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.”


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 🙂

Success vs Struggle: The Art of Compartmentalizing

Ryan Blair posted an interesting piece The Five Steps of Compartimentalization in Forbes last year.  I did an exercise I try every couple of weeks where I lay out all of the commitments I had made ranging from board meeting follow-ups (intros, offsites, etc) to family matters (coaching, attending, traveling) to new deals (diligence, meetings, etc) to everyday stuff (sports, working out, yoga) to email & a host of other things. When I was done, I had about 35 commitments and felt that sudden moment of dread we all get when we see 10 lbs of crap and a 2 lbs bag to stuff it in.

There are a whole host of things to help with this that I'll blog on in coming posts such as daily routines, sharpening the saw, etc. One of the key ones is Compartimentalization…breaking things down in distinct blocks, focusing on each block solely at a set time and rotating to the next one. Further, prioritize the blocks and define 3 key "must do" for each day and do them early in the day. Some are short term and others long term. More to come. Anyways, here is an excerpt from the post…like the imagery.

"Here’s a visual for compartmentalization; pretend as if everything you’re dealing with in your life is a room where you have to walk in and solve an equation on a white board. You have a countdown clock with less than an hour to get the problem solved, or take a single step in the right direction, and then shut the door and go into another room equally as important. You spend your entire life going from compartment to compartment."

Build those rooms…

Byron Wien’s 14 Lessons after 80 Years

Some of you might know Byron as the Vice Chair of Blackstone Advisory or as the Chief Investment Strategy Officer at Morgan Stanley for over 20 years. Each year he publishes two of the most read pieces on Wall Street "10 Surprises for the Coming Year" and "Lunch with the Smartest Investor in Europe". I recently saw this, loved this and thought I would share his 14 lessons:


  • Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people  you want to influence.
  • Network intensely.
  • When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend.
  • Read all the time.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Evolve.
  • Travel extensively.
  • When meeting someone new, try to find out what formative experience  occurred in their lives before they were seventeen.
  • On philanthropy my approach is to try to relieve pain rather than spread  joy.
  • Younger people are naturally insecure and tend to overplay their  accomplishments.
  • Take the time to pat those who work for you on the back when they do  good work.
  • When someone extends a kindness to you write them a hand-written note,  not an e-mail.
  • At the beginning of every year think of ways you can do your job better      than you have ever done it before.
  • Never retire.


What Entrepreneurs Don’t Tell You about the Fight

A little perspective from up North. Our Canadian portfolio CEO, Guy Gal, forwarded over a great piece from StartupNorth titled The Things an Entrepreneur Will Never Tell You. It is definitely worth a quick read as entrepreneurs often feel they are unique in what they are going through in terms of high's & lows, feeling alone, handling the spectre of failure, letting others down, etc. Generically, entrepreneurship is a gallant fight to change the world (or your sector) but it is critical not only stop putting the entire burden on your shoulders but also to "lean into" or embrace the various specific elements of this burden.

For example, fear of failure is a universal one for everyone (entrepreneur or not). What will people think? Who am I disappointing? What will this mean for my future/career? What is the financial impact? The reality is, the sun will shine tomorrow regardless. Unless failure means someone "shooting you in the head" (Dave McClure quote), you'll have another bite at the apple. You likely won't starve on the streets; you'll find another job or start-up; your family (and investors if you handle things with diginity & fairness) will love you.

So, regarding facing fear of failure, I think the core of the Samarai code said it best. A little deep thought here.

"If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling." — Hagakure

What this means is that the Samarai gets comfortable with death (he is already there and all is upside) and enters battle fully committed and without fear. In the case of an entrepreneur, he/she must realize that failure is survivable, not terminal. Picture what life would be like if it did not work…you'll realize life goes on. Then, go out with full commitment (and paranoia:) and change the world.

A good quote from the blog post above is about how entrepreneurs will often feel isolated or alone as they fight through their cause. Find outlets to talk about what you are going through. Again, it will allow you to be fully committed and able.

You learn quickly that you can’t take your problems home because one day you are up and one day you are down, or you might be both on the same day. It doesn’t feel fair to put that on your partner, and if you did they would eventually get tired of it after years of constant ups and downs.

You toughen up and you bottle it up. You are afraid to really talk about things because you can’t afford to open the bottle– it might knock off your focus and set your company back. That’s a no-no.

The best investors in the world know that entrepreneurs have this loneliness and they take time to give you a safe space to vent. Almost nobody else can give you this safe space and it takes a lot of work on both sides to develop a level of trust that allows it."

Take a look at the post and see what parts resonate with your own behavior and live to die another day!