Jerry Colonna On Being Fierce

I watched this video earlier this week. Jerry talks about the Five Challenges Of Leadership and Being Fierce. Like everything Jerry does, this is great.

The Spark Sessions: Being Fierce with Jerry Colonna from Danya Cheskis-Gold on Vimeo.


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    This was a great vid. Ties into what Andreessen said in the video last week about having “courage”. Jerry should know that Brooklynites aren’t the only people that use curse words as verbs, nouns, subjects, predicates, rejoinders, modifiers and names!

    1. jerrycolonna

      Curses make the world a lively place

      1. LE

        Curses are fun but on the other hand they show a lack of respect and a deprecating of the person being cursed at.I will use what I will call “the governor example”. If you had a meeting with the governor, and you didn’t know him, and you were a nobody, would you use curse words when speaking to him? You probably wouldn’t. At least if your intent was to influence or get him to agree with you. In that case you would be respectful.Or if you had a sales prospect. Let’s say you were an investment bank trying to get an IPO deal off a company. Would you want one of your IB’s using curse words in order to get the sale? “Well fuck you can go with Goldman they do a nice job in some cases..” If your son or daughter were applying to college would you want them to curse in the interview?Much of behavior and diplomacy is grounded in respect. If you don’t show the proper respect you are telling the other party either “I don’t care about you” or “I’m more important than you so I can treat you any way I want”.There is an old guy who cuts the lawn at the complex I’m working at and he calls me “Mr.” and my last name. A nice touch. Otoh I have a tenant, in his 20’s, and he left me a totally screwy voicemail which clearly showed a lack of respect in terms of the words that he used but more importantly how he used them. (He didn’t curse but he was very aggressive.). That’s something I will take into account when I renew his lease or even if I will renew at all. And make it more likely that he will pay the late charges (which he owes because he was late with the rent).That said I love when comedians curse…

  2. Tereza

    “What are you not saying that needs to be said?”

    1. markevans99

      This sentence flooded my mind with so much repressed stuff that needs to be said to my team… Fear, as Jerry says, is stopping me from figuring out how to create the best way to communicate with them and move toward more honest relationships.

  3. William Mougayar

    Jerry is so right on. His words are gold.The problem with first-time startup founders is they can get so wrapped up in day to day activities that they start to forget about Leadership. But once you’ve figured Leadership, it stays with you and becomes second nature.

  4. jerrycolonna

    Thanks Fred. As I said in my blog post… I really needed to hear my own lesson on this one.

    1. William Mougayar

      Your message is so well tuned to startup founders/ceos, it’s frighteningly bang-on.

      1. jerrycolonna

        Thanks. My clients teach me so much. I had to drop the notion that I had to have all the answers and truly listen in order to learn and help others. It’s something I have to practice every day.

    2. Jim Peterson

      Funny how that works!

    3. Richard

      Why not ask yourself “so what” before being “fierce” by asking “what if”? “What if” that engineer was on time and he became so stressed out that he lost his creative juice. “What if” he continued to be late, but he is a rock star developer? “So what” are you going to so about it? If its nothing, than it’s only your ego being fierce?

      1. jerrycolonna

        I love the spaciousness your “What if?” would create.

        1. Richard

          My hunch is that no one was late to your presentation. Why? You and a Smart Audience. Hopefully, they asked themselves “what if” i am late by five minutes. They probably answered i may miss “the” important nugget AND its an affirmation that my presence and showing up on time doesn’t contribute to the collective intelligence of the room.

      2. LE

        “What if” that engineer was on time and he became so stressed out that he lost his creative juice.Agree nothing is worse than killing someone’s buzz so they lose their creativity. Anger and a put down is a quick route to that.”What if” he continued to be late but he is a rock star developer?I’ve always said that people are either above or below the line. If you are above the line you have a halo and normals tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you are below the line they do the opposite and would tend to think you have little value and everything you say is shit. No matter the subject.This tends to be more common, from my observation, in either young or very naive and trusting people who want to bestow all “knowingness” on someone who has success in one area as if that success seems to make their opinions on anything at all, no matter how unrelated to their success, seem more relevant and worthy of attention.The media does this as well when they give attention to, say, what Bill Gates thinks about “x” as if his thoughts seem to matter and are correct because he is Bill Gates.[1] I could support that conclusion, that he does know more, because of who he hangs with and who he talks to but not enough to put as much weight behind his opinion.

