From the Seeds of Despair Come Greatness

"I'm sorry, there's nothing more we can do."

I was always envious and impressed with one of my former entrepreneurs, David Linn. After HBS, he managed to arrange to play professional soccer during the summer (Chicago Fire) and work at McKinsey the rest of the year. He was our top deal guy at Centerpost and has an effusive energy and presence that makes you want to be involved with him & whatever he is doing. We were disappointed when he left Centerpost to go to New York and be with his fiancee, his soul mate but we were happy for him. Fast forward 9 years and imagine my surprise to see him on the stage of the Social Innovation Summit. My heart sank as I heard him talk about how his now wife came down with a rare sarcoma and, after 7 years of fighting, died in 2011.

But David is an amazing guy, a force of nature. As many incredible people have done, he took the pain, the sadness and the setback and redirected them towards making a difference. You see, for all of us, from the seeds of despair come greatness. For every setback and tragedy brings with it an energy, a yin to despair's yang. It can propel us to new heights to right unstoppable wrongs. To make the world a better place, whether through a business, a cause, a friendship or just a hug. As Buddha said, there will always be pain or disappointment but there does not need to be suffering.  Where are you going to point your immense talent & potential to make the world a better place?

As I said in my earlier blog post this year, I vowed to give back more. David created Cycle for Survival in partnership with Equinox and Sloan Kettering to raise money for rare cancer research (total 50% of deaths). They have raised over $30m in the last couple of years and every dollar goes directly to researchers. So, inspired by David's awesome response to life, David Rosen & I set up our Team Pritzker for Cycle for Survival on Feb 8th. If any of you are moved to support the cause, please go to the TEAM PRITZKER CYCLE PAGE. The McCall's are dividing and conquering…my daughter, Avery, will be David R in Chicago and I'll be part of our LA office effort (you can donate to either team).

In closing, I wanted to add a link to David's blog about turning 40 and How to Dance After Losing It All. He made the video below with his wife on her 40th in 2010. Don't forget to dance.

Millennials: Rightly Up-ending the Apple Cart

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore

While the Boomer's bemoan (wrongly) Millennial's lack of work ethic, narcissism and lack of respect for seniority, there is a sea of change coming that corporations and start-ups alike need to fully appreciate. Millennial's aren't buying into the status quo, whether it be traditional corporate structures, incentive systems or goals. They have been honed since youth to achieve yet at the same time, have watched the ways of the boomers sink the economy into a hole. They have been asked to do more sooner (on the achievement track by 6th or 7th grade) yet now find traditional jobs harder to find and not consistent with their upbringing. So, yes guys, they are going to play by a different set of rules and, given they'll be a majority of the workforce within 10 years, you better get on the wagon.

Recently, Deloitte ran a Millennial survey to better understand their fastest growing employee segment. The findings are very interesting. Here is a link to it Deloitte Touche's CEO post on Their Millennial Survey.  It reinforces many of the themes we've heard in the past.

What I find striking about this post is that it is the first time I've seen a Fortune 100 CEO lay out why it is important to change, even turn on its head, how we (and they) manage people. Just as we moved from Organizational man through several iterations to the Knowledge Worker, we are now morphing into Millennial Man (or Woman).

At our annual Pritzker Group CEO summit, we held a panel on Managing Millennials with the wise sage, Kevin O'Connor (founder/ex-CEO Doubleclick) whose employees are all Millennials and the Millennial wunderkind, Rishi Shah (Context Media) & Emerson Spartz (Spartz Media). and the takeaways were consistent: mission/purpose in their firms, their jobs and their tasks are critical; they demand a meritocracy over seniority; they are very interested in professional development and ongoing self-improvement; they want more frequent feedback & affirmation; they are open to measured & action oriented criticism but not good with harsh/blunt commentary.  Intelligence is not what you know but where to find it (Internet generation)
 
The Deloitte study & others have a lot more details. However, the key thing to take away here is that all of our corporate & entrepreneurial cultures, incentive systems, goals, focus on mission, etc are going to need to be revisited and improved on. While more difficult to manage, I applaud their demand that jobs should be more than hierachical contracts where you are told to do some mindless task, put in your hours and suck it up for two decades. More to come…

In the interim, let the storm begin.

How Many People Have You Impacted This Year?

