Paper Napkin Wisdom - Podcast and Blog for Entrepreneurs, Leaders and Difference-Makers

I've asked 1000s of the worlds top Entrepreneurs, Leaders, and Difference-Makers to share with me their most important pearl of wisdom on a simple paper napkin. Then I ask them to have a conversation about why they shared that Paper Napkin Wisdom with me and what it meant to them and for them in their life. Visit for full show notes and archives. Learn their exceptional Stories of Drive, Impact, Balance and Leadership shared by CEOs, founders, authors, speakers, mentors, and teachers. They share successes and failures alike, paying forward their learning experiences to all of us.
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Dec 29, 2016

Is there a formulaic way to build a great startup? Today’s guest, Maxim Wheatley thinks so. Maxim comes from a very diverse background - he is an award-winning product leader and innovator, with proven success operating at the intersection of business development, innovation, and product strategy. Additionally, he is the co-founder of LifeFuels, a company that aims to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to to diagnose, manage, and cure health ailments. Maxim’s thoughts on entrepreneurship boil down to three basic tenets: “Dream big and start small, constantly seek new questions to answer, and remember that it’s the people who turn ideas into companies,” he says.


‘Dream Big & Start Small’

While it’s important to have vision, it’s also important to get comfortable to with taking small steps. “Like [Reddit Founder] Alexis Ohanian says, ‘Entrepreneur is a fancy word for someone who has ideas and does them’,” Maxim says. While having a big vision important, he urges entrepreneurs to figure out the small and intricate steps involved in helping them achieve their goals. He believes the lean startup culture has a certain bias to action that restricts founders from making moves as often as they should. “Early wins build momentum,” he remarks, “There is magic in relentlessly pushing as opposed to elegantly leaping.”


‘Constantly Seek New Questions to Answer’

Having a background in consumer electronic products, Maxim understands the hiccups that can come about when launching a business. “Great products are oriented around prototype questions. “If we’re doing something that doesn’t answer a question, it’s time to readjust,” he says. He urges entrepreneurs to constantly ask new questions and evaluate whether those questions link up to the ‘dream big’ portion of his theory. “Entrepreneurship can be a difficult and lonely road,” he mentions, “Asking new questions and getting them answered can provide you with a sense of victory.” While an inquisitive nature is important, Maxim warns against falling into an “incubator mentality”. Although testing can ensure success for future endeavors, he believes that there is “no validation or testing that will take away from the fact that you need to start taking action.”


‘It’s the People Who Turn Ideas into Companies’


Developing a team is a crucial part of turning ideas into a bonafide operation. If you had $5M and no one wanted to work for you, or $100K and seven people that were excited about your business opportunity, which scenario would you pick? “I’d pick the latter every time,” Maxim says. While many entrepreneurs find themselves working solo due to fear of criticism, egocentrism or lack of cash flow, he urges them to explore additional measures. “Find out how to pay people in different ways,” he says. Maxim recommends that entrepreneurs use their vision, as opposed to misguided promises of wealth, to attract their team. “Identify other currencies you have at your disposal. Find ways to help [your team] meet their short term and long term goals,” he says. By giving people the opportunity to be apart of something meaningful, he believes entrepreneurs will curate loyal teams.


Staying on Track


In order to stay focused, Maxim is intentional about these principles. While many startups often attract unsolicited opinions, he believes that successful founders understand how to weed through the noise, filter the quality feedback and turn it into meaningful action. Additionally, he stresses that goals should be simple. “The startup lifestyle is dog years multiplied by ten,” he laughs, “You have to try and not get too caught up in long term planning.” Rather, Maxim suggests that founders take time to ensure that their everyday activities are aligned with their bigger vision. He suggests that founders should ask themselves, “Is there meaningful progress? Are you creating something that you can show and evaluate? If not, change course.”


What “small steps” have you taken to achieve your “big dreams”? Comment below ( or send us a Tweet (!


Dec 27, 2016

My very Uncommon Opinion: buying a house is a good investment


These days, it seems to be all the rage to tell people to “never buy a house.” Folks like Grant Cardone and James Altucher argue that buying a home eats up too much capital and never allows for a good return on investment. Well, to put this bluntly: They’re wrong, and I have the facts to prove it.


How much money are you really putting down?


If you’re an average millennial with decent credit, you’ll usually only be putting down 10% when you purchase your first home – far from some online arguments that assume a 20% to 40% down payment when arguing against home buying. That’s a big difference – $30,000 vs. up to $120,000 for a $300,000 home. Don’t rely on inaccurate assumptions; estimate what your down payment would be before deciding that buying isn’t for you.


People are overbuying on their first (or second, or third) house


When most people look at a mortgage offer from a bank, they purchase the most expensive house the bank will allow them to afford, which is a terrible idea. If a bank extends someone the credit to buy a $500,000 house, but a $300,000 home fits most of their needs, the less expensive home is a better financial and lifestyle choice. Remember, overextending yourself means you are actually buying a mortgage, not a house.


Many of the arguments against buying overlook making a sensible purchase, and use examples in which individuals are buying the most expensive home they can get their hands on. That seriously sways the numbers in favor of renting. Just because others are doing this doesn’t mean you have to – get a less expensive home so you can save and place more money into investment vehicles with a higher rate of return, or spend the difference on things you are passionate about.


Money spent on upgrading your lifestyle or yourself, such as traveling the world or finally firing up that great business idea, are a far better investment than a fancy address. Plus, you can always upgrade later, if you want.


Keep in mind, you have to live somewhere


One of the traditional arguments for buying a home is that you’re spending money on rent anyway, so you might as well invest it in something. This is still correct. As long as you make smart choices when you purchase a home, it’s better to invest in your own property rather than pay a landlord.


Think about it this way – you’re going to lose a lot of money renting over the years. If you lose less money over time by owning a house, you’ve made a great financial choice.


Homes nearly always appreciate in value, especially with maintenance and smart improvements


If you let your home deteriorate and don’t maintain it, it’s a no-brainer that its value will decrease over time. However, if you maintain your home by investing in improvements that can increase its resale value, it’s likely to significantly increase in value over time.


Examples of improvements with a high rate of return include installing high-quality floors, maintaining bathrooms, and upgrading your home’s kitchen. Unfortunately, improvements to the backyard such as landscaping have low ROI, so you should avoid spending too much on them if you’re trying to maximize your home’s value.


Will I be stuck in my house forever?


Unlike what some folks say, buying a home doesn't chain you to one address for life. Unless you get really unlucky and purchase a place for well over its market value, you’re not going to get stuck for long – just sell the house and move into another. If you can’t, simply rent out your property and rent another somewhere else while you sort things out and wait for the original home’s value to increase.


Is this a good time to buy?


The housing crash of 2008 is still in recent memory and it has many first-time home buyers scared that they could overpay, only to see their residence quickly crash in value. So, to determine whether the housing market is overvalued (and thus headed for a bust) or if it still has a lot of room for stable growth, check out an analysis done by The Economist for a quick snapshot.


The magazine’s data team looked at two numbers: the ratio of price to income and price to rent, and found that houses in most American cities appear to be at fair value when compared to long-term averages. Some cities, however, like San Francisco, have homes that are extremely expensive compared to average incomes (meaning they could be destined for a fast fall), so it’s a good idea to dig into a city’s price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios before buying property there.


Profiting off of your home equity using The Smith Manoeuvre (for Canadian homeowners)


In the U.S., home mortgage payments are tax deductible (as long as it’s a primary residence), but in Canada, homeowners aren’t quite so lucky. However, Canadians can take out a home equity loan in order to invest money in income-producing entities (like dividend-paying stocks or rental property), and use the tax return to further pay down their mortgages.


