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How did you make your last career move decision, whether between companies or within a company? Are you considering a career move soon? Will you take the next step up (a promotion/upgrade in your current function) because it’s easy and will be more immediate money, or will you decide to look for a right, non-obvious move that fits your inherent interests and unique genius, making you a future independent superstar (but taking longer)?

As you consider your options, here’s something to keep in mind – 50% of the reason a hamster gets on the wheel is because it’s in front of them.

Rather than doing more of what you’ve been doing, what do you really want to do?

And one sure way to avoid finding your unique genius (which is already within in you, waiting to be found) is to ignore it.

Just for good measure

Steve Pavlina’s 10 Reasons why you should never get a job

An excerpt from reason #3 Lifelong Domestication: “Getting a job is like enrolling in a human domestication program. You learn how to be a good pet.”

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Is your demand for your people’s office facetime and amount of effort actually hurting your employees’ productivity? Do you demand quantity of work over quality?

This morning, Tim Ferriss posted a great entry about a new book on Best Buy’s ROWE project (“Results-Oriented Work Environment”): No Schedules, No Meetings—Enter Best Buy’s ROWE

I remember reading about Best Buy’s initiative a few years ago in a business magazine, and cutting it out to save. Not because the idea of measuring people by results was so revolutionary – because obviously it’s not – but because implementing successfully in a large company is revolutionary. Because of ROWE, Best Buy claims to have increased HQ productivity by 41% while decreasing voluntary turnover (i.e. quitting) as much as 90%.

Actually, although we all say we want to measure results rather than effort, it actually doesn’t happen as much as you assume it does. Companies, including small ones, still demand constant facetime, even with the most-measured people in a company such as salespeople!! (Obviously this is only relevant to salespeople based in an office, not field salespeople.)

Thankfully, the trend today is towards more and more freedom to produce, without the shackles of obligatory facetime, hours or meetings (because those things can still be highly valuable). It’s getting easier as the technologies improve. But we’re still at the early stages of a change in attitude.

For example, for the managers reading this right now – how often do you let your people work from home? If employee after employee (not just one or two) came to you and asked for permission to work from home multiple per week, what would your reaction be? Even if they made a solid case for how their productivity would increase?

Pause for a moment and really pay attention to your reaction, and question it. Is there anything resembling “I never worked from home, so they shouldn’t either”, “I won’t know what they’re doing,” or “my own boss will think I and my team are slacking”? Fear is the most powerful inhibitor.

These are examples of why teams and cultures still demand and measure effort, not results, and why changing this attitude is harder than you’d think, even in a small company.

The book is called“Why Work Sucks, And How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke – The Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terriffic.”

If you see that you have been controlling of your people’s time and attention, what would be one thing you can try to begin to loosen things up?

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…and it’s true whether you’re an entrepreneur or CEO. True, in the past work did have to be exhausting – no one ate unless the fields were planted. But the only reason we still make work so damn hard on ourselves is our conditioning and cultural habits. We’re trained to believe that “enjoyment” and “success” are mutually exclusive. But enjoyment (channeled in the right directions) increases success.

Perhaps “work can be energizing, not exhausting” would be a better title for the “Pull management” vs “push management” systems v1.0 post…?

And yes, I understand people will immediately say “Yeah right. How?”

It can be done.

I’m personally living it today, and packaging it up to share and teach it to others. Part of the system includes collaborating with other like-minded people (hence the PebbleStorm groups and Meetups). I will continue to share more and more practical information here over the next three months, leading up to rolling out some PebbleStorm programs in early September.

Programs for people or companies at three different stages

1. Discover (“I know I’m meant for more, but I’m not sure what yet”)
2. Play (“I’m testing and playing with new business ideas/projects, but they are self-sustainable yet”)
3. Evolve (“I already have a successful business, but I want to grow it faster or reinvent it”)

UPDATED 7.1.08: Just posted about the “Five Stages

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I’m living as virtually as possible these days. As my Small Pebble, Big Wave Self-Manifesto says, my “perfect working world” includes working on what I want, when I want, and with whom I want (and I’ll throw in now, ‘from where I want’).

