coming true, at least here in the Clark household. While buying a new cell phone recently, I paid to remain unconnected to the Internet (the prognostication about a disconnected future is supported by my kids, who consider my buying a cell phone a leading indicator that mobile devices will soon be uncool).

Yes, in submitting to what I consider the electronic equivalent of putting a bell on a cat collar, I bought a new handset and service package from a strange and wonderful company here in Portland called Consumer Cellular.

consumer_cellular_logo.gif

Consumer Cellular has an intriguing, highly-differentiated approach to selling mobile telephone services.

For one thing, its service descriptions are clear and easy to understand. This it is completely out of step with the rest of the industry.

For another, it doesn’t list 27 service plans followed by several permutations of asterisk combinations referring to bottom-page fine print readable only by 12-year-olds with 20/10 eyesight. And when I called them, a nice lady who seemed to enjoy her job immediately answered the phone, and was able to quickly answer my questions.

The kicker was that they don’t offer Web services (yet). This impressed me so that I promptly ordered one of their phones.

When the package arrived, I was even more pleased. Their instruction manual begins with copy after my own heart:

Imagine a cellular company that believes looking at the world is more interesting than staring at a phone.

At the end of the manual is a “Mantra” which includes these lines:

I will use my phone only when necessary.

I will look at the world instead of tiny buttons.

I will call for directions before starting the car.

I will spend in-person minutes with my friends and family.

I like these guys.

So, Consumer Cellular, there’s your free plug. Now, how about sponsoring us over here at Soul Shelter? I’m in your target demographic, the one that’s grumpy about technology, the one that’s, well, more chronologically endowed than your average blogger.

And no, Consumer Cellular, I didn’t buy your texting package. And come to think of it, why not hold off on the Web services? Surely there are more technology grumps like me out there willing to pay to remain disconnected …

You may also enjoy:

My Valuable Downgrade

Why Businesspeople Speak Like Idiots

Is the Internet Dangerous? (Part One)”

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— Because let’s face it: Business is boring —

bored_businessman.gifYears ago when I worked for the Dilbert-sized corporation, there was an in-house taboo on what I privately considered “bad news” words.

For example, we couldn’t say “sales are down.” We had to say “we’re experiencing an unfavorable sales variance” (I’m not making this up).

Once, in mid-meeting I was actually reprimanded for using the phrase “poor quality” in referring to likely customer perceptions of our company (upon delivery, one of our machines was discovered to be rusted and useless). Instead, I was sternly reminded, I should have used the term “questionable quality procedure.”

That was the beginning of the end of bureaucorporate life for me. I figured staying honest was better than slow brainwashing with organizational newspeak.

So imagine my delight when, thanks to author and Presentation Zen meister Garr Reynolds, I read a book that begins with the following line, a truth after my own soul:

Let’s face it: Business today is drowning in bullshit.

In their delightful book, Why Business People Speak like Idiots, authors Fugere, Hardaway, and Warshawsky take on the important — and excruciatingly funny — job of clarifying, demystifying, and, well, de-bullshitizing the language of the workplace. Here are their three main points:

1. Businesses focus on themselves over readers
Too often businesses aim to impress, not to inform, say the Idiots authors. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business writers use jargon or insider phrases, with the ambition of becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.”

2. Business people fear concrete language
Businesses like to avoid commitment, and therefore liability, say Fugere et al. Speakers and writers who want to avoid saying anything use a lot of words to say nothing, the authors write. The result? Readers recognize the B.S. and give up looking for meaning.

3. Business is boring
In a hilarious section called “Romancing the Dull,” the authors offer another explanation for why businessspeak is so ridiculous:

The third motive for obscurity is business idiots’ relentless attempts to romanticize whatever it is they do for a living. All of this romanticizing keeps the business world from talking about work and instead allows business idiots to pretend to be secret agents and quarterbacks.

Here’s the unvarnished truth: Business is dull.

That’s not something I need to tell my students; they know it already. In fact, that’s exactly why they show up for my entrepreneurship classes: First, because I’m not a dull teacher. Second, I freely acknowledge that business is boring. And third, because being an entrepreneur is not dull, and many students hope eventually to extricate themselves from soul-crushing labor as salaried employees (to hear the flip side of this coin, see In Praise of Salaried Employment).

idiots_book_cover.gifUnfortunately, it’s not just businesspeople who sound like idiots. Academics aren’t much better, except that what they write is often so unintelligible that readers figure that they, not the authors, are the dummies.

