Posts from the ‘Entrepreneurship’ category

Mindless Self Indulgence

The Time Paradox? Sounds Contagious

I recently took Zimbardo’s Time Paradox quiz and found the results so unsettling, that I emailed the man himself.

I took your Time Paradox assessment. Other than present hedonistic, I ranked the opposite of ideal on every other scale. I have long suspected this, but am stuck; meditation helps incrementally. Will you please send the assessment answers that someone with an ideal time paradox would have? I’d like to experiment with patient, intentional, paradigm shifts of each question over a period of one month. Please send me the ideal responses to the assessment. I will happily share the results with you. While I don’t have an official background in psychology, I took many psyc courses during my bachelors in Biology.

Dr. Zimbardo, Stanford Prison Experiments guy, emailed me back that very same day, less than a month after his debut on Tim Ferriss.

What is the time paradox? I’m not going to link the book cause Amazon reviews said it was mostly academic, and otherwise useless. But here’s what you need to know:

The Time Paradox is not a single paradox but a series of paradoxes that shape our lives and our destinies. For example:

Paradox 1
Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives.

You ever have a conversation with someone, and when it’s over, you start replaying the conversation in all of the ways that it could have been better? All of the ways you could have been more compelling, likeable, smart, or witty? It’s living in the past, in an unhealthy time paradox. Playing into feelings and hangups and giving them power is a form of indulgence and can lead to depression. So, it’s starts with no longer indulging, which takes effort until it doesn’t.

tetris comic

Indulgence, aka left and right snakes, are not welcome here.

Earlier this week, I discovered a future time paradox with the same result.

After a happy afternoon and evening with someone, I subconsciously continued the conversation in my head to ask all of the questions I didn’t think to ask. But I had to stop when I couldn’t speak for the other side. This was very frustrating as I’d never had this problem. I kept getting a stick shoved into the spokes of my bicycle wheel brain that said, “But you don’t know what his answer would be. The conversation is just…over.” Then I became annoyed as I have no desire to get to know someone over the phone, and up until now, curiosity and patience have not gone hand in hand. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I have spent a LOT of my life having conversations with other people in my head. And I’ve talked with others who have too. #staypresent

Two things happened. I realized that I wasn’t replaying conversations, and instead trying to continue them. Hey, that’s better than normal! The other was that I had no control. Hanging out was over, and no amount of curiosity or impatience would get it to continue. That’s just the way it is. So I let go. Time will pass before we see each other again (and I’d sure like to). But even this, I cannot control. All in all, I’m happy with how this turned out.

OMG! I’m happy and let go. And I didn’t even have to do ayahuasca!

Some would say that thinking about this at all is indulgent. I have to disagree. What if you just suck? And no matter how different you wish it was, you’ll just always have to try?

This is how I’ve seen life lately, and I gotta say, the most useful thing I’ve done is accept it. And write. Cause I can peel myself like an onion much more quickly than anyone else can. I’m also reading Grit, and the reality is, I don’t have a lot of it. Well, not enough to do what I want. Oooobviously, I’m going to build it up, which thank god, the author says is possible. But the bar is pretty low at the moment. I’m pretty sure boarding school sucked up a big chunk of my grit, which is why I’ve been bringing it up lately.

grit book cover

Making up for lost time here.

Finding Common Ground

Earlier this week, I was talking with a recovering crackhead about the business he wanted to start. I don’t say recovering crackhead to be crass or politically incorrect, but because that was his identity. And recovering crackhead is concise.

I asked him if he’d gone to the library yet, the one thing standing between having enough money to start his business and not. He said no, “I need to get a library card.” I prodded, and he came up with more reasons.

I asked him what he says to himself when he thinks about going to the library. He responds, “I’ll go tomorrow”. What else do you say when you don’t go? “I fucked up…again.” I asked him if he saw himself as a fuck up, and he immediately responded, “No, not a fuck up. I just fucked up again.” Then he paused, seeing the story he’d been telling himself for a long time. It was a tender moment.

Several times, he mentioned that the values of his business were honesty, dependability, and something else. Each time, he got the same look in his eye as when he said he’d fucked up again. Finally, I asked, “Can you tell me a story about each of these values? Something you could say to a potential customer?” He couldn’t. I said, “I know that for me, the values that I used to hold onto were ‘aspirational values’. They were values that I wish I had or that I saw in other people and got jealous of. But they weren’t values that I actually lived into because they were the values I struggled with the most. They were wannavalues. And I struggled with them because I was getting rewarded for not having them.” He looked at me stunned for a moment, and then laughed. “You hit it right on the head.”

