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.
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