It’s called the Smith Manoeuvre, and while it sounds complex, it’s a fantastic way for many homeowners to develop a sizeable investment portfolio and pay their mortgage at the same time. If you’re considering doing this, you should be confident in your investing skills – and be prepared with a Plan B if you need to move and the market goes down.


The bottom line: You should probably own a house


Should everyone go out right now and buy a house? Well, maybe not everyone. But if you're like most young people who earn a steady income and want to invest in their future, it’s absolutely the right move. If you still don’t believe me, run the numbers yourself with this calculator. It takes into account rent prices, mortgage rates, inflation levels, taxes, and variety of other factors to compare the long-term costs of renting vs. buying a residence.

Dec 20, 2016

We’re just a few days away from 2017! If you’re like most business owners, you’re looking for ways to evolve your marketing strategy next year. If so, this podcast is my New Year's gift to you. Former Paper Napkin Wisdom guest Joe Calloway recommended today’s guest, and I’m so glad he did. Jane Atkinson has over 25 years of experience securing top-tier speaking gigs for Fortune 500 C-Level executives.

In today’s podcast, we discuss her method that ensures success for her campaigns. Her three step process, “Ready, Aim, Fire”,which she outlines in her new book The Wealthy Speaker, provides the framework for her clients to succeed. “In the ‘Ready’ phase, we get crystal clear as to what we’re selling,” she says. Aim refers to gaining clarity around what the focus of the campaign will be, while ‘Fire’ is the execution of the campaign.

All great marketing plans have a formula and Jane’s “rule of threes” framework is no different. Prior to developing this outlook, she realized the need to develop a unique process. “I knew what I was talking about, but it wasn’t very organized,” she says. During the ready phase, she recommends entrepreneurs to gain clarity into what it is they’re selling. While this may be easy for some, she urges business owners to ensure that this clarity permeates all levels of the organization.

The aim phase is a bit more intense. “You have to pick a lane and narrow down where you’d like to be viewed as an expert,” she says. Developing a clear and concise promise statement is a large part of the aim phase. This statement “should explain what you do and who you do it for,” Jane recommends. She also puts a large emphasis on curating a target audience and understanding how the product or service will benefit them.

Following the aim phase, it’s time to “fire”. “Attempt to answer your buyers questions, then provide solutions,” she recommends.

 This should be a cyclical process in any business, Jane says. “If your message isn’t resonating, ask yourself - are reaching out to the right market? Circle back to ready and evaluate,” she advises. While many entrepreneurs may be itching for change, she also warns against making major overhauls. Instead, she recommends strategic tweaks and evaluating strategies prior to moving forward. “I had a client who was looking to get in front of the healthcare community. He didn’t think our strategies were working. But it turned out that it was just taking more time that he was accustomed to,” Jane recalls. And, if a major overhaul is needed, Jane recommends that brands “put out feelers to see who the message resonates with the most in order to create momentum.”

It's normal for people to occasionally get stuck in the chaotic “ready” phase, but Jane says that it’s often fear that’s driving the bus. “If you're afraid, gain clarity around what's making you uncomfortable and refer to points in your past to combat that fear,” she says. While perfection is ideal, it’s also not very realistic. “[Business owners] need to be okay with not being perfect,” she says.

What phase are you currently in with your brand? What are some ways you can explore to become “unstuck”? Comment below ( or send us a Tweet at with your response.

Dec 14, 2016

Over the years, Paper Napkin Wisdom guests have described ways for entrepreneurs to structure their business and life in a way that gears them for success. While some topics have been complex, today’s podcast gets us back to the basic. Serial entrepreneur Bill Dallas explains his guiding principles in business and life for the past three decades. “Pairing means with meaning is the only way to live a full life,” he asserts. “Means” refers to the problems entrepreneurs solve, while “meaning” describes the purpose behind their efforts. He believes that merging the two ideals is the key to successful entrepreneurship and a happy life.

He started his businesses back in the 1980s in an old Victorian home. Back then, entrepreneurship was just barely in vogue.  “I had to apply meaning to the things I was doing on a daily basis, even when they weren’t things I necessarily enjoyed doing,” Bill recalls. By deriving meaning from even the most mundane of tasks, he was able to parlay that passion and become the founder of several lending companies across the United States. “When you apply meaning to what you do today, you feel successful in the moment and it propels you to success and creates exponential results,” he says. He also doesn’t believe in putting any energy into tasks that don’t revolve around the ultimate goal, stating that it’s a waste of energy. “When you apply meaning to your means, the problems you solve and things you learn will end up teaching you where you need to go,” he remarks.

Bill has several nuggets derived from his years of experience. He believes in keeping things simple but intentional and authentic.  In fact, Bill gives each of his new employees the acclaimed Robert Fulghum title All I Really Need to Know I’ve Learned in Kindergarten. “We already know pretty much everything we need to,” he says, “Living this way will attract like-minded people.”

He also believes that all entrepreneurs must embody four personas in order to be successful. “Act like an immigrant,” he says, “Have a chip on your shoulder, work hard and remember where you came from. You can’t be an entrepreneur and be entitled. ” Next, he urges entrepreneurs to be artisans and leave their mark on society. Thirdly, Bill advises entrepreneurs to act like a waitress or waiter, “They are the pinnacle of entrepreneurship. They know that their livelihood is dependent on the level of service they provide their customers.” Finally, he believes entrepreneurs should be coaches and serve as a mentor for their teams and fellow entrepreneurs.

By embodying these traits and principles, Bill believes any entrepreneur will find success – and, more importantly, meaning within their success. “Life is simple, just not easy,” he says, “Entrepreneurs should want a rich life more than they want riches.”

Let us know what you think on Twitter at or via Facebook at 

Dec 10, 2016

Just in time for Christmas, there’s cold weather in the upcoming forecast here in Ottawa. So it’s fitting that today’s podcast discusses ways to raise the temperature on company culture. If you’re a long-time Paper Napkin Wisdom fan, you’re familiar with Motivational Speaker and Leadership Consultant Jason Barger. In today’s chat, we focused on how companies can collaboratively create and maintain a positive culture, or in Jason’s words, “Be a thermostat; proactively set your temperature.” Jason details this sentiment in his new book Thermostat Culture. The book centers on the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat – while thermometers just report the temperature, the thermostat controls and regulates the environment. “Culture is dynamic,” Jason says, “The most successful cultures are proactively managed.”

For the past decade, organizations and pundits have become obsessed with company culture. But Jason points out that a great culture consists of more than foosball tables, catered lunches and casual attire. “We throw around the term ‘culture’ so loosely. Part of setting a thermostat culture revolves around constant measuring and re-aligning,” Jason remarks.

So, how can companies effectively measure this culture? Jason proposes a method he’s dubbed “The 6A Process”. First, leaders must assess the current temperature. Jason recalls an instance where he and his hiking companions lost their way in the Adirondacks.

“We weren’t clear where we were on the map,” he recalls, “Until you travel to Point Z, you have to know where point A is.” He suggests having “conversations about the currency for change”, in which organizations really take an honest look at their current culture and assess the need for change. The second ‘A’, aligning, refers to bringing the organization together to determine whether or not everyone is aligned on the assessment and the need for improvement. “Basically, everyone needs to collectively agree on whether or not they’re buying into it,” Jason says.

Once aligned, organizations need to begin to determine where they want to be. “A wise man once said ‘He who aims for nothing, hits it every time’,” Jason says. He suggests giving people space during this period and allowing them to buy in to the ultimate company culture vision. The fourth ‘A’ stresses the importance of clearly articulating the culture. Developing, revising or referring to a brand platform that outlines mission and vision statements, core values and key messages is especially helpful during this time.

