Courage is the Tool of the Fearless: How to Leverage Courage as Your Backbone

All hands on deck for this meeting, there is an issue with two of the deliverables, so the team is brainstorming solutions. As the ideas are flowing, and sticky notes are going up on the whiteboard, there is one idea that catches your attention as particularly risky.

You whisper, “That won’t work.” Then to your surprise, the executive director asks, “Why won’t it work?” Terrified, you stumble for an intelligent supporting argument but what spills out is an embarrassing mess of “Uh, um, like, you know it’s risky.” The conference room falls quiet for what seems like an eternity; then someone breaks the silence by shouting out another possible solution.

Grateful for the distraction you sink into the mesh chair and ask yourself, “Why am I not more confident at this stage of my career?”

Regrettably, you are not born with confidence. In all honesty, biologically your brain is designed to keep you safe. Author Seth Godin notes, “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.” So when your lizard brain senses danger it does what it’s programmed to do, fight or flight.

In the case of today’s meeting, your lizard brain executed the flight algorithm.

I intimately understand your reaction at the meeting. It’s not that you couldn’t add value to the conversation. It’s just that you lacked the courage to say what you wanted to say. Why, because you didn’t want to blurt out something so stupid that your team will look at you and agree, “That is so stupid.”

Unfortunately, left unchecked the lack of confidence becomes cancer, metastasizing into all areas of your professional and personal life.

I found there is one inoculation to the lack of courage; it’s courage. The ability to understand your fear and then create an audacious plan to manage the fear. I say manage because you can’t defeat fear, you must take action to define how you and fear will co-exist.

Brendon Burchard explains, “The more experience they had in facing their fear, the less fear and stress they felt.” Burchard continues, “That’s why it’s so important for you to start living a more courageous life now. The more actions you take facing fear, expressing yourself, and helping others, the easier and less stressful these actions become.”

You can, either do nothing and be a victim of your inaction, or you can plan to live better. Burchard notes, “ People know what they were afraid of, and so they prepared themselves. They studied. They got mentors. Then they faced their fears. Only when our fears become our growth plan have we stepped onto the path of mastery.”

From my experience mastery is significantly a better growth plan.

The Power of Clarity: The Lack of Clarity Makes You Feel Unfulfilled

Over the past few months, you have been experiencing pain. Not physical pain but mental distress. At first, you give the little pain attention but as the weeks and months pass the mental pain turns into anguish. It starts affecting your work and the ability to enjoy your personal life.

You convince yourself that it’s the stress from the reorganization, it’s the new guy who is smarter than you, or it’s your sexless marriage. Your solution is to take a few days off from work, but regrettably, the mental pain only gets worse, so you begin to seek answers.

Mental pain is good. It’s your body’s natural alarm system that something is wrong. As you start investigating the source of your pain questions, begin to surface. Brendon Burchard, the author of “High-Performance Habits,” explains, “When these questions go unanswered for too long, an unraveling begins:”

  1. Is all the complexity I’ve created in my life even worth it?
  2. Is this the right direction for my family and me at this stage of our lives?
  3. Why am I starting to feel so distracted?
  4. Why am I not more confident at this point in my life?

As you answer the questions you begin to see the pattern: lack of clarity. Burchard continues, “Soon, day-to-day motivation wanes. They begin feeling restricted or unfulfilled. They start focussing on protecting their successes versus progressing. Nothing seems thrilling anymore.”

You have lost clarity in your life, and you want it back.

Clarity is not a skill that you are born with, it must be developed and sometimes re-developed. Here are three strategies that you can use to connect with your clarity:

  1. Ask questions designed to tease out your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
  2. Set end goals that will pull you to achieve them, these are goals that will stretch your strengths and expose your weaknesses.
  3. Set deadlines for the end goals, build in checkpoints so you can assess your progress and shift course if necessary.

As you run through the exercise, you should begin to understand what you want at this season of your life.

The Stories You Are Told Are Lies: Here Is The Awful Truth

You want to live a great story. A narrative in which you thrive outside of your comfort zone. A tale in which your time is owed to no one but you. An epic that is passion-fueled and purpose driven.

Roman philosopher Seneca meditates, “But man who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes everyday as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day. For what new pleasures can any hour now bring him? He has tried everything, and enjoyed everything to repletion.”

Regrettably, you are a prisoner. A convict of an inter-subjective narrative which persuades, that you must follow your heart.

Author Yuval Noah Harari notes,“Friends giving advice often tell each other, “Follow your heart.” But the heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day, and the very recommendation to “Follow your heart” was implanted in our minds by a combination of nineteenth-century romantic myths and twentieth century consumerist myths.”

When I followed my heart I found myself caught in a brutal uphill marathon. I was chasing the finish line, for me, that meant becoming a corporate lawyer or an NYC police officer. Why, because those were romantic and consumerist myths that were implanted in my mind, by friends and family.

As I got closer to the finish line, my feet got heavier, and my breathing became labored. Each step closer was agony but the myths kept pushing me not to fail. The pain became unbearable I surrendered. Exhausted, I fell to my knees and accepted failure.

What I have learned over time is that failure is not final, it’s life’s way of teaching you a valuable lesson. Robert of Wanderlust Worker writes, “In fact, failure is life’s great teacher; it’s nature’s chisel that chips away at all the excess, stripping down egos as it molds and shapes us through divine intentions.”

I began to understand that follow your heart was an epically terrible plan.

I needed to follow my effort. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explains, “Because when you look at where you put in your time, where you put in your effort, that tends to be the things that you are good at. And if you put in enough time, you tend to get really good at it.”

Where are you placing your time, your energy? When I began to analyze what I enjoyed working on, the pain disappeared. That is not to say there is no struggle or that I am no longer in a brutal uphill marathon. I struggle everyday. I fail repeatedly.

What is different, primarily when you work on something you are good at, is that every failure is fuel.

Will you follow your heart or will you follow your effort? You have a limited amount of time in this life, live it so you can die without regret.

By 2020 Your Skills Will Be Unimportant, But Why

You have wasted your time in becoming a professional, who no longer learns.

Alex Gray, a Senior Writer at Formative Content, notes “By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology, and genomics.” Gray continues, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.”

Becoming An Expert Has Put You At A Disadvantage

If your skills are no longer important, how will you make a living? What will be your life’s purpose? Could Gray be wrong in her assessment, perhaps it’s just an opinion?

Then panic begins to snake its way into your brain, and you discover, “I haven’t had to learn anything new in decades.” While the questions you have asked are an attempt to rationalize the facts, the actual problem is you.

Professionally you have become an expert. You have made the decision that you have learned all that you need to learn to do your job well. You have grown comfortable in the knowing mindset, which makes you less open to new ideas, other possibilities and even questioning your world view.

You have habitualized the application of your expertise. Neurologist Robert Burton calls this phenomenon the certainty epidemic. Burton explains, “Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.”

Unfortunately, you have limited your conclusions based solely on a finite subset of available data. The single source of truth has served you well the World is evolving, because of the fusion of technologies. While this blurring of technologies speaks to a number advances between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, they also give birth to a series of complex problems that will require new levels of critical thinking and creativity.

Charlie Munger Says You Are Unwise

The long-term treatment for the epidemic is constant learning, specifically building a latticework of mental models. What is a mental model? It’s an explanation of how something works. Your mental model is a theory, a belief, a worldview that guides your decisions making; helping you understand the relationships between events.

I first learned about the importance of mental models from Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. In a 1944 speech at USC Business School titled “A Lesson on Elementary Worldly Wisdom,” Munger details the importance mental models.

