Thursday, December 30, 2010

Linchpin - Executive Summary

The Linchpin series was the first Free MBA blog series that focused on overcoming our anxiety and fear caused by own lesser evolved lizard brains to ship our ideas, and give up on following instructions.

The information material of 11 pages was contributed by Seth Godin from his latest book Linchpin, which I used as support/inspiration for this blog series.

In this series, I learned fear often let's us know we are on the right track (outside our comfort zone), anxiety does no good, to ease up on ourselves, and then ship your idea.

Linchpin Capstone

We'll I did it. I shipped an idea. Made it real. It's not perfect (far from) but it made the exodus from my mind into the world.

Seth Godin agreed to let me borrow 15 pages from his book Linchpin.

I only needed 11.

Here is what I learned:

#1 - Give Up Instructions, Give Away Ideas
#2 - Solve Interesting Problems and Lead
#3 - Give ART
#4 - The Lizard Brain
#5 - Playing It Safe Is Risky Business
#6 - Wrong Choices for the Right Reasons
#7 - You are Your Biggest Critic
#8 - Anxiety = Fear^2
#9 - Do Nothing, Be More Productive
#10 - People Only Laugh at Good Ideas
#11 - Anxious Hours = Ulcer
#12 - Ease Up

For this capstone, I had planned for a long-winded post. But then the beauty of a good idea is that it speaks for itself.

Linchpin taught me to confront my lizard brain and resistance. Before this project, I was a guy with ideas who had too much anxiety to share them, too concerned that people would laugh.

But please laugh, it means this idea is good.

I am easing up on myself, and giving up on instructions. Doing less to do more.

This blog/project is the right choice for the wrong reasons.

Stay tuned. I have a lot of ideas, and I am just itching to give them away.

Note to Seth:
Seth thanks again for the contribution of social capital. It really is worth more than money.

Linchpin (Page 11): Ease Up

Have you ever heard the golden rule, "treat others as you would like to be treated"?

There's a part that was left out, which when tacked onto the end of the sentence, makes it much more helpful for the hypercritical lizard brain.

Golden rule + "including yourself"

If we always knock ourselves down we'll burn out long before we've ever had a chance to shine.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Linchpin (Page 10.4): Anxious Hours = Ulcer

The Jedi can exert their mental power on the universe to mold it. But for the rest of us, we only think we can. The last time you were anxious about an event or issue outside of your control, did it change the outcome. More likely, it just ruined the day.

The linchpin recognizes anxious hours only cause one thing: ulcers.

When something is outside the gravity of our influence, no matter how much force (anxiety) we exert nothing is accomplished.

Instead, we can focus on what we can control. Eventually maybe our circle of influence will grow to encompass what we could not formerly control.

Linchpin (Page 9.5): People Only Laugh at Good Ideas

How many times have you enjoyed a movie critics have lambasted? Most films I enjoy are flops according to the critics standards (may be that's why me and film school did not mesh).

When faced with a tough decision, we often reduce often the seemingly complex reasons to avoid a risk (perceived most of the time) to one simple excuse: people will laugh at me.

When we offer our ideas to the world and critics laugh derisively at us, we retract.

We assume our ideas are bad (some are, but not all). The difference between a good and bad idea is that people take the time to laugh at a good idea whereas they disregard a bad one.

People laugh at good ideas because there is nothing comparable--it's unique. So it's only natural to laugh--there's comedy in what we can't conceive.

Next time someone laughs, thank them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Linchpin (Page 9): Do nothing and Be Productive

Often, in my personal and business lives, I am hard-wired to simply react with anxiety, often needlessly. Once I knew the cause of anxiety (fear^2), then I learned to choose a more productive response--to do nothing at all.

I am guilty of subscribing to the first, more common, reaction to anxiety (below). It takes a lot of energy to keep up with anxiety.

Sounds familiar, checking and checking again. We all do it (some more than others). It makes you think: what else could I do with all the wasted energy spent on worrying? I think the answer is a lot. A linchpin can harness that energy and redirect it to something worthy of their efforts.

