A week ago I asked my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks to give me feedback by filling out a survey. I also said I might share the results. Here they are...
A week ago I asked my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks to give me feedback by filling out a survey. I also said I might share the results. Here they are...
There are fundamentally two kinds of world views.
Risk vs. Opportunity
Scarcity vs. Abundance
Fear vs. Love
Open vs. Closed
Which do you have?
This came to me in a conversation in a dream just now. I said...
For my generation we saw the twin towers fall proving we weren't safe and even buildings were not indestructible. Planes could fall out of the sky at any moment.
We saw Bush and Cheney take us into a manufactured war in Iraq, proving to us that the government didn't serve the people.
We saw the news media fail to inform the electorate about the truth of the war proving to us that the media no longer served its function. That truth and information about common facts and fiction were malleable.
We saw the housing bubble take down the global economy showing that wall street and the financial system was just a house of cards. That ownership was a farce.
We saw people on social media - our fellow men and women - become increasingly polarized revealing them to be lacking in all common sense or rational thought.
And through it all we saw religion used as a tool to manipulate and separate people, proving that it's just a construct made and wielded by men to control other men.
All of the institutions previous generations put their faith in have proven to be false and naïve. I wonder how this has affected our psyche and behavior. I wonder how much some of the craziness we see can be attributed to this fundamental crisis of faith.
What do we believe in now? What should we believe in?
Maybe some of the outcomes are positive. Maybe this fundamental reset of old world structures is allowing us to unbundle our old institutions for greater efficiencies and personalization. Maybe it's driving things like the on-demand economy where ownership is less important than convenient access.
This post is based on a theory and a book outline I’ve been chipping away at since 2010. Since I’m probably going to be too busy to ever finish the full thing, I figured I would massively truncate and post it here so that it’s finally out in the world in some form. In the six years I’ve been thinking about this subject, it’s only become clearer with the advent of the on-demand economy, 3D printing etc. Please excuse the length!
In Silicon Valley we’ve used the term “Unbundling” to describe the phenomena of mobile apps breaking apart into multiple separate apps, each essentially providing more focused, single purpose features. Think of the Facebook app being separated into Facebook + Messenger.
I believe this Unbundling phenomena is happening almost universally across all aspects of life. It’s a meta-trend that has been happening for decades (or more) and will continue for decades to come. It’s a common process affecting many of the things happening in the world today. In fact most of the major disruptions we see (loss of traditional jobs, failing record companies, terrorism, divorce rates, the rise of fringe/underdog political candidates etc) are all, in at least some way, connected to this fundamental transition.
The problem with most of the advice your friends give you is that they put themselves in your shoes instead of the shoes of the person you're having some issues with. The advice often tends to be "yeah you're so right" instead of "well actually, from their POV you're making these 2 mistakes".
One must take responsibility for their part of the friction in a relationship or in their lives because being "right" doesn't help you, being *effective* at interpreting and interacting with the world does.
The only constant across every interaction you have is you. The only variable in a given situation you can change is yourself. If you're facing the same patterns over and over again then you need to change yourself.
Added to my Actuality Doc
You can't fight fire with fire. You can't destroy ideologies of hate with hate. You can't be the moral and military leaders of the world without living up to your own ideals.
Strength isn't destroying things, but rather knowing you can destroy them and restraining yourself in the interests of humanity and conscience. Wisdom is understanding and taking concrete ownership of your own complicity in the events around you.
I was recently asked if I thought depression and anxiety are common and increasing. My 'off the top of my head' answer was:
I think they are common. It certainly feels like they have become MORE common - but that just might be because more people talk about them and there's less Taboo.
They're a disease of the mind just like you can get diseases of the body. Chemical, intellectual or cultural imbalances.
As we (society overall) work our way up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs people have more time to contemplate their own existence, less chance to exercise our Flight or Fight response in appropriate settings (e.g. running away from predators in the wild) and have access to more debilitating choices than ever before.
Also I think that a kind of 'survivors guilt' plays a part - where we know we are so blessed to have so much opportunity and yet others have so little and/or we haven't done enough with our gifts. At least I know I do.
Humans have an obsession with Boundary Conditions.
