2 Hours in Positano that Changed My Life

Written by Aaron Lee, founder & CEO at iluma Agency. The original version of this article appeared on Aaron’s LinkedIn blog.

Aaron graduated from EO Accelerator and went on to become an EO member in 2011. He says, “One of the most meaningful discoveries I made in EO Accelerator was that I was not alone as an entrepreneur. EO Accelerator allowed me to accept my mistakes, fill my experience gaps with wisdom and create an inspiring vision for my business.” Learn more about this life-changing program for first-stage entrepreneurs, and hear from other participants. 

Realizing the power of just one moment.
I can hear someone hammering nearby—more of a tapping than a construction project. It piques my curiosity and I start to wander around, trying to find the source.

I glance up cobblestone alleys and around the corner of a café, but all I can see are some tourists darting in and out of shops and some locals milling around as the day gets up to speed. The tapping continues and I’m starting to feel like the poor soul in Poe’s tortuous poem, The Raven.

Finally, after turning around several times, I isolate the direction the noise is coming from and head for a stone wall ledge off to my right. Bringing my wife Lisa into the hunt, we peer over and on a terrace below us is a cobbler, handcrafting sandals out of a small box of tools and beads. I felt like we had been transported back in time.

Not only was I satisfied for having tracked down the source of my curiosity, but the moment itself was just such a perfect snapshot of what I had imagined this place would be. I was so struck by the scene, that I quickly grabbed my camera and captured the moment so it would never fade from my memory.

Then something absolutely amazing happened that would alter the course of my life, from that moment on.

It was a cool morning in April of 2011 when I found myself wandering around this cliff side town of Positano, Italy. Truth be told, it wasn’t even on my list of “must see” places during this trip. We wouldn’t have been there at all if it wasn’t for my mother insisting that “we had to visit the Amalfi Coast before making our way to Pompeii.”

She knew. For those who have never been, Positano, Italy is one of several towns and cities that line Italy’s west coast near the Bay of Naples. Our tour bus journey from Naples to Positano was a winding path of roads that clung to the edge of rocky cliffs, weaving it’s way along the coastline.

On this chilly April morning the misty skies leant a surreal nature to the whole experience. After descending through what seemed like one impossible switchback after another (and witnessing some of the most miraculous mini-bus driving I have ever seen), we finally arrived in the heart of Positano. I stepped off the bus and fell in love with this unique Italian beauty.

Small shops, cafes and hotels line the cobblestone streets. Printed linens and lemons the size of small gourds hung from storefronts, and warm cappuccinos were being set down with biscotti’s atop outdoor tables. Arched pathways made of purple petunia flowers decorated our path as we set off to explore this cliffside wonder.

We shopped, tasted and drank in the postcard scenes all around us until finally we arrived at the stone wall overlooking the cobbler—and by then I was smitten. But I was also a little sad. Our morning was ticking away, managed by the tick-tock schedule of our Italian guide. After just two hours there, we boarded the bus again to make our way to Sorrento and Pompeii. Just as I had fallen in love, it was already time to leave.

That’s why the moment hit me so hard.

By this point in my life, I had already been in business for myself for 10 years. I had started with a flaming parachute leap from a dotcom startup in late 2000, and armed with just US$6,000 in savings and the equity I had built in my relationships over my career. From my living room—and with dogged determination—I found a way to survive for 10 more years, growing one client at a time.

But that was just it. After 10 years, I was still just “surviving” the creative agency I had always dreamed of building. I was able to support my wonderful family and my small staff, but we always operated one project to the next, navigating a predictably unpredictable cash flow. The hard truth was that my company really owned me. There was plenty of optimism but never any certainty (which meant profits were rare).

Eighteen months before I found myself here on the Amalfi coast, I was introduced to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). I had spent a year-and-a-half learning from the experiences of a group of peers I never knew I had, fellow business owners.

More than anything that I learned from the expert business resources I had access to, my thought process was mostly altered by the realization that my peers each had a different relationship to their business. Mine was very personal, while theirs seemed much more objective overall. I began to realize that the only business plan I had ever had was, “Just don’t go out of business”. It had been a long 10 years, never knowing what tomorrow would bring. I knew then that it didn’t have to keep being that way.

