This is a transcript for Bonus Episode 1 – Curiosity, quality, and communication.
It is also available in PDF format.
The transcript was created by Rev.com and may contain mistakes.
Arlan Hamilton: I’m Arlan Hamilton. I’m a venture capitalist and this is Your First Million.
Arlan Hamilton: I started my fund, Backstage Capital from the ground up while I was on food stamps. I have now invested in more than a hundred companies led by women, people of color, and LGBT founders. After having raised more than $10 million, people often ask me how I did it. I created this podcast so I could tell you my story and so that together we could go on a journey and speak with some of the most successful people in the world from all backgrounds and walks of life to learn how they got their first million. And who knows, maybe I’ll reach my first million in personal capital while I’m recording this series. There’s only one way to find out. This episode is brought to you by Digital Ocean. Let’s go.
Arlan Hamilton: Hello, it’s Arlin. This is Your First Million. I decided to do something just a little different. Just add a little bonus episode here, just having the greatest time with this podcast and interviewing people, and really taking you on this journey with me. You know, some of the most successful people I’ve ever known, or met, heard of, were insatiably curious, so that’s the key right there. Never stopped learning, never stopped asking questions. The most successful, the richest, the most fulfilled people I know are constantly learning. They’re reading, they’re listening, they are asking. That’s what I’m trying to do here with this podcast is ask, on behalf of us all, these questions.
Arlan Hamilton: But I did receive, you know, I’ve been pouring through the comments and and I appreciate all the comments. Thanks everyone for for the feedback. It’s really helpful. I did receive some requests to learn more about how I raised the 10 million that I talk about in my intro and just in general what I think about income, and how I’ll make my first million, and personally, and all of those things. I thought maybe what I do is have some bonus episodes that were short and sweet and just kind of addressed questions as I got them, because we can do that. I think if you like those, just let me know. If you’d like me to do more, just let me know.
Arlan Hamilton: The top of what I just said now, I think curiosity has served me well. I have always been a curious person. In fact, I was kicked out of classes often for being too curious in their view. I was always asking why, and when, and where, and how. How was a big question for me, how do they do it? And so one of the things that has helped me with the raising, besides raising for what I believe is just an amazing product, the product being funds and resources for underrepresented founders who are underestimated, and not only underestimated, but just phenomenal. Just like some of these founders that we’ve invested in, they’re like top 2% of all founders I’ve ever met. Don’t take that to mean down and out, they’re definitely some of the finest and most-skilled founders there are. They’re just simply been overlooked in a lot of cases. They’re going to make me quite wealthy.
Arlan Hamilton: But I felt that part of raising for that I was A, having a great product, so please let that be the first thing that you think about, whether you’re doing a start up, or a blog, or a beauty web series, or art, or anything. Anything, music. Anything you’re working on, the number one thing has to be that it’s that it’s high quality. I know that sounds so simple, but a lot of people go out shopping their stuff, they go out selling their staff, their wares, whether that’s a company idea or not, or music, art, or et cetera, and their product isn’t that good, the thing that they’re shopping isn’t that good and they’re wanting …
Arlan Hamilton: And I don’t mean it has to be fully fleshed out, right, that’s what this journey is about, but they don’t even pay attention to the details of it being the best version that they could put out themselves. That is something, that every single person listening to this could do better. I could do better. This podcast could be better. What I’m saying could be better. Every single person can reflect, no matter where you are, no matter who you are, you can reflect and say, “How can I be a better version of myself tomorrow?”
Arlan Hamilton: And so, I think is that attention to attention to quality and detail that has helped me raise, because I had something? If I didn’t have it at first, I definitely tried to get better, and better, and better at it so that each version was a better version. Then I think, and I know, the curiosity has been the key, because I get to sit down with people and find out about their lives. Not just in his podcast, but like when I’m fundraising or if I’m helping another company raise. Because the 10 million, to be honest, is what I’ve raised personally, but I’ve also helped others raise millions of dollars over the last few years, too. When you’re talking to someone, no matter who they are, millionaires, billionaires, who I had these conversations with, everybody just wants to be heard, and everybody wants to be seen, and understood, or at least the attempt to understand them, where they’re coming from.
