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OWNER'S MANUAL

One Business Decision That Changes Everything

Derek Sivers--successful entrepreneur, speaker, and blogger--explains the basic decision every entrepreneur needs to make.

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Where entrepreneurs are concerned, what takes place on the outside--the nuts and bolts of starting and running a business--is interesting, but what happens on the inside--the thoughts, fears, dreams and perspectives--is fascinating.

Why? Anyone can learn a skill or follow a process; what sets remarkably successful entrepreneurs apart are those inner dialogues that drive the decisions they make and steps they take.

That's why I love the following* from Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and HostBaby, on whether to be local or global. No matter your business or industry--or even if you work for someone else--it's a basic decision everyone needs to make in order to be successful.

Here's Derek:

You can focus your time locally or globally--but if you over-commit yourself locally you under-commit yourself globally, and vice-versa.

If you're local, then you're probably social, doing a lot of things in-person, and being a part of your community. But that means you'll have less time to focus on creating things for the world.

If you're global, then you want to focus on creating things that can reach out through distribution to the whole world. But that means you'll have less time to be part of your local community.

Neither is right or wrong--but you need to be aware of the choice you make.

For me, and the reason I'm writing this, is a personal announcement that I've tried both ways, felt the difference, and made my choice.

Some background:

I lived in Woodstock, New York for three years. While in my little house in the woods I started CD Baby and HostBaby and connected with thousands of people. Only after I left, when someone asked me what I thought of the people there, did I realize that I never met anyone in Woodstock.

I just lived in Woodstock. I didn't socialize there. All my attention was focused out to the world, and it was very effective.

Then I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years. I worked every waking hour, growing CD Baby and HostBaby. It was an incredibly productive time. I made some dear and deep friends worldwide, but none in Portland.

I never hung out in Portland. My attention was still focused outward.

Then two years ago, when I moved to Singapore, I decided to do the opposite. I wanted to get to know my local community. I met with over 400 people, one-on-one, went to every conference and get-together, and said yes to every request.

I spent most of the last two years just talking with people. And I really got to know the Singapore community.

But something never felt right. After a day of talking I was often exhausted and unfulfilled. Two hours spent being useful to one person who wants to "pick my brain" is two hours I'd rather spend making something that could be useful to the whole world (including that one person.)

Then people around the world emailed to ask why I've been so silent: no new articles. No progress on my companies. Nothing.

And that's the trade-off. By being so local-focused, I'm not as useful as I was when I was making things online.

So I'm finally admitting: I'm not local.

I moved around so much that I'm not from anywhere. I feel equally connected to London, Los Angeles, New York, New Zealand, Singapore, San Francisco, Iceland, and India. I care about people in all of those places. They're all equally home. Just because I live in one place now doesn't mean I should ignore other places.

To me the emphasis on local stuff never felt right. When I was in Woodstock and Portland, people would ask what I was doing to promote the local music scenes. I'd argue that I shouldn't favor Woodstock or Portland any more than Wellington or Prague.

But that's just me.

What about you?

Some people feel a strong separation between inside and outside. If you're a part of their family, neighborhood, church, school, or a friend-of-a-friend, then you're an insider. Everyone else is an outsider. They say, "The reason you go to university is for the connections you'll make for life." In business, they give preferential treatment to their inside circle. (This is cronyism.)

Other people feel no separation. You're treated equally, no matter where you're from or whom you know. There are no outsiders. If extra-strong bonds are made it's based on who you are now--not where you came from or where you've been.

One will feel more natural to you. Like your tendency to be an introvert versus an extrovert, or conservative versus liberal, your basic worldviews will shape your preference for being local-focused or global-focused.

Each industry has its own version of this decision. If you want to make vegetarian food, you can make a great vegetarian restaurant, or a distributed line of vegetarian meals. If you're a musician, you can do 100 gigs or write and record 100 songs.

The list goes on: different focus, different approach.

Neither is right or wrong. Just be aware of the choices you make.

For me, for now, I'm going to stop doing in-person meetings and turn my attention fully to writing, programming, and recording things that can benefit anyone anywhere.

But that's just me: There is no best decision... aside from what is best for you.

*Shared with Derek's permission

Last updated: Dec 6, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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