His story was that he was a fuckup, and that by living into it, he got to be right that he was a fuckup and avoid responsibility. He had gotten to the point where he was a good person doing what he knew he was supposed to do for society and family, but he had a barrier to doing it for himself. His values were indeed, aspirational values, but it didn’t mean that they were inaccessible to him. He could choose new values that were current, or he could stick with the old aspirational values intending for them to become authentic. Either way, he could choose them for his business because the business would be a reflection of him.

When our time was up, I realized why I grow so much when I’m around other people – human relatedness through vulnerability and authenticity.

I never experienced either of these growing up. I think it started with my parents’ generation. Many of them believed that good parenting was pretending that they never did anything questionable or bad, and that they had grown up perfectly without making any mistakes. I looked carefully at this when I was in grade school. The most mature and wise kids had parents who admitted their hangups and failures – and their learnings! These parents allowed authenticity and transparency to serve as common ground with their kids, and as they got older, relatedness. Unintentionally, it was built on a foundation of acceptance. And because of that, these kids grew in leaps and bounds. Whenever I could, I called them my friends.

It’s possible for parents to lead by example at the same time as being real.

I have tried many times to read the autobiographies of supposedly inspirational people. Each time, I’d toss the book aside after a chapter or two and say to myself, I have nothing in common with this person! I may be imperfect, but at least I’m not inauthentic! Only after listening to Tim interview over a hundred people who have respect in some field in circle, I realized that everyone’s just as human as me. Tim does his best to bring out their authenticity, and this is what enabled me to listen. Turns out, authenticity doesn’t come naturally, is a muscle that must be exercised, and no matter how hard we try, we won’t always be authentic to ourselves or others. Everyone is a fuckup to someone in this world, so we may as well do what we want.

Thanks to Tim’s work, for the first time in my life, I experienced inspiration from another person. Well, a real one at least.

jean grey as phoenix

I think we’ve finally moved on.

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Why I Went to Graduate School

School sucks. I hated school so much that my brain would instantly fall asleep when I went to class. If I went to class. The same for when I got carsick or drove. Just an all around unpleasant experience. If I were an animal, I’d be a bunny. Who just passed out when shit got terrible. It all started in 3rd or 4th grade, when I started to get bored.

I had sleep studies done. They put me on adderall. Ritalin. I mostly just had more pocket money cause I hated that shit.

I tried everything.

Except going to a school that taught differently.

I went to Pinchot because it was what I thought school should be. You see, when I was looking at MBA programs like Stanford and MIT Sloan, they seemed like slogs. And they’d only teach me a tiny bit of the picture using a traditional teaching method.

Traditional is our tragedy as Americans.

I thought to myself, “higher ed should be taught on frequent, village-sized campuses, where everyone lives together in a community. And learns by doing at a rigorous pace with an inventive, memorable, workshop-based curriculum. The professors shouldn’t just be PhD’s like they are at MIT Sloan. They should have stories. They should have already made a big impact. And teach from experience.” I wanted entrepreneurial teachers who listened.

Sadly, I didn’t think this existed.

I opted out of getting an MBA even though it had secretly been a dream of mine to get those three, shiny letters. Walking away seemed better than throwing away a few hundred grand for something I’d do much better on my own (and did).

I put together a MOOC-based MBA. But only two weeks after I’d started, I found what I had been looking for.

At Impact Hub Seattle, we were suddenly awash with Sustainability MBA’s from upstairs. These new hosts were pretty great to work with. What’s more, they didn’t suck to work with.

Upon investigation, I learned about Pinchot (Chapter 3).

  • Taught systems thinking
  • Workshop and project-based
  • Everyone came from diverse work backgrounds.
  • The whole curriculum was integrated…like a system.
  • It was taught in the woods where we got to hang out and live together for almost a week.
  • The day I happened to visit, they were doing the Lean Canvas. Basically, my favorite thing to do.
  • The perfect amount of our assignments were, go out into the wilderness and write about it, then tell us about it.
  • While most schools studied systems, we did our own deep analysis by the end of December. It was also a white paper.
  • While most schools studied case studies, we wrote our own by the end of March. Our whole curriculum was a case study.
  • Our first field trip was living in a spectacular version of what’s possible on an island in the British Columbian wilderness.
  • While most schools took five months (a semester) to teach entrepreneurship and how to write a business plan, we did it accelerator style in three. We got one big assumption though (e.g. our technology works), so it was great for learning at the maximum speed. Cause the second year was for actually doing a business, not the first. But sometimes folks used both for a real business.

