Mastering The Art of Living

A few months ago I read Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. This week I shared it with my team to read and discuss over the coming weeks.

It’s the most influential book I’ve read in a while. Though I’m reading Happiness Hypothesis right at Tony’s suggestion. He calls it the most impactful book he’s read (while noting that he knows impactful is not a word). So far, it’s trending to be the same for me.

Yvon cites a quote François-René de Chateaubriand that I think worth sharing.

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

He also makes me feel better by saying, in his own words:

If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, “This sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.”

You should find time to read it.

Interesting reading: Nov 02

Here are a few things I read on November 02 that I thought worth sharing.:

Hello Work In Progress (and why it took a year to build a coworking space in downtown Las Vegas)

We’ve been talking about building a coworking space in downtown Las Vegas for a long time. Too long.

Coworking is a state of mind. It sometimes takes the form of a defined space, sometimes a coffee shop, sometimes a pizza joint. The concept we’re working on at Downtown Project, Zappos and (now) Work In Progress is coworking as a city. How can you create a network of spaces and places that allow people to connect with others and discover new ideas across a wide range of spaces? That’s the challenge and we work tirelessly to try to solve it.

But can a space be more than a coworking space? Is the concept solely about having desks or is it about the community that surrounds you or the experiences you have in and around the space and community? When we first envisioned the space we planned at 302 E Carson, we focused on desks. Then as we spent more time learning from experiences like TED and Summit Series, people like Alex Hillman and companies like General Assembly, we realized that space should be more than desks.

About a year and a half ago I joined Tony and an amazing team of people to focus on bringing Zappos to downtown Las Vegas. At the time our work was focused on building a campus and helping to foster an environment where communities of passion outside of our group do amazing things. And boy did these communities ever do amazing things (see vegastech.comBuild a Greener Block, Vegas Vernacular or The Reset Project). Since we started on this journey we’ve grown (mentally and by sheer numbers) and evolved our thinking on a variety of things. Fast forward and today we have Downtown Project, VegasTechFund and more plus dozens of community groups, small businesses and interesting projects doing amazing work in downtown Las Vegas.

What was once an idea focused on a corporate campus has evolved to a much larger area with a much larger team. And that’s the magic of working with Tony, his willingness to change course if he thinks we could do something better but in a different way. So it’s no surprise that the ideas we had in early 2011 are completely different than the ones we’re working on today.

The vision we share with the community is to help create a city of learning, innovation and entrepreneurship…and that vision hasn’t changed. How we actually do our work certainly has evolved as it will many more times I’m sure. That’s one of the best aspects of a startup mentality and we live and breathe it.

302 E Carson

We have always hoped the story of downtown Las Vegas will be about entrepreneurs building amazing things. To that end we try to structure everything we do as an investment rather than a group of companies Downtown Project owns and manages. The logic is simple, really. Who will operate a better sushi restaurant? Us or someone who is passionate about sushi? But there are some things we know we need to do quickly and that may not have a clear business model, so we sometimes choose to do those ourselves just to get them going. A year ago coworking was one of the things we were unsure of, or at least hadn’t thought through, so we thought it just made sense to build it ourselves and see what happened.

As our thinking evolved we started to think of Downtown Project as a platform. To borrow from Apple, Downtown Project is iOS while restaurants, events, startups and coworking spaces are the apps, ideally built by others where a business model is clear. We’ve always thought that way but until early this summer had never articulated that idea, even to ourselves. Coincidentally it was about the same time we were preparing to pull the trigger on construction on the 302 E Carson space that we realized we needed to take a different course.

The 302 E Carson project would have been, over five years, at least a $6 million investment. We know, at our core, that there is and will continue to be a huge need for spaces to work, connect and share in downtown Las Vegas. But we realized that we needed to start a bit smaller to test the waters and get to know the business before we took on that level of an investment. You could also make a case that three 8,000 sq foot spaces, for example, are better than one gigantic one, each with its own culture and feel–the variety is refreshing. We also realized that it was better for Downtown Project to invest in the space rather than own and operate it.

So at midnight on an August Monday we made the decision to halt construction work at 302 E Carson and find a smaller space.  Immediately we started looking at other spaces and reformulating the business plan. In September we found an 8,200 square foot building a 317 S 6th Street that rocks. So I, along with two co-founders, built a business plan and secured an investment from Downtown Project to build Work In Progress 6th Street.

Enter Work In Progress.

We’re launching Work In Progress as a collection of spaces, tools and experiences that help creative people grow and connect with each other. We’re building our first space at 317 S 6th Street, we’re building a wifi network to cover all of downtown Las Vegas for our members’ use and we’re managing the development and behind-the-scenes operations for the awesome synshop and photography community space opening soon on 4th Street. We’re also in advanced discussions with amazing partners to bring learning opportunities to our spaces and the larger community. And we’re far from done.

We’re opening the 6th Street Workspace with a unique and approachable membership model. Global community membership includes access to the 6th Street Workspace communal desks, meeting rooms and tools during business hours (plus wifi all over downtown) for under $100/month. As our member community grows we’ll open more spaces and that low cost will get you access to all of them. At each space you can opt-up to another level of membership if you like. At the 6th Street Workspace dedicated workspaces will start at an additional $250/month and 24/7 access without a desk will start at an additional $100 (get it, start with Community Membership and opt up). We’ll have drop-in rates but you’ll probably just want to become a member.

When we open you’ll find an amazing array of classes and events to help you grow, learn and explore new ideas. You’ll find tools and experiences to help you connect with others. We hope that Work In Progress can be a critical part of the vision of downtown as a place that makes you smarter.

Work In Progress is a separate company founded by Patrick, Josh and me. Downtown Project is our primary investor and the money’s in the bank. As of last week the lease is signed and our general contractor is in the space. It’s in good shape and doesn’t need much work but we’re making a few changes such as ripping out a bunch of walls, getting rid of turquoise carpet and bumping up the infrastructure to support a dense workspace. Some of you might say let’s just move in now and I get that mentality. But the work we’re doing is the right thing to do for the long-term so we’re going stay our course. Believe me, I want the space to be open too, so we’re moving quickly.

So frustrating

A little less than a year ago I shared the idea of 302 E Carson with the tech community. We had no reservations at the time about proceeding. But our thinking changed along the way and we learned a lot so we made a change. I know it’s been frustrating to wait. If anything I’m mostly sorry for sharing things that had a risk of not moving forward. I apologize for the frustration.

But what I know to be true is that where we are today as a company and a community is much better than where we were a year ago. This time of learning has given us the opportunity to refine and improve our plans and we’re confident the final product will be many times better.

We’re excited to open Work In Progress 6th Street with you, our community and members. And we’re even more excited to build a company that can help you all follow your passions and build amazing things at many more spaces to come.

You can follow progress at workinprogress.lv. Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting more information on how to join, upcoming events and progress on development of the 6th Street Workspace. We’re also hiring a few rock star people so keep an eye out for position details.

On a personal note, I’m involved with a number of companies including Zappos, Downtown Project, VegasTechFund and (now) Work In Progress. The common theme between the work I get to do at all of them is that I get to help build awesome things with awesome people, namely the downtown community. Let’s keep building cool stuff together!

There’s so much good we can do together. Join us.

Cheers,

Zach

Interesting reading: Sep 27

Here are a few things I read on September 27 that I thought worth sharing.:

Interesting reading: Aug 10

Here are a few things I read on August 10 that I thought worth sharing.:

Interesting reading: Aug 05

Here are a few things I read on August 05 that I thought worth sharing.:

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