It all comes down to what you’re creating….

As the 2018 global Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wraps up in Las Vegas, power outage or not, I can’t help but reminisce about the years I spent there as we were creating SmartThings.

Our first CES was in 2013. At the time we weren’t in production with our product, but that didn’t stop us from renting a house and connecting everything we could, including a make-shift liquor cabinet. We had TechCrunch come by and film an episode of TC Cribs.

Since we were on a budget, we were also sleeping in the house. Based on the volume of glitter on the couches, beds and in the carpets, I can assure you were were not the first video filmed in that home.

We also had a small ‘booth’ inside a larger pavilion where I learned that, if you put out a bowl of unwrapped candy (Skittles in this case), literally THOUSANDS of people from everywhere on the planet will stick their unwashed hands in it and then place that candy in their mouth. They won’t even think about it. I am confident we were ground zero for some global bird/monkey/ferret flu pandemic outbreak.

Now that I’ve moved on from SmartThings, but am not yet fully engaged in a new business, it’s easy to see the team’s successes and feel a bit …. I don’t know …. useless. Here they are getting top billing on the Samsung Keynote (we sold SmartThings to Samsung in 2014).

SmartThings Samsung CES 2018
Photo courtesy of Alex Hawkinson, a bad-ass entrepreneur

…… and I just finished making some Aunt Annie’s Macaroni and Alfredo for the kids’ lunches.

When I’m feeling this way, I go back to a framework I’ve been developing in my mind about the point of it all. And the answer is Bitcoin.

Wait. No. That’s crazy imaginary internet money.

Increasingly, I believe our primary purpose is to create new things with our time and energy. But those ‘things’ are not always physical and certainly not just businesses or economic in nature. Right now, I like to think about what I’m creating in four buckets.

  • Achievements – unique accomplishments that can be distinctly measured and, in many cases, are rarely attempted.
  • Experiences – time spent immersing in nature’s wonder, discovering new places and cultures and participating in exotic activities.
  • Opportunities – entities (often businesses) that provide a platform for bringing new ideas or services into the world.
  • Connections – deeper relationships with friends and family who are partners on the journey and active participants in creating achievements, experiences and opportunities.

When I pause and reflect on that as my model, I change the bar in my mind. Yes, I’m not (yet) announcing how I’m going to revolutionize the school lunch voucher program with blockchain and ensure a distributed, immutable ledger of if Timmy ate his carrot sticks.

But in the past 3 months I’ve created plenty. I’ve published my first novel (Achievement), competed in the first Spartan Ultra Championship (Achievement and Experience since we took the whole family to Iceland), significantly deepened my relationship with Brian Winter (Connection) with whom I’m competing in the World Marathon Challenge in a few weeks (Achievement, Experience…and who knows what new Connections). So while I might not be building a new business right now, my energies and efforts at creation are not being wasted.

In my mind, the key (and perhaps obvious) lessons are:

  • Have your own framework for evaluating your life. I believe in creation, and I believe when we take a step back, we’re all doing more to create in the 4 areas I described above than we might think. Recognize and acknowledge yourself for that. Hauling your pain in the ass kid to that birthday party might not feel that important, but it was an Experience you created. Take pause, reflect, and reward yourself. With booze.
  • Don’t compare your insides to anyone else’s outsides. I happen to know many of the SmartThings team, regardless of how proud they might be with what SmartThings has accomplished at it’s 5th CES, would prefer to eat a plate of spiders than be there yet again.
  • Effort and creation is a pendulum. I couldn’t be doing the training I am right now if I were fully engaged in creating a business. Read The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. There is a time for everything. A time to be triply committed to building a new business, a time to be a focused family member, and a time to invest in yourself and your own goals. Those likely aren’t all at the same time.

If this whole article just comes across as a humble brag, that’s fine. I’m barely 5’ 8” and balding. Give me something you jerk-offs. At least go buy my book. It’s $3.99 on Kindle FFS.

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