Is ‘growth-at-any-cost’ worth the price?

“My dad taught me that when you borrow money, it’s the worst day of your life.”                      

– Gary Vaynerchuk 

Go Big or Go Home!

Starting a new company? And feel like growing it, big time, like there’s no tomorrow?

If not, you should!

Or at least that’s what the conventional wisdom suggests.


Hint – it has to do with money (more on that later)…

The next Uber of Whatever

But since we’re talking about money, let’s bring in the conversation the dream of pretty much any young aspiring entrepreneur these days.

Which is of course, creating the next “Uber for [insert service here],” making it big and then going and live the good life!

I know, I might exaggerate a bit, but don’t tell me I am the only one thinking that the “unicorn fun club” is going from strength to strength.

So, assuming you are still with me don’t you think it’s about time to explore a) whether the growth-at-any-cost is worth the price and b) at what point becomes a reckless strategy?

Glad to hear that!

Let’s jump straight in…

The case for going BIG

Before getting into today’s question(s), I think it’s worth opening a small parenthesis and briefly see what’s feeding the ‘go big’ trend.

The answer?

Here you go:

Factor #1: The grow or die inevitability

This of course refers to the long-held belief that growth and (business) survival go hand in hand.

And, in short, the rationale behind this argument is that since, in a competitive marketplace, there will always be other players on the lookout to eat our lunch (aka market share), by not aggressively growing our business and diversifying our portfolio, we make ourselves vulnerable to their attacks.

Factor #2: The bigger, the better logic

You saw that coming, right?

I know.

Aside from the pile of cash that comes from joining the big league, there seems to be another big driver.

Which is that?

Introducing the impact entrepreneurs:

According to Adam Levene, the person that coined this term, “impact entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to disrupt the status quo. Doing their bit to push the world forward is what gets them out the bed in the morning…{And they} do what they do for legacy, not for places on rich lists.”

Having this sort of definition in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a key ingredient of their ‘formula’ is to bring their product/service to as many people as possible.

Hence, understandably, going big seems like a one-way street.

So, with all that said, is it time to admit that go big or go home is the way to move forward?

Wait for it…



It dramatically reduces the possibilities ever making it (yep, hitting it out of the park rarely happens)

It can neutralise the reason(s) why you decided to start a business in the first place (autonomy, control, and being your own boss)

It can end-up making you live to serve the company and not the other way around (having a business that serves your life)  

And most importantly…

Big does not equal great

What; big does not equal great?

I know, shocker.

After all, that statement is the antithesis of today’s startup culture of glorifying anything big (IPOs, press stories, staff numbers, acquisitions, or lottery ticket winners, just to name a few).

But the thing is, size alone not only doesn’t say the whole story, but actually can be a very misleading indicator of a company’s success.


Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in their classic book, Rework, couldn’t have put it better:

What’s wrong with finding the right size and staying there? Do we look at Harvard or Oxford and say, ‘If they’d only expand and branch out and hire thousands more professors and go global and open other campuses all over the world … then they’d be great schools.’ Of course not. That’s not how we measure the value of these institutions. So why is it the way we measure businesses?  

That’s right – small size and greatness are not mutually exclusive.

And just to be clear I am not anti-growth. I am just against one thinking that the only way to build a great business is by getting big.

Small is beautiful

Yes, my friends there is an alternative – staying small and beautiful!

Exactly, the notion that staying small somehow makes you unambitious, lazy, and comfortably mediocre is simply idiotic.

In reality, there are many good reasons why entrepreneurs decide to ditch the go big or go home hype-driven narrative and stay small.

Here are 5 to get you started:

– Retain full control of the business

– Have a healthy and pleasant work-life balance

– Level up the chances building a viable business and make a comfortable living

– Sustain a flexible and not overly complicated business structure

– Keep doing what they do best and enjoy most instead of becoming “the manager”

Moral of the story?

