The ‘exchange of value’ solution – And something you may not know about me

Common: Listening to advice and temporary barriers that bury inner passions.

Uncommon: If you’ve read my work before you’re probably aware of my past in publishing, writing, public speaking, and if you know me really well, my real estate endeavors. But there is another part of my past that you probably don’t know about.

I love drawing and design.

I’ve designed most everything having to do with Cool Stuff Media, Inc., The Uncommon Life, and Maxims for Mavericks. What many people don’t realize is that this love for art began at a young age conquering coloring books and sketch books with an unusual fervor.

I wasn’t necessarily a natural, but I was committed — and passionate about becoming better. As a young teenager and unapplied academic student, I clung to my interest in art for creative stimulation. The pages of my schoolbooks were barraged with sketches and fictional company logos. Despite my math teacher’s disenchantment with my adorning doodles, my passion and tenacity began to pay off.  In high school, to my complete surprise, I experienced national success and recognition for my efforts in art and design classes.

The passion paradox

I enjoyed art, but sharing the same realization as most artists, I also needed pocket money – and I had little idea how to capitalize on my newfound ability. I was used hearing the many disappointing stories of struggling artists so I came close accepting my artistic interests as an impoverished hobby.

I also had an another unrelated passion: Surfing. Sadly, neither was aiding the pocket money debacle. But when finally combined, the two predilections showed promise.

At age 14 I had my heart set on a custom shaped surfboard. The problem? I couldn’t afford one. To add to my frustrations, I was well aware of the cruel irony these two challenges presented to me.  I wanted to create art and surf, but I couldn’t earn money from one and could not afford the other.

Turning goals into value-add opportunities

I was so focused on earning money that I had limited my perceived possibilities. As a young teenager, the observation didn’t occur to me in such explicit terms, but there was a shift in my thinking that helped me recognize I could accomplish some of my goals without money itself. “It may not be a long term play,” I said to myself, “but it’s definitely a stepping stone in the right direction.”

This shift allowed me to recognize an opportunity to create an ‘exchange of value’ (now my shorthanded definition of entrepreneurship). And what began as ‘bartering’ led to much more business opportunity later on.

When looking at things from a value-add perspective I noticed ways I could use my abilities to create win/win outcomes. For example, the surfboard company I wanted to have shape my new custom board had a mundane logo. And I knew I could provide something better.

Business time

Drawing from my very limited knowledge of the business world I pictured myself storming into the company wearing a black pin-striped business suit and an iron-pressed white button-up shirt to give my pitch: “A custom surfboard for a new brand logo. Capiche?”

In reality, I was scared to death (and I didn’t even own a business suit). But you can’t stand between a surfer and his passion to surf so the conversation between the company owner and myself was inevitable.

Looking out the window of my parents car (I couldn’t drive yet), I recall staring at the old grey building as I  summoned the courage to approach the front door. I walked forth standing upright, hoping my body language would fool my mind into thinking confidently. Once mano-y-mano with the owner, I flicked through my compilation of sketches and design work that I created to entertain myself over the previous year.

This certainly wasn’t my most dexterous communication on display, but my passion must have peered through my awkward verbal fumblings.

I exited with a deal.

Two months later, still 14 years old, I was surfing my brand-new board, signed to me personally by the company owner. And I got to see my logo on the boards of those I looked up to as surfers.

To say the least, I was elated. I then sought out companies and organizations that I thought I could provide a new corporate identity at a very affordable price. My portfolio began to grow and getting more business (yes, for actual money) became easier and easier. It was a fun period in my life and a great way to earn money on my schedule.

This string of events taught a few simple, but powerful lessons that have since shaped my life tremendously:

  • You’re never too young (or old) to pursue business goals.
  • Passion trumps talent. While we may not be born with the makings of a prodigy, that has little to do with long term success if passion for excellence cannot be extinguished.
  • Money can be motivating, but it also tends to limit what we perceive as possible if that is all we concerned about. When focusing on how your existing talents and abilities can add value to others, many more opportunities reveal themselves. These opportunities may not be noticeable immediately, but with time and commitment, they always surface.
  • Just because you start small, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy large success later on. Starting with a small win is always better than planning for a big win that never launches.
  • Seemingly unrelated passions can can create a synergistic thrust forward. In fact, several times in my life, it was having multiple passions that has led to many of my most interesting life and business experiences.

There are few things more invigorating than fueling a passion — especially when it simultaneously adds value in ways you didn’t expect.

Disclaimer: Please don’t discount the message because you have not “found” your passion. Frankly, for most people, it’s not something you one day stumble upon. We all have the opportunity to develop our passion and our purpose — but it may not necessary unfold in the way we’re commonly told. If interested, I’ve written another riff on the topic titled, The Raw Truth About Passion.

Stay uncommon,

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So what happened to my interest in art and design?

After starting my own surf company in my mid teens and enjoying it’s near immediate success, I painfully watched it fail 18 months later. This experience taught me that my conventional schooling was not offering the important life-skills necessary to become successful in the real world.

Frustrated and inspired, I devoured hundreds of non-fiction books, attended seminars, and interviewed people I considered to be successful. Driven to share my profound discoveries, experiences, and life-lessons I teamed up with my brother to write my first book and start my publishing company, Cool Stuff Media, Inc. Engulfed by my passion to help other young people I somewhat shelved my artistic cravings… until recently.

In January 2012, after almost a year of writing about creativity on my other blog Maxims for Mavericks, I challenged myself to be more creative. The result involved marrying my long buried love for art with my passion to share thought-provoking content. In a few days, I’ll be revealing the new Maxims4Mavericks (M4M) website and I hope you’ll check it out and perhaps join the mailing list: