My house is buzzing with excitement about The Force Awakens, especially because my kids know that I contributed to The Phantom Menace years ago. As a computer science student at Stanford, I built software to create 3D models for most of the creatures in that movie, including Jar Jar (Don't hate me), Watto (my favorite) and Opee (Look it up). That software was eventually used to create 3D models in countless other movies, and I received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement. The experience also got me started on a path of entrepreneurship.
It's been a while since then, and I'm a serial entrepreneur and father now, but the upcoming film has me thinking about my own start in business and about how effortlessly the iconic series imparts entrepreneurial lessons. As I started chatting with my kids about this (they're not quite in the roll-your-eyes phase yet), I realized it might be fun for budding entrepreneurs of any age. So here we go!
A Reliable Team Is Key to Success
I totally want Chewy on my team -- faithful, strong and fuzzy. What a guy. And who doesn't want a Jedi, a princess, and a cute stubby little robot on their side? But seriously, as an entrepreneur, the most important component of success is a great team -- one that's fighting for a shared cause and that has your back and pulls you up when you need it. Not that you're ever going to be carbon frozen and mounted on a trophy wall, even if it feels that way sometimes.
No evil empire was ever toppled by an individual. It's always a team that wins -- a team that started out small and scrappy with a shared vision, with members who often have complementary talents, each of whom is invaluable in making that vision a reality.
Leverage the Power of Self-Worth and Believe in What You Are Doing
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that business setbacks are an invaluable part of entrepreneurship. They occupy your mind and keep you up at night, as you yearn for a solution. And then, you have a breakthrough. You entrepreneurs know what I'm talking about.
In actuality, your biggest obstacle might be your mind. Yoda -- quote him I will not, but you know what I'm talking about. It's around 1 a.m., you've been working for 16 hours straight, you're low on money and sales aren't quite adding up. Do you know what your biggest obstacle is? Your mind. It's firing in 50 different directions -- none of them helpful. Calm it down. The answer will appear -- know it you already do (sorry).
The Value of a Solid Mentor Is Unparalleled
Sometimes introspection and self-awareness aren't enough to get you through a rough patch. This is when a mentor can be invaluable. Find your Yoda. Yours may not be quite as green or reverse their words when they talk, but that's OK. Luke had two: Obi-Wan and Yoda. Obi-Wan was already watching over him -- we should all be so lucky -- but Luke sought out Yoda to reach his full potential. Deep down, even his self-absorbed former self knew he'd need help from someone who had dealt with the dark side before.
Let me be clear: I'm not talking about a mentor who spouts clichés over coffee. Find one who is great at what he does and who genuinely wants to help. Choose someone who's already walked down a path that you want to go. Trust me on this (I've been on both sides) -- it's as rewarding for your mentor as it is beneficial to you.
Foster Even the Most Unlikely Connections
If Obi-Wan hadn't had good connections, there's no way he would have found Han when he needed him. Or how about Han and Lando? - OK, that one didn't work out so well at first. But still, he did eventually make good. Be open to networking and you might discover beneficial relationships you didn't know were possible.
Whether it's through physical meet-ups or digital platforms like LinkedIn or Alignable, there are a number of ways to expand your network. It's a gift that'll keep on giving, whether you're looking for some advice or new hires, or simply some industry insights.
Thanks for listening, and send me your best "Star Wars" entrepreneurial lessons as well. Remember, the Force will be with you always.