Stop chasing others’ definition of success, set up your own benchmarks, and build a business just big enough to keep YOU happy.

Key Takeaways

– Big doesn’t equal great

– Companies don’t grow or die but rather improve or die

– Going big comes at a hefty cost

– Staying small doesn’t make you unambitious

– Success should be defined on your own terms


Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.”

– Jason Fried

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Struggling to decide what kind of business to start? Beware of the passion project syndrome…

 Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.”

~ Dennis Wholey

Do what you love…

How many times have you been told to follow your passion?

I bet more than you can remember…

And when you asked, “But what about money?”, you probably received the classic response: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

Am I right?

I know. And if you think about it, it’s no wonder why that piece of advice is super popular. Who wouldn’t want to do what s/he loves and get paid for it?

But at this point, you’ll probably wonder: what that has to do with today’s post?

You guessed it: when you are stuck and try to figure out what will be “your thing” (namely, the type of business you’ll get into), following a passion and building a business around it conceptually kind of makes sense.

And today, as we usually do, will dive deep into the subject and see what’s true and what’s BS…

The case for following your passion

Let’s first start with the reasoning in favour of this business model.

According to ‘the believers,’ there are 2 core advantages of following your passion:

Advantage #1: It gives you the drive to persevere through setbacks and roadblocks

How about?

Well, typically the story goes something like this…

– Business is tough

– Plan A rarely works

– Sh*t happens so…

… unless you are all in (and deeply passionate about what you’re doing), chances are you won’t have the necessary mental strength and motivation to face up to the challenge.

Or asGautam Gupta, an advocate of this model, says: “anyone can start a business but it’s infinitely harder to grow and sustain it. When a company faces challenges and falls on hard times (and it always does), it’s your passion and commitment that ultimately get the business through to the other side“.

Advantage #2: It makes your workdays more fun and enjoyable

This doesn’t require a long explanation.

As Confucius said thousands of years ago; “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Kind of a no-brainer, right?

After all, doing all that hard work now, day in and day out, just for living for the weekends (and hoping for a comfortable retirement decades down the road) sounds rather depressing, don’t you think?

So, as they say, there has to be a better way…

Or maybe that better way (aka ‘follow your passion and everything will turn out to be just ok’) is a terrible advice in disguise?

The Fallacy of ‘Love What You Do’                                        

Yep, time to see the other side of this equation!

Why fallacy I hear you ask?

In the opinion of the “follow your love and the money will follow” critics there are 3 key underlying flaws behind this mantra.

Flaw #1: The money often will not follow!

Why do they suggest that?

Well, as they say, just because you’re passionate about something (and you want to turn it into a business) doesn’t mean that:

a) Many others will give a sh*t about and value your thing enough (because it’s a product/service they want or need) bypaying for it

b) You would be good enough (in that craft) to turn it into a living

That’s correct – just jumping into a passion project with total blinders on about its economic viability and, just like our artist friends (which btw, most are broke), force their thing into the market rarely ends up pretty.

Flaw #2: It’s not a prerequisite for doing great work you’ll end up loving

I know, we all heard Steve Jobs famous Stanford commencement speech about the importance of following our passion.

However, the fact of the matter is that Steve Jobs himself didn’t follow his own advice.

As Cal Newport notes in his best-selling book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, “If Steve Jobs followed his overriding lifelong passion, he would have become a great Zen teacher. Instead, he meandered barefooted as a dilettante through early-adulthood, lacked follow-through, and only serendipitously stumbled into technology, management, and marketing.”

Many even suggest that expecting to build a business around something that will fill your soul each and every moment is wholly unrealistic.

Moreover, they add, that passion for something can be developed through the years and rarely struck you at first sight.

Flaw #3: Passions change with time

Last but not the least is the observation that often people’s passions change over time.

So even in the scenario that you set up a business around something you deeply care about, doesn’t necessary mean in 3-4 years down the road you’ll still give a damn about it.

