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From Passion Project to Business

Antonio Diaz of Life and ThymeThere are two words that define the theme of Life & Thyme: culinary storytelling.

Antonio Diaz is the founder of Life & Thyme, a digital publication and production studio devoted to bringing a community together around food.

Antonio and his team bring culinary fanatics the stories behind the food and restaurants they enjoy.

In the past two years, Life & Thyme has grown – and evolved – rapidly.

What started as a local project, featuring LA restaurants and chefs, eventually turned into a global movement, featuring the artists behind food from all over the world.

In today’s broadcast, I talk with Antonio Diaz about what it’s like starting with a passion-based project, how he was able to launch a magazine out of a collection of Instagram photos, and how it all evolved into a full on film production studio.

What Antonio Diaz and I Talk About:

  • Antonio’s background in digital publishing and the birth of Life and Thyme
  • Why you should start simple and worry about the core idea first (not monetization, which comes later)
  • How a passion project Life of Thyme, ended up starting a profitable video production studio
  • The Power of a community and how to build one yourself
  • Why meeting offline is so important to building a passionate group of supporters
  • How to find people to work with /collaborate with and  why it’s impossible to do everything yourself

Wise Words from Antonio Diaz:

Building a community is what matters, not product, or website. A Strong communitycan move mountains.

 

If you think too hard, you over think and cause more stress. Live in the moment. Some things work out, others don’t. Lighten up. Have a good time.

Where You Can Find Antonio Diaz Online:

lifeandthyme.com

instagram.com/antonio

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If you enjoyed today’s podcast, please leave a review on iTunes here. Thanks so much in advance for your support.

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Today’s blog post is about a question I don’t ever get asked…

But I wish people WOULD ask me:

Tom, why should I share my work online?

Great question, Tom!

And I’ll explain in one second.

But first, a backstory…

I started my terminal leave from the Army 1 year ago this month (actually, 28 June to be exact, but I’m a little delayed on posting this).

Terminal leave is the confusing name the Army uses to describe paid-for-time-off. When I left, I had accrued about 2 months’ worth.

In other words, while I’d get paid like I was going to work, I could instead drink beer, grow a beard, and build tent forts all day long (winner-winner-chicken-dinner).

Here’s a video of me celebrating:

*warning: none of this was rehearsed (and it can never be unseen)

So that was me 1 year ago.

1 year ago, Tom?!  What have you been doing since then?

Good question Tom, I’m glad you asked:

I’ve been sharing my work.

And since I’ve had such a good time with it, I think you should do the same.

Here’s why:

5 reasons to share your work online

1. Posterity

It’s fascinating looking back at what you’ve created, isn’t it?

Whether it’s art from grade school, writing from high school, or college / post-college work, it’s fun to look back to see how far you’ve come, especially when it’s one of those projects that embarrasses you (better yet: surprises you)…

Years later, these snapshots of our past are astounding, aren’t they?

But more important than yourself (yes, there’s such a thing) is your family (and friends).

Have you ever wondered about the story of your grandfather or great grandfather (or mother)?

How cool would it be to read the words of someone close to you (by blood or otherwise) who lived 100, 200, or 300+ years ago?

How fascinating would it be to walk in their shoes?

That’s what I consider when I write.

Yes, I write for people here and now, for the people who appreciate what I have to say, but I mostly write for myself. And when I write for myself, I’m really writing for future generations of little Toms (or for other idiosyncratic, future revolutionaries).

The point is: why keep your life just for you? Why not share it with those who come later?

I promise you this: they want to hear your story.

2. Learning and Growth

Simply put, we learn more by teaching.

There’s a lot of literature and studies about this, so I won’t bore you with proof (just DuckDuckGo it).

But I will say this: learning – real learning (not academia’s fictional take on it) – occurs when we teach.

And when we learn, we grow.

And isn’t growth – in wisdom, knowledge, faith, and beyond – what’s most important?

If you’re content with being the exact person you are today 10 years from now, ignore this part (and the whole article).

