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Steven Cox Featured on Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast

By Business Philosophy, Entrepreneur Insights, Leadership, Motivational, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Uncategorized No Comments
If you can dream it, you can do it!

If you can dream it, you can do it!

I had a great time being interviewed by John Lee Dumas of Entrpreneur on Fire.

Listen in and hear about my worst entrepreneurial moment, my big ah-ha, and a few awesome resources for entrepreneurs.

To subscribe to Entrepreneur on Fire through iTunes, go here.

A Goal Template for the Month: How to Get More Things Done

By Entrepreneur Insights, Goals, Motivational, Personal Development, Uncategorized No Comments

Last week, one of my employees stopped by my desk and asked me if I had any recommendations on how she could better accomplish her goals during the upcoming month. She had been struggling figuring out what to work on and then taking action on the right things.

Since it was the beginning of the month, I wrote out a simple goal template for her to follow that would (a) get her working on the right things and (b) give her a higher probability of getting her goals accomplished. Below, I’ve shared it with you.

Goal Template

Check out the goal template on Google Docs that will allow you to follow along. NOTE: After pulling it up, go to File > Download As > Microsoft Word. This will allow you to save it to your computer where you can edit it to your heart’s content and use it month after month.

5 Categories: The 5 “F’s”

First, divide your life into five categories:

  • Friends and Family
  • Finance and Work
  • Fun
  • Fitness
  • Faith

Notice how all of them start with “F”? That’s a little trick to help you remember the different life areas. I learned from Phil Richards, Founder of DreamFunda, a site designed to help athletes crowdsouce funds so they can follow their dreams.

Career, Family, Personal Goals

Pick Meaningful Personal and Professional Goals

Second, pick one thing in each category that, if you accomplished it well, would make the most significant and positive impact on your life. Don’t pick two – just one. The goal should be something you really want – something that moves the needle and stretches you.  Each one of these should be specific, measurable, and you should have the ability to accomplish it within 30 days.

As an example, for my Fitness category, I want to lose weight. But instead of listing my goal as “I want to lose weight”, my goal is listed as, “By August 31, I weigh 186 lbs., which is a 5 lb. drop.”  The key is that I’ve written this goal “as if” I’ve already accomplished it. Instead of saying, “I want to”, I state that I already am that which I want. This is a big key to start training your mind to act as if you’re already there. It’s subtle, but important.

Also, the best goals are very specific and measurable. Notice how I gave a specific amount that I wanted to weigh, and by what date. The goal is measurable, meaning I’ll know on August 31 whether I accomplished this goal or whether I didn’t.

Image via dreamchoosers.com

Image via dreamchoosers.com

Feel the Future

Third, after you’ve picked a goal in each category that really moves you, write down how you’ll feel at the end of the month when you accomplish it. Close your eyes and envision what it will feel like. Really put yourself there! Here’s an example: “I weigh 185 and I feel incredible! I have more energy, people are noticing, and my favorite jeans fit me again!”

Post It Up

Fourth, print multiple copies of the sheet. Put one on your fridge, one in the car, one in your briefcase or purse, one on the bathroom mirror. Give yourself the luxury of reminding yourself daily what you’ve set out to do and how you’re going to feel afterwards.

Goals and Accountability

After you type out your goals, post them where you constantly see them.

 

Track Your Goal Progress

Fifth, each week, keep track of where you are vs. where you need to be in order to accomplish the goal. I do mine on Sundays, but you can do it another day that best suits you. For instance, since I know my goal is to lose 5 lbs. this month, I need to be at about 1.5 lbs. lost per week. This habit of keeping tabs on yourself help you see where you are during the month relative to where you should be. Then you know when to turn on the gas in case you fall behind.

Celebrate!

Finally, at the end of the month, celebrate! Give yourself high-fives and kudos for first, setting goals and, second, accomplishing them. After you’re done partying, go back and do the process over for the next month.

Follow these steps and you’ll find yourself further along than you can imagine.