    4. Andrew Wong

      Jerry, great stuff as usual! Thanks for sharing Fred.

  5. Guest

  6. awaldstein

    Thank you Jerry!Been leading startups forever.This was still wrappedin aha’s for me.I’m still learning.

  7. LE

    Jerry (or anyone) – Not sure I understand the part about relationships relative to going into the kiln could you explain that?

    1. jerrycolonna

      Ah, that was a reference to my post and theory about disappearing into the fire……The video’s editor removed a conversation I’d had with an audience member.

  8. LE

    I think that one of the reasons that people are aggressive when they say something that is difficult, is in order to get over the hump of having to say something [1] where they perceive kickback whether real or imagined. (Either from a past relationship with someone else or the current relationship).While it can for sure stem from a lack of confidence in your position it also can be from a perceived (and this is important and I think dovetails with some of what Jerry said) imagined or real reaction in advance from the person that they are making the comment to.So the anger up front, the aggression, is prophylactic and protective. (I had an old girlfriend that did this. She had learned it from her father..)So for example, using a husband and a wife to illustrate.If the wife says to the husband “hey hon you left your socks on the floor” and the husband says “oh sorry about that you’re right” (and maybe even laughs at himself) then the wife has no reason to escalate her request using anger to get what she wants. She says “that was easy” and immediately feels relieved.Otoh, if the wife asks and the husband acts annoyed and angry, then the next time the wife is more likely to make the request like “”will you PLEASE PICK UP YOUR SOCKS”. And maybe, if she is from Brooklyn, add the word “FUCKING” as well. At that point the husband may be even less likely to comply simply because he is now emotionally injured or perhaps he doesn’t want to reinforce that anger will get you what you want. In other words don’t reward the whining child or you get more whining.[1] Assuming, as Jerry mentioned, they don’t enjoy being aggressive and get a rise out of it.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      You have a lot of good comments today, but there can be more to situations like picking up the socks than you outline.E.g., there is more inThomas Gordon, ‘Parent Effectiveness Training: The Tested New Way to Raise Responsible Children’.where learn ‘reflective listening’ as a way to get out the basic facts without screaming, tears, etc.At times here at AVC @JLM has outlined a similar leadership technique he used in the US military to get communications clear,There can be challenges: Husband comes home, tired, changes, and wife sees his hat on the bed and goes into a tantrum about how many times she told him he should never do that.For years he’d been patient and gone along without knowing why but this time asked her, and she could only say “everyone knows” without knowing.Poor husband had no easy solution then.Next week she ate lunch with her mother and asked, and the mother explained: “Your father worked in the railroad switching yard, and the work was hot and dirty. His hat could have lice in it, and we didn’t want to get the lice on the bed.”So, the daughter had picked up an old norm and kept it beyond its original justification.Need to understand that some of are fighting against might be hidden, so much so that no one in the room even knows where.For a husband, maybe a little idolatry could be helpful! Or use Mother Nature’s main technique: He picks her up and, with overwhelming lust and passion, quickly carries her to the bedroom! I.e., changes the subject to something more interesting.Look at some old movies and start to conclude that somehow in the US, life and people have become trivialized; the strong norm now is to over simplify, to have people treated like the ‘cardboard cutout characters’ in bad drama. In the old movies, the characters were made more human and complex.From such movies can learn that then the norm was that the poor husband had to ask his wife, lovingly at least two dozen times, what the heck was wrong and slowly, calming her fears all along, gently elicit little pieces of a puzzle he could assemble and, eventually discover, if she even really knew, what the heck was going on. About the first half dozen times he will likely get back some version of “Oh, nothing.”. That image is closer to the truth. Here I will avoid speculating on why women are like that. That lesson will be in the forthcoming ‘Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’! :-)!

