Big Enough

Big Enough

Building a Business that Scales with Your Lifestyle

Lee LeFever (7/10)

Summary

An eye-opening antidote to the endless-growth mindset, Big Enough offers an alternative path to career success.

In this illuminating book, entrepreneur Lee LeFever gives an inside view of building a scalable, product-focused business, while never compromising on quality of life. Lee and his wife, Sachi, responded to the promise of the internet by building a home-based business, Common Craft, that was profitable yet small enough to pivot and innovate. (Borrowed summary from amazon).

Review

Great story about a couple that chose to prioritize lifestyle over growth. They had the courage to define what success meant to them and make all business decisions through that lens. A honest and useful illustration of disciplined adherence to intentionally-set, positive constraints.

Notes

Key Ideas & Highlighted Passages

When human effort is attached to income, growth requires more humans. (Location 207)

A service business ties human labor to income. Humans embody the value. More haircuts, more money. (Location 236)

Their thesis is that luck, both good and bad, is an inherent part of success and entrepreneurship. (Location 309)

Getting a high ROL requires throwing yourself at the luck event with ferocious intensity, disrupting your life and not letting up. (Location 311)

Bill Gates didn’t just get a lucky break and cash in his chips. He kept pushing, driving, working—and sustained that effort for more than two decades. That’s not luck—that’s return on luck. (Location 312)

We asked a question that came to be a mantra for us in the process of learning how to make Common Craft videos: what sucks the most about this? (Location 385)

Circumstance is an amazing teacher and will show you what’s required to accomplish your goal and keep you focused on the path. (Location 440)

This balance of income versus overhead was becoming a bigger part of our mental calculus. (Location 575)

The Explainer Network created a new direction at Common Craft. The income from the Explainer Network was not connected to our time and effort. (Location 581)

Circumstance is an amazing teacher. Get started quickly and solve problems as they arise so you’re not wasting time or worrying unnecessarily. (Location 590)

When considering a new opportunity, ask “what if it works?” This simple question will help you anticipate the long-term effects of a decision. (Location 596)

Forming relationships with competitors may be fruitful. Be open to finding ways to work with them to grow the market for your business. (Location 598)

By focusing on improving lifestyle and choice, we had a shot at escaping the trappings of a life that values money over everything else. (Location 645)

While we are consistent retirement savers, this didn’t seem like a good bet. We wanted to work toward satisfaction throughout our lives, starting today. (Location 660)

Now more than ever, I believe that time is the new wealth, and in the future, it will be more valuable than money to many. (Location 674)

Time can’t be saved up and used later. The only way to have more of it today is to design it into your life. (Location 691)

“That’s when I realized that the odds of success in a start-up are so low anyway that you must put everything you have in it. And you can’t do that for an idea that you just don’t care about.” (Location 765)

The people who are interested in your work are a source of innovation and opportunity. Listen to them and ask them what they want or need. (Location 796)

When Sachi earned her MBA, there were no lessons on making a happy marriage a priority or how a business can contribute to the owner’s lifestyle. (Location 835)

Design for the long term. Take time to consider how a decision today might look in five years. (Location 882)

It was about enacting difficult policies that would have negative short-term consequences but would hopefully produce long-term success. (Location 895)

I felt that earning a living based on the needs of advertisers was a poor use of our skills. (Location 926)

In using YouTube, we were leery of building our empire on someone else’s land. (Location 927)

Only in the last twenty years have two people been able to create a digital project from scratch and sell it themselves to a global market. (Location 1056)

Make your website the home of your business. There is no replacement for owning and being in absolute control of such an important resource. (Location 1065)

Traffic from search is powerful and free. Be skeptical of experts with big promises. What matters more than anything is creating quality content that attracts and engages people. (Location 1067)

If your day-to-day emotions are being driven by data, consider taking a longer view. Focus less on data points, such as the number of likes, and more on trends. (Location 1068)

We believe that happiness lives in anticipation. By living the monetorium, we can look forward to achieving the goal and find everyday joy in the game of getting there. (Location 1172)

It forced us to be conscious of our spending and adapt to a life where happiness comes from something other than higher income. (Location 1249)

Once your needs are met, consider the role more income plays in your life. How can you use it to increase your autonomy, independence, and agility? (Location 1252)

The constraints we put in place, like not having employees and focusing on flexibility, were our guide to thinking through what was possible. (Location 1265)

But focusing on lifestyle doesn’t have to mean sacrificing ambition. (Location 1267)

In his book Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon writes, “Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.” We wanted to help others become better explainers. (Location 1280)

Were we, a two-person company, going to start sending cease and desist letters to people who were inspired by our work? (Location 1341)

We decided that we’d look for ways to help people copy us and spend time educating them about appropriate use. Instead of fighting the current, we’d go with the flow and cooperate rather than compete. (Location 1345)

Do we approach this as an opportunity or as a threat? (Location 1379)

If you have expertise, there may be business opportunities in helping others learn how to do what you do. (Location 1405)

When working through a new opportunity, take a step back and ask what biases you have regarding your partners and their input. Be prepared to change—the company may depend on (Location 1409)

Writing a book can be a way to establish credibility and thought leadership. If you feel your perspective is useful to others, a book can help you stake your claim. (Location 1410)

Look for byproducts that come from your work. Are you creating something as part of a bigger project that could have value on its own? (Location 1413)

Public speaking is a skill that can only be improved through doing it. If you accept the challenge, you’ll gain confidence quickly and have a new source of income that can help support your small business. (Location 1414)

Online courses require upfront work, but can be attractive to customers and help you become a thought leader. (Location 1416)

“I would define power as the ability to make other people do what you want; freedom is the ability to do what you want,” he writes. (Location 1586)

Businesses have always existed that were more like Diogenes. The owners of an intentionally small business can earn a good living, do meaningful work, support a family, and adhere to a lifestyle that suits them. Their ambition may be more focused on home or family than growing and conquering, and there is real power and satisfaction in that pursuit. (Location 1602)

What I’ve learned is when the goal is to prove oneself, there is no business or salary big enough. It’s like a video game. As soon as one level of success is reached, the next level appears with new, more powerful foes. (Location 1616)

He asked himself, “Are you running the business for yourself or are you running it for the way it looks to other people?” (Location 1622)

I rarely had a chance to explain that, yes, our work is creative, but we are entrepreneurs too. We’re just playing a different game. (Location 1636)

We may not have 100 employees, but I haven’t had a meeting in three weeks. We may not have VC funding, but I haven’t used an alarm clock in years. We may not have a board of directors, but I earn passive income from my home office. (Location 1636)

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. (Location 1656)

As the research shows, living in service to others and something greater than yourself is a path to maximizing the 40 percent of happiness that’s in your control. (Location 1665)

A company that’s “Big Enough” by your standards may not earn respect from other entrepreneurs who don’t get it. Forget about them. You’re playing a different game with different outcomes. (Location 1673)

You may not have a corner office and a mega-yacht, but you have time to go camping, attend little league games, and have dinner with loved ones every night. (Location 1843)

These constraints became a way for us to evaluate opportunities. We could always look at a new direction and ask: if this works, will it interfere with the constraints we designed? If so, we could assume we were on the wrong track. (Location 1864)

With values as your guide, you can start to consider what it would take to live a different lifestyle that reflects the person you want to become. (Location 1899)