Saying No

Saying No

It happened again.

The great opportunity fell into my lap.

And I turned it down.

Letsatsi, the White lion. (Son of Temba)

White Lion Source

What is this great opportunity?

A job offer.

In 2013, 5 years after the economy took a nose dive, 3 years after I quit my job and 3 years after starting an SEO company. I turned down my 3rd job offer in as many years. When the unemployment situation in the US isn’t good at all, how can I be so prideful as to turn down a job, never mind three in three years?

Truth be told none of these were finalized, formalized offers, but all three were (and are) clients who loved what I brought to the team. They made overtures and asked if I was interested, after saying no initially in a cursory manner each one got serious and followed up to see. Essentially saying: “Are you sure?” And each time I’ve told them No.

The offers have been increasing in size, the first one’s base salary matched my previous salary with bonuses included. The second was higher than that and this third involved moving the decimal place,  a number I never thought I’d be offered.

Yet I still said no.

Money isn’t everything, and no it’s not just the rich who say that. To give a little context, since some reading this may think I’m rich. Or they might say, “whatever, that Kortman guy has a successful business, 4 kids, house, and takes trips when he needs/wants to.”  But in reality I’m making payments, paying off debt and we’re a one car family who cannot afford 99% of the trips we want to take.

It’s not just the rich who say “Money isn’t everything” It’s me too. A solidly middle class guy from a middle class family who married into a middle class family. No complaints here, just couching the statement that money isn’t everything.

So what in the world could have kept me from 3 different jobs all of which would have increased my income and economic status significantly at the time?

My Values.

I value working less. Shocker I know, a guy running two businesses who wanted to get into the funded startup world… wants to work less? Yup. I want to be really purposeful with my time and develop products that bring in revenue (read: income) when I’m not there.

I value working from home. Even when times at home are tough, working from home solves so many other issues. And has a ton of upside. Today my presence was expected by my 7 year old daughter at her mock performance in our house of “whatever came to her mind.” It was a great show! and while only 15 minutes long (could seem like an eternity) if I were working elsewhere I would have totally missed it. These are not moments you can manufacture, or turn on or off in a kid. Despite not having a great example, I’ve learned enough in the three years I’ve been working from home, that it’d have to be an offer of a million dollar salary to take me away from that.

I value living overseas. I’m currently in one of the more expensive countries to live in, and my heart is elsewhere, supporting people who are giving their lives to other people. I’m not sorry that my heart isn’t in the american dream. My heart is in living on less, traveling all the time (as a family, together) and sucking the marrow out of life. I don’t want two cars, a boat, an RV, a house, a cottage, and a mortgage on everything. And I don’t value “traveling more” I want living elsewhere as a core of our lives. I want my kids to have tasted french cheese in france, or to walk with Giraffes and wildebeasts in South Africa, or to get kicked by a kangaroo in Australia, or even to narrowly avoid a tsunami in Thailand (all of these are part of my story). I’d love for my kids to fall in love with an orphanage, a ministry, a mission and give everything they have passionately to live to see others’ lives improved through that organization. I do not value “settling down and raising a family” I value raising a family wherever God places us.

And this is why I wrote this post, to help me remember my values, to help me remember that saying no to something (job offers) is saying yes to these things.

Say No, Say yes to Values

Connex enables these values. I’m able to work fewer hours (currently less than 40) from home, and travel when I want to. What kind of money would cause me to give up these things?

And if you want to help me continue to say know consider donating to a client of mine by Joining Best Friends

Jumping off of the Page

I’m the co-founder of ThingShare, a peer to peer rental system where anyone can participate in the sharing economy by listing your things and then renting them out to strangers. It’s a form of Collaborative Consumption currently focused on the video gaming industry.

Since ThingShare is a new business which needs scale to succeed we’ve gone the route of pursuing funding for our idea. Part of that journey might take us to an accelerator. We’ve applied to a bunch and are still applying to more accelerators. TechStars is the biggest accelerator we’ve applied to and the one that we’d benefit the most from.

In preparation for applying to TechStars I did my research, and figured out that while some funds/accelerators give priority to the business model/idea, TechStars puts a large emphasis on the team. Essentially they believe in raising/supporting great entrepreneurs no matter what the current idea/business is that they’re working on.

We’ve applied to both Boston and now NYC TechStars. But I’ve learned something in the 4 weeks in-between each application. The lesson I learned came from the movie 21.

