What My Kids Can Teach You About Business Perspective


I was running around the other morning trying to get my two boys (ages 2 and 5) ready for school and Carter, my 2-year old, was flipping out about nothing being able to “see” the video he and Will, my 5-year old, were watching on the iPad. I moved the iPad closer and went back to unwrapping cereal bars. He kept flipping out. I got frustrated and snapped at him. He got more upset. This was going nowhere.

So I stopped and thought about it. I walked over to his chair and ducked down so my head was right next to his and I looked at the iPad. There it was — a terrible glare from the sun beam streaming in from our back window — right across the iPad screen. When I looked at it I couldn’t see the video at all. *Head slap* I moved his chair five inches to the left and he calmed down.

Isn’t so much of leadership and teamwork just like this?

It took me all of 20 seconds to calm down, reorient myself to his perspective, see and acknowledge that he was right, and fix the problem. From his perspective he physically could not see the screen, and that’s exactly what he told me. When I didn’t try to understand from his perspective he got upset. When I took the time to not just listen, but to experience the world from his perspective, it all made sense and we were back in sync.

True effectiveness requires the leader to stand in the shoes of the team.

This morning when we walked out to get in the car for school I saw a huge spider web covered with water droplets that I wanted to show the boys. I pointed it out and Will couldn’t see it. I lowered my head to his level and looked and sure enough the spider web was lost to my view against the light of the sky. I lifted him up two steps and he saw it against the darker background of the trees in our neighbor’s yard. We all enjoyed the view and went on our way, having an instructive discussion about how spiders might be scary, but they eat the “bad bugs.” I would have missed all of that if not for taking his perspective and learning from it.

Leadership Ability Starts In Childhood


“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is one of my favorite quotes of all time.

While it was originally referencing scientific advancement, it also applies to personal success being impacted by the examples of those around us as children.

It concerns me greatly that so much attention to our children is being turned over to people other than the parents. We have become so consumed with material things as a society we are neglecting the future…Our children.

Where Is Our Time Going?

Does it not bother you that the average parent spends less than 8 hours per week with their children?

Does it not bother you that the average adult somehow finds time to watch 2.8 hours of TVeach week?

As a society have we become so enthralled by the here and now that we refuse to prepare for the future! Without examples they can respect, learn from and ultimately surpass in adulthood, how can we possible expect to make a better life for our children possible?

The Need Of Leadership Examples

Whether we want to accept it or not, our children learn from what they experience. If we are not around, then they are searching for someone to emulate. It’s just a hard truth.

Unfortunately the examples being projected by our media proclaim that everything will be handed to you. That you have nothing to fear and that everyone is a winner. I don’t know about you but I have won many times, but have also had many hard defeats.

Those moments of defeat are what forced me to become stronger, learn to adapt and prepare to face the unknown. How can we as parents not remember this reality and help our children become ready for the days when we are no longer there to defend them?

We Must Prepare

From a purely selfish perspective, when we are old, we will rely on our children to take care of us. Providing examples for our children should be endeavored just for self-preservation.

This however demands that overcome our obsessions with short term gratification and actually think about what we want to help our children become. We can either be the strong shoulders our children can stand upon, or be Atlas, so weighed down by debt, stress and impatience we are never able to be the leaders our children can emulate and ultimately, surpass.

I challenge us all, on both a personal and professional level, to make the right decisions and be the next “great generation” providing the ladder to a new era of enlightenment and success.

What do you think? Comments below on how you think we can overcome these challenges would be greatly appreciated!

Stop Wasting Time on Decisions


Stop wasting so much time on decisions.

I know this immediately seems like I’m telling you to fly by the seat of your pants and put no planning into your decisions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As an innovator, business leader, entrepreneur, parent or friend. The truth is you have to make quick decisions, and ultimately the responsibility falls on your shoulders.

The goal of this article is to pose a simple question. Do we waste time and therefore opportunity by over-analyzing possibilities, and not just pulling the trigger?

For those of you who read my article Business Innovation Requires Patience this again may seem like a counter-intuitive statement, but hang on, there is logic behind it.

