I got this from a recent sermon. It works for start ups. Belief is only really real when true or false means life or death, or similar consequences.
Think about this story: a boy is asked to prove a theory to his class and he chooses the pendulum. He rigs up a baseball and a string and ties it to a pivot on a whiteboard. He explains that, because of the effects of friction and gravity, once the pendulum swings, it will never return higher than its original point and eventually, because of those same forces, it will find rest in equilibrium at the middle. Does the class agree? Yes, of course, everyone has studied this and knows it to be true. And so he begins, swinging the ball and watching in move back and forth until yes indeed it settles as expected. Theory proven. Teacher impressed.
But wait, he says… true or false is easy with no stakes.
So, he takes down another pendulum set, this one strung high into the rafters, containing a giant chain and a 30 lb cinderblock capable of crushing a skull if moving at any decent speed. He asks the teacher to sit in a chair very still and measures out the chain so the block comes just shy of the teacher’s nose. And he repeats the theory. The class unanimously agrees, the pendulum won’t swing further than its prior apex. The teacher is less resolute, checking all measurements and possibilities. He reluctantly agrees and sits there motionless as the block swings with a whooshing sounds across the room and crests just shy of the wall opposite his chair. It begins to retrace its path, building momentum and force as it passes the equilibrium point and continues toward him.
The teacher ceases to believe what he himself has taught. He bails out, to the boos of his students.
To test the depth and breadth of your Belief, consider the absolute of True or False means Life or Death. Do you believe in your start-up enough to sit in the chair? Do you belive in your marketing plan? Your next hire? Your big acquisition? Your next partner? Your logo? Your next shareholder loan in order to make payroll? Your ability to pivot?
Before you make your next big start-up step, ask yourself… how long can I stay in the chair?
I snapped this gravestone in Italy one August: it means Rome or death (gee really)! Those crazy Romans were all in, and all consumed with the phenomenon that was Rome. I feel the same way about Mobile.
My friend Matt thinks thats all I think about. In truth, I just think about most things with this persepctive. But at least I put my phone away at dinner! (More mobile manners here).
Mobile has and will transform our lives like no other phenom, bringing knowledge and data to our fingertips that no 20th (or 1st) century genius could match. It will enrich our life experiences in ways we have only just begun to fathom. Mobile is perhaps the greatest technology of our lifetimes, and its effect will outlive us. The impact of new technology is hard to overstate, but here is an yet another example of how it can change the understanding of an entire era:
(Excerpt Phil Leigh) Mathew Brady compiled a photographic portfolio during the American Civil War that forever changed the way people remembered loved ones through a rather new technology of the time: photography. The war remains vivid in our visual understanding because it was so well photographed. Thousands of soldiers stood before the camera on their way to serve. Many were photographed in death, including a solemn series of photographs Brady exhibited in New York City just after a Maryland battle that turned back Robert E. Lee’s first Confederate invasion. Their graphic power overwhelmed cynical New Yorkers of the day. At last, someone had captured ‘the terrible reality and earnestness of war.’ The photographs by his colleagues of the dead at Gettysburg will never lose their power.
Such is the impact of a new technology as it transitions from early adopters into the mainstream. And so, video records are at a similar evolutionary threshold and Mobile will play a part in the shift again.
However, future generations may largely avoid such frustrations. In combination with the Internet and digital video storage, QR codes are beginning to be affixed to gravestones and provide one version of virtual immortality. QR codes are merely two-dimensional barcodes when embedded directly into the headstone, or to a metal attachment, will remain functional nearly as long as the stone itself. Gravesite visitors scan the QR code with a smartphone and, a video of the deceased appears. It could be a memorial of assembled footage from recordings taken at various life stages, or it might be a personal message for descendents.
The practice is new and it remains to be seen if it morphs into widespread use. But I would say the impact of mobile on our lives and beyond is a dead certainty.
I recently let a home in France from no-one I had ever met, except online.
When I returned, I realized it’s been awhile since I have wailed away on Trust and the dangers of a Trust gap between online behavior and offline repercussions. My thesis is that, if the Trust gap could be bridged, the Sharing Economy (aka collaborative Consumption) would take off.
