Explorations in Business - Part 1 of ?

I have revealed my origination process in creative writing, theology, and personality transformation. Now I shall do the same in business.


I've been struggling with my next move for the last 6 months. I know I need to change something. I don't make that much money teaching English online, and I'll be squeezed out in the near future, I think. I've been doing it for about 2 and a half years anyway, so it's a good time for a change.

One issue is that I've had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years in my capabilities. I highly doubt my own ability now in a number of ways.

I knew that I wasn't making progress and that I needed to change something. That's part of why I'm always doing new things, I don't want to get stuck. If you lose momentum in life it's difficult to get started again.

A new environment with new people can change a lot. I'm on the email list for Start Garden, which is a small business organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They recommended this new organization called FounderCo. A young guy, Matt, that runs a drone company started it just a few months ago. It's all about people starting businesses. I figured I would stop by a meeting and see what it was like. It's in my exploratory nature.

That first meeting that I went to about 3 weeks ago was an interview format. John and Abbey have been married for 15 years and have been running separate businesses for most of their careers. They focused on how you do that as a couple. It was informative and interesting. (It reinforced my ideas about the usefulness of a Rogerian approach and non-violent communication.)

After the main presentation we broke into groups and had various discussions surrounding what people are working on in their businesses. You also had the option to sign up for little 10 minute consultations with John and Abbey. I had signed up when I first got there. I had no idea what I was going to talk to them about. But, when in doubt, wade forth.

When I went in to talk to John and Abbey I still hadn't decided what I was going to say. Most people ask things about business. I'm trying this in marketing, what do you think? I need to get more sales, how? I'm having trouble with an investor, what do I do? Etc. I was different.

I said something like, "Alright guys, I don't exactly have a business question. What I need is more like general life advice." Both of them said, "Oh boy!" And we all laughed a little. It was great.

I laid out the basic situation: getting sick in Africa and struggling to recover for the last few years, teaching English online, knowing that I need to make a change, not knowing what that direction is. I gave a few options. I said it would make sense for me to do something like test prep, or teaching English, or English exam prep. I think those could be successful businesses, but I'm not too excited about them, it would just be about getting some money, and helping some people in exchange of course.

Or, I said, I could do something crazy like meditation coaching. Meditation significantly changed my life. I had to do a lot of exploration and eventually figured out what worked for my chronic pain issues. I also created my own framework for the four major divisions in types of meditation, which are useful for different things. I call that framework Jeff's Meditation Matrix. But, I don't really have any credibility and I think the meditation market is flooded.

I asked them what they thought.

John said that it's hard to tell if the market is flooded. And if there are a lot of people doing it, it means that there are a lot of potential customers. You just have to be better than the other options. Abbey said that my story is my credibility. They asked if I've written my story down, and if I've done any writing in general. I write, and I've written part of that story. They said that's the path.

The great thing about John and Abbey is that they're encouragers. It feels good because they're on your side. We talked a little about how I should do it. I prefer to work online because I've grown to like that over the last few years. Should I focus on individualized and personalized meditation coaching, or on a niche chronic pain market? Abbey said that the personalized coaching might be good to get it going and get to the point where I was living on it, but it wouldn't scale. John pointed out that a chronic pain focus was probably scalable.

It was weird walking back out to the rest of the meeting. I found my discussion group, but I was still in my own little thought bubble. I had come to the meeting half expecting it to not be useful, and here I was contemplating a decent direction to go in business that could help people, that there's a market for, and that I'm interested in.

I stuck around for about an hour after the event technically ended, talking to people. I had shown up early and talked to a bunch of people too. The best conversation was at the end of the night though. Jordan is in his early to mid 20s. He invented a mask that recycles your own hot air for people working in freezers. He's been working on it for over two years, he has prototypes in the field, and he's working on switching over to a sales and marketing focus.

