The Cult of Failure

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Over the last couple of years it would seem ‘failure’ is becoming a ‘badge of honor’ that’s swept the Entrepreneurial landscape of American enterprise and is particularly prevalent in the world of Tech Startups. Should we embrace this culture, or does it send us further down the snowflake-esque nobody loses everyone gets a trophy road to hell? Breaking into Fund Management, I can tell you, you either beat the S&P 500 Benchmark, or you don’t. Not everyone gets a trophy in that game. Failure could be fatal. (though I guess some still keep their fees and get a bonus)

In a blog post titled Why Failure is Good for Success, Pauline Estrem says in order to become a success you have to embrace the prospect of failure. She cites the famous Thomas Edison ‘I didn’t fail; it took 1,000 steps’ light bulb story. Pauline goes on to say failure is life’s greatest teacher and notes today some employers no longer shy way from failure and in fact embrace it. According to BusinessWeek, companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing those who survived and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance. She goes on to reference Augustine, Darwin and Freud, the business mavericks and sports legends of today, and notes “failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success.” Pauline says failure is the prevailing school of thought for progressive companies. The notion is great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common byproduct. She says these organizations don’t mourn their mistakes but parlay them into future gains. You can read the full blog post here.

Not so fast! In a blog post titled Failure is not a good thing. Stop saying it is., Paul Smith, Head of Program at Dubai Future Accelerators, says celebrating failure has some how become an acceptable outcome for startups and often seems afforded as much respect as succeeding. He notes failure is acceptable in some specific situations where you experiment to determine the nature of your business by testing assumptions. Failure of some kind should be expected. It’s the nature of experimentation. However, most businesses aren’t experiments. According to Paul, the risks of people losing jobs and money should never sit easy with a founder. He says failure should hurt. It should leave bruises and scar you like a blade. Startups shouldn’t be risk-adverse, but in the end Paul says there’s a difference between saying failure is probable and promoting it as acceptable. You can read the full blog post here.

Time will tell if ‘failure’ remains a badge on your resume, but be sure history will be written by the winners. I’ll leave you with a pearl of wisdom from my friend James Altucher, “People glorify failure. Instead, we should glorify perseverance and taking small positive actions that move life forward.

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7 Quotes from Value Investing Legends

These quotes from Legendary Value Investors are succinct distillations of larger concepts. May they inspire and motivate you.

“The entire pursuit of value investing requires you to see where the crowd is wrong so that you can profit from their misperceptions.” -Guy Spier

“There’s only one intelligent form of investing: figuring out what something’s worth and see if you can buy it at or below that price. It’s all about value” -Howard Marks

“There is no such thing as a value trap. There are investing mistakes.” -Mohnish Pabrai

“I believe that over time value investors will outperform the market and that choosing to match it is both lazy and shortsighted” -Seth Klarman

All intelligent investing is value investing — acquiring more than you are paying for. You must value the business in order to value the stock.” -Charlie Munger

“Rule №1: Never lose money. Rule №2: Never forget rule №1” -Warren Buffett

We know from experience that eventually the market catches up with value. It realizes it in one way or another” -Benjamin Graham

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My Year as a Fund Manager: 31% v. 9.4% S&P 500

Spinoffs often present attractive opportunities for Value Investors. — Seth Klarman

2016 marked my first year as a ‘fund manager’. The ‘Fundweis Spinoff Fund (FWSF)’ returned 31% versus 9.4% for the S&P 500 benchmark. I created the ‘fund’ in an effort to establish a verifiable track record. Normally, I’d be a little more ecstatic, but one year does not a Legend make.

FWSF was comprised of five stocks spun off during 2016. You can read more about why Spinoffs are great opportunities for value investors here. FWSF will continue for 2017 and I’m in the process of creating a second ‘fund’ based on Value Investing principles from my free eBook: The Masters of the Universe Portfolio: Using Publicly Available Information to Make Informed Investment Decisions.

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Simple Hack to Make 2017 Ten Times Better

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’! — Audrey Hepburn

I know what you’re thinking. Every December somebody blogs about New Year’s Resolutions that no one is ever going to keep. How is this ‘hack’ different? Because it came from Suzy Welch via Oprah! No really it did, but it’s different from those typical resolutions we never keep because it requires zero willpower. Suzy’s easily applied ‘magic formula’ is 10/10/10. It’s pretty simple. Every time you need to make an important decision ask yourself three questions:

What are the consequences of this decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? in 10 years?