Since my first post, Sharing Darling airBnB topped off a $112M raise at $1B valuation, which is a good start! Full disclosure: I have an investment in, and a deep belief for, the benefits of TrustCloud, mentioned frequently in my posts but not here.
When you hand the housekeys to a couch surfer, leave the kids with the new sitter, or hitch a ride with three total unknowns, it’s not a natural feeling. I’ve written about it in my MadMen post, as well as the downside in my Catfish story.
The antidote? Trust. After my first post of five mistakes, here are five more common Trust mistakes we are hardwired to commit in real life, and more evidence we should consider asking for a Hall Pass before exposing ourselves in real life to peeps we met online:
6. Contamination effects, whereby we allow irrelevant but proximate information to influence a decision;
7. The effect heuristic, whereby preconceived value-judgements interfere with our assessment of costs and benefits;
8. Scope neglect, which prevents us from proportionately adjusting what we should be willing to sacrifice to avoid harms of different orders of magnitude;
9. Overconfidence in calibration, which leads us to underestimate the confidence intervals within which our estimates will be robust (e.g. to conflate the ‘best case’ scenario with the ‘most probable’); and
10. Bystander apathy, which inclines us to abdicate individual responsibility when in a crowd.
How many of these dumb trust mistakes do you recognize? When you layer online activity on top of your offline judgements, does it begin to get scary? It has me thinking there has to be an improvement if Sharing is to get super-scale.
I was in Deer Valley recently for a Pelion LP meeting and the topic turned to high- altitude climbing. Entrepreneurs that I work with know that I constantly use the experience as an analogly for building companies. (I have analogies for everything, some more crazy than others. At least, that’s what I’m told).
The basic premise is that, as you get to higher altitudes, your mind and body play tricks on you. Cognitive powers are altered. Moving carefully and deliberately is important, but so is having a guide to help you move quicker and avoid mis-steps. For a look into real-world mountain climbs, there’s a great book called Into Thin Air by Krakuer that covers it well. (and the rebuttal by Anatoly Bukareev is just as good). As for entrepreneurship, there are very few books about a company’s pending danger and death; most focus on reaching the top. I wrote a bit about that aspect in a prior post called Let ‘em Crash. I personally have been to what I define as” high altitude,” both in climbing and entrepreneurship. (Over 10,000 and over $100M+ in valuation, respectively.) Here’s a hairy story from one climb: entrepreneurs, see if you can pick out the analogie(s).
A trip to Peru brought me to the Machu Picchu lodge and my altitude adjustment was fully set, having begun the trip in Cusco at 11,000 feet. I had climbed Huana Picchu earlier that day, at dawn. I saw the most spectacular sunrise, as many Inca priests had before me (hint, these would be VC’s), and marveled at the symmetry of the Sun Gate and the other temples in the complex. I returned to the lodge for late breakfast. It was there we began talking about Cerro, the peak I had seen obscured by mist from Huana, with a giant flag fluttering at the top. I did some quick calculations and decided I could make it by sundown.
Cerro is the highest immediate peak above Macchu Pichu, but there’s nothing technical about it. Like most of the Inca trail, .ost of the path is carved rock. A little slippery at times, and occasionally requiring pull-ups, but mostly the climb is a mental one. I say this because the Urabumba River roars on three sides of the peak, and the drop is about 1,000m, sometimes straight. After a few thousand feet, the mist socked me in. All there was in front of me were stones, laid by Incas many hundreds of years ago, and vines. And the sound of the river. It became my navigation. As I heard it down and to my left, I knew I was on the west face; at it switched to my right, I knew I the path had traversed to the west. Half way up, I met two Japanese who were on descent. You alone?, they asked. Yup. Even that small exchange heartened me, not for the guidance, but for the fact someone else would know where I was on the mountain if things got bad. As it was, their estimate was a bit off.
Ninety minutes later, I came through a skree field of snakestone (awesome green stuff that looks like malachite, but softer) and arrived at a gate of carved rock. It was the first clue I was entering a holy place. From there, I experienced my closest-to-divine moment. The path became flat, and the mist enveloped my feet, such that only my footfall revealed the path in front of me. I was on the spine of the peak, so the sun, or what was left of it, made the way brighter. I noticed orchids, which grow wild at that altitude. And hummingbirds which fluttered around like some Natural History Museum display. Summit euphoria was taking over, as I heard the flag flapping in the wind in front of me. As I reached it I sat still for twenty minutes, precious time given the daylight. It was total peace. (Have you guessed? This is an exit!)