What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you've got to have multiple models because if you just have one or two that you're using, the nature of human psychology is such that you'll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you'll think it does.

It's like the old saying, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And of course, that's the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that's a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you've got to have multiple models.

And the models have to come from multiple disciplines because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That's why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don't have enough models in their heads. So you've got to have models across a fair array of disciplines.

Remixing Of Ideas Is Your Only Solution

So what are the multiple disciplines that you must focus on? Microsoft founder Bill Gates suggests he would place his focus on:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Energy
  3. Bioscience

Where do you being learning about these topics? The most straightforward solution is to read, but you have to read wide then deep. No, blog posts won’t do, the coverage is shallow. I am referring to books, for example:

  1. Artificial Intelligence — “The Master Algorithm,” by Pedro Domingos
  2. Energy — “Energy and Civilization: A History,” by Vaclav Smil
  3. Bioscience — “The Vital Question,” by Nick Lane

As you begin assimilating information questions should start popping into your head:

  1. Why does artificial intelligence need neural networks?
  2. Why can’t we optimize our resources by creating regional electricity grids?
  3. Why couldn’t we replace all of the tissues in the human body through engineering?

Once you have healthy list of Why questions now have some fun by asking What if:

  1. What if we could build learners that build neural networks?
  2. What if we could build self-replicating electricity grids?
  3. What if nanobots could repair the damaged tissue?

Now we are being to build interest in learning more about the Why and What if scenarios, but the How is what fuels the latticework of mental models:

  1. How do we build an advanced algorithm that builds neural networks?
  2. How will self-replicating electricity grids be funded?
  3. How will we program that nanobots to only repair damaged tissue and leave the healthy tissue, alone?

The exercise is designed to help you see past the conventional answers and seek out the speculative ideas. Ideas that might not even, at least on the surface, have a natural connection. Author Warren Berger notes, “What If questions — often involves the ability to combine ideas and influences, to mix and remix things that might not ordinarily go together.”

The 10,000-Hour Rule No Longer Works

I know this is a lot of work, but that is how you build new mental models. That is how you inoculate yourself against, your skills being unimportant in five years. Specifically, that is how you build valuable skills. The World Economic Forum explains that in 2020 these will be the most sought-after skills:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Do you currently have any of these skills? Do you have mastery over that skill? When I say mastery I am not referring to expertise or the 10,000-hour rule which was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, I am referring to having the competence of a skill so you can help solve someone’s problem.

Being able to solve someone’s problem is always an in-demand tool. If you have the rich latticework of mental models, you can summon that knowledge to, “combine ideas and influences, to mix and remix things that might not ordinarily go together.” You might come up with a solution to a complex AI that has its roots in bioscience or solves a complex energy problem that has roots in AI.

You must take ownership and build your understanding of not just how one thing works but how lots of things work. You must fight the natural tendency that dictates, “to the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Master This One Thing To Become A Fearless Writer

You have always wanted to be a great writer, a genius among wordsmiths. You have dreams of becoming a member of the elite writer's fraternity. Your aspirations of winning the Pulitzer Prize and becoming a NYT's Best Selling author, makes your heart race with anticipation. You were born to write.

Unfortunately, your pen sporadically touches paper and your definition of reading allot is based on your Twitter feed. So why have you wasted time? Why have you allowed ambition to atrophy? Why have you permitted Resistance to win? Author Steven Pressfield types, “The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Ever since grammar school, I wanted to become a writer; to put pen to paper and conjure words that would garner immediate praise. So I wrote; pages of accounts, notebooks of adventures and volumes of stories.

Unfortunately, there was no conjuring and no one, but my mother praised. Slowly Resistance chipped away at my soul’s evolution until there was no more importance left. Pressfield explains, “Resistance's goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill.”

Yes, there are many strategies for becoming a better writer:

  • 7 Tips…
  • 10 Ways…
  • 4 Simple…

Unfortunately, these strategies go to crap when Resistance attacks. She is like a seasoned street fighter, landing brutal combinations of self-sabotage, self-deception, and self-corruption. Intensifying the brawl the crowd taunts you by cheering, You’re not a good enough! You’re not a good enough! You’re not a good enough! Resistance has planned your defeat flawlessly, humiliated you retreat to the warm embrace of conformity.

It’s not your fault. Genetically, you are at a disadvantage. Resistance is a primordial algorithm that feeds off your fears. Pressfield narrates, “We experience Resistance as fear. But fear of what?”

Steven continues, “Fear of the consequences of following our heart. Fear of bankruptcy, fear of poverty, fear of insolvency. Fear of groveling when we try to make it on our own, and of groveling when we give up and come crawling back to where we started. Fear of being selfish, of being rotten wives or disloyal husbands; fear of failing to support our families, of sacrificing their dreams for ours.”

While you cannot kill Resistance, you can defeat her. Great writers such as Steven Pressfield, Stephen King, Maya Angelou and Rosanne Cash have defeated Resistance. How? The pilgrimage requires an epochal mindset. An unrelenting will to becoming a writer. You must absorb the brutal combinations, the taunting and then hit back.

The poet Archilochus wrote, “Plant your feet and square your shoulders to the enemy. Meet him among the man-killing spears. Hold your ground.” In the same mindset Pressfield mentors, “The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.”

You must commit to becoming a writer. Stephen King scribbles, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” King continues, “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so."

So this is it. You are now at the crossroads. What are you going to do? Don’t take too long to decide; time is against you. It’s a finite resource that once gone; it’s gone.

Author Tony Robbins tells this story, “When you are sitting in your rocking chair at the end of your life. One of your grandchildren asks you, “What are you most proud of grandpa?” How will you respond? That you had a grand life? Or that you have many regrets?”

The story has a sickening feeling, but sobering nonetheless. It’s your moral duty to become a great writer, a genius among wordsmiths, and member of the elite writer's fraternity. So what are you going to do?

This One Staggering Habit Will Propel You Towards Success

You’ve always been impressed by people who were intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers. Privately, you would ask, “How did he become so wise?” While some part of you wanted to ask the question, a more substantial part of you refused. Why, perhaps you attributed their success to some natural gift of intelligence; even good genes.

Resistance Is Not Futile, It's Deadly

You are not alone. I also thought that people who were intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers, were gifted; and I felt I was not gifted at all. I spent the better part of my life accepting the narrative, “I would never be smart.” I was complicit with the Resistance in my self-sabotage, self-deception, and self-corruption.

Author Steven Pressfield doodles, “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled.” Pressfield continues, “It's a repelling force. It's negative. It aims to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

Beginning to understanding the mindset that leads me to believe “I was not good enough,” I started to search for people who would mentor me directly or indirectly. What I began to discover is that many of the successful people were not born smart they learned how to became smart.

How? The read, an obscene amount:

  • Bill Gates — reads about 50 books per year
  • Mark Cuban — reads more than 3 hours every day
  • Warren Buffett — reads 600 and 1000 pages per day

The Solution is Compound Interest

Yes, this is an obscene amount of reading, but it’s the corner-stones of their success. Warren Buffet explains, “That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

When I first read that quote I was mentally paralyzed, and I asked myself, “Could it be that fundamental?”

Seneca continues the argument, “If you apply yourself to study you will avoid all boredom with life, will not long for night because you are sick of daylight, you will be neither a burden to yourself nor useless to others, you will attract many to become your friends and the finest people will flock about you.”

The Only Believable Solution

Yes, knowledge accumulates from believable sources and people who are smarter than you. And while you can spend countless hours searching for mentors, people to help you grow, you can start small, at your pace by picking up a book.