      1. LE

        You have a lot of good comments today, but there can be more to situations like picking up the socks than you outline.We are on the same turnip truck with that. (That said I always try to give as much detail as I can, time permitting..)So, the daughter had picked up an old norm and kept it beyond its original justification.In the end its compatibility is one of the things that can make or break a relationship. Meaning what types of things bug you vs. what bugs the other person. I’m highly compatible with my current wife and almost totally incompatible with my ex wife. However (luckily) my ex wife re-married someone (dodged a bullet there) whose boat is totally floated by things about her that totally bugged me. Likewise flip flop or whatever with my current situation. Not a right or wrong except people are different. Of course nothing is perfect! My ex loved gossip (as I do) my 2nd wife not so much. Oh well. Such I suffer.I feel sorry when I hear many people talk about how they like the same movies or tv shows. As if that’s some kind of big deal. Easy to get along during a vacation or the good times. Day to day stuff and a crisis is like the real deal. Or “we are both in medicine” “we are both in law”. So what. I listen to things my wife talks about and she listens to things I talk about. By day to day I don’t mean “he leaves the toilet seat cover up”. If that is your biggest complaint you’ve got a bad attitude. I mean recognize you’ve got an equal number of minor things that bother the other person and barter it.Next week she ate lunch with her mother and asked, and the mother explained: “Your father worked in the railroad switching yard, and the work was hot and dirty. His hat could have lice in it, and we didn’t want to get the lice on the bed.”Yeah that type of thing is actually huge. I dated a girl once and I was driving down the street in her neighborhood and pointed out the window of my car at someone on the sidewalk from 200 feet away (they couldn’t see I was doing it). She freaked out. She had been taught to never point that it was rude. I once went on a date with a girl and thought that she was all self centered. The reason was that she never asked me anything about what I did which was really strange to me. We didn’t go out on a second date but remained friends for a short time. I asked her why she didn’t ask me anything. Her answer was “my mom taught me that if someone wants you to know about themselves they will tell you, don’t ask”. Meanwhile I had asked her all about herself (was curious obviously) and she told me. (She didn’t have an issue with that). The way I was raised people walked into each others houses and said “wow this is nice what did this cost you!”. (Hey remember when people left stickers on new cars they bought?)