I’m not even mentioning the sustainability parts, which are HUGE. I think we are queued up more than anyone on the planet to deal with what’s to come.

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Even better, I transferred my second year to a Sustainability MBA program on Wall Street. It uses a non-integrated curriculum, so I can do deep dives into whatever I want. Which I have. And it still is almost entirely workshop and project based. Except now we work for clients at real companies to see what that’s like. Good, lord, I don’t know how people do it. Do meetings ever start on time? Seriously? How lazy can we be?

But I digress.

Can you imagine if traditional MBA’s taught this way? Both a sustainability-focused way and then a hybrid way?

The book, Makers and Takers, says that traditional MBA’s go into the program thinking that their job is to “benefit a diverse group of stakeholders.” But by the end of the second semester, they think that “greed is good”. And they think that the way to be greedy is to “increase shareholder returns at any cost and produce less high quality goods and services.”

What the fuck.

What’s worse is that every year we church out 156,250 of these people. Not you, of course. Because you’re not in a traditional MBA program.

Just the majority of 156,250.

Yikes.

Giving Voice to Values says that in traditional MBA ethics classes, they learn how to rationalize and justify unethical behavior and choices. Literally, a handbook of arguments.

So, I joined Pinchot cause I didn’t want to be an asshole.

MBA’s aside, most education in the US is garbage compared to what it could be.

Everyone knows the story of the Indian kids who were given a computer.

A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.

If children have interest, then education happens.

Arthur C. Clark

Our education squashes curiosity, so it’s no wonder that our skills gap is being filled with immigrants. Except that we stopped letting immigrants here. So we’re still going to have a bunch of unemployed people, and on top of that not enough skilled labor. Then American businesses will just die. And we’ll get wiped out because other countries are educating their people properly.

Great.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Hypotheses for the Successful Adoption of Mental Models around Entrepreneurialism

  1. Learning
    1. The vast majority of people have experienced oppressive, suppressive, overly structured, unimaginative, wasteful learning methods for the majority of their education. These methods are based on the industrialization of the world in the early 1800’s and haven’t been updated with the pace of technology and science, despite being scientifically disproven and one-upped again and again. Bureaucracy and insecurity prevents us from improving education. It’s our greatest tragedy in America.
    2. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper workshop with a proper team in a proper space. Experiencing this would make a positive and profound difference on how they see the world, themselves, and their life. Some percentage of these people will have a viral difference on the people around them.
    3. It’s been a while since Americans learned by doing, such as apprenticeships. Which is such a shame, since they’d be so easy and economical now, and other countries are doing them.
  2. Empowerment
    1. The vast majority of people have not experienced a proper work environment and culture.
    2. The vast majority of people do not know how to plan for the future and are not prepared. They also have no hope for retirement.
    3. The corruption behind ITT Tech and University of Phoenix continues to set off a tidal wave of disenfranchised, negatively impacted students. When ITT Tech closed in Sept 2016, just at that time, they had 40,000 students and 8,000 employees. Students have been suing since 1998. That’s a lot of people, their families, and a giant chunk of our country.

Hypotheses for the Target Audience (at least one is true)

  1. They have no hope for retirement.
  2. They don’t want to have to work for anything.
  3. They’re afraid their job will be replaced by a robot. For example, truck drivers, factory workers, and accountants. In addition, I predicted that self-driving cars would predominate major cities within 4 years. Last Friday, Tim Ferriss predicted 3.

In which direction should I go to run a beta test? A small pilot with about ten people in the boonies. Eastern or Western Washington?

I say this with urgency as I’d love to just target kids and the education system. But the reality is that no one’s invested in our kids for a while, especially not us. And, we don’t have enough time to wait for them. We need engaged adults now. Like, right now. Now. Yes, now.

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New Job

A few months ago, I said to my friend, “I think something interesting is about to happen around community. I have no idea what it is, but I want to find out.”

I got a new job. Turns out, hanging around Seattle for two years and doing a lot of stuff gets you cold email referrals.

