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2642018 Retrospective - Living Entrepreneurially

Posted: 2018-12-19Category: InspirationalJava Version: Dr. Heinz M. Kabutz
 

Abstract: Our lives are so busy, we sometimes forget to stop and smell the roses. Let's take a moment to look back at how far we have come in the last 12 months.

 

Welcome to the 264th edition of The Java(tm) Specialists' Newsletter. The year is nearing its end and so it is time for a short inspirational piece, rather than a heavy technical Java newsletter. I hope that 2018 was a great year for you and that 2019 will be even better.

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2018 Retrospective - Living Entrepreneurially

Happy December. Before you read on, please close your eyes for one moment. No, not yet. First read what I have to say. Then close your eyes. When you close your eyes, think about where you were last December. Think about how far you have walked the last 12 months. OK, ready? Let's do it together. Take your time.

Last Sunday I took my 5 year old hiking in the Stavros Mountains. She has the energy of a border collie. Even after 3 hours of hiking, she was still bouncing around, looking for more. At one point I turned back and showed her how far we had already walked. Whilst trudging along, we often forget this. We only look down at our path, trying to avoid stumping our toe on a root. We miss our achievements.

December is also a great month to look forward. If we carry on along the path we are going, will we get to where we want to be, or are we going in circles? Are we using the correct vehicle for the journey we are on?

Two weeks ago, my 20 year old boy and I were sipping coffee at Gregory's, contemplating life, the universe and everything. He is a rock star, studying sound engineering. He is ambitious, hard working and innovative. I have instilled the entrepreneurial mindset since birth. At one point he turned to me and said "Papa, I want to produce a course with you. A course about starting businesses."

We walked over to Mitsos, our favourite meat restaurant. He borrowed a ream of paper and a pen from the proprietors. Whilst waiting for the rest of the family, we started jotting down thoughts. "Maxi, what is the NUMBER ONE thing you need if you want to run your own business?" He did not even hesitate: "Sales!" Oh yeah, he's learned something. The last 20 years of brainwashing had not been in vain. We carried on frantically scribbling. By the time Helene arrived, we had a complete outline for Entrepreneurially.

You might wonder how this applies to you and to your life? Well, let me share something with you. It does not matter whether you are a technical geek or a manager. You need to be able to sell. If you cannot sell, life is so much harder. Would you like to speak at a Java conference? You will need to sell your skills to whoever is sitting on the program committee. Would you like your colleagues to use technology XYZ? Again, you will need to sell it to them. I know that as technical people, we often overlook this, what seems to us, inferior skillset.

As the old joke goes: What's the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman? The car salesman usually knows how to drive a car. And he knows when he is lying.

We have all had these slick guys in suits "sell" features that #1 do not exist in our products and that #2 will cost five man years to add. They saw our mockup and thought it was an industrial strength product. Or they are only considering their sales targets and commission. Whatever the reason, programmers and sales are usually like oil and water.

I have never been to any formal sales training. But I had one better. I grew up with Hans Rudolf Kabutz, the best salesman I had ever seen. Honest to a fault. If someone gave him 10c change too much, he would return it. He would deliver exactly what he had promised. And his sales outlived him by more than a decade. He did not look like the typical slick salesman. He dressed the way his customers did. In the food industry everyone wore a white lab coat. So that's what he wore. My friends thought he was a butcher. He would speak the same language as his clients. Afrikaans? No problem. English? Sure. German? Gerne.

Where did he learn this? My father studied physics and mathematics, not sales. But his father was a great salesman too, as was his grandfather. And so on. So whilst I have not been to "salesman school", I have inherited a fair amount of knowledge, passed down through generations of Kabutzniks. I will give you three examples. The first is you. You have signed up for this Java Specialists' Newsletter. "But what have I bought from Heinz?" You might not have paid me a dime, but you were still willing to subscribe and to read what I write. Without sales, this would not have happened.

Second example is JCrete, one of the top Java conferences on this planet. Not what I say, you can read it here. Why is this a "sale"? Think about it for a second. Through sales, I have managed to convince hundreds of Java experts to travel thousands of miles to visit me on my island. We have a grand time and every year I get pleading letters from those we could not accept. "Please please please". Those that come almost universally want to come back. Not everyone loves JCrete, but 99% do. That's good enough for me.