Hence, why even bother in that obsessive quest in the first place?


My take?

Do it the Aristotle way!

Even though I have to admit over the years I’ve changed my mind (multiple times) about the validity of this business mantra, now I tend to agree with our old pal… Aristotle!

What did Aristotle said 2500 years ago?

“Where the needs of the world and your talents cross there lies your vocation.”

Exactly. Follow your (marketable) hard skills and what you’re good at provided there is an established market (that pays for these sort of skills).

Having said that, I do also think that building a business you actually give a sh*t about really matters.

And yes at least for me that means having an interest in the field before diving in is a necessary evil.

So, to sum things up, yes, follow your skills (and the cash) but don’t overlook that the (interest) grass should be at least a bit green to survive the startup game.

So, to wrap up today’s post, here are the key takeaways:

Key Takeaways

– Saying to people “do what you love and the money will follow” is BS advice

– Steve Jobs himself didn’t follow his own advice

– Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation

Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“Work is easier when it’s just work; it’s much harder when you actually care”

– John Maeda

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To Scratch (your itch) or Not to Scratch, That is The Question…

“The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use.

— Jason Fried

User Entrepreneurship Comes Back

I don’t know about you, but I would never start a business unless I felt confident that I understand the market on a deep level.

Yep, call me old school, but I have always felt that (blindly) jumping in an industry that know little to nothing about just because there seems to be a market opportunity is kind of reckless.

I know, I know – many experts think otherwise (mainly because they believe in the “fresh pair of eyes” advantage), but if you ask me that “advantage” is grossly overrated.

Anyhow, no matter in which camp you belong, the conventional wisdom suggests that market understanding comes either:

a) Through domain experience (hands-on industry experience)

b) Or market research (i.e. secondary research, customer interviews, online surveys)

But you know what? Many think there is another way!

Which is that?

That’s right – via user entrepreneurship (aka scratch your own itch).

As you probably already know, this is when you decide to create a product that will address one of the problems you experience yourself, with the hope that if successful, many others that share that itch will be willing to pay for it.

Which is exactly what iconic founders of the likes of Spanx, Airbnb, Dropbox, Basecamp, Dyson, and Patagonia, just to name a few, precisely did…

In fact, this way of starting a business might be a bit more popular than most think, since according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 10.7 percent of U.S. startups overall came from this group of entrepreneurs.

Yes, 1 in 10!

However, as you would probably agree, that alone says very little. What matters most is whether that model, outliers-aside, works or not.

And on today’s post, as we usually do, we will dive deep into the subject and see what is true and what is BS.

Shall we?

Just Do It!

First allow me to start with the case for scratching it…

Benefit #1: You avoid solving imaginary problems

Imaginary problems?

Yes, you did read that correctly. Providing an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist is more commonplace than you think.

According to CB Insights’ 2014 autopsy report*, the most cited reason for failure (42%) was that there was simply no market need.

Having said that, it’s worth stating the obvious: going after a problem that you experience in no way guarantees others will also share that pain (and most importantly will be willing to pay for it).

Nevertheless, for many, even that alone gives you a great head start.

Benefit #2: You have a great grasp of the pain & how it affects the end-user

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Living the problem, day in and day out as ‘a patient’, leaves little room for mystery.

Yeah, no more stabbing in the dark or relying on others to tell you how that problem impacts their life.

What’s wrong with letting others ‘do the briefing’?

That’s correct – at best, it only tells one part of the story!

Which is exactly why observational research has gained so much traction the last couple of years compared to conventional methods of just having focus groups and customer interview.

Benefit #3: You can field-test the product on yourself

Being user-entrepreneur not only makes you the first customer but also the laboratory rat.

And why does that matter?

Jason Field couldn’t explain it better…

When you build what you need, you can also assess the quality of what you make quickly and directly, instead of by proxy. Mary Kay Wagner, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, knew her skin-care products were great because she used them herself. She didn’t need focus groups or studies to know the products were good. She just had to look at her own skin.”