Just sitting with our anxiety allows us to realize how much energy is wasted. We can't always rid ourselves of anxiety, but perhaps we can choose to change our response to it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Linchpin (Page 7.6): Anxiety = Fear ^2

So I boiled down this Linchpin excerpt into a simple mathematical representation:

Anxiety = Fear ^2

Anxiety takes hold when we fear (the act) fear (the state of being).

It's the unknown we fear. Those seemingly endless possibilities that haunt us. Apparitions of an uncertain future.

We want a map (as Seth put it). We want a free pass.

But once we accept responsibility for the fact that no one but us can knock us down, or build us up then we have the choice.

I choose up over down. After that the anxiety dissipates.

Linchpin (Page 6 5/7): Turning Your Biggest Critic into Your Greatest Proponent (Yourself)

Have you ever noticed there seems to be an inflections point where more effort is actually harmful to whatever you are trying to accomplish?

For instance, in my daily life during meetings, I can prepare with agenda's, detailed notes, the best PowerPoint, but it seems people just know you are trying to hard and don't buy in.

So then I started thinking, why am I trying so unnecessarily hard?

Well it's simple enough: anxiety (not to be confused that life-saving fight or flight fear). For whatever reason, at that meeting and with that subject matter I feel little confidence which breeds anxiety.

So we try our best to mask it, with big words, flashy presentations and feigned insights. The only problem is everyone knows. No one buys it. So all that anxiety has actually caused our worst case scenarios to self-fulfill.

What if we could forsake giving into fear and anxiety. Not react to it and overcompensate. Let the fear cycle helps us, rather than be our detriment. Well that's the focus of this excerpt from Linchpin.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Linchpin (Page 6): The Right Choice for the Wrong Reasons

As an accountant people always remark somewhat confused when they learn about this blog. We're supposed to be rule-followers, and cling to the status quo (not saying that the majority does not), but a lot of people go into my field because they want a steady job and good money (all positives, don't get me wrong), but that seems like the right choice for the wrong reasons. Perhaps, that's why when I meet people they assume I am fear consumed person.

I know I chose to start in accounting to learn the basics and develop my business acumen, and may be to some extent I was also enticed to take a safer route, who knows.

People in general are fearful. Fear of what may happen beyond their control and most scared about the future. That's fine, hell, I get scared about taking chances and seeming like a fool. But the difference is to not let that fear stop you.

We're so afraid because do not want to take responsibility if we should fail.

Take responsibility. Accept fear, but don't stop. Otherwise, what you fear the most seems to come to fruition (see page 7).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Linchpin (Page 5): Playing it Safe is Risky Business

We've all done it. Not followed through with that idea, held back when we know we're on to something. Why would we want to upset the status quo. Upset the order. The lizard brain entices us to put our heads in the sand. Play it safe, or put another way: let the opportunities of today become yesterday's if only's, which brings me to this post's linchpin tid-bit.
Linchpin Excerpt - Page 5

Why do we yield when everything compels us to move forward?


Fear's ok (Linchpin taught me that). Unchecked anxiety is the true culprit.

Anxiety our propensity to avoid change, to let ourselves fail.

Hell, I am anxious about putting my ideas out here. But, that won't stop me, and it shouldn't stop anyone else.

What we are really doing is letting potential remain just that--potential.

Unless...we push through the resistance. Let go of anxiety, embrace fear (it let's us know we're on the right track), and become true Linchpins.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Linchpin: My Resistance

I finished reading Linchpin. And dog-eared about every other page. Seth donated up to 15 pages to this project. The only problem is that every page is worthy of dedicating further attention to.

So, then I hit a road block and couldn't figure out what to do next. So many choices, I didn't want to screw up. I was afraid of failing. Not posting something good enough, or savvy enough. I reverted to yearning for someone to tell me what to do, tell me how to think, and what to write and learn.

But, then it hit me...fear. The lizard brain crept on me, and moved me down the evolutionary time-line--fight or flight, all or nothing. Why should I be so anxious, I am failing in advance (future post). So, I am challenging the anxiety and pushing through the resistance.

For me, linchpins simply fear less than the rest of us. Of course, there are other things to learn (for them all I encourage you to pick up a copy-I got mine at the library), but the most important is that fear shouldn't stop us in our tracks. We need to endure, and be the rock waves of anxiety crash against in a sea of uncertainty.

