I did Seth Godin’s altMBA in 2015. It was a one-month sprint: 14 projects in four weeks about business leadership and marketing. altMBA is part of the inspiration for Mycelium (Suzanne’s MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, now Presidio Graduate School, is another. She writes about that here.).
The biggest takeaway I had from it was that I had much more potential to execute than I was allowing myself. With 14 projects in four weeks, there was no time for procrastination and no time for self-doubt or second-guessing. You just had to execute. And what we produced was just as good as if we did those 14 projects over a year. Maybe better. You learn more from getting stuff done than thinking about it. Immersive experiences and full engagement help with that.
The first project in altMBA was to have a goal. I decided to make a SMART goal for my business Portland Underground Grad School: in two years, I’d be making $40,000 profit while working 10 hours a week. Then I made a strategic plan to reach the goal: identifying obstacles, listing resources, setting deadlines, etc. That project became my work plan for PUGS in the following few years.
$40,000 a year working 10 hours a week may or may not sound impressive. But I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. This is one of the things I believe in business and in life: defining your own success is success. Because I “retired” in 2014, one of my priorities was to not work more than I wanted to, specifically 10 hours a week. And that meant I wasn’t going to make PUGS into a massive business if it meant it would take all of my time. After all, what’s the point of running a business other than for it to serve your life? I wanted to travel, see family, do other projects and have PUGS fit into the larger scope of what I wanted in my life. I wanted to run my business, not have my business run me.
Having the goal gave me guidance in making strategic decisions. The biggest learning was that there were things I should do and things I should hire out. There are $2000/hour jobs, $200/hour jobs, and $20/hour jobs. By hiring out the $20/hour jobs, even when I felt like I could do them better than other people, I had more time to do the $2000/hour and $200/hour jobs. We create more time to do the big things by letting go of the small thigns.
Because I was optimizing for time, I stopped saying yes to every meeting request. Instead, I would sometimes take a 20 minute phone call. Or I would forward the meeting to my staffer. Or I would simply politely decline. Again, the $200/hour and $2000/hour jobs.
It took me three years instead of two to hit my goal of making $40,000 a year, working 10 hours a week. But here’s the thing: If I hadn’t set the goal, I would have never achieved it, at any point. Even missing your goal will move you further there than not having one.
Lessons of small business owners.
If success is setting your own goals, the biggest task is thinking carefully about what the goals of the system are. Parameters matter, because anything unbound will run over. You can’t design for a result you don’t know. Where do you want to be in 5 years, in terms of revenue, time, and energy? Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be working for? Those are the first questions we address in Mycelium.
I’m really thankful to Seth Godin for creating altMBA. Realizing how capable I really was was life-altering. In Mycelium, I wanted to create something like that for people who couldn’t take one-month of their to do 14 projects and wanted real-life instead of online connections. So Mycelium is 20 projects in 5 months, live, with other small business owners. One of my core beliefs is that ideas matter. altMBA’s 14 projects in 4 weeks gave me tons of ideas that made my business run better. And better execution starts from better ideas.
Better execution will be covered in another blog post. Thanks for reading!
Our first cohort will meet Monday afternoons, March-June 2019. If you’re interested, let us know. We’re finalizing details in the next couple of weeks. Have you completed our questionnaire on what you want to learn?