When I turned to go, I notice the river roaring about me not on my left or right, but on three sides. With the dimming sun, the mist, the flowers and birds it was truly heaven. The euphoria lasts through the first fifteen minutes of descent, as I passed markings I had made in my mind during the ascent. I allowed myself to gain momentum, feeling free, and frankly as good as a teenager in springtime. Then I mis-stepped. In an instant, I was hurtling down one side of the face, when I instinctively grabbed on of the vines hanging from the face. It caught me, and I quickly recovered, with not a small amount of briars — and a pulse suddenly 2x. I kept rolling, and reached the main Inca village by dusk.
Llamas get around without Merrils
At dinner that night back in Macchu Pichu, one of our guides, Juan —- asked if I had walked or crawled on the spine of Cerro. I told him, and he was surprised. Most people crawl, he said. The spine is only 2m wide, and the drop to the river there is about 800m on the right side, and 1,200m (4,000 feet) on the left. Well, I walked the whole thing… maybe leaning a bit to the right to compensate for the difference…
But the most interesting thing about that climb was what it taught me about the entrepreneurial climb: the height of the ascent is an optional objective… but the return is mandatory!
Mashup of digital lovers on Catfish... actual results may vary!
Have you seen the movie CATFISH? It’s an artsy geeky-docu-drama produced by Relativity. I heard about it a year ago and missed it at the time, but Mel resurfaced it on movie night this week. Here’s why it caught my attention…
If you’re one of the 3.3 billion people who use the web, and rely on the information spewed out by UGC (aka User-Generated Content), it’s a must-see. Basically, a few Metro-Socials find someone online who seems too good to be true (hmmm…ever happen to you?). All’s well until they stumble upon a song that sounds a lot like one claimed by their new Facebook friend. I’ll stop there, but the twists and turns in this “documentary” are amazingly similar to real life.
This has happened to us all, in so many ways. Are those Craigslist Yankee tickets for real? Is that person on J-Date as good as the pics (never)? Is that babysitter someone we can actually trust? Is that couch I’m crashing on next week in Malibu owned by some weirdo? I posed many of the same questions a few weeks back in my Mad Men post.
MTV seems to think these aren’t isolated incidents.. Relatively Media is currently developing a reality show based on Catfishfor that network. Variety reports that MTV’s series (still in the early stages ) will likely focus on people who intentionally “misidentify themselves” online – and the repercussions that follow.
We’ve become very comfotable sharing information about ourselves in social networks (thanks Facebook). But what’s beginning to become apparent is that others are actualy relying on that information to make real decisions about what to purchase, where to sleep, and who to trust with our kids. WHOA. Think about that for a sec: real world decisions based on the digital data generated by… whomever.
When it comes to relying on digital information in making real world decisions, I’ll echo Reagan on nukes: “Trust but verify”!
I give Catfish two thumbs up. Check it out for yourself. And share your thoughts with me.
George Jetson had it nailed in 2062 but actually, we’re closer than anyone thinks to the tech-tricked homes, cars, and Man Caves that would make even Cogswell Cogs envious.
The key: mobile devices. (How’d you guess!)
Sure, people were flashing George the “loser” sign left and right (and that’s hard with the 2.5 fingers allotted to every animated character) but he had the tech toys all dialed in long before we ever thought they were possible. Smart cars. A great video wall. Superb lifestyle monitors. And a bot named Rosie who kept him on his toes.
So why do I think we’re so near to this Jetson-ian Utopia? Follow me…
I’ve documented the mobile phenomenon fairly well already. In the words (or slides actually) of mobile trend see-er Mary Meeker, its bigger than we think already, and about to grow faster than anyone thought possible. And with that unit growth comes ad models to support content, a more vibrant community of app developers, and an ecosystem that feeds, grows and daily improves on the mobile experience. But don’t think of it as just the device in your pocket, because the rush to mobile includes the tablet wave and the netbook craze too (depends on your pocket-size I guess). If you have any doubts we’re dramatically changing our favored screen, check out this graph which I call “Au Revoir, Monsieur PC”.