But to build your knowledge-base you must be deliberate:

First. Always be reading — on the train, at your desk, waiting in line, in bed, etc. Second. Set a goal for how many books will you read this year. Third. Create a list of books you want to read. Once you are reading, sip the book. Take notes in the margin. Write questions at the bottom of the page. Research unfamiliar topics. Create an alternate index. Go to the bibliography a choose your next book to read. Rinse and repeat.

I read an inspirational quote from Mark S A Smith on Twitter, “Reading science, math, & philosophy 1 hour per day will put you at the upper echelon of human success within 7 years.” It’s a powerful statement but what if you took on the challenge? Who would you become? What opportunities would you encounter? When would you exceed your dreams? Where would you be?

Remember Buffett stated, “That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” Why don’t you start compounding interest, now? Why not stop being impressed by people who are intelligent, accomplished and always seem to have the right answers; when you can be that person.


Originally Posted: Medium

5 Mind-Blowing Questions That Can Help You Find Your Purpose

Are you looking for purpose in your life? If you do a Google Search on, “How can you find purpose in life?” Google will return about 1,170,000,000 results in 0.73 seconds. It’s staggering the amount of advice you will find on the Internet. Unfortunately, most of the information is more noise than signal:

  • 33 Ideas for Finding Purpose in Life
  • 4 Simple Ways To Set Your Goals
  • 6 Books That Will Change Your Life
  • For A Limited Time: Take My Email Course For $99

Your Lizard Brain is Kill You

I am confident the items above sound eerily familiar. Regardless of the noise, you try and find your passion; you list out your goals, you read the books and take the course. Armed with these new tools your glowing with motivation and you attack the goals; checking off items at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, motivation is a fickle source of energy, and it soon betrays you.

“We think someone else—someone smarter than us, someone more capable, with more resources—will solve that problem. But there isn’t anyone else.”

The glow you wore proudly fades, and the rapid pace becomes a crawl. Then life happens, and your most important goals drop to important, then they slip to less important and finally, your goals lay at the feet of would be nice.

At this point, your lizard brain is at full strengthen and screaming, “I told you that you were not good enough!” Author Seth Godin scribbles, “The lizard brain is the reason you're afraid, the reason you don't do all the art you can, the reason you don't ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”

Why the Social Contagion is a Trap

I understand your frustration. Like you, I have spent countless hours searching for “How can you find purpose in life?” Only to be overwhelmed by the avalanche of results, which would lead me to prematurely give up and succumbing to the narrative of my lizard brain.

Strangely, I began to see improvements in my life and work, not from spending countless hours searching the web, but when I started to question advice, rules, and dogma. Author Vishen Lakhiani tutors, “We often take on ideas not through rational choice but through social contagion — the act of an idea spreading from mind to mind without due questioning.”

Lakhiani continues, “But it means we may be living our lives according to models that haven’t been upgraded for years, decades, even centuries. Blindly following may be efficient, but it’s not always smart.”

So I scrutinized the ideas based on social contagion and began to question everything. What I gradually began to understand is that I was relying on experts to solve my problems. Regina Dugan, a former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director, explains, “We think someone else—someone smarter than us, someone more capable, with more resources—will solve that problem. But there isn’t anyone else.”

Why More Beautiful Questions will Fuel Your Purpose

That was my problem; I kept relying on others to solve mine. How can you expect others to help you solve your problem when the source of the problem is you.

Warren Berger, the author of, A More Beautiful Question, explains, “If you give the mind time and space, it will do its own work on the problem, over time. And it will usually come up with interesting possibilities to work with.”

There is no specific question to ask yourself, in all honesty, any question will help start the change reaction to problem resolution. But I wanted to give you a call to action, five interesting questions from entrepreneur Tim Ferriss:

  1. Were my goals my own, or simply what I thought I should want?
  2. How much of life had I missed from under-planning or over-planning?
  3. How could I be kinder to myself?
  4. How could I better say ‘no’ to the trivial many to better say ‘yes’ to the critical few?
  5. How could I best reassess my priorities and my purpose in this world?

If I remember correctly, Ferriss explained that he leverages the answers to the questions to help him better plan his year, month, week and day. I started using these questions not to find answers but to start a dialogue with myself as an assessment; a frequent checkpoint that allowed me to self-correct.

I have experienced countless peaks and valleys, and I have found two things to be true 1. You will die and 2. Your time is limited. So don’t spend your days trapped by the social contagion, but spend all your time on your own needs. Organize every day like it was your last because it takes a whole life to learn how to live. Everything else is secondary.

Original Article: Thrive Global

Are You a Slave to the Unremarkably Average Mindset: 3 Questions to Help You Break the Unremarkably Average Mindset

You want to become the best version of yourself so that you are never at the mercy of someone else’s agenda.

Unfortunately, the journey ahead of you is peppered with a fantastic amount of obstacles, and your internal voice is telling you that you are not good enough. Regrettably, your status quo mindset is forcing you to conform to the world’s expectations to live a safe and conventional life.

I know the struggle. Breaking from the unremarkably average mindset is difficult. It’s intoxicating and sometimes dangerous; especially when you start asking complex questions such as:

  1. What are your curiosities?
  2. What are your passions?
  3. What is your purpose?

Ultimately, the questions are tools helping you understand what you might become, only if you break from convention. Seneca illustrates, “But the man who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day. For what new pleasures can any hour now bring him? He has tried everything, and enjoyed everything to repletion.”

So you have a choice, take the red pill or blue pill? Morpheus expressed to Neo, “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Neo hesitates. Why, because as human being we are risk averse; your lizard brain is your source of all hesitation. Unfortunately, I can’t make you choose the red pill, that decision can only be made by you -- all I can do is help you make better decisions.

I would like to make one additional argument before you decide; you are going to die. Seneca explains, “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.”

While your time is finite, you have been given enough time to reach your highest achievements. To do so, I refer you back to my three original questions:

  1. What are your curiosities?
  2. What are your passions?
  3. What is your purpose?

Steven Pressfield states, “The goal is to connect with your own self, your own soul.” Pressfield continues, “Get out there and fail and find out.” You will fail more than you succeed but the failure is the test, the membrane that filters the unremarkable average from the remarkable few.

Originally Posted On: Medium

The Journey of Continuous Improvement: Cal Newport on Acquiring Career Capital to Find the Work You Love

Over the past decade, I have been on a messy journey. I have been trying to become so valuable that I will never be at the mercy of someone else’s agenda. Yes, I have made progress towards that mission, specifically a handful of wins.

Unfortunately, the journey has been carpet bombed by failure. I have recently, come to understand that I have been following flawed advice. Traditional advice that you and I have been given as a prepackaged solution to the terrifying question, “What is my life’s purpose?”

When I asked that question, the guidance was swift and authoritative, “If you want to do the work you love then follow your passion.”

Yes! Of course! I thought, ”My life’s purpose is my passion.” I feverishly set out find my passion. I searched. I explored. I scoured. I asked. I even waited patiently, but I did not find my passion; nor did it find me.

I did find some curiosities, writing, photography, leadership and the Internet of Things but no passion. It was depressing as I saw friends and family doing work they love as I wondered directionless.

Then by accident or perhaps blind fate I found Cal Newport’s book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” The theme of Newport’s book is ”Why do some people end up loving what they do, while so many others fail at this goal?”

Cal continues:

“the conventional wisdom on career success— follow your passion— is seriously flawed. It not only fails to describe how most people end up with compelling careers but for many people, it can make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst..”

The passage is a revelation but the advice of not following your passion is difficult to digest. Why, because if you’re not following your passion then what do you do?”