Hours, Days, Years, Decades, Centuries. You, Me, Us, Them. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist. Gay, Straight, Bi, Pan. USA, Germany, Russia, Australia. Atoms, Particles, People, Planets, Stars, Galaxies. Mortals, Gods. Infinity.
Last year. New Year. Next Year.
It's all the same.
On one level, we need boundaries to mark time and differentiate/individuate/relate in the world. On the other hand, they create so much unnecessary confusion, conflict and pain.
Happy new year everyone. I hope it's an amazing 365 days (or 52 weeks - whichever boundary condition you'd like to use for measurement).
Someone asked me whether or not I believe in 'True Love' recently... here was my 'off the top of my head' answer
These are a brutalized people who've been oppressed, slaughtered and dehumanized by the other side. They are lashing out with whatever they have at their disposal. Their enemy wants them eradicated off the face of the earth - wouldn't you want to defend yourself under these circumstances?
Now the question: Which side am I talking about?
Education is the silver bullet.
Imagine if schools (particularly high-schools) were oriented around self-actualization rather than information-regurgitation. Around learning how to learn vs. memorization. Around ethics, psychology and pattern recognition instead of historical facts and figures. Around the scientific process and implications rather than equations. Around lateral thinking rather than liner thinking. Around computer literacy (particularly coding) as part of general literacy.
As I sometimes do, allow me to engage in the height of hubris and naivety.
First some context.
Those with great power have great responsibility. Israel is a powerful, democratic and moral country. They are the only ones who can think and act clearly enough to enact any real change
I don’t believe the Palestinians have much real control over Hamas or their Government. They can certainly choose to ‘reject’ those groups, but it would be nearly impossible to co-ordinate and would likely come at great peril to their lives
Worst case: Delegitimize the Palestinian resistance movement in the eyes of the world, restoring the moral high-ground to Israel - this is the best and only thing that can truly protect not only its existence, but its soul. It will also stop the slaughter of civilians in Gaza.
Best case: Significantly undermine the terrorists and create a real partner for peace amongst the Palestinians.
Peace Plan Steps
Recognize the right for the Palestinians to live in peace and establish a state of their own
Declare a day of forgiveness, in which all grievances from the past are forgotten
Declare a permanent cease-fire
Immediately lift all appropriate and possible limitations on food, materials and other freedoms for the people living in the occupied territories
Immediately halt the development of new settlements
Declare the UN partition plan as the blueprint for Israel’s definitive borders
Publish (and execute) a multi-year methodical roll back plan for settlements such that the borders of Israel are contained within the borders of the UN partition plan (the property might be handed to the elected groups formed in step 8 of this plan. They would, in turn, re-distribute them to the palestine people).
Offer the Palestinian people the promise of massive funding, labor, expertise and other resources if they succeed in forming and voting for 2 or 3 parties/organizations with moderate views who could be partners for peace (Israel might even need to be involved in facilitating the vote)
Publish (and execute) a plan to support these new groups by, amongst other things, working hand-in-hand with them to construct and protect schools, infrastructure and other basic foundations of a civil society (they might do this from funds that would otherwise be spent on attacking the Palestinians - and perhaps asking the US to contribute as well)
Patiently sustain these efforts over the long term (again, irrespective of day-to-day events such as rocket attacks). By long term I would expect no less than 5 years. More likely 10-20 years.
Do you have any constructive additions/suggestions? Let me know and I will expand the post.
At the risk of upsetting someone…
I’ve seen the ‘Women in Tech’ debate flare up over and over again and each time, despite agreeing that equality is a basic and obvious human right, I’ve felt very uncomfortable participating because...
I do think, however, that the problem with the world is not just that it doesn’t have enough women in certain roles, the problem is that the world was designed by men.
The lack of women in certain roles (and other important issues like equal pay) is the result of a wide and varied mix of causes that are historic, cultural, biological and more. As a tactical problem, it’s certainly important to solve in the short and medium term.
For me though, the problem is much, much deeper than that. As far as I can tell, the roles and institutions of the world were constructed almost exclusively by men. They are based on masculine concepts and world-views like competition, violence and dominance. It is structurally and fundamentally “a man’s world”.
