6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day – Business Insider

Here’s a great article of 6 things that help being productive.  I find this list od link insightful = especially #4 – spending more time eliminating distractions versus just working faster.

  1. Manage Your Mood
  2. Don’t Check Email in The Morning
  3. Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
  4. Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
  5. Have A Personal System
  6. Define Your Goals The Night Before

via 6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day – Business Insider.

Challenging Conventions

Seth Godin recently shared a short blog post about challenging conventions.  As innovators, we’re challenging convention all of the time… yet we must be consciously clear which conventions that we’re intending to challenge, and do this with a designer’s eye.  This is a great admonition- be careful to not break all of the eggs to make an omlette, only the eggs that you’re intending to do so, and that are needed to do so.

Challenging conventions is precisely what makes your thing new. Hence unconventional. The difficulty comes when you challenge conventions and defy expectations that you weren’t planning on upsetting. The inadvertent skipping of what we expect causes you to frustrate us, or to appear as an uncaring, unprepared amateur, or both.

via Seth’s Blog: Conventions and expectations.

Injury as Teacher, Failure as Teacher

Today I had the honor of leading Aikido class at the dojo (martial arts training hall) that I have been practicing at over the last decade.  Although I am a second degree blackbelt, and have been training for the last 16 years, as might be somewhat traditional, I taught Aikido basic techniques.  No matter how long I train, and no matter how much experience I might have, the basics are always something to return to in sharing Aikido with others.  To offer a new lense on the basics, I shared experience of being injured to be the frame to look at basic techniques through- exploring how loosing some ability (due to injury) taught me to learn the underlying Aikido technique better.

Many Aikido techniques can be simulated with too much strength being used- trying to overpower the person that a student is practicing with…  yet that’s not true Aikido.  Aikido can be very powerful, yet in many ways its very subtle in how the technique  attaches to an attacker’s attack, and harmoniously ends the attack. Learning how to be subtle, to be gentle, and through doing so, generating more ability to respond to an attacker.

Yet in getting to learn this subtlety, injuries do happen in Aikido (as in life :-)

What’s interesting is that its because of some of these injuries I, as a 205 pound male who is use to using his strength, at times have had to “re-learn” how to be more subtle.  On the Aikido mat, I have broken my left foot, separated my right shoulder, ripped my right knee (ACL), and broken my nose, among other injuries.  Each of these injuries has been a training tool… forcing me to not to be able to use my strength as I tenderly try to heal an injury while still training.  Each injury has a lesson that it offers, especially while the injury hasn’t healed, on how to be more subtle in the technique, requiring less physical power, yet creating an even more powerful ability to throw an attacker.

As a side note, its because of the use of subtlety that women or a youth or a smaller framed man can master Aikido perhaps faster than a “stronger” male- and have an effective means of defense in protecting themselves… those of us use to having sheer strength are, in a way,  at a disadvantage to learning the subtlety of Aikido. In my case, that’s why I have learned so much after an injury.

What’s an example of this injury teaching process?  One example- when I ripped my right knee ACL a year ago, I had problems stabilizing myself when moving quickly on the mat.  My ACL ligament’s condition forced me to find stability in my muscles for the ACL wasn’t there there to hold me stable naturally.  Relying on my muscles for stability made me bend my knees even more, bringing me closer to the stance that my Aikido teacher always told me to do before injury (the lower to the earth an Aikido student is, the more power he/she can generate from their legs in a throw).  So now its been a year later since the injury, and I am at least 5 inches closer to the ground when executing a throw… and through this need, I’ve become a stronger Aikido practitioner, even though my injury has not yet fully healed.

There are many lessons that I offer from this idea, and as i have found Aikido to present insight for life, and insight for entrepreneurship. First, realize that injuries happen.. and many times injuries end up offering a way to learn a practice (like Aikido, like entrepreneurship) at a deeper level.  Learning how to avoid getting hurt is important, yet, when getting hurt, or perhaps as in entrepreneurship hitting a business failure, see if you can, what is possible to be learned from the hurt, and go deeper. You’ll take your insight to a more subtle level in the practice that you’re following.

