Silicon Valley Has a Vulnerability Problem

vulnerability A few of us sat in a swanky restaurant, the air was warm and smelled faintly of the honeysuckle growing outside. Glasses clinked on the patio and a group of dilettante’s tittered over a handsome young waiter’s joke. The general mood of the place felt like a modern day Gatsby party… except to me. I was trying to keep my breath steady as a deep, angry blush crept up my neck as the man across from me continued…

“Well, I just don’t know how you could have made those mistakes, being CEO. I am a CEO now and I would never let that happen” he said.

Breath in, breath out. I nodded, shrugged my shoulders and after a long moment responded “I guess you’re a better man than me”. The table nervously laughed and I mentally checked out until the dinner was over.

I had been brought out to discuss joining this CEO’s company for some contract work. Over the past few days I had surveyed the company, talked to employees, and put together a detailed list of recommendations. There were a lot of “easy fix” problems but all in all the growth challenges were ones that could be handled as long as a strong culture and focus on community was in place.

But I had made the critical error. At dinner, someone asked what I would do to improve worker efficiency, I answered honestly. As I talked I could see the CEO’s face change, he was taking my feedback as a criticism of his leadership… I realized too late that I was dealing with an insecure, “alpha” male (the worst type). So before I had time to swallow a sip of red wine, he fired back a reply aimed to hit me where it hurt.

“…I just don’t know how you could have made those mistakes.”

In Silicon Valley, admitting mistakes and showing your vulnerable side is one of the biggest social faux pas that I’m tired of trying to follow.

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What is an Untethered Life?

untethered life

The word tether, as a noun, is defined as a rope, chain, or the like, by which an animal is fastened to a fixed object so as to limit its range of movement.

Human beings are animals, but the difference between us and the dog on a leash or cow tied to a fence is that we often choose our tethers. Those tethers cost us money, and many of us—sadly—believe that by collecting tethers our lives gain meaning.

What tethers us?

  • Debt: mortgage, credit cards, payday loans, college loans
  • Social obligations: networking events, “friends” we don’t really want to meet up with but feel we must, parties that we don’t enjoy but will feel FOMO if we miss them
  • Material possessions: more clothes/shoes than you need, anything that you either don’t actively use or don’t actively love
  • Work we hate: the 9 to 5 where you can’t leave your desk even though you would be more productive and happier if you were working remotely, the career you choose because of money—especially money that goes to buy you material possessions you don’t need or love
  • Unhealthy relationships: friends that tear us down, romantic partners that aren’t growing with us, any relationship that causes more harm than good… and yes, this can even be family members at times
  • “Shoulds”: I’m Y years old I should be married by now, I’m X years I should have a baby by now, I should go to college, I should… anything that you have to convince you should—versus innately knowing it is right, true or something you actually want.

Leading an untethered life is as simple as cutting out, or minimizing, as many tethers as possible. Instead of striving for material possessions (something that is proven to make us miserable), untethering means getting rid of everything you don’t either love or need (similar to the philosophy espoused in Maria Kondo’s book on tidying up).

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Life Isn’t Fair: So Why Play by the Rules?

life isn't fair“Life isn’t fair” I remember this refrain being seared in my consciousness early on in life. It’s a bitter-sweet memory because I can still taste the knot of staunch injustice that gathered in the back of my throat when my mother would dish it out; at the same time, I’m grateful that the inequality of life was shown to me at a young age because I learned a valuable lesson that many adults I know seem to still have not learned.

Life isn’t freaking fair.

Now that you know, deal with it. You can bitch and moan. You can try and make the best of the cards you are dealt… or you strive to become the dealer. Your situation may be righteously unfair – but dwelling on that fact won’t move your situation one iota in a fairer direction.

Instead, embrace the fact that life isn’t fair. When you do your eyes will open to a world of possibilities, one that much population misses while they focus on the injustice of their situation.

Life isn’t fair, so why play by the rules?

You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight and you don’t expect to win at a table where the dealer’s cheating. The “fairness” that people so often talk about is the idea that if you go to school and make decent grades you should be able to graduate, get a good job and earn fair wages. It’s the idea that if you worked 15 years for a company they should keep you around for the next 15 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love that notion, the idea of fairness but it is simple not a reality anymore.

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45 Epic Quotes for Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

epic quotes

Epic quotes, they are what I turn to when I’m running low on inspiration. It’s encouraging to look at those who have been there, done that and crossed the chasm successfully.