Maria Popova explains, “If you’re looking for a formula for greatness, the closest we’ll ever get, I think, is this: Consistency driven by a deep love of the work.”

As I re-read Popova’s statement, my mindset began to shift, unlearning poor advice so I can make room for the new counsel. I began to focus on two words “consistency” and “work.” These were two words the rarely graced my lips. I spent the majority of my search looking but never understanding that to find a great job I needed to grow consistently, or as Cal Newport explains:

”In which I justify the importance of the craftsman mindset by arguing that the traits that make a great job great are rare and valuable, and therefore, if you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills— which I call career capital— to offer in return.”

Newport continues his argument on obtaining career capital:

”But now we’re moving into well-trod territory. Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return— this is Supply and Demand 101. It follows that if you want a great job, you need something of great value to offer in return.”

Unfortunately, I had nothing rare or valuable to offer a great job. Yes, I acquired a few skills, but there was no deep learning or mastery so I would not be able to solve interesting problems. So my next actions were clear – I must build career capital, the rare and valuable skills that I can cash in for a great job.

And this practice as Newport attests to needs to be deliberate:

“The style of difficult practice required to continue to improve at a task. Florida State University professor Anders Ericsson, who coined the term in the early 1990s, describes it formally as an “activity designed, typically by a teacher, for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance.” Deliberate practice requires you to stretch past where you are comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance. In the context of career construction, most knowledge workers avoid this style of skill development because, quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable. To build up large stores of career capital, however, which is necessary for creating work you love, you must make this style of practice a regular part of your work routine.”

So I went to work on developing a curriculum for myself, one that would give me the necessary career capital to invest into a great job. I began investing time in these rare skills:

  • Extreme leadership
  • Solving interesting problems
  • Getting things done
  • Writing

In consistently improving your skills you give yourself leverage to choose what you want to work on and when. So invest wisely in your skills, as they will increase your control so you can act on a life-changing mission.

Interview with CEO at eRelevance, Bob Fabbio

How do you feel about risk? If you are like most people, you are risk adverse. It’s not your fault, according to Nigel Nicholson (professor of organizational behavior at London Business School), “On average, people avoid risk except when threatened.” Nicholson continues, “The world of hunter-gatherers was complex and constantly presented new predicaments for humans. Which berries can be eaten without risk of death?”

Unfortunately, if you have dreams of becoming an innovator, then you will need to figure out how to get over your genetic predisposition of risk aversion. Bob Fabbio explains, “I don’t think you can be an innovator without taking risk.” 

Leaders don’t just take risks; they take calculated risks. They set the grand vision and move forward deliberately to make the vision a reality. Let’s read about how Fabbio’s leadership took him from selling tires to selling Tivoli Systems to IBM.

So, Bob, what’s your story?

I was raised by working-class Italian American parents in a small town in upstate New York. My parents, who have been married for 61 years, were both college-educated—rare at that time, especially for people of Italian American descent.

Through their example, I learned important values that have stayed with me: work hard, be honest, do the right thing, always find a way to succeed, and more. As a CEO and entrepreneur, these values still guide me, and I try to instill them into the cultures of the companies I lead.

Even as a kid, I was curious and resourceful. 

I always found a way to get what I wanted. At four years old, I sold used car and truck tires door to door for two cents each. I cut lawns and shoveled driveways at 10 to earn money for hockey skates, and I worked two jobs as a teenager to buy clothes, sports equipment, and a car.

I’ve spent my career conceiving big ideas, rejecting the status quo and developing better business solutions with category-creating companies like Tivoli Systems (acquired by IBM), DAZEL Corporation (acquired by Hewlett-Packard) and WhiteGlove Health. 

My hard-working parents and grandparents were role models, and combined with my natural drive, my childhood prepared and inspired me to become the entrepreneur I am today.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Good leaders surround themselves with smart people who they know will make the right decisions 80 percent of the time. The 20 percent of the time they don’t, it’s not likely going to be so off that it will kill the company. There is nothing worse than not making decisions, except for making them and not acting on them. A leader’s job is to quickly course-correct when necessary.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

I learned long ago that identifying the best people for a team is not a matter of checking skills off a list. A culture and values fit is what matters most. But that doesn’t mean just hiring people you know. Instead, find and hire the absolute best out there. This requires asking the hard behavioral questions during and after the interview. Check references. Make sure they will fit and thrive in your culture.

In the competitive market of product creation how do you manage your No’s?”

Don’t spend energy looking over your shoulder. Play offense. Be mindful of your competition, but do not let it dictate how you run your business. Focus on your business and what you need to do to succeed. Let others worry and react to you.

So you have two options — 1. Take the risk or 2. Don’t take the risk. 

By opting for the latter, I can guarantee that you will never be the innovator you have envisioned. Seneca wrote, “You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.”

It’s been my experience that those who are risk adverse spend an enormous amount of time waiting for the perfect moment to act on a decision. Unfortunately, by waiting you let critical moments slip by; if you allow too many of those moments disappear what you're left with is a pile of unrealized goals.


Original Post: Huffington Post

Interview with CEO of Capsule Pharmacy, Eric Kinariwala

You have a massive headache perhaps a migraine. You contact your doctor, and he prescribes medication. You stumble to your local pharmacy to pick up the prescription, but it’s out of stock. Unfortunately, the pharmacy is providing little to no support. Making matters worse you call the doctor, to see if there is an alternative, but you can’t get a cell phone signal so out of frustration you head back home.

Unfortunately, that is not just an opening paragraph it’s what happened to Eric Kinariwala. But instead of shrugging the experience off as status quo; Eric got angry, not road rage angry, but what Todd Henry explains as a compassionate anger. Henry describes, “What do you experience that fills you with compassionate anger and compels you to take action? What do you see and think someone should do something about that?

Kinariwala’s compassionate anger gave birth to Capsule Pharmacy; whose mission is to be a better, smarter, kinder pharmacy. Let’s read as Eric explains how his effective leadership is evolutionizing the pharmacy business.

So, Eric what’s your story?

I grew up in suburban Detroit and spent the early part of my career investing in retail, healthcare, and technology companies. I had the good fortune early on to learn and be mentored in the investment business from some of the very best people in the industry.

One morning in early 2015, I woke up with a throbbing headache and that led me to the pharmacy and an awful experience, where everything that could go wrong, went wrong. That experience was the spark that connected so many things and led me to start Capsule. It brought together thematically the big structural shifts in the retail and healthcare industries that I'd explored as an investor and it led me to reconnect with an old friend who became Capsule's Chief Pharmacist, Sonia Patel.

A close friend loves Sir Francis Drake's motto: Sic Parvis Magna, which translates to "Thus Great Things From Small Things Come." I think most people's lives–personally and professionally–follow that arc and I try to remember it daily.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Leaders should lead because they have somewhere worth taking people–whether that's physical (like a place) or figurative (careers, skills). Everything starts with trust and the first responsibility of a leader is to build high trust, emotionally connected relationships with her team.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

I'm naturally averse to hierarchical structures, but have come to appreciate that clear structure is a necessary, but imperfect solution to organizing a large group of people to move forward toward a common goal while rapidly growing. It's always more important to me that we get to the right answer as quickly as possible than figuring out who was responsible for arriving at that answer. 

We all cross the finish line together or not at all–there's nothing in between.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you site one example you are currently fostering?