The job is building community. A very special one. 

cartoon bowing perpetually

Boom

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Am I A Wantrepreneur?

diagram of the wantrepreneurial cycle of delusion

The horror!

Wantrepreneur is a derogatory term in the West. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists use it to describe people who like the idea of entrepreneurship, but fail at execution.

Wantrepreneurs:

  • Think that entrepreneurship is easy. Set your own schedule, be your own boss, you’re Facebook.
  • Like the idea of being an entrepreneur. The identity of entrepreneur. The extroverted ones go to meetups and stuff and feel super cool, like they always have a great conversation piece.
  • Think they have come up with an original idea and are terrified that someone will steal it. Their business is crippled by attempts to protect the idea, either through isolation or the black hole of patents. But they don’t google the idea to see if it already exists. And they direct no effort to validation or getting their first customer. And oftentimes, successful business takes a village that they can’t create if they don’t talk to anyone.
  • Think that entrepreneurialism means being in control, often after a lifetime of feeling like they lack it. But true entrepreneurialism is about focusing on what they actually can control, which is typically only themselves.

Chapter 1: A Hustler

I started my first business in 6th grade selling lists of the hottest boys to local socialites. This was before printers, so it was a handwritten list that I updated whenever I felt like (usually weekly), and for $5, you could look at it.

Then I sold concert tickets. Which failed miserably because as it turns out, I was the only one willing to pay premium prices for tickets to sold out festivals and concerts. I had convinced my Dad to be an investor in this one, and I lost all of his money.

Fast forward through a bunch of shitty and not so shitty businesses to undergraduate school.

I thought that I needed this piece of paper to do real things and real businesses. I did not see it as an opportunity to explore, discover, experience, and learn, so I asked my Dad what I should major in. He said biochemistry, and at the time, it was an excellent choice. I ended up with biology, and it took over six years. It was here that I discovered that I’m not someone who can accomplish a goal that I don’t fully buy in to. Buy-in is so important!

Why do I want to go to college?
Because I was told that I needed it to get my ticket punched.

What is getting my ticket punched?
An easy ride.

Yeah, I was one of those. A super super senior. On the upside, in addition to Biology, I’d thoroughly meandered through English, Psychology, and Film.

But I desperately wanted that easy ride. And turns out, the path of least resistance results in a waaaay longer path.

Chapter 2: A Quitter

The search for the easy path started when I heard, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Instead of asking why this was true, I asked, “Why bother being strong at all? It sounds terrible. Let’s just avoid the trauma altogether.” I didn’t know about post-traumatic growth.

To me, the X-Men were the ultimate easy-riders. Xavier said to mutants, “Come live at my estate for free and be a hero because you won the genetic lottery of magical abilities and superhuman hotness.” I saw what I wanted to see, which wasn’t how powers were extremely challenging to control and being a hero meant persecution, fear, and loads of baggage. I saw Jean Grey as a badass, not as a target for love triangles, enemies, and cosmic entities. My filter blocked the broken bodies, death toll, and persistent tests of moral fiber and strength of will. Plus the time toiled away in the Danger Room, where everyone worked hard. I never saw their failures and how they just kept picking themselves back up and trying again.

Unfortunately, my lizard brain, after decades of denying my cravings for challenge, invented a self-defense mechanism I’ve named Self-Sabotage Sally. Whenever I’d lose sight of possibility, I’d quit.

The most tremendous instance of this was ARCBio. I was introduced to some folks at IBM who had a problem that I could solve. I didn’t know how to solve the problem, but I knew that I could. And after two months of figuring it out, I landed a year-long contract to do it.

At first, I wanted ARCBio to revolutionize in vitro (non-animal) testing. The European Union had just banned animal testing for cosmetics, and I wanted the US to do the same. But by the end of the first year, I burned myself out and got fat. By year two, I revolutionized non-animal testing, but didn’t share it with anyone because I didn’t think anyone respected or listened to fat women. I hated myself. In year three, I focused on maximizing shareholder profit. I was the only shareholder, so I had a pretty sweet lifestyle business. I ate my money. By the beginning of the fourth year, I could see myself doing ARCBio forever, but was miserable as hell. I refocused on scaling the business and hiring some full-time people to run the lab. But by the end of the year, I quit.