Back in Positano, I grabbed the handrail in front of me, looking out at the misty waters ahead. A vision suddenly came into sharp focus and I grinned as a powerful wave of emotion rolled over me. These moments in life are rare, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to disregard them as some silly daydream. I knew enough to stop and say it out loud to someone who would hear my words for what they were. I turned to Lisa (pictured above) and said this:

“We are going to come back here in ten years and spend six weeks here over the summer, and at the end of those six weeks I want to be able turn to you and ask ‘do you want to spend another six weeks here?’”

I knew if I could afford to freely ask that question, I would have completely transformed my business from being one that was still surviving, to one that was finally thriving. So how has that moment shaped my life? It has been nearly six years since I made that commitment in Positano and today my life is right on course to fulfill my vision.

My firm, iluma Agency is growing aggressively and profitably, with a strong leadership team and incredible focus. We know what makes us tick, who we are, and how we add value. As a result, we’ve enjoyed being named to the Inc5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies, for three years straight. I’ve also been serving as the president of the EO South Florida chapter that I joined just seven years ago, volunteering many hours each week, while developing critical leadership skills and experience. And just yesterday, I booked a flight for a week-long trip back to Italy  with Lisa. We’re going to spend three days in Positano and this time I’ll begin scouting out our perfect 2020 summer home just three years from now.

I can’t wait to send you that postcard.

Looking back on my life since that moment, here’s what I’ve realized. If you never create an inspiring vision for your future, then all of your daily choices will only be filled with repeated lessons from your past.

Imagining myself on that cliff—and asking my wife that one simple question—has shaped my response to countless decisions. In that moment, I had no idea how I would make it a reality. Every day since I’ve been presented with countless, seemingly inconsequential choices. Over time I’ve tried to guide my answer to each one by asking myself, “Does this get me back to Positano by 2020?” And every small choice has built upon the last one, until now when I look ahead—and what once seemed like a dream—now looks like a clear and predictable future.

So ask yourself: What’s your Positano?

Aaron Lee graduated from EO Accelerator and went on to become an EO member in 2011. He says, “One of the most meaningful discoveries I made in EO Accelerator was that I was not alone as an entrepreneur. EO Accelerator allowed me to accept my mistakes, fill my experience gaps with wisdom and create an inspiring vision for my business.” Learn more about this life-changing program for first-stage entrepreneurs, and hear from other participants. 

The post 2 Hours in Positano that Changed My Life appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

The Realities of Being Self-Employed

business womenWritten for EO by Ken Boyd, a former CPA who creates accounting and personal finance content. 

“Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

This quote, attributed to Thomas Edison, captures the reality of being self-employed. Working for yourself allows you to capitalize on opportunities that may not be available to you as an employee. However, seizing the opportunity may require far more work hours and responsibility than you spend at a traditional job.

That’s the trade off.

So, before you abandon life as an employee in favor of launching your own startup or becoming your own boss, consider these top realities of self-employment.

The Realities

A recent study of 500 self-employed respondents conducted by QuickBooks Self-Employed reveals some interesting truths of being self employed:

  • More hours: 14% of those surveyed work 50 hours a week, and more than 10% of work more than 50 hours in a given week. The self-employed are also working weekends, with 32% of respondents working every weekend.
  • Vacation: Most of those surveyed take vacation, and 32% take a week of vacation each year. However, 30% of the respondents worked regularly or often while on vacation.
  • Concerns: This group had concerns that are common for self-employed people. 23% of respondents stated that work concerns often kept them up at night, and that cash flow ranked as the biggest concern for those surveyed.

How you would respond to these questions? How many hours are you working, and are you able to take time off? What is the quality of your vacation time? Do you have the personality, the drive, and the energy make it as self-employed person? 

What Does It Take?

So, what personality traits does it take to succeed in the self-employed world? After 19 years as a self-employed person, I’ll give you my list of must-have qualities:

  • Resilience: This is the most important word in the English language. Resilience is the ability to get back up after failure and keep moving forward. Sure, employees need resilience, but self-employed people need far more, because there are so many variables that can go wrong. After all, you’re responsible for marketing, producing the work or service, invoicing, and collecting money. 
  • Self-awareness: You need the ability to be brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and find people who can help you in your areas of weakness. We all have weaknesses, so fill in the gaps.
  • The abilty to say no: You can’t please everyone, so don’t try. And, it may be counter-intuitive, but no self-employed person can succeed unless they turn away some business. If you’re going to work on your own, play to your strengths, and take on work that fits your strengths.