We have a highly diverse team–both at on the individual level and in our role structures. We have software engineers sitting next to our pharmacists and our partnerships team regularly interacts with our operations team. We focus on fostering empathy for each other's work and workstyle–so that together we are enabling our collective best work. We regularly have people from different teams do the day-to-day work as if they were on another team. It builds real empathy across the team and enables us to continuously approach our work with a fresh perspective.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

The ability for people to scale and do more is a function of two things:

  1. The self-awareness to seek feedback to understand what's required from a skills and experience perspective to scale to the next stage and the gap that exists in current skills and experience between today and that next stage.
  2. The tenacity, desire, and resourcefulness to acquire the experiences and skills to close that gap.

We hire people who are honest with themselves about both where they are today in their careers, where they want to go, and how driven they are to move between the two places. 

All three ingredients are important for an individual to scale: a clear, honest view on current capabilities, a clear understanding of what success looks like at the next step, and a strong desire to close the space between those two things.

In the competitive market of product creation how do you manage your No’s?”

We try and stay focused on the ONE THING that is most important right now. It requires ruthless prioritization and a strong belief that we will eventually get to all of the things we want to do, but that sequentially executing on them one at a time is the best way to succeed. We have spent a lot of time crafting our strategy so that it will unfold on itself as the business progresses—where the sequencing is natural and logical and where accomplishing today’s focused objective very well, will make tomorrow's easier and more impactful.

Shortly, after the launch of Capsule Pharmacy a woman texted the team about 9:00 PM asking, “Is it safe for me to take this medication while I am pregnant? You’re the first person that I am telling I am pregnant. I have not even told my husband that I am pregnant yet.”

At Disrupt NY 2017, Eric explains, “That was a special moment.” He continues, “It was an amazing moment for the team because we really built the right thing.” As a leader, especially in a young company, it can be challenging to build the right thing. Why, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on multiple things.

It takes a competent leader to recognize when the company is diminishing its limited resources by focusing on too many objectives. Kinariwala mentioned in the last question (above), “We try and stay focused on the ONE THING that is most important right now.”

While there is no one strategy in building a successful company, but if there is a cornerstone, it would be to focus on one thing at a time. That is a level of maturity that comes when you have good leadership in place.


Originally Posted: The Huffington Post

Interview with Charles Teague, CEO of Lose It!

According to NBC News, there is an obesity epidemic in America. NBC reports, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that almost 40 percent of American adults and nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese — the highest rates ever recorded for the U.S.”

If it was your purpose to help solve the problem of obesity, how would you begin to address the issue? To give some background according to Fortune, “The U.S. weight loss market totaled $64 billion in 2014.” This is an industry where a great deal of money can be made, but on the downside competition is fierce.

Charles Teague’s purpose was not to help solve the problem of obesity. Teague’s story is as ordinary as yours. According to VentureFizz, Teague graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Political Science, and he told the outlet, “I got out and said to myself, What do I do now? What am I going to do for a living?’”

On his quest to help answers those crucial questions Teague found himself working at companies such as Macromedia, Onfolio, General Catalyst, Microsoft and finally joining Lose It! as its CEO in 2008. Where his passion for mobile and intersected with a new found desire — solving the obesity problem. Under Teague’s leadership Lose It! has been able to help 30 million people improve their weight loss. Let’s read on and see how Teague’s leadership strategies have helped Lose It! provide practical solutions for obesity.

So, Charles what’s your story?

I started programming computers when I was 10 years old. First, using a Timex Sinclair 1000 that I bought with my paper route money, later a Commodore 64 and Apple 2. Despite my early exposure to computers and programming, it never occurred to me that this is something that I could or would pursue as a career.

In fact, 12 years later, I graduated from a small Midwestern Liberal Arts college with a degree in political science. My plan was to take a year off from school, then head east to pursue a Ph.D in Political Science or Philosophy. During that year off, I ended up connecting with a fellow alum who had started a company that made software for building a programmable internet.

That was the beginning of my work in technology. I started by answering telephones and providing technical support to customers, and worked my way up to lead development of core products. Some years later, I co-founded Lose It! with that same colleague and have been working to make the company a success ever since.

For my whole career, I’ve been absolutely driven by a desire to bring something new into the world, and to maximize the impact that it has. This is my best way to make the world a better place. I’ve been willing to do nearly any kind of work, work nearly any hours, and work on just about any product, so long as I felt like the impact of my effort would be meaningful and felt by people.

I came to Lose It! in part because I saw an incredible new technology platform in mobile technology pioneered by the iPhone. But the real motivator for my work on Lose It! is the impact that it has on our members. We all know the statistics about obesity and its effects on the world, whether it is premature deaths, sickness, or economic impact in the form of loss of productivity. The idea of making a dent in that is incredibly motivating.

The emails, social media posts, and testimonials we receive from customers help me see the actual people behind these numbers. Reading the stories of our users personalizes that impact even further: like the person diagnosed as pre-diabetic whose health is now improving, the person who now feels more in control of their diet, or the person who has changed the way they eat and exercise for good, passing those positive habits down to the family. It’s that impact, both large in scale yet highly personal, that gets me out of bed every day and has me fired up to get to work!

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

To me, leaders are entrusted to be shepherds of a collective goal. That collective goal might have existed before a leader joins a company, or they might find themselves heavily involved in defining what it is. In the case of a startup, the founders are typically instrumental in laying out this goal and often use it as a rallying cry to attract and retain talented colleagues.

But once a leader steps into a team, it’s their responsibility to keep the team on track to that goal. That means providing the motivation, material support, structure, and guidance for the group. Everything ranging from building the product to directing the effort of others to kicking some people out if they aren’t contributing towards the goal is instrumental in keeping the team on track to achieve the goal at hand.

I’ve found that even when things get tough, people respect and trust a leader who is genuinely driving toward that collective goal, particularly when it is clearly communicated. When you have a greater purpose and can explain all of your decisions to your team by that purpose, it glues the team together.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

At Lose It!, we're very intentionally focused on small teams.

We believe that individuals, using creativity and autonomy can have a huge impact and we're determined to enable this. We favor informal, organic, and flexible practices over rigorous and inflexible processes. We favor individual autonomy and motivation over commands from a hierarchy of leadership. We favor cross-functional skills over narrow or siloed skillsets.

Rather than seeing Lose It! as some sort of machine full of gears that all must mesh perfectly in order to function, I see Lose It! as a living, breathing organism. Lose It! is a beautiful variety of complicated bits and pieces all working together in a really fluid way. This organic approach doesn't always move in a straight line. It sometimes takes a winding path to its destination, but builds incredible resilience along the way.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you cite one example you are currently fostering?

The best example of how we incorporate nontraditional methods into our processes at Lose It! is our desk assignment. Every quarter the entire company moves desks chosen completely at random. This means everyone (including the CEO) has an equal shot at the awesome desk by the window, or the not-so-awesome spot near the back closet. This frequent, random reorganization of our office has helped us maintain our core values even as we’ve grown.

One of those values is the idea of ‘player coaches’; that while we are each playing different roles in the company, we are all needed to succeed. If we’re all players and coaches, we all have a spot in the locker room. We all roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done.

This type of seating arrangement also improves organic, informal communication in the company. Because we are purposely small and organic, we rely on very strong individual communication among employees. This random distribution of desks encourages strong communication because employees are constantly getting the chance to work next to someone new. By sharing space with others, you get to know them better, you get to hear and see what they work on, and you develop relationships that foster trust.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

This is one of the key attributes we look for in potential employee candidates. Since we have such a non-hierarchical organization structure, we’re much more interested in getting the best people rather than people to do specific jobs. We tend to hire the ‘best player available’ instead of the ‘best at that position’.

