Tag Archives: Mentors & Advice

It’s Friday.

Good Things ComeNot that it makes a difference in my world, the day of the week.  It’s something I find both extraordinary and expected.

And it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times, this working for yourself.  I’m the one who sets the rules, the expectations, the hours, the results.

But from the outside-in, the unnerving aspect of any self-declared venture is this: the isolation is warm, cozy, and self-affirming.  The longer I work in my tree-top office, crunching the investment and cash-flow numbers, crafting business summaries and plans, perfecting presentations, chatting with a number of targeted partners, something strange happens.  Shaky confidence turns to insecure arrogance.  Good judgment shifts under megalomaniacal pressure.  Cravings for feedback deepen, yet the conditions to share lessen and the rules to listen grow in number and rigidity.  Inspiring people morphs to pushing people, lest they forget.

And this is all explained in a singular delusional phrase: I know I’m right.

Not believe.  Not feel.  I know.  True, hard, indisputable fact tangled in my brain, incessantly driving me to the next sunrise.

Is this passion?  The depth of joy and pain, the moments of surprise and frustration, is all one-sided.  it may better be described as insanity.  Pygmalion scorned all other women, all those fallible corporate gigs that provide steady benefits, comforts, and security – and fell hopelessly in love with his own sculpted creation.  Isn’t this the story of every bootstrapping entrepreneur?

Pygmalion’s myth ends happily – Aphrodite grants the stony figure warm-blooded life more than a decade after it’s inception, affirming it’s beauty (and resemblance to herself).  Another parallel to the entrepreneur, though this one with the infusion of cold hard cash following affirmation of its potential.  We’ve happily celebrated this delusion for multiple millennia, and to date, it shows little sign of decline.

This only affirms my own arrogance, of course.  A dangerous thing, but an essential component to push this big idea of mine to its full potential.

Maybe it will make it. Maybe it won’t.  But somehow, some way, I’ll inspire someone to affirm it’s beauty, it’s intelligence, and it’s power – and grant it life.

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

Breakthrough: 2010

My brother sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review on the Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.  In all, they’re about prevention via innovation.  (An aside: the Hollander children are always reading a quirky collection of articles and reviews.  If you’re up on Google Buzz – or even Google Reader or Delicious, lemme know.  I’d love to see what you’re reading these days!)

In short, here are the top 10 ideas:

1) Getting to the Bottom of Worker Motivation

(Hint: it’s not about recognition – it’s about progress.  Head’s up to managers everywhere: if your workers don’t think they’re getting anywhere in their day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year, they will leave.  I speak from tremendous experience on this concept.  It’s time to abandon the autocratic time barriers to promotion!)

2) Technology to Revolutionize Health Care

(Hint: improving care – and medical records – via remote monitoring, whether through kiosks or through wireless updating.  Think about it.  If our mothers and fathers wore a personal health device that could update daily, or in some cases hourly, and communicated with medical professionals, we may reach the pinnacles of preventative medicine.  Imagine warnings generated to your doctor or practitioner – who can then follow-up with a phone call or office visit?  Certainly there are significant privacy concerns to address, but these technologies have an opportunity to (finally) revolutionize cheaper and more effective preventative care.)

3) Research & Development Centers for the Financial Sector

(Hint: The overwhelming complexity of our financial systems have come to light in the recent meltdowns of lending and spending.  The author here advocates for a system similar to military R&D where research, development and spending are overseen by the government with little intervention.  I hesitate on this one to ask the simple question: how much good are the national security centers doing?  Certainly, what comes out of the centers is relevant and intriguing, but how much of the information is practical as it filters into bullet point policies and procedures?  To me, both systems are nuanced and complex – if anything, the breakthrough idea should be interdisciplinary in all regards, but the increased pressure to ‘see everything’ also lands us to where we see nothing.)