The Future That We Create

A financial instrument can be designed in the mind of a man that enslaves 10,000.  A weapons system can be designed in the mind of man that kills as many, if not many more.  As well, today’s productivity enhancements have the possibility of going two ways.  One of these directions can further separate and enslave people at a level that’s never been imagined before… or to liberate people from the world of work in a way never imaged before.  The question is what mental models are we operating in?  What mental models are we opening up that make it possible that our next technology moves end up liberating versus enslaving?  What part of our present simple historical economic understanding and the labels of the past (e.g. Socialism, Capitalism, Communism) must we break apart to develop a new, deeper understanding of the future that we can build together?  Its time to look beyond the past, to realize that we’re in a new world, and this new world is coming at an ever increasing rate.  Models of old don’t work here anymore.  Its time to wake up, and build anew the world that we want with the technology this is coming.

Inspired by the thinking of Buckminister Fuller

What Blocks Creativity and Innovativeness?

How do you help an entrepreneur (or anyone for that matter) be more innovative and creative?  You teach them to be vulnerable- vulnerable to failure by having them take risks.  Yet what blocks them from taking risks?  Dr. Brené Brown of the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work says that it is shame that blocks individuals from being vulnerable, whether in personal relationships, or in the actions that they take- many times not risking “failure” because of these views.  In the following TED talk, she speaks of “the power of vulnerability“, explaining that although the emotion guilt produces the internal response in a person “I did a bad thing” versus shame producing the internal response “I am a bad person”.  The reason that this is so key is because in the shame example, the individual has no way to redress the situation, therefore feeling trapped, many times having the individual squelch their abilities in trying to compensate for being incomplete.  As well I could imagine this also has the opposite effect, of having individuals go too far in trying to compensate as well- going to the point of unhealthy results that we see associated with many startup companies as well.

Here’s a link to the video:

For a quicker synopsis, and a personal snapshot, online performer Ze Frank  produced a very personal snapshot of how shame blocks his own creativity.  Here’s a personal snapshot, a bit shorter, that shares similar insight:

In my work with entrepreneurs (and myself) what this says for how to help them overcome the internal blocks that block many times block the individual entrepreneur (and therefore the startup).  I would posit to say that most “failures” at the early stage in startup development are not for some external set of circumstances- but internal ones.  Entrepreneurs can pivot their startups to success around roadblocks… but they have to be internally prepared for  doing so as much as being prepared with external resources (e.g. technology and funding).

The Arduino Open Source Hardware Revolution is Coming!

Around the Tech Ranch, we have recently had our first team launch a commercial startup based around the Arduino microcontroller.  What  is the Arduino?  Simply put, it is a microcontroller- a simple set of computer chips that are easy to program and configure for small projects- that either stand alone (e.g. like a robot) or are tied into other computers (e.g. like some external system tied to a computer).  The team that has launched the startup around Tech Ranch has not yet publicized their work… so I can’t tell you about that just yet… but it is exciting… for the “revolution” in this is that new hardware products can be made by entrepreneurs very inexpensively… allowing an ever increasing amount of innovation.

The following documentary gives a little bit of overview about the Arduino, including many projects that give you a flavor for the scope of this new technology platform.  Enjoy and imagine what you can build!  :-) (and go build it!)

Arduino the Documentary

Notes from Quantified Self 2012 Conference

I have spent the last few days at the Quantified Self Conference in Palo Alto, California. Quantified Self is an emerging movement that’s focused on opportunities at the intersection of low cost sensor technology plus health information, with big data analysis. What’s key is through having real time health information in the hands of the user, great strides in better health are possible. The areas strongest impact is that most of the leaders in this field are citizen-scientists versus being academic researchers, for the technology that are emerging are inexpensive and accessible.