The final two ‘A’s – action and anchor – go hand in hand. Organizations must decide what they need to do to ensure their culture permeates through all aspects of their business and develop systems to make it stick. “After these steps are complete, I remind people to revisit them every so often – especially during times where it seems like the culture is going off-kilter,” Jason advises.

Developing and maintaining a strong company culture is undoubtedly one of the tenets of a great organization. However, Jason warns organizations to not get too comfortable. “The phrase ‘We have a good culture’ should end with a comma, not a period. Whenever it ends with a period, I’ve found that the culture is in peril. There should always be conversations surrounding ways to keep the culture alive. You have to make that investment.”

What are some of the ways you keep your organizations’ culture afloat? Share it with us via Twitter at or Facebook 

Dec 4, 2016

The world loves leaders. We write books and television shows about them and promote leadership as one of the defining qualities of a successful person. However, today’s guest Bill Treasurer, has a somewhat unorthodox take on what great leadership should really look like. After spending the last two decades as an author and leadership development coach for Fortune 500 brands, he has concluded that we have been wrong in our approach to the concept and essence of leadership. 

“The first law of leadership is ‘It’s not about you’,” he says. A self-described leadership plumber (“I’m the one who gets the hairballs out,” he jokes), Bill explores this concept in his latest book entitled A Leadership Kick in the Ass. “I got the concept from my son. He was chosen to be class leader for the day. When I asked him how it went, he said ‘I got to open doors for people’,” Bill recalls. This seemingly innocuous but impactful statement revealed to Bill that one of the basic tenets of leadership was being overlooked. “Emerging leaders have sharp elbows of ambition. Sometimes leaders forget that the central of idea is about those being led. It’s never about the leader,” he says.

While leaders are praised for being exceptional motivators, Bill describes leaders as Chief Opportunity Creators for both their people and their organization. Instead of judging individuals and teams by their own cadence, Bill urges leaders to exude patience. “99% of the leaders I meet are impatient,” he says, “But leaders must accept that people will take time to walk through the door you open for them.”

With the number of responsibilities on their plate, leaders must find time to refocus – not only on the company’s goals – but also their leadership style. The renowned innovator Steve Jobs reportedly had a similar refocusing period after he was fired from Apple in the mid-80s. “He got back to the essentialism of it all. We learn best from experience and our transformational humiliating events,” Bill says.

Leaders must learn how to authentically rebuild themselves in order to provide the greatest value to their team. Additionally, leaders can refocus by setting vision and getting team members to become emotionally invested its success. “Growth is good, but it’s just an outcome or an ends to the means. People and investment are the means,” Bill remarks.

What are some ways you refocus your leadership? Let us know at or Twitter!

Nov 19, 2016

Many entrepreneurs, both budding and seasoned, can sometimes find themselves in a standstill due to lack of action. But how can entrepreneurs make “action” their default? If you’ve been following our show, you’ll know that a motto of mine is “make it bad, then make it better.” Today’s podcast guest, John Henry explains why the motto “default to action” has become one of his guiding principles. “You’ll be surprised what you can build if you default to action,” says the 23 year old entrepreneur and founder of Cofound Harlem, “I think some people may disagree with that principle but that’s the stage of entrepreneurship I’m in.”

He adopted this mantra years ago when he founded his first business. A child of immigrant parents, John has always maintained a scrappy approach to entrepreneurship. While working as a doorman, he was approached by a resident who provided him with a business opportunity. “The resident offered to give me wholesale rates on dry cleaning if other residents were willing to do their dry cleaning at his businesses. If a shirt cost $6 to dry clean, he would charge me $2 and I would pocket the $4,” John recalls. Soon, he had launched a full scale operation which included providing dry cleaning services to popular shows, including Law and Order, Boardwalk Empire and more.

Defaulting to action has to become a default mindset. John follows a few routines to keep himself centered. “Before I go to sleep, I write out my to-do list and then prioritize based on which tasks will yield the biggest results, instead of by which tasks I find the most enjoyable,” he says. Sometimes, this means he opts to work with his accountant on tax issues as opposed to writing a blog post. In addition to this, he tries to catch himself whenever he becomes unfocused. “Facebook is the new TV,” he jokes. Instead of heading to social media, he reads articles from the Financial Times or some of his other favorite publications.

John views focus as a muscle – the more you work it out, the stronger it becomes. Being intentional about focus is a huge part of his motto. “I’m very intentional about greatness. At one point, I wrote greatness over and over in my black notebook. Now, when I’m not being productive, I feel guilty,” he says.

How would defaulting to action improve your business? Comment below or send us a tweet.

Nov 10, 2016

Power is an interesting concept. Few other nouns evoke such a visceral response quite like the five letter word. Today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom guest has a unique take on power and has used this philosophy to guide his organization, Accountability Lab. “The best thing you can do with power is give it away,” says Blair Glencorse.

While many people seek to “change the world” by gaining power through political or economic means, Blair notes that the people who actually inspire change are those who give their power away. “I believe we are all powerful in our own way,” he muses. His organization works with young people across the world in an effort to make governments more accountable. “We help people generate accountability from the bottom up, through guiding them into realizing and channeling that power,” he says. He believes this system will help change governments.

Citing his film school in Liberia, Blair explains how marginalized people often have more power than they realize, “We often look at [them] from a Western perspective, which is not always the most accurate.” Through his work with the film school, students not only find their voices – they discover creative outlets for it.

This output inspires change through the creation of educational videos, such as a recent PSA which highlights the country’s sexual harassment problem. “Giving them the power to articulate their voices helps spark discussions on how to improve policies on both a micro and macro level,” he says. The group has even started Integrity Idol, a series where regular citizens nominate honest government officials. After the nominations all trickle in, people are able to vote for their favorite, authentic official.

While some people often pair accountability with consequences, Blair looks to celebrate integrity, posing that it’s “not necessarily a consequence for things going wrong, it’s a celebration for things going right.” In terms of corporate application, he also believes that leaders should seek to create “integrity idols” within their own organizations – “Companies must champion these values. It can shift the culture of an organization.”

He stresses that it’s important to discover what your team members are interested in and find ways to incorporate accountability in an authentic day. In Liberia, he regularly works with rappers in order to promote positive messages, but in their own voice. “You have to help them recognize the power they already have.”

What are some ways you can incorporate accountability into your company culture? Sound off on our Twitter @WiseNapkin

Oct 11, 2016

Now that football season is back in full swing in the U.S., there’s no better time to discuss scrimmaging. However, we’re not talking about the traditional sports term in today’s podcast. Author and Motivational Speaker, Nathan Jamail recently released “The Leadership Playbook”, a guide which discusses the importance of coaching employees versus managing them.

A common theme in the book is the importance of scrimmaging. “Scrimmaging is getting into character to prepare for an upcoming event, while roleplaying is an exercise to see what you learn and/or know. Teams scrimmage to prepare for games. If you don’t learn how to scrimmage, you’re not getting the full effect of practice,” he says.

The idea of role playing can be intimidating for many members in Corporate America. However, Nathan believes this is due to the intent. He suggests swapping out roleplaying with scrimmaging. In sports, teams use scrimmage to not only practice, but to try out new techniques prior to Game Day. “It’s the time where you get to do what you think is right and test things out. When you create a culture of scrimmage, you’ll realize that your team will actually begin to have fun doing it,” he says.

