Fred Wilson has been doing a very interesting series on Management Teams for the last several weeks on his blog. It is part of his MBA Monday series and this section was on building and maintaining the management team. They just did a wrap up post called The Management Team – Guest Post By Jerry Colonna – The Crucible of Leadership. It’s well written and gets to the heart of the matter of what makes the difference between good and great leaders and managers. So much easier to say than do. I feel like I’ve been through a Crucible and I hope that I’ll get an opportunity to see what I’ve learned about the topic and practice my leadership skills. Empowering people and getting things done are near and dear to my heart and apparently seem to align to my strengths according to Strength’s Finder 2.0.
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Bottom line is that we are all different. We aren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and we shouldn’t strive to be. We need to find that place where our passions, skills, and opportunity come together. constantly look inward and then work on it until something happens. We need to accept and stare our demons down as we can’t fight them because the more we do, the more they stick around to haunt us. Surrender to the demons and they will surrender to you or leave you be is what Colonna mentions in his post.
How often can people do/experience all of the above? There are people who have changed the world (e.g., Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc.) who didn’t make a lot of money and we won’t ever know if they were truly happy, healthy or content. There are people who changed the world and made a lot of money (e.g., Oprah, Steve Jobs, Madonna, Lady Ga Ga, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, etc.) but we don’t know how happy or content they are or were. Oprah has been the most open about her struggles with personal satisfaction and her weight…the businessmen, not so much.
Do we have to deal with having one or two out of three? I think I can count on one hand the people who appeared to have all three but if you dig a little further… Check out a recent post on TechCrunch called 10 Things Entrepreneurs Don’t Learn in College. All very true, the second being “How To Be Betrayed,” which happens all of the time in business (and politics) whether you are a man, woman, or a duck. I clicked over to the authors (James Altucher) post on how to be lucky and it made me wonder if he had kids because he advises getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. every day and to bed by 9:30 pm with exercising and eating right in between. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that when I’m 50 and the kids are gone. I guess that’s why some are more monetary successful than others…early bird gets the worm!
The saying “you can have it all, but just not all at the same time” must be true. So it seems the thing we have the most control over is how we feel: happy, sad, content, angry, etc. We can try to change the world but there’s no telling what numerous things will be thrown in our path. We can try to make tons of money, but a lot of shit happens (e.g., kids, health issues, the economy, marriage, divorce, love, hate, indifference, parents) trying to do that. But we will usually find ways to make enough to get by or we become comfortable with a lot of debt.
I was reminded during my recent trip to China that Buddha, who was born and originally spread his philosophy in India before his teachings were embraced by the Chinese, taught that at the root of all suffering was desire (for a person, place, thing, success, money, etc.). As I understand it, he said that if you gave up the desire for earthly things or status that would be the only way you could eventually achieve enlightenment. He certainly changed the world and was arguably content/enlightened but was not rich by American standards.
I guess it depends on what age you are, your genetic disposition, and what cards life has dealt you as to whether you believe you can achieve all three at the same time for a substantial length of time…
He proves through a series of statistics, research, and anecdotal stories that outliers basically have to a) be born at the right time, b) have access to the right resources, c) have the right support/encouragement, and d) have had 10,000 hours (approximately 10 years of experience) in a particular skill when a bunch of economic factors line up. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Bill Joy, founder of Sun Microsystems, had about 10,000 hours/10 years of coding under their belts due to a series of fortunate occurrences that enabled them to start their businesses at the right time. They were both born around the same time as was Steve Jobs. In Rockefeller’s day there were 14 other Americans including Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan born within nine years of each other who were part of the top 75 all time richest people in the world.
I’m too old now to figure out how to get 10 years in of doing something like coding to make me an outlier. I have no idea if I was born at the right time. I do happen to like the year I was born. It’s a cool year. Currently my set up is all about encouraging/supporting my kids and as adults we don’t usually get that same kind of encouragement/support. The only thing I have been doing for a long time in different forms and fashions is writing. I took a huge break from singing. I have a lot of hours logged into thinking too much (not sure how useful that is) and I’ve been in the business world for some time. So my conclusion is that the odds are stacked highly against me being an outlier, but that’s OK because the odds are currently in favor of my kids being outliers. Well, I think most kids at their age have the potential to be outliers.
My son loves to play soccer and practices at least 3 times per week with games on weekends. My daughter loves swimming but only gets to practice once per week. My son wants to be a professional soccer player. At his age, I think I was lucky just to know how old I was let alone what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I also learned the importance of cultural ways of communicating in urgent situations. He describes how several plane crashes could have been avoided if the Korean pilots were not playing to a cultural notion of not defying their superior. It was worse fate to contradict a sleep-deprived captain or challenge a New York sky control person that risk death. I can see that playing out in all sorts of relationships…business and personal. I come from a culture where despite living most of my life in America, we were taught to respect our elders and not challenge them. I had/have a challenging nature so I had a harder time communicating in my family, but I also picked up some of those ways of communicating so I can appear passive when I don’t necessarily think/feel passive. In certain cultures, communication is rarely direct. It’s often implied and those who are seen as being in positions of authority or someone you don’t feel you can challenge, the person in the perceived lower position ‘hints’ or talks in non-threatening ways to influence the person in authority. Cultures who aren’t used to that can make false assumptions about people who communicate that way.
There were several other interesting chapters in between but my final takeaway that I could relate to had to do with the color of your skin. Malcolm Gladwell is 1/2 Jewish and something like 1/8 Black Jamaican. His great-great-great grandmother was bought by a White slave owner in Jamaica who favored her. They had a son whose skin color let him escape slavery and get an education resulting in him marrying another ‘mulatto,’ as they call people of mixed race, and their kids were protected from slavery. Gladwell’s mother had an opportunity to study in Europe and she met his dad. The South Asian culture (as I believe the African culture is too) is very much into skin color. The lighter your skin, the better off you are or shall we say are perceived as more socially elite. People are still judged by the color of their skin. I notice it much less now than I used to even among my South Asian peers, but it’s still there. I’m often the only brown person in a business meeting and often the only woman too. Fortunately in the technology entrepreneurship world, there are a good number of South Asian brown men so I don’t always feel out of place in that regards.
So, Outliers was a good, fairly easy read with interesting factoids and observations. Now I will wonder if my kids will be seen as Outliers some day. They are already outliers to me!
In case you missed it, here is the hilarious video about Bill Gates’ last day at Microsoft that was shown at his final keynote address at the Computer Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas yesterday. I think it’s so great to see his fun side! As an entrepreneur, I am in awe at what he has accomplished in his lifetime and even did a post about a prior appearance of his with Steve Jobs a while back.
The video stars Brian Williams, Steve Ballmer, Matthew McConaughey, Robbie Bach, Jay-Z, Bono, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Kevin Turner, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, and others. Thanks to Long Zheng for posting his own video and helping me find a link. Here’s the link to the YouTube video that will hopefully show properly below (its been off & on again).