        1. sigmaalgebra

          In the end its compatibility is one of the things that can make or break a relationship. Sincere apologies in advance: What I’m saying here doesn’t apply to all women, and I would very much hope it applied to no women.I observed, racked my brain, studied, etc. and never could find a very promising, widely applicable use of ‘compatibility’ and, really, gave up. I concluded that too often that path was down the wrong road, one that men can like to entertain but Mother Nature and Darwin too often don’t.Can that road work with some women? Yup. Enough women? From what I saw, nope.There is,Eric Berne, M.D., ‘Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis’,where he dumps ice water on any hope for ‘symmetry’ or ‘equality’ and says that there should be asymmetry. Or on old MCP terms, one captain of the ship. Or, in a traditional view, she should be cared about, cared for, taken care of, protected, supported, cherished, treasured, loved, and, right, led — he needs to be a good leader.E. Fromm has, “Men and women deserve equal respect as persons but are not the same.”.I saw too many failures, highly determined extractions of miserable defeat from the jaws of easy and magnificent victory, so much so that one could guess that Darwin wants some women not to be able, say, even to wire a table lamp without risk of electrocution, all in order to render her incompetent, helpless, dependent, and, right, with reproductive advantage, pregnant.Example 1.Heck, when I was 14 and seeing my dream, drop dead gorgeous sweetheart of 12, her mother was struggling because her vacuum cleaner wouldn’t work. Gads, no wonder: She’d pulled on the line cord often enough to break the wires. So, I used the little general purpose screwdriver on my key chain (all ‘real men’ carry one of those, right?) to remove the cover from the power switch, cleaned out the broken wires, used my pocket knife to cut the line cord back, etc., and, presto — done. The mother and daughter saw me as a ‘man’! Amazing. They couldn’t have done that little job at all. Dad’d had me doing such things for years.Example 2.At the end of the spring semester of college, invited to my girl’s home, she, her mother, and her younger sister couldn’t get all my girl’s stuff from school into the trunk of the car. Gads. There was plenty of wasted volume. So, remove about half the stuff, put it back in some reasonable order to fill the volume, and, presto, close the trunk lid with room to spare. I was regarded as a ‘man’!Example 3.For the whole trip of 100 miles or so to my girl’s family farm, the younger sister flirted with me outrageously. Some years later I had to conclude that her intentions had been 100% fully serious, say, out in the barn as soon as we got to the farm. Sorry, honey, your older sister is my girl! I guess the younger sister found something exciting about my being able to pack a car trunk. Amazing.Example 4.At the farm, some girlfriends of the younger sister wanted me to cook dinner, so I went grocery shopping and for a salad got some wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and herbs. Soon my girl came to me with a stream of wacko remarks; her mother was objecting to having a bottle in the house with ‘wine’ on the label — afraid of being ostracized in the community! Gads. That’s the main way to make vinegar, start with ethyl alcohol and let bugs and air convert it to acetic acid. If start with grapes, then get ‘wine vinegar’. It’s acetic acid, not ethyl alcohol. And the mother was an RN who’d have to have passed college chemistry.Example 5.I saw some just total storybook romances and weddings soon totally fall into the dumpster. Outrageous.What the heck does it take? Compatibility? From what I saw, for too many women, I wouldn’t trust that even to the end of the honeymoon. And, from what I saw, it can be super tough to know by the honeymoon which women can be trusted and which not — tough to tell before a bad marriage disaster can’t be avoided.What, then? I concluded, chemicals, strong chemicals. Really, that seems to be Mother Nature’s way, with not a lot of rational, cognitive, understood whatever instead. So, there’s the famous ‘love chemical’ oxytocin. Then when she nurses her baby, she gets a lot of endorphins, maybe enough to be nearly ‘addictive’. Then likely she strongly ‘bonds’ to the baby and really cares about it.So, want to be able to predict what she’s going to do, smile, keep the marriage going, avoid legal financial, emotional, medical, and career problems, etc.?Okay: Get her young and impressionable. Use traditional romantic techniques, e.g., nice, new, high powered sports car, lots of long stemmed red roses and other gifts, romantic dinners, trips on the family yacht, etc., put stars in her eyes, and totally sweep her off her feet. Emotions. All emotions. No more real than Hollywood. Indeed, Hollywood understands: E.g., see the Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor ‘Father of the Bride’ where the groom has arranged a strong case of idolatry. Smart groom.Then ASAP, get her married and pregnant, maybe not in that order.That is, Step I — Get her pregnant. Step 2 — Return to Step 1. Do until she has about eight of her own children, all under the age of 14 or so. Then likely she will have converted her life to total dedication to being a mommy. And she will feel that she also needs her good husband. Then she will accept the role of wife and mother and stay in the marriage. Get the timing right, and she will be busy as a grandmother before she is really through being a mommy; so, keep her busy, no ‘downtime’ to cause problems as in “Idle hands do devil’s work”.But, before she is totally committed to being a wife and mother, under no circumstances let her go as long as three years without another pregnancy since then Darwin might tell her to look around, the idolatry wears off, she gets disillusioned, discontented, frustrated, angry, calls a divorce lawyer, and leaves.Alternative? Okay, don’t get married and avoid any legal entanglements. Don’t have children. Expect that in about four years she will leave, and the man will have to get a younger model.Again, all women? No. Too many women? Yes. For men? Be darned careful. Or for which of Examples 1-6 do you want to bet a LOT on as a serious, productive, responsible, life partner and trust with a big part of your life?What I’m saying is not nearly new. Or it was George Bernard Shaw, right, who asked “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”. Well the answer is, both the good and the bad are the same — she’s a woman.Should have more details in ‘Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’! :-)!