I’ve structured my work and projects (both setting expectations or turning down business) so that I’m only needed periodically in person. I keep expenses low, to lower how much income I need for it to be ‘sufficient’. So –

Why not go to Kauai, since I’ve never been there?

Why not pick a random, fun idea to launch a company / website around with a great friend, if it only takes a few weeks of half-time work and a few thousand dollars?

Why not start a PebbleStorm retreat, where I and some people I want to collaborate with (like ( can break away from the distractions of their days, to spend some time braincracking and/or building companies or websites for fun, and relatively small amounts of time and money?

Why not combine all three? Why not just do it now?

I couldn’t come up with any good reasons not to do it, so:

Upcoming PebbleStorm Events, including the Kauai Makers Retreat

If we can do one company, then why not more than one? Why not see if there are a few other like-minded people who want to join us, either to work on their own ideas or to help us? (Hint: email me at aaron (at) pebblestorm (dot) com)

Next time you feel yourself hesitating to commit to something outside your comfort zone: ask yourself why not? Maybe it’s just your work conditioning that’s keeping you back.

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Here’s our first batch of PebbleStorm events that are coming up in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in any of these and would like to find out more about them (especially the Kauai retreat), or would like to get updates as they’re organized, please contact me at aaron (at) pebblestorm (dot) com.

Los Angeles: (Today), Saturday May 17th

  • PebbleStorm LA Meetup – Sat Coffee Edition
  • A small, casual meetup of aspiring or current entrepreneurs interested in making money through enjoyment, bouncing ideas off each other, finding partners, etc
  • LA Mill, 1636 Silver Lake Blvd
  • 4pm

SF Bay Area: Wednesday, May 21st

  • Braincracking Session (because it’s like braincrack)
  • Get a bunch of ADD entrepreneurs, collaborators and connectors in a room to brainstorm on their ideas and how to quickly or easily make progress on some of them (aka “braincrack” because it’s like putting your brain on crack, and totally addicting)
  • 11am-2pm @ US Venture Partners.

SF Bay Area: Thursday, May 22nd

Washington D.C: Saturday, June 12

  • I’m flying out to host an Entrepreneurs dinner with Klia Bassing
  • For current or aspiring entrepreneurs, about“blowing away your limiting beliefs in practical ways (because what’s holding you back is your own mind); fresh thinking about your business; re-energizing.”
  • 5pm
  • I’ll be in DC from June 12th-15th, exploring the city and meeting people. Let me know if you’re there and want to meet up, or if you have someone really interesting you could introduce me too!

Kauai: July 7-July 21st

  • PebbleStorm Makers Retreat
  • If you’re going to make a fun company or website with a friend, why not do it from Kauai? (I don’t have a good answer to that question…so we’re doing it)
  • This retreat is part of a design exercise on how little time and money it can take to make a company: say with a couple of weeks and less than $5000 including travel expenses. It’s also a design exercise to see how much fun you can have while making it 🙂
  • Design partner:
  • Contact me if you’re interested either in helping us, or if you have your own idea and want a place with some mental space and collaborators to make it!

To be scheduled: PebbleStorm meetups in Marin / SF Bay Area

aaron (at) pebblestorm (dot) com.

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I just created a Meetup for people in LA. It’s the best way to find out about the events, or to let people you think would benefit know about them:

PebbleStorm LA Meetup

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Are we working harder, under more pressure, but running in place?

The internet has changed business – in helpful and challenging ways:
* We have more information and metrics – and more confusion from all the clutter.
* We can develop and deploy products faster – far beyond our clients’ ability to absorb them.
* We can find prospects more easily – but they’re less interested in talking with us.

[…..] It’s time to start taking regular breaths to reflect on what we’re missing…continued on CEOFlow

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In 2006 I gave this presentation to my old sales team when they asked me to come speak. Although it could use refreshing to make it more self-explanatory, its intention is still exactly on point for what I’m talking about today through PebbleStorm.