If you want go a step further, add another 10. Will this matter in 10 days? Hell, if you want to go crazy, add 10 weeks. Will this matter in 10 weeks? You can read the full article here

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3 Great Blogs for Entrepreneurs

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” — Bruce Lee

Seth’s Blog

Open your browser to Google, type Seth, hit enter. You’re there. That’s right, Seth Godin’s blog is the number one search result. His blog posts are mostly short and to the point. The blog should be a daily read for any aspiring Entrepreneur. Seth also blogs on Medium.com His blog post, The freelancer and the entrepreneur, is a must read for those who are currently a ‘ one person’ show. At some point you will have to make a decision. Are you an Entrepreneur or a Freelancer?

Femgineer

I discovered Femgineer while looking for public speaking and presentation tips/advice. Femgineer was started in 2007 by Poornima Vijayashanker, founding engineer at Mint.com. Originally intended as a creative outlet the blog morphed into posts on startups and entrepreneurship. Today it’s an education company, but the blog continues with a mixture of posts and insightful videos on variety of topics useful to startups and Entrepreneurs. While skewed towards tech, there is plenty of business savvy to be gleaned regardless of your industry.

Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world, but the blog, started by John Jantsch, a marketing consultant, speaker and best selling author, is a must read for simple, affordable, and effective small business marketing tips. There’s a podcast as well.

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Sales is a Dirty Word

I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard. — Estée Lauder

O.K., maybe not sales, but salesman, saleswoman, or salesperson certainly seem to be ‘dirty’ words. Yet sales are the lifeblood of our enterprises. In the Coursera course, Sales Strategies: Mastering the Selling Process, University of Chicago Professor Craig Wortmann talks about some of the stereotypes that exist around entrepreneurs and salespeople. In one of the modules Professor Wortmann does an exercise where he has students close their eyes and do a little word association. He asks students what pops into their minds when he says the word ‘salesperson’? Next he asks what pops into their minds when he says the word ‘entrepreneur’?

As you can imagine for ‘salesperson’ the result is mixed. There are some positives like persistent, charismatic or knowledgeable, but he also gets stereotypical responses like annoying, pushy, aggressive, slick, and sleazy. Contrast that with ‘entrepreneur’ where most responses are positives like risk-taker, job creator, visionary, strategic, and passionate.

Professor Wortmann recommends taking the positive words associated with ‘salesperson’ and the positive words associated with ‘entrepreneur’ and stitching them together. Essentially taking the DNA from salespeople and combining it with the great DNA of entrepreneurs. He notes that great salespeople create win-wins for customers and solve problems for people, just like entrepreneurs do.

I can’t recommend the course enough. It’s five weeks long and Professor Wortmann covers the “Entrepreneurial Selling” process, targeting, lead generation, qualifying, and much more. If you don’t feel like shelling out the greenbacks for a certificate, Coursera gives you the ability to audit the course for free.

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3 Great Wine Blogs I Discovered this Year

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” W. C. Fields.

No flowery intro paragraph here. I’m pretty sure I had you at ‘wine’. I present three of my favorite wine blogs:

Reverse Wine Snob

By far my favorite. Due to my current budget situation, the tag line ‘thumbing your nose at bottles over $20’ resonates well. Several years ago Jon Thorsen came to the wine scene for the health benefits. After blowing through three or four $20 bottles per week, he went on a search for great, inexpensive wine. The hunt began with his wife Brenda, both of whom were pleasantly surprised by the number of really good inexpensive wines they found and Reverse Wine Snob was born. Jon’s even written a book, Reverse Wine Snob: How to Buy and Drink Great Wine without Breaking the Bank! (HINT! — that’s right Santa, I’m talking to you!) Using the book and blog as a guide, getting great wine is as easy as taking a trip to your local Costco or Trader Joe’s.

Dr. Vino’s Blog

An actual Doctor, of the PhD kind, Tyler Colman’s blog is a go to if you like to mix your wine with a little politics (and who doesn’t?). Tyler has written two wine books and tastes over 1,000 wines a year. The blogs design is a little ‘old school’, but it’s easy to navigate. There are links to recent posts and Tyler’s op-eds in the NYT, as well as monthly archives and a vast ‘Categories’ list.

Dionysian Impulse

This blog, by Seyma Bas, is the 2016 Wine Blog Award Winner for Best New Wine Blog. Seyma has an MBA in Luxury Brand Management, Food and Wine. According Seyma, Dionysian Impulse is ‘about an instinctive and endless discovery of flavours.’ The blog itself is simply laid out and probably won’t win major awards for design, but the sections on Winemaking and Viticulture make it worthwhile reading.

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