So, if the development eco-system is engaged in a major shift, what will be the effects of all this mobile-centric creative energy?
Audi is out with a demo of their A-8 with Broadband. I’ve already made a post about the convergence of personal health and mobile computing. But the battle for the home’s Digital Hearth is even more exciting. Starting with Nicholas Negroponte in Being Digital “…the future open-architecture television is the personal computer, period.” , analyst Phil Leigh makes a great case for what’s coming…
Ultimately the confusing assortment of products and services capturing headlines today are merely Fool’s Errands involving futile attempts to placate established media leaders. Examples include GoogleTV, Sony “Connected TVs”, AppleTV, Roku, Vudu, Pop Box, PS3, Xbox, Joost, WebTV, Xfinity, TV Everywhere, various lobotomized TV set-top boxes, and their siblings. Essentially they’re attempts to artificially impose inflated content-bundled pricing, much like record labels historically required consumers to purchase entire pre-recorded CDs merely to get two or three desired tracks. Once bundling is shattered, content providers are forced to genuinely innovate. The ultimate consequence of limited access is the stimulation of demand for unrestricted access.
Televisions will become giant windows into the Internet Cloud. They’ll transform into electronic hearths through which family members gather to remotely share communications and social experiences as much as to watch videos. In addition to watching “TV” shows and movies, they’ll use future televisions for video phone calls, FaceBook updates, news feeds, interactive gaming, and knowledge quests within the nearly infinite mind of the Internet. Moreover, such features will augment one another. For example, FaceBook socializing will alert us to new videos our friends are watching.
What’s the key to all of this? The eco-system begins shifting to develop new solutions for mobile, enabling these solutions and a thousand more. Set top boxes will go away. Mobiles and tablets will drive them all. Well positioned technology platforms will be able to integrate seamlessly between “TV”, web, mobile and everything else.
Or at least that’s what I think, up ’til right now. Jetson would agree. Astro, maybe not so much.
And yes, I get some ideas from cartoon shows. Some of my best ideas, actually.
I spent a few hours recently with a few of my “younger” friends, quizzing them on social mores and probing the boundaries of what’s generally acceptable these days.
It’s a long way down.
I’m convinced we- and they- are complicit in a race to the bottom in terms of what is socially acceptable. Years ago, William Bennett brought it up in the phrase “Moral Poverty”, which didn’t resonate with me. Chill out dude was as much as I thought at the time.
But since then, the slide has only accelerated. Maybe thanks to the web, social media, mobile and similar phenomenons (which I invest in- I admit). In short, perhaps I’d be happier in the 50′s… maybe because I wasn’t there. But the movies were good and my parent’s stories were fine. People had a firm grasp on what was important: mostly family, fun, respect, dignity, honor, grace and a lot of similar words that cannot be found on cable TV or your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed.
Sure, it was a simpler world, with less options in the day and on the dance card. Cary Grant found way to be both funny, charming, and quite a dashing gentleman. John Wayne (or even Clint) held forth as men or integrity, dignity and toughness. But by the 70′s Whipped Cream and Other Delights printed their cover for Herb Alpert above. I was eight, but looking at that photo, even I should have known that all hell was about to break loose.
The slide downhill since then has led us, at this writing to
Charlie Sheen pushing the edge of outrage so far as to make Tucker Max feel outdone, embarrassed, and frankly somewhat gentlemanly. “This is my porn room…”
Kim Kardashian & Co. showing off the good life from her “business empire/lunch date” while hawking credit cards to her gullible wannabee audience as their ticket to the good life. Then sticking them with exorbitant fees and rates.
The guy in the next row on the train I am riding rambling into his cell phone that “I hate marshmallows on his baked yams, and he won’t be embarrassed in front of his parents with that casserole again”.
So many NBA children born out of wedlock the family reunions are about as predictable as a Miami Heat shot chart.
So here’s my point… I realize one cannot arrest the slide by simply saying something- listening skills are nearly defunct as well. No, for those that are interested, only actions will do. Walk away from the things that rot your brain. Do something… meaningful, that brings value to the party. Listen more, talk less. Then maybe dignity, grace, courtesy and compassion will make abit of a comeback.