Third example is a friend of mine. You know those low-budget airlines? Where as soon as your seat-belt is on, they start selling. And they don't stop until you have touched down and taxing to the gate. She works for one of those. Her job was, besides the passengers' safety, to sell as much as possible. It made her uncomfortable. I offered to help. On my next trip with the bespoke airline, I observed how the sales pitch sounded from where I was sitting. I spent a few days thinking about it, mulling it around in my head. I did some research. I then met with her for 10 minutes of coaching. A week later we had another short chat. After this, she became the #1 seller in Chania. She moved to another country. I saw her a few weeks ago and she showed me a long list of air stewards. Her name was right at the top, beating #2 seller by a huge margin. She didn't even try. So what advice did I give her? It was so simple, but we don't do it. I changed her mind about the value of the things she was selling, how it would improve the lives of her customers. I can summarize it in seven words: "Put Yourself In The Other Person's Shoes." This works whether you are selling Spring vs JEE, Visitor vs Iterator patterns, Java vs Python. Figure out what your opposite needs and wants, and figure out how you can provide that. Bingo. Sale.

Sales are indeed the #1 thing you need if you want to be self-employed, but it is also vital for us all.

What else did we scribble down?

Sales, Capital Equipment, Blessing, Cash, Structure, Risk, Welfare.

It's all broken down into roughly 150 short lessons about how to live your life "entrepreneurially".

Who is this for?

The course is first a brain and soul dump for my children. I traveled a lot in the last 20 years and we did not spend as much time around the dining room table as I would have wanted to. This course captures the wisdom passed down through generations of Kabutz's, plus my own life experiences. My wife thinks this is very different course. My other training is me speaking with my head. Entrepreneurially is me speaking from my heart. Even if no one ever bought this course, it was still a worthwhile exercise.

Second this is for my many friends and colleagues whose parents were "corporates". The stories they heard were about how to navigate office politics, not how to close a sale. When they strike out on their own, they sometimes focus on the wrong things. After trying for a few years, they go back defeated to their old life. Sometimes the defeat is a money debt that they can never repay. When you make a mistake as an employee, you might lose your job. But when you make a mistake, even a single one, as a business owner, you might lose your future.

Third this is for you. You might have a great job with fantastic benefits, but in the back of your mind there is always this lingering thought: Could I run my own show? Could I become a free agent, determining my own destiny? Could I travel the world, a digital nomad, coding as I lie on the beach? Before you even consider this, please know that it's not as easy as some make it look.

You might only know me as the guy that writes The Java(tm) Specialists' Newsletter, but think about it - you do know me. How many of the other 10 million Java programmers do you know?

Besides my life as the Java Specialist, I spent 2002-2017 directing a drinking straw factory in South Africa, together with my mother. Under our directorship, we made a profit every year. We shut it down in 2017. It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do. My father started the business in 1980. There was a lot of sentiment attached to the business. When we start a business, we do not consider how and when this business will end. As software geeks our plan is to sell to Google or Oracle. Yes, that sometimes happens. But more often, events beyond our control shut our doors. A new landlord raises the rent by 200%. Our three most valuable employees run away. Or we keep on pottering along, working minimum wage, whilst our employees and bankers get rich. We managed to do an orderly shutdown of our factory. All our staff received generous packages. We did not lose our personal assets. This did not happen by accident.

So how did your 2018 go?

And what about 2017?

And how do you feel about 2019-2025?

In 2017, besides having to close our factory, we also lost our biggest customer in our Java business. Their requirements changed and Java just was not so relevant anymore. Blame Trump, Brexit or the new Oracle licensing. Thanks to the principles taught in the Entrepreneurially course, I managed to survive these two big tidal waves. We are still living in our house and our kids are eating. I would even say that my Java business is stronger and more resilient than ever before.

This course has been very difficult for me to record. In one section, where I talk about the closing of our factory, I almost burst into tears. The entire course is full of life lessons that I hope will catapult my children into the 1%. There are a lot of people in the 1%. Something like 75 million. But there are a lot more in the bottom 99%.

I cannot show you how to become rich. I have friends in the top 0.1%. They earn millions a year and have tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. I do not know how to do that. I expressed my "imposter syndrome" feelings to my son. His response: "Paps, they're not making courses." My first interpretation of this was: "Paps, you will never get rich making courses." That may be true, but it was not what Maxi meant. He meant that it won't help YOU that these guys have made their billions, because they are not teachers. They cannot pull you with them. How did they do it? They might have been lucky. Right time, right place. A bit of dishonesty here and there. Or they are super brilliant. That is probable too. I'm not aiming for the 0.1%. I'm happy in the 1%. No point in wearing ourselves out for riches.

The course Entrepreneurially is now available. Dig in and I hope you learn something. Note that we have a 50% launch special until the 26th of December.

Kind regards from Crete

Heinz

P.S. Even if you don't buy the course today, take a moment to contemplate how far you've come in 2018. Close your eyes, look back, and see what challenges you have survived. Then open your eyes and pat yourself on the back.

 

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