Invest in people, with time not money, with love not lavish perks, and with intention not options. Building a company is always about putting people first. Find the 5 things I look for in my teams in my new Medium Post
We all have stories to be proud of. But we often forget, our stories are not competitive or comparative, rather, they are what hold us together. The more I am a part of the American Dream the more convinced I am that it is alive and well.
I think a lot about legacy and the role it plays in our lives. In studying the classics, people who have outlived their life in history, and the ideas that last - I have discovered one thing above all.
Most people know I am obsessed with two things Semester at Sea and One World Futbol. You might remember them from my post Monkey Business. I just did a guest blog post on their site about our journey on Semester at Sea with this indestructible soccer balls and the impact it made when we took them into one of my home stays in South Africa.
I get asked a lot by friends and colleagues - how to “get” certain opportunities, build certain relationships, or be in proximity with people that the admire. For the longest time, I didn’t really have an answer. Usually, I would say something like - work hard, do well, and it will come.
The real answer is - pay attention. Sounds simple, but it is really a bit more complicated than that.
I am not sure if this is something I should be proud of or embarrassed about, but I guess I am going to tell you anyways. I can have entire conversations with some of my friends in Friends quotes. I guess I just grew up at the right time in history. But one thing is for sure Ross was really bad at relationships and flirting because he was afraid of who he was, constantly changing himself to be the person that he thought the girl he was after wanted. Remember the leather pants and the baby powder… yeah exactly.
I am still really loving Medium and thus wrote another post on startup life, rules, reality and defining your own beliefs. I call it Arrested Development and if you read closely I might tell you about the first time I was arrested and how it shaped my view of entrepreneurship. READ IT HERE
I recently got early access to Medium a new publishing platform founded by Ev Williams and Biz Stone, best known for co-founding Twitter. I love the concept and how it organizes information, super intuitive and easy to use. HERE is my first post on the new publishing platform about a recent brush with death.
“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” This was the battle cry of newsboys on the street corner telling the passerby about the afternoon, evening editions or “extra” to the local paper. People woul pounce at the developing story, a new story, or the latest gossip was printed in black and white for all to see. People would rush the newsboy if their battle cries carried the weight of influence or the news was really newsworthy – but it was the job of the newsboy to bring people to the paper. The first newsboy was Barney Flaherty a 10-year-old who was hired by the New York Sun in 1833. While there are still little boys and girls across the world with paper routes – the way in which we are enticed or enchanted by news updates hasn’t changed. Attention grabbing headlines, tweets, posts, or memes all geared towards getting us to click and read (view ignore ads) so newspapers and news channels can generate revenue. I am not sure if this is quite what Johann Carolus envisioned when he published the first newspaper in 1605.
As a child who grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I remember all the classic toys. My favorites were obviously the Ninja Turtles – I even had a Ninja Turtles themed 5th Birthday Party – it was so awesome that Santa came to the party to give gifts to all my friends and I. Oh my Birthday is the day after Christmas and my Mom is a friend of Santa so I always had the best party favors - but I digress. One toy that has stood the test of time and still sells millions today is My Little Pony, and no I don’t have one.
Most people remember the jingle, and the toy – but few can name who makes it (HASBRO) – fewer can name the people behind it: Bonnie Zacherle, Charles Muenchinger, and Steve D’Aguanno. It is the collaboration of this illustrator, sculptor and product manager that created a legacy for one of the greatest selling toys of all time. Their work in all years prior prepared and positioned them to create the My Little Pony – the My Little Pony took center stage and didn’t prepare them to do anything but take their place in toy history.
Last week I had an afternoon lunch with my friend Nikhil, which turned into a four-hour conversation that involved the waiter leaving his shift before we left the restaurant. Nikhil is easily one of the smartest people I know and gave up a future of operating on people to operate businesses. He is a colleague at Tuition Specialists and Co-Founder of the Unreasonable Institute, with a few other friends and colleagues of mine. Unreasonable just finished their third summer cultivating social entrepreneurs. They are also taking their institute aboard my second home the MV Explorer with Semester at Sea to launch Unreasonable at Sea this spring. But I am not here to talk about that today. There is something that Nikhil does better than just about anyone and it is why he is continually a resource for many entrepreneurs.
