“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
By Trey Zhong
I was taking a walk near my place in DTLA this afternoon. Talking on the phone with my friend Shawn, I start ranting non-stop. Gotta really appreciate that I have a friend that always inspires me to talk, express myself and be a good listener for me. As my mind getting into a flow state, I really had some epiphanies that I would like to share. Before I start writing, I just want to give a big shoutout to Ryan Holiday, the author of two great books “Ego is the enemy” and “Obstacle is the way”. Definite should check it out if you haven’t read them.
- Here is how you should start your day. Go take a walk in the morning, so you feel more alive. You can feel that connection to the real world. Be aware that the connection is not just through the screens of your electronic devices like how we spend most of our time on, but there are people, real people, walking by, walking on the street that you can interact with them in person if you find them interesting. What’s strange to me is that, just by taking a walk, I realize there’s so much to appreciate in life, the trees, the flowers, the blue sky, and just so much positive energy flowing into my body. Taking a walk in the morning, this is how you can start your day with a good mood.
- As counter intuitive as it may sound, the first thing you need to do is don’t question why the situation is like this or why she or he did this. That’s really gonna drive you crazy since it’s hard to figure out what other people think. Most likely you will be spending all your energy overly analyzing the past situation with very limited information that's usually skewed or biased. If you are gonna get the benefit of questioning, question yourself, asking yourself why you are feeling this way, what lead you to this state of mind (not even what lead to the situation because you don’t usually have full control of the situation). Then just ask yourself what you can do to get into a better state of mind which will potentially lead to a better situation. It all starts from here, your mind.
- I'm not gonna lie. Obstacles suck!!! Especially when you expect to have less obstacles since you think you are in a "better" place in life. However, the abundance of opportunities doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna get easier for you. It could sometimes get harder, because of the intensity of competition. Because you are still who you are. Because you get what you deserve for who you are instead of what you want. So don’t expect things to get easier. Then what mindset should you have? I would say just be excited! Be excited that there’s such abundance of opportunities, but also be excited that there’s such abundance of competitions, I mean higher level competitions that you can learn from. Sometimes, “ego is the enemy”. Your ego may tell you that you are good, you are cool, you don’t need to compete to “prove yourself” to others, and all you need to do is “collaborate”. But that’s your ego being afraid of failures. Collaborating? You think X.com and PayPal would collaborate and merge into one big company called PayPal if one of them is a tiny bitty fish? No! You collaborate when you have something good to offer, or when you are at the same level of competition. So drop all the excuses. You need to think “the obstacle is the way”. Appreciate all the obstacles. Picture yourself in a place of scarcity in resources, opportunities, and competitions (or maybe that's where you are in now), you wouldn’t even have a chance to see those obstacles and let alone trying to leverage them as the way to level up and grow. You would probably just get stuck where you are even though you know there are people on a different level rocking it and doing some amazing stuff. So be excited, and embrace the opportunities, the competitions and the obstacles.
By Trey Zhong
I met Ann at a rooftop music event hosted by her. My first impression of her was her energy. She was very energetic and welcoming. We were both very talkative people so we bonded in like 5 minutes. I asked her about the meaning of the name for Little Cabin Entertainment and introduced to her what N3XTCON is about, which led to this interview with her in the following week.
Little Cabin and N3XTCON are similar in that we are both focusing on using our resources to help young professionals with developing their careers, and providing support to the community.
The name Little Cabin really got me intrigued when I first heard it. It reminded me of “The Cabin” by Ylvis, very good song by the way. I have a feeling as to the meaning behind it, but hearing it from someone that actually spent 7 years building it and started a company with the concept behind it, it’s just very refreshing and inspiring.
Everybody needs a place to go where you can get out of the city and breathe some clean air. It’s a place to go if you want to feel peace in mind, if you want authenticity, if you want truth, freedom, friendship, safety and honesty. It’s a place where you can sit down and feel completely at peace, surrounded by nature, feeling relief and taken care of. That’s what "little cabin" is about and the concept that Little Cabin Entertainment is built upon. The music business has changed so much and the big labels are slowly losing their power because of the emerging new technologies which allow many creators to make music on their own. However, there are still so many gifted young artists floundering with no support, no financial investors, and no commitment from anybody. What Little Cabin does is not about money, but for the beauty of sharing and helping the young generations. “The way to do business is to be real. I will tell you what sucks, what’s great and what I can do for you. Let’s eat healthy meals, drink clean water and create some good music”. It’s about authenticity. Technology can simplify the process of a lot of things but when it comes to making good creations, you need the power of mind. That’s why in the cabin, there are only round tables, so everybody can feel empowered to speak and communicate freely and as equals. Making music is not like writing software where you can have one person in Chicago, the other person in NYC and the other one in LA then just compile all the work in a big file. Creativity is inspired by good chemistry between people in the team, when people in your group truly like each other, when people in your group are willing to share their life stories and just let that emotion resonate within each other’s heart. And that’s when the whole team can pedal in the same direction and make something great happen. It’s about the communion that all creators have to have.
It’s very interesting to hear what’s the general process of music production from the perspective of an experienced producer like Ann. I have always been curious about how some good artists, for example the Weeknd, don’t get famous until after releasing several albums even though they have some good songs in their early albums. If an artist doesn't have a structured game plan, a great team (or even a family and friend support structure), and a good marketing plan moving forward, it's hard to get ahead.
But it's about the music. It starts with the song. It's about the message of the lyrics. For example, the song “Love is just” by Scott Kirby, amazing song by the way, was originally picked out from 10 songs by Scott. Ann sent the playlist to the “ears”, got the feedback, picked one song that got the most positive feedback, took out the overproduced stuff, and only left the bass track and the drum track, and rebuilt it from the ground up. "Basically, break it down and make it relevant to the style that caters to your target audience and is sonically relevant to today's market." You always need a structured game plan, you need editorial, press, a radio campaign, and you also need to have a good music producer and visual content, and social media presence. With all these things in your game plan, you also need a budget.