So Many Decisions. So Little Time

Just think about the number of decisions you make everyday. Not big decisions. The number you have to make each day. Where to get coffee. Where to eat. What clothes to wear. What to do after work. The list goes on and on.

Now think about how many of those decisions you make in the blink of an eye.

99% of decisions are made with very little conscious thought. We react instinctively based on our past experiences. If every decision made was thought out, we would never get anything done.

As a decision maker in business, because of the responsibilities and ramifications of the choices we make, often we find ourselves over-thinking and wasting both time and opportunities. This could be a hiring decision, closing a deal, making a pivot in the business model.

Stop Over-thinking

So often, in the same blink of an eye as choosing where to get coffee, you know what the right choice is, but spend hours, days or even weeks trying to find reasons your gut instinct is wrong.

As a society, we are conditioned to search for all the reasons we are WRONG first, not why it’s the RIGHT option. By default, we immediately lengthen the time needed to make a decision, because everything being researched, discussed and/or keeping you up at night is negative. If everything you’re contemplating is a negative, it’s only natural to doubt your judgement.

I say look for the positives first. Very often, the supporting evidence to it being the right decision become readily apparent. If this is the case, then pull the trigger and go for it. Don’t waste time and energy, and more importantly, don’t miss opportunities.

Justification Of Quick Decisions

As experts in our relative fields, we know the right answer very quickly as our subconscious is analyzing and predicting outcome much more rapidly than our conscious mind. Our body even gives us physical instructions that we refer to as “gut feelings”.

When you learn to “go with your gut” rather than ignore it, you will be amazed at how much stress will fall away and the speed of which you can make correct decisions.

Studies going on for almost a century have consistently shown that our “gut reaction” is generally correct 90% of the time. Since these reactions are happening literally in the blink of an eye, the time spent looking for reasons you’re wrong becomes harder to justify. This is NOT to say you should never ask second opinions. For major decisions always look for additional validations to your initial thoughts.


Personal Defense Of Rapid Decision Making

The logic outlined has been the way I have operated my entire life. For years, I often questioned myself because so many people viewed my actions a “flying by the seat of my pants” and not thinking things through. More than a few times it was viewed as arrogance.

However, as time and again my gut instinct turned out to be the correct path, I made the conscious decision to let the chips fall where they may. This has led to being able to grow successful companies, make great hiring decisions, connect with amazing mentors and overcome adversity.

As the demand for quick pivots, instant gratification, and evolving limits of time continues to expand, my closing argument is this:

Nobody is perfect and there will always be times we make the wrong decision. The faster we know whether it was the right or wrong choice, the quicker we can either enjoy the rewards or recover from the mistake.

Learn More About The Science

Many of you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking where he dives into the concept of “thin-slicing” and using our adaptive unconscious; mental processes that work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information, to make the correct decision very rapidly.

For anyone who hasn’t, I strongly recommend you take the time to read it. For those of you who already use this process but don’t understand the scientific justification, it will be extremely encouraging. For others, it will radically change your life.

The Truth About Startup Failure

man being punched

The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

–Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

In the Silicon Valley-inspired startup culture, we glamourize failure. We wear our failures like badges of honor, write post-mortems with all the gory details, and duck our heads in mock humility when discussing them in person.

“Shoot for the stars,” we say.

“Fail fast,” we say.

Unfortunately, the message that is often missed in this go big or go home mentality is that failure really sucks.

Failing Looks Like…

Failure is not glamourous. It’s not even pretty.

Failure looks like losing 30 pounds in 3 months because the stress is so much you can’t eat.

Failure looks like not closing that funding round 6 months after you graduate from the accelerator, despite following every step they outlined.

Failure looks like going 6 months, a year, 2 years without a paycheck and seeing your bank account so drained you need to get a “job.” Except the only thing on your resume is a failed business, so…

Failure looks like pulling together the best team you could, selling them on your vision, and then not making payroll.

Failure looks like looking friends and family in the eye and telling them you–you, personally–lost every dime of the money they invested.