For the rest of us – it’s time to start teaching, and there’s no better way to teach then documenting and showing the work you do on a daily basis.

3. Because People Care

Not sold on the personal benefits of sharing your work?

What if I told you people cared about your ideas?

Not just family and friends (although they may end up your most grateful fans), but strangers. People you’ve never met before in your life. People from around the world.

It sounds weird to write (although it shouldn’t, since I do all my shopping online, all my work online, and I even found my wife online…true story), but the people you DON’T know online can become your biggest supporters and even great friends.

Of course, to make those real connections it means being transparent and vulnerable.

i.e. show your work.

4. Become an Expert

You don’t have to be an expert to share your work.

But by sharing your work, you BECOME an expert.

Simple isn’t it?

My friend Nathan Barry, whom I interviewed for my next book on starting, finishing, and shipping collaborative projects, has written extensively on the subject of gaining expertise from writing.

In fact, he wrote the book on it: Authority.

I’d say that makes him an expert.

Following his lead, I wrote on Pay What You Want pricing. Guess how many advanced degrees I hold in that subject matter area? Guess how many awards / ribbons / medals / trophies I’ve gotten?

Exactly.

And it doesn’t matter.

Because I write on the subject, I’m considered the subject matter expert – to my surprise really…until I take a step back to realize the truth: we trust and respect the people who share their work.

So why wouldn’t you share yours??

5. Because Resumes are Dead*

Honestly, I’ve felt this way long before it became a popular opinion (okay, maybe not popular, but common in my social media streams…that counts, right?).

Since grade school I thought the idea of putting your experience on a piece of paper made little sense (yes, I was a forward thinking youth).

After all, if you’re good at what you do, if you create a lot, surely your work should speak for yourself, shouldn’t it?

Who would have thought, only 10+ years later, that society is catching up to this fact – at least in industries and roles where work – what you’re capable of producing – is more important than your prior bosses canned praise.

We’ve known for thousands of years that it’s who you know not what you know. Before, that meant getting lucky based on where you were born and to whom.

Now, those rules don’t apply anymore – not to the extent you might think they do.

Now, who you know is self-determined.

Why?

Because you can GET to know just about anyone in the world.

How?

You guessed it – by sharing your work.

Since I’ve started writing, podcasting, publishing, and instigating various projects (from business incubators to veteran’s membership sites), I’ve gotten to know some incredible people. My podcast connected me to someone who I later published, my blog allowed me to write for some massively popular websites, and publishing my own books got me interviewed on some of the most well respected business and marketing sites on the internets.

I also built real relationships with just about everyone I’ve come in contact with.

Don’t you think it would be handy to know the people you admire personally?

Don’t you think that might help you in the future?

I think so, but maybe that’s just me…

Beyond entrepreneurship, showing your work is important for employers.

Zappos recently removed resume submissions altogether, instead opting for an internal social network to determine who is or isn’t a good fit for the company.

Zappos isn’t the only one – almost every tech startup out of Silicon Valley has the same policy: show me what you’re capable of doing – your portfolio – not a resume.

If you’re worried your work isn’t good enough right now to share, don’t worry: you wouldn’t be able to sneak your way into one of these positions anyway. Better to share before you feel ready so you can improve and grow then wait on the sidelines to be ignored.

*resumes are not dead if you’re looking for middle management positions inside corporate bureaucracies, but for more and more startups, the idea of a resume is a relic.

How You Can Start Sharing Your Work

I wouldn’t rely on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networks to do what I’m recommending here. These platforms don’t care about you and owe you nothing (read the fine print).

Conversely, starting a blog and paying for your own domain name + hosting…

That’s something you own (and with cheap backup technology, it’s impossible to lose).

So my recommendation?

Start a blog.

It doesn’t have to be crazy or intricate. A simple blog can be set up in a few minutes.

If you go with a legit hosting company like webfaction, their documentation can walk you through the whole process (or if you ask nicely, they might even do it for you).

Once you have a blog / website set up, start filling it in a little bit at a time.