It was one of those epiphany decks…it came to me in a morning and I slapped it together in a couple of hours. I realized that morning that I didn’t want to talk about sales stuff – I wanted to change the way they were thinking about work. How could I get them to appreciate the value of working primarily for enjoyment and other intrinsic motivations, rather than addictive, ultimately empty, extrinsic motivations like titles?

(Now – the culture there of emphasizing extrinsic rewards like titles wasn’t a dynamic created by that team, it was a dynamic at the whole company…which rewarded people with titles so frequently that it was impossible to keep track of all the levels. Now I know how dogs feel in training school 🙂  Having said that, I appreciate and am grateful for everything I learned at the company and for the amazing people there.)

If you work mostly to earn money or prestige (rather than for the enjoyment of the job itself), you end up in a vicious cycle because those external motivators will never truly satisfy you. Soon after you make more money or acquire more prestige, you get used to it (habituated), as an addict gets used to higher doses of drugs. Then you need a new fix (even more money, a bigger title) to get that high back…leading to a cycle of dysfunction.

A brief intro to the deck: I believe that capitalism/westernism taken too far is destructive (Enron, pollution…), and I believe that buddhism/easternism taken too far is stagnating (no development, no progress).

However, combine the best of the west (progress, advancement, development) and the best of the east (self-awareness, equanimity, centeredness)…you can have the best of both worlds: success without drama. In fact – the lack of drama, and its associated waste of energy, is one key part of helping you achieve more success than in an extreme capitalism/”show me the money and nothing else matters” model.

The intention behind the deck was to get the sales team a-thinkin’ about more than their next career step – I wanted them to begin paying attention to themselves and their purpose, and to increase their awareness of how different kinds of motivators (extrinsic v intrinsic) can lead to very different outcomes (unhappiness vs happiness). I wanted to nudge them to a more constructive path.

Hmm – I’ll have to put out the word to see if anyone back then remembers the presentation, and if it changed their thinking…

In the coming months, as I work with a handful of CEOs interested in trying out new ideas in their organizations in order to unlock their total potential, I’ll publish examples of how to put these ideas into practice.

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1. Lack of awareness of what they enjoy, their purpose, their unique genius… or that they could even begin envisioning a 5th Work Option. It never occurs to most people (at least until they get fired or have some other serious life change) that until they step back and clearly rethink what their ideal working life should be, they won’t get it. They just take whatever comes their way.

I’m going to include “lack of money” and “lack of time” here under the awareness bucket, because many people are unaware of how easy it can be to start on the path.  Commitment is step one.  Take the first step right now just by saying “I will start my own business.”   Now keep each next step as small as possible – tiny babysteps.  As for lacking money to start a business – all you need is $9 for a URL.  Businesses can be started with very very little money today – passion and patience is much more important!

2. Fear (mostly unconscious) of change, fear of new ideas, fear of telling people their personal ideas, fear of telling themselves that they want more out of life, a fear of committing to themselves that they’re going to do something about it… I’m not sure why fear plays such an enormous role in blocking people, but I see it everywhere. I’m convinced by reducing the fear factor here, we’ll enable huge numbers of people to blossom as entrepreneurs.

3. Bad habits (including working for the wrong reasons). In the United States/the West, we’re trained to think that money, titles, prestige and ‘stuff’ lead to happiness. So in our search for happiness, we go after the wrong things – ‘stuff’ that does not lead to sustainable happiness. It’s really hard to break these lifetime habits. When people work with the intentions of acquiring power, prestige (a title) or more money, it’s a rare path that leads them to contentment and happiness.

Here’s a disturbing observation: some of you who read this will associate “contentment and happiness” with being lazy, poor, or unsuccessful...!!! How have we gotten to the point in a society when contentment is denigrated? Not necessarily publicly, but it does happen in casual conversation or body language.

Contentment does not equal lack of activity or laziness. I’m incredibly content while working on multiple projects, clients and new companies (I’ve lost track of how many…), because everything I do is aligned with my purpose, through PebbleStorm. More to come on this.

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(I woke up this morning with my head buzzing on a topic – well, a few, as usual – that have been germinating the past few days. Ideas and conversations and people come to me, and I just keep writing things down in a notebook I carry around until a bunch of the pieces click in my head into something bigger, and I feel energized to write about it.)