And I sound like an idiot whenever I start generalizing or sermonizing instead of saying plainly what I know to be true from my own experience (thank you, Brenda Euland, again and again — I’m still working on it).

Plain talk is soul-affirming. So whether you’re reader or writer, speaker or listener, you’ll find much to love in Why Business People Speak like Idiots. Procure a volume today to ascertain whether your personal value proposition might be enhanced through application of the value-added paradigms proposed by Fugere, et al. (alternatively, share your favorite example of ridiculous companyspeak in the comments section below).

At the very least, please subscribe to the e-mail version of Soul Shelter. You’ll enjoy two soul-satsifying essays weekly — never more, never less — and we promise not to speak like idiots.

You may also enjoy:

An Uncommon Way to Express the Real You

In Defense of “Aimless” Learning

Simplify, simplify!

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indecisive_businessman.gifIn response to last year’s quiz about entrepreneurial “types,” reader Pace posed an intriguing question: What are the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs? Are they demographically different from unsuccessful entrepreneurs? Or is it all due to individual differences?

Good question. At the heart of Pace’s inquiry, I think, is something many long to know: How can I decide whether I should go into business for myself?

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Here’s the first part of my two-step response, and one I sincerely believe: If you’re seriously thinking of starting your own business, with full knowledge of the risks and rewards involved, then you have what it takes to start your own business.  A good test is to read the Monevator’s excellent Seven Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Start Your Own Business.if_you_seriously_think_of_business1.gif

In previous posts, we saw that “personality” and other personal attributes are poor predictors of entrepreneurial inclination, let alone success.

But at the same time, we need to move beyond simplistic “you can do it!” exhortations and faith in sheer willpower.

So here’s part two, in the form of three questions that will help you drill down to the hard realities of whether you should start a business.

- What industry are you targeting? -
The choice of sector in which you start your company could be the single most important factor in your success. Most entrepreneurs — and remember, we define “entrepreneur” as anyone who starts a business, including one-person, home-based sole proprietorships — start their ventures in mature, low-growth, highly competitive sectors. And that’s why so many entrepreneurs (again, we’re talking about the entire population of self-employed people) either fail, or earn less than they would as employees. Those who launched software companies between 1982 and 2002, for example, were 608 times more likely to have their startups join the Inc. 500 than those who launched restaurants, according to Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western University.

Deliberately choosing a higher-growth sector, such as healthcare or education, is a smart first move (see J.D.’s recent discussion suggesting high potential industries).

- What is your work experience? -
Most entrepreneurs, naturally enough, start businesses in sectors where they already work. So here’s the first takeaway: if you currently work in a mature, low-growth, highly competitive sector, becoming an entrepreneur in that sector will predispose you toward failure. If you work in the restaurant industry, for example, you should not become an entrepreneur — unless you are extremely talented and savvy about both your niche and the industry as a whole.

What to do if you’re in the above situation but still committed to starting your own business? Consider switching industries first. But start by getting a job in the new sector, rather than launching a new venture in unfamiliar territory.

- Focus on business-to-business -
Many new entrepreneurs want to target consumers. That’s natural, because, as consumers ourselves, we all have a basic understanding of, and affinity for, many consumer products and services. But most successful new companies focus on selling to other businesses rather than to consumers (they are business-to-business, or b-to-b, rather than business-to-consumer, or b-to-c, ventures).

donotgiveup.gifWhy? Because businesses tend to make rational purchase decisions. If you can demonstrate that using your service or product will produce clear cost savings or a quick return on investment, you’ll make sales. Consumers, on the other hand, can be, well, downright irrational in their purchasing habits, at least compared to businesses. Marketing to consumers can be far more difficult, and you must often depend on retailers or distributors to reach them. Unless you or someone on your team has a strong track record of successful consumer marketing, you’re more likely to enjoy success targeting businesses.

So there you have ‘em: three questions to help you decide whether you should become an entrepreneur. Keep in mind that these are simply guidelines, and that every day some entrepreneurs successfully ignore these principles. But why not let the facts improve your odds?

* * * *

This essay first appeared as a guest post at Get Rich Slowly in a slightly different form.

