Determining Your Purpose in Life or Process

Brainstorming

Occasionally, you should take time out to stop and evaluate why you are doing the things that you are doing.  Slow down to think if what you’re doing is the best idea or not. Brainstorm with pen and paper (yes, actually grab a pad of paper and a pencil).  The best ideas come by brainstorming, which provides an opportunity to evaluate your productivity, your methodology, and your overall goal. Brainstorming brings diversity of knowledge and perspectives effective for a more forward looking career. Brainstorming is a great activity, but it’s also good to talk to someone about what you are doing, in order to help establish the purpose.

Mentor Review

Take someone you admire out to lunch and pick their brain.  Tell them about what you are doing to get feedback from them.  Write down their responses, whether you believe them or not, and thank them for their time.  Make sure you pay for their meal.  Successful people like to share what they know (that’s why I have this blog) so don’t be afraid to ask them.

Technology Review

Also, keep yourself up on new technology and continue educating yourself to keep yourself alive and fresh.  It’s easy to become stale no matter what business you’re in.  Try to spend at least 2-3 hours a week just researching and finding new ideas.  It’s hard to break away from the normal routine but brainstorming with new ideas is refreshing and can renew enthusiasm.  This is part of innovation and entrepreneurship, which looks for innovations in changes in technology, among other things.  It could be that the way you have been doing things is no longer relevant at worst or at the very least, no longer efficient.  Ask yourself the following four questions:

1. Is there any new technology I could be using? — Technology may have become more efficient since you first developed your original time-saving method. Relying on an old template could be costing you time and money.
2. Have I learned any new ideas lately that I need to apply here? — You may have acquired some new skills or read about some new ideas that will handle your project even better than the time-saving technique that you are using now.
3. Are there new requirements that mean that I need to review this process? — The client may have updated his or her requirements for their projects. Using your old template or time-saving tools may not meet the client’s newest requirements.
4. Are there any other new tools I could be using? — There may be new tools or resources available to do the work that weren’t originally available when you developed your template.

Personal Brainstorming

At least once a month I block off an hour to go into a dark room and just wait for ideas to come.  I don’t anticipate thinking about any one thing, but there is something about the pitch black silence that allows great ideas to surface.  I’ve had many revelations, not just about business or problem solving, but figuring out why I thought certain ways about certain things.  It’s a chance to re-evaluate all aspects of your life and help you determine your purpose in life or in process.

What Happened to CollegeClub.com?

Why did CollegeClub.com fail and others succeed?

CollegeClub.com was registered on April 4, 1996 and by 2000 had around 3 million registered users. I was one of those users who used it to find friends at other colleges online. On August 22, 2000, CollegeClub.com announced bankruptcy and said it would be acquired by Student Advantage, an Internet educational content and commerce specialist, for $7 million in cash and 1.5 million shares of its stock. Almost exactly three years later, in August of 2003, MySpace.com launched. Less than a year after that Facebook.com began as a social network for colleges on February 4, 2004, but eventually opened up to the general public on September 26, 2006. What happened to College Club? What made it different from Myspace or Facebook?

Why did MySpace and Facebook succeed when CollegeClub failed?

All of a sudden what seemed so hard for CollegeClub.com to do seemed easy for others. Was it the curse of the “first to market first to fail” concept that’s befell such greats as Palm, Netscape, and Tivo? Or was it something else? EDIT: since writing this initially in September of 2009, MySpace may not be the best comparison, but Facebook is still doing just fine. 11/4/2011.

CollegeClub.com’s Business Model

Lets take a look at the business model. CollegeClub.com allowed users to sign up for free, create profiles, communicate with each other, and post pictures online. Once it attracted a certain number of users, the site was then able to sells advertising to businesses looking to sell to this highly impressionable market with loads of free time and disposable income. Marketers know that if they can hook a customer in college, they may have them for life. Both MySpace.com and Facebook.com used this same model so why did CollegeClub.com fail?

CollegeClub.com was getting funding at the tune of $15 million from a group of investors that included Convergence Partners and France-based Viventures as well as $40 million from Seligman Technology Group via the group’s investment fund and additional money from previous investors Convergence and Sony. Later deals included partnerships with Ericsson and General Motors, with a planned IPO in the offing. The old addage of “it takes money to make money” wasn’t making CollegeClub.com any money. Why?

I have two reasons why I think this site tanked:

The first reason is bad management and the second reason is the high cost of technology at the time.