Consider it a long term / long form project…something that’s never supposed to be completed, only improved over time and then shared with the people who want to hear from you.

And trust me – we want to hear from you.

So what are you waiting for?

Started, finished, and shipped in Teakettle, Belize.

Writing time: 3:49

Soundtrack: The National

Leave a comment and let us know your top reasons for sharing your work.

Or if you don’t share your work yet, why not?

There are no wrong answers here so share away!

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Of all the cruel punishments the Greek gods bestowed on humans (and one another), the punishment of Sisyphus is one of the cruelest.

Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra and the son of Aelius (ruler of the winds and son of Poseidon…the guy has some serious lineage behind him).

He was also a prideful, deceitful, murderous ruler; not only was he a chronic liar (deceiving both gods and humans), but he killed travelers and visitors for fun in his own kingdom.

Basically, Sisyphus was a real prick.

Apparently, after one too many deceitful and murderous acts, Zeus decided enough was enough and condemned Sisyphus to an eternal punishment. Except this wasn’t any old punishment. Zeus crafted something uniquely horrible for Sisyphus.

Zeus condemned Sisyphus to push a large bolder up a steep hill.

Difficult for sure, but not the worst thing in the world (or underworld), right?…

Except, like all good Greek myths, there was a catch.

Zeus enchanted the bolder.

Anytime Sisyphus came close to the top of the hill with the bolder, it would slip through his hands, rolling all the way back down to the bottom.

No matter how Sisyphus approached the challenge, his effort was futile.

An eternity of useless, infuriating effort with no payoff.

Sisyphus and Entrepreneurship

In a lot of ways, entrepreneurship, art, and writing feel the same way.

We spend hours, weeks, months (years in some cases) working on a project, only to launch it and…people don’t like it, people hate it, or, worst of all: people ignore it.

Oftentimes, success feels like the bolder of Sisyphus, slipping through our hands every time right before we reach the top.

And if you’re committed to your work / art / writing, the work we do can sometimes feel infuriating futile.

But there’s an important difference between the struggle of the entrepreneur and the struggle of Sisyphus:

Our work isn’t futile by nature.

Every climb to the top of the mountain results in experience, lessons learned, and most of all growth.

The climb to the top isn’t futile, IF we learn the right lessons and apply them in future endeavors (and we’re not simply repeating the same motions as before).

Which is where Andrew Warner comes in…

The 2 Most Important Business Lessons I Learned from Andrew Warner

Andrew Warner of Mixergy.comA few weeks back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Andrew Warner to interview him for the next issue of Bootstrapped Magazine (the next issue comes out in two weeks, and the new website is under-construction, so stay tuned).

Andrew is the founder of Mixergy.com, one of the premier business training websites in the world.

Andrew has interviewed over 1,000 entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs, from the founder of AirBnB.com to Groupon to LinkedIn to Wikipedia (and everything in between).

The point is: he’s spoken to a lot of high-performers – men and women who have started and operated successful companies, many from scratch.

With so many interviews under his belt, Andrew probably knows a thing or two about what works…and what doesn’t.

Which is why I wanted to ask him that exact question.

The following is a small excerpt from the interview I did with Andrew Warner that will be featured in the next issue of Bootstrapped Magazine. Andrew dishes a lot more gold than this in a lot more detail, so if you enjoy this, you can preorder your copy today.

Enjoy:

TOM: What is the most common problem entrepreneurs’ deal with when they are just starting out?  From the interviews you’ve conducted, what have you found to be the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make right at the beginning?

ANDREW WARNER:    I’ll tell you it happens so much that people must be tired of hearing me saying it, it’s the same mistake I made.  I thought I knew what an invitation site was like because I organize events: “In a few hours I’m going to have some people come to the office for a little event here; on Sunday I’m going to have people come over for brunch in my house,” etc. I organize events all the time.  I use invitations all the time.  I thought I knew everything.  I didn’t realize that we all have our own unique experiences and if we just try to deal with our own pain and our own needs we are not going to necessarily address what other people need.

That’s the problem that I see over and over.

