“S+B: Let’s begin by talking about the mind-set of leaders who are adept at scaling excellence.
SUTTON: Leaders who are adept at scaling have an almost paradoxical mind-set. On one hand, they’re always focusing on cleaning things up—smoothing and clarifying policies and processes so they are more spreadable. They have a clear sense of the excellence they’re trying to spread and of where they’re going. On the other hand, they understand that life is messy, and there are going to be long stretches when they and their people are confused and don’t know exactly what needs to be done. But they urge people to keep moving forward in spite of that. That’s the paradox: They’re always trying to clean things up, but they embrace chaos and don’t let it stop them.”—JNRip49NU1 (via khuyi)
“Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”—
By Jon Krakauer
This line… “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.”
“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came.”— an old favorite quote of mine from JFK
“Though driven and innovative, hypomanics are at much higher risk for depression than the general population, notes Gartner. Failure can spark these depressive episodes, of course, but so can anything that slows a hypomanic’s momentum. “They’re like border collies—they have to run,” says Gartner. “If you keep them inside, they chew up the furniture. They go crazy; they just pace around. That’s what hypomanics do. They need to be busy, active, overworking.””—
“It’s easy to waste more time looking for shortcuts than you’ll ever save by finding them. Sometimes, the path is clear: other people have already walked it, and they’ll even tell you where it is if you look. Meanwhile, other people – who haven’t walked the path, but want you to follow them – will offer you shortcuts. That’s when you end up getting lost.”—
this quote is about training to do ‘muscle-ups,’ but it applies to, well, everything…
As you remember, last year’s Boston Marathon was forever changed by the senseless bombing at the finish line, and it was the American Red Cross who responded within minutes by helping runners, visitors, spectators and first responders. In the days, weeks and months to follow, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, financial support, and mental health services to those affected, from victims and family members to first responders and community members.
We’re all praying for a safe race day this year, but the aid of The American Red Cross goes so much further than events… whether it’s disaster relief from storms like Sandy, supporting America’s military families, supplying lifesaving blood donations to those in need, or their everyday health and safety services - The American Red Cross is a vital support network for all of us in times of need.
But to execute their mission, they need our support. So, let’s rally together to donate to The American Red Cross! By donating, you will support a tremendous organization AND be relieved of getting me a birthday present. ;)
Training has been brutal through this polar-vortexed-winter, but I found extra motivation when thinking of those The Red Cross aim to serve. On race day, I’m hoping to break 3 hours and 30 minutes, more importantly, I’m hoping we can raise over $4000 together!
“If I was a video game, I would think this is a bug… my health bar is at zero, but I’m not dying.”—A founder friend of mine, battling against the odds. Maybe the most determined person I’ve ever met, and a great sense of humor about it all.
“there’s a lot of people in the world with real problems and running a venture funded startup isn’t a real problem… It’s a privilege… That doesn’t mean it isn’t mentally, socially, emotionally, and economically hard as hell.”—
“Each time we lose a customer, I feel like my girlfriend dumped me AND told me what guy she’s gonna sleep with next.”—A quote from a friend - edited for profanity as their version was a bit more “colorful” - via a post I just published on Medium.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”—RIP Nelson Mandela
“We were changing things, and we saw from the church groups who protested us, the plain clothes cops that would come to our shows and camp out outside SST, we knew we were making a difference. And while I don’t think we were important, I knew we were onto something, and we never—didn’t make us think that we were any big damn deal at all. But we knew we were making ripples in an otherwise placid pool.”—Henry Rollins, talking about the influence Black Flag had on Southern California at the time. (via matyus)
Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself…
…Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
There is so much good stuff in this post, but these two really stick out to me as I believe they are intricately linked together and our relationships hinge upon the ability to understand and be understood, even in the face of uncertainty. It’s obviously relatable in startups, but is much more widely applicable to all of our relationships.
From an interview with designer/artist/soul searcher Elle Luna:
So I was using Uber all the time in San Francisco, even though I hated the design. And then I went to the Crunchies awards ceremony and at a post-ceremony event, where I was in a ball gown, I saw the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, sitting at the bar. I was three whiskeys deep at this point and I walked up to him and said, “I use Uber all the time and I absolutely hate the app. I think you should bring me in to fix it.” He replied, “Oh, yeah? What are the three things you’d fix about it?” I said, “I’d redo the logo, redo the entire app, and change the rating system.” I think there was something about being in a dress that empowered me to say such things (laughing). And do you know what he said? He said, “Be at the Uber office at 9am on Monday.” I told him I couldn’t do it alone and he said he’d have a team for me.