Here are a few of the thousand reasons why I chose to close ARCBio:

  • I was so unhappy that my experiments were no longer reproducible. After spending years optimizing scientific protocols to the point of absolute reproducibility, all of my experiments failed. With clinical precision, I tested every single perimeter to figure out what was going wrong. At the end of the day, the common denominator was me.
  • I was a horrible boss who made an intern cry through an email. I was the villain.
  • One of the people I was working with was incredibly toxic and we all knew it. He’d spent years 2-3 blaming me for a mistake that he finally confessed to (he hadn’t taken good enough lab notes…::facepalm::). He was brilliant, which is why he was kept around, but he and I were like, “oil and water.” IBM was my biggest customer, and I worked with other groups, but I couldn’t see a way to avoid him.
  • I had fallen out of love with the life sciences after hearing the same story for the twentieth time:

“I found the cure to cancer and big pharma bought it up. I thought they were going to bring it through clinical trials because I couldn’t, but they locked up the cure and threw away the key.”

The same went for diabetes and others too. I was heartbroken and jaded. Other things about the life sciences were crushing including the regulation and corruption. I swore off the whole industry.

  • I hated California. But the business was in California, and I couldn’t see a way to move it elsewhere.

California was a whole other story.

I lived in San Jose, my first time living in a big city. This part is going to be very not PC, but this was my experience. Skip down to Chapter 3 if you’re from Seattle.

In Baltimore, people of color are so frequently and publicly beat down (figuratively and literally), that you can give unwanted attention a single look, and they would start heading the other way. To this day, I cannot imagine what it is like for super attractive women who are constantly threatened and harassed physically and verbally. To this day, I cannot imagine what it is like for people of color who are constantly oppressed and disempowered.

But I digress. In Baltimore, I felt like I had power and control because of my white-looking privilege. San Jose was completely different, where I was a target.

In Man Jose, men outnumbered the women 1.23 to 1. One-third was Hispanic and one-third was Asian or Asian Indian. It was a tough place to be a woman, where I would get the same attention I got in Baltimore except these men were relentless. I was seen as a white hole that could be captured with a wide enough net and enough intimidation, heckling, and body-shaming. Not a great selling point for diversity. Perhaps they should include an equity workshop with every work visa.

But I digress.

I was at dinner with a Korean and two Indians. One of the Indians said that he was only in the US to fool around, and that if he got a white girl, great. But if not, whenever he was ready, he would call his mom and ask for a wife. She’d send him a binder with Facebook-like profiles of all the suitable girls in his village, and he would pick one. Did the girls have a choice? Yes, but they never said no. The other Indian guy chimed in and agreed. Ultimately, they did not see women as equals, but as something to be acquired. The Korean guy was jealous.

Another time, I was downtown at night when an Indian guy yelled at me across the street. He was with his friends, and when I smiled and shook my head, he yelled, “Whatever. You are fat and disgusting anyway.” And this was my experience in San Jose time and time again.

The Hispanics would drive alongside me in their unmarked, white vans while commenting on my appearance out their window. As a single, white-looking female in a big city for the first time, my mind would run with the horrific possibilities. The best case scenario was when they’d just yell at me and drive away. Other times, I’d have to walk to places other than my home until they went away. The same went for when we were both on the street, but they were much more aggressive when in their vehicle.

I didn’t know how to handle any of this and didn’t have any friends or support. I would have nightmares and was afraid to go to sleep or leave the house at night. I constantly strategized escape and fight scenarios.

At some point, I got so fat that the harassment stopped. Then I’d be told I was fat and disgusting, so I’d start to lose weight. Then I’d get fit, receive unwanted attention, and would binge eat again. This was a vicious cycle. Well, it still is. Damned if I’m fit, damned if I’m not. And I let it cripple myself and ARCBio.

Chapter 3: A Wantrepreneur and a Hypocrite

When I first moved to Seattle, I spent a year and a half working on over 100 businesses. I used to say that as if I was bragging, like I’d defeated 100 businesses.

During the era of 100 businesses, I found myself overwhelmed and stressed. When I counted, I realized I was working on 9 different projects, both with others and individually. I was unfocused and there were always reasons to not do something.