~Steven

Entrepreneur StartUp Questions (Part 1)

By Company Culture, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups, Uncategorized No Comments

In February 2014 Christy Wang, a student at MIT Sloan School of Management, interviewed Steven Cox, CEO and Founder of TakeLessons.com for her Entrepreneurship class. Here is the transcript of the interview.

1. How did you come up with the idea about TakeLessons? What made you set your mind to go into this business?

I’ve done start-ups for a little over ten years now. A few years ago, in addition to working at a startup, I was playing in rock bands. My drummer, Enrique Platas, was an incredible musician as well as an incredible person. Enrique was playing music to make a living, whereas I was playing music to kind of have fun. This was his livelihood and everything that he had studied. He had gotten a master’s degree in music performance, and everything he had built his life on was around music.

He had just gotten married very recently, and he and his wife were trying to buy their first house in San Diego, which was really expensive. He was talking to me and after a show one night, he said, “Hey, listen, I think I have to quit the band and go try to find another job.” I asked him why, and he replied, “I can’t make enough money playing music to support my life, and I just found out that my wife and I are going to have our first baby. What I’ve decided to do is give up my dream and give up playing music. Instead, I’m going to just find a job.”

That, for me, really hit home. It felt horrible that here’s a guy who had struggled all of his life to do something he wanted to do and couldn’t make a living doing it. So, we really set out from there to help him not take that job and see if he could make more money teaching. We built out the site and contacted other instructors in the area and found out that they had the same problems that Enrique had. “How do I find enough students? How do I market myself? How do I manage my business in such a way that allows me to make a living?” That’s kind of how the idea was started. We really based it on helping instructors and service providers find income so they could keep doing what they loved. In fact, Enrique never took that day job and still teaches for us today.

Steven Cox San Diego Picture

2. What are the vision and core values of your start-up?

I believe both values and visions are shaped over time. We didn’t sit down one day, and say “Oh, I read a book, and it said we need our core values, so let’s create some!” I think it was probably a year or year and a half after we had started the business before we had sat down as a group and asked ourselves, “How and what do we value as a company?” Our values really came from the way we acted on a day by day basis. They were congruent with the way the founders thought about the business. We have five core values in the company.

The first one is an ownership mentality, and what that means for us is that owners are self-motivated, self-aware, self-disciplined, and self-improving people. We look to hire those people first because that’s the way they treat the business. They’re the type of people who never feel “It’s not my job.” They’re the ones who take out the trash when the bag is full without being asked. They do what is in the best interest of the company without being asked and without their own self-interest. They make decisions in a way that even if it’s painful, those decisions are made based on what is best for the company.

Our second core value is respecting yourself and others. What that means for us is that we have a positive view of ourselves, and we feel like we can succeed. We hire people that we feel have levels of mutual respect to where we can acknowledge and listen to our teammates’ thoughts and opinions—even if we disagree with them. The truth is that we are looking for the right answer instead of the answer that we might have particularly came up with. It’s truly a collaborative environment.

The third core value is called building stuff we’re proud of. Basically, that means that when we are getting involved in new products or when we’re looking at new business opportunities, we want to be able to be involved with products, services, and partnerships that we can look back on with a sense of pride and integrity. We can wake up each morning and go to bed each night with a clear conscious that we’re honest and fair in our actions and that we do our job with integrity, humility, and transparency.

The fourth core value that we have is called constant and never-ending improvement, or CANI for short. For us, that simply means that first and foremost, we’re good today, but we can be much, much better tomorrow. Because we believe we can be better tomorrow, we feel responsible for our own personal growth and believe in having a plan to constantly grow and get better. We open ourselves up to curiosity and making mistakes because we know that’s part of getting better at what we do.

The final core value is persistence, and basically, that means that we believe that we can win. We will persist even when there are rocks in the road and walls in our paths. It doesn’t mean we’re fearless because we have fear every day, but it means that we have certainty that we can win, even in the face of those obstacles.