I'd very much love to engage in a design process that conceptualizes institutions and societies with equal parts masculine and feminine structures, modalities and mechanisms. Imagine societies that are co-designed by women.
What does that look like? I have no idea - but I have a suspicion it might look quite different to what we have now, and open up all sorts of new possibilities - possibly (likely) making for a better, happier world.
Last night I watched the reboot of Cosmos.
Suffice it to say I was giddy with excitement. Not just at how entertaining it was for me personally, but at the fact of its existence, flawless quality and massive distribution; all which would ensure that it touches the maximum number of minds on the planet. Something that is of essential value right now.
At the end it spoke of the show's origins with Carl Segan and his influence on the world at large and on Neil Degrasse Tyson personally.
It was also a story, of course, of the origin of time and space, showing exactly how small we are in the grand cosmic scheme of things.
But what surprised me and delighted me is that it also showed a different kind of origin story. One involving Giordano Bruno.
On the surface, this part of the show seemed like a straight forward history lesson with built in (and necessary) slams on the religious oppression of new ideas.
But I think there was something far more interesting being told here - both through the spoken and visual narrative.
They were equating Bruno with Jesus.
Each step along the way they seemed to take great pains to draw parallels between Giordano Bruno and Jesus. Let me try to recount just some of them.
This kind of narrative resonates deeply - likely on a subconscious level - with those raised on the Bible or, in fact, most other religious traditions where there's a human who is in communion with a larger idea who is ultimately killed for his beliefs.
I think it's clear here that Cosmos wasn't just telling its own origin story, or the origin of the universe, but they were also giving us a human, bible-esque origin story that would resonate with those who need that sort of thing.
Everything about this show, and it's execution so far, has been breathtaking. We collectively need it to succeed.
Get your friends to watch it.
At the end of last year I wrote a post about the downside of Hyper Expectations and Ambitions (HEA). I guess living in silicon valley it’s easy to get jaded with the negative effects of our fast paced journey to change the world. It also didn't help that I hadn't had a holiday for 3 years. Since then, however, I’ve visited my hometown in Brisbane Australia for 3 weeks. The truth is they live a very different lifestyle there. The government and other institutions help provide a powerful safety net for those who are sick or unable to find work, the environment is beautiful, warm and welcoming and the people expect (or in some cases demand) less from each other. Those that stand out or show off can even be shunned (a phenomenon we call Tall Poppy Syndrome).
The result is that things there are more laid back, the lifestyle is more comfortable and people suffer the downsides of HEA far more infrequently.
This can be a very fulfilling way to live and many people there are (rightly) happy and healthy.
It was, however, a cold splash in the face having just written about the negative aspects of our Silicon Valley ambition to be confronted with the opposite. It reminded me in stark ways how different our lives are and what some of the advantages to living with HEA are.
So in counterbalance to my previous post, let me try to summarize some of the advantages of HEA.
Fulfilling your potential
If there's one thing that upsets me the most and keeps me up at night it's the concern that I or someone I know is not living up to their potential. One of my defining characteristics is a thirst (some may some lust) for the potential in things. I am far more interested in what could be than what is. A great example of this, in fact, is my very poor relationship with times, dates, orders of magnitude or 'rules'.
The great thing about HEA is that it vacuums out most of the reasons/excuses for someone to not live up to their potential. All of us here are insisting to ourselves and each other that we do the next great thing we know we can do; Or better yet, to do something that scares us.
Remove the roadblocks and put aside the excuses. We attempt to extract every last drop of potential and turn it into outcomes.
Extraordinary and Surreal Experiences
While there's great value in routine and tradition, we with HEA are far more interested in doing things that are extra ordinary. I split those two words on purpose. Things that are outside the realm of an ordinary life.
Backstage at a concern. VIP at a party. Hanging with a personal hero. Writing a line of code that affects millions of people. Writing that blog post that might influence the influencers. Living in beautiful places. Meeting with smart people. Disrupting that tired business model. Changing the way people live.
There is no patience for the mundane here. Instead there's a strong hunger and appreciation (and for me, real-time nostalgia) for doing things that are out of the ordinary.