  9. LE

    The part about “giving people job descriptions” is similar to relationship counseling where a big issue is people not “asking for what they want” from the other.This happens with either the man or woman assuming the other knows exactly what is important and doesn’t occasionally have to be reminded of it (even if it is obvious).I’m reminded of how important this is in sales as well. Years ago a salesman was selling an expensive machine to me. (Was a laser typesetter, quite expensive). The salesman was totally focused on the great font collection (fonts were expensive back then [1] and this company had the most revered collection) but all I kept saying was, literally, “well what I care about is your service response time. If the machine is down how quickly will you be here to repair it?”.And the salesman, who actually was a professional salesman, completely missed my hot button issue. He didn’t address it he kept harping on the font collection. So I guess I would add that listening is an important part of asking for what you want. Along those lines when communicating similar to radio transmissions make sure the other party isn’t distracted and is ready to receive what you are shoveling at them.[1] Back in the 80’s each font was iirc $120 (80’s dollars) or so for a disc that was essentially the font encased in plastic. This machine was one of the first lasers so the fonts were less expensive than that but still (once again iirc) about $40 to $60 per font (and that was just one face).

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Welcome to D. Knuth’s Metafont, open source, beautifully documented, quite powerful, and, then, his TeX, open source, beautifully designed and documented, and the unchallenged world standard for all mathematical word whacking. With Metafont, stir up all the fonts you might want. With TeX, get to use those fonts in nicely formatted documents.An example of TeX output is in an attachment at…TeX output can be at quite high resolution, say, 6000 dots per inch, but, for the sample, I just grabbed some screen contents so got low resolution.

      1. LE

        That image isn’t coming up, this is what appears:H:data05projectsventureunion_squarepost844.png

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Sorry. Maybe kitty cat walked past at the wrong time.I just fixed it. Thanks.

  10. Carl Rahn Griffith

    “This being so, so what?”Loved that, as Jerry posted to me on Twitter a few days ago.I’ll get to actually meet the bugger, one of these days – Jerry helped me so much, at a real bad time – thanks to you, Fred.Maybe even the 3 of us will get together, one of these days. Would be mighty-fine.Take care, folks…

  11. sigmaalgebra

    Colonna seems to assume (1) a leader has a lot of internal, psychological demons and (2) mastering these demons is the main challenge to good ‘leadership’.Another view is that the leader’s psycho, emotional, internal demons and problems are to be spit out, swallowed, flushed, set aside, ignored, etc. Instead, the real goal is to get the darned work done including leading the company and its employees. For this work, at times a CEO does need to have some understanding of psychology, demons, problems, etc. if only so that the CEO can better manage the people.But for the CEO, should have little sympathy or slack for demons. Sorry ’bout that.In simplest terms, the computer doesn’t care about humans’ demons; on the Internet no one need know if a person is a dog or has demons; so, get the darned code working, take the money to the bank, and maybe then be happier.When I grew up, no one was the least interested in how I, a boy, ‘felt’ about anything. An upside here is that can be relatively immune to demons. A downside is that can be relatively ignorant of demons of others.First hand experience is not nearly the only good way to learn about demons; instead, it’s quite possible to learn about the demons of others without first hand experience.Mostly people don’t care about another person’s demons. Neither does a computer. Neither do users on the Internet.To heck with demons. Instead, get the work done.Guys, maybe keep in mind that in time we will be competing with robots who never call in sick and have no demons or bad days. :-)!

