About Dr. CJ Cornell
CJ Cornell is a veteran media industry executive, entrepreneur, investor, author and educator with a long history of creating products and companies television, broadband, and other consumer media platforms.
As a serial entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder or part of the senior management team of more than a dozen successful start-up ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media and communications products that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.
Most recently CJ Cornell was Professor of Digital Media & Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter School of Journalism & Mass Communication, and Co-Director at the school’s Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, as well as ASU’s first full time Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Some of his startup ventures and experience includes:
- Founder of Chaos Media Networks – the first Video on Demand cable television network in the US, with 10 branded channels, and grew to be one of the largest cable networks on the west coast (sold in 2005).
- Sr. Vice President of Ruckus Networks – the largest music sharing service for college campuses (acquired by Sony and Universal Music Group).
- Founder of Propel Arizona – a pioneering online crowdfunding company that was the largest in the southwest US before it was acquired in Jan 2014.
- VP at Mobileway – a multinational l text messaging technology and content network (acquired by Sybase)
- Founder of Wisdom TV/Sagesse – a cable TV network that also launch some of the world’s first interactive features.
- Co-Founder of Aha Media – a media technology company that used behavior to predict and suggest programs that people would like to watch.
- Founder of ProtoCorp Telesystems – created and deployed the industry’s first smartphones (funded and later acquired by BellSouth corp)
- Founder of ProtoCorp International – launched the first complete PC-based human resources software #1 in the world and sold on all 7 continents.
- Served as a Board Member and Venture Partner at Silicon Ventures, LLC.
He has been an advisor or consultant to companies such as Disney, Comcast, Time Warner, Canal+, Universal Television, Sony, Microsoft and Sun. CJ continues to serve as an advisor and consultant on technology and strategic issues to financial institutions and investment banks, while occasionally serving as an expert witness on matters of business, technology and media.
Based in Phoenix, Arizona CJ Cornell sits on the board of many public entrepreneurship and economic development committees, and
and sits on the board of 5 high tech companies. He recently served on the New York Institute of Technology Dean’s Executive Advisory Board – School of Engineering and Computing Sciences
He is the author of many published academic papers and articles on subjects related to entrepreneurship, technology, media and education. He was one of the first bloggers when he created the popular site Cerebral Graffiti in 1995.
CJ Cornell is the author of the bestselling book The Age of Metapreneurship – A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship, and The Startup Brain Trust – A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Experts that Help them Become Great, and coauthor of the textbook Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
His blog is ranked in the top 50 most influential websites in entrepreneurship and startups, and also is recognized as a top writer on Quora for entrepreneurship and for business development.
CJ Cornell holds undergraduate degrees in engineering, a master’s in management and a Ph.D. in marketing and strategy. Outside of business, CJ has practiced martial arts for 21 years and has been an instructor for eight years. He holds advanced black belts in Karate, Jujitsu, Aikido and in other disciplines. The Smithsonian recognized CJ as one of the influential teachers and mentors of 1999.
ranked in the top 50 most influential websites for entrepreneurship and startups.
- Lesson 1. Be Up-Front: Are you really just looking for a hookup, eye candy, or a sugar daddy? 07:03
Lesson 2. Don’t ask me how to lose 20 pounds the night before the prom. 08:20
Lesson 3. Don’t play hard to get. 10:44
Lesson 4. If you have to tell me how great you are — you’re not. 11:48
Lesson 5. Have a thick skin: Your idea is not as good as you think it is. 15:43
Lesson 6. If all you want is someone to rave about your idea, then call your mother. (If you merely want someone to agree with you, then adopt a parrot) 18:35
Lesson 7. Please be smarter than me — at least about your own business. 21:38
Lesson 8. Please tell me if you’re dating other people. 26:08
Lesson 9. We’re not going all-the-way after the first date. 28:50
Lesson 10. Promise you’ll call me in the morning. 44:30
Dr. CJ Cornell – If all you want is someone to rave about your idea, then call your mother
[00:00:08] Diana White: Hello, and welcome to 10 lessons it took me 50 years to learn. Where we would dispense wisdom to an international audience of rising leaders.
My name is Diana White, and I’m your host. This podcast is sponsored by the professional development forum, which helps diverse young professionals of any age, accelerate their performance in the modern workplace.
On this podcast, you’ll hear honest, practical advice that you cannot learn from a textbook. Today’s guest is Dr. CJ Cornell. CJ has done many things during his career, but one thing is for sure, CJ Cornell lives and breathes entrepreneurship. Over the past 25 years, he’s been a serial entrepreneur, a venture capitalist, an engineer, a scientist, a professor, a mentor, and an author along the way.
[00:01:00] He put himself through school by being a stand-up comedian and a slight of hand magician. He majored in nuclear engineering and later worked on the first space shuttle. But soon he found his real calling was in starting and growing new ventures. CJ was the founder and CEO of six high-tech ventures that attracted over 250 million in funding and had three successful exits. He’s created and launched over 25 consumer and business products that have earned more than 3 billion in revenue.
Somewhere during his journey, he earned his PhD in economics and became a professor of entrepreneurship at Arizona state university, where he helped establish their award-winning entrepreneurship program. Dr. Cornell sits on the board of half a dozen high tech companies and works closely with the Arizona commerce authority as a mentor and a coach for their venture ready program and virtual accelerator program.
These days, CJ gives over 40 speeches [00:02:00] workshops, seminars each year, and does a lot of writing on subjects of entrepreneurship, innovation, cutting edge technology. He is also the co-author of a textbook on entrepreneurship. And his blog is ranked in the top 50 most influential websites for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
CJ’s most recent Amazon bestseller is called the age of The Age of Metapreneurship, a journey into the future of entrepreneurship . And his newest book, The Start-up Brain Trust all about start-up mentors and mentorship will be available for pre-ordering this spring.
[00:02:37] CJ Cornell: Thank you, Diana. Great to be here and thank you for inviting me.
[00:02:40] Diana White: I am so happy to have you here long time in the making too. I’ve been, I’ve been stalking you for a while now. Very busy man, a very busy man. So, uh, we’re going to kick this off before we get to your lessons and we’re going to do something a little bit different and fun with your lessons today. But before we get to that, what would you [00:03:00] tell your 30-year-old self.