He asked me what I needed to do over the next two weeks to make progress on my new idea. I said that the best thing would probably be to set up a simple website with a letter and/or a video explaining my story and potential product. Then have some questions that people could respond to so that I could collect some idea of what people have tried before, what they're frustrated with, what they might pay, etc.

Two weeks later I saw Jordan at the next meeting at The Treehuis in Holland. I was a little uncomfortable about going to the meeting because I knew that I would have to tell people, namely Jordan, that I had done nothing with the business. I did a lot of other things over those two weeks. I wrote a bunch of articles, I edited stories, and a number of other things, but nothing on the business. You can ascribe that behavior to various things like internal conflict, uncertainty, dissociated parts of the self, etc. If you're anxious to do something, it's often a good sign that it's something you should do.

This time Matt gave a short presentation about time management. My friend Casey came as well. We did our group discussion thing. There was also a mentor available for private 10 minute conversations again.

Apparently Bryan focuses on public relations and sales. I sat down across from him and presented the basic idea. He wasn't enthused about it. Which matched my opinion, I still wasn't really sold on doing it. Too much doubt about the idea, too much doubt about myself.

What was interesting is that we had a lot of time left and Bryan started thinking through the idea to himself, and we were talking a bit, shooting things back and forth. Slowly his thinking evolved. Once he realized that I could focus on chronic pain, and that it was essentially a telehealth slash telemedicine business, he was sold. He became so enthusiastic he sold the idea back to me. Telemedicine is growing like crazy, and chronic pain is rampant, as well as the opioid crisis. He mentioned that he even has some back pain. He explained how you could have live calls scheduled at certain times for people to join. That you could make deals with insurance companies and large corporations for their employees. You could tell that he was starting to build a strong plan in his mind of how to build this thing.

I think after I told him a bit about how my C1 vertebrae had slid into my brainstem and I had laid in a dark and quiet room for about 2 months at one point, how I had tried pain killers, how I had developed my own framework for the different types of meditation, that many types of meditation don't really work for intense pain, how the neurons build networks for pain signals that become reinforced and insulated by the myelin sheath which are then essentially little personalities and are similar to how addiction works, and how I can still feel the pain signal but I experience it in a different way that still allows me to function, then he started to become convinced that I could do it. He said he was excited to see what I could do in the next six months.

I hung out at that meeting for awhile too. There was a great conversation about raising and managing investment capital from angel investors. Then, walking back to our cars Casey and I had a good conversation about technology, business, health, and politics. (GPS had led us both to the wrong address at first.)

Once I was in my car I had nothing to do but think about the business. I was thoroughly convinced that this is the right direction after my talk with Bryan. I don't have a radio in my car and my ideas really started to formulate themselves on the hour ride home. I couldn't hold all of the good ideas in my head so I sent myself six voice messages on Facebook to help remind me of my ideas later.

Over the next two days I wrote down several pages worth of notes about how to lay out my story, how the calls should work, what good pricing plans might be, etc. I looked into the research that would add some validity to what I'm saying works. I just found what works and how to do it, so I didn't have the research on this yet. I had done my own phenomenological exploration to find answers. Luckily some of the research does exist. As it turns out the medical industry has been taking Buddhist and Hindu methods of meditation from thousands of years ago, changing the names, and then selling them as medical interventions. Then they do medical research on their newly named techniques. I still don't think they can actually explain how it works though.

Then... I didn't do anything. It's at that point that I realized I needed an intermediate step. Since writing articles has worked so well for other things that I'm trying to figure out I thought I would do it with business too. And, the same thing applies. Just like I wish writers had kept a record of everything they had done and thought along their journey at the time, I wish business people did the same thing. There are great books written after the fact, but I want to know what the perspective was at the time. So, that's what I'm doing.

In the next article I will lay out my plans for presenting my story, potential pricing strategies, potential positioning strategies, how my process should work to iterate and adapt, what the actual product will look like, and what my first steps are.

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You can find more of what I'm doing at http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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