I have this habit of immediately turning my family and friends’ passions into strategies for million-dollar businesses. It’s what I do; I’m a legacy builder. I’ve done it my whole life, starting with my mom. I made her so successful one year for Christmas she spent the whole thing in an anxiety-filled haze, crying while sitting at her sewing machine until 2am every night to get all the orders done.
It was a disaster.
She’s asked me not to “help” anymore.
Same, my dad’s cattle waterer company (are you tired of breaking ice in water troughs every winter?) Same, my brother’s spice company (are you tired of trying to go keto and not being able to find spices without sugar?) I made an entire career out of making men millionaires (a few were even capable of getting out of their own way and following the plan to success; most weren’t.)
I am surrrrrrrrrounded by geniuses. People are so dang creative. (I kinda feel like Data when he’s searching for Little Life Forms except I’m looking for Little Genius-es.)
It happened again today. My roommate just came up with The. Most. Genius. Scavenger. Hunt. Ever. It’s how we’re doing Christmas presents for the boys this year (at their request). She’s BRILLLLLLLIANT at it. It is, unquestionably, an amalgamation of her Unique Abilities.
So…I went into millionaire mode. Within an hour I had an entire strategy figured out, up to and including the questionnaires for parents; I’d deconstructed our entire process and figured out what was scalable and what wasn’t, where the tiers were, how much she should charge, and how to make it sustainable.
And if I’d have drawn that up in a neato package and handed that to her, it likely would have freaked her the fuck out and she’d have been overwhelmed by the size of the hard.
It was visions of Christmas with my mom all over again.
Since I’m in the process of writing this Tesla book, my mind is also on a parallel track of The Old Way v. The Tesla Way.
Tesla died penniless.
He’s been upheld as the Poster Child for struggling scientists and makers and creators. He’s been uplifted as the antithesis of capitalism. (I, too, am SO guilty of this; it’s been this deep-dive into his life and words via this book that have allowed me to remove him from the pedestal and see him not as a perfect inventor and scientist who got screwed, but as a fallible human.)
What’s the TRUTH? I, along with most of history have fallen into the trap of telling a story from an Old Way point of view. Yes, he died in debt. A lot of debt. But that’s because he wasn’t the best businessman, not because he eschewed the idea of money, or didn’t have it — he raised FOUR MILLION DOLLARS for Wardenclyffe. As with most any startup, he hit the rule of 4 — it was going to cost him four times as much and take four times longer than his original estimate. He needed another seed round, that’s all.
SO DID ELON MUSK.
Several, in fact. I haven’t looked it up, but Elon’s probably in his fourth, fifth, tenth round of funding. His first round didn’t get him there. Tesla’s didn’t either. Elon is surrounded by smart business people who are helping him raise. So was Edison. Tesla didn’t have that. So he did what worked the first time and he went back to his original investor — and never looked elsewhere. A terrible strategy that cost him the project’s completion. He didn’t get screwed, he just didn’t know what he didn’t know.
Tesla made a lot of decisions that impacted the bottom line of the business. The royalties he returned to Westinghouse so HE could raise money from investors would have kept Tesla well funded throughout his life (far better than Edison) and likely would have changed his trajectory.
But what of his legacy?
It was Edison’s fear of losing his royalties that created the war of the currents, allowed Westinghouse to underbid him for the World’s fair, and ultimately allow Tesla’s polyphase motor to become the world standard — his truest legacy that now accounts for 100% of the technological age in which we live. Had Tesla done the same, Edison likely would have won the bid, the war of the currents, and Tesla would have been nothing more than an employee of Westinghouse, forgotten to all of history.
Edison eventually went bankrupt and rebuilt another business from the ground up. In that, he was the far better businessman. He was The Old Way.
Money is a simple exchange of energy.
Our entire home was OVERFLOWING with the energy of the creation happening with that scavenger hunt. When I get to work on a client’s project, I am in the zone and yes, there are hard less-fun moments, but it’s all satisfying and makes me feel good. When I work on something like this, something that is the amalgamation of not only my unique abilities but a topic I am passionate about, I hit another level.
Edison’s first invention was an improved stock ticker, his most profitable, the battery. He sold his first one for $1.2M in today’s money, allowing him the freedom to create things he was passionate about without having to worry how they were going to make money. The lightbulb came a full DECADE after his first invention.
If my Mom could have sold her first sewing pattern for $1.2M she could have made a kajillion kids tents and hired a CEO and marketing team.
If my Dad could have sold his first waterer patent for $1.2M he could have gone to a kajillion expos and hired someone to run the business while he met with clients and sold units.
If my brother could have sold his spice recipe for $1.2M he could have stayed in the kitchen and come up with a kajillion other options and hired someone to deal with the marketing and sales.
If my roommate… Do you see the pattern?
Not all creatives can wear all the business hats it takes to get a startup off the ground. Elon Musk didn’t invent a car company, he stepped in and ran someone else’s.
Not all creatives can sell their first product for $1.2M and generate a multi-year runway to cover that Rule of 4 until we become an “overnight” success.
The Old Way says hobbies have to be side hustles. Edison’s was until he sold it. The Tesla Way is different. I think that by following this roadmap Tesla left us, there’s a way for side hustles to stop being side hustles and reward us with not only money but abundance in far greater ways.
The Tesla Way is the blueprint for how to leave a legacy. It’s a way to take our talents, our gifts, our very genius and turn it into something far bigger than a paycheck, something far grander than a 401k.
We have to stop using The Old Way.
Most of us run our hobbies as side hustles. We trade hours and blood and sweat and tears for something we believe in, something that is as delicate as an ember and must be tended to with extreme care and caution. Tesla devoted a lifetime to his wireless energy; it’s still a tiny ember. This Tesla project of mine? It would have been the sidehustliest of the side hustles, for it is like no other writing project I’ve ever taken on; I’ve allowed it oxygen and room to breathe. I’ve studied, I’ve learned, I’ve given it the best possible chance to become a wildfire. I could 100000% use an investor to license the rights to it so I can keep adding runway for future pieces.
Over the summer I got a COVID grant. That money is what’s allowed me to work on this project without stressing about how I’m going to pay my bills. I’ve had Edison’s freedom to create. What has been borne from that space is nothing short of genius. I’d like to sell it for $1.2M so I can continue to create.
And that is The Old Way. Plus, holymotherofcreation raising money is damn-near impossible; I know, I’ve tried. This is also Tesla’s only foible on the road of his legacy.
The vision for this project is grand. It’s masterful. It’s guided by the Man Himself. I am, as always, building a legacy. Two, actually. One for Tesla. One for me.
But I’m done building legacies The Old Way.
These are being built The Tesla Way.