Entrepreneur: Day 31 (Tools and Skills I Can’t Live Without)

There’s a large number of things that, if you took them away, I’d still find a way to make things happen. On the other hand, there’s a small number of things that I really don’t have the time to re-learn, desire to re-experience, or money to re-buy. So here’s a brief list of them, broken down by category.


  • My iMac and a 20 up/20 down connection.
  • vi – Indispensable.
  • Korn Shell – Similarly indispensable.
  • Google


  • Typing.
  • Linux 0.96 Kernel It shipped with Slackware in ’93. If you could get this to install, compile, boot, and dial out on a 2400 baud modem on a 386DX you were stoked. You also had to learn just about everything about computers, from bios settings to manually setting jumpers. No Google for another 4 years.
  • 10 Days to Faster Reading My reading speed went from 350 wpm to 850 wpm in one month. Great for plowing through tons of stuff.
  • Getting Things Done Create one way in to your own process for getting things done. For me, everything physical comes through a box that’s by my left foot. From there I either knock it out or put it in Things to follow up on later. Same with emails except they don’t go in a box.
  • Practical C If you can write even semi-basic programs in C then you can hack your way through just about any other language. Or at least read it and figure out what it’s doing. Plus, you also get to allocate memory all by yourself.
  • Running Meetings There’s two types of meetings – informational and problem solving, there is no “both” or “we’ll play it by ear” options. Here’s how to set an agenda, stay on track, end the meeting, and follow up. This is apparently so difficult a subject that Harvard Business Press had to publish this.
  • Presentation Zen Seriously, please stop throwing everything on a single slide to show how much you could find on Google. If you want to show how much you know try and use as few words as possible to convey your idea. The less you slap on a slide to get people to understand what you’re talking about the smarter you are.
  • Knowing that the sale price minus COGS had better not be negative. Not even close. Ever.
  • A statistics course in college. The professor made us calculate the odds of a real horse race for our final. I can’t remember how I did but it made calc and trig look pretty damn simple. I also learned that the only time there’s ever a precise answer is in calc and trig. Everything else is SWAG.
  • Advanced Selling Strategies A book by Brian Tracy in which, if I distill it down says, shut your mouth and listen to what your prospective client’s problem is first. Then figure out how to solve it. Never get those two backwards. Find the pain points first, then the solution.
  • Peak Performance Learning the mental skills of the world’s top athlete’s was invaluable. I used this to help me get into the Teenage Mr. Arkansas in 1984 at 16 years old. And the concepts apply to business too.
  • USMC. ’85-’89. The last two years was working in two-man teams, on our own, away from the battalion. I really learned that I could fend for myself and pretty much deal with anything that came up.

So there it is, the list of the top 16 things that make everything else possible. None of these (especially boot camp and getting the .96 kernel to boot) do I want to repeat. Everything else gives you the basics to figure out how everything else works. If there’s tools or specific tools sets that you’ve picked up that you couldn’t or wouldn’t want to be without then feel free to leave a comment here. Maybe you’ll be able to help someone else out.