4) Changes to the Big Pharma Business Model

(Hint: business models are a’changing.  Finally.  In just a few years, there will be no need for an alphabet of the same type of drug (at least those in which we understand the mechanism).  By standardizing drug assets – that is, what types of drugs are in the pipeline across partnerships – not only can drugs hit the market faster and cheaper, but more medical conditions can be addressed, innovative developments can be researched and developed, and smaller, advantageous markets can be reached.  One caveat: regulations for intellectual property must be developed.  Sharing is one thing; stealing another.  Whether it be carrot or stick-based, innovation starts with regulation.  Then allow the partnerships to nourish themselves in free-for-all standardization.)

5) Capitalizing Green Technology

(Hint: Much ado in finance and investments is how to capitalize green technologies.  The promises of these technology hold no bounds, but first, as with everything, those with the money to finance such technology development and implementation need to figure out how to get their own ROI.  Enter green bonds, green credits, and a variety of other newfangled investment mechanisms.  This snippet addresses only municipal opt-in bonds, affecting only those who invest in the technologies and implementations.  But the idea is much much larger.  My own idea is larger than this, extending to a new sort of “stock,”  one held at a near constant number and available for purchase/sale on the open market (one location, however) only once a year.  No daily fluctuations in price; steady long-term investment instead, designed particularly for research, development and implementation of green tech.  This idea is already in the oven, the recipe from savvier financial experts.  But this is one of many potential markets for a wholly new investment mechanism.)

6) Lab to Market – Re-thinking Technology Licensing

(Hint: Allowing a monopolistic university technology licensing office has been sub-optimal with dreary results.  This idea allows for inventor-professors to step out and find their own licensor for their inventions, rather than allow them to languish on the shelf.  I find a hybrid system more beneficial than a free-for-all market, a situation to not only improve the university’s licensing process, but also manage a professor’s time to her actual duties – educating and research.  What this looks like precisely, I’m not sure, but certainly it would address the negatives from the university’s monopoly while regulating a capitalistic time-suck from university educators across the US.)

7) Work Hacking – Better Utilization of Tools in the Workplace

(Hint: get this!  You can’t control how your employees perform their work, especially in the name of productivity.  It’s neither practical or possible – and it’s highly likely those employees committed to the company’s higher vision recognize this also.  Should work hacking be unmitigated?  Certainly not!  Hacking comes in all forms – the innocent, the wary, and the sinfully guilty – all of which should be monitored for ethical and legal obligations.)

8) Warning Systems for Economic Bubbles

(Hint: as with anything, the ability to identify problems comes with the tools and data available to identify a problem.  This snippet suggests using current tools with different data pattern identification to find warning signs of an economic bubble – think of dot coms and housing – and prevent widespread bursts.  Combine this with the financial R&D idea from #3 and we’ll not only have more tools, but more data to interpret.  An aside: when combining these ideas, I get a mental image of a guru with a Magic 8 ball sitting in a lofty office…even if that’s what these two ideas are precisely intended to avoid.)

9) Charter Cities

(Hint: Use the Hong Kong model…of colonization?  To me, this is a half-baked idea (great in theory; misguided in practice) and requires WAY more incentive, planning, and enforcement than what’s available for countries facing issues of economic development.  It’s so economic hitman-esque.  While I agree small steps are the way to go in this regard, there are significant cultural barriers to understand and hurdle not in a sprint, but in carefully planned steps to avoid the stank (no, not stink – stank) of nineteenth century colonization.

10) Engaging Non-State Actors via Independent Diplomacy

(Hint: the world is a kindergarten sandbox, full of burgeoning and breakdown alliances.  Some kids play well together; others don’t.  Engaging those lone wolves has proved difficult, especially through the hard-line rhetoric popularized following recent American terrorist events (“with us or against us,” anyone?).  Punishing those who throw sand may not be the best way to keep them from throwing sand in the future; instead, independent engagement through established channels, rather than marginalization, may limit extreme behavior more effectively.  This idea, in a smaller nutshell: established lobbyists for independent, non-state actors, to bridge a marginalized voice with the established channels.  A compelling and fascinating idea – one which adds some shine to an otherwise tarnished profession.)