Tag Archives: leadership

Bored vs. Tired

I met with a friend and seasoned entrepreneur turned academia recently, Aaron Cohen.  For those of you who know him, he’s been around the block and has seen a lot in his days of being a successful executive at digital media companies.    He walked in the room and asked, how I was doing?

I am doing great, I replied.

He said I looked tired, which isn’t the first time someone has told me that.

We then dove into a discussion of being tired vs. bored.

It’s ok to be tired.
It’s not ok to be bored.

Lets discuss this here.

Tired.
Athletes train a lot.  Olympic athletes basically spend their life training.  But even at peek performance, athletes do get tired.  It’s ok to walk off the soccer pitch after a match and be tired.  It’s ok to drop the 400lbs of weights and lie down.  Why?  Because in most cases, you gave it your all.  You put everything you had into the sport.

Business is no different.  More often than not, founders get fat.  I put on weight.  I know plenty more who did as well.  Why?  Tireless persistence to achieve a goal left going to the gym, proper diet, and sleep all secondary and tertiary needs.

If you are giving it (whatever you are pursuing) your all, then tired is in your cards.  That’s good.  Make sure a vacation or time-off is planned to recoup, re-energize and reset.  Without this, you will run yourself down to the point of system failure.  If you get to that point, you’ve gone too far.

Bored.
There is a big difference between being tired and bored.  Boredom comes from not being mentally challenged and leads to complacency.  Boredom is not good because it causes negative attributes and tends to spread to people around you.  It’s like a negative-vibe-virus.

If you are bored, do something about it.  A vacation will not solve boredom.  You need to first analyze why you are bored and then talk to your superior to do something about it.  If there is no room within the organization to move, then get out.  Plain and simple.  You are not being fulfilled and I’m going to guess that your output is not up to standard because you are not mentally there.  You suffer.  The company suffers.

I have met plenty of people who are bored in their jobs.  Being bored is fine as naturally, your learning comes to an end in each role you take.  The smart people then move on to a role that’s fulfilling.  It’s a hard conversation to have with your employers but one that at the end of the day, is mutually beneficial.

I might be tired, but I’m certainly not bored.  I still wake up each day to new and fun challenges.  Some I dislike but they grow me professionally and personally.

30 Years. Tips for Being the Young Punk At the Table

AppleCakeLast night, Sherri threw me a surprise 30th birthday party.  It was phenomenal as she brought all my best friends that I grew up with together.   We live all over now but people traveled from out of town and it really was a special evening.

I was thinking how I wanted to write a 30th birthday post over the past few days.  Instead of thanking everyone who inspired the past 30 years, I netted out with providing some thoughts on how to be the young person at the table in a room of older and supposedly wiser people.

I’ve pretty much navigated the age-gap ever since I was 16.  So, theoretically, I have 14 years of experience being the young buck at the table.  I’ve been called Doogie Howser, Wunderkid, The Punk, The Turk, The Suit, The Brain, and various other names over the years.  One of the top questions I get from people I meet with is usually around how I deal with always being the youngest around the table.  It’s a very good question and always forces me to think.  I’ve written some thoughts up below.

Note:  I know it’s not always the case that older people are skeptical of younger.  But, I have seen it quite a bit.  I also realize that being older does not necessarily mean that one is smarter.  I do not believe that age is a predictor of future success, but a good case can be made that an older person is more mature and has developed workplace skills such as leadership, operations management, and other skills that can give them a leg up.

Here are five thoughts:

1.  Listen, then speak.  But don’t speak too much.   By being the young one, there generally already is a bias against you from older people.  The more you speak, the more you have the chance to say something dumb, so lessen the chances.  People are looking for a reason to bring you down.  When you do speak, speak wisely, succinct, and controlled.  Do not talk for the sake of talking.

2.  Act as if.  We all saw the movie Boiler Room and remember Ben Affleck giving his speech about “Acting as If.”  That has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie.  Always be prepared with confidence, though do not go near the border of confidence with cockiness.

3.  Dress the part. More often than not, I find that dressing “+1″ is better than dressing status quo.  If people are walking around the office in baggie jeans and t-shirts, then buy a nice pair of jeans and a button down.  You do not need to dress to impress, but dress better than the rest.  People will take you more seriously.  We have all heard the quote, perception is reality.

4.  Pick your situations. I can count on all my fingers how many work related events I’ve been to where drinking/partying was the main function.  And when I was at them, I partook with a single glass of wine, a shirley temple or seltzer.  Pick your situations wisely because people want to trust leaders, especially young ones with respect and confidence and the last thing you want to be is the one passed out on the couch after having too much scotch.  Again, since you are young and in a senior position, people are looking to bring you down. Don’t give them a reason to do so.  I’m not advocating not to have fun, but if you’re an aspiring young leader, pick your situations carefully.

5.  Open door. One tactic that’s helped me through the years is to be fully open for virtually anyone to meet with.  While it may take weeks to schedule, getting on the schedule to meet is certainly doable.  I make it that way on purpose.  I want to be available because most other senior leaders are not.  I derive knowledge, intelligence, and inspiration by almost every meeting, so I keep them on my calendar.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these last 30 years special.    I am grateful.

The Kid's Human

I’m human. You’re human. Zuckerberg is human. Not every decision we make on a daily basis can be the correct one and we’re seeing a side of Facebook that we’ve never seen before.

