Introduction to Getting Naked – The Bare Necessities of Entrepreneurship and Start Ups

Below I share the Introduction from Getting Naked – The Bare Necessities of Entrepreneurship and Start Ups. This will give you flavour of what to expect in the book. Enjoy! 


If you’re an entrepreneur dreaming of building an incredibly successful business, the cold, harsh truth is that you have a 90% chance of failing.

Like you, I’m sure, my own optimism and confidence led me to believe that I’d end up on the “one out of ten” side that breaks through to the rarified air of a ridiculously successful sale of my first business.

I was mostly wrong. Moreover, I never expected my journey as an entrepreneur to be so full of personal sacrifices and hardships, isolation, anxiety, and challenges on the road to becoming the person I wanted to be.

But why do 90% of startups fail? And why would the well-being of your personal life and mental health be so inextricably tied to the success of a company?

Well, the first mistake people make when starting companies is that they fail to realize that, as Ed Zschau says, “Entrepreneurship is an approach to life.” It’s not just a game of monopoly.

One of the goals of a startup is to no longer be a startup, yet one of the biggest reasons nine out of ten startups fail is scaling (growing) too fast.

As Colin R Davis once said, “The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.”

What Mr. Davis’s quote means, I’ve come to learn, is that the roads to success and failure are the exact same—it’s the same road. Only that the road to success is a hell of a lot longer and it’s paved with our failures along the way.

Getting Naked is a book about those failures. It’s about the misses, missteps, misunderstandings, mishaps and mis-directions that lead us exactly where we actually need to go. It’s a book about the important details that often lay hidden in the balance of starting our first business venture. The first part of the book asks a lot of questions and focuses on real experiences, to get you thinking like an entrepreneur. The second part of the book is more instructional, with some basic principles I think every business person should know. The final part of the book is experiential again, with some concluding questions that are worth thinking about as you consider the long game.

We’re going to start with questions as simple as how do we recognize what business we should start and what does it feel like to take the leap to start it? For a taste of that, let’s start with a little story I once read about salt.

Salt? Yes, salt.

“Once upon a time there was a rich merchant with a fleet of ships and three sons, the youngest of whom was small in stature. One spring, the merchant gave his older sons ships laden with furs, carpets and fine linens, instructing one to sail east and one to sail west in search of new kingdoms with which to trade. When the youngest son asked where his boat was, the merchant and the older boys laughed. In the end, the merchant gave his youngest son a rickety sloop with raggedy sails, a toothless crew and empty sacks for ballast. When the young man asked his father in which direction he should sail, the merchant replied that he should sail until the sun never sets in December.

So the son sailed southward with his scurvy crew. After months on the open seas they reached a land where the sun never set in December. There, they landed on an island that appeared to have a mountain of snow, but which turned out to be a mountain of salt. Salt was so plentiful in his homeland that the housewives cast it over their shoulders for good luck without a second thought. Nonetheless, the young man instructed his crew to fill the sacks in the hull with the salt, if for no other reason than to add to the ship’s ballast.

Sailing truer and faster than before, they soon came upon a great kingdom. The king received the merchant’s son in his court and asked what he had to trade. The young man replied that he had a hull full of salt. Remarking that he had never heard of it, the king wished him well and sent him back on his way. Undaunted, the young man paid a visit to the king’s kitchens, where he discreetly sprinkled salt onto the mutton, into the soup, over the tomatoes, and into the custard.

That night, the king was amazed at the flavor of his food. The mutton was better, the soup was better, the tomatoes were better, even the custard was better. Calling his chefs before him, he excitedly asked what new technique they were using. Befuddled, the chefs admitted they had done nothing different; although they had been visited in the kitchen by the young stranger from the sea …

The next afternoon, the merchant’s son set sail for home in a ship laden with one bag of gold for every sack of salt.”

This young man’s journey is no different than your journey as an entrepreneur. The story entails setting out on your own path, leading a team and finding an opportunity in a product and delivering it to a “market” that actually wants it … even if it take a few tries for them to realize they do!