To do this, our interview process is focused on elements of both talent and collaboration. We typically ask prospective employees to solve a problem independently. The actual problem differs for each part of the company, but each one gives us a sense of the candidate’s critical thinking and problem solving skills.

We also have group interviews where we work collectively through a problem to understand what it will be like to work with this person. We round out the consideration process by asking references about the candidate's skill set and growth in their last organization.

In the competitive market of product development how do you manage your “No’s?”

At the beginning of each year, we set 3-4 high level goals that we want to achieve as a company. As a team, we make a prioritized list of all of the work that we think will best actualize these goals. As other potential projects come up throughout the year, we use this shared framework to analyze the work that we decide to do; we say ‘no’ to anything that won’t advance one of those key goals. Keeping a commitment to these goals throughout the year helps keep the team aligned and motivated on a daily basis. We also actively try not to keep a list of ideas or projects to work on; we’ve found that good ideas will keep coming up over time.

According to Dr. John Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership," he continues, "but knowing how to lead is only half the battle.” What is the other half of the equation your wondering — execution.

You can read Charles Teague’s entire interview, take copious notes, red team the strategies but unless you are committed to making those ideas happen your team will never be effective. In all honesty, there are only two states that a leader can occupy — effective and ineffective. As a leader, your decision is which state you will occupy? That decision will have a massive impact on your success as a leader.

Today Lose It! boasts over 24 million members and Teague’s mission is to not only disrupt the weight loss market but to add features that the community will allow for massive value, some of those features include — track your food and exercise, track weight loss progress, meal planning, custom challenges and detailed insights. It’s clear that Teague’s singular purpose is to help solve the obesity epidemic, but it’s his leadership that has allowed Lose It! to be effective in helping its members lose over 60 million pounds.


Orginally Posted: The Huffington Post


Phoebe Hayman, the founder of Seedling, Talks About Leadership as a Support Role

When you think of leadership, is your instinct: critical support role or “passive leadership?” If you are uncertain, one leadership philosophy is transformational while the other is ineffective; which is your swim lane?

Unfortunately, chances are you fall into the passive leadership swim lane. I don’t say this to insult you, but many in the supervisor role are ill-prepared to be transformational leaders, football coach Vince Lombardi makes the point:

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.

Oddly, when you are in a leadership role your primary job is to marshal your team to do the work; to meet those quarterly goals, to achieve those milestones, and to check off the tasks on your project plan. Unfortunately, the To Do List philosophy has little to do with being a transformational leader.

In the Handbook of Work Stress edited by Julian Barling, E. Kevin Kelloway, Michael R. Frone, the team explains:

Transformational leaders exhibit four characteristics in their interactions with employees; idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

While interviewing Phoebe Hayman, the founder of Seedling, I quickly recognized the transformational leader characteristics. And then Hyman educated me on what leadership means to her:

Personally I see leadership as a support role — a listener, a facilitator, a translator, a navigator.

I never looked at leadership as a support role but when you think about it; yes in part an effective leader must play a support role to her team.

So, Phoebe what’s your story?

I have a deep passion for problem solving and I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. As a child, I started to recognize I had these traits when I played with other kids or just imagined games on my own. We often think about play as entertainment but I’ve come to view play as how children process and practice skills and interactions without fear of failure or judgment. Play peaks our curiosity in the areas that interest us the most and allows us to discover our own strengths.

Play is where you discover ‘I’m good at making people laugh, ‘I’m a good team leader’, ‘I’m good at making experiments’ or ‘I’m good on the jungle bars’ or ‘I’m creative’ (or ‘I’m not creative’ as many adults tend to believe due to a childhood art project that didn’t look as good as others. However put a person on a stranded island by themselves and they get creative real fast – I haven’t met anyone yet that would just sit on the beach and starve.)

It’s a lifelong process for me. As a parent, I feel most connected to my kids when we play together. I love that kids bring pure play back into your life as an adult, one of the most unexpected joys of being a parent. This passion has led me here, where I’m fortunate enough to be able work with insanely talented people exploring our relationship with play everyday.

Key Takeaway. Experimenting with ideas is a powerful tool in understanding your strengths as well as the opportunity to build relationships with talented people.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Personally, I see leadership as a support role - a listener, a facilitator, a translator, a navigator. I know its common to think of the leader as the visionary, but if you’re a good listener, facilitator, translator and navigator then the leader shares ownership over the vision with the entire team.

Your time to lead is in developing a framework for the team to work within. In order to be successful in executing this shared vision, it’s the leader’s responsibility is to help people understand the role they play and how they can successfully measure their performance. Then you need to take a step back and get out of their way.

The most powerful learnings for me in my journey as a CEO have been about what my job is not – It is not my job to be a judge. My job is to give people the tools and visibility to assess themselves. People are fully capable of self-assessment and although I often give feedback, this is just an input which may or may not be relevant in the problem they are solving.

My job is not to problem solve. I have a natural love of problem solving so my natural instinct is to jump in and try to solve the problem. My true job is to make sure success is clearly defined and then hard as it is—step aside. One person has very limited experiences to draw from and we can only achieve success if everyone is problem solving together.

Key Takeaway. The job of a leader is to define success, then step back and then listen, facilitate, translate, a navigator.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

Hands down it’s how teams are formed.

The definition of hierarchy is often ambivalent and I find it fails to recognize strategists, decision makers, executors and owners. This then causes confusion, assumptions and politics. An effective team in our organization understands why they are working together (what is the collective goal of this group?), understands the role they each play, understands their collective skills and needs and most importantly – agree on how they will work together.

This is unique to each group and is best discussed up front, before any actions are taken. Too often people just start working without ever discussing how the goals are going to be achieved.

Key Takeaway. Focus on your team's formation, more specifically discuss how will goals be achieved.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you site one example you are currently fostering?

Always. If we want to be innovative in our products, we need to be innovative in our approach to how we work together.

As an end-to-end company, we often have projects pass off from one department to another - not dissimilar to an additive manufacturing model. We were struggling with departments having different priorities or communication styles and often projects could be stalled at a department level waiting for people or decisions. To try to solve these issues, we implemented a ‘working group’ model where a team of 4 is given one particular goal to achieve. The team was made up of people from multiple departments to create direct ‘flows’ through the company with no gates or battles over priorities (reflecting a direct manufacturing model as opposed to additive).

If you needed a designer, there was one in your group, if you needed a sales person, there was one in your group, if you needed a product person, there was one in your group – the only priority for all members was achieving this goal collectively. They were given the goal and a time limit (in our case 1 quarter), the rest was up to them. They would meet for their first 2 days where they would workshop the plan to achieve the goal. They decided who their stakeholders were, what roles people would play and what the milestones to achievement were.

The only requirement was that after 2 days, they had to present the plan to the stakeholders they chose and the stakeholders had to give the green light. If there were parts of the plan that were unresolved, the team was given a orange light and went back to resolve these areas. Once green light was given the stakeholders role was simply to hold the team accountable to their own plan – nothing else. They required no further approvals to implement their actions.

At the end they ran a postmortem that not only assessed their results but also assessed how they worked together as a team and how they represented the company values in their team interactions. This was such a valuable test of new ways to work together, the learning’s were instant and we saw a tremendous impact across the organization, even with those that were not in a working group themselves. I’m a big fan of small groups engaging in shared goals that encourage quality communication, give space for constructive feedback and celebrate skill diversity reinforcing that we’re stronger together than we could ever be individually.

