IBMSS: The Practice of Daily Five – Why, What and How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

IBMSS: The Practice of Daily Five

– Why, What and How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset


By Dr. Congcong Zheng

San Diego State University


Why Practice Daily Five?


Traditionally people may view “entrepreneur” having a special personality (i.e., innate unchanging traits) or having acquired a skill set (i.e., the capabilities that people mastered).  


From my own experience of coaching students and entrepreneurs in China and US for over 20 years, that is not the right view.  


Mindset is implicit theories that lay subconsciously and unexamined within our mind, consists of our deepest assumptions and beliefs and is reflected in our choices.  It can be growth oriented (think: I can get smarter, learning is my goal, efforts make me stronger) or fixed (think: my intelligence, ability and talent are fixed, I can only do this, I cannot do that).  As Carol Dweck of Stanford eloquently argued in her book “Growth Mindset, the New Psychology of Success”, a growth mindset is key to continuous success (Ballantine Books, 2007).  I believe that entrepreneurs have a growth, not a fixed mindset. The only way to build an entrepreneur is through building habits that foster an entrepreneurial mindset.  To that end, I have developed a teaching system of IBMSS as a holistic, novel approach to develop the entrepreneurial growth mindset.  


A growth mindset is the bottom of the iceberg for a successful entrepreneur.

What is The Practice of IBMSS?


Every day, make effort to


  • Write down 10 ideas
  • Practice and reflect your personal branding
  • Seek mentorship and give back to your mentor(s)
  • Share your ideas, joys and frustrations (verbally or in writing)
  • Build your system so that someone else can do your work



“I” stands for “writing down 10 ideas a day”


I borrowed this practice from James Altucher, the New York Times Bestselling author of “Choose Yourself” (CreativeSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).  He wrote about how he became an idea machine.  Practice writing down 10 ideas a day in a writer’s pad, make your brain sweat, build up your idea muscle is how he does it.  Doing that every day is the secret of his success.  


Why not just come up with one idea a day?


Counterintuitively, it is easier to come up with 10 ideas than one since we are not bound by the idea of perfection.  If you have to come up with 10 ideas a day, you will quickly find out that trying to write down perfect and well thought out ideas for all ten is almost impossible.  Instead you use the 10-ideas-list as a process to come up with “good enough” ideas.  For instance, you may find yourself start #1 as “buy 2 3-ring binders” and end up #5 “write about visual thinking in my blog” (as in one of my recent entries).


Read Altucher’s guide if you want to fully understand the rationale behind the 10 ideas.


“B” stands for “practicing and reflecting on your branding everyday”.  Write down 2-3.


Brands communicates the essential value to external stakeholders.  For individuals, that value could be “I am honest”.  For organizations, it could be “learn from failure, make others successful” (values of, the internationally renowned design firm).


Aligned with behavior, those value and the branding efforts build reputations and establish you or your organization in others’ minds.  I see branding as finding out essential values and maintaining a code of practice for individuals and organizations.


The difficult part is to align your value with your practice and be impeccable with your words.  As Don Miguel Ruiz talked about in his book “The Four Agreements” (Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997), “being impeccable with your words means that

  1. Speak with integrity
  2. Say only what you mean
  3. Avoid using words to speak against yourself or gossip against others.
  4. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”


In your daily branding effort, think about your personal brand (i.e., what you stand for), find out whether that’s how others see you and align your behavior with such value.


Jeff Goins of the Intentional Blogger, taught me a quick way to find out my own personal branding.  Email 5 friends and ask them to write down 3 key words that they associate you with and a short paragraph of why.  You will be surprised to find out the difference between how you perceive yourselves and how others perceive you.


Because of this little exercise, my branding changed from “honest, thought-provoking, and zen-like” to “inquisitive, inclusive, and spiritual” in a week.  Thank you to my friends – Steven Osinski of San Diego State University, Tamara Romeo of San Diego Office Design, Victoria Lakers of Three Squared Inc, and Amy DeNoble to help me clarify my branding.



“M” stands for “seeking mentor and giving back to mentors everyday”.  Write down 1.


Traditionally mentor is viewed as teacher, mentee as student, such as in Yoda and Luke Skywalker relationship.  In my view, however, Luke taught Yoda as much as Yoda taught Luke.  They are each other’s mentors.  They are each other’s disciples.  


This is the Zazen teaching,  written with clarity by Shunryu Suzuki in his book “Zen Mind, the Beginner’s Mind” (Shambhala, 1970).