[00:03:01] CJ Cornell: Oh, lots of things. I’ve thought about that a lot. Let me say, uh, number one, Becky really didn’t like you, I would tell him that the other one is, as you go forward in life, people are going to be really important to get done what you need to get done and, uh, and that’s important. However, they’re never going to be as motivated as you.
When they’re helping you with your own venture or your own ideas and keep that in mind that they’re never, ever going to be as motivated as you until they’re going to be working on their own venture or their own idea. Otherwise, if you don’t have those, that expectation, things are not going to turn out well.
But if you do have that expectation, everything turns out great.
[00:03:41] Diana White: And I would imagine, you know, you probably started in your career of, of these companies probably in the thirties. And if you had some people around you that you were saying, Hey, I’ve got this great idea, follow me. Let’s do this. Did you have a lot of concerns with them saying [00:04:00] I’m young. I don’t take this as seriously as you do.
[00:04:03] CJ Cornell: It took, it took a couple of ventures to get better at it. But if your vision is compelling enough and you’re articulate enough at it there’ll be people excited, and they’ll find their place in that vision. And they’ll say, you know what? I want to be a part of this.
And this is the part I want. Instead of you telling them. Yeah. I want you to build this for me or something like that. So, uh, it takes time to get good at that to be, I always tell entrepreneurs to try to be the Steve Jobs of your small niche, whatever it is so that people will hear about you, who want to belong to that kind of technology or venture, they’ll find you. And instead of you begging for help, they’ll say I want to help. I see how I can help.
[00:04:49] Diana White: Oh, I love that. Diana White: I love that. So now we’re, this is in keeping kind of. With your book coming out, we’re going to be basing [00:05:00] your lessons today. We’ve got 10 lessons, but we’re basing it off of, eight simple rules.
And I want you to, talk about that, because I remember it, but I don’t know if our listeners know about this. So, so tell us what we’re in for today.
[00:05:13] CJ Cornell: You know, before that TV show that people remember eight simple rules. There was an article and a book, by an author who name escaped me at a moment, uh, because his claim to fame was, a movie called the dog’s purpose if you’re a dog lover, but he wrote something called eight simple rules for dating my teenage daughter.
And it was a, a very blunt, humorous. Slightly caustic warning, to teenage boys dating his daughter. And, uh, I’ve always remembered that. And, I’ve been mentoring for, I actually looked it up since about 2001, 2002. So, you do the math and, as an entrepreneur and a former entrepreneur, I really do want to help entrepreneurs, but mentoring entrepreneurs is a little different because they, they [00:06:00] don’t just need to encourage them.
They do need, honesty and maybe even a little bit of tough love. And a lot of entrepreneurs are so caught up in their vision that they forget the simple rules of life. And a lot of mentors encountered this in their life. So, there was a one point I just got frustrated and I typed out these eight simple rules, which are, a little bit sarcastic, to drive the point home.
[00:06:26] Diana White: I love it. And so, we’re going to go over those. We got 10 simple rules, for engaging with your mentor. Right? And I think that this. Uh, really funny and wonderful spin on that process because a lot of young founders and entrepreneurs you are so right. They’re so caught up in their own thing.
They’re so caught up in their own world and they’re caught up in, how much help. How many resources can I get that they don’t take into consideration the [00:07:00] etiquette and how it needs to be a little bit reciprocal.
[00:07:03] Lesson 1: Be Up-Front: Are you really just looking for a hook-up, eye candy, or a sugar daddy?
[00:07:03] Diana White: And so, I love this. So, let’s get into lesson number one, or, rule number one, right. Be up front.
Are you really just looking for a hook-up eye candy or sugar, daddy? I’m going to laugh each of these, by the way.
[00:07:18] CJ Cornell: A quick word before I shot. It’s not just young entrepreneurs. It’s true. It’s almost any new entrepreneur. and maybe even older ones, or rather, uh, seasoned ones because once you get an idea and you get excited about it. It just takes over your personality. So, uh, and it’s a good thing, but, uh, you have to stay grounded. So, the first one yet is be upfront. Remember, this is inspired by the dating analogy. And you know, there’s a lot of, entrepreneurs who knock on the door of a mentor and what they really want is an investor.
What they really want is someone just to give them quick advice and then be on their way. Okay. And that [00:08:00] can be fine if you’re upfront about it, but there’s nothing more annoying than going through two hours meeting with somebody. And then. at the end of that mentoring session, they ask you for investment or introduction to investors.
And, uh, it’s like, well, if it would have been upfront in the beginning, I could have approached this differently and saved this both time.
[00:08:20] Lesson 2: Don’t ask me how to lose 20 pounds the night before the prom.
[00:08:20] Diana White: Makes sense. It really does. Number two. And again, Dr. Cornell, I’m so sorry, but I’m going to laugh through each one of these. Number two. Don’t ask me how to lose 20 pounds the night before the prom.
[00:08:35] CJ Cornell: As I wrote, I cannot undo the last 12 months of your mistakes, and neither can you. And if you need miracles, call a faith healer, it’s amazing how many people wait until it’s too late to ask for help or ask for advice. And sometimes it’s again, it’s like somebody who gained 20 pounds.
Yeah, it’s going to take time though, to undo what you did or unlearn what [00:09:00] you did. I so there were so many that come to you when they have $10 left in their bank account and you know, they, and they can’t go on or some disaster has happened, and they could have taken care of it a little sooner. And I understand, you know, why one would do this, and it actually is not relegated just to entrepreneurs.
I think a lot of people do this when asking for advice, but entrepreneurs seem to do this so often, you know, it’s like, wait, you know, I need to hire people. Well, what happened? Well, you know, 30 people just quit last night and it’s like, I can’t undo that there was some fundamental problems that you should have handled six months ago.
[00:09:37] Diana White: So true. CJ, do you find that some of these problems stem from not doing the right research or the best SWAT and feasibility analysis in the first place by these founders? Can that be a factor sometimes?