Key Takeaway. To try to solve these issues, we implemented a ‘working group’ model where a team of 4 is given one particular goal to achieve.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

I really relate to the way Kim Scott talks about ‘Rockstars vs Superstars’ in her book Radical Candor where she encourages us to rethink ambition and talent. She gets the importance of understanding what the company needs from each role.

The ‘Rockstar’ has consistently excellent performance, is a force of stability but isn’t looking for ‘more’ in terms of growth. Whereas the ‘Superstar’ is constantly looking for growth with a steep trajectory and they need to be challenged constantly to maintain excellent performance.

Both are equally important but it’s critical you map people to roles correctly. Its always tough in an interview, or a new relationship, to get a true sense of the person’s real appetite for ambition. To get past the assumption that ‘everyone should want to be superstars’ (and people telling you what they think you want to hear), you need to get to know the person at a deeper level. Understand their goals but more importantly their true appetite for growth.

As the old adage goes, ‘its not about the talent, its about how you apply it’ and this different for all people at different stages of their lives. You should only put high growth people into roles that have the ability to scale or transition quickly and putting a super talented person, who’s just not in a high growth phase of their lives, into a role that demands high growth creates an astronomical amount of pain both for the person and the organization.

I see my role as understanding that appetite, matching people with the right role and then adjusting as dynamics change. Peak performance (regardless of low growth or high growth) requires a framework with flexibility and a continuous dialogue.

Key Takeaway. I see my role as understanding that appetite, matching people with the right role and then adjusting as dynamics change.

Becoming a transformational leader is difficult work. I recommend taking one of the Key Takeaways and incorporate the strategy into your day to day. Focus on that strategy for the next 30 days and analyze the results, daily.

In my experience, focusing on one leadership strategy and analyzing the results, helps you not on internalize the strategy but it allows you to make tiny adjustments so you can become a transformational leader.

Originally Posted on the Huffington Post.

Jeffrey Schumacher, CEO of Digital Ventures, Talks About Why Leaders Should Lead

In Brief

Jeffrey Schumacher, CEO of Digital Ventures (DV), talks about the third iteration of the company as well as why people are the core of the DV business. Schumacher also spends some time discussing why it’s essential to create the right environment to inspire the best talent to come work for Digital Ventures.


So, Jeff what’s your story?

Growing up in Minnesota, I spent a lot of time outdoors. But when I wasn’t off exploring, I was constantly tinkering with things, taking them apart, learning what made them tick, and usually putting them back together in the wrong way. This was not well received by my parents, but you can’t innovate unless you understand the system underneath.

As a father to my own children now, six-year-old twins—a boy and a girl— I’m constantly learning from them, observing how their minds work. They couldn’t be more different in terms of how they look at things and approach life, and I’m fascinated by the idea that you can put two people in the same environment and get completely different outputs. The natural desire to understand how things work, both people and systems, has always been a big driver for me.

These days, my job takes me to some pretty remote places. It’s not unusual for me to be in a different country every day of the week, and my wife and I try to take our kids with us as much as we can. As a result, they’ve traveled far more than I ever did at their age, but the curiosity is the same. I love seeing the world through their eyes, and try to preserve and foster this sense of awe for the world not only in my children, but also in myself and my team at Digital Ventures.

Why should leaders lead, and what is their first responsibility?

A leader needs to have passion and a clear vision for the change they want to effect, both in the world and in the lives of their teams. As a leader, my first responsibility is to the talent. People are the core of my business, and it’s very important to me to create the right environment to inspire the best talent to come work with me. Surrounding myself with a diverse tribe of innovators and visionaries makes me better at my job.

It’s important for me to manage down, not up. I need to be where the innovation is happening, that’s why I don’t have an office and my partners don’t have offices. I want to be in the soup.

It’s also important for me as a leader to create innovation that can be helpful to the broader society, and we’re doing this at DV through our work in technologies like the blockchain, for example.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc.) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

I always go back to options—you want to create as many as you can. For the entrepreneurs out there, the decisions you make in your company should give you more options post the decision than you had prior, or it was probably a bad decision. My wife always says ‘what about marriage,’ but that’s the outlier.

Creating options requires innovation, and traditional hierarchy doesn’t lend itself to this process. Many corporations face the innovator’s dilemma, in which they are constrained by the focus on creating successful products and improving them over time—not on creating something novel and new.

We believe that corporations will own the next horizon of innovation and it’s my job to help them learn how to think and act like startups. For this to happen, they must start thinking about how to use their assets in a different way, uncover new markets, find product/market fit and match it to world-class entrepreneurs to create new hyper-growth companies.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you cite one example you are currently fostering?

DV is currently in its third iteration. Back in our first iteration when DV had just begun, we were incubating three different ventures in rectangular conference rooms. We noticed our product managers writing on the windows, using a louver to separate the upper and lower part of the glass to segment their thinking. When we moved to our headquarters in Manhattan Beach, we used these insights to create a hexagon-shaped venture room to provide more writing space.

We began to think of these rooms as beehives; interconnected platforms allowing our teams to pollinate new businesses from the ground up. Our tight-knit multidisciplinary teams pilot new methods to innovation while creating a portfolio of ideas for our corporate partners, who are embedded in our ventures. They work together, they live together; each one operating like the founding members of a company, allowing us to get to an integrative vision much faster.

Almost all of the ventures we do today are non-traditional. They are made possible by this space we have created, which is one of the most advanced innovation and investment centers in the world, and core to our business model.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

We are 500 and growing at DV, and everybody always says ‘why do you have so many people,’ but it’s because all of them are entrepreneurs. We acquire a lot of broken startups—entrepreneurs that tried and didn’t get funding, but we like the team, we like the IP, and we bring them on and find another venture to put them into.

Not all of our talent comes from broken, startups. We also recruit a good deal of seasoned entrepreneurs, operators and investors who have themselves been through several successful exits. These industry veterans have proven their abilities with many years of experience and deep-connection within the startup ecosystem. Over time, we’ve codified our methodologies and our talent that reflects these processes and our values.

What book would you recommend to a close friend?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” by Dr. Seuss, is one of my children’s favorite books and a classic I always enjoy reading to them. I learn more from reading to my kids than just for myself and I think people should read to their children more often. We can learn valuable lessons from the way they think and learn—insights which often lend to innovation.

Of the more adult variety, I recently read Scale: “The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies,” by the visionary physicist Geoffrey West. I’m fascinated by the way he has applied his revolutionary work to the world of business. It’s a must read.

Originality Published: Huffington Post


Your Current Mental Models Suck: 8 Big Disciplines That Will Boost Your Mental Models

I believed, incorrectly, that for you to build a profitable business, you were required to know everything about the business. You needed an MBA from a prestigious university, and you were an expert in:

  • Business Creation
  • Value-Creation & Testing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • etc.

But over the course of many failures, I began to understand that obtaining expertise is more of a popularity contest, instead you should be developing the insight to solve interesting problems. I have found that the people who are labeled ”so good” are given that title, not because of their expertise but because they have mastered certain principles.

Charlie Munger’s Devotion to Mental Models

What are these principles: the thorough understanding of a few essential concepts that provide significant value. How do you then go about learning these principles? You must develop mental models. Josh Kaufman, the author of the Personal MBA shares:

”Mental model are concepts that represent your understanding of how things work.”

When you understand how business works, you can quickly build mental prototypes to test your preliminary ideas against the problem, and quickly iterate until you find the solution.

Warren Buffet states, ”Charlie can analyze and evaluate any kind of deal faster and more accurately than any man alive. He sees any valid weakness in sixty seconds. He’s the perfect partner.”