This is an area that I invested in 1999, and started a startup in in 2001, although this was way before the maturity of the area. At the conference, where Austin was represented by myself with the Tech Ranch, as well as Kevin Callahan, founder and CTO of MapMyFitness, UT professor Neal Burns, and Skyler Thomas of IBM, you could feel the excitement of a fiend that is emerging into maturity. Although this conference had only 300 attendees, Google, Intel, Fujitsu, and several investment firms were represented, as well as many veteran Bay Area entrepreneurs.

It is my belief that Austin is well positioned for being a strong player in this emerging industry because of Austin’s historical capabilities in software and hardware engineering, its health conscious citizenry, startups that are leading the way like Map My Fitness, not to mention the coming UT Medical School. At the Tech Ranch, we’re paying particular attention to this area for future development, given the exiting promise of entrepreneurs that inexpensively provide to customers personalized health insight.

98% of the jobs available for students

Startups at Tech Ranch were in the news on KXAN tonight. 98% of the jobs that are available for graduating students are actually coming from startups and small business, not the Google’s of the world. In this segment from KXAN you’ll hear me talking about the job creation engine that startups represent to the community. Tech Ranch startup 5×5 is profiled, and Campus2Careers, who helps students find a pathway to startups and small business are profiled. One of our very talented interns Kathleen Hetrick (who has done great things for the startups around Tech Ranch also shares her insight about what it has meant to learn in a startup environment.  This reminds me when I was still a student when I joined NeXT Computer while a junior at the University of Texas at Austin. Great to have the video exposure of the great work being done by entrepreneurs around the Tech Ranch.

Watch the video here:

Small companies want college grads

Bleached Bones and Jumbled Residue

My reading tonight reminded me through the wise words of MLK Jr:

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilization are written the words, “Too late.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beyond Vietnam- A Time to Break Silence

New York City, April 4, 1967

Coalescing a Community to take on World Challenges

This afternoon I’ve been allowing myself to look back at some of the ideas that I think most revolutionary for dealing with some of the problems/opportunities that the world faces right now.  It was while reading about halophytes, plants that can deal with salt water, that I came across a project that sheer audacity had me think to go deeper.  The Sahara Forest Project, yes, that is “Sahara Forest” not “Sahara Desert”, is a great example of how a small group of empowered individuals are using their intelligence and vision to take back the desert and turn it green again… a truly audacious vision.

The question, as I ponder the work that we’re doing at Tech Ranch Austin, is how to go further in supporting entrepreneurs to take on some of the most pressing needs. What’s needed to cultivate a community of entrepreneurs that not only take on building innovative startups, but they are empowered to take on the greatest challenges that face the earth… and through using their intelligence, vision, drive, whit, and passion, build the businesses that tackle these challenges?

We’ve stated seeing results from around the Ranch, with startups like OmniWater- with a technology that can purify water from the most harshest of conditions.  Wayne Wolf’s vision is a device, on the back of a 18 wheeler truck, that could be dropped into any area of the world to provide drinking water in disaster situations. Wayne’s company was an early startup at the Tech Ranch, and has recently gotten funded preparing them to go to the next level of growth and opportunity.

Secondly, Erine Grey, Founder and CEO of Aunt Bertha has been building a website that makes it easy to find food, health, housing, and employment programs for those in need.. .but instead of this being the non-profit model of the past, he’s building a business that makes it profitable to help those in need.

The Tech Ranch Community is emerging with entrepreneurs that are taking on audacious problems…. and I ask myself and our community- how do we go farther faster with greater impact?

I am proud that Tech Ranch and its community finds and supports these entrepreneurs that are pushing the boundaries for real world solutions. Starting a company isn’t easy. Every entrepreneur deserves support in the work that he/she is doing to better the world.  Its time to go beyond the loss of vision that has plagued the United States too long due to political strife and focus our attention to cultivating a community of entrepreneurs with the mutual support and the audacity to change the world for the better. Its time, this year, this day, this moment to go to the next level, and challenge ourselves further.  I ask for your contribution to this challenge. Time to build a greater future together.

Health, Juicing, and Vegetables

Over the last few years I have lost several family members and good friends to cancer.
As an entrepreneur that believes that almost anything is possible, I have used this time
to decide to explore possible preventatives or cures for cancer and diabetes… or at
least look perhaps to the fringe for solutions.