I learned a few things about entrepreneurship from my buddy Dave Buckenheimer and my RollFast Wing bike — but bear with me first: this is a hell of a wipeout story. Let’s start with our Moms. Both were from the laissez faire school of child rearing, as in… break your arm falling on the swing? Get bit by the bunny in the pet center out back? Burn yourself making a funeral pyre for some unlucky ants? All fine, just be home for dinner. It’s amazing how much we learned by simply breaking, bleeding, and wailing our way through our play-filled youth. Bike wrecks were the highest form of this adolescent art form and Gailey Boulevard, a steep switchback that ran from our house down into town, was our particular proving ground. It was also where Dave lived. One afternoon, I called and let Bucky know I was headed his way; he said he’d meet me at the bottom. I hopped on my trusty Wing Ding Rollfast and hit Gailey full steam.
The Wing Ding was my go-to bike. I liked its simplicity. It had only one speed: fast. And it could brake really well, allowing me to execute perfect fishtail skids. Gailey had no traffic whatsoever, making it a relatively safe ride. The only wildcard in the equation was pig iron, a waste byproduct of the steel mills downriver in Pittsburgh. Sometime, somewhere, someone saw fit to cover Gailey with this metallic stuff, vaguely reminiscent of blown glass beads, Generally smooth to the touch, some of it was sharp as a blade if cracked. This would become meaningful very shortly.
I was halfway down Gailey by now, although the Wing Ding was nowhere near top speed, mainly because the loose pig iron made me plenty careful in the hairpin turns. Trees zipped by, I passed the last of the four homes and picked up speed after the last of the hairpins. I was running flat out when I saw Bucky near the base of the Boulevard. He had a weird look on his face: a dropping jaw and the beginnings of a slow motion scream worthy of a Bruce Lee death sequence. He was pointing at something. My feet locked into the pedals of the Wing Ding, my hands on the padded handlebars my brother had been working on lately. Garage Note: when a gooseneck handlebar is loosened to do custom work, you still have handlebars that can make a variety of turns no problem. But if you lift the bars straight up, they slip right out. Not an issue when you are working in the garage; definitely an issue when you are flying down Gailey Boulevard.
I actually thought I had a shot at pulling out of it. The handlebars were now high in my hands, separated from the steering column by at least a foot. But the wheel hadn’t turned at all and I was coasting below top speed. If the wheel stayed straight, another 20 feet and I could bail with minimal damage. Bucky was rooting for me to pull off one of the great saves in Beaver, PA Biking History.
That fleeting hope was done in by a loose piece of pig iron redirecting my tire. That was all she wrote. The wheel lurched to a 90* angle that I was powerless to correct. I was ass-over-tea cups, still holding the handlebars, still clueless as how I got that way. My brother knew, however — he’d been working a chopper conversion for an upcoming Evil Knievel jump off the Spencer swimming pool, and neglected to mention the job was only half done.
Gailey Boulevard met me with all the hospitality one would expect of loose asphalt and scrap pig iron greeting an 8 year-old in shorts, a t-shirt and packing a lot of velocity.
According to Bucky, it was the most spectacular wipeout ever. I missed it: my head hit next and I was out. Bucky picked me up and helped me to his house. When I came to, his sister Amy was using a tongue depressor to remove a piece of pig iron the size of a quarter from my knee. I passed out again. We still practiced baseball that afternoon and when it got near dark, Mrs. B gave me and the mangled Wing Ding a ride home.
Here’s what a mangled –but exhilarated — 8 year old can teach entrepreneurs:
Go full out on something you love.
Fail once in a while. It won’t kill you.
Get the h*ll back up and do something else, and let the scars remind you a bit.
Unlike a lot of kids today who are practically wrapped in bubble-wrap, we grew up active participants in life, with an amazing sense of adventure. That carries on today, informing my entrepreneur experience. I only wish more kids- and entrepreneurs — would behave with the same abandon. Most of what I observe in today’s kids is an awful lot of video consumption and precious little actual contact with anything else. If that continues unchecked, Video Thumb will become will be our main body part in 10,000 years. If anyone reading this is still around then, remember, you read it here first.