Buffet is describing his business partner Charlie Munger, who shares:

I’ve long believed that a certain system - which almost any intelligent person can learn - works way better than the systems most people use [to understand the world]. What you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And, with that system, things gradually fit together in a way that enhances cognition.”

Munger continues:

”Just as multiple factors shape every system, multiple mental models from a variety of disciplines are necessary to understand that system… You have to realize the truth of biologist Julian Huxley’s idea that, “Life is just one damn relatedness after another.” So you must see the relatedness and effects from the relatedness.”

The Backdoor to Your Mental Models

So how do you build these multiple mental models? You read. You focus on big disciplines:

  1. Physics — Seven Brief Lessons On Physics by Carlo Rovelli
  2. Biology — The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  3. Psychology — Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
  4. Philosophy — Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  5. Literature — Upstream by Mary Oliver
  6. Sociology — Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
  7. History — Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  8. Business — The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

The books listed are recommendations but they are a good starting point. You are not looking for expertise in these disciplines, you are working towards mastery, and by mastery, I mean leveraging your new mental models to solve interesting problems.

Building a latticework of mental models does not mean you will become the next Charlie Munger, the hope sits squarely on you being able to enhance cognition so you can see the relatedness of the solutions and apply them to the problem.


Danger! You Don’t Need an MBA: 7 Spectacular Books on Business Creation

I have always thought that business was an enigma. You?

I maintained a mental model that business was an intricate lattice of failures, products, debt and human capital. Why, because I spent little time in educating myself on how business works. Not to mention the traditional idea that “business is complicated” and its management is best left to the MBAs.

In The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, Josh Kaufman explains that business is not complicated at all:

At the core, every business is fundamentally a collection of five Interdependent processes, each of which flows into the next:

  1. Value Creation. Discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
  2. Marketing. Attracting attention and building demand for what you’ve created.
  3. Sales. Turning prospective customers into paying customers.
  4. Value Delivery. Giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensuring that they’re satisfied.
  5. Finance. Bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile.

In essence, the mental model that you have been force fed is a lie. Business is not complicated nor does it require an MBA at the helm. Principally, business is leveraging people and systems in a repeatable process that delivers value for allot of paying customers.

How do you learn about the processes without attending a fancy graduate school, you can start by reading:

  1. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman
  2. Go It Alone by Bruce Judson
  3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  4. Street Smarts by Norm Brodsky & Bo Burlingham
  5. Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson
  6. Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim
  7. Bankable Business Plans by Edward Rogoff

These seven books will give you a fundamental understanding of how to build a profitable business.

Kaufman continues to share:

”Business is not (and has never been) rocket science— it’s simply a process of identifying a problem and finding a way to solve it that benefits both parties. Anyone who tries to make business sound more complicated than this is either trying to impress you or trying to sell you something you don’t need.”

So why isn’t everyone starting a business? Simple, most people don’t have the education on how to make a business profitable. They don’t understand how to create value, market, sell, deliver value and most importantly manage cash flow. If you want to start a business, then you must educate yourself on how to start a business: that is the new mental model.


What Will Be Your Great Story: James C. Collins Says It’s Discipline

Do you want to be the best in the world at your core competency? What is your core competency? Are you unsure?

James C. Collins, the author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t, explains:

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

Some strategies can help you find what you can be great at, here is what has helped me:

  1. Investigate your curiosities. Yes, that means take every curiosity you have ever had and explore them with an eye towards liberally killing them.
  2. Interrogate your passions. Once you have liberally killed many of your curiosities, what you have left must be interrogated with a bias towards a purpose.
  3. Your purpose.” You have filtered out what you do not love. Now find a world problem and see if your passion helps solves that problem. If it does, you have found a purpose.

Unfortunately, the purpose may not be what you will great at; it might only be another experiment on the journey of finding your greatness.

Are You Gambling With Your Company: 10 Ways to Evaluate a New Market

Are you looking at entering a new market, but you doubt your success. It’s a valid worry, but one in which Josh Kaufman, the author of the Personal MBA, explains can be mitigated:

”Rate each of the ten factors below on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is extremely unattractive, and ten is extremely attractive.”

From page 45 of the Personal MBA, I am listing the Kaufman’s Ten Ways to Evaluate a Market:

  1. Urgency. How badly do people want or need this right now?
  2. Market Size. How many people are actively purchasing things like this?
  3. Price Potential. What is the highest price a typical purchaser would be willing to spend for a solution?
  4. Cost of Customer Acquisition. How easy is it to acquire a new customer? On average, how much will it cost to generate a sale, in both money and effort?
  5. Cost of Value Delivery. How much would it cost to create and deliver the value offered, both in money and effort?
  6. Uniqueness of Offer. How unique is your offer versus competing offerings in the market, and how easy is it for potential competitors to copy you?
  7. Speed to Market. How quickly can you create something to sell?
  8. Up-Front Investment. How much will you have to invest before you’re ready to sell?
  9. Upsell Potential. Are there related secondary offers that you could also present to purchasing customers?
  10. Evergreen Potential. Once the initial offer has been created, how much additional work will you have to put into it in order to continue selling?

Now total the ten items.

If your score is below 50 then dump the idea, it is a poor use of your limited resources. If your score is above 75, it’s a good idea and time to commit serious resources to the venture.

If your idea is between 50 and 75, you might have a good idea, but the idea needs a bit more baking.

You want to run through this exercise before you set sail on your next idea. This activity allows you to kill ideas liberally while keeping the good ideas ready for prototyping.

The Dilemma of Building a Product No One Wants

You have a significant problem. One that if you do not fix and quickly will be the undoing of your dream of building a profitable business. What is it? You are developing a product in a shroud of secrecy: stealth mode if you will.

Why, because you think that someone will steal your idea and then your unique selling proposition will be lost. In all honesty, you need to get over yourself. Ideas are cheap, and your idea is not so revolutionary that others are plotting its theft.

Your Ideas Are Just Plain Stupid

Josh Kaufman, the author of The Personal MBA, explains:

“Don’t be shy about showing potential customers your work in progress.”

Kaufman continues to share:

”Ideas are cheap — what counts is the ability to translate an idea into reality, which is much more difficult than recognizing a good idea.”

Making an idea happen is challenging work. It’s even more challenging when you build it, and no one cares. They don’t care because you never took the time to learn what your real customers want.

Why the Prototype is Sensational

The only way to understand what potential customers are looking for in a product is to get feedback. The best way to get feedback is the prototype. Kaufman explains:

”All your Prototype has to do is represent what you’re offering in a tangible way so that your potential customers can understand you’re doing well enough to give you good feedback.” He continues: ”As you show your prototype to potential customers, you’ll get a steady stream of ideas and feedback.”

You must make feedback a crucial part of your early learning opportunities. As you learn, want real customers want you build a better product over time.

What are the Priorities for Your Business

What are the priorities for your business:

  • Hiring employees?
  • Signing a lease?
  • Filing out paperwork?

Yes, those items are necessary To Dos but they are not the propriety.

Michael Masterson, the author of Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat, explains:

”The big mistake most wannabe entrepreneurs make — they spend most of their time, attention, energy, and capital on things such as setting up an office, designing logos, printing business cards, filing forms, writing contracts and refining the product.”

So what is the only priority you as an entrepreneur should be concerned about — sales. Why, because sales is what generates cash flow so you can sustain your business.

Masterson continues:

”In starting a business, this is what your priorities and sequence of activities should be:

  1. Get the product ready enough to sell it, but don’t worry about perfecting it.
  2. Sell it.
  3. Then, if it sells, make it better.

That is a much better sequence of priorities which can help you build a company that one day will run itself, without you.