“Tozan, a famous Zen master, said, ‘The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.’ This is a pure, clear interpretation of life. There may be many things like the white cloud and blue mountain: man and woman, teacher and disciple. They depend on each other. But the white cloud should not be bothered by the blue mountain. The blue mountain should not be bothered by the white cloud. They are quite independent, but yet dependent. This is how we live, and how we practice zazen.” – Shunryu Suzuki 1970, pg 31  


Following this view, I would like you to view mentors as your potential future work colleagues.  They could be a bit ahead of you in terms of careers and professional development.  Or they could be young, passionate and up and coming and could take leadership positions in 10 years.  In the traditional view, only the former is your mentor.  In my view, the second group of people (traditionally seen as mentee) is also the mentor.


Traditionally mentees take (advice, network connections etc) from mentors and their lives improve.  I would like you to subvert this view and think about mentees giving back to mentors.  In order to do that, you need to find out more about your mentors, their desires, wants, and needs and see how you can contribute to them.  A VC’s needs and a healthcare entrepreneur’s needs are different. Do not make assumptions.  Find it out and give it back to them.  Your mentors will thank you for making the effort.

“S” stands for “sharing your ideas, joys and frustrations (verbally or in writing)”.  Write down 2-3.


Share with others.  The sharing could be centered around your venture ideas or your experience in practicing the daily five and your feelings and emotions.  Others can give you input and point you to right directions, only after they know of your passion, your projects and your problems.  If an idea is not shared, it has not been given a chance to get the fuel it needs to come to light.  It hasn’t been given a chance to live.

“S” stands for “thinking about and building your system every day”.  Write down 1.


A standalone system can operate independently of you, by others, while you sleep or on vacation.  The system liberates you from the mundane tasks of entrepreneurship and frees you up to take on the creative side of entrepreneurship.  It is essential to maintain your sanity as an entrepreneur.  


In order to truly grow fast, you need to recruit a competent army, build an efficient system/platform where they can grow.  You yourself need to focus three steps ahead, on the strategic side of things such as understanding your customers intimately, branding and creating future growth opportunities.  Those tasks cannot be done by anyone else in your company.


That system could be a habit or a routine that you can teach others; an independent way to express your ideas, such as Instagram or blog.  It could be recruiting and maintaining a new team.  It could also be hiring an assistant (virtual or real) and increasing productivity in your business process.


Felena Hanson of HeraHub San Diego (one of San Diego’s largest co-working space) generously shared with our group in her workshop “How to Duplicate Yourself – Hands-on Workshop” some of her systems.

How to find and work with a virtual assistant 


Keys to working with interns 


Felena’s speaker form –


Felena, thank you for sharing your goal of 2018 “think big and get out of the way” with us in the workshop.  Thank you for living your dream and inspiring us to live our own.


How to Practice Daily 5 In and Outside of the Classroom


“You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your mind.”

– Shunryn Suzuki, 1970, pg 37


Daily Practice is an ideal.  Reality is not ideal.  In order to gain an entrepreneurial mindset, you need to practice daily five with the right effort.  

The right effort consists of:

  1. The intent to practice Daily Five every day,
  2. Practice it as much as you can
  3. Find an accountability partner to help you track your practice
  4. Adjust and learn from your daily practice, every day, little by little

I introduce a diagram to guide you through the practice below.  It is applicable for both students and entrepreneurs.


I wish you all a successful practice.  


– Congcong, San Diego, February 3, 2018

Visual Storytelling Resources available

Friends, I saw that many of you resonated with the Visual Story Telling Workshop that I did this Saturday and expressed interest in it.
I have shared all my support materials, public to the world. Anyone with the link below can view the following: joseph campell’s hero’s journey map; nancy durante’s Table of content of her book: Resonate: how to tell visual stories that transform audience; Walter Disney’s Organizational Chart based on the hero’s journey and many more.
It will be updating as I am learning….
Feel free to share it to anyone you think can benefit from telling better stories – your boss or your kid alike!! Also if you have any good resources that I should know, please FB it or email me at this site.
Grateful to you all,

Day 23 December 27 on Buying and Selling

3 Most Significant Things that I Read are:

1.    A 100-page dossier for someone’s tenure decision (I started reading it on Thanksgiving Day)

2.    An envelope that reads “from the old me to me, older and wiser” – a piece from the “Letters to My Future Self – Write Now, Read Later, and Treasure Forever” by Lea Redmond. It was a birthday gift.


3 Most Significant Things that I Wrote are:

1.    My letter regarding the tenure decision

2.    My notes after listening to Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg’s tape “the Writing Life”. It was an old tape published in 2005.

