Mario Schulzke on 5 to 9ers

Mario Schulzke is an explorer. He grew up in Germany and fell in love with Montana as a high school exchange student. I met Mario 15 years ago when he was finishing his studies at the University of Montana. Even then, I was struck by his voracious appetite to learn. He was fascinated by the entrepreneurial process of translating creative ideas into action. It’s an unusual passion for a college student. MARIO SCHULZKE Mario spent 10 years in digital marketing at West Coast advertising agencies before returning to the University of Montana. He teaches and is the school’s Chief Marketing Officer. As long as he’s had 9 to 5 jobs, Mario has invested his time and money in what he calls “5 to 9” projects.

What’s a 5 to 9 Project?

While still working for an ad agency in Los Angeles, Mario launched IdeaMensch, a “community of and for people with ideas.” It’s the repository of nearly 2,500 interviews, including luminaries such as Dan Pink and Seth Godin. IdeaMensch fuels Mario’s continued interest in people who have the capacity to effectively act upon ideas. IDEAMENSCH The positive response to IdeaMensch prompted Mario to hold live events in each of the 48 contiguous states. He had no clear business plan at the time. Instead, Mario’s primary goal was to “inspire and educate potential innovators by showing the many different paths that ordinary people have taken to start their businesses.” It also gave him the opportunity to explore the country in a comprehensive way from a unique vantage point. IDEAMENSCH CROSS-COUNTRY TOUR His desire to learn and see his own ideas take form compelled Mario to build IdeaMensch, even though he had a day job. Over time, the project has yielded financial, as well as intrinsic, rewards.

Not Just Another Side Gig

Mario makes a clear distinction between a 5 to 9 project and a side gig such as driving an Uber car. The latter is a job. It generates immediate income, but you aren’t building anything for which you are responsible and can own. In contrast, a 5 to 9 project is usually born out of a strong personal interest – even passion. Financial reward isn’t a primary motivator, at least at first. Even so, a 5 to 9 project offers the prospect of ownership and the potential for accumulated value. As is true for side gigs, technology drives need and opportunity when it comes to 5 to 9 projects. Automation is eliminating or transforming a growing number of 9 to 5 jobs. In order to survive, many of us feel the pressure to re-tool and adapt to the new economic reality. Even as technology poses a threat, it opens the door to global audiences and access to scalable platforms. USA TODAY REPORT ON AUTOMATION

What It Takes to Succeed

Maybe not surprisingly, Mario sees two traits as being essential to 5 to 9 success:
  • An entrepreneurial mindset – a willingness to experiment, fail, and take personal responsibility for your project
  • A growth mindset – the capacity to work at learning, even in the face of initially intimidating and unfamiliar tools, techniques, and technologies
What else would you expect from an explorer? HOW TO ENCOURAGE AN ENTREPRENEUR