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?
Back in the day, commoners would from time to time approach the lord of the manor and “claim kin”, hoping to reap some of the benefits of those that lived “inside the walls”. Needless to say, those living inside the walls were very comfy and pretty skeptical. It usually took very good data, a lot of money, or a big @#$% army to convince people you were legit. For example William the Conqueror started out as William the Bastard, until he set matters straight in 1066 at the point of a spear.
These days we can prove more with data.
First is the growing power of ancestral research because of the web (and the Mormons, thanks for the hard work!). I’ve spent some time on Ancestry.com in the past year poking around my family history. We have a lot of legends that have been passed down through the years, but not a lot of it based on verifiable facts. Thanks to web 2.0, I have now traced Spencer males back to 1728 with birth and death records, census data, and Sons of the American Revolution documents and guess what: the family actually did a good job of remembering the lineage without writing much of it down. My great grandfather did have 24 kids. He did have his last when he was 74 years old. And he did have a wife ~40 years his junior. Apparently, with his spare time he ran a farm in Central Pennsylvania. His great grandfather a Joseph Sr. may have fought for the winners in the Revolutionary War (still confirming). And his ancestors came from England. (More to come after the DNA is complete).
Second is the power of social networks to access additional, related facts nearly instantaneously. My dad, aka Big Art, and I had spent the previous 5+ years trying to piece together rumors, family legends, a bit of travel to the continent in an effort to verify anything about our heritage. The we logged on to Ancestry and used the other trees to quickly piece together draft documents, immigration papers, and baptism records we had not otherwise found. suddenly, our knowledge was no longer in a silo.
Third is the burgeoning business of DNA. 23andME tipped off a fascinating journey in mapping the human genome. With the simple swab of a cheek, I will be able to confirm not only who we are related to, but also what anomalies I may be exposed to. Sergey Brin of Google realized he prone to Parkinsons by mapping his DNA this way. I can’t imagine what I am prone to. But with the results, there is likely undeniable truth to my ancestral claims, whatever that might be.
But perhaps the biggest point for me is this: like it or not, we eventually become our fathers, more or less. That is perhaps why I have been so fascinated with the Visualize Health/SelfAwareness project, where connected devices inform us of the health and wellness trends of ourselves and our loved ones. Through the power of Web 2.0, Social networks, and DNA we can all know what our baseline data is, as well as the trend. It’s up to us where to go with it.
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.
People that witnessed my hoarse performance at this week’s Young Start Up Panel learned I had spent the previous night at U2 show. And believe it or not, U2 can teach entrepreneurs an awful lot about success, because they live a few of its basic principles:
They have meaning and relevance
They understand timeliness
They have local impact with a global reach
They live with respect, gratitude and humility
Five years ago, a lifelong friend Mark (MvK) and I caught U2 at Croke Park in Dublin. We were so impressed, we spent the rest of the night in Temple Bar debating their ranking in “The Most Influential Bands of All Time,” along with perhaps the Stones and The Beatles. I cover that and more in this blog from way back when.
This week, Bono, Edge, Mark and I all reunited in the Meadowlands with a few others (!) and we conceded the Most Influential Band of our Lifetime to U2. The group’s tours ranked them second in total concert grosses for the decade after The Rolling Stones, although U2 had a significantly higher attendance figure than the Stones. They were the only band in the top 25 touring acts of the 2000s to sell out every show they played. In April 2011, the U2 360° Tour became the highest-grossing tour in history, surpassing earnings of $558 million and breaking The Stones’ previous record.
Any entrepreneur with this level of success does not need my advice. But numbers alone are not the reason for our award to U2. In order to transcend a niche, sustain your existence, leave a legacy, and essentially change the world for the better, a band –or even an entrepreneur – needs to consider these big four points:
Point #1) Meaning and relevance
How well are you listening and knowing your audience? Of all the millions of fans that U2 has performed in front of, they have always forfeited 20% of their audience to “backstage blindness.” Though their audience grew up on video mashups (MTV), it now also digests facts in tweet size doses.
Enter the Vid-Squid: a Willie Williams-designed four-legged contraption—which cost around $25 million, weighs 400 tons and is responsible for a harrowing carbon footprint—while offering a 360-degree vantage of U2 with its cylinder-shaped expandable screen and circular catwalk. It was a technical workhorse that solved the 360 problem and served the digital and audio needs of everyone in the house.
How willing are you to Pivot and Reinvent? U2′s most beloved line in my book is “we are reapplying for the job of best rock band of all time.” In three decades, the band has continually morphed, synthesizing punk, glam rock, stadium anthem and mashups, without betraying their core audience. They’ve taken huge chances (Zoo Tour being a big one) that failed, and as I pointed out in a previous post, had the courage to keep reinventing.
