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!

Some MoreTeddy for the Weekend

A little something for you all laboring to improve the world through your entrepreneurial efforts (from my friend, Brian Johnson at Have a great weekend:)

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
— Teddy Roosevelt

Inverse Paranoia

Love this concept which my friend, Brian Johnson, posted recently.  Great entrepreneurs have a sense of "inevitability" in the belief in their idea and mission. Jim Clark refers to it as "willing a company into existence". 

“My earliest mentor, W. Clement Stone, was once described as an inverse paranoid. Instead of believing the world was plotting to do him harm, he chose to believe the world was plotting to do him good. Instead of seeing every difficult or challenging event as a negative, he saw it for what it could be — something that was meant to enrich him, empower him, or advance his causes.
What an incredibly positive belief! Imagine how much easier it would be to succeed in life if you were constantly expecting the world to support you and bring you opportunity.
Successful people do just that.” ~ Jack Canfield from The Success Principles

Entrepreneurs’ Manifesto: Shame In the Arena

Great TED talk by Brene Brown on Shame and its role in innovation and society.

YouTube Link to Brown Shame Talk:

Terrific Roosevelt quote from it for all you entrepreneurs in the arena…I'll call it the Entrepreneur's Manifesto:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. "

Heroes in Our Failures

Below is the overview from my talk this year at the Credit Suisse Entrepreneurs' Summit at Sundance. Maria at BuiltInChicago (click to join) encouraged me to post on this, so here goes…

The Hero’s Journey

Matthew McCall

Partner at New World Ventures and Co-Founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson Portage Venture Partners

As one of the most respected venture capitalists in the country, Matthew McCall has plenty of hands-on experience and advice for entrepreneurs. But he took a less literal tone in his breakout session to talk about the soul and spirit of entrepreneurship.

“The entrepreneur at the end of the day is really a hero,” McCall says. “It’s someone who’s stepping out of the bounds of the safe life and doing something greater.”

Citing references from mythologist Joseph Campbell, Karl Jung, and Buddhist and Hindu culture, McCall described the path of an entrepreneur. “Here’s what makes the hero’s journey scary: evolution always occurs on the fringe. It never occurs in the middle, which means, by definition, you’re not following someone else’s path. You’re on the edge of society. You’re doing something someone hasn’t done before which means there is no roadmap. There is no safety net.”

For many of the attendees in the room, McCall’s insights struck a chord, especially when he talked about the perseverance and willpower that entrepreneurs must possess. “When you hit a wall it’s the universe’s way of telling you not to stop. What happens in adversity? Some people narrow their view. Great entrepreneurs are continually widening it. Great companies are willed into existence.”

Sharing some of his personal experiences with highs and lows, McCall says, “Look, the venture world, it ain’t as sexy as everyone thinks it is. In 2000 I thought I was going to be a janitor. All of my companies were tanking. I mean, I would just literally go from board meeting to board meeting firing people.” Like the entrepreneurs he invests in, McCall had to ride out the storm, persevering and eventually turning around his business.

For many entrepreneurs, success also depends on adaptability and embracing new directions as they present themselves. Says McCall, “Life is synchronistic. Stuff just happens. That’s why Joseph Campbell says, ‘Abandon the life you’ve planned and embrace the life that’s awaiting you.’ Think about what we heard about Pandora and Facebook and all these other stories, they didn’t stay with the path that was originally planned. If you can predict it, it’s not the revolution.”

He encouraged the audience to remain true to their vision, even when facing uncertainty and fear. He described greed, fear, and avarice as “the dragons inside” that keep people from realizing their dreams.

McCall also believes strongly in the work of karma – or, as he says quite simply, “Do things for people.” He is quick to offer help and advice to entrepreneurs, students, and other investors, and believes that his good deeds return to him many times over.

When asked by an audience member what he looks for in evaluating entrepreneurs to invest in, McCall replied, “I see one of two failures. Either you have a CEO who can’t think big enough but he or she is very good at operationalizing something really small, so that’s a lifestyle business, not a VC play. The other side is someone who has got this incredible vision, but when it comes down to operationalizing it, they can’t.”

McCall believes that anyone who founds a start-up will have to face the prospect of failure, and cannot be daunted by it. “You can’t say, ‘Woe is me, I failed. I’m embarrassed. I’m humiliated. I can’t do this again.’ You’re now no longer embracing the hero’s journey. In fact, you’re terrified of the hero’s journey. You have to say, ‘I just had this experience and it was amazing because I learned all this and I’m still alive.’ And then you open up to the synchronicities.”


Mission That Doesn’t Suck

Great piece from Aaron Levie, the founder and CEO of titled Be On A Mission That Doesn't Suck. In essence, he talks about the important of the purpose/reason of what you are doing. Without a sense of purpose beyond making money, flipping your company or being involved with a hip company, you will eventually come to dread your role/job. 

"As I thought about it more, I realized it was the mission we were on that compelled me to keep at it…As best as I can tell, this is the most important factor – in addition to the people that you work with every day – that separates going into the office and dreading your job or having the time of your life."

Great companies come from great missions and sense of purpose.

The best missions, it would seem, are those keep you cranking day after day. They’re ambitious, improbable, and fundamentally thrilling. Some of the loftiest are missions that can never quite be fulfilled. Google’s famously is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Starbucks wants to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Whole Foods believes that“companies, like individuals, must assume their share of responsibility as tenants of Planet Earth.” — Be on a Mission that Doesn't Suck (Levie)

What is your firm's mission (not something like being the best at selling xyz but something aspirational like the above)? If you don't have one/know it, time to get crackin'…

Meaning, Balance & Productivity

An awesome quote about perspective for entrepreneurs out in the battle field from Jung (thanks to Carter Cast for sending over).

Mike Cassidy of Google, Microsoft, Xfire, Direct Hit fame ($1B), spoke at the DFJ CEO summit. When asked how hard does he burn his teams, he said home by 6:30 for balance (works email at night). Jason Fried wrote his team does more with their new 4 day week. Points out the law of diminishing returns, albeit more on the extreme.

“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success, money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritial horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.”

Pursuit of Success (How Not To…)

My friends Eric Langsur and Brian Johnson forwarded this Frankl quote to me. I think it embodies the heart of success in entrepreneurship (the anti-build and flip approach):

“Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.” ~ Viktor Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning

Kiva, GiveForward & Kids

Given the rarified air that my children live in, their mother & I are doing everything we can to help them realize a) with good fortune comes a responsibility to help others and b) their world is not the norm. Two awesome ways is by opening up a family account at Kiva (we focus on women entrepreneurs…most bang for the buck of any demographic) and GiveForward (a New World portfolio company of ours that enables crowdfunding for medical expenses). It also teaches a life skill…hard to be focused on your own issues when you are helping another.