[00:09:52] CJ Cornell: It could be. It’s just an entrepreneurship is its own. Animal. It’s very intensive. You’ve got to [00:10:00] juggle a lot of balls.
And so sometimes you seem to bound to happen may or maybe you’re hoping for things to get better or go away. But I think it’s just the nature of the beast. And you know, if you’re an entrepreneur where everything goes smoothly, well, I envy that. I also have to question if, you’re taking enough risk, if you’re moving fast enough,
[00:10:20] Diana White: Oh, wow.
So, I need you to repeat that because that’s amazing if things are going smoothly, that could be a good sign, but it also says what maybe?
[00:10:31] CJ Cornell: Oh yeah. If things are going too smoothly, it might be your sign that you’re too methodical about it. Moving too slow. Or not taking enough risks.
[00:10:40] Diana White: Oh, that’s a bumper sticker. That’s a bumper sticker right there.
[00:10:44] Lesson 3: Don’t play hard to get
[00:10:44] Diana White: So, number three, don’t play hard to get.
[00:10:48] CJ Cornell: Yeah, so, you know, there, there are just so many entrepreneurs who, when they first described their venture, you get the impression that it is much bigger than it is, [00:11:00] uh, or that they’re doing much better than it is. It’s only later that you understand that they’re really struggling.
In fact, everybody is struggling. I haven’t met an entrepreneur yet. I’m sure Elon Musk sits back in his bed, you know, and thinks about the struggles he’s going through. Don’t try to hide that, because we want to. All right. Everybody wants to help, but particularly the mentors want to help. And if you were evasive or your positioning, because you want to puff out your chest or so I get it, it’s marketing, but not to your mentor, we want to help.
And it’s going to take time for us to peel away that. And you know what the experienced, mentors will see right through it in the beginning at first, it’s comical, but if you keep it up, it just seems like you’re being, evasive and you’re hiding something.
[00:11:45] Diana White: Makes sense. It really does. All right.
[00:11:48] Lesson 4: If you have to tell me how great you are — you’re not
[00:11:48] Diana White: Number four, if you have to tell me how great you are. You’re not,
[00:11:54] CJ Cornell: I find this most often with, uh, experienced [00:12:00] entrepreneurs, experienced executives who eventually become entrepreneurs and they always have to preface of what they’ve done before. Uh, they, they have to give me their credentials, not just personally, but if they’re pitching the same thing and you know what it is, one of the great mysteries is the more you do that.
The less credibility you have, the more that you have to go on about how great you were in your past life. You know what, because that has a half-life of about 10 minutes in a, in a new venture, right. It’s good to open a few doors, but if you start to have to tell me how great you are before I discover it, it’s going to work against you.
[00:12:42] Diana White: This is something that I’ve actually noticed? This is human nature. This is the nervous tick. This is the, I’ve got an opportunity of a lifetime in front of me, and I really don’t want to botch it up. So let me puff up like a, like a peacock, and do whatever it takes.
Do you have [00:13:00] any advice for people to say, look at these warning signs, look at these triggers. If you have said this, or if you have done this, or, you know, my biggest thing is when I tell people, when they’re talking to someone else, watch their eyes. If their eyes start to glaze over a little bit, look at their feet.
If their feet start to point outward, they want out, they want out of this conversation. So, you have any tips on that?
[00:13:25] CJ Cornell: Well, in this context, I will say two things. One, you’ll be honest in the sense of we get that there’s marketing, but when you’re pitching to investors and particularly to mentors and coaches take away all the window dressing and the sugar-coating, all that.
So, for, I’ll give you a for instance, when I see a team that says collectively, we have 200 years of experience in this field. I yeah, I sort of get into this true and all that, but that’s an example of trying to make it seem a lot more than it is. It Or there are people who have had [00:14:00] five. failed ventures in their past.
And really each one of them was John DOE and associates, a one-person venture. Uh, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you try to make it seem like you’re a serial entrepreneur or had more traction than you did, it’s only going to work against you.
[00:14:17] Diana White: Yeah, I will tell you this, you know, one of the things that I respect about you so much, we travel in the same global entrepreneurship circles.
Right. And I remember when I was. Introducing you when we did an event together and it was, it was online and I was regaling, you know, six ventures, all this stuff, amazing stuff. And, and you stopped me, and you were sure to make me point out. They weren’t all successful. Diana, make sure you tell people that I had ventures, but they weren’t all successful.
And I just said, wow, who does the. That is novel.
[00:14:55] CJ Cornell: I also point out another thing, but for a different reason is that I’ve had, you know, [00:15:00] three exits and one of them was over a billion dollars, but I never saw most of that money. Right. And that was a big lesson learned, but I want to make people, understand that just because someone has a, a big event, a big success doesn’t mean that they reap the benefits of it. And a lot of times there’ll be, uh, an entrepreneur. This is consistent with what we’re talking about, where, you know, they’ll say, oh, you know, I was with, Uber in the beginning, but they may have been, had no part in making them a success.
Credential is a little bit misleading. Like you said, if we have to tell me how great you are…
[00:15:35] Diana White: You know what? I always wondered. Why didn’t you invite me on your private yacht? Well, now, now I know.
[00:15:43] Lesson 5 Have a thick skin: Your idea is not as good as you think it is.
[00:15:43] Diana White: All right, let’s get to number five. Number five, have a thick skin. Your idea is not as good as you think it is.
I think I need to say that 50 times, but go ahead.
[00:15:54] CJ Cornell: This is very common. I mean it, I get it. You know, if you have, if you think you have a great idea, [00:16:00] Gosh, it’s more dear to you than you children sometimes. And, even after all this time, I have to walk on eggshells around entrepreneurs, trying to give a reality check if you will, on the idea.
And this is tough because a lot of mentors and a lot of mentorship programs and entrepreneurship program want to encourage an entrepreneur and there’s encouragement, but also, there’s, uh, kind of there’s false, uh, false encouragement. If you go, oh, you know, and because you don’t want to discourage somebody and I get that, but on the other hand, Uh, where you’re coming from mentorship or your, you really want to make a go of it.