Nathan first stumbled across this philosophy as a sales rep for a pager company in the 90s. He and his co-worker would have role-playing exercises to prepare for a long day of cold calling. A few years later, his friend (now boss) began to mandate role-playing. Many employees voiced fear due to the inherent judgmental nature of role-playing. However, in a scrimmage environment, the results shift. “I noticed that in a scrimmage culture, people are truly getting better, as opposed to role-play culture,” Nathan remarks, “The biggest difference that, when sustained, it becomes a way to communicate, as opposed to an activity.”

Nathan’s first philosophy of leadership (and most recent book) asserts that managers need to approach management like coaching. “In management, we spend time with people who need the attention. In coaching, we spend time with people who deserve the attention. In sports, players thrive for the coach’s attention. If we only spend times with people who need the attention, our attention turns into a consequence of failure.

You can’t coach someone who views your involvement as a negative,” he says. His second philosophy stems from the understanding that everyone needs training more so than practice. “Practice is getting better at something you already know. Training is learning something new,” he remarks. Coaching your employees to become better rather than just gaining more experience is crucial. “I have 20 years of experience golfing and I’m just as horrible as I was 20 years ago,” he jokes.

Nathan also believes that management should embrace conflict. “In coaching, we embrace conflict because we know that’s the only way to make people better,” he says. “In management, if someone isn’t able to embrace coaching and a scrimmage mindset, they should be cut from the team.”

He concludes his case for scrimmaging by asserting that making it into a practice only helps teams grow and learn. “If you and I scrimmaged before a client meeting, there is a 100% chance we would do better at that meeting. If we didn’t scrimmage, nothing would happen. There would be no consequence. Scrimmaging only helps.”

Oct 4, 2016

We have all been there. Feeling caged and unable to move forward due to real or perceived fears. But what if you realized that the cage was unlocked, and all you had to do was walk out? Zahra Al-Harazi, founder of Foundry Communications and UNICEF’s Canadian Ambassador, explains how entrepreneurs can overcome these boundaries. “There’s no lock on the cage,” she says, “No matter what cage you place yourself in or where others may put you, there’s never a lock there.”

Growing up in Yemen, she didn’t always subscribe to this idea. She moved to Canada with her children in 1996, where she became a stay at home mom. “I didn’t have any ambition and didn’t think I could really do much,” she admits. Upon realizing that this feeling wasn’t a regional thing, she began to think of ways to overcome it.

Fear had been holding her back from a variety of things, but she decided she didn’t have to be stuck there. She went on to live by this and share this philosophy at conferences and seminars across North America. Although she was mildly acrophobic, she took up a friend’s offer to go skydiving. “I threw up as soon as I landed,” she laughs, “But I did it.”

In order to escape the “cage”, Zahra found value in developing core values for herself and her business. “By developing these values and exemplifying them in everything you do, it allows you to live a more free life,” she says. For example, one of her core values states simply ‘Be Curious’. By consciously living that principle, she allows room for her curiosity to reign supreme and lead her to places where she may have once been afraid to go. “The fear never leaves. But you learn to work around it,” she says.

Another way to escape this fear is to overcome the reluctance to ask for assistance. “I have thirty mentors. I go to people for different things I need help with,” she says. When she was first starting out, she began to cultivate a tribe by asking for help.

“I learned how to be vulnerable and using that vulnerability to get out of this cage,” she recalls. When asked if she’s sometimes afraid to ask for help because she doesn’t want to “weak” or “ill-informed”, she admits that she does have these feelings sometimes. “However, I’ve learned that vulnerability can be contagious,” she says.

A tribe is undoubtedly the strongest tool in any entrepreneurs’ arsenal. When it comes to networking and discovering that tribe, she recommends that people develop a UVP (unique value proposition) and learn how to be of service to others in an authentic way. Additionally, she urges others to never discount someone prematurely, “Everyone has something to bring to the table.”

What “cage” have you locked yourself in? Is there a certain person that could help you get out of that cage? What can you bring to the table to overcome these fears? Let us know by Tweeting us at @Wisenapkin

Sep 27, 2016

255,207. Search “leadership” in Amazon and that’s the number of publications that will come up. With the plethora of ideas out there, is it possible to get to the heart of what leadership truly is? Val Jon Farris, CEO of Diamius Multinational Consulting Firm thinks so. With over two decades of experience conducting leadership development programs, he recalls that the more classes and seminars leaders go to, the more jaded they become.

“It diverts them from their innate knowledge of leadership. Doing a leader is not being a leader,” he says. Without an internal “leadership” compass, an abundance of misdirected actions can occur. Leadership is more than a checklist of best practices and lists. In this podcast, Val explains his thoughts behind this theory.

Having an innate understanding of what it means to be a leader is a major key to leadership success. “Leadership needs to be intentional and inherent,” he says, “The only person you can ever truly lead is yourself.” While he does not believe that everyone has a “leader” inside of them, he does believe that some people can take this approach to cultivate their inner trailblazer.

He stumbled upon this approach while working under the mentorship of inventor and world class engineer, Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller. Bucky believed in taking care of “Spaceship Earth” and all inhabitants of it. Val took this to heart and, over time, began to slowly shift his leadership style from “critic” to “education”. “I realized that things worked better when I put my pride aside and focused on making things work,” he recalls.

A second revelation occurred while he was ice climbing Mt. Shasta with some friends. After nearly falling to his death, he refused help from his fellow climbers. After taking a moment to step back, he realized that his ego was preventing him to getting the help he desperately needed at that moment. In fact, it was putting his entire team in needless danger.

“In that moment, I realized that I needed to move away from my ego – which was denying the help from my team, and move towards how I really felt—scared, shaken up and in need of assistance,” he says.

Listening to yourself and allowing your heart to influence your leadership decision is a crucial part of gaining your teams trust. Additionally, it provides space for others to flex their leadership skills. He calls this concept ‘holding space for someone’.

“I like to give my team space, while investing in them to be their very best. They’ll do so in their own way. They just need to know that you’re supporting them.”

What do you think about Val Farris’ theory? What’s driving the core of your leadership? Tweet us @WiseNapkin with your answers!

Sep 20, 2016

Have you ever nearly tripped over a milestone or a goal because you were focused on the bigger prize?

That happened at Paper Napkin Wisdom and we nearly let the 150th Episode go by without any recognition of what we've learned and done over the last 3 years.

In that time we've collected more than a thousand paper napkins, done hundreds of interviews, released a book, and TENS of thousands of you have subscribed and listened to the podcast.

Since we were looking forward, however, we almost forgot to look back and see just how far we've come. 

What happened next is incredible ... I asked our Contributors to come back and share what has changed for them, if anything, since they shared their wisdom with us. I wasn't sure if I'd get one or two folks. I was overwhelmed to get 11 contributors come back and join us.

The content here defies a write-up ... it requires a listen. 

There are three easy ways to sign up for the Paper Napkin Wisdom Podcast:

1. via iTunes at -
2. via Google at -
3. via Stitcher at -

or via

In addition, this podcast launches the the vlog video version of Paper Napkin Wisdom so we recorded the live stream of the 150th Podcast Episode recording.

Join me as I talk to some of the world's most incredible entrepreneurs, leaders, and difference-makers and they share pearls of wisdom around faith, family, growth, people (teams), momentum, vulnerability, authenticity, resilience and success.

You can see the video on our YouTube Channel here.


Don't forget to get the book!



Sep 13, 2016

What does it take to be an effective leader? Thousands of books and articles attempt to answer this question (including our podcast). On today’s show, entrepreneur support expert Miranda Barrett is an shares her insights on what it takes to be an effective leader. For more than a decade, Miranda has worked with over 400 entrepreneurs as part of the EO Global Team.