Ask yourself: do you have these personal traits? 

Now, you can develop some of traits over time. In my case, I think I’ve always had the first two traits, but the need to please was tough for me. It’s taken years of self-discipline to turn away work that wasn’t a fit for me.

The Payoff

While the work hours and responsibility are greater for self-employed people, the personal satisfaction of working on your own can be rewarding.

In addition, you can jump into interesting projects that you could never take on as an employee. If an opportunity comes your way, you can take on an exciting project and reduce the time spent with other clients. Last, but not least, you have the ability to earn far more income as a self-employed person.

Take Some Time

Striking out on your own is a big decision, both professionally and financially, so take some time to think. Ask the people who know you best if self-employment fits your personality and your strengths.

Most important, realize that you’ll face more challenges as a self-employed professional. If you’re resilient and adaptable to change, working on your own can be rewarding.

Ken Boyd is the author of Cost Accounting for Dummies, Accounting All-In-One for Dummies, The CPA Exam for Dummies, and 1,001 Accounting Questions for Dummies. You can find his blog, YouTube channel links, and other information at accountingaccidentally.com.


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The Secret to Engaging Gen Z Employees

generation z employees like feedbackWritten by Heather Watson, behaviorial designer at The Center for Generational Kinetics. A version of this article originally appeared on the The Center’s blog. 

Does it feel like you just started getting used to Millennials’ workplace preferences? Well, it’s time to start adapting to the next generation of workers: Generation Z. What’s the secret to engaging Gen Z at work? Feedback, feedback and more feedback!

Gen Z Employees Want (Very) Frequent Feedback from Managers

In our 2017 Gen Z national study, we discovered that 60% of these younger workers want multiple check-ins from their managers during the week. In fact, of those, 40% want an interaction with their boss daily or several times each day. And while we saw this trend with Millennials, it’s really taking off with Gen Z.

But what does that mean? Do managers need to have hour-long conversations with Gen Z employees, multiple times during the week? Who has that kind of time? In fact, what this group actually wants is not lengthy discussions. Rather, they want consistent recognition.

Gen Z wants to know that you see them and that you appreciate their effort. A two-minute, daily check-in could be all they need. For example, here is a quote from one of our Gen Z focus group participants: “I’m really difficult on myself, so it means a lot to have a supervisor take time out of their day to be physically present and verbally say ‘We value you.’” Feedback and check-ins with their managers are how Gen Z employees know they are doing a good job.

Explore other EO Octane articles about Generation Z.

Unlike the generations before them, such as Gen X and Baby Boomers, Generation Z sees conversations with their managers as a good thing. Many older employees viewed conversations with a boss as trouble. Gen Z, however, will feel something is wrong if managers are distant.

What Kind of Feedback Does Gen Z Want?

Engaging Gen Z at work requires coaching to the performance as well as to the person, which might be unfamiliar territory for Baby Boomers.

Gen Z wants both constructive skills-based feedback as well as personal check-ins. As the new generation in the workplace, they need senior employees, managers, and mentors to help build their skills. Not all of your feedback needs to be confidence boosting or high fives—they don’t need a trophy every 10 minutes. Instead, when you see areas that need development, say, “Hey, I need to show you how to do this differently, more effectively, or more efficiently.”

Additionally, while Gen Z definitely wants feedback on their job performance, they also crave personal interaction. For Gen Z, having a boss that’s also a friend or mentor is key to engagement. As a supervisor, show them you are not only interested in their work, but also their lives outside of work. Get to know them as people, not just employees. Ask about their pets, hobbies, interests, family—anything, as long as you show that you care about their life.

A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of The Center for Generational Kinetics, which was co-founded by EO member Denise Villa-Dorsey Ph.D. (pictured, at left). The Center solves tough generational challenges with Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers. The Center delivers custom research, speaking and strategic consulting deliver innovative, practical solutions that drive results.  


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5 Books to Motivate a Digital Nomad

Written for EO by Jason Mueller.

Nothing beats having the freedom to work remotely from a coffee shop in Copenhagen, a bistro in Italy or maybe from a cabana in Costa Rica. For many, life as a digital nomad can be rewarding, exciting and inspiring.

If working remotely as a digital nomad sounds like la bella vita to you—but you need that extra push or you simply want to prepare—then you’ll want to explore these books!