These moments are priceless. And if you're lucky, they happen often in Silicon Valley.
Changing the World
People with HEA get to change the world. With a line of code, a great piece of UI, a new business model or a conversation with the right person.
Through our skills, ambitions, ideas and access we have the smallest possible gap between our intention and their manifestation into reality and this is not only the ultimate super power (think Neo/Matrix) it's also a precious gift. We use this super power to make a real dent in the universe (#namethatreference).
The heading here might be fairly grandiose but in many ways it's true. In San Francisco this town has thrown out most notions of 'right and wrong' and embraced philosophies that are radically different than most of the rest of the world. From Gay Rights to massive temporary communities in the desert based on the sharing economy, we are forcing open the definition of what it means to live, love and be human.
Almost every day here I have conversations that vacillate from short term tactical business concerns to wide sweeping philosophical quandaries - and back again. Relationships here are just as likely 'non traditional' (open, polly, casual, gay, bi, whatever) as they are traditional.
These are all related attempts to leave dogma in the past and explore what the future might look like.
For some of us with HEA we're not just trying to ship software or make millions of dollars, we are trying to better ourselves.
Leverage and scale.
Through all of the above, and much more, we get to live high leverage lives. In some ways our work is no harder or easier than the work of coal minors or brick layers (in other ways its obviously very different, but go with me here). We work long hours in back breaking postures and rarely see our families or have enough emotional capacity to invest in some of our relationships. We get to invest similar energy and sacrifices yet touch more lives than most and, for some, make a lasting impact. That's the gift of leverage and scale.
So there we have it. Like with all things there are both upsides and downsides. The trick is moderation in all things (my mother taught me that - hi mom!).
Up and to the right.
To say this year was a roller coaster is somewhat of an understatement. It's been the stage for some of my lowest lows and my highest highs.
It basically started with the ending of a relationship with someone I thought I'd spend a very long time with. Like most of these things they are both sudden and a long time coming. In either case, though, its heart breaking and emotionally wrenching to say the least.
What followed for the rest of the year, however, was a personal and professional journey of discovery and growth.
I continued working with my colleagues learning how to turn vision into reality at every level - software, corporate governance, culture, growing a team, raising money, selling software and solving customer problems. This is with a group of people and a suite of software that is the latest, best version of a personal dream I've had since I can remember.
This process was harder than I had hoped and expected, but more rewarding and will ultimately, I hope, redefine the way the web works. We have so much more to do, and I can't wait to see some of the seeds we've planted, grow.
Along the way I continued to learn how to uncover and understand my own personal truth, how to share that truth with others, how to reveal my flaws and how to accept the flaws of others - all with the hope of living a more loving and loved life.
The result has been a small number of intimate, family style, friendships at a depth I've never allowed myself to experience before and a larger set of close friendships with a kind of extended family. Both have worked to lift me up from sorrow, share my triumphs and added so much joy to my life. These people are beautiful, insightful, flawed, ambitious, fun, funny, immature, mature, striving, failing and getting up and trying again. In short, they are amazing.
Throughout this personal and professional growth, I've gone from surreal moment to surreal moment - everything from living in an amazing mansion with amazing people, meeting and partying with one of my heroes (who couldn't have lived up to my ideal any better) to watching a reality TV show get made and broadcast from my home.
I'm thankful to my friends, colleagues, lovers (both past and present) for filling my year with abundance. I'm thankful for the professional opportunities, the personal love and affection, the moments of tenderness and tears.
This is just the beginning. I can't wait to see what 2013 brings. My only wish for next year is good health and forward momentum. My new years resolution is to continue to find and share my personal truth and to learn to listen and love better.
Disclaimer: I’ve personally flirted with much of what I've written about below. This isn’t about anyone else, but rather about what I’ve seen in myself and how some of it could have played out if left unchecked. Thankfully I feel pretty happy and comfortable most of the time - but I find that it helps to write this stuff down to keep myself in check. --
Silicon Valley is a place where people come to change the world. They seek it out and travel great distances to be in the place where entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Even those who first arrive looking for love or lifestyle soon realize that most of the people here have their sights set pretty high and it can be easy to catch the 'change the world' attitude through osmosis.