I thought the offer was bogus, but I went to Uber’s office on Monday at 9am, laughing to myself, and Travis led me back to a project room with two other designers—they were from outside of Uber and he had flown them in from New York! We took on the Uber app and redesigned it in three weeks. In fact, one of the guys he flew in from New York, Shalin Amin, ended up staying on full-time. The app is gorgeous and last night it won the Fast Company 2013 Innovation By Design Awards for the transportation category, beating out Mars Rover and Tesla.
Most people want to be fit, most people aren’t.
Most people want to build a successful business, most people won’t.
Most people want to be the best version of themselves, most people aren’t.
Most people have dreams they want to fulfill, most people won’t.
Everyone wants to quit something, build something, be something, do something. Most people won’t.
How many things have we wanted? How many opportunities have we craved? How many broken things have we wanted to fix?
And how many of those have we shrunk from. Hid from. Or, excused away.
We’re not alone.
Most people won’t.
But every once in a while someone puts themselves out there. Makes the leap. Faces rejection or failure or worse. And comes out the other side. Better. Changed. Bolder.
Most people won’t. Which means those that do change everything.
This is how it should be… at least, how I like things to be. Is meeting with some other founder who’s just starting up who has nothing to offer me “work?” Well, it doesn’t pay the bills, but I learn from it, I make new connections, I enjoy it… It’s not “work” but it sure feels like something I should be doing.
On the flip-side, is my weekly digital sabbath and trip to the ocean “work?” Well, again, it doesn’t put money in my pocket, but it’s where I find my balance, my energy, my inspiration to keep me challenging myself at Shelby.
It all starts to change once you break down the walls of “work” vs. “life.” Just consider it all your “life’s work.” Or call it “art” like Seth Godin does…
“Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another. Most painters, it turns out, aren’t artist at all — they’re safety-seeking copycats.”
Whatever you do, just don’t waste your time. As I heard recently, ‘Be phenomenal or be forgotten.’
“In my next post I’ll cover why online video is such an exciting opportunity for company building right now and how we think about building businesses with appropriate margins nearing 50-60%. I’ll cover why most VCs have stayed away from online video networks and why I believe they’re missing an important growth trend that looks more like a scalable tech business than the “hits driven” business they all fear.”—
“I have a whole new appreciation for what a white screen represents, how much work it takes to craft something with purpose, and how the tiniest details can affect your overall message. I think this kind of professional experience could have only been possible at a startup. Only a startup would take a 19-year-old after after his first year of college and treat him with respect, while holding him to a standard usually reserved for those at least a couple years older than him.”—
So for those who ask the question, this is in my opinion the true character of Elon Musk. Undeterred in the face of all odds, undaunted by the fear of failure, and forged in the battlefields of some of the most terrifyingly technical, and capital intensive challenges that any human being could choose to take on. Somehow he comes out alive, every time - with the others guy’s head on a platter.
Working with him isn’t a comfortable experience, he is never satisfied with himself so he is never really satisfied with anyone around him. He pushes himself harder and harder and he pushes others around him the exact same way. The challenge is that he is a machine and the rest of us aren’t. So if you work for Elon you have to accept the discomfort. But in that discomfort is the kind of growth you can’t get anywhere else, and worth every ounce of blood and sweat.
“But the truth, and the wonderful thing about entrepreneurship, is those things that got you into trouble before will get you onto magazine covers now. Know which rules to follow, which rules to break and how to channel that unruliness into things that matter.”—
Great post @bryce, and I didn’t know it then, but certainly explains how I felt growing up. Often clashing with those teachers, those coaches, who rule with justtoo much authority… not hurting others, but still questioning the rules and pushing the boundaries just because they were there! The same could be said for the closest company I kept, my hometown best buddy @bralfucious and my college buddy/cofounder @spinosa… the best possible mischiefs I could meet.
I had a great conversation with Gwen Moran who writes for Entrepreneur. Just reposting here:
It’s a gutsy move to start a business in a territory dominated by a behemoth like YouTube. But New York City-based Shelby.tv co-founders Reece Pacheco and Dan Spinosa have carved out a growing niche for themselves against a seemingly insurmountable competitor. They have attracted rock star venture capitalists and mentors like Brad Feld, co-founder and mentor at super-incubator TechStars and venture capitalist Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures.
Pacheco shared some of his dos and don’ts for leading companies against sizeable competitors.
1. Don’t obsess about what the competition is doing. Race car drivers are told to keep their eyes on the track because if you look at the wall, you’re going to crash into it, Pacheco says. Businesses with big competitors should do the same. The more attention you’re paying to your competitor, the less you’re paying to your company. Focus on your goals and objectives and don’t obsess about what the other company is doing, he says.