“I work with our member leaders to discuss their goals for the upcoming years and I’ve found similarities between the people who end up meeting those goals and those who don’t,” she says. Often times, leaders think they’re leading but their staff is disengaged and disinterested in the overall mission. “If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just out for a walk,” she says.

According to Miranda, the main trait of a good leader is someone who knows how to leverage and engage their team. “Entrepreneurs have so much energy and passion. It’s akin to an excited golden retriever,” she says. Leaders must understand how to share that excitement and vision with the team. Additionally, showing sincerity and vulnerability is a crucial part of getting teams in line with their leader. She explains, “You have to admit when you’re stuck and turn to your team members to help fix the problem, instead of micromanaging. That trust is contagious and will come right back to you.”

Empowering your team through humility and vulnerability can also lead to teaching them to develop their inner leader, which in turn, will help you reach your goals. She recalls a situation where a supportive team led to success, “We were hosting our Global Student Entrepreneur Awards program. The team was phenomenal. My job was to make sure our emcee did the best job possible, despite last minute scheduling changes. In a very visible way, he was on the hook for anything that would have gone wrong, but he had a safety net. He looked alone but he was supported. ”

Things don’t always turn out as planned. When teams don’t reach their goals, it’s important to take some time to regroup. “There’s a humility in being curious. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Was the process broken? If so, where was the breakdown? Figuring out what happened and where, instead of immediately blaming your team is a crucial part of maintaining that trust,” she says.

Having a team of “yes-men” may mean that your team members don’t feel open enough to voice their opinions. A disengaged team can be just as bad as an incompetent one. “When you have people proactively looking ahead of you to help and feel safe making suggestions? That’s when you can be sure that your team wants to be there,” she says. Conversely, if your team isn’t making suggestions, they may not feel comfortable speaking up.

Finding ways to draw the honesty out of your team ensures its health. Miranda suggests that leaders find “fun and inventive” ways to get honest feedback from team members that may not feel comfortable opening up.  Miranda recalls a company who was looking to open a store in China. In the meeting, the team assured their managers everything was on schedule to open on time. However, after the managers let the team place bets on when they thought the store would actually open, they found that the entire team didn’t think the deadline was possible. The store ended up not opening for months.

What are some things you do with your team to keep them engaged? Send us a tweet @WiseNapkin with your answer!

Sep 6, 2016

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate. Roughly translated into “More things should not be used than are necessary,” Occam’s razor— a principle developed by Franciscan friar and logician—harps on the value of simplicity. In today’s podcast, Brian Kight explains the value of simplistic discipline. “[In order to be successful], one must choose discipline over default every day. It’s the one thing that enhances everything,” he says.

As CEO of Focus 3, an organization that helps organizations align leaders, culture and behaviors with strategy and goals, he routinely couches entrepreneurs on the value of discipline. “It’s a constant battle between our willingness to bring discipline to each day or to default into old habits. The hardest thing to do in the world is to execute the simplest tasks with discipline. Elite levels of discipline garner great results,” he continues.

While this idea seems simple enough, anyone can agree that it isn’t necessarily easy. Take diet and weight loss, for example. Everyone knows the basic ways one can shed pounds – healthy eating, exercise, regular check-ins with a dietician and so on. However, shutting down the default (also known as autopilot) and getting to the discipline part is what makes it so difficult. Default is anything driven by autopilot, resistance and impulse – three things that are not uncommon in the human experience. “Living a disciplined life means that you’re not on autopilot. You’re living intentionally,” he says.

For most people, the word discipline has an immediate negative connotation. But the word actually comes from a Latin word which translates into student. “All discipline means is learning how to narrow down and apply a system of standards,” Brian says, “In my observation, I encounter far too few people who have a definitive set of standards and living them with discipline.”

Contrary to popular science, Brian refuses to subscribe to the notion that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. “I don’t believe that discipline becomes our natural norm. It’s something you have to work on. Your brain is always going to want to find an easier path. Discipline must be a daily decision and very intentional,” he argues. 

For leaders who are looking to incorporate more discipline into their corporate structure, Brian warns that discipline must come from within and not from external sources— otherwise, it’s just compliance. “First, you must set the standard, then give people tools that help them become disciplined and hold them accountable. It’s not about rules; it’s about establishing a standard through clarity and support,” he advises. 

Sep 1, 2016

Entrepreneurs, what big plans have you been putting off because they seemed unrealistic or too far-fetched? Have you ever asked yourself, “Well, why not? What’s the worst that can happen?” Today’s podcast guests thinks that you should. “There are benefits to having ADHD”, declares founder of HARO and Paper Napkin Wisdom show favorite, Peter Shankman. “When you have ADHD, you have two speeds, off or all the way on. You tend to not overthink things. You come to the conclusion that you want to do things, just because you move faster than normal.”

Think of it as flying through and around and with things.

As it turns out, this ended up being how he got started with his latest project, Faster Than Normal, a podcast which focuses on turning ADHD into an advantage, instead of a disability. While many entrepreneurs are plagued by inaction due to overthinking, Peter doesn’t have that problem. “There’s a built in bias to action. More ideas have failed because they haven’t been done, not because they were bad ideas,” he muses.

While many successful entrepreneurs are innately curious, many also suffer from this bias. Perfectionism, while a noble quest, is often the serial killer to innovation and creativity. Peter’s approach pairs a relentless desire to execute and innovate with the relentless desire to have fun and let loose. This has proven to be successful for him: by using his ADHD as a rocket instead of a crutch, he has founded several entrepreneurial ventures.

The Faster Than Normal podcast is extremely personal to him. As a child, he often felt out of place. He subscribes to Kevin Spacey’s quote which states “If you're lucky enough to do well, it's your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” Peter often receives letters from parents that thank him for speaking up and providing his interesting perspectives on ADHD.

He believes that embracing differences is an important key to innovation. “I’ve lost several friends from suicide over the past decade or so. There need to me more conversations surrounding mental health for entrepreneurs,” he says, “We become our most honest selves when we become the help we once needed.”

So, how can entrepreneurs adopt the ‘do first and think later’ mindset? Think of your brain as an Internet browser. The more tabs that are open, the slower it will go. Peter suggests adhering to a strict routine and ruthlessly eliminating anything that does not fit within that routine. “Structure will set you free,” he says.

What are some of your ‘big, hairy audacious goals’? What’s stopping you from going after them? Tweet us with your answers @WiseNapkin!

Aug 9, 2016

When we first started Paper Napkin Wisdom, the idea was that by inspiring entrepreneurs to change themselves, we could promote change in the world. Lucas Siegel, co-founder of Capital Peak Investments and AlternaScript has a similar idea in today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom. “If there’s something in the world you don’t like, then build a business to change it,” he says. He began AlternaScript with this concept in mind. “It’s fascinating how few people realize that a business is really just about solving a problem better than other people can.”

Growing up in an entrepreneurial household, his family always instilled a sense of worldly purpose within Lucas. After graduating from the University of Colorado and extensive travelling, he began to explore the problem with health supplements. “I discovered that most of them sucked and did not have any scientific backing. The underlying problem – which is what I based my company off of— surrounds how we can optimize health for American citizens and the world. How can we unleash people to live up to their potential, from a healthy living perspective? In my opinion, business is the only way to sustainably solve some of the world’s most massive, daunting problems,” he mused.

Beginning a business with a question in mind is a great way to stay on purpose through the entrepreneurial journey. “It’s so easy to lose track of why you’re here. Keeping that question at the forefront of your efforts helps to align your vision and your team,” says Lucas. Speaking of teams, he credits a lot of his success to his “tribe”. There are three types of people he keeps around him, “I surround myself with scalers, inventors and operators. And I make sure they’re all smarter than me and purpose driven individuals.”