As another year draws to a close, I increasingly ask myself the core question: How many people's lives have I helped to make better? Not enough. As I begin to draft my New Year's Resolutions and Goals, I'm going to push myself to get outside of my comfort zone and stretch in helping others in a larger way. Take a look at this great Upworthy video of the late Paul Walker's group, Reach Out World Wide. Be The Change You Want to See in 2014. Thanks Paul…

 (for those having issues with the playback, here is the original YouTube link,..because of the soundtrack in the video, I think YouTube/Zefer may be blocking some viewings)

 

17 Fundraising Ideas

Our portfolio company, GiveForward, is one of the standout "double bottom line" companies around. They help people with medical needs (and other) raise money to pay the bills. To date, they have raised $62 million for people. Given that 60% of personal bankruptcies are driven by mounting medical expenses, they have helped a large number of families in need.

They wrote a great piece called 17 Fundraising Ideas to Raise More Money. Whether running a charity event or a medical fundraiser, it is worth a read. Happy raising!

The Quest to Get Better

My friend, Brian Johnson, just posted on an awesome topic…Getting Better vs Being Good. Entrepreneurship is not only tough — it is non-linear and success often opaque. Also, short video link below of Carol Dweck's Mindset work…definitely worth everyone learning more about this. The key to managing this reality is:

1) to know your Northern Star (what you want to achieve, the change you want in the world)

2) but to focus each day at becoming better and better at how you deliver "unexpected joy" (thanks Desiree & Ethan at GiveForward for the phrase). This includes every customer touch point, delivering increasing value, innovating more quickly, improving stability, etc. Success comes from the daily little victories and improvements (even when you are dispairing) versus heroic swings of the bat.

If you simply focus on the "waiting" for the end game, you will become miserable and demoralized as the Entrepreneur's Journey is an unjulating one. As Brian says, "Be the Highest version of yourself at any given point in time…What would your highest version do?":

“My favorite piece of advice by far for dealing with difficulty is to make sure you think about your goal in terms of getting better, rather than being good. As you’ll recall from Chapter 3, when we are focused on personal growth and development, on making progress rather than on proving ourselves, we deal with difficulty far more gracefully. We tend to see setbacks as informative, rather than as signs of personal failure. We don’t worry as much about the likelihood of success because we know that even if we never do it perfectly, we will certainly improve. (And getting better is, after all, the goal.)” ~ Heidi Grant Halvorson from Succeed

Getting better vs. being good.

Those are two different orientations we can have in life and in goal setting. They roughly map over Carol Dweck’s “growth vs. fixed” mindsets. 

The basic idea: When we approach life with a “being good” mindset, we’re constantly trying to prove ourselves. We’re paranoid that any blunder we make might be the evidence that shows the world how messed up we are. So, we avoid taking action and freak out when we inevitably DO mess up. Eek.

On the other hand, when we approach life with a “getting better” mindset, we KNOW we’re not perfect, we’re not trying to prove ourselves, and we embrace challenges as they provide the path to growth—which, rather than looking good, is our primary goal. Setbacks are simply data points for us, not signals we’re unalterably flawed.

How do YOU tend to show up? Check in on that.

And know this: “If you focus on growth instead of validation, on making progress instead of proving yourself, you are less likely to get depressed because you won’t see setbacks and failures as reflecting your own self-worth. And you are less likely to stay depressed, because feeling bad makes you want to work harder and keep striving. You get up off the couch, dust off the potato chip crumbs, and get busy getting better.”

Amen.

Here’s to focusing on getting better rather than being good!

Success on Your Terms

I increasingly have conversations with both rising and established entrepreneurs around “what is success and why does it not feel fulfilling?”

Peter Drucker, the uber-management sage, said that as more people acquired wealth, they would shift to focusing more intently on making a purposeful impact on the world. The Millennials are focused on parallel tracking these.

I read a great post by coach, Erin Cox, on this. She focuses on not going after pure trophy achievements but on achievements that give you a sense of fulfillment and align with goals and the sense of your greater self…avoid the hollow victory.

“Not long ago, I believed being successful meant having a powerful title, a six-figure salary, and a beautiful home. These are all important, but I now understand the true meaning of success for me. During this past year, I achieved one of my greatest professional goals, which was to publish a book. By all logical means, I was experiencing great success!

Did I feel successful? I suppose I did on some level, but what I really felt was overwhelmed, afraid of failing, and stressed.

This experience was a powerful lesson to carefully create my goals and aspirations around the way I want to feel and live my life. After lots of meditation (and a little suffering), I became completely clear about what true success means to me.

For me, success is measured in moments of pure joy and time spent loving my children. Success means helping another person achieve their greatness and using my God-given gifts to make the world a better place. Success is having complete freedom, both financially and with time. I now work two or three days a week and spend more time with my family and creating a Zen home life.