You need to give your ideas some scrutiny. And, you know what, for the cynical experience, folks like myself, we’ve seen it. Now, and we were mentioning before, if you’re watching this on video, there’s a pets.com sock puppet, on a shelf above me. And for those who don’t know, pets.com was one of the great.com crash and burn [00:17:00] failures that they delivered pet food online.
Now, today, people find that extraordinarily useful, 20 years ago, unfortunately, uh, it wasn’t the right time. Maybe not the right execution, I don’t know, but it crashed and burned. But it’s still a great idea. It is a great idea, but it’s an idea that needed some scrutiny to say, well, you know, people might like it, but they may not behave that way today.
Well, all ideas can have that kind of scrutiny. Even Apple went through time, you know, they had Apples had failed products. They had the Newton, right. And it took another, the near a, a tablet type device and it failed horribly. It’s a case study in MBA programs today. Right. But it took another 10 years or more for the iPad to come out.
So, uh, you know, if you’re afraid to criticize it, you’re not and helping the entrepreneur anyway. Uh, no one likes having their idea criticized and they get very defensive, but it’s a gift. It’s a gift because most people are too nice [00:18:00] to criticize you. At the very least, even if the criticism is not fair or not true, you get practice at, diplomatically, countering that.
All right. if it is true, you think about it and you do something about it. And if there’s nothing you can do about it, then you have a gift, something to think about, right. Something that you can do, something about.
[00:18:22] Diana White: I love that attitude and approach and this, is a segue into number six.
So, lesson number five, is telling you, Hey, Absorb that honesty, you know, make sure you surround yourself with people that will tell you the truth.
[00:18:35] Lesson 6 If all you want is someone to rave about your idea, then call your mother
[00:18:35] Diana White: But if you don’t want to get that lesson, then lesson number six, here we go. If all you want is someone to rave about your idea, then call your mother, and then I’m going to add another little line that you put in here that I, I literally laughed for about 10 minutes straight.
I think. If you merely want someone to agree with you, then adopt a parrot.
[00:18:57] CJ Cornell: It’s sad, but I, I will say a [00:19:00] good percentage of the entrepreneurs that I either meet. Or observed, cause I’m in a position where, because of online mentorship, where there are a lot of virtual groups where there are entrepreneurs and a lot of mentors.
And so, I get to hear from entrepreneurs who I’m not necessarily mentoring as well. And you know, frankly, when they’re talking about their idea, they just want validation. They don’t want, to know what else they have to do to make it successful or worse, what they have to do differently. It’s just important because they, they, they may have done things already and to be told that your idea is not perfect and I’m being nice. Uh, your idea is flawed, and you have to go and redo something. No one wants to hear that. I get it. A lot of people need to hear it in a good way.
because again, going back to one of the first rules is that, you know, if you’re coming to me, usually because something’s wrong, not because things are going right, right. Unfortunately.
[00:19:59] Diana White: [00:20:00] Yeah. I, you know, someone once. said, I don’t know what the context was, but it was a lawyer and you know, we were just talking and they said, Diana, you know, reason why people have such a bad feeling about lawyers.
And I said, I, you know, I don’t know why he says because they wait until it’s not salvageable. They wait until there’s anger before they come and see us. People came to us beforehand to say, Hey, this is going on in my life. How do I legally structure it so that if things need to fall apart, it’s in place?
We don’t have any bad feelings if they did that. They’d hate us a little bit less. I almost think it’s the same with, entrepreneurship, mentorship, getting funding.
[00:20:45] CJ Cornell: I’ll add one that I, uh, you just reminded me of that heard a long time ago. Uh, cars, automotive. A lot of people will wait until it’s too late or until something big is wrong, including myself.
Or, you know, until they hear the noise and then even [00:21:00] then they’ll wait. Whereas a real expert in cars will open the hood and he’s going to look for problems, right? Like there’s something that may go wrong. It’s not yet. Okay. And that way they don’t have to, again, ask to lose 20 pounds a night for the prom or go there when the oil has been out for two months, and the engine is ready to explode.
[00:21:22] Diana White: CJ, you, you hit it on the nail. You really, really did. It’s so true. and I I’m trying to be more of that person, but I was that person like, Hey, if I don’t hear any bad noise, It’s good. Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right.
[00:21:38] Lesson 7: Please be smarter than me — at least about your own business
[00:21:38] Diana White: Number seven. Be smarter than. Oh, you put a please in here. So, I’m going to read that again. Please be smarter than me, at least about your own business. So, talk to me about that one.
[00:21:50] CJ Cornell: Yeah. I’ve always been amazed that there’s one. Even I spent a stint as a venture capital partner in Silicon valley.
And wanting to be naively [00:22:00] entrepreneur friendly. Uh, and I got to vet or talk with a lot of entrepreneurs seeking funding, and it’s amazing how many of them will anchor into a market and start talking to people. Uh, without fully, just doing the research. And I don’t mean like research in the, in the university professors sort of way, but my goodness, you have Google, you can find out everything there ever was to know about something.
Uh, and, even in your field where there has been flawed attempts in the past, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it, but it does mean you should know about. It does mean that you should know why, like again, pet.com, you know, tell you if you’re opening up a pet business. Well, and I bring up pets.com.
You should know about it. And tell me why today different, because I can’t tell you many times while talking to an entrepreneur, I’m typing away, Googling the business, right. And finding out. And I, and all of a sudden, I know more than them only because I was willing to do that. [00:23:00] And that affects their credibility.
It really does because that’s free that’s something you should be doing all the time, being the expert in your niche of the business. And it just always surprises me. How many entrepreneurs don’t do that.
[00:23:15] Diana White: I think there’s a percentage of entrepreneurs that, and I, and I hope this goes viral.
Right? I hope so many entrepreneurs hear the lessons that you’re giving us today. These rules, because so many of them have it backwards. So, the first thing they have backwards is. Oh, my gosh, I need money. How can I get it? Let me start a business when it should be. I want to start a business. I have a, a solution to a pain point.
Let me save so that I can do this the right way. Almost in the same vein. It’s they have an idea. They don’t think, honestly, let me do as much research as I possibly can. They go to the mentor to say, tell me what to do. Tell me about this business. Tell me if it’s viable. Tell me all these things when really, they should do their [00:24:00] homework before they come to this person.