You Can Either Clear the Field, or Run Down the Field. You Can't Do Both.
I have been head down the past two weeks. Back to reading, back to designing, back to social mapping, back to advising and consulting - and enjoying it all. I tend to focus my support for companies and people on identifying opportunities rather than barriers. Partly because experience has taught me that you cant embrace opportunity and defeat at the same time, as much as you may want to think you can hold those two emotions at the same time, you can’t – so don’t even try. Most people spend too much time thinking about their defeat, the competition, and the barriers to opportunity and let it define their path forward. They worry about the startup halfway across the world that has the same half idea, or the colleague in the next office who is outselling them. They think the field is too crowded and they wont stand out, so they don’t even try. They quit or get beat, usually they beat themselves. The reality is, the field is usually wide open, because everyone else is worried about each other, quits, or doesn’t even try - you just have to put in a little bit of the right work.
A couple months ago I came to Santa Monica, CA to visit @BenWhitehair and @AustinBis. We went to lunch at @TenderGreens because is said their salad was going to change my life. Just to be clear I am not a vegetarian, salad is usually an afterthought. Anyways, we went and the food was amazing – p.s. their mashed potatoes are like nothing I have ever had.
For the past couple weeks I have been talking with a few different companies and individuals about identifying opportunities. All too often, we look at what we can do based on what we have seen being done, what we see our peers do, and what we are told or shown is possible. Because we are trained to see with this lens, we miss opportunities. Important ones. From a very young age I have been what some classify as “opportunistic” – I like to say that I pay attention. I usually am tracking what people are doing, where they are going, what their starting, what companies are doing, who their partners are, who’s invested and to what degree. I pay attention to relationships by nature and believe that most people don’t because they are too focused on their own relationships to pay attention to anyone else’s.
Sweat Equity and the Olympics: Reputation > Branding
I usually go to sleep between 4 AM and 6 AM each morning and wake up around 10 AM. All those news and corporate emails that we all read every morning, I see as they ping my inbox. Over the past two weeks I have unsubscribed from a lot of them. But, apparently @Zazzle has not unsubscribed from me. I ordered business cards a while back and was auto signed up for their newsletter, which I unsubscribe from EVERY SINGLE TIME. They keep sending me emails. This is worse than the do not call list. To be honest, I love their products, they did a great job, I would order again. Except, I hate them now. I don’t like you Zazzle, I will find someone else to order from, and if you are reading this, UNSUBSCRIBE ME FROM YOUR EMAIL.
In college, about the time that Tuesdays with Morrie came out, Megan and I set a standing meeting to have breakfast at every opportunity. We called it Breakfast with Canon – her last name is Canon. We bonded over campus politics, love of pancakes, and embracing the fun and laughter in every moment. Last fall, Megan responded to a craigslist ad seeking a new roommate to join a group of young women in San Francisco on their journey to embrace the city. The ad said that there was one single make or break rule about their potential roommate: Must LOVE Justin Bieber.
When I graduated from college, I was in a weird place. I accomplished everything I had set out to in college and some things I didn’t expect to. I also learned lessons that can only come from stepping onto a big stage and taking big falls. I stepped into the world with the optimism that came with a feeling of a job well done. I was now taking on the world with a mixed bag of opportunities and I was going to take advantage of every one.
I spend a considerable amount of time listening to and telling stories. In this process, I sometimes confirm the truth, and sometimes I discover the truth. But, I really love finding the story behind the story – what really happened, who really invented the Internet, and is Hitch real. For the record it’s Tim Bernes Lee and yes the movie was based on a real man. Sometimes we get so lost in the legend or myth of what we know to be true that we don’t even think about the real story. In this day and age of the Internet, we still suffer from a misguided acceptance of what we see as true. Comedian Robert Wuhl makes an excellent case for calling this the “Liberty Valance Effect,“ lifting a still poignant line:
I like to lunch. I do it a lot, mostly, because I love to eat. #Foodie. Today, I was lunching with my friend Trent. Trent and I talk daily about everything from how much better 90’s video games were to what companies are doing wrong or right and how they could improve for the sake of their users. He is easily my first point of contact when talking about mobile apps. Today our conversation circled around who has the power in a company and the difference between customers and end-users which in many cases aren’t the same people.