Running a purpose driven business can be tough without the help of a well-oiled machine. Lucas ensures that he stays on track by running daily and reading (or, as he tells it, having a conversation with the author).  Additionally, he develops six month goals which he writes down and reads twice a day. “I have micro goals inside of my larger term goals. Six months is the longest I’d like to plan. I read somewhere that strategizing on a year to year basis is less of a strategy and more of a dream. Putting tight timelines on things pushes your brain more,” he says.

A large part of Lucas’ purpose is to provide consumers with top notch products. He’s not prone to analysis paralysis and is an advocate for another popular idea on our show: ‘Make it bad then make it better.’ “We use consumer feedback to evolve our products. We have developed over fifty versions of our cognitive enhancement brain supplement,” he says. “The hard part is scaling and gaining traction and going through the 5,000 no’s to get to that one yes.”

While he credits his success to the idea of solving a problem with his business, Lucas also cautions fellow entrepreneurs to do the same. “A lot of people come to me to try and figure out why their business isn’t growing. I always tell them to think to themselves: ‘Am I solving a problem that exists? Or did I create the problem in my head’,” he muses.

What’s the ultimate worldly purpose behind your business? Tweet us @Wisenapkin with your answers!

Aug 2, 2016

To some, the concept of trusting the world may seem like a far-fetched philosophy. ‘How can I trust the world with everything that’s going on right now?’ you may ask. However, today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom guest, Leila Janah doesn’t feel like the concept is unrealistic. In fact, she uses it as the guiding principle in her personal and professional life. Leila is founder of Sama, a social enterprise that helps people lift themselves out of poverty, and Laxmi, a social impact luxury brand. Her interest in tackling these issues stemmed from her grandmother. An ‘adventurette’, Grandma Janah hiked around the world from 1949-1952 with only $5 to her name. She met Leila’s grandfather in Calcutta, where the two began to build a life. Years later, Leila’s parents were worried about their upcoming move to the United States. “My grandma took their hands and said: ‘The world is a beautiful place. Trust the world’. They imparted that philosophy on to me,” she says.

Birthed by impassioned adventurers, Leila expressed interest in world policy and events from an early age. “I’ve lived abroad in Japan and Switzerland because I wanted to be connected with people and see how they lived,” Leila recalls. After helming the inaugural chapter of Amnesty International at her local high school, she worked to provide equal access to AP courses within high schools in underprivileged communities. By taking the philosophy of connectedness and pairing it with action, she found a way to promote change in the world.

Trusting the world also applies to managerial styles. When one of her team members needed two days outside of his allotted PTO in order to go on his honeymoon, she found a way to ensure he wouldn’t have to take unpaid leave. “He didn’t ask me for this, but I wanted to give it to him. When you give people agency and you expect the best from them, that’s when they deliver,” she says. Instead of treating employees as mindless drones, she finds that this approach allows for them to take more pride in their work.

This is not to say you won’t be disappointed when humans you’ve trusted drop the ball. “It’s not always easy to view the world through this lens,” she admits, “But I believe that bad behavior is only the default when we expect it to be. When you have high expectations of other humans, they normally will rise to the challenge.” She also credits daily meditation with keeping her centered and focused. “Ben Franklin wrote down his virtues and reviewed them daily to make sure that he was abiding by his core principles. I did a similar exercise and I’ve found that it keeps me incredibly balanced. It’s a guide and a map for my decision making,” she says.

Do you apply this philosophy to your life? How has it impacted your life and your company? Tweet us with your answers @Wisenapkin

Jul 28, 2016

The date was February 4, 2013. The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers were going head to head in Super Bowl XLVII. Suddenly, in the third quarter, there was a power outage. For thirty-four minutes, spectators across the globe were held captive by this unprecedented technical difficulty. Then, cookie brand Oreo tweeted “Power out? No Problem, you can still dunk in the dark” with a starkly lit image of an Oreo. Even if you didn’t watch the Super Bowl, chances are you heard about this story, as it was covered by hundreds of major media outlets. Today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom guest and marketing maven, Dave Meerman Scott, has pioneered this concept, known as newsjacking. According to Dave, newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your messages into a breaking news story. “To grow your business, align your marketing to the news of the day. Timing is key,” he remarks, “Very few companies are agile enough to do real time marketing.”

For many marketing departments, their marketing is very proactive. While this is great from an operations standpoint, Dave recommends that priorities are shifted to include time and space for reaction to relevant news articles. “You’re planning on your timetable and not the time table that’s most important to your marketplace. People don’t care about your products and services, but they may care about the story you align yourself with,” he says. Dave shared a few examples of a few of the ways people have successfully executed on this strategy.

Example 1: Trent Silver is a 22-year-old entrepreneur who founded Cash For Purses, a company that purchases used, high end handbags, fixes them and resales them to consignment shops. When he saw the breaking news story that Lindsay Lohan was having money troubles, he wrote a blog post offering to purchase her handbags. He then sent this blog to a few editors. The response was astounding: he was featured in TMZ, Radar Online, Huffington Post and more. Additionally, this generated over 8000 inquiries and a quarter of a million dollars in revenue.

Example 2: Mitch Jackson is a senior partner at Jackson & Wilson Law Firm, a legal practice in California. He blogs about the legal ramifications of breaking news stories (Charlie Sheen’s HIV announcement, Bill Cosby’s case and more). This has led to journalists quoting him and using him as a source in for their stories. He’s generated multimillion dollar settlements from this alone.

Example 3: Eloqua CEO Joe Payne realized that his competitor, Market to Lead, had been acquired by Oracle. When he did a web search, the Oracle website had very limited details surrounding this story. He decided to write a blog post detailing the acquisition and what it meant for the industry. Within a day, he was approached and quoted by PC World, Information World and more. Coincidentally enough, Eloqua was purchased by Oracle a little while later. “It was the $16m blog post,” laughs Dave.

For businesses who are looking to share similar success, Dave suggests the following:

  • Have a legitimate tie to the story: Make sure your brand has an authentic connection with the story. Otherwise, this method will look forced.
  • Timing is key: Control the narrative by striking when the iron is hot. Waiting a few days or even a few hours can make your story lose its relevancy or edge.
  • Success takes time: Keep in mind, this success may not be instant. Work to establish your blogging rhythm so that when an opportunity arises, you’re able to pounce.

What newsjacking stories have you noticed lately? Have you tried this concept yourself? Tweet us with your answers @Wisenapkin

May 31, 2016

Many of us are familiar with the concept that in order to get the life you want; you have you build it intentionally. However, how can entrepreneurs navigate the pivot from the life they’re living into the life they want? Bri Seeley, founder of the Inspirational Woman Project, explains how she began to live an intentional life when she began to live by this guiding principle: “Life does not get better by chance. Life gets better when you take action towards creating your inspirational life.”

She has spent the last year inspiring women to do the same. After stepping in to help her (current) business partner with an event, Bri found herself hosting what would end up being dubbed The Amplify Collective. Gathering over dinner and wine, about twenty women discussed their passions and vulnerabilities for about 2-3 hours. Realizing that they had stumbled upon something special, Bri and her partner began to throw several more events over the next few months, all of which sold out nearly immediately. But Bri wasn’t always living such a purpose filled life. 

Prior to adopting this as her guiding principle, Bri admits she was stumbling throughout life. She was running a fashion company alongside her day job. While it was once her passion, she felt like she was running in a hamster wheel, “I was amassing massive amounts of debt. It was time to begin taking action in a purposeful way.” In 2015, she closed down her fashion brand and began going through the redefinition process.

