Erik Torenberg: We Should Build Career Moats – Click Here To Apply

Key Takeaways

  • Find the thing that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you, in order to gain a competitive advantage
  • “Don’t play the rat race unless you’re the fastest rat”
    • Play your own game where no one can compete with you
  • Constantly be searching for the asymmetric bets both in life and business
    • Always be asking – “What can I do that has little downside but if it works out, can have a huge payoff?”
  • Your goal should be to look smart at the end of your journey, you don’t have to look smart at every step of your journey
    • Besides – people are more apt to remember your successes, not your failures
  • Even if you create a startup that fails, you’ll:
    • Get a great education
    • Learn about growing a business first-hand
    • Be more respected by peers for taking a risk and pursuing a dream
    • Have built a network in the process
  • If you’re young, take asymmetric business risks

Intro

About Erik Torenberg

  • Erik is currently focusing his time and energy on Village Global – an early stage venture firm which he co-founded, as well as OnDeck – a his startup that helps talented people find or join new startups
    • Erik would love to personally solve climate change and cure cancer, but since he’s self-aware enough to know he doesn’t have the skills necessary to do so, he helps those causes by finding talented people (with OnDeck) and by funding their startup (with Village Global)
  • Erik likes to refer to advice Naval Ravikant has frequently given: Find the thing that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you, in order to gain a competitive advantage
    • 2 of Erik’s natural talents
      • Building networks and communities
      • Helping entrepreneurs by giving them access to people and capital

Life Advice

  • “Don’t play the rat race unless you’re the fastest rat”
    • Play your own game where no one can compete with you
      • Erik has always been a B student, but the games he’s chosen to play have made him quite successful in life because not many people can compete with him
  • Look for asymmetric bets
    • Ask yourself – “What can I do that might be a little weird but if right, can have a huge payoff?”
      • Ex. – investing in/starting a company, tweeting, creating online content
    • Look for things that are so boring or controversial that other people won’t touch
      • Ex. – The people who invested in crypto in early 2010 and are now quite rich without having done much work
  • Your goal should be to look smart at the end of your journey, you don’t have to look smart at every step of your journey
    • People have very short memories and mostly only remember your victories, not the failure
      • Erik spent 3 years working on a rap battle startup that failed, but almost no one remembers that. Instead, everyone knows him as a successful co-founder of a VC firm.
      • Reid Hoffman started SocialNet that failed, Marc Andresson started a social network for dogs that failed – people tend to remember your home runs, not your losses
  • Even if you create a startup that fails, you’ll:
    • Get a great education
    • Learn about growing a business first-hand
    • Be more respected by peers for taking a risk and pursuing a dream
    • Have built a network in the process

Working At Product Hunt

  • Erik was employee #1 at Product Hunt
  • While there, he gained access to tons of startups and investors – every day he was getting paid to talk to startups founders
    • This was a great asymmetric bet for Erik because even if Product Hunt failed, he was building his network day in and day out
      • Erik originally joined Product Hunt with the goal of making some money while he thought of his next startup idea, but decided to stay for a few years because the company was taking off like a rocketship – they ended up getting into Y Combinator and received investments from quite a few top tier VC firms
        • If you find yourself working for a “rocketship startup,” stay with them and learn from their journey

Build A Personal Moat

  • A personal moat is something that’s hard to learn, hard to do, yet is a valuable skill in the marketplace
    • It might be something that looks like work to others, but feels like play for you
  • Your personal moat doesn’t equate to your passion
    • Erik loved basketball but didn’t have the skills needed to play professionally
      • Take your passion and redirect it to areas where your skills are in demand
  • How did Erik find his personal strengths?
    • He sent out an email to about 100 people asking “What am I good at and what am I not good at?”
      • Their answers: Good with people, building relationships, connecting with others, and being scrappy/persistent
  • You need to do the work to build your personal moat and have proof points
    • If you’re a musician, post your must on Soundcloud
    • If you’re a coder, post your work on GitHub

Additional Notes

  • You need to have a good network AND be respected by that network in order to succeed in business
    • Don’t just be a router, be a value provider that can also connect people
  • Get sales experience early on
    • It forces you to deal with rejection and gain experience being uncomfortable, which ultimately trains you to not care what others think
  • Get one big brand (Google, Harvard, Goldman Sachs) on your resume that signals to other people you’re smart and capable, and then dropout to compete in your own race instead of competing with thousands of other people
    • Ex. – Get into Harvard, drop out, but live in the area and work with people to build your own startup
  • If you build one great asset, you’ll never have to go to another networking event in your life
    • Build the premier podcast, blog, conference, etc, and you’ll never need to go to a typical networking event again
  • “Life is short, so run to the things that really do matter”
    • But life is also really long, so if you’re under 30 take risks in business – People expect you to try new things and don’t really care if you fail
  • A good question to ask yourself – “What asymmetric bet can I take that could have a 100x outcome?”
  • Put yourself in positive feedback loops
    • If you tweet your ideas and get lots of likes or retweets, that will create a positive loop for you to tweet more
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