You may also enjoy these entrepreneurship-related posts:

Entrepreneurship: A Primer

Three Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Own Business

Pursuing Fortune and Fulfillment with Blogger Extraordinaire J.D. Roth

Three Questions Seekers Must Ask Themselves

How to Go Solo Without a ‘Big Idea’

The Soul of an Entrepreneur, the DNA of a Business

Making Money: The Right and Wrong Questions to Ask

How to Create Wealth, How to Keep Wealth

For Entrepreneurs Starting with Nothing, Here’s the Ultimate Strategy

Make This Year’s Decisions Stick with This Simple Secret

In Praise of Salaried Employment

Soaring Success, Devastating Failure: A Samurai’s Story

Entrepreneurship: Why It’s Not about You

The Surprising Truth About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

Quiz: Are You the Entrepreneurial ‘Type’?

Subscribe to Soul Shelter

Featherweight tools require no booting, help convert thought directly into analog signals

In my entrepreneurship courses, I insist on using the most innovative tools available. And as longtime readers know, at Soul Shelter, we’re sticklers about remaining on the bleeding edge of technology.

microcircuit.gifSo, imagine a featherweight handheld word processing device (HWPD) that requires no booting up and actually helps convert thought directly into analog signals. What’s more, the output is immediately human-readable, requiring no screen or other electronic interface.

Imagine, too, an analog data transmission module (ADTM)—even lighter than the HWPD—that fits in a shirt pocket, and, like its word processing counterpart, is completely device-independent.

Hard to believe? It’s true.

To top it off, a complete set of these amazing tools costs less than one-fortieth the typical handheld computer.

I’ve been testing these stunning technologies in my classes, and the results have been no less than astonishing.

“Remarkable,” said one student.pencil_and_memo_pad.gif

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I can look after myself, she let her right hand make a small, unobtrusive gesture in the direction of the pulser holstered at her right hip, and I don't think I'm in any danger.

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For that matter, they could've come back around and missed us the second time, in which case they may decide that this is a clear area.

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We may see something like that here in a few centuries.
“Amazing,” commented another. “These tools actually sharpen your thinking and spur new ideas during use. You don’t even need Google.”

At right is an artist’s model of one HWPD atop an analog data transmission module stack. Style-conscious users will be delighted to learn that both are available in an even greater variety of colors than iPods or Blackberrys.

So, Soul Shelter readers, get hip to the most innovative word processing tools available. Maybe they’ll change your life, as they did mine.

You may also enjoy:

Happiness is Turning Off the Computer

‘Simplify, simplify!’

Want to Achieve Your Goal? Avoid E-Mail!

Is the Internet Dangerous? (Part One)

Subscribe to Soul Shelter

For exactly the same reasons he’s now worth $14 million

pear_four_fifths.gifAn entrepreneur I met years ago recently sold his company for a large sum on excellent terms, and wound up with some $14 million after taxes. I learned this when we crossed paths again last summer and renewed our acquaintance. After hearing about my approach to teaching, he asked me to deliver a personal, one-on-one, remote version of the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course I teach in two local graduate business programs.

Why would someone worth $14 million enroll in a beginner’s entrepreneurship course? Though my new student’s entrepreneurial achievements outshine my own, I was only mildly surprised when he asked me to teach him. Here are just three reasons he might have asked for my help:

Entrepreneurs value education in all formspear_two_fifths.gif
Most successful entrepreneurs have some college experience, and even the most street-smart, self-made, academic-deriding School of Hard Knocks types recognize that everyone can learn from formal study. My student discovered, as I did, powerful principles that articulate what entrepreneurs sense in their guts—and that such articulation is highly useful. My pupil also confirmed the commonsense observation that successful people study continuously, whether formally or on their own.

The industrious become wealthy, and the wealthy remain industrious
Industrious people tend to become wealthy, and they remain industrious after they become wealthy. You don’t find many pool-loungers among self-made millionaires. My student never has to work another day in his life, but he’s decided to achieve mastery in a new field: entrepreneurship. He’s already working on several new ventures, some of which may be non-profit.

pear_one_fifth.gifRespect and humility
Successful people respect and learn from others’ accomplishments, big and small: they don’t hold themselves above or aloof. They’re usually modest about their own successes, too, and recognize that even the accomplished have much to learn.

Interview a dozen or so successful company founders, and you’ll recognize these same traits.

My student and I have completed ten weeks of “classes,” and he’s off pursuing new ventures. He’s an outstanding pupil—and I’m an excellent teacher. But like all teachers, I learn more from students than they do from me.