2. Do build your advantage. The weakness of many big competitors is that they don’t do everything well. Pacheco says a critical part of leading your startup to success in an environment with a dominant player is to focus on your key strengths and build your company around them. In Shelby.tv’s case, the social media component, which harnesses contacts’ Likes and shares on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to help curate a personalized video stream leads to users spending an average of 30 to 40 minutes on the site. While YouTube has an unwieldy amount of content, Shelby.tv suggests videos you likely want to see because your friends and contacts like them.
3. Do surround yourself with good people.
In addition to his power mentors, Pacheco also runs a CEO peer group with business owners in various stages. There, he shares challenges and gets support from fellow entrepreneurs. Shelby.tv hires carefully, looking for talented, committed team members, and take good care of their employees.
It can be daunting to compete with a huge company and employees worry about job security and being able to trust the company leaders. He holds meetings with his team members every six weeks. “You’ve got to rally your team. Be honest and say ‘We’re going to get through these challenges together. They trust you and they’re willing to stick by you through challenges,” he says.
4. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. The current version of Shelby.tv is the second iteration of the company. The company actually shut down its operations in July 2012 to build a more social-media focused video brand. While some thought that spelled doom for the company, Pacheco and Spinosa stayed focused on the product they would want to use, themselves. And it worked: The team raised $1.5 million in funding for its first iteration, then raised an additional $2.2 million for the next round.
"You can’t be afraid to scrap what you’ve done and do something new, especially when you’re competing against a big company. Go in a new direction," he says.
“When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.”—
“Jack Dorsey wrote a blog post a while ago saying that ‘users’ is the wrong word to describe people who, well, use your service. He was perfectly right in the sense that the word elides the obligation you should feel to a customer. However, an equal problem is the use of the possessive itself. You can think of people as users or customers - but they’re not yours. They don’t belong to you, and they may barely even care that you exist. The old Google rejoiced in sending people away from the site as fast as possible, because the result mattered, not the search. Glass points to a risk of forgetting that.”—
I agree with Jack and with Benedict here. I’ve always disliked the word “users” and trying to possess them seems silly… but, what other way is there to refer to the people who visit your site? Who use your product?
And when it comes to satisfying investors who demand growth and retention, what other business is there than attempting to own the relationship with them — even if it’s artificially manufactured?
Tough questions and worth thinking through for your startup.
I remember having dinner with my family some time after we raised our first round for Shelby.TV.*
My mom just looked at me at one point and said, “Where’d you learn how to do all of this? I don’t remember you studying this in school.” **
And she’s right, I didn’t.
“I taught myself and learned from people in the industry,” I told her at the time.
Yup. I read blogs.
From guys like Fred and Brad and Mark and Paul and Ben and Dixon, to any of the other awesome founders, creators, and investors who blog about their best practices, there is a litany of posts scattered across the web.
Launching a startup was a painstaking process of research, trial, error, more research, meeting veterans, finding mentors, more iteration, and more trials … but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the knowledge I’d picked up from these guys.
And the truth is, if you ask any first-time founder they’ll admit they had no idea what they were doing when they started their company. Such is the life of a startup founder. You have to just dive in and learn as you go.
This morning I was excited to discover that budding startup founders now have a great resource to turn to, one which is aggregating all of this awesome knowledge into one place.
“Nor do I think it will be a problem that founders keep control of their companies for longer. The empirical evidence on that is already clear: investors make more money as founders’ bitches than their bosses. Though somewhat humiliating, this is actually good news for investors, because it takes less time to serve founders than to micromanage them.”—Startup Investing Trends
There needs to be a clear social contract when you take a job at a startup. Founders need to be upfront about the bad. You will work longer hours. It will be emotional. You may not get vacations, and even if you do, you may feel pressured not to take them. Your job description is fluid; ditto, org charts. You may not grow along with the company. The goal posts — whether you are in sales or product — are really a suggestion more than a rule. They are subject to change. The company may change what it does over the time you are there…
In exchange for all of that, you get to help build something. You will likely have more fun than working at other companies. You have the chance to get rich– no matter how slim that chance is. And you have the opportunity to have more responsibility and professional growth than you might on a typical career tract.
“Intuition, like a flash of lightning, lasts only for a second. It generally comes when one is tormented by a difficult decipherment and when one reviews in his mind the fruitless experiments already tried. Suddenly the light breaks through and one finds after a few minutes what previous days of labor were unable to reveal.”—Cryptonomicon (via henrysztul)