1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book is a boundless resource for not only people who want to live a successful life as a digital nomad, but for anyone who needs encouragement and direction to boost their faith in their own decisions and accomplish goals in life. While written in the 1930s, Think and Grow Rich has long been listed at the top of motivational books that truly change lives.

2. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

This is the perfect book for teaching what being rich really means, and how you can have financial success in the future with the steps you take today. It explains the difference between working hard and building assets. Perfect for anyone who longs for shorter work hours to allow for more adventures!

3. Unshakable by Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins has long been known as the top lifestyle and business coach in the world, and this book gets to the core of how to maximize your finances to achieve financial freedom. As a digital nomad, knowing how to start and then continue earning while you’re traveling is key to living successfully overseas.

4. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

James Altucher shows his readers how to invest in themselves to achieve greatness. If you’re feeling unsure about pursuing your ultimately goals and lifestyle, this books provides perfect motivation. Plus, it’s a great read for those long plane trips! Learn how to ‘choose yourself’ to live a life of freedom and happiness.

5. The Power of Broke by Daymond John

Many wanderers have little money to travel when they start out, but thanks to Daymond John and his book The Power of Broke, you’ll quickly see why having little can lead to great things. Even starting a business when you have little money to back it can be the start of a life of success. Hard work and determination and knowing how to use your resources wisely will help you connect with clients. It’s also a great guide for making personal connections and living life to the fullest when you’re moving from one place to the next.

Jay Mueller is an entrepreneur and traveler. He writes for A1AutoTransport.com. If you are an entrepeneur who values discovery, learning and inspiration, check out how to apply for membership in EO.

The post 5 Books to Motivate a Digital Nomad appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Learning to Listen to Your Heart

Written by Claire Algarme, EO Melbourne administrator

Peninsula Luxury Retreats founder Peter Noble had carved his path as an entrepreneur by launching and running Citrus, a marketing automation business, for almost 20 years. Along the way, the marketing landscape changed, the trail transformed and his passion cooled. Feeling tired of the grind, he reflected on what he wanted to do going forward. In 2016, Peter made the bold decision to close his business and embark on a new journey in the hospitality space. Here’s his story. 

It was in 2015 when Peter Noble attended an EO Melbourne forum retreat in Byron Bay. Despite feeling ill, Peter pressed on. He didn’t want to miss the retreat, where a meditation teacher would be sharing Ayurvedic techniques. His wife, Kristina, had been practicing it for three months, and he had noticed positive changes in her. Peter left the retreat feeling better and lighter, and he continued his meditation practice, even through a family move to Sydney the same year.

“I came out of a meditation session by the beach in Sydney, and it just hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized I was not enjoying the business part of my life. I didn’t feel that I could be true to my staff by coming in and talking about the vision for the business anymore. I needed to get out. I wanted to be true to myself,” he says.

“I didn’t feel that I could be true to my staff by coming in and talking about the vision for the business anymore. I needed to get out. I wanted to be true to myself.”

From the moment he decided to close to the actual date of closure, a mere four weeks passed. He flew to Melbourne and broke the news to his Citrus staff members. “It was very emotional, but they also understood. They were proud of me, and they were happy that I was truthful. I made a promise to each one of them that they would have a new job within those four weeks. We delivered on every single person,” recalls Peter.

Mentally, physically and spiritually, it was a difficult time in his life. He needed to unwind and re-calibrate his life. Peter and his family took an extended break to Europe for eight months. Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey to this point, Peter understood he had opted for an unlikely exit. Entrepreneurs generally either build a business that lasts a lifetime or sell the business and move on to another one.

First launch

When he decided to start Citrus, he was working for a multinational company. He felt a burning desire to hit the road and launch his own business.

“I felt like I had more to offer and could impact more people by going out on my own. I felt I needed to get out and do something and show myself—more than anyone else—that I could thrive, not just survive, in the entrepreneurial world. The desire builds up in you over time. Eventually, you have to make a decision to either jump and see if you fly or just stay where you are. I decided to jump,” he says.

“The desire builds up in you over time. Eventually, you have to make a decision to either jump and see if you fly or just stay where you are. I decided to jump.”

