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And the Secret to being a successful entrepreneur is...

Originally appeared on DanielOdio.com on 10/26/2010.

Something hit me today like a ton of bricks.

Something thats so damn obvious I cant believe I never encapsulated it into a single coherent thought before.

The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is trading up.

Yep, thats right, trading up.

Trading up, as in the Red Paperclip guy who, after a series of trades, went from a paperclip to a house.

Except Im not talking about trading paperclips for houses. Im talking about turning nothing into something.

Im talking about hustling. About maximizing opportunities. About asking yourself, what could I do with this thing I just got, to turn it into something bigger and better based on my goals? (the thing being press, or a successful product launch, or an introduction, or basically anything).

I just realized today this is something I do all the time. Ive done it so much that its ingrained in the very fabric of my being.

Itd be really easy to take this the wrong way, especially if you dont trade up often or at all. I dont mean this in a manipulative sort of way at all. Theres a certain earnestness you have to have in doing this to live a good life while always reaching for something greater. Let me just give you the small example that made me realize it today, in chronological order:

Were looking to hire engineers. In a big way.

So I heard the news on TechCrunch today about Digg laying people off

And then shortly thereafter I saw this blog about people scouting for Digg engineers, which mentioned that Joe Stump of SimpleGeo used to be lead architect at Digg.

And then I thought to myself, hmmm, I know some SimpleGeo guys so I looked up the people I know to see what their email addresses were in an attempt to discern a pattern of email addy so I could email Joe

I found that they were all firstname@simplegeo.com and thought hmmm Id better verify that, because Joe is a common name, so his might not be firstname@

So I did a Google search for Joe@SieGeo.com and viola! A few things did pop up enough to assure me that I had his email address right (note took part of the email addy out in this link for spam bot mitigation)

So I emailed him, letting him know about my relationship w/ SimpleGeo and how we were looking for engineers

And he emailed me back letting me know hed shard my info with some ex Digg engineers

I traded up a series of thoughts & actions to achieve a goal, starting with a simple thought about how ex-Digg engineers were available and I might have a connection to someone who could connect me, to following through with an email and response.

I dont know if anything will come of this, but thats somewhat besides the point. Its kinda like baseball scores. Having a .267 is pretty solid and a .335 is even better if you do it enough times, youll see results. Or to put it another way the way I just figured out today if you trade up often enough, youll get outsized, unusual and extraordinary results, even if you completely strike out much of the time.

The example I showed you above isnt even that impressive. I think any entrepreneur worth their salt will say, so what? I wouldve done the same thing. In fact, Im going to email Joe now. Some of you may have in fact already emailed Joe from reading the part above. Thats exactly my point. This is what all good entrepreneurs do. In fact, we do it without even thinking about it, which is why it hit me today that its such an obvious thing and yet such a marker for success. I must do things like this dozens or more times per day. If I were an Angel or a VC, Id find a way to test for this.

Another example from today that comes to mind: Sean, one of my co-founders, sent me an article about a first of its kind partnership Apple just inked with a Fortune 500 company. So I used Jigsaw to find the contact info for the person mentioned in the article who inked the deal with Apple and emailed him. Who knows if anything will come of it. The process of looking him up and composing an email to him took me about 3 minutes. But if something comes of it, it could mean meaningful revenue to our company. Most likely, it wont happen, but its a numbers game and seeing his name in the article and reaching out to him is just another example of trading up. Its something I do almost without thinking about it.

Trading up explains why entrepreneurs are always thinking about work, or taking work home with them, or mulling things over in the shower. Trading up explains why being an entrepreneur is an all-consuming experience. Because you know that that one email you didnt get to write, or that one phone call or meeting you didnt take, or that one networking event you didnt go to could have been the home run.

Although many (I might even say all successful) entrepreneurs do this, I dont think many non-entrepreneurs do this, simply because they dont have to. Its mentally exhausting to always be thinking about trading up. Or to put it another way, its not exhausting once youve done it enough, like building up a muscle group. You have to be hungry to always be looking for ways to trade up. If you have a nice job, or youre satisfied, you wont need to trade up. You never develop those mental muscles. You never see the little opportunities in front of you that you can turn into big opportunities .335 percent of the time.

Some day I may feel like I dont need to trade up anymore. Then again, it might just be set like concrete into my persona; unchangeable.

Ive already had one person disagree with me that trading up is the most important facet to being a successful entrepreneur, but Im going to stick with it for now, at least until someone can convince me otherwise in the comments.

PS see, there I am, trading up again. Putting a line and the end of my blog to encourage comments, so I can make a connection, so I can have another data point in my batting average. Im telling you, this is big.

PPS if you like this blog, please vote for it on Hacker News. Yep, trading up again, you called it.

Read More In: Strategy and Leadership

I am CEO and co-founder of PointAbout, Inc. We launched AppMakr.com in 2010, a DIY platform that lets anyone make an iPhone, Android and Windows Phone app--no coding experience required. I am a speaker & panelist on ways social media & mobile innovations are changing our lives.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-3 of 3 | Latest Comment

August 14, 2012 4:27 AM

There is apparently a bunch to realize about this. I assume you made various good points in features also.

Thank You
sell business

October 15, 2012 2:12 AM

Very good post to read in the morning. This is the way how most entrepreneurs think.

Sunny Pushye CEO & Founder at Technousa Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd. http://www.technousa.com http://www.sunnypushye.com

December 30, 2012 12:22 PM

yes you have good thoughts and tips

peeyush shukla

Peeyush Shukla Ceo & Chairmen PSGC GLOBAL INDIA GCPL Technologies

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-3 of 3 | Latest Comment

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