Yesterday, I had tea at Lettus Cafe in San Francisco (I love it!) with another new, amazing friend – Nancy Allan, who I serendipitously met through Ken Sawyer of SaintsVC. She recently moved to Mill Valley (just north of San Francisco) from Los Angeles, to start a new business that she’s been thinking about for a year. She has a bunch of ideas for meaningful products. I’ll let her explain them here herself when she’s ready 🙂

Nancy Allan & “Products that bring inspiration and sacredness into people’s homes and lives”

Nancy has been thinking about and incubating on the side (not full-time) her business ideas for a year. She hasn’t yet crystallized a simple way to describe her unique genius, though she at least has the ‘puzzle pieces’ and clues in front of her that will make it up. For example, she mentioned casually last night a phrase that resonated and feels like a puzzle piece: “products that bring inspiration and sacredness into people’s homes and lives.”

My unique genius, if you’re wondering, as of May 2008 is “changing the way people think about work and helping them make money through enjoyment.”

Thoughts on business plans

At one point while we were talking, the topic of business plans came up. I have never been able to do a formal business plan. You know, the 20 page Word document that lays out sales, marketing, finance in dry language. Nancy, who has a lot of ideas, doesn’t have a formal plan either.

I can’t do them because I literally could not do it…but my brain just doesn’t work that way. I’d rather pour acid into my eyes than do a ‘classic’ business plan. Ok, before the business plan nazis “you have to be anal and organized!” jump on me, I will tell you yes, you need to think through topics such as: what are your strengths and passions, your unique genius? Why do you want to start a business, and what do you want out of it? What’s the vision of the business? What are your next (baby)steps in making it more concrete and real?

What works for you, and how you want to write and organize your thoughts, will be different from everyone else. Search out and digest examples of what others do, and then take bits and pieces to do your own thing in a way that feels right. And by the way, for some people doing that 20 page classic plan is exactly the right method for them (just not for me).

The PebbleStorm business plan – open to the world

I do have a VERY clear (to me) plan posted for the world to see:, and the long-term outcome/results of PebbleStorm is Project 2057. (Oh – was I supposed to be secretive and fearful about sharing my ideas, protecting my trade secrets? Whoops). Seriously – that is THE PebbleStorm business plan and vision. It’s obvious that I wrote, and am writing, it just for myself…since that’s the most important audience when you begin something from scratch. If you believe and enjoy something, others will to. Writing on the wiki has been one way I gradually help the vision, ideas and business model take on more and more concreteness over time. It’s also a sandbox to play with new ideas and ways of expressing them.

There isn’t much in there yet about revenue and margins blah blah blah. There’s a LOT of information that’s still either in my head or in notebooks that I just haven’t transferred into there yet, but will over time as the topics become ready to be relevant to me and the business.

Back to business plans

I did do the Silicon Valley version of a business plan back in 1999, which is an overview of the vision and business in 12-5 Powerpoint slides (like But I’m not even doing that for PebbleStorm, because it’s not right for me or for PebbleStorm. Although I anticipate doing some more formal planning like that in the future, once PebbleStorm matures and becomes more complex. Right now it’s just me behind the curtain with a few key collaborators. Nice and simple, yay! 🙂

For others, a formal plan (in whatever format) can be a very valuable exercise to think through and practice communicating about your business. And for some it’d be more painful than sticking needles into your eyes. You do need to work to uncover your unique genius, and have intentions/vision, and write down your plans and ideas…but do it in a way that works for you. If you have never done it before, look at some example business plans. Take pieces or practices that resonate and try them. Avoid the parts that you can’t stand. Jealously guard your enjoyment of the process, even the process of making your ideas tangible and real (which is really the whole point of the plan). Putting ideas and plans on paper, even as notes, makes them more real.