He started Citrus with his wife and sister-in-law. While a business partnership with a spouse could be a challenge for many entrepreneurs, Peter and Kristina found their personal and business relationship to be a winning recipe. Says Peter, “For us, it was a very major part of our success as a couple, and we’re still married 20 years later. So, it worked obviously, which was good. But it was a little scary.”

Staffing, culture and ego

As with all new businesses, Citrus weathered challenges and opportunities. “We had a difficult start because there was the dot-com boom back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was a bizarre time to be in the space where we were at that point. There was this incredible excitement globally about what the internet could do for business and humanity. We were on the cusp of that. Our business was within the digital marketing space. It was very new,” he explains.

With the rapid rise in the web and digital marketing, young employees were being hired and poached by top agencies. Since Peter and his partners couldn’t afford to match the salaries that larger corporations offered, Citrus lost some staff members. Among those who remained, a strong bond developed.

“The challenge is how to build a team that has the skills you need, the culture you’re trying to build and an understanding of the vision you want to create. When you’re busy being busy, it’s sometimes difficult to sit back and look at the bigger picture of things and ensure that the team you have are the right people.”

The team culture, employee and client relationships as well as the company’s relatively small cost base helped it survive when the financial crash eventually came.

“Business is about relationships and how you build them, whether they’re done online or face-to-face. They are very critical parts of a successful business, whether they be with staff or customers or partners,” Peter says.

“Business is about relationships and how you build them, whether they’re done online or face-to-face.”

When two buyers expressed interest, they eventually provided the same feedback: “They said, ‘while it’s a great business, we feel that you are such an integral part of it that it’s too reliant on you as an individual.’”

Looking back, Peter realized that there was a lot of ego associated with holding on to the business. He became so attached to his venture that he was afraid to let it go. “I thought I was very important to a whole lot of people. Very quickly, though, you realize how unimportant you are when you step away,” he says.

Support and guidance

The pressures of running a business also took a toll on him. Peter found support and guidance from other entrepreneurs through EO Melbourne. “Fellow forum members were able to provide the right guiding experiences, ideas and friendship. I have made some of my best friends in my life through EO.”

He took a break from the organization, but rejoined two years later. Peter reveals, “I was looking at re-imagining the Citrus business. I thought to myself, I’ve stopped thinking big. I’ve stopped thinking as a visionary. I’ve stopped looking at the possibilities of the business. I remembered then what EO had done for me, and how much I’d enjoyed being part of that group. I don’t think we were successful at the time I wasn’t in EO. So, I rejoined, and I haven’t looked back since then.”

“I don’t think we were successful at the time I wasn’t in EO. So, I rejoined, and I haven’t looked back since then.”

Inspiration to happiness 

It was the EO community that helped Peter find his way from the business he no longer loved to a tour through Europe with his family. While traveling through the continent, Peter and Kristina put a few of their properties in the short-stay accommodation market, including Airbnb and HomeAway.

“Interestingly, we made more money while we were traveling around Europe and not working than we had in the previous six to 12 months of running the agency. When I got home, I thought, ‘Hang on. There’s got to be something in this.’ So, I decided to take on building a portfolio of properties that we could own, manage and run. That’s been building successfully over the last couple of years,” he shares.

With his new baby, the Peninsula Luxury Retreats, he has never been happier. “We’re looking into buying more land and building some properties. I’m doing that with a partner, and we’re going to build that into a brand in these luxury retreats. We think that it’s a really exciting opportunity based on the market that’s here in Australia and overseas,” he disclosed.

Most of all, he is happy that he can now devote more time to his daughter. “She was born in 2011, and for the first two or three years, I missed so much of her growth. I would leave before she had woken up and get home after she’d gone to bed. As a dad, I missed so many things in my child’s early development that I can’t get back. What I’ve been able to do now is achieve complete flexibility and freedom. I think my relationship with my daughter has changed. We get to spend a lot more time together.”

“As a dad, I missed so many things in my child’s early development that I can’t get back. What I’ve been able to do now is achieve complete flexibility and freedom.”

Peter found the courage to make the big leap because he trusted his inner self. “The biggest lesson? Listen to your heart. Listen to what is important for you as an individual. If you’re not happy, if your work is a grind, if it’s a slog, if you’re unable to listen to what’s going on inside, then it will stay difficult,” he counsels.

Read more about Peter Noble. To learn about EO and how it supports entrepreneurs across the globe, visit EOnetwork.org.

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