Last night I attended an event for entrepreneurs. It was sponsored by a local group that champions promising startups, and featured Bill Warner, an angel investor who shared his thoughts on what makes for successful investor-founder relationships.
This might sound like an odd place for an author to hang out, but it was so interesting. The publishing industry is in utter chaos right now, and here was a room filled with smart, boundary pushing, business-minded people sharing ideas that could (from my vantage point) be pieces of solutions and suggest new possibilities. I loved it. (Plus the attendees had job titles like "Master of Awesomeness" and "Ninja in Residence." If they came to your town, you'd go too!)
I was struck by Bill Warner's unique approach to picking investments. "I don't invest in products," he said. "I invest in people." He went on to describe the extensive exercises he does with his founders to uncover the intention behind what they're doing. "All our lives, we're taught to use our heads," he said. "I want to push you to use your heart."
"We help people feel superhuman." (Urban Hero Sports)
"We help people feel important." (Libboo)
"We help people understand that they're creative & use that creativity." (delightful.ly)
"We help people extend their reach and be curious." (Leapmotion)
"I help people follow their heart and feel closer together." (Bill Warner)
I wasn't clear how ANY of this connected to their products until Bill pointed out that intention has to come before your product. If the intention is universal -- meaning, someone 100 or 1000 years ago would have understood it -- you're onto something with serious power to connect. From there, he said, you can come up with a product that delivers joy, rather than just providing pain relief.
I've been thinking about this ever since. Moving beyond what I want to do (for authors the answer is write, publish & sell books!) to consider, what is the universal urge this speaks to?
I went into the event with an internal mission statement that was something like, "To write books that entertain, encourage & inspire." But I left with a simpler understanding that applies to every area of my life: I help people stay encouraged.
A subtle, meaningful adjustment to the lens through which I view life.
You should give it a try!
Consider: what your universal intention? It doesn't even have to be altruistic (indeed, "I help people accumulate vast amounts of wealth" is something even the cavemen would have understood). You'll know you've found it when it makes you smile :)