When you have a business partner vs. when you’re solo

When you’re working on something by yourself, it’s easier to just do what you want with your planning. However, if you have a business partner, it becomes critical to get onto and stay on the same page with them. Now you need to agree on what the mutual way to best lay out the common vision and how each person wants to contribute to it. In Silicon Valley, that’s usually a 12-15 slide Powerpoint deck or a wiki, or perhaps a whiteboard that stays up and is updated regularly. But you have to do something to keep the communication coming and to maintain alignment between the partners.

Guy Kawasaki on business plans (and don’t let planning get in the way of DOING)

As another sample perspective, Guy Kawasaki has some great points about business plans here. If you’re starting your own organically grown business, take his perspective with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that he’s a technology world investor, and is reviewing business plans from companies that want him as an investor.

I’m going to pull out a quote that I is very important:

A study recently released by Babson College analyzed 116 businesses started by alumni who graduated between 1985 and 2003. Comparing success measures such as annual revenue, employee numbers and net income, the study found no statistical difference in success between those businesses started with formal written plans and those without them…

“What we really don’t want to do is literally spend a year or more essentially writing a business plan without knowing we have actual customers,” says William Bygrave, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., who says he generally advocates “just do it.” Entrepreneurs must be nimble, and will be more apt to stick with a flawed concept they spent months drafting, he adds.

Planning and visioning is valuable, but be aware ofif you let it become an excuse to procrastinate and it get sin the way of doing something about the business. Keep up the babysteps!

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What’s the best way to explain PebbleStorm’s mission, when someone asks “Who/what is PebbleStorm, and why does it matter?” I’m not sure about the best way to describe it yet, but it’s progressing. Here’s a sample of the progression…

The original was: how work can be “more fun, more money, less stress”

Then it was …“more fun, more freedom, more money”

Now: “helping people make money through enjoyment” (which I really like!)

And “Roadmap to the 4-Hour Workweek” is pretty cool too, though it’s a tagline rather than a mission.

Last one: “Are you meant for something more”?” (again, this is a tagline, not mission)

What do you think? Comment here or write me at aaron(at)pebblestorm(dot)com

Note…what a “4-Hour Workweek” means to me (and to the guy who wrote the book, Tim Ferriss)

I (and Tim Ferriss) mean creating a workstyle where you only have to do a few hours of obligatory work that you don’t enjoy or that’s boring per week.

I personally will never work only a few hours a week – I truly enjoy working on projects with people. I love my current work, both in BlackBox Revenue, PebbleStorm and the other ideas/projects we have, and will never stop. I just want to minimize the painful or boring amounts to a little as possible. I want more fun, more freedom and more money, all at the same time.

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When I tell people about PebbleStorm, a common question is “how will it make money?”

It’s a good question.

And I have no idea.

And I don’t care (yet) – both because I already have income, and I’m doing what I LOVE in a way that excites both myself and other people (notice – it has to excite ME in addition to others!).

As it takes off organically, the business model will come naturally. Trying to force it to generate revenue too early would harm its true potential in these early, delicate stages. Sure, I have lots of ideas/intentions on how it’ll happen – events, sponsorships, a book/books, workshops, getting paid in equity or a percentage of revenue for companies we help found or grow, subscriptions, etc. – but I’m leaving myself totally open for whatever makes the most sense at the right time. It’ll come with patience.

Making it easy to be patient!

Why make life hard on myself? I have another source of income to allow me to not care about when PebbleStorm starts generating revenue. Last year, I started BlackBox Revenue with a partner who also is, Erythean Martin. BlackBox helps b2b companies with sales forces create predictable revenue (Cold Calling 2.0 presentation).

Klia Bassing & “Visit Yourself”

Sometimes it makes sense to quit a job and your source of income to start a new company – but often it doesn’t! Klia Bassing is an entrepreneur in Washington D.C. who started a ‘bring meditation classes into the workplace’ company, I love it!

We talked a few months ago. She’s working on the business full-time, and it’s still early enough that it wasn’t bringing in enough income to sustain her indefinitely – she was using up her savings. I suggested getting a part-time contracting job to give her some breathing room while the business continued to make progress. A few days later, after digesting this, Klia wrote back:

Klia Bassing: “It was shocking to think about taking a part-time job because I had it in mind that that would be “failing”…going backward in a business that used to support me entirely (but in an unsustainable way, with me as the only teacher/service provider). After a bit of grieving, the clouds cleared and going back to consulting at the World Bank–or wherever–a few days a week just felt like self-care of my financial and mental well-being.”