  • I didn’t want to do a STEAM coworking space because two people I respected didn’t give me its blessing, Seattle already had 37 coworking spaces at the time, and a well-publicized and funded makerspace had recently failed.
  • I didn’t want to do decorative, portable plastic raincoats because plastic. And plastic is based on the petroleum industry and so on. And I’m not going to do better than China.
  • I didn’t want to do purse inserts because they’re already a thing. And I’m not going to do better than China.
  • I didn’t want to pursue Refreshing Renton because all of the industry people I spoke with gave me dozens of reasons why it wouldn’t work. I wanted Washington to be the first VOC-free state. Turns out, I was too early because a year later, almost all new Seattle buildings were tested for indoor air pollution and VOC’s.
  • I didn’t want to do Caffeine Vape because of, well, the target demographic. It felt wrong. Turns out, caffeine vapes are now a thing.
  • I didn’t want to do a restaurant that focused exclusively on business lunches with inhalable cocktails that had you buzzed in seconds and sober in 15 minutes. Because food was hard.

There are tons more that can be found in countless pro formas, pictures of whiteboarding, lean canvasses, and Evernote’s up the wazoo. A lot of them are at Ideas from Last Night, a graveyard for my killed ideas. You’ll find that most of them are now real businesses run by other people.

After watching this happen over and over again, my Dad finally worked up the courage to ask me something that had been bugging him. I’ll paraphrase.

Are you a wantrepreneur?

graph of wantrepreneur vs. entrepreneur vs. heather

The horror!

There are two things to point out here.

  1. Validation of an idea didn’t mean whether or not it worked. I never had any doubt that any business I wanted to do would be successful. But what I did doubt was whether or not a business was for me. Tim Urban of Wait But Why points out that every economic revolution has people freaking out about what to do with their lives – create widgets or come up with something new? For me, it was also, “Is this what I want to do for the next five years?” And, “Is this going to make a big enough impact on the world?”
  2. I also noticed that when I got serious enough about a business to have a cofounder, my cofounder would often leave to become an employee. I have a graveyard of cofounder agreements. I don’t know what the problem was. Was I getting the cofounder too early? Was I picking the wrong cofounders? Was it me?

I can recognize a wantrepreneur more easily than I think others can for two reasons.

  1. I was a wantrepreneur to the tune of 100 businesses.
  2. During this time, I did pro-bono small business consulting at Impact Hub, a coworking space in Seattle. I did paid work for small businesses too, but they were already up and running. I really thought that I could help founders, but soon became frustrated at the inaction. They would talk on and on about their idea, would say they’d do the next step, and never would. The most popular was due diligence or a pro forma. Have you googled to see if anyone else is doing this? Have you made a pro forma to see how this could meet your financial expectations? I realized that this procrastination was not only a form of self sabotage, but a self-defense mechanism. It’s easier to imagine being an entrepreneur than to find out that the idea your whole future hinges on won’t work. By the way, no one’s whole future hinges on one idea.

Chapter 4: A Student

So I decided to give school another shot and do it right this time. No more easy ways out for me!

I joined a Sustainability MBA program with a heavy emphasis on leadership and personal development.

From this, I finally got that I could have it all: positive environmental, social, and economic impact. But it had to start with figuring out my own shit.

Here are a few things I’ve learned these past two months:

  • Once I figure something out, I lose interest. No matter how much I think the world needs it. And come hell or high water, I won’t bring it to the world or finish. The best of example of this was when I was holding women’s events. I discovered that most of my attendees were looking to make a career transition. So I informational interviewed and researched my way to the secret sauce of a successful career transition. But my writing didn’t keep up with my learning, so it just sits on my Evernote and a few blog posts.
  • Someone on my school team thought I should bring more of my own experience to the table. At first, I was like wah. My experience is mostly in the life sciences. And we don’t do any life sciences. But now I realize that I tend to just translate my experience and skills immediately into action. Then, I communicate the action with no explanation.
  • I have a fear of abandonment in teams. For years, I peeled myself like an onion only to discover that my fear of abandonment started when I was a baby. My Mom had read a baby book that said she should never pick me up when I cried, because otherwise I would never be independent. Sadly, this was incredibly damaging, even though my Mom had the best intentions. What I didn’t know was how this manifests itself when I’m working with other people who I deeply care about. I will do absolutely fantastic work for the first half. Then I will react to an externality such as competing commitments or negative feedback, hopelessly decide that I’ve let everyone down, and will hide lest I screw up things even more. I will communicate the whole time and complete my work, but it won’t be my best and every task feels like an avalanche. Others will be supportive, but I won’t hear it. Because…
  • I don’t hear or remember good things. I literally filter and forget them. For example, shortly after Trump got elected, I was leading Circle at school. When it was over, I spent half the day pondering what I’d done wrong and what I could have done better. While talking with a classmate about this, she stopped me and asked, “Do you not remember when [the cofounder and Director of the school] thanked you, talked about how much of a difference this had made for him, and everyone clapped for you?” Suddenly the memory came back. But I don’t remember the other times.
  • I want to save the world from climate change. It is my deepest desire. But I am doing nothing to fight climate change right now, and it’s all rooted in ego. I just want to be the hero.
  • Nothing makes my heart swell more than heros. Like Dumbledore’s Army or the Order of the Phoenix. Or all of Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows Part II. I watched all of Harry Potter over the holidays and it was glorious.
  • I’m a liar.
  • I’m a hypocrite.
picture of my cork board with cards that say nice things

