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Archive for July, 2015

There are times when I ask myself why I write a weekly column, as I have for six years.  It’s a lot of work, after all, to add on top of running a company.

Well, I do it for the same reason I pursue entrepreneurship:

1.  I do it to create meaning in my own life and in the world.

2.  I do it to limn for myself what I really think.

3.  I do it for personal therapy.

4.  I do it to connect to the greater world.

5.  I do it to be less alone.

6.  I do it to rail against wrongness and injustice.

7.  I do it for vanity.

8.  I do it for pure love of words.

9.  I do it to try to be a curator for things that really matter.

4641339207_496dda1675_zGeorge Orwell, who famously wrote Animal Farm and 1984, put it better.  He wrote a fine essay in 1946 titled Why I Write.  He says writers write for four reasons:

(i)   Sheer egoism.  Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.
(ii)  Aesthetic enthusiasm.  Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right rearrangement.
(iii) Historical impulse.  Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
(iv) Political purpose.  Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense.  Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”

Orwell sums up business blogging pretty well for me personally.  I do it for the same selfish reasons I meditate and exercise—to make myself humanly clear, for spiritual and physical health, and, not least, to genuinely seek to share useful insights, beliefs, experience, and ideas as a contribution to the universe.

But having a blog or a regular newsletter or a media outlet can also be helpful to business development.

We live in a paranoid, distrustful world where there are fewer and fewer anchoring principles.  People no longer respond to traditional marketing and advertising.  They respond to what they know and trust personally.  A consistent, impassioned blog is one way to become a trust agent.  (Along with actually being trustworthy each day, of course.)

There are several reasons business owners I know don’t do serious blogging.

  1. Time.  This is a real concern.  I spend about four hours/week on my weekly essays.  I’m S-L-O-O-O-W.  Most business owners could use at least 48 hours in their 24 hour day.  We are bloody busy.  Writing a blog becomes simply a choice of where to put your time.  What is it worth when balanced with every other responsibility, personal and professional?
  2. Consistency.  It is a commitment to do regular, meaningful business writing.  Most of us get an inspiration we would like to share occasionally.  But to do it once a week or more?  Not so much.
  3. Vulnerability.  Many executives and owners don’t like the vulnerability of blogging.  They fear seeming self-aggrandizing and self-important in creating public content.  They fear being judged for their stupidity or hubris.  I say get over it.  What other people think of you is none of your business.
  4. Technology.  Mastering blogging technology is indeed another damn thing to learn.  But if a dinosaur like me can do it, anyone can.
  5. Long-Term Gratification.  Building a reputation as a trust agent takes time and builds slowly.

MTE5NTU2MzE2MDYwMDkxOTE1If you have the fortitude (and people choose to read you), blogging is a marvelous way to self-brand.  It’s a way of becoming a business beacon in a noisy universe.  You can become an effective curator of content for things that matter.  Again, if you are trustworthy.

Most of all, a blog should only be etched with a sense of mission and generosity.  If it serves to bring positive attention to your company, wonderful.  But, if that happens, it should only be viewed as a penultimate product of genuinely having authentic and useful things to say.

Novelist Pat Conroy wrote in his book My Reading Life (Random House, 2010),  “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”  Me too, Pat.

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urlF. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” I hate this quote. Because it is wrong.

I spend as much time as I can mentoring young entrepreneurs. I so admire them. I learn so much from them. They are the quintessential existential heroes of modern business life. And yet…

And yet I find myself often, and increasingly, put off by a growing trope of coldness among many of our newer class of young entrepreneurial strivers. Even in their publicly bruited avowals of pro bono concern for the future of mankind, there seems somehow an unattached sense of being personally outside humanity–above humanity more than part of it. Full of a hipness and knowing intelligence that stands with irony outside the ring of the benighted mass of fellow souls who have fucked up so many things in this world. Souls like me.

