The Practitioner Preacher Model

Ryan Deiss, Eric Siu, The guys at Tropical MBA, Dan Martell, Tim Ferriss, Shaan Puri, Mike Maples Jr.  All incredibly influential people in their respective areas. One big reason I believe is because they share all the things that they learned the hard way. Ie. by actually doing and doing it over a long period of time. 

I was struck by my friend Ryan Deiss’s Traffic & Conversion Conference back in 2015. The conference is literally an ongoing workshop where the very experienced Digital Marketer online marketing team shared all their lessons and tactics from the year before. I walked out with a pile of  notes of tactics that I still use today, especially on the email marketing front. They literally sent out billions of marketing emails. The lessons have literally generated digital gold. 

Contrast this with most academic professors writing about business. I’ve read most of their books and the majority are somewhat intellectually interesting but totally useless in the field, or out of date by the time they get published. They are the exact opposite of a Practitioner-Preacher. Just a plain “preacher” and it’s why I’ve developed an incredible disdain for these people. One exception to this would be the late Clayton Christensen. But he was an actual entrepreneur before he became an academic, which is how he teased out the very valuable concept of the “Innovator's Dilemma” ie. The reason most incumbents fail is because of fear of cannibalizing their core business.  

Or why most startup mentors who come from corporate background and NOT a startup background just give at best useless advice. Or at worst, company damaging advice. While well meaning, why would the advice be good or relevant? They have NEVER worked in a startup before. The only advice they might have is for understanding how the sales or procurement process at a big corporation works, stuff on Culture, Scaling or something at a functional level like HR or Business Development etc. But otherwise their advice is pretty useless. 

This is also why it’s so easy for a former operator/entrepreneur who becomes an investor or Venture Capitalist to lose touch with the market. How do you stay relevant when the market is changing so quickly? The more you focus on investing, the further away from the frontlines of operations. This is why I am a believer of side hustles for VCs or even incubating companies themselves, especially for VCs who are investing in the next generation of technology. 

Basically, make sure you are building stuff or have some hobby of building stuff. Even if it’s a side hustle ecommerce store, or heck just make a website. It will help you maintain some empathy for the builders you are supposed to support. At minimum, take classes to stretch your brain. How many older investors do we all know who end up having their brains calcified because they stop learning. Or more likely, arrogantly think they have seen and know it all. 

This is why I love Mike Maples Jr. so much. When we would meet prior to Covid times, he would still be actively taking notes and asking questions, with whoever he meets. And from a neophyte investor like myself too. We can all learn from him. “Be Like Mike” as the old TV advertisement said. This is how you stay relevant in the technology business.