My latest experiment.

Chapter 5: A Balance

I have an undisciplined pursuit of more.

But by having an undisciplined pursuit of more, I’ve ended up with less.

picture of balancing feedback loop of my strengthsfinder results

Yikes!

What we have here is a balancing feedback loop. A problem presents a challenge. The greater the challenge, the greater the impact. The greater the impact, the greater my interest in it. The more interested I am, the more I strategize. The more I strategize, the more actions I come up with. The more actions I try, the more solutions I come up with. The more solutions there are, the less challenging the problem.

If we started with a less challenging problem, the whole loop would repeat again with less challenging, so less impactful, so less interesting, so I quit. I’m not enough of a perfectionist to do a third redo to include the quitting, but just know that there’s a line that goes out of Interest to something like Rate of Quitting.

My goal is to stick with something, so I want to turn this balancing feedback loop into a reinforcing loop.

What are the leverage points? What variables do I focus on?

For starters, I’ve found 100 problems and didn’t commit to any of them. There’s no shortage of problems. If I redid this again, Problem could be a stock with unlimited supply.

Next, I’ve definitively proven, at least in my mind, that I love, love, love challenge. No more easy ways out for me!

Impact is tough. I can’t save the world, at least not singlehandedly. And knowing how systems work, it can’t be by doing one thing. Since it’s the challenge that influences the impact, maybe the challenge needs to be big enough that problems need to have a constant flow.

Oh, shit. I just realized that the goal of this system is to be heroic. Yikes!

picture of systems diagram

Okay, okay. Here’s a redo. Click to enlarge. 

I find out about these challenges and once I understand them and have solutions, sometimes I’ll go straight to feeling heroic and QUIT. Wtf.

So, the leverage point is somewhere around ideas to tackle the challenge. Feelings can be pretty powerful, but in this case they’re causal!

Time to head to work. Happy New Year!

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Triple Throwback Thursday!

It’s my birthday. Here’s last year’s bday post if you’re curious.

This year, I’m going to share a post from Linkedin that I think is a classic (well, it seems to get regular traffic at least).

picture of sorry you're not that busy in nyc

Throwback from November 21st, 2015. Last updated December 1st, 2016.

Sorry, You’re Not That Busy

Yesterday, I watched Casey Neistat’s video, Fat and Lazy.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had a few weeks ago with a friend. He, like many others I’ve heard, was bragging about how little sleep he got. Five-six hours a night like a badge of honor that he was too busy for sleep. And I knew exactly where he was coming from.

But then I heard Tim Ferriss and James Altucher interview dozens of success junkies and prominent creatives, all preaching the necessity of eight hours. For example, Maria Papova shared that whenever she went to sleep, she woke up eight hours later. She just did. And it was necessary. And she was one of my heroes.

To be successful, I figured, do as the successful do. So I decided to see what would happen.

The first time that I attempted to sleep for eight hours, I slept for five. I dutifully went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep around 11-something. But at around 4am, I woke up with my mind racing. It felt wrong, like I wasn’t doing enough, like I was missing something, like I was wasting time. Alarms were going off. I tossed and turned. I was exhausted, but still in work mode. It was like that for three weeks.

Nevertheless, I really wanted to be successful, whatever that meant at the time. And eleven weeks later I sleep eight hours a night. For the first time in my life, I fell asleep within a minute of my head hitting the pillow. It was so worth it. We’ll come back to that.

So how the heck did I get to bed at 10pm? What did I do to deserve that? Well, I probably didn’t deserve it at first. Let’s rewind a bit.