Failure looks like no longer speaking to the person you once trusted enough to call a business partner.

Failure looks like wrapping yourself so much into your business that it becomes your identity. And when it fails, you don’t know who are anymore.

Failure sucks. There’s no easy way around that.

Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.

–Jon Bon Jovi

One More Round

You know what else failure looks like?

It looks like getting up and going one more round.

Because even though I just told you (and myself, again) what failure looks like, if you’re an entrepreneur you don’t really care. You (like me) are thinking, “Yeah, yeah, but this time I won’t fail.”

Personally, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is like life on steroids. Life is hard, with ups and downs and lots of chances to make mistakes. Entrepreneurship is the same, at a speed and intensity that will take your breath away.

Entrepreneurs will do well to be honest with themselves about the harsh reality and extreme pain of failure. We can’t glamourize or make it seem like anything but the soul crushing defeat it is.

But, you know you’re a born entrepreneur when you can’t help but go for it anyway.


Serial Entrepreneurs: Short Term Failure Doesn’t Matter in the Context of Forever

cropped image of a stopwatch on white

Since 1996 I’ve been a contributor to several teen leadership development organizations, my favorite of which are the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). I’ve designed and run RYLA programs for more than 2,000 teens in New Jersey and Tennessee.

I credit most of my early managerial skills to these programs. I had to figure out how to build and scale real teams, none of whom got paid a dime, and all of whom were rabidly passionate about what we were doing, namely, changing the lives of teens who came from some of the richest and poorest zip codes in the country (together in the same room).

Credit: RYLA Maui. What’s cool about this, and really any other RYLA photo is it could be from any of our programs across the world. All of the pictures are the same awesomeness.

Having been immersed in experiential learning programs for some 17 years now, there’s one major lesson I’ve gathered. It happens to be an important lesson for serial entrepreneurs as well.

As soon as you decide your timeline is forever then there’s really no way you can screw up that badly.

At RYLA that meant the other organizers and I looking at each other and committing to be in it indefinitely. As soon as we decided we were going to do these programs for the rest of our lives then making incremental changes each year, even if they seemed major, allowed us to test and review, debrief and change again.

Over time we iterated the program and it got better. Sometimes we came full circle. We got excellent by testing out things that might be not excellent. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were abject disasters. Looking back it had lean startup all over it, except the distance between iterations was a year.

The key was always asking, “How can we do it better?” We even had t-shirts printed with this acronym: HCWDIB?

Imagine then the amazing position of a serial entrepreneur who right now commits to lean startup principles AND at the same time commits to being an entrepreneur forever. If no startup is your first, middle or final AND you iterate quickly using all the amazing technology tools available today, how can you possibly go wrong? You will make it. To do so you will have to keep these points in mind:

  • Don’t bet too much on any one iteration.
  • Take a break when you need it (maybe make some consulting money or *gasp* get a job).
  • Take care of yourself. Work out, eat right, do walking meetings.
  • Nurture your network above all else. It’s the only thing you take with you between iterations.
  • Learn, learn, learn. Read, read, read.
  • Keep notes about each effort and laugh at how crappy you were last year.
That’s what’s worked for me through several disgusting failures and several more break-even hobby-like projects. I have not “exited” nor have I “made it.” I don’t care because I’m in it forever and I will at some point.

Get Up! I Didn’t Hear No Bell!


One of my favorite scenes in Rocky V, really the only good scene in the movie, is when Rocky is in a street fight with Tommy Gunn and just getting his butt kicked. Barely conscious, he has a powerful flashback of all his hard fights, and Mickey comes to him in a vision.

Now Get Up One More Round…Fight This Guy Hard…I Didn’t Hear No Bell!

As an entrepreneur, you face tough opponents on a daily basis. It could be keeping the lights on, dealing with difficult clients, losing a major deal, or having a complicated employee situation. It often feels like you’re getting hit daily with jab, jab, uppercut, body blow.

Everyone who has been in business for any length of time knows how this feels. We have all had experiences where we’ve been knocked down and it feels like the lights are going dim.