In my research, an interesting picture has emerged about the use of a (nearly) vegan
diet, and at times just pure vegetable juice as a tonic that lowers the susceptibility to
these ailments.

So today, I am just off a four day pure vegetable juice fast. For the last four days I have
had only vegetable juices four times a day, made out of some assortment of carrots,
beats, celery, wheat grass, kale, and spinach. I did not try to be exact in my choosing of
what was in each juice, nor did I try to time them exactly. The first one I made at home,
but subsequent ones I went to the Juice Spot, Whole Foods North, and Whole Foods
Downtown.

So here is my results: I felt great. I only had hunger pains on the second day, although I
think most of that was because of a very small amount of organic chocolate that I snuck
from a coworker. I went from 206.4 pounds to 198.8 pounds. I felt energized, and I
slept pretty well (which historically doesn’t always happen for me).

The surprising upside: I noticed that in a very short period of time, not only did I lose the
weight, but the athlete’s foot that I usually had disappeared. Moreover, with the medita-
tion classes that I take, I noticed (not sure if it is related or not) that I was able to medi-
tate deeper than I had been. The only downside, other than some hunger pains was
just the natural implication of not having any solid food in my system meant that visits to
the bathroom were different.

All in all, though, I have found a new practice that I will do again, and probably next time
for more time than I did this time.

So here’s some of the background material that might be of interest to watch and read
before embarking on this experiment:

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (video)
In this documentary, Joe Cross, the show’s host, takes 60 days across the US, juicing
all of the way. He and several of the persons profiled in the movie lose significant
weight and stop having to take medication for the health conditions that they have.

The Gerson Method (video)
Dr Max Gerson, a doctor that was practicing in the 1930s is profiled with the method
used to save countless lives. The video is definitely dated, and will be somewhat wonky
for a modern audience, but still for a curious mind looking into diet, this method is inter-
esting enough to consider.

The China Study (book)
In the China Study author Dr. T. Colin Campbell states in a fairly rigorous, verifiable
method how the percentage of animal protein in one’s diet directly affects susceptibility
to cancer. One study shows that a 5% milk protein diet for laboratory mice is cancer
resistant, while 20% or more milk protein in the diet is cancer susceptible. Furthermore,
Dr. Campbell shows data that he was able to collect in conjunction with the Chinese
government in 19YY that this trend is shown in humans as well across a variety of dis-
eases.

Forks Versus Knives (movie)
In this documentary, Dr. T. Colin Campbell from the China Study and Dr. Caldwell B. Es-
selstyn, Jr,team up to show how both of their practices (one as a researcher, the other as
a heart surgeon) line up on the incidents of heart disease and other diseases… sug-
gesting a diet that is mainly vegetables with a little bit of meat (significantly less than
what is normal in the American diet) is the best bet for long term good health.

All in all, this little experiment that I have done over that few days has been an interest-
ing delve into fasting with a juice diet. Certainly I’ll try it again, if for only the significant
decrease in athlete’s foot, if not also the weight loss. Perhaps as well, given that I be-
lieve a lot of what I heard in the book and documentaries above, there will also be an
entrepreneurial opportunity that I’ll find in this self research as well.

LIfe’s an experiment… I’ll keep on experimenting. Let me know if you do as well. Here’s to our health!

More thoughts about Steve

There’s been a lot of conversation about Steve Jobs passing on the ex-NeXT email list (the former employees of NeXT Computer, Inc.).  I shared the following perspective in response to Steve sometimes being a harsh person to deal with. I think that in some ways, this harsh background was part of my training ground for being an entrepreneur.  Given that this perspective has been helpful for me, I repost this set of thoughts here to thank my teachers, whether they were on the martial arts mat, or in the office.

——–

I’d like to share a whole different perspective- maybe that will be useful.