[00:24:02] CJ Cornell: Well, in the, uh, upcoming book about mentorship, I use a couple of examples that are familiar to people about one of the most famous mentors, at least in film and movies. Actually, there were two Yoda of course, but everybody knows the karate kid and
[00:24:16] Diana White: Mr Miyagi?
[00:24:17] CJ Cornell: Yeah Mr. Miyagi. And that is one of the better examples.
So, in martial arts, there’s a lot of examples of mentorship because that’s sort of. The mode of how martial arts is built around. And if you look at, let’s say jujitsu of where it or Akido, where you wait, you watch, you watch your opponent, you watch w and then you watch and learn, and then you wait till the right time.
You just don’t go diving in without knowing your opponent. Who would do that? All right. Well, somebody with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence which unfortunately describes most entrepreneurs that you and you know what a lot of times, yes, you can dive in with the confidence that goes along with ignorance. And yeah, sometimes there’s an [00:25:00] advantage of having a blind eye to all of the distractions.
I get it, uh, because a lot of entrepreneurs doesn’t matter, young or old, you start Googling and you find out, oh my God, you know, 300 people have the same idea as me in the past. And then you just get discouraged and you drop it. That’s wrong too. That’s the corollary. That’s wrong too. It’s more you know, let me figure out why those didn’t work.
Let me figure out what was wrong with that, uh, in the past, because it’s like, wow, there’s 300 examples of where I could get valuable information without anyone knowing it just same thing as an entrepreneur who all of a sudden discovers, there’s a new competitor out there and they get discouraged and it’s like, there’s new competitor out there.
That’s a gift now that cause on their website, they’re going to tell you everything that they’re doing. Right. And, and you can now improve on it. but unfortunately, a lot of folks just can have a blind eye and sometimes on purpose, they just don’t want to hear it because they want to move forward. And with the [00:26:00] confidence, like I said, and it’s only when it’s too late that they’re going to find out. So that’s just a warning for them.
[00:26:06] Diana White: Oh, my goodness.
[00:26:08] Lesson 8: Please tell me if you’re dating other people.
[00:26:08] Diana White: Well, number eight. And I’m going to put a disclaimer here. This is my, this is my own personal thing. This is for business, and this is actually going back to the eight rules of dating my daughter. This is for life personal life, business, everything. Number eight. Please tell me if you’re dating other people.
[00:26:30] CJ Cornell: Yeah. I tried to change a lot of word for a modern political correctness, but yeah, this started out with dating your advisor because a lot of times, engaging with, let’s say an investor. Or, or a mentor because it’s supposed to be a long-term relationship has a lot of corollaries or analogies to dating, but let’s keep it nice.
So, uh, when you have a mentor or advisor, just let them know that you’re talking to other folks getting advice. I mean, in an official way, I don’t mean just [00:27:00] picking up the phone. Yeah. Because again, there’s few things more annoying than, uh, an entrepreneur that’s shopping around for advice, because what it means is that you’re looking for either surveying the best advice, which is not a good idea, or you’re shopping around for someone to tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
And, you know, either way, you know it, because I need to know if you’re getting bad advice. So, I can say something about it or so I have the choice to let you go on your way, because you’re going to listen to your uncle more than you’re going to listen to me,
[00:27:31] Diana White: Makes sense. It really does.
And that is, I can tell in, in your illustrious career of mentoring and being an entrepreneur and working with the ACA and all those things, you’ve had a lot of people come to you and say, well, my cousin’s friend’s brother, sister, Says this and you’re like, great. What does that have to do with me?
[00:27:54] CJ Cornell: Well, I think an even more common, uh, more and more common is, you know, uh, there are entrepreneurs who [00:28:00] are, can multiple accelerator programs. which is interesting to me because one should be enough, my opinion, then they come out and say, well, I learned this and this accelerator program.
It’s a little different than. and then I have to either spend time clarifying countering or contradicting, and that’s not bad. It’s not that as long as I know that if I don’t and you have set in your mind, something that you think you’ve learned and I’m fighting an uphill battle. And, uh, no mentor wants to waste their time because mentors don’t get paid mentors do this for a lot of other reasons.
So, just keep in mind, we don’t want to waste our time. We’re making a decision to spend our time with you. So, these are tips to make sure that we don’t waste our time.
[00:28:45] Diana White: So, Diana White: that authenticity and that transparency is critical for that relationship.
[00:28:49] CJ Cornell: Yep. Absolutely.
[00:28:50] Lesson 9: We’re not going all-the-way after the first date
[00:28:50] Diana White: Okay. Number nine. We’re not going all the way on the first date.
[00:28:58] CJ Cornell: Okay. So, [00:29:00] uh, there’s so many, uh, that I’ll get introduced to, and they say, I want some mentoring. I don’t know what that means. Exactly. I want some mentoring it’s like saying, I, I only want an hour of dating, actually. I do know what that means,
The ultimate goal is your success as an entrepreneur, but there are other goals in a way. Okay. So, you might want me to be on your advisory board. You want, you might want me to make an introduction to an investor. You might want me to do something more than being a mentor or invest myself all, you know, in the realm of possibility.
But not in the first meeting. I, you know, it’s not going to happen in the first meeting that we have an hour. And then I say, okay, I’ll sit on your advisory board or, uh, you know sure, sure. I’ll introduce you to somebody that, uh, I have known for 30 years and, or, or some celebrity contact and introduced them to somebody that I’ve known for an hour.
it’s not going to happen and [00:30:00] to have those expectations or worse is to ask me it is a little, uh, presumptuous. Cause it also makes it seem like you have an ulterior motive that I didn’t know about. And, and, and that’s not a good, you know, foot to step off on right. Relationship.
[00:30:15] Diana White: Right. But is it, okay if you know, an entrepreneur founder knows that they’ve done their research.
And they do have specific things that they’re looking for from you, your specific expertise. Is it okay to be bold enough to say, Hey, Dr. Cornell, I’m sitting down with you because I know you’re an expert in this, this and this, and these are the things I really want to focus on with my time with you.