I really like the wheel analogy that Ann brought up. Just like many other things in life, running a music business is like a wheel spinning. The creation (the music) is the hub of the wheel. You can take a few of the spokes out and the wheel will still go around. You don’t always need every single spoke for the wheel to spin. As long as that structure of support/work/process is balanced to keep from tipping over. You need to decide who belongs to which spoke, the placement is the key, that’s why you need to bring people together to see if the wheel will spin. If the spoke doesn’t fit, just let it go. Like mentioned before, you don’t need all the spokes to make the wheel spin, but you should always try not to sacrifice the movement of the wheel.
The Rockstar Mentality:
When you go to those high-end networking events, you will meet a lot of cool people, have drinks with them, socialize. You will feel like you are welcomed to the tribe and you are empowered. Don’t feel like you are not good enough. Business people always say, "Get to the next level, and the next next level....", but where is the next level? You are already there. You have to think of yourself as a superstar or you will never be one! You are already there, reaching for what?! When you are working, you put your soul, your heart and your gut in what you are creating. You are already a superstar. You should go in there like you own the room, you belong there. You talk to them like they are your contemporaries. Behave yourself in that manner and it will happen. Be the rockstar that you already are. That’s probably the best mindset you can have.
So make sure you have a game plan, what are you going to be in 5 years, how are you going to make it happen. Break it down to bits and pieces that are attainable, but go in there like you are a rockstar. Everybody has their own wheels, trying to keep them spinning. Be real, and surround yourself with real people. Don’t let anybody push you around. Don’t be afraid of voicing your opinions because it’s not just your opinion, it’s your intent. You want a group of people who focus their mutual attention on your intention. That’s what sparks creativity and brings success.
by Parker Wind
It is so weird for someone accommodating strangers in your own house at least it is opposite with what we were taught that the strangers are usually dangerous. The guy you never met before will sleep on your bed, stay in your room for couple of days, and use all of your facilities in your place. However, Joe Gebbia, the CPO of Airbnb, successfully created a brand-new business model in the existed dormitory market.
What are the keys leading Airbnb such a successful business in the world? Personally, I believe there are 3 main reasons that Joe and his partners, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, have been holding all the time while building up Airbnb.
1. Perceive market demand:
“Where there is a demand, there is a supply.” Almost 10 years ago, Joe and Brian leased their rooms and beds for the participants of the Industrial Design Society of America conference in San Francisco since most of the hotels sold out all the rooms. They shared their airbeds with their first 3 guests and had the breakfast together next morning. Knowing that this idea works practically, this new business mode came to Joe’s mind. Joe and Brian then created the website named “Airbed & Breakfast”, the predecessor of Airbnb.
The point is not how much money they can gain immediately, but is that they found the demand and used the new business mode to create the market. It is also the concept of “sharing economy”, which has been edified and followed by many entrepreneurs.
2. Grasp the opportunity
Due to several reasons, Brian moved out from his original place. Fortunately, the new comer, Nathan Blecharczyk, felt interested in Joe and Brian’s business idea. As an IT Engineer and an experienced coder from Harvard, Nathan managed the technical issues of Airbnb well, and he later became the CTO of Airbnb. The story happened in Feb, 2008, but they officially launch the website of Airbnb within only half a year.
It shows how Joe emphasizes the “timing”. After launching the updated website of Airbnb, people from all over the world started posting the renting information on Airbnb website. These people were from other States in the U.S., Brazil, and Japan, which means Joe had successfully pushed Airbnb to the whole world and Airbnb was already an international platform.
3. Insist on the original resolution
In order to run Airbnb full-heartedly, both Joe and Brian quitted their existed jobs. At the time they fundraised nothing from dozens companies in Silicon Valley, Joe and Brian did not give up, however, they tried variable ways to go through the morass and finally they offsetted the deficit. During that time, they even sold cereals, Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCains, to cater to American selectors because the 2008 President Selection was about to be held then. They designed the box of the cereals by themselves and advertised their products on the internet.
2008 is a year of serious fiscal crisis. However, Joe believed it is the right time to accelerate their business. Instead of giving up, Joe provided photograph service to those home owners on Airbnb platform. By doing this in person, Joe noticed that their website interface was not easy to be used by many of the Airbnb users. Knowing there is a gap between ideal and real situations, Joe and Nathan optimized the efficiency of Airbnb interface. After solving the practical problems, their revenue was totally doubled in a week.
Besides the key points that explain why Airbnb can make a big fortune, here are some objective reasons which raised Airbnb up as well. (1) People would be afraid of exchanging anything with strangers in person, but we do trade with strangers all the time. Therefore, paying on the internet is a much more acceptable and convenient way for customers undoubtedly. (2) A new business model was created. Airbnb only charged a little service fee from both the home owners and the travelers. Therefore, the market prices are almost 100% decided by customers themselves. Also, based on the concept of sharing economy, Airbnb reduced the waste by utilizing the unused value, which benefit everyone in the service. (3) Many people like to travel. The rise of Airbnb can solve the problem that all the rooms of the hotels may be sold out during some popular days or hot seasons.
If the creativity and innovation are the abilities that an entrepreneur should have, the ambitious mind would be a necessary characteristic. When being asked why not just built a hotel, which is easier and the risk is much lower, Joe responded, “The world always needs something new, and the world changes much faster than you can imagine.” By keeping this adventurous spirit in mind, we learned from Joe that we must hold our creed and keep fighting regardless any difficulties because this is the only way to success.