After graduating from Tufts University 1967, I went to the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, to get a Master’s degree in Journalism. My focus was photojournalism. I wanted to work for Life magazine.
As part of the program, you had to take some required courses. One was advertising. The other was news writing. I think it is fair to say that I did not excel at either of these courses.
In the case of advertising, the professor gave me a “D” the first semester. He suggested that my copy was reasonably clever, but that when I drew the ads I did not “stay within the lines.” I suppose I was not very good at staying within the lines on anything. I argued with the professor that the concept of the ad was more important than the delineation, but to no avail. It was a “D” and a “D” it would stay. I was beginning to get a sense of my future.
In the case of news writing, I had a slightly different problem. I got a “D” the first semester in that course as well. I argued vociferously. I could see that there was a reasonable chance I would never get out of this dump, at least not with a degree.
I took the journalism professor for a cup of coffee and pleaded my case. His position was interesting. “You write well, Mr. Senturia, but you have no desire to stick with the facts of the story. You apparently make things up.”
I looked at the professor and answered, “Sir, why would I let the facts get in the way of a good story?”
Whereupon he threw up his hands in deep dismay and laughed. There was no hope—he knew it, and so did I. He still gave me the “D,” and I realized that my future was going to be more closely aligned with storytelling than with reporting.
I was not a total failure at Mizzou. I did finish third in the College Photographer of the Year contest. I could tell a story with my cameras, but that world of photojournalism was fast changing and rapidly declining. Look magazine closed in 1971 and Life magazine closed in 1972. The movie Easy Rider came out in 1969.
You didn’t have to be a brain surgeon. “Go west, young man,” said Horace Greeley.
Given my predilection for storytelling, where else could I maybe get paid for making things up? The only place where fantasy and reality regularly overlap is Hollywood. The movie business was beckoning.
So, after a year in the Army Reserves, I left the University of Missouri and went to New York University Film School to chase another half-baked dream (or scheme, depending on your point of view).
The reason I tell you the story about my adventures in journalism is that this book does not purport to be a totally factual reporting of reality. I am herewith, in advance, disclaiming any absolute truth to the stories that follow. They are close to the truth, most of the time, or at least some of the components of the stories are similar to what might have happened, or what I think may have happened—or given revisionist history, what should have happened.
It doesn’t matter.
RULE #109: NEVER LET THE TRUTH GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY.
And to bastardize a great line from a great writer, Rod Serling, “That’s the signpost up ahead. Your next stop, the entrepreneur’s guide to the galaxy.”
“The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of”
(Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon)
Does the world really need another business book? And if it does, where the hell did you get this title?
I’m There for You, Baby: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Galaxy takes its origin from my time in Hollywood in the 1970s.
Like many of my generation, I was drawn to the movies and to Los Angeles. Movies were the hot art form of that decade. Movies could move people from laughter to tears and back again. Movies could change the world. Think Lucas, Spielberg, and Coppola. They were the gods of my generation. And I wanted to make movies.
Today, the hottest form of media might be a 3-D, wrap-around, social media, five-square, GPS, location-based Twitter feed that you can access on your Oakley sunglasses while you are sipping a Mai Tai on a rooftop bar in West Hollywood, which you could not get up to anyway unless you knew somebody who knew somebody who had slept with the elevator gate keeper and who would look at you carefully, consider your clothing, your hair, your buzz, your wallet, and then maybe let you up to a place where you didn’t really belong or know anybody, but where you would try to make small talk and meet an agent or an actress or a director and tell them about the script you have just finished and the deal you have under consideration, in turn-around, in pre-production, and just in case you are thinking of blowing by me and going on to the next pod of people who you might think are more important, I want you to know that I know the guy who parks Sean Penn’s car at the Ivy. So, fuck you.
The guarded gates of Hollywood only open if you know somebody who is there for you, baby.
In 1971, I graduated from New York University Film School and was accepted as a Fellow at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills. At the time, this was the most prestigious post-graduate film school in the country. They took 13 students that year. It was the second year of the school and there was no charge to attend. It was a real fellowship. I wasn’t smart enough to be a Rhodes, but hey, I was an AFI Fellow.
Nota bene: One of the Fellows from the first year was David Lynch. He did Eraserhead at AFI and went on to a career that included four Academy Award nominations. In my year. there was a cinematographer by the name of Caleb Deschanel, who went on to be nominated for five Academy Awards. It was definitely the place to be.
The AFI flew me out for the interview. They paid the airfare. In my world this was unheard of. I will never forget my first interview. I landed at LAX and took a taxi to the Institute, located in a modest 55-room, 49,000-square-foot castle called the Greystone Mansion. Pinch me.
Greystone was built in 1928 and was a gift from Edward L. Doheny to his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny Jr. At the time it was the most expensive house ever built in California. Edward L. was in the oil business. He also happened to be the principal character in that charming scheme known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
RULE #303: “BEHIND EVERY GREAT FORTUNE LIES A GREAT CRIME.” –HONORE DE BALZAC
But, as you know, the wheel is always spinning. Four months after Ned moved in with his five children, he was involved in a murder-suicide with his secretary, Hugh Plunket—might have been murder, might have been suicide, no matter how you sliced it, it was Hollywood scandal at its best.
And that is where I was headed for the next two years. Up into Beverly Hills and the Doheny Estate and the Greystone Mansion—complete with a guard at the gatehouse to let you past the enormous iron gates. It felt like I had dropped in to visit Citizen Kane.
You gotta love America. I was on The Coast.