What our little salt story downplays is the reality that this savvy, determined young son of a rich merchant was also a fool. At least in the beginning! And on his epic journey he was, as Jordan Peterson puts it, a “transforming fool.”

So what does that mean?

Well, we all don’t know what we don’t know, so when we set out to discover and try new things, we’re sometimes going to be foolish. This foolishness isn’t bad, though: it’s a rite of passage. Approaching things for the first time may result in foolish actions and most new ideas may seem foolish in and of themselves—at least to others. Haven’t your ideas been called foolish before? I know mine certainly have.

But you have to be a fool before you can be a master. And if you’re not willing to be a bit of a fool … you’re never going to reach the unknown heights you are striving for!

Besides, if you want to do something, like start a business, I tend to think that it’s better to do something a bit foolishly than not at all. Of course, I’m not promising mastery here either, that’s for you to discover as you go. If, however, I can point you in the right direction to limit some of that foolishness then I’ve done what I hoped to do with this book.

You can be a fool once, maybe even twice. But as you move through life you’ll uncover that experiences (lessons) will keep repeating themselves until you’ve actually learned them. In a business, this gets expensive and can lead to failure. Throughout the book I’ll share a few of my own run-ins with epic foolishness!

As an entrepreneur I started a bootcamp, a magazine, and then I started an underwear company called Naked. All more or less failed … at least in my opinion. All of them also had major silver linings that paved the way for incredible successes, relationships, and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

For example, take this book you’re just starting to read. My co-author Ben Coles was my boss at a newspaper company I used to work for. How did I get the job there? Well, I tried to sell them the magazine I’d started and instead they gave me a job selling ads and a consistent pay cheque (the last one I’ve ever had). Ben not only became a good friend, but he became the largest shareholder in my first investment round at Naked. When did he decide to invest, you ask? Well, no sooner than the week after he had to fire me from the newspaper!

Crazy, I know, but that’s how this all works … When we pause, pull back, and take a look at the events of our lives, we’ll see that failures, heartbreak, and hardship can flow into opportunities, joy, and success—they all connect. It’s when we’re “in it” that we find these beautiful connections so hard to see, yet it’s when we’re in it that it matters most that we see them. For seeing them allows us to remain present in the moment, so we can still enjoy the life we’re living and the presence of the people we’re living it with; seeing these connections helps us remain calm under pressure so our teams can also remain calm and focused on the end result.

I’ve filled this book with many of those lessons and experiences, as well as ideas and tips for specific tasks like: starting a business; raising money; building a company and a brand; having shareholders; and dealing with clients, business partners, failure, and radical change. We’ll dive into understanding what’s essential and what’s not in both your business and your life, as well as how to be a great (at least decent) business partner, spouse, and human being on planet Earth.

We’ll explore this all by travelling through the startup journey of my first company Naked. I’ve read hundreds of amazing books but most were written so many years after the author’s experiences that I felt they were out of touch with the realities of being in an entrepreneurial start up. That is why I started writing this book (more as a journal initially) the day I started Naked—I wanted to write the book I wish I could have read when I was starting my first company.

Ultimately though, this is your adventure. This is your own “hero’s journey”—you’ve picked up this book because entrepreneurship is your chosen path on that journey. The “gold” you’re looking for—be it fame, success, money, creditability, fulfillment—will be found deep down in a dark lair guarded by a fire breathing monster. That’s not just where you’ll have to go, but where you should go, to find it! That’s how you become the person you’re meant to be.

I’ve kept this book as short as I can for a reason. You have work to do and more books to read. My objective is purely to get you “thinking” about the myriad things you need to know or may encounter on your start up. For topics where I haven’t provided a great deal of information in the narrative, there’s an appendix of books I recommend for diving deeper into a subject.

Lastly, while I can assure you that everything in this story certainly happened, I’ve taken some narrative liberties with respect to the identities of the people who were involved. I’ve also changed some of the names, job titles, locations or timing of events.  That said, let’s get started on the journey.

If you liked what you read you buy the book Here