So, the remainder of this Linchpin series will be overcoming anxiety and reigning in fear so we can each create forward motion.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Linchpin (Page 4.25): The Lizard Brain

External iteration of the lizard brain: Do it this way, it's easier. Don't step out of line.

Internal Iterations of the lizard brain: I could look foolish. If this fails, then I am a failure. I'll just stay safe, it's not worth it.

Me and My Lizard Brain:
For me the lizard brain (that anxiety in your chest) sets in when I trust the idea of the Free MBA. I have friends who are pursuing their degrees from prestigious institutions, but for some reason, at least in this point in time, this project seems as though its teaching me more than any university could. Teaching me to overcome the resistance I have succumbed to so many times before. It seems odd, staying out of school to learn.

But I can do it, with a library card and social capital. Seth is the first contributor. And I’ve learned a lot.
In this economy where information and knowledge are no longer guarded jewels of industry, but available to any industrious person, we can ship our own ideas. Make them real.

This makes the lizard brain crazy (my is going nuts). But, we can learn to evolve farther up the evolutionary brain chain, and achieve the potential in our ideas (and us) that the lizard brain would have us otherwise squander.

I am fighting my lizard brain (with this project). So far, so good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Linchpin (Pages 2 1/5 - 3.5): Giving ART

We think of art as reserved for painters and writers. But, we all are capable of giving art. As long as it changes whoever receives it in a meaningful way. As Seth explained in Linchpin.
Linchpin Excerpt - Page 2 1/5

So everyday we have the ability to be artists, to choose to do something meaningful, or make the seemingly mundane meaningful. This is the difference between having a job and a vocation.

Art is human. Art isn't being a cog. It's realizing human to human creates art. That we have the ability to bring our ideas into the world, it's a choice, it's what we learn to do at The Free MBA.
Linchpin Excerpt - Page 3.5

IF you want to change someone with your work (give art), then it's about the human interaction. You have to care. People know when you don't. When you don't care, you revert to being a cog. That's fine, if that's all you need. However some need more, to feel connected to their product, the reason their efforts matter. So they need to give art.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Linchpin (Pages 1 thru 2 1/4): Solve Interesting Problems and Lead

Do you remember 1/10th of what you learned in school? Half the time I was lucky to remember what class to go to, let alone seemingly useless facts and obscure mathematical formulas. Seth has an alternative idea of what school's (for all levels) should teach in Linchpin, which is the focus of the Free MBA (see Ciriculumn page):

Linchpin Excerpt - Page 1 1/4 (cummulative total):

What? no structured courses, graded exams, or obscure facts? well, yes. True learning takes place at the nexus where traditional business subjects collide into one. At this point, connections are made, ideas form, and problems are solved. So while everyone else scurry's to learn subjects in silos, we'll focus making connections and shipping ideas. How? Keep reading.
Linchpin Excerpt - Page 1 11/22rd's

Huh, makes sense. So let's focus on problems you can't Google. But solve them by using information we can Google. What do we have to do, to do what hasn't been done, if we are to do it....

Linchpin Excerpt - Page 2 1/4

So moral of story: the Free MBA Project will base its education on (1) solving interesting problems, and (2) leading. Short, Sweet, but says a lot.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Linchpin: Giving It Away (Equitable Consulting)

As a complement to the post on giving away our ideas in line with Linchpin concepts, I am instituting an effort to give away ideas to solve interesting business problems with the hope of learning through a meaningful exchange with our partners, which I will document under equitable consulting features in the future.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Linchpin (Page 1): Giving Up On Instructions, and Giving Away Ideas

As posted previously, Seth Godin has agreed to contribute up to 15 pages from his newest book Linchpin. Below, is the first page excerpt (two partial pages adding up to one page) from Linchpin. Read below pages from Seth's book before reading this post-Seth's a better writer anyway :)

Since the start of this project, I wondered how to best approach a Free MBA Program. Until I read Seth's incisive insights in Linchpin (see revised Curriculum Page). So now, the Free MBA focuses on solving interesting problems by applying conventional business ideas in unconventional ways. By solving interesting problems, we can leverage the shared knowledge available with a simple Google search, to make new connections that change people, which allows us to challenge the status quo and cause change.