Success to me means feeling peaceful, grateful, abundant, joyful, light-hearted, influential, and generous. (MBM Note: replace these with terms that resonate with you. Could be: authentic, empowered, energized, optimistic, change agent, connected, aware, etc)

Have you taken the time to get clear about what success means to you? How would you feel if you achieved all of your biggest goals?

I encourage you to gain clarity, not only about the goals you want to attain, but how you want to experience them. What would every part of your ideal life look like, from your bank account to your working space and your home life?

Once you are clear and in alignment, Life will support you in achieving success on your terms.”

Costolo’s Awesome Commencement Speech

“We must be willing to let go of the life that we’ve planned so as to embrace the life that is awaiting us.”
— Joseph Campbell

I am a commencement speech junkie. Dick Costolo’s most recent one is in the top 5…funny, inspirational and spot on about life. I first met Dick 16 years ago just after he had launched his first company. We came close to investing in his second, Spyonit, just as it was being acquired and ended up seeding his third, FeedBurner (acquired by Google) before he headed to Twitter. When he and his 3 co-founders spun out of Accenture, they were indifferentiable from any other young group of entrepreneurs. It is amazing how life/Universe/God/whatever you call it has a way of helping those who take intelligent risks and make courageous choices to “follow their bliss”. Life is linear when you look back and completely non-linear/opaque when you gaze forward. As Dick says, “There is no script. Live your life.”  Take the time to watch this video and then think about ways in which you can make more courageous choices in your life & make “unreasonable requests” (a favorite phrase of Dick’s and Jack Dorsey’s) of your life and of the world around you.  Break out of having lives of quiet despiration and embrace the future that awaits you.  While it may seem riskier now, in the long run, it is much riskier not to…

Some great quotes pulled from the video by the ever brilliant, Bill Gross (don’t know when you sleep!)

  • “You need to make more courageous choices. Take courageous risks.”
  • “You can’t plan a script. BE in THIS moment.”
  • “When I was your age, we didn’t have the Internet in our pants. We didn’t even have the Internet NOT in our pants!”
  • “When I was your age, we didn’t have teeth. There were no question marks, we just had words!”
  • “Not only can you not plan the impact you are going to have, you often won’t recognize it even while you are having it.”
  • “The impact is what others frame for you and the world, AFTER it happens. The present is ONLY what you are experiencing and focused on right now.”
  • “You cannot draw ANY of of yours looking forward, so you have to figure out what you love to do, what you have conviction about, and go do that.”
  • “When you are doing what you love to do, you become resilient.”
    “If you do what you think is expected of you, or what you are supposed to do, you will look to external sources for what to do next. You will be standing there frozen on the ‘stage’ of your life.”
  • “Believe that if you make courageous choices, and bet on yourself, then you will have an impact.”
  • “Don’t always worry about what your next line is supposed to be. There is no script. Live your life. Be in this moment.”

Curiosity, Obsession & Dogged Endurance

“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas” — Albert Einstein

As I look back over my life, the most successful or content people I know were not the most brilliant but the most determined and disciplined. Excellence came not from revolutionary thought but from dogged execution and focus. Having a passion for the topic cause was also baked into this. Because of their focus, they iterate more quickly and come up the learning curve faster. Lack of focus (on the right thing!) versus an array (all parts of the value chain vs two, 5 channels vs getting a couple profitable) is the #1 cause of failure. So what?

Well, it means that anyone has the potential for success in endeavors small or large. I look at my kids’ classmates and the some do well because they are brilliant. However, most do well because they start their work early, engage their teachers, ask when they don’t know (comfortable with their vulnerability) and have an interest in learning. And they are focused.

The same is true in entrepreneurship. Some are brilliant but most are passionately focused. Many times in fundraising or in ramping sales, I’ve concluded it just wasn’t going to happen but someone forgot to tell the entrepreneur. They would iterate, test, get rejected, regroup, reach out to even more people (again no feeling embarrassed or vulnerable to approach), iterate until they figured it out. Sometimes the three month process would stretch to nine. But forward they go with focused determination.

This is why I have a passion for what I do. I love watching this entrepreneurial dance. I’m amazed by all of your determination and unflappable spirit. My purpose is simple…to help you realize this full potential, to provide shelter from the storm and to help prevent self-inflicted wounds.

The good and bad news is, as Einstein pointed out, that this is pretty straight forward. Execution, focus and discipline is the thorn…

Now go out and change the world for the better 🙂