In 20+ years of studying Japanese martial arts, I’ve had a handful of sensei’s.  Sensei is an informal term of appreciation of “teacher” (in my translation and understanding).  The way that I interpret “sensei” does not mean “guru”.  In some of the training situations that I’ve been in, I’ve gotten physically hurt in the interaction (broken nose, broken foot, separated shoulder, ripped up wrist, and others over 20 years of practice).  Why, if I was getting hurt, would I ever go back?  Its because the training was yielding something deeper for me in my development and accomplishment.  In fact, I feel lucky, for the one time that my training was called upon in real life on the street, I made it out ok… but that was probably because of the pounding of preparation that I had in all of that time on the mat.
The key item, though, is that there was respect. I can’t tell you that I “liked” my sensei’s…. but in the midst of the punishment of the intensity of the situation, there was always respect.
When I think of my time at NeXT, which has shaped my life in a major way, I think to this notion- that there was at some level a type of respect that was always present.  In striving for a greater goal, this was present (both on the mat, and in this case at NeXT).  Certainly, I was farther away from the fire being in the field as an SE for NeXT… (although I can tell you of a few customer visits that were not the most pleasant of experiences… I’ll never forget the time that we were demoing to the Minister of Education of Mexico and Steve walks into the room and drops a hand grenade….)
I guess to sum it up, the reason that I feel gratitude for the experience of working with all of y’all, even in the crappy shitty times was this mutual development, mutual growth experience.  What brought “color” to my experience there was not that I liked the experience… but that pushing that I’ve only felt the likes of on the martial arts mat (mainly the Aikido mat) was meaningful because it was so developmental…. a heady experience getting to “change the world” for a kid straight out of college… and to believe that it was possible then, enables me in my work to this day to daily make that charge yet again in my present day work.
Looking forward to connecting with y’all, and raising a glass to remember Steve together,
Kevin

Returning to Chile- moving forward with projects

You might know of the work that I started in Chile in 2003 – which was to become the basis of Tech Ranch Austin- the “Enterprise Teaming” (trademark!) framework that I originally took to Chile so many years ago.  Well the Tech Ranch Austin has been growing, and we’re starting to duplicate this framework and our more polished insight back to Chile. Last year, I was in Antofagasta, Chile for the launch of Region Fertil- a project that has been started to invigorate innovation and entrepreneurship in Antofagasta.  I’ll be working with my colleagues from G&L and Gulliver- and am looking forward to seeing many of my friends in Chile.

Given as we’ve been unpacking at the new Tech Ranch Austin (we moved a few weeks ago) and we launched the Austin Startup Bazaar with 30 startups presenting, and over 350 people in attendance, I am getting this info out late about my travel plans, so I’d figure I’d share it directly here – for coordination purposes.  Here’s generally my schedule- let me know via twitter, email, or US phone or Chilean phone at +56.9.9.871.5077 to coordinate getting together while I am in Chile.

Sep 25th: Sunday Austin – Santiago

Sep 26th: Monday Meetings in Santiago

Sep 27th: Tuesday Santiago – Antofagasta- Meetings in Antofagasta

Sep 28th: Wednesday Antofagasta

Sep 29th: Thursday Antofagasta – Santiago

Sep 30th: Friday Meetings in Santiago

Oct 1st: Saturday Fun around Santiago

Oct 2nd: Santiago flying out in the evening

Oct 3rd: return to Austin in the morning

What are we working on? We’ll be following up on building teaming opportunities between networks of entrepreneurs both in Antofagasta, Santiago, and Austin.  (We’ll be showing off some of our results at SXSW2012 by the way).  Here’s to strengthening entrepreneurship by working together.  I’m excited to return to Chile, for that’s where this whole process began for me.

Conformity vs Discipline

In the workplace as in many parts of life, I have found that there’s a simple distinction that guides what I tell many a new entrepreneur into their first startup.  This distinction is conformity versus discipline.  Being an employee requires that the individual conforms to someone else’s directions. Day by day activities are directed by someone else.  Results are beget from following structures set up by someone else… and at the end of the day, or a 40 hour workweek, many times the employee may step away from work, leaving behind whatever results have been achieved, and thinking about other things.