So, with all that said what do you think; time to scratch our own itch(es)?

Why you should never scratch your own itch

Before I share my take on this, it’s fair to also see what the other camp has to say.

And as you can see from the sub-heading, they believe it’s terrible advice.


2 reasons…

Reason #1: By being ‘me-focused,’ you risk limiting your target market to just yourself

Limiting your target market to just yourself?

Yes guys, that’s just a fancy way saying that you risk building something which only you would be willing to purchase!

How about?

Well, according to Chris Lema an advocate of this line of thinking, When you are building a product that meets your own needs, your sample size is you. n=1. That’s it. Guess what? Your situation is your own. It’s no one else’s. You get passionate about things others don’t care about. So if all you’re going by is n=1, then you shouldn’t be shocked when your sales have a similar symmetry (sales = 1).

Which comes in line with what was mentioned earlier about the fact that no one guarantees you that others a) will share that pain point and b) be willing to hand you their hard-earned cash.

Reason #2: Just because you experience a problem doesn’t make you the right person to solve it

Straightforward, right?

After all, it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to understand that a good part of the success of any product lies in the implementation side of things.

And for many industries, unless you already possess domain expertise, just expecting to figure things out on the go won’t cut it.

Of course, you might say that when there’s a will there is a way, but if you ask me, you shouldn’t underestimate how much time is required to go through this learning curve (before even starting to put together the product).

But even if that’s the case, you may add that outsourcing is also option. At the end of the day, that’s not why this method was invented in the first place?

Scratch it, but with caution!

Yes, my friends, I am in favour of this method!

Not only because it gives you a great sense of perspective (and clarity) but also…

… it dramatically increases the chances of not coming up with a solution looking for a problem type of product, a major global killer of startups.

But what about the concern of limiting your market to just you?

Simple – the assumption that somehow scratching your own itch automatically prevents you from doing market research is rather idiotic.

Nobody suggests that you should stay me-focused and avoid doing your market homework.

Of course not!

Your itch would be just the source of inspiration. After that, as a sane person would expect, you have to perform your due diligence and make sure many others also share that pain.


No guesses here – by checking the marketplace and seeing whether people today spend money solving that problem or not.

That’s right, if you can’t find products addressing that need, it’s a clear sign that the market doesn’t exist and I’d strongly consider doing something else.

Having said all that, I do agree with the notion that just because you experience a problem doesn’t by itself make you the right person to solve it.

And I say this because some industries are simply not conducive to outsiders!

So, to wrap up today’s post, here are the key takeaways:

Key Takeaways

– Jumping in an industry that you know little to nothing about is rarely a good idea

– Having a great grasp of the pain, in general, gives you a great head start

– Just because you experience a problem, doesn’t make you the right person to solve it

Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool”

– Richard Feynman

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The ‘Be Everywhere’ Strategy: A winning formula for just-launched startups or a simple way to screw things up?

“Win the battles you are in before you take on new battles”

– Mark Cuban

Life After Launch

Ever heard of the ‘self-selling product’ narrative?

Come on, you know the drill – creating a great product and letting it sell itself!

As we established in an older post, this line of thinking is an almost guaranteed way to go out of business.

Yep. No matter how good your product is, getting customers through the door won’t happen by magic but…

…will require some good, old-fashioned marketing.

Which brings us to today’s subject – the ‘be everywhere’ strategy!

What’s that about?

Simply put, is the idea that when starting out, you absolutely have to put yourself out there and spread the marketing message across ALL the marketing channels that are available to you.

That’s right, we need to let our people know we exist by:

– Creating accounts (and be active) on all the major social media outlets

– Blogging, vlogging, and podcasting

– Publishing ebooks

– Spamming the universe (via email)

– Doing SEO

– Going to events/conferences/meetups

– Jumping into paid advertising

– Getting into webinars

– Putting together a referral program

– Reaching out to influencers

And MUCH more…

But what’s the logic behind this strategy?