Just the other day I was talking to the founder of Magoosh.  Magoosh is a test prep site that is doing millions in sales.  It didn’t exist four or five years ago and the founder said, “We’re in the business of getting people into business school.  People who we want to cater to are going to take tests.  We’ll get them into business schools.  We know what it takes to do this. What we’re going to create is a user-generated test prep site, where instead of an expert teaching, it will be people who know the task.  We’ll ask questions of people who are trying to learn it, they’ll ask questions of each other, they’ll learn together… Boom.”

One of the investors invested a lot, like $10,000— which is a lot for a student, and it failed.  But they thought they knew the problem; they thought they understood it.  So I said to them, “What are you guys going to do?” And the founder said, “You know, what we decided to do at that point was go and talk to other students and see what they didn’t like about this, and do what THEY wanted.”

It turns out people who are looking to study for big tests do not trust the community.  They want someone that they can put their faith in, who is the expert, who has been doing this for years, who can guide them flawlessly or as close to it as humanly possible.

They discovered, the whole idea of community-generated questions was just never going to work, and so they scrapped it and went in a different direction.

They actually started building a small site using nothing but Balsamiq mockup software and PowerPoint…Then that started to work because they took it out to people and said, “Would this make sense for you?”  And they took the feedback and adjusted until they had something that worked…This is a common story that you hear over and over and over again and we still all make that mistake.

TOM: So what are the most common traits of successful entrepreneurs?

ANDREW WARNER: You know Mark Suster, the venture capitalist, told me that he likes to invest in entrepreneurs who have a chip on their shoulder.  I’ve never heard anyone say that they want to work with entrepreneurs who have a chip on their shoulder.  So I’ve been giving that some thought as I’ve been doing my interviews and what I realized is that there are entrepreneurs who take these setbacks that we all have — the criticism that we all get from the world — and they use it to their advantage.

One entrepreneur told me that every time a venture capitalist turned him down, he added that guy’s name to a list so that when he succeeded he could look back at all the people who missed out.

Now, you take a look at that and that issue could, for many people, cause such inner doubt that they become obsessed with it and become debilitated by it. The doubt of, “Well if this venture capitalist who knows what he’s talking about just turned me down, maybe I have nothing here and shouldn’t continue.”

He took that and made it into an asset. When he thought about one of these guys who turned him down; instead of saying, “Aw, why do I want to do this if Steve doesn’t want to invest in me?” He said, “Steve didn’t want to invest in me, I’m going to show him.”

Your Turn up the Mountain

Two powerful and important lessons:

  • #1: you don’t know the problem or solution – your customer does, so don’t assume anything (ask, learn, and test).
  • #2: you’re going to fail but successful entrepreneurs turn failure into fuel for their fire, setbacks into assets, and anger into positive change.

This is the type of advice that can be hard to hear.

The honest kind always is…

And it’s especially uncomfortable if you’ve continued to try to solve your own problem (without figuring out what people want) or if you base your ideas on the opinions of others (instead of turning that into motivation to prove them wrong).

I’ve definitely been there myself before, trust me (and still make similar mistakes today)…

But that’s the beauty of these lessons:

While your own situation might seem insurmountable – a giant bolder that needs to be pushed to the top of a mountain – it isn’t.

Everything that stands in front of us in this life is conquerable, from writing, to art, to entrepreneurship.

The question is: are you willing to learn, grow, and adapt from your failures; to approach the obstacle that defeated you last time in a new way, with new techniques and strategies; to pivot, even if you’re not sure how, to make something happen (no matter how much it pains you to abandon your first idea)?

No, it’s not easy.

But nothing worthwhile ever is.

Good luck, and keep creating.

Started, finished, and shipped in Banos, Ecuador (under mild Malaria-like symptoms)

Total writing time: 4:45

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I’m writing a book on entrepreneurship, collaborative project development, and how to lead a team to ship a product to market. I explain in-depth how to apply the lessons covered in this blog post (and more) to help you successfully turn your idea into a profitable product or service. Sign up here to get early access and exclusive updates.