    1. LE

      In simplest terms, the computer doesn’t care about humans’ demonsMore importantly your customers don’t give do overs for any demons you encounter. And your competitors don’t step aside and back off when you are having problems. They ultimately care about product and about results. Business isn’t a Nascar race where the cars slow down when someone gets a boo boo.Any good will can get disposed of very quickly and I’m not even talking about the customers who will leave when a lower price is waived in their face.The reason business people are (and should have) a conniption when things go wrong is that they will have to either a) regain the trust of the customer again or b) find a new customer. [2]This typically isn’t an (add: as much of a) issue in some markets where you can just put your hand out (like in certain casese the internet) and easily gain new customers.[1] This dovetails with something I learned when young and with my parents on the turnpike getting something to eat. They food and service is shitty because it can be. There will always be new customers and even people who are repeat customers don’t have a choice._[2] In my first business we had to pound the payments, advertise, direct mail, and go through many hoops to get a new customer. (This is typically the way traditional business is and has always been.) Of course we were “pobb” pissed off beyond belief if someone screw up and we lost the customer or the good will of a customer. And you know it didn’t really matter the reason, short of “death in the family”, in the end it was bad and people had to do their jobs and we didn’t want to hear about the reason (excuse) why they couldn’t.

    2. LE

      Colonna seems to assume (1) a leader has a lot of internal, psychological demons and (2) mastering these demons is the main challenge to good ‘leadership’.The saying “if you can’t take the heat get out of (or don’t get into?) the kitchen” applies. I think that people who are not able to deal with the pressures need to find another line of work. So people will of course think that is a terrible thing to say. But it’s something they should consider along the way and/or be able to use the counsel of others to decide “hey maybe I’m not cut out for the pressures of being a surgeon”. (I know I’m not.).Jobs are not just brains. Being able to do a job involves many things and some people just aren’t cut out for it lifestyle wise and/or can’t handle what the job involves. Think about being Potus. There are many people that are as smart or smarter than Obama. But can they handle the rigors of the job? (I couldn’t..). [1] Or secretary of State (like Kerry or Hillary). Or Netanyahu. That’s a pretty tough life not everyone can make a tender chicken like Mr. Purdue.When I grew up, no one was the least interested in how I, a boy, ‘felt’ about anything.Not only that but the way it’s communicated is usually particularly harsh. Not exactly a soft landing, eh? Not delivered in the way a therapist would either.[1] Otoh in my first business I worked 6 years straight practically every day (like 7 days most weeks) and didn’t come up for air until I met someone and got engaged. And you know people used to pity me and I would say “doesn’t bother me a bit I don’t mind”. That was me. And there were some pretty scary tough times. But I didn’t need counseling or coaching was in my makeup to handle it. (Sorry if this sounds like bragging but just pointing out that not everyone is cut the same way..) My dad used to say “your job is to show up and solve problems”. (That was when I complained to him one day about the truck breaking down and deliveries not being made..)