The entrepreneur has a different scenario.  Many times there are no structures that have been set up by anyone else, requiring the entrepreneur to set them up.  It takes discipline to set the directions that a startup will go. It takes discipline to get up in the morning, especially when demotivated because of present results, to go at it again. It takes discipline at the end of the day to somehow quiet the voices of undone task, doing one’s best to mentally walk away from work that needs to be completed for that day’s rest. It takes discipline to not allow success to go to one’s head, but instead, maintain a humble approach that keeps the entrepreneur’s eyes open for the next opportunity, or the next threat.

Either way, choosing the path of conformity or discipline, there is a choice that must be made, and a willingness to pay the price of that choice.

Lemons, meet lemonade

One of the biggest issue that every entrepreneur must face is dealing with the “down” times… times when something (possibly) negative has happened, that distracts him/her from the key objective that they were focused on, to dealing with the unexpected.

The recent Tech Ranch Move, which was unexpected, is exactly that.

Yes, we had a year extension on our lease. We’d negotiated so that it was possible to keep our present location (which was not perfect for us by any means, because of many limitations) for at least a year longer.  Then we were told that the group that we were subleasing from had their lease terminated.

It was “tragic” and “distracting” and many other words.  It was ill timed. Not what I wanted to focus on. Yet now, on the eve of signing a new lease, I see it as a gift.  Perhaps some greater consciousness (or whatever) telling me to “grow the Tech Ranch Austin” up.  It was time.

The present location that we’re at was not working for the Tech Ranch Austin for quite a while. We’d have Campfires of 65 people that just did not work at our present location.  The AC didn’t work good enough.  Everyone was cramped.  And it was  a hard location to find.

But at this point, before I announce the new location, I can tell you, the process of being forced to focus on something that I really was not ready to focus on has been a net positive.  We’re moving, and no matter which of the locations that we pick to move to, we’re going to be moving to a better place.  A place that we’re going to be able to handle our mission so much better than before.  Each location that is on the top 3 locations is massively better than where we’re at now.  What’s so interesting is how blind to how much better it could be that I was.

So as I write this, I say “Lemons, meet lemonade”.  Life’s lessons in entrepreneurship have taught me that “change” is not so simple as “good” or “bad”.  I am thankful for the help that you’ve all given to me as I’ve looked to finding the next Ranch location.  All I can say at this point is that I am excited, for it is looking very good.

It is through the community that the faithless have become the faithful. Thank you for your support! (and thanks for continuing to make our mission possible!)

People Over 35 Have Recently Launched 80% Of Startups

Interesting to read the following article- given that so many young entrepreneurs get press for high flying Internet startups- but quietly in the background older entrepreneurs are building high growth, heavy innovation startups.  See the following for details:

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, people over the age of 35 made up 80 percent of the total entrepreneurship activity in 2009. That same year, the Kauffman Foundation conducted a survey of 549 startups operating in “high-growth” industries — including aerospace, defense, health care, and computer and electronics — and found that people over 55 are nearly twice as likely to launch startups in these industries.

via People Over 35 Have Recently Launched 80% Of Startups.

Why Some People Have More Luck Than Others

The following article talks about how certain entrepreneurs affect how “lucky” they are in business success.  Its a really interesting read, with a simple meditation (see the quote below).

They are the people who say to themselves: I am humble enough to say I don't know how to make better/perfect happen on my own; I am curious and courageous enough to ask questions that might help make something closer to perfect; and finally I embrace the “glass half-full” optimism that the end result can always be improved, so let me act towards that objective.

via Why Some People Have More Luck Than Others.

May we all learn to create luck in our startups.