I had a routine of which I was very proud. After exhausting my mind until 9-10pm, after sixteen hours or so of working and commuting, I would tell myself that I deserved some enjoyment. I’d watch Netflix, read my entire Facebook newsfeed and Twitter, and whatever else I thought I’d earned. Occasionally, I’d read a book.

So trust me; I get it. Entertainment is a powerful reward.

Sometimes I’d go to sleep when my boyfriend did at 10pm, and I’d lay in bed thinking about all of the things I wanted to do with my life and wanted to do the next day and people I wanted to catch up with and replayed conversations in my head. Then I’d pull the covers over my head to stare at the blue light on my phone and put it all into Evernote. It would have been more efficient to stay up and either do it or type it on a real keyboard. I hadn’t given myself permission to go to sleep, nor had I made it a habit. And it certainly didn’t help to stare at all of that blue light at bedtime.

So when this friend shared with me how busy he was, and another friend chimed in, I felt real conviction to test a hypothesis. I shared with them that once I had cut out all of my “entertainment rewards”, the time to go to bed early magically appeared. They stared at me with their doe eyes while their mouths gaped open. “Oh.” Turns out, that’s what busy meant.

Now I’m a believer in a full day of productivity. Work, then spend your “free time” doing what gives you energy, makes you happy, fills you with life, improves your body and/or mind, etc. Okay, here are some examples: writing, blogging, coding, drawing, reading, playing music, meditating, exercising, walking, recording, experiencing, socializing, etc. I think that fear stops most people from doing these things so that we default to being entertained and/or consuming. At least it did for me.

But aside from the fear to create and take responsibility, I simply didn’t have the ability when I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I’d cut out the busywork long ago and had mastered focus. I was a machine, constantly struggling to survive. I was pumping out sixteen-hour days of “productivity”, when I really wanted my days to be full of creativity. But I lacked creativity except for times in “crisis”. I actually believed that I needed deadlines to be inspired.

For example, in college I took a sculpture class. We had three main projects due throughout the semester. And every single time, I’d mill around waiting for inspiration. I thought, “I know I won’t be inspired until the last minute, I accept this, and I’ll just wait.” I’d fool around “skillbuilding” by welding and learning to the use the tools. But I wasn’t creating.

What a complete waste of time!

So now I sleep eight hours a day and suddenly creativity magically appeared too! And SPOILER ALERT! I got more productive when I threw creativity in the mix. WAT! And don’t you worry; I get rewarded all day via the creativity that’s proliferated across everything I do. Cravings for mindless entertainment be gone!

For the stuff I do, learning as I go is superior to “practicing”.

I propose that you sleep for eight hours a day. Just give it a try. As they say, once you go eight, you never go…

Bonus hacks: listen to podcasts while commuting, embrace nonfiction.

Full Disclosure: I don’t read Maria‘s Brainpickings. Her writings aren’t my cup of tea. But I love her as a person.

PS-I never got into WoW or Pinterest intentionally. You know who you are.

And cause it’s my birthday, I’ll take this opportunity to tell you some of the exciting things I’m doing in the next four days cause I feel very busy right now. I know that talking about it is busy work, but I thought it would be funny to end this post with what feels like pure insanity.

What follows is some of what needs to get done between now and 7:30pm next Thursday, when I leave for the airport for NYC.

FUN FACT: I joined a ridiculously cool startup today part-time. Only an hour of stuff cause holidays. I’m excited to dig in when school is over!

49 hours of homework, class, and team meetings, best case scenario.

16.5 hours of birthday festivities over two days. SAM’s YSL exhibit, Flatstick Pub, Seattle’s Best Benedicts, and Sailing.

7.5 hours of moving over two shifts with three people’s help (which isn’t enough imho, but I hope I’m wrong).

6 hours of packing. By the way. I signed the lease on a new place last night. One block from whole paycheck, 1.5 blocks from Ravenna Park (the greatest park in all the Seattle land), and two blocks from the light rail (the greatest transportation in all the Seattle land).

Did I mention that there’s a pretty sweet hot tub?

And it’s only $700 a month including everything?

And one of the owners is a Louisiana-style chef, the greatest of all chefs? And regularly invites the tenants to din din?

Here’s your present: Everything in my Cheer Up folder.

 

picture of entrepreneurship

Have a great day!

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