Usually I’ll spend some time reading the biography of a person I respect, or if I just need a booster shot of entrepreneurial gumption I’ll browse through some of my favorite quotes. Then I thought “why keep these little gems all to myself?”, thus: 45 epic quotes for extraordinary entrepreneurs.

Epic Customer Service Quotes

  • If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will. – Unknown
  • If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends. – Jeff Bezos
  • You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied. – Jerry Fritz
  • The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. – Socrates
  • Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get. – Nelson Boswell
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On Asking for Help

asking for helpThe idea of “fake it until you make it” blows. It is the antithesis of vulnerability. It requires you to outright lie to those around you, or give the appearance of a life you’re simply not leading. Worst of all, it prevents you asking for help.

I have a problem with asking for help. It’s probably one of my worst traits. I see asking for help as a combination of annoying and weak. I hate to bother people, and I also hate to seem weak—or worse: needy.

So when things get tough, I try and suck it up. When people ask me how I am doing—even on my worst days, I will usually say “fine” or “considering pretty darn good!”. Sometimes that is true. Sometimes I cry alone in the shower instead of just asking for help.

Asking for help doesn’t mean having to ask for a lot.

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The Power of NO

the power of no

The power of saying “no” is truly a life-changing art. Especially if you, like me, have chosen the entrepreneurial path. There is a beauty and elegance in saying no early and often. It not only saves your time, but it shows respect for the time of those around you.

Who knew that just putting your foot down and hollering no! like a 2 year old could catapult you to new levels of success and adventure?

To be fair lots of successful people have lauded the power of no before. Psychology Today said “No is an instrument of integrity and a shield against exploitation,” and James Altucher credits saying no with saving his life. Saying yes is often glorified, but saying no is what separates the men from the boys so to speak.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett

Now that the secret’s out, let’s break down exactly how you should say no, when you should say no and why that beautiful, little, two-letter word can totally transform your existence…

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What Does It Mean to Escape the 9 to 5?

escape the 9 to 5

Escaping the 9 to 5, it sounds nice right? But what does it really mean? I’ve spent the last seven years trying to figure it out. In my humble opinion to truly Escape the 9 to 5 one must:

—Work as an entrepreneur, freelancer or creative

—Master delegation and the 80/20 principle

—Enjoy freedom of location, even if you don’t act on it

—Embrace wonder and the simple joys

Okay, now let’s break it down. I write this as much for myself as for anyone else; because as I sit here in my local cafe by the beautiful South Park district of San Francisco I am restarting my own escape from the 9 to 5…

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Limitations: the Entrepreneur’s Friend

limitations
Limitations are the entrepreneur’s friend. This is often not the way it first seems. People say “if only” a lot.

If only I had a little investment capital… 

If only I was born into a family of means…

If only I didn’t have a mortgage and kids in college…

If only I had a technical cofounder…

If only… then my dreams would come to fruition.

Fortunately for the majority of us without unlimited means, or unfortunately for those who were born Luksic’s and Arnault’s, human creativity and ingenuity seem to flourish when limitations are present.

The human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest and, therefore, when most was required of imagination in order to build at all. – Frank Lloyd Wright

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The Corporate Ladder: Climbing Versus Building Your Own

corporate ladder
One of the first things that propelled me to begin my escaping the 9 to 5 journey was horrifying concept of having to “climb the corporate ladder”. I knew as a young women that if I entered the traditional workforce I would most likely deal with glass ceilings, and most definitely have to deal with corporate bureaucracy.

The idea was off-putting to a lackluster student who already had trouble dealing with authority figures I (rightly or wrongly) perceived as incompetent and had no ability to schmooze corporate types. I knew I’d have gotten nowhere flat trying to climb a ladder that hopefully led to a position that provided enough income and autonomy to enjoy life.

Then one day, as learned more about entrepreneurship through reading biographies of people I admired, the concept hit me: why climb a corporate ladder when you could just build your own?

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Happiness Islands and the 80/20 Principle

happiness islands

Happiness Island… say what? I wrote this post originally seven years ago, and may not have happened back upon it if it wasn’t for Pat Flynn’s recent podcast on deleting/re-visiting old content (if you have a blog, it’s definitely worth a listen).

Many of my original posts make me cringe; the writing, the bravado, the idea that my 23 year old self had so much to *teach* others… all makes me LOL now (as perhaps this will again in ten years). This post, however, made me re-assess my own Happiness Islands and I wanted to share the concept with you.

The concept comes from the book The 80/20 Principle, one of my staple “must reads” and a modern understanding of Pareto’s Law. The gist is that 80% of results come from 20% of input. This applies to business, economics, agriculture, crime and even personal happiness.

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