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The upside of Hyper Expectations and Ambitions (HEA)

Added on by Chris Saad.

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).

Redefining humanity

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.

Declare your Interdependence

Added on by Chris Saad.

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.


Ruminations re: Relationships

Added on by Chris Saad.

My last post was about personal behavior. This one is about personal and business relationships. ----

Above all else, you must have a great relationship with yourself. Without that strong foundation, you can not have a strong relationship with another person or organization.

There’s no such thing as normal. We all have our biases and neurosis.

We obsess over ritual, process, dogma and fear. Did he do the right thing on date number 3? Did she file form number 5? Did they come through the right door?

Our egos, pride and fear get in the way of real connections and meaningful leaps of faith. We classify ‘ideal’ as unattainable ‘fantasy’ instead of a worthy goal. We semi-commit, leverage, tell half truths, white lies or outright betrayals. What if your business model matched your vision? What if your words matched your thoughts. What if your thoughts matched your highest ideals - ideals based on love and openness.

We play power games, instead of realizing partnership affords us the greatest power of all. Saying "I need you" or "I need help" is a critical kind of power.

We think we must choose between love, work or self. We are all selfish. But we don't realize that definition of love is broadening your definition of self to include another person. We don’t realize that success without love is like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear - it happens but it doesn’t matter. No one gives a shit.

We think we must choose between one person or another. The truth is we are all nodes on a network. We need different types of signals from different kinds of people.

We try to ‘find ourselves’ not realizing that our everyday actions define us. Did you say that kind word to that stranger? Then you are kind. Were you loyal to a friend? Then you are loyal. Did you avoid that confrontation? Then you are someone who avoids confrontation. Did you tell your complete personal truth? Then you are honest.

We look for the next best thing instead of recognizing that truly getting on the same page with someone is the best possibility of all. Achieving that kind of collaboration - even for a moment - should be cherished in the moment and for a lifetime. Sometimes it happens like a lightning strike. Most times it takes hard work, communication and trust.

We forget that the best relationships are about resonating with something or someone. About helping each other evolve by creating safe harbors, new opportunities and covering each other's blind spots.

We grow complacent and content in our relationships. They require constant work. Each participant must grow, evolve and contribute to the whole.

There are so many stories of people breaking up because they were ‘too young’ and now, years later, they long for that lost connection. "We’re different now. They have a girlfriend now. They are happy without me." Why did you give it up in the first place? Why not try again? Are grand gestures only for the movies?

There are so many stories of high-school sweethearts that wake up one day resenting each other. Do they resent each other, or do they resent missed opportunities. Being trapped. Missed freedoms. Did they communicate? Did they give each other freedom? Did they create opportunities for each other? Did they leave when the relationship finally no longer served their evolution?

Maybe most relationships are temporary - a day, a week, a year, a decade. We try to have ‘clean’ breakups. Contracts. Lawyers. Relationships are not clean. They are messy. Love is messy. Life is work. Work is life. A relationship is not defined by what you think it should be or what the contract says it will be - it’s defined by every day. Every hiccup. Every earnest effort to do the right thing for the other person.

Time is not running out. We overestimate what can be done in a day and underestimate what can be done in a decade. Breathe. Take your time. Pay attention. Keep perspective.

Is there always imbalance in a relationship? Does one always need the other more. Love the other more? Is that ok? How does one measure the delta. What is the threshold for when the delta becomes too great? When does the relationship no longer serve your evolution and the evolution of your partner?

These are some of the open questions about a partnership that remain for me.

I know, though, you can't hold on too tight or you will strangle each other.

These things are only cliches because they are true.

Announcing Spouse 2.0 Day!

Added on by Chris Saad.

My best friend and business partner Ashley Angell has invented a new holiday in honour of all the neglected people out there who love Web 2.0 Start-up Founders. Ashley says "I love my wife, but she gets no attention from me because I am too busy building Attention technologies - so I thought we should dedicate a day to her, and everyone like her"

Brilliant idea Ash! Check it out at and join in the fun by tagging your photos and posts 'Spouse 2.0'.

Oh and I designed the site.