Infoworld said at the time, “While one source close to the company traces the financial difficulties to some unorthodox spending practices by management, [new owner, Student Advantage] said it believes that problems stemmed from the nature of the site’s business model.” I think Student Advantage was wrong. We now know there was nothing wrong with their business model (because it worked for both Myspace and Facebook) and this next statement from Infoworld backs this up:

In the recent past, Student Advantage has shown less than stellar financial performance itself. Since the beginning of the year, the company’s stock price has plummeted from a high mark of just over $20 to its current price, which is hovering just above $7. In addition, Student Advantage has continually met analysts’ predictions of red ink, and the company has suggested that losses will continue throughout next year.

The company went from bad management to worse management – and technology costs were adding up.

“The business model works.” said Monte Brem, senior vice president of corporate development at CollegeClub in said in 2000 – and he was right – but he noted that with nearly 3 million users, the back-end costs for the site ran high and needed multiple rounds of financing for success. “It requires a tremendous amount of scaling to be profitable,” Brem added. And back then, scaling cost much more than it did in 2003 and 2004 for MySpace and Facebook respectively. Moore’s Law has two effects. Not only does technology double in speed or capacity each year, but the price almost always shrinks by half every two years. For example, a Pentium III desktop PC with 128 MB RAM and a 40 GB hard drive cost $1800.00 in 2000. In 2003, the price of a desktop had dropped below $1000 for over twice the power. Multiply that over all the equipment needed to run a large social network. In April, 2008 Facebook expanded the number of servers it uses to 10,000. The more CollegeClub.com added users, the more technology they had to add on back-end to support the load. Their revenue simply could not overcome their expenses.

CollegeClub_com_2

So why did CollegeClub.com fail?

Primarily, it was ahead of its time. It had a good idea, but no one had really succeeded with it before. Bad management decisions were made and the implementation of the idea did not match up with the cost of the infrastructure at the time. Had they waited until 2002 to launch, they could have superseded either MySpace or Facebook, but there is another reason why they may never have made it: their name. Names like MySpace and Facebook are not associated with a specific group like CollegeClub.com is. Eventually CollegeClub.com started HighSchool.com to address this problem but even it has the same problem of locking it into a specific group. There were also privacy and age related problems on the site, much like MySpace ran into in 2006 and Facebook has ran into almost every year of it’s existence.

What can we learn from CollegeClub.com?

There are three things they could have done differently:

  1. They didn’t pick a scalable name that was generic enough to be applied to almost anyone, anywhere. Sometimes it is good to be niche, but you take on more risk if you’re running your own equipment. Sometimes is pays to have a name that can be used broadly, even if you start off small within a specific niche.
  2. Take the time to develop a good business plan and don’t be afraid to change the business plan as you go. Create metrics for success, track them, and change course if necessary. The businesses that are most successful are the most agile.
  3. Avoid debt if possible when starting a business. It always catches up with you. And the more debt you have the less your’e able to (as in #1) scale or (as in #2) change course. One of the most important things in any business is cash flow.

When You Say Yes but Mean No: How Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships and Companies…and What You Can Do About It

In 2003, Leslie Perlow wrote a book called, When You Say Yes but Mean No: How Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships and Companies…and What You Can Do About It. In that book, Leslie does a case study on the demise of CollegeClub.com in the chapter, Nine Bad Endings. Pages 141-156 cover the merger with Versity, the talks about the IPO, and the eventual bankruptcy. Overall it’s also a good book on management as one reviewer called it, “A Management Must-Read”.

“Saying yes when you really mean no” is a problem that haunts organizations from startups to big businesses. It exists across industries, levels, and functions and is inflamed by a sour economy, when the fear of losing your job is on everyone’s mind and the idea of allowing conflict to surface or disagreeing with others seems inherently risky. Too often, the conversation at work bespeaks harmony and togetherness, even though passionate disagreements exist beneath the surface. Is this what really happened to CollegeClub.com? Read the book to find out.

CollegeClub.com Email

CollegeClub was full of so much promise. What happened?

CollegeClub even had email by phone. It was pretty advanced for its time.

CollegeClub “The world’s largest college community”
FREE E-mail you can also hear through the phone!
FREE voicemail, with your own 800 number!
FREE discount card!
FREE Web page builder!
TONS of ways to meet people like you! (Chat, Interest Groups, and more!)
LOTS of other cool stuff! (Including online games and music videos!)

Suprise. CollegeClub is no longer offering free email.

In 2007, Alloy Media, owner of the CollegeClub.com trademark, discontinued the CollegeClub email service rendering all “@collegeclub.com” email addresses defunct. Their website (http://mail.collegeclub.com), simply said:

“Oops! Sorry about that! These CollegeClub applications are no longer in service.