3. What is the most difficult part of growing your business? How do you choose the right partners in the beginning, and what makes a good business partner?

 Start-ups go through different phases within their lifetime, and each phase will be riddled with different sorts of difficulties. Very early on, we’re trying to find the right set of co-founders as well as the product market fit, which means answering the question, “Is there something the product solves in the mind of the customer that the customer will end up paying for?”

Once you accomplish those things, it shifts to a different phase of the business and keeps shifting to different sets of problems. The problems never go away. For me, I focus on is “PCP,” and that stands for people, capital, and process. I want to make sure I find the right people to not only accomplish the job today but to be able to lead tomorrow. Second is capital. I have to make sure we have enough capital and money in the bank to exercise properly against the plan we have in place. Third is process which means that we keep building systems in such a way that we can duplicate the systems and replicate the systems so that way the business scales. That’s a very important third part of the business once you’ve started getting traction.

** More of the interview will be posted next week **

San Diego Startup Week Events

By Start Up San Diego, Uncategorized, Venture Capital, Web and Tech No Comments
San Diego StartupDigest
Connecting you with your local startup community.

StartUp San Diego’s Tech Week is here!  I hope you can get out to as many events as possible!For newcomers: The San Diego StartupDigest is an event list, created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, that is laser-focused on the needs of startups in the San Diego area.

San Diego StartupDigest is curated by:
Brant Cooper – Author, The Lean Entrepreneur

Photo courtesy of Mike Newton Photography (http://www.mikenewton.com)

Photo courtesy of Mike Newton Photography (http://www.mikenewton.com)

SDTechWeek: Tech Crawl
Tuesday, July 09 @5:30PM | Downtown San Diego
Kick off SD Tech Week by exploring the downtown tech scene while sampling the best of our local beer! This will be the inaugural Tech Crawl – what we hope will be an original and dynamic event to give participants a feel for the movers & shakers in downtown San Diego.
SDTechWeek: Startup Grind with Pat Walsh
Tuesday, July 09 @7:30PM – 10PM | Co-Merge 330 A Street San Diego, CA
Conversation with Pat Walsh, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer of StayClassy.org. Pat co-founded StayClassy in 2006 and leads the Annual CLASSY Awards and Collaborative that brings together and elevates the global social venture and impact community.


SDTechWeek: DLA Piper Luncheon
Wednesday, July 10 @12PM – 1:30PM | 101 W Broadway Ste 200 San Diego
Ian Westberg, Senior Executive of Venture Pipeline, will be hosting a lunch at downtown EvoNexus from 12:00 – 1:30pm with the goal of facilitating a discussion that helps bridge the gap between San Diego companies and Silicon Valley investors.


SDTechWeek: Ignite San Diego
Wednesday, July 10 @6PM – 9PM | Digital Telepathy 770 11th St San Diego, CA
If you had five minutes on stage, what would you say?


SDTechWeek: UX Speakeasy, The Startup Experience
Wednesday, July 10 @6:30PM | EvoNexus 101 W Broadway Ste 200 (2nd floor) San Diego
John Strott will be running us through an interactive activity with the companies in at EvoNexus


SDTechWeek: Demo Night VI
Thursday, July 11 @6PM |  Thu Jul 11 6:00 PM I’M ATTENDING 129 attending 71 spots left 23 comments One America Plaza 600 West Broadway, Suite 675, San Diego
Part of StartUp San Diego’s SD Tech Week, our demo night features some great homegrown startups. We’re also including our friends from the hardware Makers community and a surprise from Miami.


SDTechWeek: Tech Mingle
Thursday, July 11 @7:30PM | Starlight Room at The Bristol 1055 1st Avenue San Diego, CA
Let’s celebrate our flourishing tech scene in true San Diego style!


SDTechWeek: SDVG Venture Summit
Friday, July 12 @7:30AM | Hilton San Diego Bayfront 1 Park Blvd. San Diego
Cool Companies, great networking, and an out of this world keynote speaker.