It's easy to start feeling a sense of Hyper Expectations and Ambition (let’s call it HEA for short).
The challenge with HEA is that it can drive the ill-equipped, mad. By "ill-equipped" I mean those that lack a strong personal identity and emotional maturity. And aren't we all guilty of that at various points in our lives?
The landscape here is dotted with people who have something to prove to their past tormentors, their personal ambitions, their peers or some vision of their future selves. If they are not careful, it leaves them no breathing room for cognitive or emotional rest. And as we discovered in Star Trek the Next Generation’s episode “Night Terrors” - without REM Sleep one can have all sorts of nasty outcomes (yes I’m a geek).
HEA is further exasperated by constant streams of social media updates that tend to vacillate from the trite motivational quote to the well curated highlight reel of best parts of ones life. These only serve to make us feel inferior to our friends who always seem to be having a better, easier time.
There are many symptoms of HEA - let me try to share some of them. You might recognize them in yourself or others around you.
FOMO - “Fear of Missing Out’ This is when people are maniacally trying to turn up to every party or meet every ‘right’ person in case this is the one that’s going to change their life or give them the next emotional high.
I’ve been to my share of parties - in fact most of the time I host or co-host them - but for me they are usually an opportunity to spend time with my core group of friends. For some, however, party hopping can become almost an addiction trying to chase the next surreal or successful moment.
The truth is this town is full of amazing moments all the time. They come and go on a daily and weekly basis. When I feel a little FOMO coming on, I try to remember the last scene from American Beauty.
“there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday."
FOMO is very real and can be exhausting on the body and the mind.
Overcompensating... Because it seems like everyone around here is ‘doing something amazing’ it's easy to develop or trigger an inferiority complex.
Once in that position, the next thing most people do is (consciously or subconsciously) overcompensate in one of two ways...
1. With overconfidence and bluster: Puffing out one's chest, speaking loudly and confidently about stuff that is ill-understood, constructing a success narrative and telling people only exaggerated versions of the truth - these are all examples of what I call Overconfidence and Bluster. The most obvious example of this is the Shirley Hornstein incident, but much more subtle and pervasive versions of this go on everyday in almost every conversation.
Some of the confidence and exaggeration is ok, of course. Speaking prospectively and helping people see your vision for how it could be vs. how it actually is, can help build momentum and positivity. But it can easily get out of control.
2. With drama: In a disturbing number of cases, however, rather than a success narrative, some use drama to get and hold attention. They always have a story of who and how they were wronged by some other person or company.
The truth is getting anywhere will require countless hours and countless setbacks. This is the cost of doing business and part of the hard work of building something valuable. The more efficiently you process and learn from negative interactions (ideally within hours) the better off you are. Ideally you can optimize your own communication and work style to avoid negative interactions all together.
Being honest (and balanced) about this with yourself and others (without going to either extreme) is critical if you're going to survive the marathon. Ultimately the only way to really succeed with your work and your personal life is to do the hard, slow and methodical work it takes to win a little ground every day.
Relationship musical chairs As a natural extension of the first two symptoms, relationships (romantic or otherwise) often suffer. There’s a tendency to get into relationships with one or more of the following undermining thoughts playing in ones mind.
1. Is this the best I can do (FOMO) 2. Could this ruin my reputation (FOMO) 3. I want to focus on my career first (FOMO) 4. They better put in the effort I deserve (Overconfidence and bluster) 5. I need to figure out who I am first (Lack a strong personal identity and emotional maturity)
As I’ve written in the past, relationships are hard work. But if worked on with the right person they can create enormous value by laying a foundation that frees up so much emotional and cognitive baggage.
How? Well if root cause for all of these issues is a lack of strong identity or confidence, then relationships are the answer, not the problem. We are how we act consistently - and especially how we treat others we love and care about. There’s no better way to bolster your identity and confidence than to define and declare yourself as someone who treats others well, and demands the same in return.
In fact, the loving (and authentic) embrace of your 'found family' is perhaps the best cure to all of the issues discussed in this post.