Hollywood held a special place in my heart ever since I was a young man in St. Louis and read the famous Budd Schulberg book, What Makes Sammy Run? This book is highly recommended reading, not only for would-be film directors but also for investment bankers, Wall Street traders, grifters, bank robbers, career politicians, insurance salesmen, real estate brokers, used car salesmen, gigolos, Ponzi promoters, and anyone else on the make, on the hustle, or on the run.
I loved Hollywood. I hated Hollywood.
How could one exist—let alone survive and ultimately triumph—in a universe populated by the following phrases that were supposed to pass for interpersonal communication and human connection?
“Let’s do lunch.”
“I’ll get right back to you.”
And the one that brings it all home, the granddaddy of them all:
“Hey, I’m there for you, baby.”
In all three cases, you know you are getting fucked, and it will never happen.
Now you might ask, given my pejorative association with the phrase, why I picked it for the book.
It is because entrepreneurship is a little bit like Hollywood. I can teach the principles of entrepreneurship, but I cannot teach you to be an entrepreneur. The same is true in the movie business. There may be a map to the stars’ homes, but there is no map to being a star. It is opaque, it is impossible, it is unlikely, it is different every time.
But somehow every year, great films get made and stars are born.
“I’m there for you, baby” is a reminder that the big con and the big lie are everywhere and that the pursuit of any goal is a singularly individual event. It can be done, it can be achieved. And it is worth doing. It happens every day in a thousand personal moments. Success, fame, fortune, and happiness. Non problemas. I am there for you, baby.
And finally, I hope that in these stories that I can vividly share the pains I felt, the rejections I suffered, the disappointments and failures I embraced, the successes I enjoyed, and most importantly, the lessons I learned. It has been a terrific run, so far.
Entrepreneurship is not something you abandon. It is like a permanent tattoo. For better or worse, you are a marked man.
What I always wanted was a mentor. I think there is no higher calling. To be a mentor carries with it a great obligation to serve well, to be the sherpa on another person’s difficult journey, and to light the path but not to select the route. There are always multiple ways and there is no right way up the mountain.
RULE #161: WHEN TRAVELING IN DARKNESS, BRING A FLASHLIGHT—AND EXTRA BATTERIES. IT COULD TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK.
I never had a true mentor, and so my path has at times been a bit more rocky than it might have needed to be. If I can shine a beacon on the process of entrepreneurship and Rational Man Behavior, then in some very small way, perhaps I can be your interim mentor. And maybe in our dealings together in this book, I truly, wholly, actually can be there for you, baby.
The “rules” in this book are designed to encourage, enlighten, and engage you in the ultimate pursuit of Rational Man Behavior. Whether you are running a multi-billion dollar company or you are the CEO of a company with three employees, every day you confront multiple opportunities to make decisions. Desperately seeking Rational Man Behavior takes effort and is a worthy goal that must be actively pursued. The rules apply whether you’re in a small company, a large corporation, or a nonprofit. Today everyone has to think like an entrepreneur.
RULE #302: MORE MONEY IS LOST THROUGH NEUROTIC BEHAVIOR THAN THROUGH BAD BUSINESS DECISIONS.
There are countless examples, but here is just one from current events. Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, was having an inappropriate relationship with a female consultant, which resulted in his being fired as CEO, and the company’s stock value dropping 12 percent in a week, a loss of more than $5 billion.
If you could sit down with Mr. Hurd over a cup of coffee, you might ask him the following question: Just what the fuck were you thinking? You put at risk your reputation, your wealth, your marriage, as well as the company and its 92,000 employees. What went through your mind, or even more importantly, did anything cross your mind? Or did you just assume that your actions were unique, inviolate, and protected from any consequences?
That kind of behavior is neurotic. It has nothing to do with computers, networks, products, outsourcing jobs overseas, 401(k) contributions, or anything else remotely related to HP and its well-being. It is dumb behavior and the end result of dumb behavior is always disaster.
In this book, we are going to try to help you limit your downside by giving you rules that might prove useful in your daily business interactions. The rules also demonstrate various principles and ways of thinking that might be helpful in achieving successful outcomes. You will notice that the rules are not presented in numerical order. The rules are the rules. Where they appear is situational and varies. I hope you will find that many of the rules apply not only to the “entrepreneurial issue at hand,” but also can be applied to almost any situation in which Rational Man Behavior is the desired outcome.
RULE #261: IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE—IT’S BRAIN SURGERY.
This rule applies directly to entrepreneurship and innovation. We assume that the puzzle being solved is a discrete packet, a concrete idea, e.g., how to put a rocket on the moon. But in fact, the problem being solved is how to think differently about how to put a rocket on the moon if you have never put a rocket on the moon before, and do not even know what a rocket should look like.
In other words, if it is about how to think differently, then indeed, it is brain surgery.
Innovation is about changing the way we think, it is about looking at not only our scientific or cultural past, but also our personal and emotional past—and finding out where they might intersect.
RULE #411: TRY TO ENJOY THE JOURNEY, BECAUSE WHEN YOU GET THERE, THE ONLY THING LEFT TO DO IS CHECK OUT.
The rules are not made to be broken
(Let reason rule)
RULE #1: RETURN EVERY E-MAIL AND EVERY PHONE CALL. The use of “every” can be modified within reason, but in general, adherence to this rule should be in the 90+ percent range.
There are several dozen reasons to adhere to Rule #1, and one of the most important is:
RULE #217: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
The value of returning e-mails and phone calls has been well documented by hundreds of gurus, but people still neglect to do it.
Why? There is no good reason, period. It is a courtesy at the least, and at the best it may lead to a new and potentially valuable or lucrative or innovative piece of information. So, enough said, if you do not intend to follow Rule #1, at least in spirit, close the book, send me your name and address, and I will refund 100 percent of your purchase price.