Gideon Kimbrell is a Miami, FL software engineer and serial entrepreneur. His software engineering work has been praised by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble and St. Jude Children's Hospital. Born in Montana in a log cabin, he entered university at age 15. By 16 he had programmed his first "hot or not" style website. He is the founder of InList.com. InList curates the most exclusive international nightlife and charity events.
As an entrepreneur, I question everything. Being paranoid makes me thorough. Being paranoid has helped me survive.
It all started back in 2004, when I was a budding software developer at a Canadian marketing company. When we were working on automating processes, my friend and mentor Alex Glassey encouraged me to dig deeper into organizational inefficiencies.
I became obsessed with double- and triple-checking software for bugs before they got out of hand, and this intensity paid off. It pushed our company ahead, and this experience has stayed with me ever since.
Alex, my parents, and other mentors have taught me many invaluable lessons, but these three have really stuck with me:
1. Only the paranoid survive.
I know the word "paranoid" has negative connotations. But as my story illustrates, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're waiting by the front door with a baseball bat in hand.
To me, paranoia is the opposite of complacency, and I've applied this outlook to every aspect of my business. If someone hands me a proposal with no apparent downside, I'm skeptical. If the numbers look unusually great this month, I'll raise an eyebrow and ask why.
When you're paranoid about the success of your business, right down to the minute details, you'll be able to pivot before anything knocks you off your feet.
2. The best ideas are the simplest ones.
From 2006 to 2008, I worked for a startup called Moli.com, which is undoubtedly the largest social network you've never heard of.
Founded by the former CEO of FedEx, it was intended to be a highly successful and profitable company. Instead, it became a huge flop and the poster child for overengineered startups.
We had more than 20 engineers and managers making up to $200,000 per year, and we were designing software to handle hundreds of millions of users--all before we even had 100 users! We didn't even know what product we were offering, let alone how to make money from it.
If you can't explain your business in one or two sentences, you've got problems. The most powerful ideas are simple ones. This idea of focused simplicity has direct implications for software design, product design, and business as a whole.
3. Choose positive influencers.
Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." My parents taught me about the law of averages at a young age, and now I surround myself with positive people who make me better.
Don't think you can surround yourself with just anyone and decide which habits to adopt. It doesn't work that way. When you hang around negative people, you'll pick up negative habits. It's as simple as that.
Surround yourself with positive influencers in all aspects of your life. That doesn't mean you should only hang out with people who will benefit you financially. People who boost you emotionally, spiritually, or physically are just as important.
Life is all about balance and choices. Choosing positive influencers over negative ones, opting for simplicity over complexity, and continually focusing on the details instead of becoming complacent are choices that have led me to success.
If your choices haven't led you to where you want to be, keep working hard and generating ideas. Ask for help when you need it, and never get comfortable. This could turn out to be the best advice you've ever received.