Well, according to the “be everywhere” supporters it boils down to these two factors:

Factor #1: Diversification

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been advised to ‘never put all of your eggs in one basket’ multiple times.

And I bet quite a few of you probably thought: ‘that’s sound advice.’ – after all, in business as in life, sh*t happens and having a single point of failure is very dangerous.

How is that translated into startup marketing?

No guesses here; the conventional logic suggests that by spreading ‘your marketing eggs’ around, not only do you avoid relying exclusively on one marketing channel (and mitigating the risk if something goes wrong with it) but…

… it also provides you the opportunity to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” rather than picking winners based on guestimates.

Factor #2: Expanding Reach

Want to broaden your market reach?

Don’t think twice – be everywhere!

Yep. More marketing channels = more visibility for your business (or at least that’s what the claim is).

After all, casting a wider net always catches more fishes, right?


2 Ways Why the Be-Everywhere Strategy Leads You Nowhere

Yes my friends, the “Be Everywhere” Strategy not only is NOT a winning formula for just-launched startups, but in fact is a perfect way to slash the odds of ever making it.

Why do I say that?

Reason #1: There is simply not enough time to do it all

I know, shocker!

Just think for a moment – you’re just starting out as a one-man band (or at best have a small group  of people either as part of your team or as contractors) and it’s expected from you not only to be on top of everything operations-wise but…

… also keep up with a sh*t-load of marketing activities in multiple marketing channels.

Ludicrous, right?

But what if you could have a sustainable ROI in each one of them, hence have the capacity of hiring more people?

Well, that is unlikely to happen…


Reason #2: You’re spreading yourself too thin

And I bet for most this doesn’t come as a surprise.

After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why pulling yourself in so many different directions can sabotage your efforts.

Yeah, each marketing channel has a learning curve and unless you absolutely zoom in, put in the time, and learn through trial and error the ins and out of that channel, cracking it is rather doubtful.

Obvious, right?

Well, it might seem this way but unfortunately, in reality, many do exactly the opposite and fall into the “be everywhere” rabbit hole.

As Marie Wiese rightly points out; “Too many companies are getting lost in a sea of options—but it’s simply not possible to be everywhere and do it all well.” 

Especially when you’re starting out, I’d add.

The alternative?

Mono channel marketing

Yep – limit yourself to just one marketing channel at a time.

That’s right, just ONE.

There, I said it!

And pointless to say, once you absolutely master it, you can always try to add another one into the mix.

But which should be the one?

Well, that would be highly dependent on the type of business you’re in, the audience you’re going after, and last but not the least your personal skillset.

In either case, don’t overthink it, check out the menu, pick the channel that makes more sense to you, and go for it, because unless you start running tests, it’s difficult to tell which is going to work out and which won’t.

With that said, let’s wrap up this post with today’s key takeaways

Today’s Key Takeaways

– Getting customers through the door won’t happen by magic

– Trying to be everywhere at once is an exercise in futility

– Win the battles you’re in before you take on new battles


Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical Step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



 “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing”

-Vince Lombardi

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Looking for early adopters? Don’t hold your breath!

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. ”

– Agatha Christie

Willing to put up with a buggy product? Join the club!

As a customer…

Have you ever got scre*ed by a company?

In a big way?

If so, don’t despair; you’re not alone!

Even though in this day and age people, in general, have become much more sophisticated buyers than they used to be, from time to time, they still end up not getting their money’s worth.

And needless to say, most disgruntled customers don’t keep their feelings secret…

But what if I told you that there is a group of people that are not only willing to put up with a buggy, half-baked product but also are happy pay for it?

I know; Shocker!

So, who are these mysterious individuals?