We cut ourselves short. We follow the instructions, focusing on knowing all the right terms and latest business trends, which inhibits us from synthesizing and shipping ideas because we are paralyzed with indoctrinated mediocre obedience.

So we have to learn to stop following instructions. We can learn what is pertinent to solve the current interesting problem. And solve it!

Or we can choose to follow instructions, apply cliched business concepts and terms. Diagonosing sysmptoms without getting to the heart of the problem, and avoiding meaningful change.

So, to solve our dependency on following instructions related to ideas and sharing them (see Poverty Mentality in excerpt) we'll strive to give our ideas away here, the opposite of traditional business concepts, and create win-win situations.

I only want in return the opportunity to learn, and ship my ideas.

Note: Didn't have a scanner for the pages above, so used my camera. Not the most ideal method, but the idea shipped. Also, keeping in line with the free nature of this project, I checked this book out of the library. Learned a lot, and only had to invest my time (not my money).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Linchpin: Assembly Line Education

In the assembly line factory system for goods and services a company's profits are the difference between what it pays employees and the value of the output.

On an assembly line to maximize profits, workers need to be complacent and interchangeable to achieve the lowest possible cost ( mainly wages paid to employees). To ensure a ready supply of cheap labor the education system has been designed with an assembly line approach (you know what I mean, all those countless hours memorizing useless facts).

You and me have been indoctrinated with "mediocre obedience" as Seth Godin so succinctly pointed out in his newest book Linchpin:

"Mediocre Obedience
We've been taught to be a replaceable cog in a giant machine.
We've been taught to consume as a shortcut to happiness.
We've been taught not to care about our job or our customers.
And we've been taught to fit in."

In line with this doctrine, our education has taught us to show up on time, rush through subjects and follow teachers' instructions, don't ask questions or question authority, cram for tests, pass tests, get a diploma, and with the hope of getting that dream job. That seems to be the reason so many people want an MBA. The want the letters, not an education because to them its just another box to check.

The difference between the traditional MBA student and the Free MBA student is that rather than only memorize and regurgitate definitions from a variety of subjects (e.g., economics, accounting, finance, marketing, etc) here we are attempting use modern means to access the same knowledge (why memorize it, when we can just Google it) then use that knowledge to learn to solve interesting problems (more to come) and lead (more to come). Isn't this what companies need, people who can solve problems and lead, rather than complacent works?

We have a choice, to move away from being dispensable to indispensable, which is achieved through becoming a linchpin.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Second Semester: Preview

Just wanted to announce there will be an exciting future course! Seth Godin has agreed to contribute some social capital content from his newest book Linchpin.

Stay tuned. More to Come!

First Semester: Revisions

One beneficial perk about taking charge of your education is that it is one your own terms, and time. So, I want to focus on one course at a time, to truly learn the material. Initially, I was concerned with quantity of coursework and speed, but the Free MBA allows you to take your time and learn however is best for you. So for now at least, I will focus on cutting the cheese, and later move into counting the beans.

Do It All and Accompish Nothing

Often, we get caught up in saying yes, and forget how to say no. So while we work tirelessly to do everything to our best ability, we seem to spin our wheels unable to gain traction. Economics teaches us that while we sacrifice our time to try to help everyone else by doing it all, and this is detrimental for all parties involved.

For instance, you could be the best at everything, and get the best results (the concept of absolute advantage), but while you work on one task there is a cost of what you could have been doing (opportunity cost). So to be truly effective, you have to focus on what no one can do truly like you and then everyone is better off (the concept of comparative advantage). The economics text uses the concept of comparative advantage in relation to trade between two parties, but really, it applies to all facets of our lives. The idea states that two parties can produce more if they focus more of their efforts on what they give up the least to produce, and as a result there is more for everyone involved.

The kicker, of the concept of comparative advantage is that even if you are not the best at anything, you can have an advantage in the market over competitors if rivals give up too much to compete with you (even if they are better!).