I have been telling Trent about Socialcam for the past couple weeks and have had a hard time selling him on this free app. If you aren’t familiar with Socialcam, you should be
About a month ago when I was out to lunch with Jack and Obi in Boulder. I was approached by a woman who told me she was a personal stylist rep from J. Hilburn Here was her opening line:
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I noticed you when you walked in. You dress really well and obviously have an appreciation for style. I am a personal stylist with J. Hilburn, we make custom made men’s clothes and I thought you might appreciate them.”
Ok, let me start by saying – this was a GREAT opening. Why?
On my first Semester at Sea Voyage in 2009, I sailed around the Mediterranean visiting ten countries along the way. Every student on the ship had to take what was dubbed as Global Studies, an interdisciplinary course that allows you to learn in context about the countries and cultures you engage with on your journey. To be honest, I don’t remember much from the course, except for two lessons:
My senior year in high school I made a dating video. Yes an actual video, none of this digital stuff. To answer those questions you are thinking right now: No, I wasn’t sitting in front of the camera for some dating service, and no, I didn’t get any dates out of it. I played an elusive “Dr. Love” advising my friend Derek on how to win the hearts of our high school ladies for that Friday night date. Looking back on it now, the advice I gave him really wasn’t that effective and they fed into all the stuff you see in movies – basically telling Derek to be all these things that we thought women wanted
The secret is out, it has been out for a while – Research In Motion is plummeting, and fast. As I see it, they have two choices:
1. Stay and Sink
There is no question that history will remember BlackBerry as the pioneer in mobile and enterprise email. But, RIM doesn’t need to be remembered, they want to be revived. They have needed reviving for years. RIM can no longer survive on being all business, and they have backed into the consumer mobile market holding onto a business solution and BrickBreaker. They can no longer win on battery life, an efficient push email service, and BBM alone – the three things that kept many, including me, from switching. These were the glory days of BlackBerry.
Every other week I have lunch with my friend Jack. Jack and I both attended the University of Colorado – I on the Boulder Campus and Jack on the Denver Campus. We met during my last year at CU as we were both transitioning student leadership positions on our respective campuses and had a chance to work together for a year advancing student issues that we shared a vision for. We developed a really great friendship through the process and are still committed to a shared vision for our alma mater. When we get together we talk about the basics, what’s new, and how our various projects are progressing so that we may support each other. We also talk about what is broken and apply different philosophies as prescriptions. A couple months ago, around tax time, Jack and I met at Osteria Marco and shared a long lunch. We got to the topic of taxes and how we of course had to pay them – and then Jack used a metaphor that I have been thinking about almost nonstop for the past several months.
My biggest fear as a third grader was going to fourth grade. Do you want to know why? That meant I would have Mrs. Mueller (Hi Mrs. Mueller! Don’t worry this wont be bad, I promise). Mrs. Mueller was not scary at all, but she had high expectationss. The only one I remember: CURSIVE! Who still uses cursive? Not me, I know that for sure - that’s a lie, I sign my name in cursive, but that barely counts!
About six months ago the Denver Broncos were facing the New England Patriots in the playoffs. Now, the 2011-12 season was ripe with emotion and varying degrees of expectation, much of which can be attributed to the rise of Tim Tebow’s leadership on and off the field. There were a lot of people going back and forth talking about “fit” and whether or not Tebow’s playing style would fit the demands of the NFL. Could his rise to a leader on a national stage be cut down by his own natural abilities, not fitting the tempo, the demands, or the way the game “should” be played?
For those of you who are reading this article expecting to learn something about how to make a great first impression when you meet someone, or how to introduce yourself in front of people, in a new group, school, or at work – stop reading.