When you truly join the internet economy you realize that there is an infinite amount of possibilities to sell anything to anyone, anywhere around the world. When I finally figured out how to sell online I created a number of businesses including web hosting, consulting, insurance, flowers, perfumes, text messaging, travel and education. Pretty soon I felt overwhelmed. I was doing many things but not great at anything.
I read “Good to Great” a book by Jim Collins which was one of the best selling business books a few years ago. The book talks about the “hedgehog” concept. The “great” companies answered the following three questions:
1. What are you deeply passionate about?
2. What could you be the best in the world at?
3. What can make you money?
If you can draw those three circles and figure out the intersection of the three than that is your “hedgehog” and the one thing you might want to focus on so that you can truly be successful.
I “Amirified” Jim Collin’s concept and drew a simple graph. On the “Y” axis is the “passion” and on the “X” axis is the “Ability to be best in the world”. On this graph I drew all the ideas I wanted to accomplish and made the size of the circle as big as I thought would be the size of the industry. So the ideal business to get into would be in the top right corner (i.e. I had a lot of passion for and did think I could be the best in the world at) and the size of the circle would be as big as possible too (i.e. there was money to be made in the industry).
For instance, one of the businesses I started was selling insurance online. I could capture a “lead” and then sell it to a company. A friend of mine had recently sold a business doing just this for $15 million. Did I have any passion for this? Nope. I never dreamt about insurance. I never read any magazines on insurance. I didn’t even know if I had any insurance or truly want to spend any of my time reading the documents that ensured I had the right insurance.
Could I be the “best in the world” at selling insurance. Probably not. I had never worked in the insurance industry. I was unlikely to spend my weekends reading “Insurance Weekly”. I really had no passion for insurance, so it was unlikely that I would ever become “best in the world” at insurance.
Was there money to be made in insurance? Sure there is. Art Williams became a billionaire selling insurance. Worth watching his “Just Do It” speech (its a pretty inspirational speech especially for an insurance salesman.). Art was successful as he had a passion for his business. He had some personal tragedy that convinced him that insurance was critical for people and hence why he became successful at selling it. I didn’t have any passion for it. You can find passion for almost any industry. To me insurance is boring. Art loves it. I love technology and business. People I know hate both. We all have our own unique DNA.
Out of all my “niches”, I figured that what I was passionate about was education. I had spent $100,000 on an MBA and $10,000 to attend courses from Tony Robbins, as well as thousands of dollars and hours on other internet and personal development courses. Not many “normal” people I knew had travelled to places such as Fiji, London, Australia, South Africa, Florida simply to attend courses (especially on their own money, not their company’s). I spent thousands of dollars on audio books as well as physical books and read websites such as mashable, lifehacker, entrepreneur,sethgodin, problogger, entrepreneurs-journey, TomPeters, etc…
I was also deeply passionate about the internet. I saw how it could and will transition the lives of billions of people. So out of all my ideas something to do with internet education was where I was deeply passionate and my “niche” in the world, where when I work, it doesn’t feel like work.
Could I be the best in the world at teaching internet entrepreneurship? At school, I had mostly “B”s except for computer science where I had won the school computing award and got perfect grades throughout. At university I was the top graduate in Computer Science and Business Management. My first startup was in 1999 and my second self-financed startup won the 2005 European prize for innovation. I had clients such as Amazon, Google and Xbox – some of the global leaders in the internet economy. I had also spent the past three years working and learning from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority as well as the Abu Dhabi Education Council – both places and organisations which had hired the best educators from around the world to improve education in the UAE.
So could I be the best in the world in internet education? Yes, I could – especially if I focussed on the emerging world as I had already worked with “developed” world countries which were about a decade in front of the emerging world. Not many people come from the “developed” world to teach the emerging world, whereas plenty of people leave the other way around.
Was there money to be made? The UAE spends 23 % of their budget on education (something around $40 billion a year). In the “knowledge economy” more and more people will spend on knowledge. I had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of my own money on knowledge so I knew there was a market for it. Even in emerging countries one of the first things that most parents will spend their money on is their child’s education.
So this is how I decided to finally focus on Webpreneur Academy. To “sacrifice” the hundreds of other ideas that I could do on the web, in order to focus on teaching internet entrepreneurship to others and over time become the best in the world at what I do.
You too can draw your Passion-Best In the World grid. Take a wild guess at how high up the “Y” axis and how far right on the “X” axis you should put each idea.
How to find your passion
See where you spend your own money. Which websites do you check out most? What could you talk about all day without getting bored? What books do you enjoy? Who are some of your “heros”? If your passion is cricket. Put it down as “cricket”. If it is football, put football down. If you enjoy gaming, put down gaming. Take a wild guess at a few “passions” or things that you enjoy doing. Also be careful that you simply don’t put down things to please your parents/friends. Your friends can always change so just because your friends like something, doesn’t mean that it is truly your DNA.
How to find what you can be best in the world at
Take a look at your grades. What can you work harder at than anyone else? You do not have to be the best at it today, but if you were to spend a few years developing that skill, you could eventually become the best at that skill. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours and 10 years that it takes to become an “overnight success” so you too will have to spend time doing and developing this skill. For me to become the number basketball player, footballer or another type of athlete is probably not possible any more (I am officially “over the hill” sniff!) – but more intellectual activities can be easier to “win” at.
What is the size of the industry?
As I teach young people, one thing that I find many teenagers passionate about is gaming. Well guess what, gaming is actually a huge industry. A game such as Halo sells $200,000,000 on its first day of launch. Gaming is comparable in size to the film industry. Perhaps you won’t be the best “Call of Duty” player in the world, but you could go into game development or another tangent industry. And so you will need to find game development “role models” in your niche.
If you can fill out the Passion-Best In World Grid, it will give you a lot more purpose in your life. Things don’t happen overnight, but it will give you something to push through for the next few years of your life. School will become more interesting as you can relate the skills that the teacher is teaching to see how it will help you achieve your ultimate goal. Work will become more interesting as you can push yourself onto projects that will give you the skills to dominate your ultimate goals – for instance, when I took the job in Government I continuously volunteered myself on web related projects and initiatives.
You don’t need to have the idea right now. The important thing is to note what industry to focus on and how you want to leave your “dent in the universe” in the words of Steve Jobs. I’m working on Webpreneur Academy but it could just have easily been called Internet-Entrepreneurship-Stuff.com or anything else (it was called Webpreneur University before). Find your niche first, and the idea will come later when you start studying it in more detail and trying out ideas. Only my business partners know how many different types of things and business models we are continously trying out before we finally “crack the code”. Once you find your niche and industry you too will have to experiment until you get it right.
You simply have to start aiming towards a target and you can adjust your aim as you go along. Or some famous words for entrepreneurs: Ready. Fire. Aim.
In the internet economy, you can get into anything you want and the Passion-Best In the World grid will help you define your little corner of the world.
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