Why would someone worth $14 million enroll in a beginner’s class in entrepreneurship? For exactly the same reasons he’s now worth $14 million. And maybe because he recognizes that, in the larger scheme of things, we’re all beginners still.

(A slightly modified version of this post first appeared at Get Rich Slowly)

You may enjoy these other entrepreneurship-related posts:

Entrepreneurship: A Primer

Three Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Own Business

Pursuing Fortune and Fulfillment with Blogger Extraordinaire J.D. Roth

Three Questions Seekers Must Ask Themselves

How to Go Solo Without a ‘Big Idea’

The Soul of an Entrepreneur, the DNA of a Business

Making Money: The Right and Wrong Questions to Ask

How to Create Wealth, How to Keep Wealth

For Entrepreneurs Starting with Nothing, Here’s the Ultimate Strategy

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rodin_facing_right.jpg“I love advertising. If I could just get paid decently to do what I’m doing now, I’d be as happy as a pig in … mud.”

I looked across the table at Ted’s face, a face I’ve known for more than 30 years. The salt-colored flecks in his neatly-trimmed beard show he’s no longer young. But 25 years into his career, his enthusiasm for the advertising world burns bright.

Ted recently launched his own small agency, and is now discovering the tough reality of serving not only as creative director, but as head salesman—a new, difficult role. He’s achieved his long-held dream of agency ownership, but struggles to pay the bills.

I know how Ted feels. Teaching, to me, means what advertising means to Ted.

Yet too often, pay doesn’t parallel passion. Fortune falls behind fulfillment. Money and meaning are mismatched.

What’s a seeker of reasonable balance to do?

First, it’s helpful to recognize that work doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone. In Meanings of Life, Roy Baumeister suggested three different meanings for work:

Work as Jobmeanings_of_life.jpg
This means working for the sake of a paycheck, without much personal involvement or satisfaction. “The job is an instrumental activity—that is, something done principally for the sake of something else,” Baumeister writes. Nevertheless, jobs can produce valuable feelings of skill and satisfaction, not to mention sustenance that enables the worker to pursue meaning in other areas of life.

Work as Career
Work as career is motivated by the desire for success, achievement, and status. The careerist’s approach to work is not a passionate attachment to the work itself, writes Baumeister. Rather, it “emphasizes the feedback about the self that comes in response to work. For the careerist, work is a means of creating, defining, expressing, proving, and glorifying the self.” Work as career can be an important source of meaning and fulfillment in life.

Work as Calling
The word “calling” derives from the idea that one is “called upon” to do a certain type of work: either externally, by God or community, or internally, by a natural gift whose expression cannot be denied. It’s a done “out of a sense of personal obligation, duty, or destiny,” writes Baumeister. Work as calling offers tremendous potential for meaning and fulfillment.

Clearly, these categories overlap, and any one person’s work can contain elements of each (Baumeister recognizes this). Nevertheless, the three categories point to how work can furnish us with more or less meaning in our lives.

People with “jobs,” for example, may derive more meaning from family, hobbies, religion, or other activities outside work.

“Careerists” tend to have much of their life’s meaning invested in work. Some may sacrifice family or other interests in order to rise in the world and achieve more prestige, wealth, and accolades.

rejoicing_at_sunset.jpgThose who are “called” may experience great spiritual fulfillment, yet suffer deprivations unknown to the conventionally employed (think artists and missionaries).

In every case, though, meaning in work derives from one, or both, of two things: mastery and service.

Work of any type requires mastering skills. Those with “jobs” can derive satisfaction, and some meaning, from skill mastery and further skill development. The higher the level of mastery, the greater the satisfaction.

Work also involves serving others. In fact, payment for work is ordinarily measured precisely in terms of its service value to others (yes, we can acknowledge exceptions such as subprime mortgage bundlers).

But “service” also means helping in a spiritual, or at least a non-financial, sense—being needed by others, and connected to them. This kindfulfilled_mother_with_daughters.jpg of service, when combined with mastery, produces deep meaning.

No wonder psychologists have come to the same conclusions as the great spiritual traditions: Meaningful work requires both mastery and service.

How does all this help us blend meaning with money?

Maybe it means ensuring that 1) one’s work serves worthy customers, and 2) one’s customers are satisfied with value transcending finance.

So if work lacks meaning, maybe it’s time to find a new customer base. And if it produces insufficient financial rewards, maybe it’s time to ratchet the mastery level up a notch.

How do you blend meaning with money?

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