A great example of this balls-out kind of courage came when MvK and I were discussing whether Bono indeed had a great voice or just a “people’s voice,” best-suited for sing-alongs or gospel choirs. Moments later, the band began a superb mashing up of an operatic aria into the greatly-meaningful song, “Miss Sarajevo.” With Luciano Pavarotti long since departed, we both wondered who would sing his part. No need; Bono literally channeled Pavarotti and hit every note with chilling brilliance – and in Italian. Not your average rockstar trick there. And extremely courageous.
Burma's msg, via Vid Squid
Point #2) Timeliness
How well do you use your leverage, when you have it? This means not wasting your moment in the spotlight, but using it to extend the franchise and transcend what just good product alone can’t deliver.
Arguably, U2’s moment has lasted quite longer than their two and a half hour concert mastery. For thirty years, the members of U2—as a band and individually—have collaborated with other musicians, artists, celebrities, and politicians to address issues concerning poverty, disease, and social injustice. (This list from Wiki)
U2 and Bono’s social activism have not been without its critics. Several authors and activists who publish in politically-left journals such as CounterPunch have decried Bono’s support of political figures as well as his “essential paternalism.” I think recipients of their largesse would say “paternal me all you want.” Other news sources have generally questioned the efficacy of Bono’s campaign to relieve debt and provide assistance to Africa. Tax and development campaigners have also criticized the band’s move from Ireland to the Netherlands to reduce its tax bill. To which I — and they — say, ‘Yeah, and?”
Point #3) Local impact/ Global reach
KNOW your audience
It has to work first at home. Ask Starbucks. They spent YEARS in Seattle before taking their perfection on the road. So ask yourself… How well is your product received, adored, and used by the locals?
Bono started the evening by saying “We just want to thank Mr. Springsteen for letting us the hall tonight.” It was witty, humble, and got a roar from the crowd because it proved he was totally in tune with a bit of the locals. He thanked people from Conn-ect-i-cut, Penn-syl-vania, Jersey and New York for coming out on such a hot night, by Irish standards. And when he spied a sign in the crowd that said “For Clarence,” he stopped the show to let it be passed up onstage. He owned the locals.
And then he took it global like only U2 can.
He conjured up Commander Mark Kelly on the big screen via space satellite (OK, pre-recorded I later learned) to flip through poster boards of “Beautiful Day’s” lyrics.
His presence gave new meaning to the “Space Oddity” lyric, “Tell my wife, I love her very much, she knows,” which he quoted at the end of the song.
“Walk On” closed out the set with an emotional presentation by Amnesty International, as U2 fans piled onto the catwalk carrying large candles to remember the conflict taking place in Burma and the plight of the recently freed Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who also addressed the crowd from the expandable screen (above).
It’s a hard act for any little entrepreneur to follow, but this breadth and depth of action can certainly inspire some good work. U2’s efforts have effected change in Famine, Aids, War, National Debt, Political imprisonment, Pro Democracy, and preservation of music around the world. In my own samall way, I try to do what I love, and believe I have a better chance to make an impact as well.
Point #4) Respect, gratitude and humility
If it all works, don’t think it’s just because you’re good. I’ve had the honor to work with and hang around an awful lot of entrepreneurs that have met with some spectacular success.
The best of them recognize that, while they were good (like many others), they were also not strangers to luck and timing. Too many react by saying “that was fun, I want to do it again and again” … and then meet a hard fail. “Once in a lifetime” often means just that.
But U2 was none of that. I was struck by these sincere comments throughout the night:
“Thank you for giving us this wonderful life.” (For an entrepreneur that would be: thanks for letting me be an entrepreneur: it’s is hard, but great)
“Thank you for paying for this monstrosity.” (Entrepreneurs might thank investors for funding their new product launch)
“Thank you to our warm up band.” (Thanks to those that came before us in the innovation chain)
“Thank you Mr. Springsteen for letting us this hall.” (Thanks to the local expert that let us dabble in his warehouse)
So for everyone who thought I was just hanging out with MvK at a concert, taking pictures of mobs of people watching four men and a crazy stage production I say this: I was thinking!
For an entrepreneur, attempting to separate Work from the Rest is not only impossible, it’s a waste of kinetics and karma. As U2 have proven, we are One, with every ounce of our experience contributing to our creative output, bad or good.
Miles to go. Walk on.
PS: How to translate U2 in Entrepreneur
Meaning/Relevance: LISTEN to your damn market. Solve problems that really cause pain. Provide solutions that really are game changers.
Timeliness: Too late or too early is a loser. Being in the trend as it comes ashore is the only thing that works.
Local impact/ Global reach: Make it perfect for a small core group (or locals), but have the scalability to roll it out global.
Respect, gratitude and humility: When it works, it doesn’t just mean you’re hot sh*t and could repeat it. Act accordingly.
There’s been a story circulating among the Funda-gelical crowd that the world is ending on May 21. Sounds about right, based on my week so far.