Depression and Anxiety
As a natural extension to the first three symptoms listed above (and many more I’m sure) we can each experience depression and anxiety in ways that non-entrepreneurs might never be able to appreciate.
Even those of us who are lucky to have great jobs, great apartments and great friends and even while experiencing great joy can find ourselves feeling down.
I know that personally I’ve felt guilty or unproductive when that feeling of contentment creeps in. It freaks me out because I wonder if I'm content, then maybe I'm not aiming high enough. I feel like I need to be striving for something - moving from here to there - to be achieving my next highest potential.
The result of all this can be a battle with depression and/or anxiety. What's worse, because one might be going through FOMO and Overconfidence facades, we often can’t share our battle with anyone else.
Unfortunately I don’t have any answers for all of this.
For myself I try to focus on building better, deeper relationships, attending only those parties and gatherings I find meaningful and remembering that contentment and happiness is part of the point (and reward) of having worked hard for the life I want.
This is, of course, easier said than done.
It’s hard, methodical work and discipline that I imagine will never end. It’s part of my routine just like brushing my teeth or having a shower.
One more thing...
I was going to end this post there, basically with 'no answers', however I now realize that somewhere in the middle I hit upon the most useful tool I've found this year...
In fact, the loving (and authentic) embrace of your 'found family' is perhaps the best cure to all of the issues discussed in this post.
Loving (despite flaws) and allowing one self to be loved (by revealing my flaws) has been my principle lesson of this year - it has made the year not just bearable, but successful.
Do you have any other examples of HEA or any other techniques for dealing with it? I’d love to hear your stories below in the comments.
I just discovered this. It's a crime that it has so few views. Like the US Declaration of Independence, it is a manifesto for a new era. And this new material supersedes it.
I am a citizen of the world. Not of any country, dogma or outdated institution. We are interdependent and our common goals must now be broader than just life, liberty and happiness.
Watch it, share it, live it.
The Villa is SF's newest, hottest Entrepreneur Mansion.
Situated in the hills bordering Noe Valley and Castro with stunning views overlooking San Francisco, the house boasts 3 stories, 6 bedrooms, 6 decks, a theater room, and heated pool.
We are each involved in separate startups.
Like most homes in Silicon Valley, we host all kinds of private events for our friends. These events are attended by a variety of people (depending on the theme and purpose of the event) ranging from our close friends to VCs and Founders. There are a mix of event types including small gatherings, dinners, large mixers, parties, networking and so on.
It's a place to live your work and enjoy your life. It is our home.
3 of the housemates (out of 6) happen to be involved in the BravoTV Reality TV show about Silicon Valley, so TV cameras are sometimes found roaming around.
What The Villa is NOT
It is NOT the set of the reality TV show (unlike the Real World suite or Big Brother house). When there are cameras here (which is fairly rarely) they are focused on the cast of the show and it is VERY obvious - no hidden cameras or mics. The house is also big enough that one can easily keep to oneself. The camera crew is typically attracted to large events hosted at The Villa - in which case the event is clearly labeled as an “on camera event” to attendees, ahead of time.
It was NOT scouted by, set up or paid for by Bravo.
Photo Credit: Allen David
In my last few posts I've used the word 'Love' a lot. I thought I would try to describe what that word means to me. From the bible (though I am not a big fan of that book) "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
I would add...
Love is truth. Love is openness. Love is loyalty. Love is nostalgia.
Love survives time, and space. Love survives moods.
Love is vulnerability. Love is drawing power from partnership.
Love is making yours mine. Love is making mine, yours. Love is making you, us. Love is making us, me.
Love is based on trust and friendship. A friendship that could never be abandoned. Love is not being alone.
Love is the thing that survives long after the lust has burned away, the words have evaporated and the disappointments have sunk in.
Love is scary as hell.
The feeling of love peaks and troughs. Love takes faith.
Love is not playing games. Not manipulating. Not having an agenda.
Love begins with loving yourself. It ends with loving everyone and everything.
Love is often confused with fear.
Love is often confused with lust.
Love is infrequent.
Love is evolution.
Love is God.
You can't convince someone to feel it. You can't convince yourself to stop.
Love is nearly impossible.
Most people can't even imagine it.