Doug Erwin’s Wisdom

Doug Erwin, Former Chairman and CEO of The Planet gave the closing keynote today at today’s Rice Alliance 8th Annual Information Technology / Web Venture Forum.  He’s been very successful across multiple ventures over the last 35 years. I felt so compelled by his wisdom that I wanted to share it here. Here’s his 12 points:
  • Solve a Customer’s Real Problem: one that actually exist:  “If you can’t see what John Brown needs through John Brown’s eyes, you can’t sell what John Brown buys”.
  • Constantly Question and Modify Plans
  • Hire the Best. one can never have too much talent.  you can only make 10-15 decisions a day. hire the right people to make more.
  • Hire an Experienced Management Team. There’s no time for “learning on the job”.
  • Stay Focused. It’s too easy to stray.
  • Learn Something New Every Day….. your competitor is…  What did you learn today?
  • Ultimately, You Must Make a Dollar.  Sooner is better than later.
  • Build and Protect your Reputation…  you will be considered for many opportunities and never know it. Executive intelligence: cultivate it.
  • Good Communications Skills: this will raise your chances of success. Listening is as important as talking (its not just about speaking). Get out of your office… and do “Walkabouts”.  Manager meetings on Monday 7:30 am. What happened last week? What happens this week? Now go communicate this to the rest of the company?  Listen to the unspoken.
  • Great Company Culture.  This will solve attrition and retention issues. You can not create it, you must have it evolve.  Create risk compensation plans for all. Develop your own “bell” [e.g. for ringing when there's a sale].  Create an opportunity where people get to contribute beyond their direct responsibilities.
  • Leadership…. the glue that holds it together.  Camelot Rules: “we’re in this together”. Situational Leadership Rules- don’t treat people all the same- they’re all different.
  • Being Lucky Helps. Where opportunity means preparation.
  • Successful business leaders recognize opportunities, pursue the right ones, overcome obstacles, manage potential risk.  People don’t trip on mountains, they trip on small rocks.

Great event today, and great closing keynote, with great wisdom.  Glad to get to participate today.

Opportunities Connecting Worlds

Many have asked me what’s brought me to Chile this time.  As I sit here in Antofagasta, Chile, I wanted to share this recent New York Times article that frames in the discussion.  Power in the 21st century is about networks. Over the next 10 years.  The individuals, companies, and nations that have the strongest networks will define the age.  Its critical to continually build these networks. I am in Chile to assist entrepreneurs in Austin, Antofagasta, and Santiago to connect, create strong relationships, and do business with each other… and through this, transform each location.

Opportunities come from all over the world.  In my business, I’ve known this since I started my first company, for my “first dollar earned” was actually a peso from Mexico.  As we forge and create into the future, the world we’re building as entrepreneurs will be about being connected together. Its not just a naive vision of the future, its good business, especially given that $40 billion will be invested in Antofagasta over the next 10 years.

The Travis County Court System is Broken

Over the last few days I have come to believe that the system is broken.

Some of you know that I was assaulted last February 2009. The last year and a half has been a healing experience for me. Its also taught me to be patient as I thought the court system would move forward with bringing my attackers to justice. Today, and over the last few days, I’ve come to realize, though, how the court system is broken.

Here’s the story:  on June 21, 2010, one year and four months later, I was witness to a car wreck. A young girl ran her Honda into the back of a truck at the intersection of Andersen and Mopac.  I was the first on the scene; called 911, and spent some time with her, trying to calm her nerves as well as help stop some of the bleeding.  It was a graphic situation, so much so that I wrote a thought about it here, not knowing what else to do to express what had happened. Other than the girl’s injuries, no one else was injured.

Its four months later, and the Travis County Courthouse has called me in with a subpoena requesting that I be present at her court case as a witness to what happened.  Here’s the rub: how is it that the courts can get to a DWI case so quickly, when there’s a criminal assault case, with four attackers, including one that’s already been detained by the police that’s now over one year eight months old?  How is it that our Travis County Court can pursue the DWI case on a young woman (that I don’t know if she was intoxicated or not, but I see no previous criminal intent on her part) yet the system has not aggressively pursued the gang that had criminal intent?

Some photos that you might not want to see for they are graphic.

Self photo after the attack.

Photo after surgery.

APD knows who the attackers are; they stopped one of them, yet let him go.