When you’re the leader, there is only one place to go from there: down. It is unbelievably hard to sustain a leadership position over time and Facebook is learning that. It’s back to reality.

I’m no different. I’ve made terrible mistakes and I’ve made great decisions. The one thing that I’ll say is that we must learn from our mistakes and not make them again.

If I was at Facebook or was part of the management team, I would seriously consider bringing in a world class digital media marketing maven to help create goodwill with the marketing community. This could help save face with the advertising community.

Overall though, I think we’re all just looking for a reason to bring Facebook down (think Walmart, MSFT, Nike), but they did make a fundamental mistake.

All Entrepreneurs Burnout, It's Just a Matter of Time

If you drive a car 100mph for a prolonged period of time, the engine (or something else) is going to give-in and the passengers in the car could be stuck in a precarious situation.
My cousin played tennis growing up and she was so good that she turned pro during college.  After playing top tennis stars (Lindsey Davenport, etc) and training day-in/day-out for over 10 years, she burned out.  She has only since picked up a tennis racket for close family members (and she’s still excellent!)

Humans can’t tollerate high levels of sustained stress.  We break down.  It’s unhealthy.  Sometimes, we must step back and breathe; it may be hard at first, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

I’ve been doing a bit of research about burnout and have compiled a few articles/links that provide insight on how to deal with entrepreneurial burnout (in no particular order):

I’d say I’m a serial entrepreneur and at times experience the aformentioned burnout syndrome.  When you know you’ve hit the wall, you need to step back and trust the people you’ve hired/work with to run the organization for a period of time.  Sometimes, you may even need to leave the organization depending on the circumstances.  Trying to run an organization while you’re mentally not prepared (at the specific point in time) is detrimental to the longevity of the company.  Do yourself a favor and step back…

Once you’ve stepped back and are on the sidelines, relax and do something you’d not normally do.  Go hiking.  Enjoy the opera.  Travel to Milan.  Fish in Anchorage.  Enjoy.  Before you know it, you’ll be back in the entrepreneurial scene with a clear mind and your next adventure.

The Startup as a Band

Dave Matthews BandI’m always looking to draw parallels between things and one I’d like to share is my analogy of the music world and the startup world, both of which I feel extremely passionate about.

Dave Matthews Band
is my favorite band, and though I’ve blogged about them before, I’m going to use them in an analogy. Feel free to replace this band with one of your choosing and I’m sure the band members will still work.

In the startup world, different people bring various skills to the company. Many times, people have overlapping skill sets, but if staffed correctly, a solid startup will have specialists in various areas. Since I’m a digital media guy, I’m going to lay out a digital media startup:

  • CEO/President
  • Sales Guru (EVP, Sales)
  • Technology Guru (CTO)
  • Marketing Guru (CMO)
  • Financial Wizard (CFO)

These five positions are generally found in most [if not all] digital media startups and are staffed ideally by the highest caliber members possible. The members of these positions have exemplified significant amplitude to their positions and lead their respective charge with a team reporting to them.

Drawing the parallels with DMB, you will find:

CEO/President: More often than not, the public face of the company and the most vocal. Dave, being the frontman (arguably with drummer, Carter Beauford) and setting the tone for the band. Rallies the team through ups and downs and has significant pressure applied by fans (the board) to produce good music.

Sales Guru: Without this rockstar of sales, the company isn’t going anywhere. At the end of the day, the company must generate revenue and if the co. hasn’t taken any funding, the days will be short lived. The drummer, Carter Beauford, keeps the band moving. He calls the shots and decides where the music will go (should they jam out #41, or end it quickly).

Technology Guru: Yes, Stefan Lessard (bassist) would be the technology guru… why? Because technology is an enabler. The technology must be present to successfully run the digital media company, but generally, it holds everything together and provides the beat/bassline that everything else follows. Take the bass out of the song and it’ll sound empty; too much base and it’ll sound terrible. During the song Anyone Seen the Bridge, the technology would shine as there is a minor solo by Lessard.

Marketing Guru: The marketing guru is generally responsible for how the company looks and reacts to the market. This also includes public relations and the conversation the band has indirectly with the fans. Boyd Tinsley, violinist of the Dave Matthews Band fills this role extremely well. Solos, solos, and more solos, but other times, blends in well with the band and plays in the background. Whether it’s a full solo (think product announcement) in Too Much, or blending into the background [everyday marketing] in Two Step, Boyd is a significant part of the band.

Financial Wizard: The financial wizard of the company makes sure everything is moving forward and the expenses and revenues check. Leroi Moore, DMB’s saxophonist watches the band from the sideline and fills in any gaps – and has the ability to blow a horn should the band be off beat. Generally very quiet and sometimes reclusive, these wizards understand numbers and know them cold.Dave Matthews Band 2

A major touring act such as the Dave Matthews Band could not survive without it’s techs (drum & guitar techs), food crew, staff, roadies, drivers, road managers, personal managers, and business managers (as well as label staff). In the business world, this equals investors, mentors, board members, advisors, and consultants.

It’s fascinating to draw the parallels between the music industry and the startup world, but as you dig deeper into it, you’ll see it for yourself.

“Everybody wake up, if you’re living with your eyes closed.” – Dave Matthews Band