Month: February 2013

How Startup Life Prepared Me for Fatherhood

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I had joined five startups before my son was born. I was lured to the startup world by the excitement of working with passionate teams and building cool products. Little did I know those crazy times would prepare me for fatherhood.

1) Winging It

In startups you have to make decisions – sometimes big ones – without much supporting data or precedent. Nothing is truer of newborns. You can read all the baby books on Amazon, but there will be daily stuff you’ll just have to figure out on your own. It gets less terrifying.

2) Prepared for Anything

Missing payroll. Jaundice. Your first trade show. Pneumonia at 4 months. Winning your first big customer. Projectile diarrhea (the baby I mean). Big customer threatens to bolt. Spontaneous crying (me). Just another day.

3) Humility

You don’t find Humility – it finds you. You’re feeling cocky, then BOOM – your lead investor pulls out at the last minute. Your top engineer abruptly quits. You didn’t know it was possible to be bad at burping a baby. Your new son gleefully pees on you – never your wife – when you change him. Hello Humility.

4) Real Sleep Deprivation

There’s something cool and sad about discovering different levels of sleep deprivation. I learned to function on what I call Grade I sleep deprivation at a few startups – 80 hour weeks, some all nighters. It helped prepare for those weeks of nighttime teething and 5-per-night feeding sessions. Some bad stretches led to Grade II, when I sat at my keyboard trying to compose an email and my fingers wouldn’t type any of the right letters. Not one. If you’re Grade II, just go home and sleep.

 

So if you really want to prepare for parenthood, don’t get a dog, join a startup.

The Perks of Being an Obsessive

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Einstein once said “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” He was ridiculously humble, and knew first-hand the benefits of being an Obsessive.

An Obsessive is defined as someone whose thoughts or feelings are dominated by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc. In other words, it’s part of who they are. While some people may feel obsessed with an idea from time to time, Obsessives always have a need to fixate on something. This is especially true of serial entrepreneurs. When they say they have a “mission”, it’s a socially acceptable way of saying they’re obsessed. It’s second nature, an integral part of their personality and business approach.

Lots of people preach about work-life balance, but this is a fallacy in the startup world. Yes, ignoring your personal life is bad. Take heed when your partner asks you to be less obsessive about personal stuff. But if your thoughts aren’t dominated by how your venture will win, it probably won’t.

All sucessful serial entrepreneurs aren’t Einsteins but they are all obsessive. Being an Obsessive often gets a bad rap, but don’t stifle it – embrace it for your business. Stay with problems longer than your competition. And when you succeed, be humble like Albert.

Rajon Rondo’s ACL: A Lesson for Startup Leaders

Rajon Rondo is a star NBA player on the Boston Celtics. A four time all-star point guard, he quarterbacks the offense, calling plays and controlling tempo. Rondo’s been having his best year this season. Only one problem: as a team they’ve been mediocre.

Rondo recently tore his ACL and will miss the remaining 39 games of the season. The media lamented Rondo’s injury, collectively asking “What will the Celtics do now??”

The answer: Rattle off seven straight wins.

Here’s what Celtics coach Doc Rivers said about their Rondo-less win streak: “I like our vibe. I like our spirit. We’re playing selfless and free.”

Fact is, Rondo’s teammates don’t seem to like playing with him. He’s been known to yell at teammates, sulk during games, and once smashed the team’s big screen TV with a bottle while they were watching game film.

The streak can’t be solely attributed to Rondo’s absence. Bench players stepped up, and a new offensive scheme was deployed. But there’s no doubt a weight has been lifted. Morale is suddenly flying high.

Like athletes, entrepreneurs can be smart, gifted tacticians who’ve had personal success, but it takes more than all-star cred to be an effective leader. Positivity and team building are crucial to creating a culture that’s upbeat, selfless, and operating at a consistently high level. All-star or not, if a leader can’t foster that, the results will often be mediocre. In the NBA mediocre means you may not make the playoffs. In the startup world, it means failure.

Happy Couples: A Model for Corporate Culture

Leaders can learn a lot from happy couples. Not those too-perfect newlyweds that make you gag. I’m talking about those battle-tested partners who have an awesome connection long after the honeymoon ends.

This doesn’t mean you should hit on your employees! It means leaders can build an amazing company culture by fostering the same values found in great romantic relationships. Beyond a foundation of honesty, respect, and compassion, here are a few key qualities and how they can be fostered at work:

> Show Appreciation: Tell them you appreciate them and why; ask for their opinion; pay sincere compliments, tell them you’re proud of them; surprise them with small gifts; celebrate them on big milestones.

> Communicate: Tell them the good and bad things; make sharing information the rule; nip conflicts in the bud before they become crises.

> Work as a Team: Set group meetings with open forum time; schedule “quality time” away from the office; set up mentoring partnerships.

> Keep it Fresh!: Break up the routine with new projects, games, or rewards; surprise everyone with a fun “field trip” during work hours.

> Give Constructive Feedback: Don’t criticize; provide balanced input and ask for theirs in return.

Like couple relationships, you reap what you sow at work. Put in the effort, prioritize the culture, and you’ll have employees who can teach newlyweds what it really means to be happy.