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.

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.

9 Ways Entrepreneurs Are Like Superheroes

entrepreneurs are today's superheroes

A version of this article originally appeared on the EO Melbourne blog. The content has been edited and reprinted here with permission.

Stories of entrepreneurs overcoming early obstacles and ultimately achieving success on their journey can be found on every blog or business site. And these tales leave many of us thinking, “Wow! They did all that?” Some people even regard today’s entrepreneurs as modern day heroes or, even, superheroes.

With superhero movies debuting regularly on the big screen, it’s natural to make the comparison. After all, those caped crusaders and masked heroes may have awesome moves and incredible powers, they are essentially hardworking individuals overcoming challenges in often unexpected and bold ways.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of superheroes and spot the parallels with entrepreneurs.

1. Superheroes often start as underdogs.

Even heroes get bullied and experience hardships early in their lives. It’s when they experience being at the bottom that they set their sights for the top. It’s also when they realize the shared pain of so many others.

For superheroes—and entrepreneurs—it’s often this early suffering that ignites a passionate drive to help others and save the world. It motivates them to push forward and reach for their dreams—to leap without looking.

2. Superheroes must learn to master their power.

Upon discovering the power they hold, superheroes don’t jump up immediately and start saving the world. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for young superheroes is learning to control their power and wield it for good. They inevitably make missteps and must continue refining their understanding of superpowers.

Likewise, having a super idea, a super personality or a super brain for business does not make you a successful entrepreneur. Growing a business takes time, and continuous learning. Patience truly is a virtue for both superhero and entrepreneur.

3. Symbols are significant.

Superman wears his red cape. Captain America carries his shield. Batman dons his mask. These signature looks let others identify them easily.

Without a doubt, branding is important in building your reputation. It helps people identify and connect with your personality, product and services. Particularly in today’s visually focused world, marketing matters. Keep your look—whether it’s a signature color or logo—consistent across platforms to establish your brand and attract followers.

4. Responsibilities, responsibilities, responsibilities.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Peter Parker’s uncle Ben said in the Spiderman movie. Being a superhero is no joke! You will work round the clock, and must reply to even the most harrowing calls for help. Hardworking superheroes often sacrifice their family, friends and loved ones. Plus, their superpowers have limits. Ultimately, their powers are intended for the good of others and not for selfish gains.

Consider everything that entrepreneurs are juggling! Besides running a company—and the leadership, strategy, sales and downright hard work that business requires—there’s family, friends, networking and personal interests. For entrepreneurs, work is life and life is work. Many are so passionate about their business that they sacrifice their personal lives and even their health.

Striving for the balance of responsibilities in all aspects of your life becomes critical to the long-term viability and wellness of both your business and your self.

5. Heroes save the world, but they also need to be saved.

Superheroes save lives. They fight crimes. They rescue those in need. But, they often have a sidekick or at least a little help from their superhero friends.

Despite their powers, superheroes often need a hero themselves.

Leading a company can be a lonely position. The responsibility to run a successful business and support employees can be impossible to bear. Remember: Behind every successful entrepreneur is a family, a loved one or, if you’re lucky, a network of other entrepreneurs who provide support and advice.

6. It’s not just the cape that makes superheroes fly.

Sure, some superheroes can fly. But it’s not just their cape that helps them defy the force of gravity. Wind propels them upward and helps them soar like a bird.

The most well-known entrepreneurs attribute much of their success to an effective team that helps them achieve their goals. Hiring the right staff members is one of the many obstacles early-stage entrepreneurs must tackle. However, once they’ve placed the right people in the right roles, they can achieve goals by leaps and bounds.

7. For every superhero, there is a villain.

There’s no hero without a villain. Villains wreak havoc and create chaos for humanity. They add excitement to the story, and they also keep the superhero busy!

In business, “villains” create a dent in a brand or a venture. They compete for clients or employees. The smartest entrepreneurs will learn from these enemies and build their business in spite of the competition. It’s these villains who help mould your business and also develop your leadership and business savvy.

8. Joining a league is an “in” thing.

There’s the Justice League, the Avengers and the X-Men. We love it when heroes band together to fight a greater evil. There’s strength in numbers—and the more diverse powers they can pool, the stronger they become.

At some point in their journey, business owners realize the benefit of being with like-minded individuals who can relate to their struggles. Inevitably, mature entrepreneurs wish they’d realized the value of learning from others earlier in their journey.

For thousands of entrepreneurs across the globe, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization is this band of brothers and sisters who support and guide each other. Members emphasize the many ways that EO enriches their business and personal lives. 

9. The battle is endless.

As long as there is evil in this world, superheroes are here to stay. Their mission is ongoing.

Most entrepreneurs say that the challenges never stop. Once you’ve figured out one aspect of business, another challenge—or opportunity to learn—crops up. Thus growth is ongoing. For every victory, there is a new goal.

According to Christopher Reeve, the American actor who portrayed the role of Superman, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” For many entrepreneurs, this characterization probably sounds very familiar.

Are you a superhero entrepreneur looking for your league? Check out why entrepreneurs join EO.


The post 9 Ways Entrepreneurs Are Like Superheroes 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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