Back in February, Rich Karlgaard wrote an interesting column titled “Late Bloomers are in Peril” for Forbes. He noted that American culture is increasingly put off by a new class of academic STEM hero personified by folks like Mark Zuckerberg. Karlgaard feels that Silcon Valley is morphing into Algorithmic Valley, a spiritually barren location that is increasingly hostile to the eccentric inventor and the late blooming oddball who does not necessarily come from the world of perfect SAT scores and an impeccable academic provenance at Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech or Harvard.

Rich_Karlgaard_2Karlgaard states, “…today’s technology business heroes are so freakishly smart and young they don’t inspire the rest of us. It’s worth asking why. My guess: For decades Silicon Valley had among its role models late bloomers and tinkerers. For instance, Bill Hewlett barely got into college; Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out of college; Andy Grove went to City College of New York.” However, our new dominant entrepreneurial elite do not come from the same places as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, or Thomas Alva Edison.

The new entrepreneur Karlgaard is talking about is a prodigy who aces the SATs, graduates from Stanford at 20, starts a company, raises millions and sells out to Apple or Google in two years. That’s who VCs are funding, not the out-of-the-box, scarred by life, autodidactic late bloomers. Karlgaard avers that this late bloomer is getting crowded out. He notes the late bloomer “is vanishing in the American imagination, especially with regards to business, and, in particular, technology. America is in danger of losing a valuable narrative about itself, and the consequences are not trivial.”

In fact, this should be a wonderful age for the ripening insights of the late bloomer. After all, 60 is truly the new 40 health wise, and the slow-growing virtues of empathic leadership are increasingly being recognized as a palliative to the growing unease with traditional command and control corporate leadership. Skills of empathy and elasticity come with age and hard knocks– qualities possessed in spades by late bloomers.

Elkhonon Goldberg, in The Wisdom Paradox (2006), notes that, “While the capability of the brain does indeed diminish with age, this deterioration is more than compensated for by gifts of intuition, empathy, and pattern recognition….What I have lost with age in my capacity for hard mental work, I seem to have gained in my capacity for instantaneous, almost unfairly easy insight.”

In other words, there is often a sly innate wisdom to the late-blooming entrepreneur that can neither be taught nor quantified.

My father was an indefatigable NY Yankees fan and he loved Joe Dimaggio, who was noted as a great center fielder. My father related to me that in Joe’s last year he didn’t have a whole hell of a lot left in his arm, which had always been a great intimidator of base runners. He figured he had about one good throw in him per game. So every night his last year, early in the game, after a routine fly out, he would put everything he had into a simple throw back into the infield. 14294619952_3d9ff00146This continued to intimidate runners, even though, for the life of him, he couldn’t repeat the feat again in that game. That is what I mean by the sly wisdom of age. It is a special gift offered by entrepreneurial late bloomers.

Poet Maya Angelou has these wonderful few words for the late bloomer. She says, “The Fifties are everything you’ve been meaning to be.” Thank you, Maya.

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mail-carrier_zps4031dcedA guy goes to the Post Office to apply for a job.

The interviewer asks him, “Are you allergic to anything?”

He replies, “Yes, caffeine. I can’t drink coffee.”

“Ok, Have you ever been in the military service?”

“Yes,” he says, “I was in Iraq for one tour.”

The interviewer says, “That will give you 5 extra points toward employment.” Then he asks, “Are you disabled in any way?”

The guy says, “Yes. A bomb exploded near me and I lost both my testicles.”

The interviewer grimaces and then says, “ Oh sorry about that…thank you for your service!!! Okay. With that, you’ve got enough points for me to hire you right now. Our normal hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can start tomorrow at 10:00 am, and plan on starting at 10:00 am every day.”

The guy is puzzled and asks, “If the work hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, why don’t you want me here until 10:00 am?”

“This is a government job”, the interviewer says. “For the first two hours, we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our balls.  No point in you coming in for that.”

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