If you’re willing, is that ok?
[00:30:41] CJ Cornell: Oh, it’s more than okay. It’s actually perfect. Um, and in fact, I point that out in the upcoming book is that these days, and I’ll, I’ll take a digression for about 30 seconds here. So, entrepreneurship used to be pretty casual, uh, you know, 20 years ago, even 10 to 12 years ago, you know, you [00:31:00] were a dynamic person with a great idea, some skills or capability you dove in, you started a company.
but then we started to have framework. Like the business model canvas, or the lean start-up methodology for teaching it. And you know, it may seem a little, um, uh, contrived, but it’s not, it there’s a framework for those to follow. And, uh, and for the past 10, 12 years, particularly in accelerators university, We follow them.
Well, mentorship used to be pretty casual as well. You know, you met somebody, you were introduced to somebody, you sit down and have coffee and then the relationship developed. but today it’s evolved to the point where there needs to be some framework and methodology behind there’s that to be that formal, but yes, to say, to come in and say, look and agree, even to say, look, here are the five or 10 things that I would love to improve about myself as an entrepreneur.
Or about my company and I’ll make a statement here, just so for the sake of people here, [00:32:00] mentors focused on the founder. Advisors, focus on the company. Okay.
[00:32:04] Diana White: Thank you for clarification on that.
[00:32:06] CJ Cornell: Uh, and there, there were some hybrids in between, particularly if there’s a mentor or coach that works for an accelerator, then there was a curriculum, but again, it’s still supposed to be about the founder’s journey.
For the mentor, in that case. And that doesn’t happen in one sitting, there’s no miracle workers, you don’t walk out of a meeting with a mentor transform. Uh, sometimes you do when you’re inspired by somebody, but, uh, it takes time. And, to go in and say, here are the things I think I need to work on. I want to get better at motivating people. I want to get better at articulating my idea. I know that there’s a lot of things in about entrepreneurship and we’re using money that I don’t know about, which is by the way of really tough admission for most entrepreneurs is they, they like to pretend they know.
And so, and you said, okay, and then the mentor may tweak it a little bit saying, well, I also see these things and now we have a priority to [00:33:00] work on. And then the mentor can say, okay, between now and the next time we meet do these three things, just focus on these three things and then we’ll come back and meet.
and that, that sounds like a methodology, if you will. It is cause methodology one is when you meet, start talking about the 10 objectives that you have. All right. So, it’s actually very good is actually a great sign of an entrepreneur. Who’s self-aware enough to know, that they have things to work on. They want to get better at.
And, and yes, of course, that path, you know, there’s usually only one or two paths that an entrepreneur wants in the beginning, you know, funding, funding, revenues, and maybe some other goals that are short of that, but there’s really only two of those and revenues. I think, you know, uh, customers, I’m sorry, customer.
Who will give them revenue? Right. And so, uh, everything else is sort of secondary to that. So yes, it’s pretty obvious. you know, every entrepreneur wants those things, but you have to do, you have to know, and you have to be [00:34:00] certain things in order to get those, the funding and the customers. And if you’re self-aware enough to know what that is, that you’re lacking in the beginning.
Wow. That’s great. If you’re not let them, make your help you be self-aware. All right. Is, you know, in, in hearing your story, the mentor can say, okay, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to start doing podcasts. To talk about your venture and to articulate what it is. Right. I want you to start, visiting this company or talking to these people, you know, he or she can give you a little assignments like that.
and maybe give you the benefit of things that they’ve learned. But I, I caution about that part because there’s far too many mentors who will. reminisce about their careers and say, here’s what I did with the implication you should do the same thing. Remember mentors are not perfect either. And entrepreneur need a little bit of filter for that, of that nostalgia.
But anyway, the lesson here though, is that the mentor mentee relationship [00:35:00] is not a one-time thing. It takes, it’s going to take an evolution. It’s going to take time and you should understand that.
[00:35:06] Diana White: So, let me ask you a question that I think maybe some of our viewers and listeners might want to ask, but may not have the right person to ask or may not have the bravery to ask.
Is it okay? If you find someone let’s, say of your caliber that has done so many things and I get an audience with you and you give me advice or you give me homework, Is it okay? Is it appropriate? And is there a certain way to say. I don’t know if I believe that. I don’t know if I want to go down that path, barring that you’re not just don’t tell me my baby is ugly.
Like this is you’re doing your research. You’re open, you’re listening, but there is something that is missing in the connection. As the founder you almost sometimes feel powerless because you’re like this person is holding the future of my baby in their hands. [00:36:00] So tell me if you’ve ever come across situations like that.
And what’s the best way to have that conversation?
[00:36:05] CJ Cornell: Oh, well of course it happens all the time and there are two main mentors. entry points, if you will. it’s the one-on-one mentor. In other words, somebody that you meet, uh, actually, so you meet and then eventually you decide together that, okay, let’s go on this journey together.
I can help you. it doesn’t happen that way, that often make that methodically. It should. And I want it to in the future, the other way, if you were assigned a mentor as part of some program, Either way. it should start with an establishment of trust and respect for each other, for each other. you know, there, there were actually proteges where we call them founders that I’ve worked with, who are a real mess.
And, and I’m not sure. I exactly respect them, but I want to help them because I feel that maybe either I used to be like that and I wanted somebody or, uh, what [00:37:00] do I say, uh, thereby the grace of God go me, if somebody doesn’t help this person. Right. And, but it, they need to be ready. And that takes a little bit of time to establish that you’re right.
Entrepreneurs are not good at vetting. Who’s a good mentor who, or even a good advisor. They look at a credential or when I say credential. Okay. So-and-so came from. Uh, Microsoft AI department or something. Well, it’s good, but it may not be what you think it is. I mean, you know, that person may have, be a deep scientist, but not good at explaining it to other people and so on and so forth, or if it’s part of an organization.
And this is another problem that I’m hoping to, you know, impact organizations that are notoriously bad at vetting mentors that they sign up. For their organization. They’re very bad at it because they look at credentials. They want a hundred mentors. I don’t know why they go for quantity over quality, but they want a hundred [00:38:00] mentors on their roster.
