POSTED AT 6:37 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010
More lessons from the beam
In a previous post, I described my two primary sources of distraction as a young gymnast: my competitors and my own teammates.
We all know what an energy vampire it can be to place too much attention on the competition and I'll share some of my favorite insights on that topic in another post. Distractions closer to home are often subtle, but much more disruptive.
With 12 gymnasts and just four high balance beams, my teammates and I would work three to a beam as we went through our warm up exercises. It was my favorite apparatus. A coach once called me a "beam specialist." Often, I couldn't help but observe what the girls around me were working on. Sometimes, I'd even weigh in on their technique or execution.
That must mean I was perfect, right? No. Try as I might, a Nadia I was not.
And therein lies the problem. Being caught up in the practice of my teammates meant I could not properly focus and place adequate attention on my own practice. It also didn't help me win many friends among my teammates.
Fortunately, my coach's reminder to keep my eye's on my own beam ultimately lead to a more explicit, yet compassionate, intervention.
Throughout my adult life I've kept this lesson close to heart. While some members of my business school cohort took a controlling approach to group projects, an MBA staple, I was collaborative, but purposely unimposing. I've found that, when working among adults, trusting them to get the job done however they see fit is essential to success. That, in turn, also ensures that I will have the focus to do my best as well.
POSTED AT 6:23 AM ET, 11/ 9/2010
Learning balance from the beam
"Keep your eyes on your own balance beam!" my gymnastics coach used to bellow when I would become distracted by competitors or teammates running through their own routines to my left and right.
More than a decade has passed since my last gymnastics competition, yet my coach's words remain one of my core rules of personal success.
It is easy to get caught up in the conduct of competitors or even in the progress of those on your own team. While the distraction may not result in a fall, it can certainly affect your balance.
POSTED AT 6:41 AM ET, 11/ 3/2010
Commuting with community
I love my 30-minute walk to work each morning, embracing it as an opportunity to start each day fresh and focused. I often listen to whatever song happens to be on heavy rotation in my iPod--which right now is the Baths remix of Fol Chen's "In Ruins"--and read through my favorite news, music and tech industry resources. Without fail, my first stop is always Hypebot.
Founded by Bruce Houghton and edited by Kyle Bylin, Hypebot reliably features the most relevant music industy and technology news. However, their articles are just the baseline, they also cultivate a lively, diverse and respectful community to analyze, respond to and assess the significance of news, trends and technological advances as they emerge.
Most inspiring to me is how deliberate and thoughtful their approach is. In a recent blog post considering the role of Hypebot Bylin wrote:
"At its core, Hypebot is an anchored community of music industry professionals and artists. We're global. That's still something that I'm wrapping my head around. Our core objective--I'd argue, as a community--is to nurture the emerging social ecology of music culture online and to create a more sustainable and healthy middle class of musicians that the listening public can support."
In an age where information flows rapidly and from an ever-increasing number of sources, a trusted information community becomes all the more relevant and essential. Not a morning goes by when I don't feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for starting my day with this one.
POSTED AT 6:09 AM ET, 10/28/2010
No friends quite like girlfriends
Aside from my dog, the aspect of life in D.C. I miss more than any other since moving to San Diego is spending time with my girlfriends.
I've never been the type to join cliques, but have always cultivated deep and meaningful relationships. Over the last few years in particular I surrounded myself with friends who both nourished and brought out the best in me. We expected nothing less than fabulous from one another.
Over warm drinks and breakfast bites in a coffee shop in downtown San Diego recently, I felt, for the first time in months, a sense of camaraderie with a group of girls who started a monthly breakfast club.
Sitting among these creative and entrepreneurial women felt like a combination exhale and burst of laughter, a glimmer of hope that this missing element, so essential to my own success and well-being, might come to life again.
POSTED AT 5:11 AM ET, 10/26/2010
Sneezing and reading
Apologies for the lack of posts last week. I was at home with a vicious cold. But there was some good news. The upside of being in bed for days at a time is the opportunity to catch up on reading.
Over the course of a few days, I read MoneyBall and The Big Short by Michael Lewis, The Quants by Scott Patterson and Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin-- to name a few. And, I read each of these books on the Kindle iPhone app. It's amazing to me that even when the prospect of walking to the kitchen feels like too much of an energy drain, I still have immediate access to thousands of books at the click of a button.
I'm glad to be back to blogging!
POSTED AT 11:20 PM ET, 10/13/2010
Do I go for it?
I've got a bit of a dilemma. A thought leader I've quoted often on this blog is hosting an intensive just for women. A no brainer, right? Right, except for one caveat: it is for women who own and run their own businesses.
Although I consider myself highly entrepreneurial, I do not own or run Bandsintown. My gut tells me that attending this workshop would be life changing and would help me develop the skills, mindset and community to reach my potential. At the same time, I think that my energy and perspective would make me a valuable productive participant.
So, the question is: do I apply? On one hand I want to respect the organizer and the parameters he has clearly set, but on the other hand, I'm not sure what I've got to lose by acting first, and apologizing later.
POSTED AT 6:47 AM ET, 10/12/2010
Right resources, right time
It always amazes me when the right thing happens at the exact right time, even though it shouldn't because I firmly believe that the "right things" always occur when you are more open to them in the first place.