Source: Principles of Microeconomics, third edition (Found in pile of donated books), pages 45-57.
Author: N. Gregory Mankiw

Friday, November 12, 2010

First Semester

The first semester will focus on cheese and how we cut it (the field of microeconomics) and good old bean counting (accounting 101), and hopefully by the end of this semester we will be able to better understand how cutting the cheese and beans are related.

Beans 1.01: Why Do I Care?

Bean counting has a stigma for being boring, but once you realize that it's a tool to help you accomplish your dreams, then how could you not be excited to learn more about it? Think of it as a skill with which you can do whatever you like. For me accounting is not boring because it's a means to accomplish my Free MBA Dream. Once you realize this, the rest is all tasty bean flavored cake.

So let's start with the purpose. Accounting helps you answer two important questions: (i) how is the business doing, and (ii) what resources do we have to get where we need to be? That simple, anything else is just extraneous.

As we continue through our survey course in accounting 101, we'll focus on the ideas. Once you know the concepts, it's just a matter of layering fancy terms on top of what you know.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 + 2 = 5 - Mathematicians Make Lousy Accountants

Its true, not saying accounting is too complicated for mathematicians. It's just without an understanding of basic accounting, the numbers may not seem to "add-up". With this in mind, I plan to start with the equivalent to a survey accounting course where I seek to understand why sometimes math and accounting seem to diverge.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cutting the Cheese

Imagine two adorable mice at the dinner table (mouse sized of course), and there is only one piece of cheese on the table. At the table sit a very skinny mouse and another portly mouse who moments earlier single-handedly finished off two more than generous slices cheese. And you are tasked with distributing the remaining cheese. So, how do you best cut the cheese? Should you equitably allocate the remaining slice among the two mice? Or, would you be doing the larger mouse a favor by not cutting the cheese, and feeding it to only the skinny mouse?

This scenario is my interpretation some my recent reading of a work from a well-known economist, Gregory Mankiw. He defines economics as the study of how society manages its scarce resources, much like the cutting the cheese scenario above.

Recently I came across Mankiw's microeconomics textbook (references below) that was in a pile of donated books near my apartment. His introduction in the book was a refreshing way to look at economics:

How People Make Decisions

Principle #1: People Face Tradeoffs
Principle #2: The Cost of Something Is What You Give Up to Get it
Principle #3: Rational People Think at the Margin

How People Interact
Principle #4: People Respond to Icentives
Principle #5: Trade Can Make Everyone Better Off
Principle #6: Markets Are Usually a Good Way to Organize Economic Activity
Principle #7: Governments Can Sometimes Improve Market Outcomes

How the Economy as a Whole Works
Principle #8: A Country's Standard of Living Depends on Its Ability to Produce Goods and Services
Principle #9: Prices Rise When Governments Print Too Much Money
Principle #10: Society Faces a Short-Run Tradeoff between Inflation and Une

These principles are a great starting point for understanding the field of cutting the cheese (economics) as part of my MBA. I realize this material is Mankiw's intellectual property, however, I wonder if he would donate some social capital to fund this springs enrollment :)

Principles of Microeconomics, third edition (Found in pile of donated books)
Author: N. Gregory Mankiw

Latent Potential

Through small concerted efforts, we can change our circumstances and prove even ourselves wrong. That's what this project is about.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Social Capital

The cost of admission to any MBA program these days is well--staggering. So that's makes me think, "what is my cost of admission to this Free MBA project?" The most apparent costs are the investment of my time and energy, but there is also the monetary costs of any potential learning materials (books, subscriptions to publications, etc.).

But, the driving force behind this idea is too use modern means (be that scavenging online articles, ebooks, tutorials, etc) to synthesize a truly great business education. So in a sense, these forms of social capital in essence fund my tuition. So from out outset of this journey, it is important to learn from the resources which are available to everyone with an internet connection.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Recently read Rajesh Shetty's When You Can't Earn an MBA and Seth Godin's Why you need an MBA post all of which were new to me.

This project could be the exception Seth spoke about and Rajesh mapped out.