And they look at people who apparently are successful. Small businesspeople, successful executive. But the simple fact is just because you were successful in that field, doesn’t mean you’re a successful mentor. And I’ll say this one for the record this is talking to the mentors, but entrepreneurs listen is let’s say that you are a great doctor, a great cardiologist.
Okay. And you know that over half a million people per year die of heart disease. Okay. and that’s more than COVID or any of those stuff, half a million per year, it’s just in the United States, but you have the cure. If you tell people to exercise and eat, right, you can reduce that by 90%. So, you type out on a blog, or even a tweet, exercise and eat, right.
And you will not get heart disease. Your job is done, right? No, no, because it’s not going to happen unless you have the wherewithal to get people, to actually take your advice. All right. And [00:39:00] so if you’re an expert at something or experienced and you want to be a mentor, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good mentor, right?
The judgment of a good mentor is who takes your advice. And then what the result of that is, and that is a new skill. So, the point is, is that just because someone’s experience or an expert, has credentials doesn’t mean that they’re going to be good at mentoring somebody and imparting that advice and getting them to take action.
Right? That takes time and experience. I think programs are a double edge. They’re bad at vetting, but they are helpful in providing those guide rails. Guidelines, and guide rails. So, it’s a double edge. And so, uh, there’s no great answer of how, does, an entrepreneur know. Except you should indeed vet the mentor a little bit, you know, maybe not directly ask, although it’s a good thing, but look up anybody who’s experienced today, you can look up their background.
You can see if they’ve mentored anyone else. Frankly, and I know it may sound [00:40:00] unfair, but if someone’s really good at mentoring, whether deliberately or not on their LinkedIn page, there’s going to be people saying so, all right, sure. Or, you know, there’s going to be people who are saying, yeah. You know, I knew that guy within the comment or so, and you know, if you’re dealing with a mentor these days that is not active in social media, they may be more of a role model.
But maybe not a mentor. I, I don’t, I know it sounds unfair, but it seems to be the new normal. So anyway, those are a couple of ways.
[00:40:32] Diana White: First of all, that is a nugget of wisdom that I hope people really take away. And we’re not here to bash anybody. Right. Everybody brings different skill sets to the table. And I really think, cause I am running, the incubator that I run, I do come into situations where people cold call me. They reach out to me, and they say, I want to be a mentor. Well, I personally vet every mentor that comes into my program. Not [00:41:00] only do I vet them. I in a sense, I become one of their founders.
Well, we have this conversation, and they don’t realize I’m asking them questions that founders would ask. I want to see what they bring to the table. And then I asked them if they would be willing to do a workshop. That’s one of the biggest things I do all the time is when I have a new mentor come aboard, I’m like, Hey, are you willing to do an hour workshop at lunch and learn a speaker series?
Just to see how they handle, that kind of an audience. What are they giving? How are they impactful? And, you know, barring me, making them jump through hoops of fire. That’s the best way that I could find to figuring out not only who brings something to the table, but who fits our incubator culture? We have a culture, right? So, everything made me laugh. Everything gave me joy and gave me a lesson, but that should resound with everyone, I think.
[00:41:55] CJ Cornell: Well, I think for those who are watching this on video, you may have seen me looking down. I was writing [00:42:00] down, because, uh, there’s learning something, from Diana, which was actually very valuable, which I will point out in just a moment is that programs having a criteria to vet against is actually very helpful for both the program and the prospective mentor.
A lot of the, uh, Incubators accelerators and programs. Entrepreneurship program may have defacto criteria. Let’s say Well, we need mentors in law, which is again, that’s an advisor, but let’s just say mentors experience in law, patents, IP, if, and that’s fair to say, you want to experience in it, but that’s not exactly what they should be mentioning.
Uh, and, but, uh, the point is that in becoming there, I liked that you becoming their founder, in vetting them. here’s the thing that mentors or prospective mentors, again, you understand is that it’s an extra skillset. in other words, if you know, you could be an experienced and expert, but now you need to flex another muscle.
[00:43:00] It’s just like you’re saying to me, I’m experienced I’m expert and now. The world to know me as a thought leader. Well, my next statement is going to be well, you’re going to have to be good at social media. You’re going to have to let, it’s not enough to just know what you’re talking about. You have to know how to write, present and be good in social media.
no one would really question. But if somebody says, I want to be a mentor now, you know, how hard can it be? Right. Of course. But it is something where you need to learn or at least have guidelines for. so, when you’re doing that, you have the criteria for a program, certainly, you know, you can say, well, uh, look for our program, you would need to have been a mentor for some accelerator once before.
we need to know the names of a couple of folks. Now for executives and experts they’re not used to being questioned like that and having to prove. But it, you know, if you want to up the game, right. That’s what you got to do because frankly on the other side of that wall, when you become a mentor and you get better at it, you [00:44:00] want it just the nature of being an expert.
You want recognition that you’re better at it than some of the others. Well, if there’s no criteria, how are you going to know? Right. If you’re placed in the same group or someone who’s got 10 minutes to experience versus 10 years. And so, it’s actually important, not just for the founders, but for your future mentors as well, because if you’re not vetting and you’re just accepting anybody well, it’s like, I don’t know if I feel good about that, about being involved with that.
And so that affects the overall quality too.
[00:44:30] Lesson 10 Promise you’ll call me in the morning
[00:44:30] Diana White: I agree. I agree. So last lesson, another chuckle. I’m sorry. Promise me. You’ll call me in the morning.
[00:44:42] CJ Cornell: yeah. And so, this has got back to, not about the entrepreneur, but about the mentor. Again, mentors don’t get paid. The corollary to a paid mentor is called the coach.
And that’s fine. If you want to be held accountable like that, and coaches are good at what they do. It’s just a different, purpose, different region. [00:45:00] And frankly, usually more experienced entrepreneurs were more self-aware. We’ll go get a coach and pay for one, but mentors do it for a lot of reasons, but mainly they say they want to give back, but it’s also for a lot of it.
They want to see the impact of what they do forget about giving back. You know, they want to know, well, if I’m giving advice, it is helping, maybe I can get better at it. I can’t do that without feedback. And I want to know or else there’s no motivation. I actually wanted something from the entrepreneur.