3.   Calendar entries on Iphone for January 2017

3 Most Significant People that I Interacted with are:

1.    Chair of the tenure promotion committee

2.    A student

3.    The husband, who also started meditating again, after a 4 year respite

Meditation of the day: On buying and selling. I finally finished writing the tenure decision letter – after a delay of three days. In academia, a tenure decision is one of the most important events that a tenured/tenure-tracked professor, such as myself faces. It usually happens after 6 years of working as an assistant professor in an institution. The process is similar to a partner decision in an accounting or law firm, I guess. The candidate submits a substantial package that comprises of the candidate’s teaching and research records, and a committee or several committees evaluate the package and the candidate and decides whether this person are worthy and can receive tenure. It signifies an induction, an induction to the great pursuit – whether it be in academia or in industry.

Note that this decision happens 6 years after the hiring decisions. Presumably, you have proven yourself within that timeframe. Only after you have proven yourself, you could potentially be received as one member of the group.

Big questions abound. How do I prove myself? What do I have to do (or not do)? Or more damagingly, why do I have to prove myself? These are hard questions and 6-years is a long time to examine them. The cycle of publication is long – a paper takes 18 months to 24 months to publish, if you are lucky, and that does not include the actual research and the writing time. The demand of tenure is high – in addition to teaching full time and being a cheerful member of the community, you are supposed to published anywhere between 4-7 articles within 6 years. A lot of people can not make it. Nothing wrong with that, and often that could turn out to be the best outcome for that person at that time. After all, life is more than tenure, much much more.

But for those lucky ones who do get it, the tenure package is one of the great sales tools that we used. The CV and publication lists record the achievements. The research statement summarizes and makes sense of your record. But above all these, the process of putting the tenure package together (that 3-6 months when you are talking to your colleagues about what you should and should not put in the package) allow you to get to know your colleague better and allow you to position yourself in relation to them.

In the end, it is about relationships and people give tenure to “you”, not a random candidate. Great selling is “no selling” and allows people to buy the ultimate product – you. Happy Selling in 2017!

Day 22 December 26 Boxing Day: Rest

Meditation of the day: day of the living and the dead. I am always afraid of death and used to make light of proclamations such as “live every day as if it is your last”. For me, that’s too much to bear – how can I image myself dead tomorrow? Me? In my twenties? In my thirties? In my early forties? I can image the loop keeps going and myself still refusing to contemplate this in my nineties.

All these changed after I read an interview of Maya Lin from Washington Post. The article, titled “Maya Lin and the Great Call of China”, was written by Phil McCombs and published in January 2, 1982. Today it is still one of the first results when you google “Maya Lin Chinese”. So much has been written about her, her family, her upbringing, her work (the Vietnam War Memorial being the most famous of them), and even her person. She is an intriguing person, so no wonder.

But today, in this article, something caught my eyes. The article mentioned “for many years, Mya Lin has been fascinated – at times obsessed – by death. It began when she read the existentialists and pondered the meaning of life and death.

‘Everyone knows I’m morbid,’ she said.

Then, at Yale, she began frequenting the Grove Street Cemetery – treed acres of big crypts smack in the middle of New Haven.

‘The Grove Street Cemetery is beautiful’, she said, ‘There is something peaceful about it. You feel removed. You feel you’re in their world. You’re in the world of the dead.'”

Inspired, I too visited a cemetery, on the boxing day, the day after Christmas. Morbid, I know. But when will be a good time to visit a cemetery if not on a day of reflection? I visited Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery near Cabrillo National Monument. It is the final resting place for military persons who died from World I, II, Vietnam and other wars.

It was solemn. It shook me to the core. It also uplifted me.

I came away with my epitaph.

When I die, my tombstone will read “Loving Wife and Mother. Beloved Teacher and Writer”.

What would yours read?

Day 10 December 14 On Glory

3 Most Significant Things that I Read are:

1.   Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Board Meeting Agenda

2.   Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Board Meeting Slides

3.    HeraHub wall sayings, the most notable being “the secret of having it all is knowing you already do.”

3 Most Significant Things that I Wrote are:

1.    My presentation notes on the back of two name cards.

2.   Thank you note to Cathy Pucher.

3.   Thank you notes to Felena Hanson, founder of Herahub and to Melissa Glaze, who showed a group of us their co-working space in Mission Valley on 8885 Rio Vista.

3 Most Significant People that I Interacted With are:

1.    Tom Carrallo, founder of Pirch, a Southern California based Furnishing and Life Style company. Website at

2.   Whitney Hernandez, an assistant professor in the Department of Management in SDSU.

3.    Erica Snider, Director of Marketing in Zahn Innovation Launchpad, who joined my student, my colleague and I in the HeraHub visit.

Meditation of the Day on Glory

From Long Quiet Highway, by Natalie Goldberg (1993). This is a book on writing and Zen practice. Below are direct quotes from Part III, page 171.

“Grandma, tell me a story,” I beseeched her.

She answered, “About a Glory?”

I said, “How to begin it?”