Both two thought-leaders we can all learn from

By the way, looks like people appreciate the project :)

Looking forward, I will outline a one month planned learning regiment, an extension of Rajesh's suggestion in his free ebook (above), which just became part of the curriculum

Friday, October 8, 2010

Do it For Yourself: Forget everyone else

One thing has driven me my whole life, and caused a considerable amount of anxeity: What do/will other people think about me? When this thought process occupies much of your waking hours, it takes a toll on your self-confidence. You try to build confidence, but there is always a wrecking ball knocking down what you've spent so much time trying to build up-self confidence.

So rather than try to make this project into something that tries to get that recognition from others (which is where I think I was going, even if subconsciously), I just want to let this space be a place where I can gain inspiration and learn. Things seems to work best when we just relax and go with the flow per se (as long as that stream flows down a tributary of your choosing).

Friday, September 10, 2010


Lately, I have been reading/studying certain inspiring business manifesto's at ChangeThis. My favorites are The Bootstrapper's Bible and 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself.

These manifesto's are written by thought-leaders whom offer considerable knowledge and insight. It's the perfect foundation on which I can build my education. We should all have manifesto's, if even for ourselves. Something tangible, evidence of what we value, and an anchor when things become uncertain.

Education is not a solitary process, it takes collaboration and exchange of ideas. So in connection with my Building Blocks post, I am in the process of engaging thought-leaders to teach a mini-course, either in the form of a one-time/recurring guest blog posts on a subject of their expertise.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Building Blocks

So, I have the idea. Now the real works starts: making the idea real.

It is a bit overwhelming, taking charge of your education/future. But it is exciting.

At first, I wanted to carefully lay out a plan, build a complex wholly integrated media website. Then, I realized I do not know how to do any of that stuff. Overplanning and over-thinking leads me to a sort of paralysis.

So, I think the best way to start is to just start. I want this blog to be a place where academics and industry professionals converge. I want to learn from the thought-leaders of the business world, whether that means academia or industry. That's possibility excites me.

My mission: find a thought-leader who is willing to share his/her knowledge and learn from them, documenting the process here so others can learn too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Free Vs. HomeGrown

Rather than "The Free MBA Project", perhaps "HomeGrown MBA". Free has certain connotations, free of effort, free of cost (opportunity costs to be precise), free of investment (your time).

No matter the name, the idea is what truly matters. The idea is simple: an unpretentious, and relevant business education with which you can do what you never thought you could.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Greatest Barrier to Entry: Fear

Fear. We stay in jobs which make us miserable because we fear the unexplored. We fear doing the same job different ways because of what colleagues may say. We fear using our own ideas because they may not be good enough. Or we may expend the effort, and fail. But, may be if we try, we can learn and give our ideas the credence they deserve. And perhaps, make a living using our ideas. Rather than settling, doing something out of fear.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Does size really matter?

So I am employed by one of the BIG Four accounting firms. In my college accounting classes we were led to believe the big four were the pinnacle of the accounting world. So like all good students, I secured an internship which then led to the job offer and the rest is history.

After spending two years in this larger than life world, I am starting to believe my professors and mentors were operating under the outdated paradigm "bigger is better", which I agreed with until I stumbled across an interesting post by Seth Godin's blog about smaller being the new big.

In the business world to move your career ahead we focus on going for the position at the large company, or getting into the big name business school.

Well, that's just the opposite of the Free MBA project. Let's flip the mainstream paradigm of how to achieve success, and success itself, on its head. More can be learned from this project with lower cost (and opportunity cost), than attending the traditional MBA program.

For instance, at this point my blog is (i) vague, (ii) has little content, and (iii) i know little about this "blogging" thing. But, I will investment my time, and through trial and error, the content will improve, and I will learn.

So, let's get small with big plans.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mission Statement

Well, at some point, we all need to invest our time and energy into something worthy of our efforts. At this point in my life, I haven't found that job or hobby which I feel a sense of passion towards. So, I have created that sense of passion and enthusiasm within this space. So, this blog has a purpose for me, and hopefully I will be able to create something of value for others (see the "value" post).

Free MBA Project Mission:
To extend the benefits of a world-class MBA education to anyone willing to invest the time, regardless of means.

Be warned..mission subject to...better wording..