Behold: The Early Adopters…

According to Steve Blank, These are the people that… see the finished product 18 months from now even if you didn’t show it to them. You know you’re in front of an early adopter when they stop you in the middle of your presentation and run in the whiteboard and draw your diagram even better than you are.”

Yep, this rare breed of people buy into your vision early on, even if the product is still incomplete because:

a) They love the idea of being in an elite group that tries new things before anyone else has

b) They have the ability to see the market potential (and capitalise on it) way earlier than the general public – hence for them it’s an area of opportunity to stay ahead of the curve

So, why are they considered by me many “startup experts” as crucial for getting a new product off the ground?

Three reasons:

Reason #1: Are willing to take a punt on unproven products

Whether new entrepreneurs like to hear it or not, unless a new product is battle-tested in the market (with real, oxygen-breathing… people) you don’t know with certainty whether that thing works as expected or not.

But the thing is, for most people, unless there is a proof (through consumer reviews, testimonials, word of mouth, etc.) that a product does the job, they will simply NOT be willing to park their hard-earned cash.

However, that results in a chicken and egg situation because unless a couple of ‘brave souls’ give the product a chance, a business will be unable to get that much needed market validation.

And according to many that’s where early adopters come in the equation!

Yeah, as mentioned earlier, the conventional wisdom suggests that because this type of customers (due to the afore listed reasons) have a high-propensity to take risks, they can act as a springboard for getting the ball rolling.

Reason #2: Help debug and re-design the product

Other than being the business guinea pig, they serve another valuable purpose…

…which is to help the business debug and re-design their product!

“Redesign.” You did read that correctly!

In the opinion of many experts, early adopters not only will happily pay for an untested product, but also go above and beyond the customer role (which is to buy and consume the end-product) by providing candid and valuable feedback on how to refine it and make it workable.

But wait, there’s more…

Reason #3: Do the marketing for you

Yep, don’t have a marketing budget?

No worries, the early adopters are here to save the situation!


By transforming to early evangelists and sharing the love with everyone they know.

According to our friend Spike Morelli “the most important thing of all [about early adopters, is that], if you make them happy, some of them will become your early evangelist, the ones that will talk to every single friend, Facebook friend, and any living soul really, about your product.”

Sounds awesome, right?

So, what do you think; time to start the hunt for finding them?

You guessed it – HELL NO!

That’s correct, with the startup BS talk out of the way let’s get real.

Early Adopters = Hope Marketing

There, I said it.


For the simple reason that unless you have a disruptive, radically new product with the potential to knock the competition out of the park (yeah, that good) expecting some kind strangers to selflessly take a punt, debug, redesign, and market your thing is, simply put, DELUSIONAL.

Everett Rogers himself (the person who originated the diffusion of innovations theory and introduced the term early adopter) said: “these visionaries are not looking for an improvement they are looking for a fundamental breakthrough…visionaries drive the high-tech industry because they see the potential for an “order-of-magnitude” return on investment and willingly take high risks to pursue that goal.”

Yes, a fundamental breakthrough! And unless I am missing something that happens once in a blue moon.

But most importantly, for most new entrepreneurs, that is not even relevant since the desire to play ‘the visionary’ game is NOT even on the agenda because they get that this roadmap 9.9 out of 10 times will make them no money and act as a stumbling block for getting the much awaited economical and personal freedom they crave for.

So, don’t call me a hater, but I am afraid the early adopter concept, for the majority of new startuppers, not only does not help, but in fact severely undermines their efforts.


And one last thing…

In case you are wondering, if for most entrepreneurs early adopters cannot be an option, who should take a punt on us and play the early user role (for solving the chicken and egg conundrum described earlier) the answer is very simple:

No one!


Yes, my friends, nobody should take a punt on us – as entrepreneurs it’s our job to de-risk the proposition before going public and that can only happen by ditching hope marketing and having a robust alpha and beta-testing in place instead.


Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.



“The big secret in life is there is no secret. Whatever your goal. You can get there if you’re willing to work” – O. Winfrey

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