“There’s nothing in it,” she said.

Writer’s Note Pivot 2 The writings no longer have a theme of duality in the form of “from … to …”. Instead, they take on a form of solidarity, on topics such as today’s glory and tomorrow’s culture.

Day 9 Tuesday December 13: From the Truth to a Truth

3 Most Significant Things that I Read are:

1.   Khalil Gilbran’s the Prophet (1923): the piece on “On Self-knowledge”

2.   “Constantly changing things are exhausting. What is your reality now?” Today’s text reminder from Headspace, the meditation app.


3 Most Significant Things that I Wrote are:

1.    My lesson plans. Today was the last day of class of Fall 2016.

2.   Feedback on product and strategy to the CourseKey team at our meeting.


3 Most Significant People that I Interacted With are:

1.    The Coursekey Team: Marc Barrron, Cecila Medeiros, and Omar Miyazaki

2.   Olivia Larsson, my student

3.    Quyen Nguyen, my student

Meditation of the day from the truth to a truth. For me, Kahlil Gilbran, the man from Lebanon, a poet who writes in English and Arabic, speaks the universal truth. But even he acknowledged that there is no universal truth. On self knowledge, he wrote, “Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ Say not, ‘ I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’ For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”

Gilbran, like Zen masters of Shunryn Suzuki and Katagiri Roshi, are about connectivity. Everything is connected to everything else. There is comfort for our heart and inspiration for our soul in that belief. But a suspicious mind may doubt it.

Which one should we listen to: the mind, the heart or the soul?

There is no truth but our own truth.

Day 8 December 12 From Doubting to Believing

Today was a half day. Worked in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon. Refreshing.

3 Most Significant Things that I read are:

1. Menu for Poki One N Half in Kearny Mesa. (A 20 people queue does not lie – the food was delicious).

2. Foreword in Toni Morrison’s “Song of Soloman” (1977). It is embarrassing to cry at lunch by yourself but I did it when reading the foreword. It has not happen to me before. She deserves the Nobel Prize on Literature (1993).

3. Recycling receipt for some books and electronics

3 Most Significant Things that I wrote are:

1.  My grateful journal.

2. My signature on the receipt for Poki One N Half. A small bowl with tax costed around 9 dollars.

3. Emails to students.

3 Most Significant People that I interacted with are:

1. Robert Schulte, Founder and CEO at LumaTax, a serial entrepreneur who taught with us at Lavin Entrepreneurship Center

2. A professor who held different opinions

3.  My hairdresser

Meditation of the day: from doubting to believing: Toni Morrison wrote: “I have long despised artists’ chatter about muses – ‘voices’ that speak to them and enable a vision, the source of which they could not otherwise name”. She thought of voices and muses as “inventions to protect one’s insight” and an escape from answering deeply personal questions about where the ideas come from. It took her father’s death and writing Song of Solomon to destroy that. She started to believe that the voice existed, inspired and and guided her through the creation process.

When would you start to listen, my friends?

Day 5 December 9 From Accepting to Rejecting

3 Most Significant Things that I Read are:

1.   A paper label on a bronze ballerina statue. The statue was breathtakingly beautiful, the paper label was not.

2.   SDSU Fowler COB Dean Search Committee Questions Draft

3.   Chocolate Bomb – a label for food in Havana Grill, a Cuban restaurant in San Diego. I refused this enticing piece of chocolate cake.

3 Most Significant Things that I Wrote are:

1.    The questions that I crossed out from the draft by the committee

2.   My signature in Amazon UTC store for the book I purchased: “In the Company of Women” by Grace Bonney (2016). She is the founder of Design*Sponge.

3.    My signature in Cafe 1134 in Coronado. Thank you for a friend from Lausanne for spending time with me.

3 Most Significant People that I Interacted With are:

1.    Fred Pierce, President and CEO of Pierce Educational Properties

2.    A professor on the committee who has different opinions on some issues

3. An acquaintance from Qualcomm

Meditation of the day from accepting to rejecting.    As adults, we often have dual responsibilities. On one hand, as a member of the society, we need to listen to others, to accept their point of view, and to follow instructions and do as we are told. On the other hand, as the only person who is responsible for our own happiness, we have to listen to our inner voices. The trouble is that sometimes these two are at direct conflict with each other. If we choose to listen to others, we drown our own inner voices; if we choose to listen to our inner voices, we have to fight others’ opinions. When we choose which is critical. Gandhi said “all compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take”.

He is right. When we give up listening to that inner voice, we become a mere instrument for others, no longer “us”. We may get goldmines or kingdom, but we lose our freedom – the freedom to be us. “Freedom to reject is only freedom” as Salman Rushdie said. I am grateful that I live in a democratic country.