I recently broke out some of my old musings. While thumbing through these old journals and blogs, I had an extremely humbling thought – I was more intelligent back then. This is extremely discouraging. As a ‘rising professional’, I pride myself on: getting better at what I do, learning from my mistakes, gaining mastery over my domain, etc. I have always assumed this would mean that my intelligence, along with my ability to reason, would grow with my career or life advancement. However, this is very far from the truth. A case could even be made that as one narrows down on a trade/skill, they grow increasingly unaware of everything outside of that domain, thus they are “more dumb” in other areas of life.
When pulling into Starbucks this evening it hit me – I am a thief!
For years I have gotten to know many a barista as I have averaged about 1.65 coffee shops a day since college. With this has come ‘free coffee’. Free because thats how it was offered to me…but was it? Was it their coffee? Or…was it their shareholders coffee? Or their bosses coffee?
95% of the time it wasn’t theirs and I accepted it. I am a thief.
What would it be like to have coffee with Peter Thiel (the author + founder of Paypal), John Maynard Keynes, and ‘insert cliche philosopher name here’?
That’s what this book feels like, and it’s a beautiful recipe for a delightful and thought-provoking read. It deviates from your normal book on entrepreneurship (thankfully) and challenges assumptions that many (Roy) take for granted.
This is a pretty popular book amongst tech CEOs, and based on my conversations with ‘not that’ person, the book seems to be flying under the radar. It shouldn’t. It’s relevant across all verticals despite its briefer history of time approach through the last 20 years of technology.
**History buffs will like the story-telling, and 20-30 somethings will learn a lot about the olden days of the Internet.
Simply put – this book is a no-brainer (actually takes a fair amount of brains to read and ponder) and a must read for all aspiring CEOs, wannabe CEOs, executives (present or future), and anyone who wants to know how their boss thinks and/or should be thinking.
This pretty much sums up anyone with any kind of ambition to lead people…thus, I could have just said that.
As the title suggests, this is not a ‘rah rah’ 10 steps to building a ‘unicorn company’ (a billion dollar company) type of book…it’s actually antithetical to that. As the quote below suggests, this is the book to equip leaders for when the stuff hits the fan. As you and I both know, stuff hits the fan far more often than we would like to admit with our business model, staff, our market, the product…the list could go on.
“Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, “That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.” The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those “great people” develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.” Ben Horowitz
This book is not hard to read in the sense of being slow, boring or using abstract concepts. It’s hard in the sense that it will hit you between the eyes, possibly causing you to lose hope while simultaneously finding it, and create a few freak out moments and possibly make you cry.
Ben’s style is bloggy, direct, coffeeshop convo-esque and drops rap lyrics at each chapter’s outset, clearly confusing the stereotypical 50+ white male CEO…but he makes it work and still makes it appeal to that audience.
It’s a top 5 for me. Buy it here on Amazon.
A few bullet points that do not do this book justice:
- If you want an easy-going professional career, avoid being a CEO like the plague
- Discusses ‘The Struggle’ – the process every entrepreneur goes through and some advice on how not to punk out and quit…and identifies who does quit and who stays the course
- Great practical stuff is covered like: firing an executive, demoting a close friend, handling promotions, when to/when not to hire ‘been there done that’/old people
- ‘Success’ doesn’t equal a big exit or overflowing with cash – it equals building a good place to work
- The difference between a Peacetime CEO and a Wartime CEO and how very few people can be both
- Learning to be a good CEO takes years, identifying a CEO priori experience is hard…but sometimes a board/management should take a shot based on the person vs. their resume
- Creating management debt, i.e. laying off people in a matter that robs them of their dignity, will create a debt that you can never repay for the staff who stay…and other examples that create that debt
- There are no rules
I had a communications professor in college who discussed embracing nerves as a central aspect to every speech/presentation you give. She framed up the conversation by saying butterflies are good so long as they fly in formation. I haven’t forgotten this, as nerves play an interesting role in my life and every time I give a speech/presentation or make a pitch.
I have seen nerves get the best of me (where I totally flop) as well as give me the fuel to give an impassioned presentation around seemingly mundane topics. Either way, I have come to love the role nerves play in my daily life.
How does nervousness intersect your daily life? Do you still get nervous? Do you enjoy it? Hate it?
Some brief thoughts around nerves, business, and their role:
- Nervousness is good
- If I don’t have nerves around something it is an indictment against my attitude in the matter.
- The people that say they don’t get nervous before a speech/event/sales presentation/etc are either:
- Or, they don’t care about their audience/others. Care, in this case meaning do they understand the weight of ideas? Are they understanding that they are stewarding other’s time?
- Do you get nervous when you meet people of rank?
- If so, does that mean you value them more than other people? Not ideal.
- If not, does that mean you are self-righteous and don’t view them as important? Not ideal.
- What’s the balance here?
- When I look at others as being no greater & no less than myself is when I am at my best for their sake and mine.
- Are your nerves based on peoples perception of you? If so, this is likely the paralyzing kind of nerves because it’s completely out of your control.
- If your nerves are based on the being the absolute best steward of the moment at hand then this is likely the kind of nerves that will enhance your performance and experience of the event
Are you scared of losing your job? If so, you are going to suck at it.
Fear, while an important motivator in life, is a paralyzing factor when it comes to your daily work life (and other aspects, just talking work right now).
Fear is an unpleasant emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing. -wiki
Do you say statements such as “If I lose my job I don’t know what I would do”?
If so, you are backwards with your current mindset on what actually creates value for both yourself and your employer. In essence you have broken down your work to be:
work = Maslow’s 2nd Level
If/when operating at the 2nd level you will be both myopic and miserable because you will not be able to see beyond yourself. Sure you may have a mortgage, spouse, etc to account for…however this only enhances your fear. Fear will never produce a good work in you nor by you, rather only a selfish survival.
When you are selfish you are – > Unaware of others needs = Unable to proactively think on behalf of employer/customer/other = No Value
Sure you may keep your job because you are so skilled at survival you keep it….but you will still suck at it, and it sucks to suck.
Everyday I feel that I wake up ‘lame’ rather than vibrant, engaged, and ready. That just me?
Thus, each day I must wake up twice. Once from my sleep and again from my lame stupor. The earlier the 2nd awakening happens the better it is for me and all those who I come into contact with. If I am honest, somedays I don’t even wake up from my 2nd sleep. I carry my ‘lame’ self around fooling many of those around me. I cheat them when this happens.
I know I am being lame when:
- I am being an asshole – I am consumed with self
- Unable to think quickly – I am not engaged
- Uninterested in all things – I am not seeing the bigger picture
To wake up I attempt to practice the following disciplines/activities:
- Meet with someone first thing – Immediately I need to engage with someone in the real world, rather than crawl into my office/cube stuck with my own thoughts
- Go for a run or hit the gym – Exerting effort and struggling helps me break the spell
- Read and write – Helps me process and ask bigger life questions
This was on my mind today because I woke up lame. I didn’t really wake up until later in the day. I hate being lame. Hate it! I must choose the above disciplines/practices daily in order not to be lame daily.