Anyways, I’ve lived through a few end-of-the-world scenarios [remember Y2K?] and what interests me is the number of ways people come up with businesses to deal with the problem! I’ve heard that people focus best when they are terrorized, (which would explain my ability to make up airtight cover stories, even as my father pulled the Olds ’88 into the gravel driveway). But couple the End of the World with American entrepreneurship and you get brilliant solutions to addressing post-Rapture administrative chores. Here a few of my favorites:
There’s one company that offers to care for the pets of the newly-raptured after they go to heaven…. but please note, “Unfortunately at this time we are not equipped to accommodate all species and must limit our services to dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and small caged mammals. Please note: we can now offer rescue services for horses, camels, llamas and donkeys in NH,VT, ID and MT”. Anyways, all caregivers are confirmed atheists, so there is no chance they will be called up when you are. Part with $135 per pet, and you’re covered, not matter what happens. No refunds.
There’s also a handy guide to navigate the post-rapture as well, pulled to gether by Kurt Seland. I looked up Money (there was no section on venture capital: I guess angels take over after the rapture?). Anyways, according to Kurt, hard currency will become obsolete. Currency and coin is expensive to produce, lends itself readily for drug trafficking and, with high tech equipment, is too easily counterfeited. The debit card will become the tool for all personal financial transactions. However, at some point after the rapture, probably right after the two witnesses are killed, everyone will be required to get a mark on their right hand or forehead in order to buy and sell. Do not, do not, do not under any circumstances participate by receiving this mark. All those who receive this mark known as “The Mark of the Beast” are doomed for eternity.
That’s one man’s opinion, anyways. You can probably pick up the book for cheap sometime after May 21st, depending on how things work out.
My point is this (other than getting great SEO on May 21st): people are always coming up with ideas to make a buck. I respect that. See you on the 22nd.
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!
Here’s a recent shot from an event I attended with my Dad, aka Big Art. OK, it was my wedding.
He was dapper in his tux, danced like a dervish, and sported a head of hair anyone half his age would envy. And while a full house went silent listening to him recite his “favorite” Emerson from 72 years ago, very few that night knew the challenges my father overcame to get there, many of them health related. Honestly, their gravity cannot be overstated.
So, looking at this picture of us side by side (after that toast), I got to thinking something we all wonder about as time goes by. “What will I be like when…”
Could I visualize that progression? And if there are improvements I want to make along the way and goals that I want to prioritize, what am I doing now that will affect that?
And so, a concept being kicked around by a few different entrepreneurs began to crystallize for me. Millions have created avatars for Farmville, Mob Wars, and World of Warfare. Many medical professionals who want to do something better than battle insurance carriers for reimbursements. And the number of mobile devices measuring weight, Blood pressure, Blood sugar, heart rate, excercise, etc. are making automated personal health monitoring a possibility. Then there are social networks to provide the support necessary to keep us on track with our goals.
So…how about a social game that helps me Visualize My Health?
Maybe then we can see our real-life avatar progress as it incorporates the positive (or negative) benefits of our (intended) behavior. And we can course correct those behaviors along the way. Drink less (or more!): add 3 years. Quit cigarettes?: add 5 years! Exercise: see your avatar lose weight and look healthier. Eliminate stress: live forever, or at least long enough to dance at your son’s second wedding! I’ve seen some entrepreneurs peck around at this, but no one is hitting it right — yet.
My call to action? More feedback on the idea. Is this about health first? Is this another social media game to play online, or on my smartphone? Is America long on health aspirations, and short on goals and willpower (shout out to Covey’s Seven Habits #2- begin with the End in Mind) ? Love to hear your thoughts and recommendations below.
Not long ago, I was in the animal hospital with the last and most lively of my Rottweiler gang, Megan.
She was closing in on the happy hunting grounds and I was there to say when. Balancing dignity with a finances, even for canine care, is not easy. With each deferral of the inevitable came the bill; in this case about $1k a day for superior care and technology (I could have opted for more technology and cost, but kept it practical, at least I thought). When it was over, we spent more in the final four days of care than we did in the preceding 11 years. For virtually the same result. A wonderful experience with a great dog that gave us a ton of happiness and four days of pain.
Thats when this came across my smartphone:
The New York Times Prime Number 197: The amount, in thousands of dollars, that the typical married couple at age 65 should expect to spend on uninsured health care costs over the rest of their lives, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. This total includes insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs and home health care costs, but it does not include nursing home care. Including the cost of nursing home care, typical lifetime health care costs shoot up to $260,000, the center estimated.
Ok, people are not dogs. And vice versa. For one thing, people have a say in their care when conscious, while dogs can only rely on the incredible messages in their eyes. But for me, it leaves a good lesson in dong what is right, responsible , and sensible.
So whats it all about? In a word, hospice. For dogs and people.
It’s the ability to realize end of life and deal with it in dignity and balance. To live lives that are not based on the number of breaths we take, but the number of times our breath is taken away. And to not selfishly chase the “miracle “of a few more days at the cost of a lifetime of savings wasted. There is a wonderful hospice movement that continues to grow in scope and service in the US. I think it is important and deserves support and fostering.
Look, I know well the incredible boil of issues that is healthcare in America today. This is just one stab at a part of the problem. But it’s a good stab I think. Love to know what others think…