Now watch the scene so the rest of this makes sense.

Leadership Requires Toughness

Just like a physical fight, business requires toughness – both physical and mental – and the will to win. If you don’t have your heart and soul in what you’ve set out to accomplish and people are trusting you to achieve, then when those tough times come, you are the guy or girl with a glass jaw.

Innovation Requires Agility

Just like a physical fight, innovation requires agility and reflexes. You have to be able to see opportunity and seize it, while also being able to anticipate pivots and counter-punch the competition. We often become so blinded by the big picture and long term goals that we forget to pay attention to the here and now. Avoiding pitfalls, objections, and the status quo demands being able to sidestep and get in a few jabs until you’re ready to deliver the knockout punch.

Entrepreneurship Requires Stamina

Just like a physical fight, being an entrepreneur requires stamina. Achieving success requires you to have toughness, agility, and great reflexes. Since all those traits require stamina, you better prepare yourself physically and mentally for the long road before you.

Have Rocky Style Training

Of course in the Rocky movies the insane training he does is compressed into two minutes. In life and business, you need to be training on a daily basis to keep up with the hard times that are coming.

There will be more than a few times when it seems like there is no point in going on. It would be easier to just give up. If you haven’t taken the time to push yourself when the times are good, then when you enter the ring and punches are being thrown, you might as well throw in the towel.

Prepare To Go One More Round

My encouragement to you is to surround yourself with people who have already fought the good fight. Learn from them. Go find yourself a Mickey. Use all of the amazing resources at our fingertips with mastermind groups, online forums, books, training videos.

Being an innovator requires leadership abilities and entrepreneurship requires amazing toughness. Train like you know the fight’s about to get tough.

Success is falling nine times and getting up ten. – Jon Bon Jovi

Prepare yourself for the hard times. Because they will come. Business is a knock down, drag out fight and you will find yourself on the canvas. When that happens, just do what I do. Watch that simple scene and let it speak to you in a very powerful way…then say:

Hey Life…I Didn’t Hear No Bell…One More Round!

Serious Founders Manage Their Own Psyche

startup founders

“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.

–Ben Horowitz, The Hard Things About Hard Things

Last week in our podcast announcing the acquisition of Nibletz Media, Nibletz CEO Nick Tippmann said the most important thing he’d learned in building the company was that as a founder, you have to manage your own psyche.

When you’re the founder, there’s no one else to take responsibility. You’re the first and the last stop for everything in your company, which includes your own salary if not that of a team. You’re responsible for product-market fit, raising investment or funding it yourself, company culture, company reputation…

Talk about pressure. No wonder founders are all a little crazy.

But, at the risk of breaking the first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown, let’s talk about it for a minute.

It’s totally normal.

Well, as normal as anything else we entrepreneurs do. If you’re a startup founder, you will have at least one psychological breakdown, and anyone who tells you they haven’t is a liar. Or a bad entrepreneur.

Ben Horowitz, successful entrepreneur and VC, wrote an entire book about how hard it is to start a company. Trust me when I say you’re not alone.

Now that you know you’re not the only one, what do you do when the psyche threatens to manage you instead?

Acknowledge Your Thoughts

First, don’t run from your negative thoughts. Acknowledge them. If you pretend you aren’t having them, you’re just fooling yourself and not really addressing the issue.

Take a deep breath and take note of the thought that’s trying to control  you.

Now, is there something you can do about it?

Maybe you’re thinking your idea is too crazy and there’s no way it could work. Remind yourself of why you started in the first place. Talk to the people you’ve recruited, listen to the customers you already have.

Is there a particular issue that’s come up that you worry you’ll never solve? Block out some time, either by yourself or with the appropriate team members, and figure out some action steps you can take. Maybe you won’t see the complete solution, but getting started will make you feel better than worrying.

Do Something Else–Like Sleep

We entrepreneurs are infamous for our insomnia.

But, really, everything looks worse when you’re exhausted.