SDTechWeek: Hardware Innovators Panel
Friday, July 12 @3:30PM | EvoNexus 101 Broadway, 2nd Floor, San Diego
Call for Hardware Innovators as a way to shine a light on the important role that hardware plays in technology in San Diego.


SDTechWeek: Startup Boost! Party
Friday, July 12 @6PM – 9PM | Co-Merge Workplace 330 A Street San Diego
Connecting local San Diego startup resources and startup enthusiasts and official wrap party of SD Tech Week.

Design Life. Drive Life.

By Life Lessons, Motivational, Uncategorized No Comments
Mykonos - Photo by StevenCox.com

Mykonos – Photo by me

Drive life.

Say Yes more often.

Challenge your barriers.

Be comfortable outside your comfort zone.

But, don’t just drive life. Design it.

Design your outcome.

And design time in between driving, to be still – to float.

To explore.

To be, without trying.

To breathe, without thinking.

And to surrender, without wanting.

– Steven 2011.

The Life of a Startup

By Business Philosophy, Entrepreneur Insights, Start-Ups, Uncategorized No Comments

Here is an email I sent this morning to my team. First, I wanted to have them see that most startups go through the same struggles that we go through. Second, I wanted them to know that I have full confidence, faith, and trust in their abilities and that I see them as leaders within our company.

The email features a blog post by Mark Suster of GRP Partners called Entrepreneurshit.

————-

Greetings,

I hope the week is going well.

I’m outside on a patio in Kauai doing a little reading and contemplating.

I’ll be doing that a lot this week, so you may get more emails. 🙂

Below is a link for an an article I just finished from Mark Suster on the real life of a startup. I met with Mark during our last round. Good dude.

Entrepreneurshit

The takeaways:

Sometimes I get frustrated and I wonder if we’re the only company struggling to find market fit. Are we the only ones that got off track? Does anyone else have issues with hitting metrics? Why in Gods name can’t we get a teacher application that works better? How do I get the entire company to move faster?

The truth of the matter is that these things are fixable and will pass. Doing a startup is not glamorous – full of highs and lows, almost-wins, and busted quarterly plans.

However, what will see us through is that we, as a team, (a) never doubt our outcome (b) challenge each other to get better, (c) learn quickly and apply those learnings throughout the company, (d) have each other’s back (e) work towards truly creating value for the people we serve.

As you start prepping for next year, I want you to raise the bar – for yourself, your team, and each other.

Start thinking about what you want to get done next year. Design your life. Require more of yourself, and judge your own success based on how well you are helping your team succeed.

YOU are the leaders of this company; I want you to digest that – own it – let it settle in. When this company makes it, you will be the reason.

Today, ask yourself, “How do I raise my game next year?”, then take action to do it.

Entrepreneurshit

Struggle Builds Character

By Uncategorized No Comments

Image representing Josh Kopelman as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

Josh Kopelman with First Round Capital has a simple, yet true post today on Entrepreneurship. He mentions a couple First Round portfolio companies where the CEO's/Founders really had to struggle through hard times in order to make it. It is through the difficulties that we see what we're made of, and how much we are truly committed. When your own skin is in the game, you think and act like a true owner. You know that the success or failure of your personal wealth depends on your ability to think, act, iterate, and win.

At TakeLessons, the founders worked for either little or zero pay for over two years before we landed on a business model that worked. Yes, it hurt, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It allowed us to drop our burn rate and really focus on driving value that a customer would pay for.

Our team struggled together, fought together, and stood side-by-side each other during the darkest hours. It is through the fire and struggle that we forged the sword. This courage led us to a motto of "Certainty in the face of fear", and it has become one of our company core values.

You know the founder and the team is here to stay when they are willing to sacrifice for the good of the overall company. This is something that shows character, belief, and perseverance – and I'm happy to have shared that experience with such an awesome group of people.  

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