If you are trying to access your old emails so that you can forward them on to another address, use this url: http://legacy.collegeclub.com/mail.

This Service will only be available until Friday, March 16th, 2007.

Here is what the email login screen last looked like in March, 2007:

CollegeClub.com Where Are You Now?

If you type ‘http://www.collegeclub.com‘ into your browser you will be taken to Teen.com, which is, according to their web site the, “ultimate online destination for teens on celebrities, entertainment, music, and fashion.” I think what they mean to say was that they are a ‘destination for teens’ that covers ‘celebrities’, not “teens on celebrities,” which has an entirely different meaning.

Teen.com is owned and operated by Alloy Media, LLC, which is a New York based media company that is partners with Alloy Marketing and Alloy Entertainment. Alloy Media also owns Channel One News, which most know is a 12 minute news program for teens broadcast via satellite to middle schools and high schools across the United States.

The Internet is not a friendly place. Things that don’t stay relevant don’t even get the luxury of leaving ruins. They disappear.” -Facebook’s Little Red Book

For those looking for other ex-CollegeClub.com members, check out ExCollegeClubbers. The ‘tribe’ is “for everyone who wants to meet new friends, but in particular for ex members of Collegeclub.com…It used to be cool like Tribe and we have all lost contact with each other. So non-ex members and ex- members alike are invited to join.”

Like Attracts Like

like-attracts-likeConverse to magnetism, in life, like objects tend to attract like objects. Good attracts good that the same way bad can attract bad. Trips to the doctor beget trips to the hospital and so on. Have you ever heard the expression that the more money you have, the more money you’ll make? That’s because money also attracts more money.

Pay attention to the thoughts you have right now. Are they good thoughts or bad thoughts? Are they thoughts of growth and improvement or limiting thoughts or thoughts of despair. How do we know what thoughts in our head are true and which ones we just placed there? Just because you have a thought in your head, doesn’t mean it’s true.

If you follow this thought out a little further you can see that if your thoughts are not true, then you can place thoughts there that are more fitting to your desired outcome. Some self-help books call this “self talk”. Some people view this as lying to yourself. I am proposing that your mind is always lying to yourself, so why not use the thoughts that it is telling you for good instead of detriment?

Let’s take a moment to go back to the thought about like attracting like and view some specific examples in science, nature, and in social settings.  If you grab a glass of water, then drop some oil in it, watch as the oil at first dissipates, then collects back together as the molecules are more attracted to each other than to the water.  Now, go outside, find a lake or pond and watch as the fish congregate together or how the “birds of a feather flock together”.  And lastly, visit a high school cafeteria and see how the children naturally segregate into various groups among the tables.

It’s the same way with adults and in life.  Rich people are more comfortable hanging around rich people. Poor people are more comfortable hanging around poor people.  It’s not that they can’t or don’t mix, but there is a level of uncomfortableness with this mixing.  I’ll be discussing comfortableness in a following post, but for right now I just want you to see how like objects are naturally attracted to like objects.

Now that you can see how it is naturally occurring, can you see how money naturally attracts more money?  Let me give you some practical examples by starting with nothing.  A man goes out and offers his services in return for pay.  This person is now considered experienced at what he does and can advertise this fact in either a resume or in an advertisement.  The man is now able to offer his service for a higher pay or in higher volume, thereby making more money.  This is active income, but if he manages his money well, the money will begin accruing passive income through savings and investments.  This man has now gone from having nothing to having something by doing one thing well and attracting more of it.

You may have heard of Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball.  Well the snowball is an example of like attracting like.  Paying down debt begets paying down more debt.  And once the debt is gone, the snowball can then turn into a snowball that instead of “beating debt” begins to “build wealth,” as Dave would say.  I highly encourage you to check out Dave Ramsey’s books.  They have helped many people create a plan for how to get control of your personal finances.  Dave likes to say that if you don’t manage your money, your money will leave you.  This is akin to the idea of what you don’t manage, you don’t value, which is what I recently blogged about in The Law of Focus.

The Law of Focus is much about like attracting like. Because you are focusing on something, measuring it, and valuing it, when you come across more of it, you will collect it or because you are so fond of it, others will bring it to you. This could be in the form of more work or just word of mouth (free advertising). For example, just like in the story of the man who had nothing and began offering up services, once you start down a path, people around you notice your path, and start to help make it straight for you. This is only natural. For those who don’t know which path to go down, that is the subject of a future blog post.

Cheers!