The best thing you can do for yourself is have one thing you do to relax. Read fiction. Watch science fiction. Exercise. Hang out with loved ones. Some kind of hobby or distraction will not only get you out of your own head, it might very well help you relax enough to solve whatever problem you’re facing.

Making a point to relax will also help you sleep. Worst comes to worse, I’m not above some melatonin or Nyquil to get the brain to stop moving.

Have a Great Cofounder

There’s a certain pressure as a founder to always be upbeat and positive. Your employees need it, your investors want it, and you better never let the press see you sweat.

Thankfully, if you have healthy cofounder relationships, you also have built in support.

Building a business is often compared to marriage. You and your cofounders have sacrificed everything to get your baby out into the world. No one knows what it’s like in the trenches than the people in there with you.

While building Nibletz, this is one area Nick and I did really well with. Almost always when one of us was doubting or stressing, the other was able to give encouragement. Managing your own psyche may be primary, but it’s great to have partners help out with that every now and then.

Whether you have great cofounders or not, building a community of peers and mentors will also help manage the daily strains and stresses of entrepreneurship. Go to founder meetups and conferences, get coffee with fellow entrepreneurs, and join communities like our Serious Founders group to get that extra support.

Managing your own thoughts and psychology is–by far–the most difficult part of entrepreneurship. There may be tips and tricks, but ultimately it will always fall to you.

And if you can learn that skill, you’ll find that you win more often than you lose.


Business Innovation Requires Patience


Innovation requires patience.

I know that seems counter-intuitive to driven entrepreneurs, but hang on, there is logic behind this statement.

The vast majority of people just don’t have the ability to see future possibilities until they exist and are being used by their peers. This may seem like a degrading statement, but it’s not.

Some people have the ability to see the future possibilities others don’t. Just as often, those who have entrepreneurial vision are totally incapable of turning the dream into a reality.

Accepting this truth as an innovator will give you the patience needed to make sure your vision becomes reality.

Patience With Family & Friends

When you have an innovative idea, especially one that directly impacts your life, frustration quickly grows when you can’t convince others of its validity. Those around you not being able to understand how this could change their lives seems outrageous.

When you allow this frustration to impact how you treat those close to you, they will begin to question your abilities. The people who are most likely to help you take risks can quickly become those most opposed to your dream. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because who you are as a person is more important to them than your “crazy” business idea.

Remember that all the hours you spend contemplating and planning your idea isn’t what they are doing. Be patient. Write down your idea. Think of analogies that will have relevancy to them. Not only will this help you prepare to counter objections, it also helps get you ready for customers and potential investors.

Patience Convincing Investors

On the investor side, they are already successful. The need to take risk isn’t something they have to do. It’s something they choose to do. More importantly they want to take risk, but only with the right people. 99% of investors will tell you that the person is more vital to success of their investment capital than the idea.

Since they are getting pitched hundreds of ideas, this means they have so much to filter through. On top of that, most of them have multiple companies, incredible responsibilities and decisions to be made on a daily basis.

So in terms of patience, never expect everyone to see the potential in your idea. You have a 1 in 50 chance of getting a yes from an angel investor, and 1 in 300 chance from a VC. Many startup founders give up after being turned down the first time. Don’t give up the first time.

Just like it’s hard to convince your friends and family, it takes time to connect with the right investors, identify objections and develop ways to counter them. Not just through words but expanded business logic, customer acquisition strategies, and proof of concept.

So Why Be Patient?

As you try over and over again to convince friends, family, bosses, or potential investors of your genius, remember that people just can’t see what is in your brain. Everything about entrepreneurship requires the courage to take risk. Since very few are ready to make that leap of faith, the ability to see beyond the here and now becomes even more limited.

Changing the status quo requires being able to paint so vivid a picture, your target customers and potential investors will be able to see the future created if they adopt your new product or service. Think of painting this picture just like an artist would. While the vision is there, it takes time, patience and expertise to create something of true value.

Since there is no way to escape this truth, it is much more efficient to just accept it and leverage to your advantage. When the inevitable panic sets in that someone else is going to beat you to the punch, just remember they are facing the exact same challenges as you.