Over the past few months I've become increasingly interested in a particular marketing methodology because it balances my creative nature and bias toward quantitative methodologies. I discovered this approach to marketing not in business school, but through the writing of folks like Sean Ellis and Andrew Chen.
Although this methodology piqued my interest in marketing like never before, it also presented me with the challenge of trying to identify those whose best practices I can learn from, as well as develop the underlying skill set on my own.
Right when I had begun to feel uncertain about next steps, especially since Sean Ellis and Andrew Chen are on indefinite breaks from blogging, two doors opened for me last week.
The first was the offer of a "Lean Startup" bundle from Appsumo, which included eBooks by both Chen and Ellis, as well as several others whose approach to marketing and product development I had been very interested in exploring.
The second was the discovery that a new co-worker at the Hive is a marketing consultant particularly versant in this methodology.
So now I have the best of both worlds, the work of thought leaders to study and a local expert and community member to bounce ideas off of and learn from.
POSTED AT 6:52 AM ET, 10/ 8/2010
Learning from failure
The one thing a startup founder or early employee rarely dwells on is the possibility that the venture might fail. Not only is failure possible, but conventional wisdom is that it is even likely. Even so, rarely does the topic come up in all but the most generic of contexts.
For this reason, I was deeply touched by this "post mortem" blog post by Marc Hedlund the co-founder and former CEO of Wesabe. Backed by Union Square Ventures, one of the top venture capital firms of our generation, and taking on personal finance, there were many reasons why it seemed that Wesabe was poised to succeed. Instead it was their competitor, Mint.com that was acquired for $170 million by Intuit and Wesabe that closed up shop over the summer.
I can only imagine how tough writing the post must have been, but there is surprisingly little bitterness in the tone. Instead, it is constructive and full of useful guidance for existing entrepreneurs. I found this line particularly valuable:
"Focus on what really matters: making users happy with your product as quickly as you can, and helping them as much as you can after that. If you do those better than anyone else out there you'll win."
POSTED AT 6:54 AM ET, 10/ 4/2010
Differing paths to the top
I recently read two books about scaling impossible heights: The Wave, about big waves and big wave surfers by Susan Casey and Dark Summit, about the 2006 climbing season on Mt. Everest, by Nick Heil.
Though one might think that athletes attempting to scale the tallest mountains and ride biggest waves in the world would have more in common than sets them apart, I was astonished by how fundamentally different the two groups were.
With some exceptions, the mountain men described in Dark Summit saw Mt. Everest as something to conquer, no matter the cost. The notion that morality had no place above 8,000 meters seemed to be accepted wisdom and the history of the mountain is littered with the bodies of those left for dead.
By contrast, for Laird Hamilton and the others covered in The Wave, success is not related to the size of the wave, but rather what the surfer does on it, most notably his willingness to put himself on the line to rescue another surfer. They approach the giants they ride with humility, knowing full well that even a momentary ego-induced lapse in judgment could have fatal consequences.
As someone unlikely to take on either feat in my lifetime, I recognize that it is not appropriate for me to judge. That said, when standing at the base my own life's mountains, I hope to approach them with humility and respect for the journey ahead. I can't imagine any other path to the top.
POSTED AT 6:52 AM ET, 09/29/2010
Keep trying if you want to succeed
When was the last time you went to Starbucks? If you are anything like me, the more appropriate question may be "When was the last day you did not go to Starbucks?"
It's hard to believe that something as ingrained in our culture as Starbucks came close to never getting off the ground. In his book, Pour Your Heart Into It, Starbucks President and CEO Howard Shultz describes his experience raising his first round of capital
from private investors. He approached more than 250 investors and 217 of them said no.
I cannot remember persisting through more than a handful of rejections. Shultz had the vision, tenacity and faith in himself and his idea to find a window when door after door was slammed in his face.
It reminds me of a little poem my mom used to sing with me when I was a small girl: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Only the success lesson in this is more like, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try (and try and try) again."
POSTED AT 6:51 AM ET, 09/27/2010
Sharing your goals for success
Want to reach your most important goal? Then you better keep it to yourself--or so says Derek Sivers in this gem of a TED talk.
According to Sivers, we derive so much satisfaction from simply telling others our goals that we often end up failing to pursue them. Or worse, we end up deluding ourselves that we've taken action toward achieving our goals when really all we've done is talk.
While I am a huge fan of Sivers and definitely appreciate his point, this time I beg to differ. There are two benefits of sharing goals publicly that I believe outweigh the drawbacks of premature self satisfaction.
1. Accountability. The accountability that I'm talking about isn't the periodic butt-kicking by a well-meaning friend, but the increased sense of obligation to follow through on commitments made in the presence of one's community.
2. Validation. There are two forms of validation that come from sharing goals publicly. The first is validation of and enthusiasm for the goal itself. Example: "Whoa! You are running a marathon? I've heard those are life changing!" The second is validation of your ability to accomplish the goals you set out to achieve. Example: "A marathon? Those take a ton of training, but you are really disciplined so if anyone can do it, you can."
While we are capable of achieving goals on our own, I think there is much to be gained by stating them publicly. And frankly, the journey toward successfully achieving goals is much more fun when those goals are shared with others.