Jealously guard your enjoyment

Why kill yourself? Why not find ways to make starting a company easier on yourself, so that you love it and stay EXCITED about it…and so that your excitement will infect others? Creating growth through consistent excitement and enjoyment is a much surer path to success (now and in the future) than growth through bitter, unhappy, unyielding determination.  If you’re stressed and unhappy, it will reduce your creativity and motivation and leave a bad taste with your clients or business partners.  Jealously protect, love and nurture your enjoyment of your work!

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Have you heard of “The 4-Hour Workweek”, by Tim Ferriss? His premise: people don’t want to be millionaires, they want to be able to live like millionaires. So – start a business that creates passive income (income you earn while you sleep), that only requires a few hours a week to maintain, and you can live like one:

I really recommend that you read the book:

OK – so the 4-Hour Workweek sounds great, but how do you achieve it? How do you get to the point where you have a business that you love creating passive income for you?

If the 4-Hour Workweek is you want, PebbleStorm is the roadmap and system to get you there.

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Letting Go Of Fear

One of the most natural fears we go through in nurturing a passion or new business is “will people accept it?” “What will they think?” We hold back talking about it…which only holds the business back. What we find is that the people who are our real friends will be accepting of ANYTHING you share, and appreciative of it, even if it’s not for them.

A big part of success (especially in PebbleStorm) is letting go of fear as much as possible – even those little bits that we don’t notice because we’re so used to living with them. “What will people think? Can I really do it? What if they don’t appreciate it, or buy it, or like it? What if it doesn’t work out?” Being able to let go of this kind of mindset begins with practicing awareness of when fear affects your behavior and holds you back, undercutting you. You have amazing potential – if you can remove the fear limiter. It takes constant awareness and practice, because it can always creep back in.

Even I’ve had some hesitation in mentally committing to taking the first concrete steps with PebbleStorm. Sure I’d share the wiki and ideas with some people, but I’d always hedge – “oh, it’s the future…” As courageous as I can be, there’s always a part of me that whispers “Is it ready yet?” At some point, as the puzzle pieces come close enough together, anyone creating something that they care about has to get over that hump of hesitation to commit to putting it out there for people, a big step in making it “real.”

So here I am.

So here’s the real world kickoff for PebbleStorm.

This week is a big milestone for PebbleStorm and the future of making money through enjoyment, because after almost a year of thinking, writing and talking – I’ve set things in motion. For real. I’ve mentally committed to it, I’ve started actively telling people about this blog and PebbleStorm itself (“my calling is…”), and a first dinner group is scheduled for this Wednesday night at Javan: “Brainfood: Make money through enjoyment”

Interesting Moment of Oprah

On Saturday and Sunday this weekend, I met about 10 people that seemed ready for the next step in their lives, who wanted to escape the rat race and sustain themselves through a passion or calling. After a BBQ at an amazing house in Malibu on Sunday, and a few more of these conversations, I had an interesting moment while driving back down PCH 1 to home. I had a crystal clear image of being on Oprah’s show. Oprah had become a fan of PebbleStorm because of what it was doing to help people create these amazing businesses for themselves, to accomplish things that had previously scared the shit out of them or that they thought were impossible. It felt totally real, as if it’d already happened, and very natural, as in “yep, I can see that happening, it just makes sense.” Trippy.

We’re only at the very beginning steps of the PebbleStorm journey, but here we go 😀

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I do some free coaching of small businesses through SCORE (, the coaching arm of the Small Business Association.  I’ve also talked with many many first-time entrepreneurs while living in Silicon Valley and working at Alloy Ventures.  I’ve started my own companies and worked in startups.  From all these conversations, here comes version 0.1 of “The More Money, Less Stress Guide To Bootstrapping A New Business”:,+Less+Stress+Guide+To+Bootstrapping