Arlan Hamilton: That is a skill that I would encouraged people to work on, and I work on it myself every day because I’m not there yet completely. Working on the skill of understanding what you’re asking of someone, you’re not just asking them for their money, you’re not just asking them to support you to back. Work on this skill, and this deeply rooted, sincere skill, of understanding what the other person is looking for too, like in life. If you can figure that out, if you can understand that they have an agenda, and they have hopes, and desires, and dreams, even though they’re rich or whatever, if you can understand that, you can have a human interaction with them instead of a transactional interaction.
Arlan Hamilton: You may not get the thing that you’re looking for that day. You may not. You may not get what you seek and that can be frustrating, but it usually pays off in some way or another. Whether that’s them coming back and saying, “Yes I will support,” which has been the case many, many times in my, in my life. Or it’s them coming back and saying, “I still don’t think this is right for me,” which is their prerogative, “But I want to make an introduction to you, to someone who I think would be great.” Sometimes those introductions are the key and even better than the original. The circumstances and the results are even better than the original plan that you had. I would say having just the highest standards for yourself, the quality of what you put out to the world and what you are trying to get other people rallied around, the highest standards.
Arlan Hamilton: That can also be translated into say, having very, very good taste. Taste in who you surround yourself with, who you’ll listen to, who you take money from, who helps you build, who is part of your part of your orbit. That taste and that attention to quality will help up your game and will make you more attractive. That’s what I think has happened in the past for me is that once I understood my value, my true value, I couldn’t deal with the mediocrity. Once you know your value, you don’t deal with mediocre things. It doesn’t work. You can’t go back.
Arlan Hamilton: Then the next thing is the curiosity, the yearning to understand your fellow human, no matter where they come from. Those two things I think have helped serve me very well. It took me three years to raise the first $25,000 for my fund. It was three years of trial and error, and asking, and getting nos. And so I guess the third thing I would say, which probably should be the first thing. The third thing on this list is not giving up. I don’t mean like being stubborn, and just not listening to constructive feedback, and just never changing and being flexible. I mean not letting 10 nos, 100 nos, 1000 nos make you feel like what you are is not valuable.
Arlan Hamilton: It may mean that you do need to listen to the opinions and kind of recraft, refurbish what you’re doing, but if you give up, that is the number one way that you will not get where you’re wanting to go. You have that in your power. If you give up, it doesn’t happen. That’s just a finite concept. Look at it as like walking. Let’s say you have to walk 10 miles. If you’re walking and on mile two you’re starting to get tired, you can slow down. You do not have to punish yourself. You can slow down, you can take a break, you can try to find water. You can even go to sleep if you need to.
Arlan Hamilton: But if you don’t get back up and keep walking in that same direction, then the finite answer is that you won’t get to mile 10. It just won’t happen. There are so many other variables: wind, rain, sunlight, all of that that could stop you at mile five, really could stop you in your tracks, but if you simply decided, “I’m going to stop now, I’m no longer going to walk in that direction,” then you’re just not going to get there. Giving up is the one way that you fail. Every other attempt against the wind, against the rain, against the heat of the sun is success. Every step in that direction is success.
Arlan Hamilton: And so those three years that I didn’t get any yeses at all, in fact, I had some people laughing at me or saying mean things, I just didn’t give up. I kept going. I kept saying to myself, “You have to keep going. You have to see this out. You have to see where this goes. This has to exist. With or without you, this has to exist, and so you have to take it as far as you possibly can to hand it off to the next person.” And that’s what I did.
Arlan Hamilton: I would love to hear your feedback. What do you want to know? I’ll answer questions. I’ll do like a Q&A, the FAQ version of this podcast. It’ll be bonuses along with the other interviews that you’re used to hearing now. We can be flexible, so I’d love to hear from you. Hopefully this was helpful. Let me know. Ask me direct questions, or philosophical questions, or whatever. I’m an open book and I will see you next time.
Arlan Hamilton: Hey, so I’d love to talk to you and keep the conversation going. Find me on Twitter and Instagram at ArlanWasHere. That’s A-R-L-A-N was here.
Arlan Hamilton: Your First Million is produced and edited by Anna Eichenauer and senior producer, Brian Landers. Additional audio mixing and mastering by Alfred ‘Rook’ Hamilton. Additional production by Chacho Valadez. Executive producer, Arlen Hamilton.