    3. JamesHRH

      I agree.He seems a great guy and I am sure he has helped a lot of people. But, its a bit cultish, in that the assumption is ‘You’re fucked up and I know it.’I should add that I first asked a startup founder ‘ how do you fire people? ‘ in 1996. I basically, totally agree with the meat of Jerry’s message. The potter / disappearing / kin / glaze thing just does not float my boat.I chose marriage & stayed married rather than chase a selfish perverse startup dream that I had not figured out. I think I will still create a meaningful company, but I do not believe that you need to walk into the kiln to do so.As Chris Dixon & Caterina Fake have said: ‘ Looking back on my first one of two startups, I spent 80% of my time @ the office freaking out. ‘ As you gain experience, you realize how little you need to do, but how good you need to do it.Prepare yourself (if Jerry floats your boat, use him), understand what you are up against and what your job is. Do or not do.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        As Chris Dixon & Caterina Fake have said: ‘ Looking back on my first one of two startups, I spent 80% of my time @ the office freaking out. ‘ I guess I should have sympathy and empathy for their suffering, struggles, and freaking out.At one point, I had done the work for my Ph.D. and had six weeks to do the typing and stand for an oral exam. The year before my wife had freaked out finishing her Ph.D., and to give her more time I’d dropped out and worked for three years. So, for my writing, I sat on our bed with her, while she watched TV and I hoped that she would recover, had a clipboard with a stack of copier paper, a fine mechanical pencil with soft lead, and a big eraser and wrote. Just wrote.I had access to a computer with some simple word whacking software and a daisy wheel printer, typed in some of what I’d written, printed it out, proof read it, and wrote some more. Soon I’d written and typed in everything and had proof read all of it several times. Then in a rush, I printed out the final copy, got Xerox copies made, distributed the copies to my orals committee, stood for my exam, passed, and graduated, one day or so to spare. I was short on money as well as time.Freaking out didn’t seem like a good idea.I’d needed some software. I did a block diagram on one side of a sheet of paper, stuck it up in front of me, and wrote the code with the mechanical pencil. Most of the code I wrote over Christmas at my wife’s family farm. Back home I typed in the code, got it running, ran it, and got the output. At one point the software ran several times faster because it was sufficient to use only the two dimensional ‘south west non-inferior’ points and I did that — just slightly tweak a sort routine!Freaking out didn’t look like a good idea.I needed something called ‘measurable selection’. There’s an uncountably infinite way to do it, but just the background would be about 120 pages of dense math. So, hmm …. How about a countably infinite approach? Good. Done. Good enough. No freaking out.Also to make the derivations easy, I needed to assume ‘regular conditional probabilities’. Is that a lot to assume? Ah, look at some Leo Breiman, long at Berkeley, a student of M. Loeve, also long at Berkeley! Nope: Some meager assumptions are enough to set aside a famous, bizarre, pathological Sierpinski counterexample! Easy derivations!To support us, I took a job, and there the US Navy wanted an evaluation of the survivability of the US SSBN fleet under a special, controversial scenario of global nuclear war but limited to sea. So, they wanted a computer simulation of a war at sea. Uh, they wanted their results in two weeks. And the day after that two weeks my wife had a vacation scheduled for us in Shenandoah. Freak out? Not a good idea!Hmm …. In an old WWII paper for looking for German submarines, B. Koopman argued that the encounter rate between a submarine and something looking for it was a Poisson process, depending on ocean area, speeds, detection radius, etc. Hmm …! Interesting! Wash away some enormous range of details and get just a Poisson process.Well, the sum of independent Poisson processes is, right, another Poisson process. So, …, we’ve got a continuous time, finite state space Markov process ‘subordinated’ to a Poisson process. There is a closed form solution, but the state space dimensionality was a combinatorial explosion and impossible to handle directly.But, generating sample paths via Monte Carlo was easy. So, write a little software, generate 500 or so sample paths, add up, divide by 500, and print out the results. My idea got reviewed by a visiting math prof, and he questioned if my software could ‘fathom’ the enormous complexity of the state space. Of course not. But, then, I reminded him of the law of large numbers; he agreed and relented; I explained, “Monte Carlo puts the effort where the action is.”; he liked that, and my work passed the review. I mean, what the heck did they expect for just two weeks? I typed in some code, got some results, and went to Shenandoah, on time. Didn’t freak out.Later the work was sold to a ‘leading US intelligence agency’. I could tell you which one, but then I’d have to …!I was at FedEx during some of the worst of times. Exciting? Yup. Successful? Eventually. Freak out? Not a good idea. Spent 80% of the time freaking out? Nope. I didn’t. The pilots didn’t. The founder F. Smith didn’t.Freaking out’s actually not one of the best approaches.As of last night, my software appears to be running, end to end, from Web page input to and through several back end servers, SQL Server plus three more of mine, and back to Web page output. Now that I see the output Web page, I should tweak some CSS to adjust some font sizes and colors. Then I should have some good looking output, although from just some test data.”How do I ‘feel’ about that?”