(The attending physician at Breckenridge said that the cut and bone fracture on my nose happened because I was hit with a piece of metal- brass knuckles or a ring).  Its important to share as well- I’ve not been reimbursed yet for my medical expenses, and I am still chasing this down as well through a very slow State of Texas system. (By law, criminal victims are entitled to be reimbursed for medical expenses while the Court pursues the criminals).

Thankfully I was able to walk away from the attack. With the lack of the Court’s actions, though, you have to ask yourself who this gang has since attacked, and why is it that the Court has not aggressively pursued criminals while it has time to pursue a young woman that didn’t have criminal intent.

Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Friday Evening Experiments” fetch Nobel Prize

It doesn’t take much time to profoundly impact science and the world.  Dr. Konstantin Novoselov devoted 10% of his time to “crazy things that probably won’t pan out”. One of these experiments did… that he’s now being recognized with the Nobel Prize.

The style of Geims lab which Im keeping and supporting up to now is that we devote ten percent of our time to so-called “Friday evening” experiments. I just do all kinds of crazy things that probably won’t pan out at all, but if they do, it would be really surprising. Geim did frog levitation as one of these experiments, and then we did gecko tape together.

via Konstantin Novoselov Interview – Special Topic of Graphene – ScienceWatch.com.

Reconnecting with Chile

Its hard to ever know how seeds once planted will grow.

This and next week represent an exciting reconnection of my work with Chile.  For context, in 2003, I took an early version of what was to become the blueprint of Tech Ranch Austin to Chile.  I was convinced that I needed to open the next door of my life, in not just starting yet another tech startup, but instead, starting a platform, some might say a revolution :-), of startups working together.

Its exciting to see how these seeds have grown. Two really quick areas that I’ll mention here.  This next Thursday, Paige Brown, Founder and CEO of Tripeezy heads to Chile, as one of the winners of Startup Chile.  Startup Chile is a program where the government of Chile is investing money in her startup.

Secondly, three executives are coming from Chile- two from Antofagasta- where the major copper mines of the world area, and another long term colleague and friend coming from Santiago.  We’ll be talking about specific technologies that the executives from Antofagasta are looking for.  Moreover, we will explore ways to shape the innovation culture of Antofagasta in specific, and Chile more generally.

I am excited because the work that originally took me to Chile, including perhaps the simple concepts, and my naive understanding of these concepts and my work has now blossomed into a much bigger opportunity that includes many businesses and early stage entrepreneurs.  Feeling like a proto-entrepreneur for the Startup Chile program (before there was a program years ago) its exciting to see doors open where there were once walls and a bunch of dreams.

Entrepreneur: your light, and your responsibility

Entrepreneurs…. this is a call as a reminder… there’s no small game to play with regard to being an entrepreneur.  I’ve often been told of the following quote from Marianne Williamson (often attributed to Nelson Mandela) where Marianne tells us flat out to stop playing a small game.  In the words of a spiritual butt-kicking, here’s her quote.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Now there’s another side to this… and anyone that’s been a successful, reflective entrepreneur knows that this is true.  There’s no place to hide when it comes to not playing small.  Whether or not you get the spiritual side to this quote above, there’s the cold hard facts, in a business context, that if its to be, its up to you, the entrepreneur.

Building a business, or a socially focused non-profit, or whatever your venture might be… there’s no place to hide whether or not you get there.  I’ve often thought that this could be a perceived downside to the quote above.  Marianne is calling us to a higher level… yet, if an entrepreneur doesn’t make it to his / her goals, there’s a litany of reasons that they did not make it… but the buck stops with the entrepreneur.

Listen to Marianne. Reach for the skies.  Pull out all of the stops.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  And realize that if you make it, or not, is your responsibility.  Show your light. Don’t hide it. Be willing to risk not making it.  Be willing to be responsible for whatever happens, good, bad, or ugly.  Once you’ve felt the power of the stretch feeling of going for it, then and only then will you understand as well the power of being responsible for making things happen. And once you’ve felt this feeling, you’ll be drawn to turn your light on even brighter.