The Reum brothers, Courtney and Carter, are known for their roles on the television show Hatched. They are also behind many household brand names including big names such as Lyft, Pinterest, Warby Parker, and Shake Snack. Their new book, Shortcut Your Startup: Speed Up Success with Unconventional Advice from the Trenches is full of advice and shortcuts for those who want to take a start-up organization and scale it quickly.
In the Introduction of your book, you talk about both how it’s cheaper and easier than ever to start a business but also that the competition is more fierce than ever, too. What are the implications of these market forces?
The effects are twofold. On one hand, an abundance of resources has recently come into existence that—in a vacuum—would make life infinitely easier for any entrepreneur. Obvious examples are Kickstarter, social media marketing, Amazon’s e-commerce platform, data analytics—the list goes on. Obviously, these facilitate the arduous and historically expensive process of starting a business. Just look at the following graph showing the decrease in time needed to scale a brand.
Copyright Reum Brothers, Used by Permission.
The problem with these resources, however, is that everybody has access to them. Since these goods and services simplify business building, more and more people enter the landscape and competition increases. While the increased number of competitors certainly is an implication, a more important one is that it becomes significantly more difficult for the best business to separate itself from the crowd.
Use a Microscope and a Telescope
Another juxtaposition of ideas is from the old saying that you need to have a microscope on one eye and a telescope on another. You also use the speedboat versus sailboat analogy. Talk about this and how aspiring entrepreneurs need to understand the differences and their role.
Smartcuts. It is an extraordinarily interesting read, full of insights and yet entertaining. The book was just released.
Let me introduce three of Shane’s smartcuts that will make you think about success differently.
Your book is full of hacks, ways to become successful much faster than average. As I read your book, I noticed that you often upended traditional thinking over and over. We can’t begin to hit them all, so let’s talk about just three of them:
The secret to success is not hard work and persistence.
Hard work. Persistence. Put in your dues. You throw all the commonsense wisdom out and instead offer “Smartcuts.” What is a smartcut? Would you share an example of one?
Smartcuts are a smarter way of doing things. Essentially, it’s the mindset that the conventional path everyone else takes in business (or any career) is by definition average. To beat the average, you have to think differently. Shortcuts, or cheating, tend not to be sustainable; Smartcuts are a faster, often counter-intuitive way that manages to speed success while providing value. For example, it turns out that some of the most successful U.S. presidents, CEOs, and entertainers manage to get to the top and make game-changing breakthroughs without having paid as many dues as their counterparts. They do incredible things and change lives but without having slogged it out in Congress for 30 years, etc. This demonstrates what we humans are good at doing: correlating the wrong things. Time spent, it turns out, does not equal merit. The danger, of course, is that no time spent does not equal merit either. There’s something about these “ladder hacking” success stories that makes the difference, and there’s something about their nontraditional journeys that lead them to be good leaders and players without having to go the needlessly slow route. I get into the nuances of how they “hack the ladder” in the first three chapters of the book.
Positive feedback is not always the best way to improve performance.
“You did really well!” says the parent, thinking that positive motivation is the way to build self-esteem. Instead, you say that negative feedback is a better route to success. Why?
Research shows that negative feedback helps us learn and grow more quickly than positive feedback. Muscles build when you test their limits. However, negative feedback only works if we’re in the right mindset, otherwise it can be catastrophic. You see experts in many fields accelerate their growth by craving negative feedback, and that’s because they’ve managed to de-personalize feedback—make it about the thing they did and not about them. That depersonalization is hard to do, and it’s why our bowling game gets worse when our friends tell us everything we’re doing wrong (and we start to get in our heads about it). You have to be really secure to feel good about yourself if all you’re getting is critiqued.
So really, the key is to build up your kids’ self-esteem muscles by showing them that they are ok when things go wrong, and that feedback is about what they’re doing and not who they are. De-couple the performance from the self-esteem. When you can do that, you can push them like the Karate Kid, and they’ll grow much more quickly.
In the book, I talk about how The Second City comedy school puts this principle into practice, to take frightened students and turn them into stars in a short time.