Redefining her purpose proved to be tough. Because many people only knew her as a fashion designer, she had difficulty getting people in line with her new vision. “It was like walking up to a blank canvas and saying I get to choose what I create. And it was terrifying.” When crafting her new vision, she began to evaluate what she had accomplished in the previous years. Bri realized that in her previous entrepreneurial venture, she enjoyed inspiring women to look and feel feminine. She decided to take everything she had been doing for the last several years and translate those experiences into an organization that focuses on women empowerment.

Upon this newfound realization, Bri discovered that there was a certain persistence that had to be had in order to maintain her new direction. “I record an audio that details all of the good I want in my life for that month. It allows me to bask in the actions that I’m taking and the purpose I’m living in. I listen to it every day,” she says. Sometimes she doesn’t reach all of her goals, but she takes the time to appreciate what she has accomplished, “The more you hear it, the more you align it.” Bri also follows a morning routine that has allowed for her to stay aligned with her purpose. From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., she takes “me time”- sometimes, this involves coloring for hours; other times, she’ll go to her rooftop for yoga. “I just listen to my body and do what it wants,” she says.

By maintaining a balance between living intentionally, practicing self-care and taking the time to recharge, Bri transformed her life and now empowers other women to do the same. What steps have you taken to live an intentional life as an entrepreneur? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin.

May 29, 2016

Data is the new black. Over 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years; and on average, people consume nearly 30 GB of data per day. From entrepreneurs to CMO’s of Fortune 500 companies, people simply can’t get enough of it. But often times, organizations hit a standstill because they don’t understand how to properly leverage the data to drive actionable results.

In some cases, it’s simply because they’re not looking at data through the right lens. John Johnson is a trained statistician, data consultant, expert witness and founder of Edgeworth Economics, based out of Washington, D.C. Author of the newly released book Every Data, he explains how  some businesses neglect to properly harness this information and what they can do to begin collecting purpose driven data.

“Statistics and data can be powerful, but very misleading. As a statistician, I think about the world from a data driven perspective. But what I’ve noticed is that averages are just like a snapshot,” Johnson says, “It just explains one frame and sometimes neglects to tell the whole story. This can lead to terrible decision making.” A good example to illustrate this point is to compare the average salary of a mayor across America (around $60,000) with the salary of a deputy mayor (around $80,000).

At an initial glance, it may seem confusing that a deputy major earns less than an actual mayor. However, these data points fail to consider that only larger cities like New York and Philadelphia have deputy mayors, while every small town and metropolis have mayors. “What you’re averaging can dramatically skew the results. Thinking deeper about data will help [business owners] make more sense of it,” he says.

Speaking of “average”, John is the exact opposite. Back in 2010, he developed a company of “wiz kids”, which wasn’t necessarily the norm. “In a typical firm like ours, you see older people working with their much young apprentices,” he explains. By refusing to settle for the average, he has since expanded his firm to 80 employees in three offices.

For companies looking to improve their data collection or analyzation methods, John suggests the following:

1. Make sure the data you’re reviewing is correct: The first step in analyzing your data is to make sure it’s the correct data set. When the temperature control company NEST was bought by Google, the ticker jumped by 1900% in one day. Unfortunately, that ticker wasn’t for NEST – it was for a similarly named penny stock that had gone bankrupt. Slowing down and taking time to review which data you’re looking at is essential to the success of your data analyzation efforts.

2. Determine what question the data is trying to solve: While some people can be data hoarders, this leads to massive efforts for data mining that isn’t even useful or applicable. Take the time to sit down and decide which problem you’d like for your data to solve, prior to gathering several data points.

Have you ever fallen victim to bad data practices? What did you do to fix it? Let us know by sending us a tweet at @WiseNapkin.

May 18, 2016

Are you a victim of squirrel syndrome? Based on some fairly unscientific research, about 2 in 3 entrepreneurs are burdened by this affliction. The biggest symptoms include being attracted by every “shiny” thing that comes along, coupled with the inability to say no. But is this hurting your business? Joe Calloway, author, consultant and Executive in Residence at Belmont University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, argues that it is. Having worked extensively with organizations of all sizes and growth cycles, Joe credits the success of many entrepreneurs to one simple adage: “Say no to almost everything.”

Inspired by Warren Buffet, this idea is what separates normal successful people from very successful people, Joe believes. At the beginning of his career, Joe struggled with saying “no” and suffered the consequences. After adopting this concept as his mantra, he began to say “no” more often and started to really hone in on the things he was saying “yes” to.

Another side effect of squirrel syndrome is becoming frozen due to a lack of tunnel vision on the ultimate purpose. Having worked with entrepreneurs for years, Joe has witnessed organizations struggle with this repeatedly. “More often than not, it’s better to make bad decisions than to be frozen. Entrepreneurs will always learn from their mistakes, but they will learn nothing from standing still. As opposed to being frozen, mistakes help you learn your strengths,” he adds. He also suggests that entrepreneurs measures what happens after these decisions.

In addition to learning how to say “no”, it’s important for entrepreneurs to leave room for the “yes”. Joe advises that entrepreneurs should learn how to prioritize their “yes” based on their brand values. “Entrepreneurs and companies should learn to do three or four things extremely well, and with great consistency. It’s all about balance,” he advises.

As leaders, entrepreneurs need to become skilled at saying “yes” to the right things at the right time. “Company owners must remain consistent about the things they say ‘yes’ to,” he says, “Consistency coupled with innovation is how leaders become great.” He also advises that company owners align their entire team on their “yes” – that is, a single vision which encompasses the one thing every team member will always say “yes” to.

Refusing to say “no” to things makes it impossible to simplify your purpose, cut out the noise and move forward. What are some of the things you will begin to say “no” to? Can you identify three things you’ll always say yes to? Let us know in the comments below.

May 16, 2016

Nothing quite compares to the beauty of a Rembrandt. While many of us have only gazed at the priceless artwork behind the glass, imagine having one of his paintings in your attic. Think for a minute about the wasted value of having such a beautiful piece covered up and hidden in your attic.

Long time Paper Napkin Wisdom fans may remember speaker and author Andrew Sherman’s Paper Napkin Wisdom when he appeared on the show back in 2014. Today, he’s back with another gem that he hopes will help organizations of all sizes to reduce their intellectual waste. Using agricultural metaphor, he says, “Be an intellectual capital agrarian. Harvest your intangible assets before they rot on the vine.” That’s a heavy statement, so let’s dissect it a bit.

“I hate waste. I hate it so much, I gave a TED Talk about it,” Andrew explains. He began to think about waste even more when he read the Kevin G. Rivette classic Rembrandts in the Attic, nearly 15 years ago. After ten years of living by this philosophy, he realized one critical flaw in the book – “Rembrandts retain their value but most intangible assets do not,” he says. The notion was straightforward - inside companies of all sizes, intellectual capital assets or Rembrandts are being wasted. To find them, business owners may have to look in places they normally wouldn’t.

These lessons ripple out over several industries. Several companies have gained popularity by noticing the potential wasted assets in other verticals. Take Hotwire, for example. Instead of letting rooms “rot”, they learned to harvest those assets and have turned them into something useful for consumers.

Entitling his book Harvesting Intangible Assets, Andrew explains, “I decided to look at innovation as if it was similar to the agrarian process for farmers. The book is meant to help small businesses notice the intellectual property within their company.” Some smaller businesses may argue that they don’t have as many intangible assets, but Andrew’s idea encompasses the notion that small businesses should also look for licensing opportunities or “Rembrandts in other attics”.