I wanted to interview him for something else I’m doing. And he said, okay, I’ll, I’ll tell you about this subject, for an hour of mentoring and I thought to myself. there’s no such thing as an hour of mentoring, it doesn’t work like that. It’s like saying, uh, you’re a black belt and give me an hour lesson so I can go beat up the bully.
It doesn’t work like that. It takes practice. It takes time. Right. And so, you know what we wanted, if you don’t like the mentor where they gave the bad advice shirt, go on your way. [00:46:00] Right. But if they gave you something useful or something. Like let’s say, okay. There’ve been times where I’ve given an entrepreneur some advice about what to say, how to act in a private meeting with a venture capitalist.
Certainly. I want to know how it all turned out and maybe he tells me all of, I forgot this part, or, you know what he said, what you said he was going to say, and I was ready for it. That’s great to hear. But other times it’s like, no, he blindsided me. He said this. That’s good for me to know as well. And then we can talk about it and go to the next step.
But that’s feedback is very important for a mentor. And, you know, if it’s just one-off I, or if I hear from you again in six months, because you’re out of money, I don’t know if I have the motivation to talk further. And so, it’s just human nature, but just realize that the mentors are human, and they want feedback.
They want to know that they’ve helped, or they want to know if something didn’t go according to plan.
[00:46:55] Diana White: let me tell you, I love the lessons, AKA [00:47:00] rules. I cannot wait for your next book. If it’s anything like what we discussed today, I’m going to have a blast reading that book.
[00:47:08] CJ Cornell: Uh, yeah, the book is called the start-up brain trust and it’s both for the mentors and for the entrepreneurs.
it, some of it’s fun. The other parts are all there. There’s now a little bit of a framework, so, uh, it’s a little less casual approach about mentoring, and hopefully a little bit of a handbook and for programs too, uh, and as I like to say, uh, you know, starting in May, if you go to any of the fine bookstores in town and ask them.
And ask them where the other books are sold. You can they’ll, they’ll tell you where the brain trust will be. No, it’ll be on Amazon, starting in May.
[00:47:44] Diana White: I love it. Well, I have a last question for you. What have you had to unlearn?
[00:47:51] CJ Cornell: Uh, good question. Give me a few seconds to pause on that one. Um, okay. this is a weird one.
[00:48:00] I think you saw my, uh, you read, uh, in my introduction, I spent a great deal of time. Now I started off as an introvert. I mean, a real great introvert. And then I guess as a solution to that is I started performing stand-up comedy and magic. actually put myself through school doing that. And that takes a lot of extrovertedness if you will being able to speak in public.
And that was a great skill. It actually had a buoyed me in several different situations. Uh, just the ability to be comfortable like that. But, uh, I think sometimes that comes at the expense of listening skills. And, you know, because being able to articulate and knowing what to say, that’s a learned skill and it’s a good one, but I think I, if I, to unlearn that a little bit, to be a better listener, particularly as a mentor, to be a better listener, despite that there are times that I think I know exactly what to say.
Going back to what I said is I realized it doesn’t matter if you know exactly what to say. If the other person isn’t ready for it. Right [00:49:00] then it’s not going to matter, and you’ll just be pleased with yourself for saying it. But, uh, and so that part comes from unlearning being articulate and learning to be a better listener first.
And I find like a lot of people try to work very hard on that, to become a better listener because speaking became a little easier and, you know, really listening to not just the words that saying. But what they really are trying to tell you, and that I really admire people who can do that.
And, I had to unlearn, uh, public speaking, if you will, and being able to articulate saying the perfect thing, because it’s somewhat, somewhat incompatible with being a really good listener.
[00:49:42] Diana White: It’s so true. I never thought of it that way, because I too had to teach myself as an introvert. Right. You can’t be an introvert in sales.
It just, it doesn’t work. And so, learning how to get out of my own head. But still listen for comprehension. [00:50:00] Yeah. It’s not an easy task.
[00:50:02] CJ Cornell: I’ll add to that. Something you should at the very beginning, I believe, which was not just about listening to the word it’s about watching the body language. , whether they’re there, whether they’re there Oh, I’ve seen so many people talking to somebody and you could clearly see the listener discomfort there and, uh, whether they’re uncomfortable or just not listening at all and the speaker the person talking is oblivious. They, they, they, they, they, they, they don’t see that the other person is not wanting to have the conversation or not believing them.
And, but it’s amazing once you watch that, when you’re listening, if you will, for that, that part of the conversation, how much you can learn. but if you’re intent on being the good speaker, you miss a lot of that. So, I had to unlearn that part.
[00:50:48] Diana White: Oh, fabulous. Well, thank you for this. I’d like to thank my guests, Dr. CJ Cornell for joining us today and providing some wonderful lessons. CJ, tell us about [00:51:00] your blog. Where can we find your blog?
[00:51:02] CJ Cornell: it is at cjcornell.com or cjcornell.net. Or if you just type in CJ Cornell in Google, I’m sure you’ll find it. And I post two things on. Uh, well, actually a lot, there’s a lot of resources on the blog links for entrepreneurs.
I write new articles a couple of times a week, but I also curate, I have a newsletter that you can sign up for where it’s all, as simply as there’s some of the better links that I found, uh, having to do with entrepreneurship re fundraiser. Uh, crowdfunding and different aspects of entrepreneurship on there.
And it’s all there in one place. And you can learn how to a little bit about me and how to contact me. I always will return an email, for people who want to ask me something we’re. So, and, uh, we tried to do that. It may not have 20 conversations, but we’ll certainly have one or two.
[00:51:54] Diana White: And I can actually attest to that.
That is true. Well, everyone you’ve been [00:52:00] listening to 10 lessons took me 50 years to learn sponsored by the Professional Development Forum. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcasts, parties, and it’s all free visit professional development forum.org to learn more. Don’t forget to like share and subscribe to 10 lessons.
We also appreciate your feedback. So, follow us on social media and engage. Thanks again everybody. And thank you, CJ.
[00:52:27] CJ Cornell: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.