. Like the Little Red Hen by herself but with warm loaves (but no fishes!) about to come out of the oven! Or, for some appropriate music,…Yes, that’s good but a bit bombastic! So, we could have a waltz,…which is a LOT of fun! Even more fun, with a version with a pretty girl,…For some British celebratory music,…That’s fun, too!For the software, it’s fun to see it run! Then, more testing, a critical review, some good initial data, a first server, a cheap router, a domain name, the Microsoft BizSpark software, and go LIVE! Yup, get a tax ID, etc.! Don’t freak out!Get some publicity, etc. and maybe some viral growth as in the math in…Where might users come from? Ah, each Web page is exactly 800 pixels wide and so simple it should display well on any device with a Web browser up to date as of five years ago. Most smartphones have 800 pixels? All tablets? They do have Web browsers, right?Ah, let’s see: My ISP will let me have upload bandwidth of 25 million bits per second (Mbps). My largest Web page sends for about 400,000 bits. So, assuming enough people like the site (eventually!) and half fill the bandwidth, will send25 * 10**6 / ( 2 * 400,000 ) = 31.250Web pages a second. With my software, that won’t take much computing, say, a $100 wire shelf unit or two in a spare bedroom with, right, an upgraded circuit breaker box and a window A/C!If have an average of 5 ads per page and get (thank you KPCB and Mary Meeker) $2 per 1000 ads displayed, then get revenue of2 * 5 * 31.25 * 3600 * 24 * 30 / 1000 = 810,000dollars a month.For more a few miles away is a colocation facility that can let me have dual 10 GbE connections to the Internet! Half fill that 24 x 7? WOW! Arithmetic:2 * 5 * 10 * 10**9 * 3600 * 24 * 30 / ( 2 * 400,000 * 1000 ) = 324,000,000dollars of revenue per month. Gets to be a real business! For that scale, as I recall, my session state server software (right, I could have used Redis but wrote my own, much simpler) ‘sharded’, with GUID keys, should fit in just a few racks.Clean, indoor work, no heavy lifting, much nicer than the grass mowing I did as a teenager!Think I can learn to like the Internet!In the Andreessen HorowitzSam Gerstenzang, “The Happy Demise of the 10X Engineer”at…is a question, How long before we have a billion-dollar acquisition offer for a one-engineer startup?Working on it! Or, let’s see, at the $810,000 a month above, revenue for 12 months would be12 * 810,000 = 9,720,000dollars. That would be enough for a seed round, maybe? What more would it take for the $1 billion? For a PE, is that from pre-tax or after tax earnings?Gee, what about half filling the 10 GbE for $324,000,000 a month? A $1 billion company then? Maybe!Early on, if the usage grows, then I’ll need more servers, say, $2000 each. Wonder where I could get the cash for those? From the revenue growing to $810,000 a month? Hmm …. Actually an HP salesman offered me some of the HP servers initially for free! Hello HP?With a slight tweak, say, just some direct access file software (sounds like about three days) and some SSDs, the current software should scale to revenue of over $1 million a month. The SSDs will be write once a week and otherwise read only thousands of times a second;, just what SSDs are good for (1 TB SSDs, beyond belief); for some of the data they will be terrific.With more such tweaks, software architecture should scale to much more. For some of this scaling, there needs to be some ‘sharding’, and that’s programmed in now. In the last few days I had to read over that code; good I have a lot of code documentation! As I learned recently on Hacker News, my approach in that code is essentially a special case of the now famous map/reduce. Ah, reinvented the wheel!Ah, some of what can be done with even just 10 fingers to type and a little bit of caffeine! I also thank H. Lebesgue, A. Kolmogorov, and J. von Neumann!I’ll try not to freak out! Get help from Richard Wagner, Carl Maria von Weber, and Sir Edward Elgar!

  12. kirklove

    Super as always Jerry.I’ve read Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, so good yet so hard to execute in your daily life. I try and fail daily.

  13. jason wright

    Jerry Cojones

  14. Ricardo Parro

    @jerrycolonna:disqus I loved your video. What do you recommend doing when you are an employee with equity that loves the company and you see the founder doing all of these mistakes? For me as a techie is always difficult to cope with this and watch it from a powerless stand point of view. Sometimes even if you have fierce conversations the founder avoids having them and disappears into the fire leaving sometimes the company to chance.Thanks!

  15. rich caccappolo

    Thanks for sharing, Fred. Excellent points presented to me at a time (right now) at which I am looking for such guidance. You’re right – he is great.

  16. iggyfanlo

    This was truly awesome.. had me re-thinking many things especially with significant others… thanks Jerry and thanks Fred