Much thought was put into the agrarian metaphor. By definition, an agrarian relates to the cultivation of land or a person who advocates a redistribution of landed property, especially as part of a social movement. Business owners who look to apply this method to their organizations need to follow the agrarian process closely. For instance, farmers plan out their crops months in advance of the planting and harvest seasons.

This is comparable to business owners making sure that there will be a need for the asset in the coming months and years, while waiting on the planting and harvest seasons to commence. When looking at this concept on a global scale, Andrew thinks that other international companies are “eating our lunch”. He believes that in order for North America to compete on a global scale, there needs to be a mass adoption of this concept.

While developing new ideas is never frowned upon, entrepreneurs should look to cultivate the talent and ideas in their backyard. What Rembrandts may be hiding in your attic? How do you plan on discovering and cultivating those assets?

May 10, 2016

The business math equation S (sales) – E (expenses) = P (profit) has been widely accepted for years. However, entrepreneur and author Mike Michalowicz doesn’t quite see it that way. “83% of small businesses in the US are surviving check to check, some of whom follow this model. From a behavioral perspective, what happens last matters least,” Mike says, “Take your profit first and you will reverse engineer your profit forever.” While some may scoff at this notion, in today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom, he explains how a shift in thought process and subsequent actions can revolutionize small businesses forever.

This concept is best compared to Parkinson’s Law, which states that our behavior adjusts around the supply. Take toothpaste, for example. Upon purchasing a new tube of toothpaste, most people are less frugal with it than when they’re on their last squeeze of the same tube. To apply this theory to business, Mike argues that if companies follow a different equation – S- P = E – they will reduce spending and maximize their bottom line. It’s similar to a popular personal finance method – the 401k. By readjusting your spending based on what you’re bringing in, it will increase your bottom line over time.

Additionally, operating this way forces business owners to become radically innovative. One of the businesses Mike owns, a leather manufacturing company based out of St. Louis, was running into a problem. The equipment they needed to develop their product cost a whopping $40,000. Instead of making that investment, which would have greatly reduced their profit, they got crafty. After a few trips to Home Depot and some trial and error, they invented a molding mechanism that only costs around $200 to produce. “Our competitors were using the same [$40,000 machine], and our profit margins sky rocketed,” he says. He urges that using this model forces businesses to think outside of the box.

But in 2008, Mike would have probably initially scoffed at this advice. He had sold two companies and became an angel investor, which he recalls being a horrible experience. He hit rock bottom. “I was $50,000 in credit card debt, and I was driving a beat up Durango that only had two radio stations,” he admits. Deciding that it was time for a change, he began reading The Richest Man in Babylon and similar books. A light bulb went off – he realized that while people had applied the “Pay Yourself First” mentality to personal finances, no one had taken that approach to business. He began to test the concept with his own business and the businesses of friends, and noticed he was on to something.

So, how can a company go from their current approach to Mike’s method? He suggests starting small -open a separate savings account and allocate 1% of every check into this separate account. “If you can run your business on $10,000, you can probably run it on $9,900. Set that extra $900 aside. While you may not amass a life changing sum of money, your mind set will definitely shift,” he advises.

After making these changes, Mike urges businesses to not reinvest that money into the business, “When it’s not profitable, we will start to resent our business. Those distributions and profits help you celebrate your entrepreneurship and your innovation.” Every quarter, he has a quarterly pause where he and his business partner discuss their successes from the month, along with any failures. This occurs after they both receive their quarterly distribution. While Mike doesn’t reinvest his distributions into the company, he does ensure that he reinvests the profit into his employees. “It’s very important that everyone has a vested interest in the success of the business,” he says. While the profits may not be publicized, he does make sure to explain to each team member how they can benefit from being frugal with company funds.

By combining a shift in mindset with a pivot from traditional methods, Mike’s formula has led to profit increases for hundreds of businesses. What do you think of his method? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin.

May 7, 2016

Each week I’ll post a short podcast, usually between 3 to 5 minutes long, just talking about how to apply the Paper Napkin Wisdom 5 Step Plan to Life and Business Success in an everyday kind of way.


As I was speaking to a group of entrepreneurs about execution this week, we discussed the value of changing our Perspective as leaders to not think that we were out front, but rather out back of our teams supporting them as they charged forward.

The discussion evolved toward understanding the value of how elephants lead. While elephants have obvious size and strength, that's not how they lead. The alpha female is the leader of the herd and she leads from the back of the group using skills like Problem Solving, Social Intelligence, Openness, Decisiveness, Patience, Confidence, and Compassion to guide the group.

Make it a great week!!


May 4, 2016

In an age where everyone can pick up their smartphones and become an instant “expert” on any topic, how can entrepreneurs market their knowledge to their consumers? Millennial money expert and author of The Broke and the Beautiful Life, Stefanie O’Connell thinks it has a lot to do with packaging. No, she isn’t referring to big bows or pretty wrapping paper. She poses that while information isn’t propriety, experiences are.  Instead of hoarding knowledge, entrepreneurs should find a way to package their experiences in a way that’s meaningful for other people.

In 2008, Stefanie was a recent college graduate, utilizing her degree in theater to travel the world and live her dream. However, due to the late 2008 recession, she was forced to return to New York. “I got a job that paid $225. While it was very fulfilling, it wasn’t exactly financially viable. I was the epitome of a starving artist,” she recalls.  After taking up a friend’s offer to read Suze Orman’s The Young, Broke & Fabulous, she became enthralled with the idea of money management. She ended up becoming a resource for her friends and began sharing her money management advice on a blog. This turned into a book (The Broke & Beautiful Life).

“Financial advice is pretty straightforward and some view it as boring,” says Stefanie. However, she paired her own experiences with age old financial advice to develop a platform that was both relatable and helpful. Instead of telling readers to start an emergency fund, she details the time when she broke down in tears at a dentist’s office because she was unable to pay $2000 for a necessary procedure. “By tapping into the details, you evoke an immediate emotional response from a reader or consumer. I create the urgency by sharing my experiences,” Stefanie says.

Balancing information and experiences can often be tough, especially when entrepreneurs find themselves in situations where they’re not driving the conversation. Stefanie likes to have “talking points with a point of view” for these situations. She draws on her drama background to pair words together to drive home certain points for her audience. “The aspect of storytelling is very valuable, no matter what industry. No one is going to care what you know if you’re not coming across in a way that’s relatable,” she says. Stefanie also stresses the importance of knowing the audience and finding ways to add segmented value.  

Being relatable and changing the conversation from a monologue to a dialogue means doing research to discover your audience’s needs. Stefanie spends a lot of time dialoguing with her audience in order to do just that. “I even look up Amazon book reviews to see which books in my sector have received two or three stars and check to see what was missing,” she says. Additionally, as a financial advisor who specifically focuses on women and millennials, she takes caution to only listen to feedback which will add value to her audience. “If someone begins to tell me that I need to focus on providing Baby Boomers with retirement advice, I typically shy away from that because it doesn’t speak to my niche,” she says.

For entrepreneurs that worry they will run out of experiences to share, Stefanie says that she hunts down other experiences by simply taking interesting people out for coffee. “I know that the first thing financial advisors typically say is to cut out coffee from your budget. But I have enjoyed an incredible ROI from that tactic,” she laughs. And, when talking about what experiences she plans to share in the future, she started doing a dream bio exercise, where she writes up her dream bio then compares it to her to-do list. “It’s very important that I’m intentional about that alignment,” she notes.

What are some ways you can package your experiences into something that’s helpful for your audience/customers? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin!

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