Lessons learned from “21”

In the [based on true facts] movie the main character Ben had denied himself the pleasures of this world to seek after one goal, getting into Harvard Medical, the only thing in Ben’s way is finances. He has all the perfect scores, has everything lined up, and even is accepted into Harvard Med, and now he’s competing in a full ride scholarship. The professor explains to him that Ben’s life and in turn Ben himself is boring. In Ben’s final essay he needs to “Jump off the page” and the professor needs to be dazzled.

Dazzling TechStars

Like Ben needed to explain to the professor why he was impressive, I needed to explain to TechStars how I and my teammate are incredible  It’s like filling out a form on a dating website and needing to sound attractive, rich, etc. You shouldn’t lie. But you need to sexy up the stories a bit.

So what do I have that is impressive? What would make an indivitual going through hundreds or thousands of applications see our application and say, “Wow I want to meet these guys!” or “Holy cow, Bob did you read this application?” In short, How do I Jump off the page, or how do I dazzle the TechStars team?

The Basics

On the surface these details don’t make me jump off the page, but they should.

  • I’m from the midwest
    • I’m outside the Valley Echo, and I have the midwestern work ethic.
  • I live in the woods, 40 miles away from the nearest city and that city isn’t very large either.
    • While city life provides connections, life in the country is significantly more healthy – and I raise as much of my own food as possible
  • I went to a small unheard of college, got a degree in youth ministry
    • All the successes I’ve had in IT/Business have come from bootstrapping and being self taught.
  • I have a wife and four kids
    • While some assume that makes me tied down and less fundable, having a family makes me connected with our target audience
  • I’ve worked for various small and medium businesses that TechStars has never heard of, and do not directly apply to ThingShare
    • I know how to run small teams well and to work hard with nothing given to me.
  • I’m 32, that’s 4 years older than Mark Zuckerberg
  • We convinced a billionaire to invest $25,000 in ThingShare
    • While that seems low, everyone has to start somewhere, and a $25k convertible note is a form of validation.

But I’m not bitter, I’m just trying to show you how on the surface I don’t dazzle, I’m not the Stanford educated former Google employee who is connected to every VC in the valley, instead I’m  an average hard working midwesterner dad/husband who is pitbull-like in my pursuit of an idea that I get behind.

But let me try it again, what follows are the parts of my story that do jump off the page. And are all true.

Jumping off of the Page

In this list I am not trying to brag or promote myself, but I put it here to let you be the judge. The ultimate question is at the end of the the list.

  • I traveled around the world when I was 13, without my parents or family.
  • I hand wrote html in vi on a Sun UNIX box in 1994 (aka started “coding” at age 14)
  • An insurance company gave me $5,000 for a car that wouldn’t run.
  • My wife and I were deported from Kazakhstan, and we returned a week later.
  • As an english-only speaker I taught algebra to a woman who only spoke korean.
  • I walked away from an incredible job to pursue the Startup world two years ago.
  • I’ve sung in a funeral processional for a South African AIDS victim, in South Africa.
  • I built a training application… in Microsoft Access, prior to Visual Basic.
  • I turned a 2 week temporary job into a 9 month long engagement which I then left.
  • My wife and I delivered our son at home. Alone. Unassisted. Unplanned.
  • I built a Facebook page fan base of 60k in 2008.
  • I’ve built a digital marketing agency that has billed a quarter million. Annually. Every Year.
  • I chose to parent another man’s child cause he wasn’t willing to do it.

So, did I dazzle you? Did I Jump off of the Page?

The First Year: Freelance and Agency Digital Marketing

The First Year: Freelance and Agency Digital Marketing

The first year The wonder years

Recently I celebrated with a few other contractors my first official year of being a freelance digital marketer. It’s been over a year and I’ve seen some crazy things happen. The largest one being that I intended to be a freelancer, and now I’m running a virtual digital agency. (Connex pays/represents 5 contractors, I happen to be the salesman, account manager and one of the contractors :)

I try to live my life with no regrets, and I do not regret leaving the best job I’ve ever had, however the road, the journey this first year has not proved to be easy. I’ve made many mistakes and my failures have become brighter, louder and more annoying to me.

So if you want some background on me quitting my job last year  or the second company I started in the past year  check those posts out, or the inspiration for this post, but if you want to know a fraction of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year read on. (more…)

Twitter List Management

Twitter List Management

There are a lot of twitter list tools out there (see links below) but today’s post will focus on the basics of Twitter List Management, how to create, edit, and use twitter lists. For some of you who’ve already created a twitter list and know how to add/remove people skip down to the Advanced tools section.

Why Twitter List Management?

There is only so much data one can consume in a day. With twitter there are reasons you may need or want to follow accounts that you don’t actually want to read their content on a regular basis. You really have two options, ignore the content they are posting, or add everyone else to a list and just watch that list.

(more…)