Learning From Others Vs Figuring Things Out By Yourself

Today is the annual USV CEO Summit. Once a year we ask our portfolio CEOs to gather at our office in NYC and spend the day talking to each other about what they have learned and are learning about building and leading companies. This is not a novel idea. Many/most VC firms do this sort of thing. We have been doing it for something like ten years now. We will have about sixty CEOs in our offices today.

I often think about the founder/CEO who has five or six VC firms invested in their company. They get invited to attend five or six of these a year. And participate in five or six networks. That’s a lot of networking with other CEOs. I sometimes wonder if there is a point of marginal utility for them in all of this “learning from others.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think there is so much founders/CEOs can learn from their peers. I encourage the CEOs I work with to join CEO groups, talk frequently with their peers, get peer CEOs on their boards, and do whatever else they can to learn from the experiences of others. Our CEO Summit today will be yet another great opportunity to do this.

But at some point, you have to learn things yourself. You can talk to peers until you are blue in your face about how to hire a great VP Engineering or CFO. But making a bad hire or two in these roles will teach you a lot more about it than talking to others. At some point, you are going to have to figure things out by yourself. There is no substitute for direct personal and painful experience. That’s just how life works.

So I like to think of learning from others as a way to steepen the learning curve. You can get there faster if you talk to others and are open to lots of feedback and advice. But no amount of feedback and advice will make you an amazing leader on your first day as a newly minted CEO. That comes with time and the scars and pain that result from your bad decisions. I have many of them myself and wear them as a badge of honor.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wingsComing down is the hardest thing”Tom Petty

    1. fredwilson


      1. Twain Twain

        My mother never let us shirk from doing the hard work and learning things for ourselves as kids.Her reasoning was, “Sure, you can copy the homework of your classmates if you want to be lazy. But that’s THEIR knowledge — not yours. Are you taking them into the exam and life with you? Do your homework yourself!”

    2. Girish Mehta

      “Ice is forming on the tips of my wingsUnheeded warnings I thought I thought of everythingNo navigator to find my way homeUnladened, empty and turned to stoneA soul in tension that’s learning to flyCondition grounded but determined to try…” – Pink Floyd, Learning to Fly.Still remember seeing their concert at the Alamodome in San Antonio way back in 1994 (I think it was their last tour as a band..).https://www.youtube.com/wat

      1. JLM

        .True Aviation Story.It was a dark and snowy night. I’m flying N136MD (Bonanza) out of Oklahoma City to Addision (GA airport north side of Dallas) coming home from Steamboat Springs via Centennial Airport, Denver.Fly around a snow squall line and refuel in Oke City.Take off in snow, climb, still snowing up top.Headed south (flying instruments) to Addison, snowing hard. It is incredibly peaceful flying in snow. First time I ever flew in snow that hard. Turn on my lights and the reflection is spectacular.ATC (air traffic control) gives me lower altitude as I approach Addison. Notice a bit of ice building as the snow turns to sleet. Have no anti-ice or de-ice equipment on the wings.Me: “Dallas Approach, N136MD, request lower.”ATC: “Got your request, N136MD, standby. You’re in the throat for Luv and International. Lower in ten minutes.”I’m listening to the busy traffic going into Love Field and DFW International. Big iron. The “throat” is the descending flight path for the heavy iron going into those busy airports. ATC does not want to have a Bonanza in the path of jets.Me: “Dallas Approach, N136MD, ice.”ATC: “Descend and maintain 2,000. Turn direct to Addison. Let me know if you’re still icing.”Then, ATC warns several planes to turn as I am in the throat.Ice is not nice.No problem, I land at Addison.Wife becomes very reluctant to fly with me thereafter.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Wow.I am a fan of aviation, which you may know, however I am not completely sure if I have the guts to learn to pilot if I had the opportunity. Love flight simulators though.During the summer we had a lot of wildfires over here and we had the luck to get the assistance of an US tanker plane. I was amazed by the pilots in charge of that 747, flying so damn low and dropping precisely every time.At the end of the operations which lasted almost a month, the pilot of the tanker’s lead plane gave an interview and I recall while watching it that I thought that it might interest you. It mixes various disciplines and if you read between the lines it also give some clues about how things tend to happen down here.Have something to do with the topic also.https://www.youtube.com/wat

        2. ShanaC

          you’re convincing me I should never learn to fly. Between this and the fact that I get vertigo really easily. *shudder*

          1. JLM

            .Agreed, not for everyone.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  2. Mostafa Nageeb

    In a different context, you just published this while I was thinking about what you said at MIT about the VC business being an apprenticeship business. I was reflecting on this with the current explosion of VC funds and the recent news of different people joining different firms.I think the cost of figuring out things by one’s self (which happens with most new VCs) is very high in the VC business. You have to make a bet on something that will pay off in 7-10 years. The lengthening of the timespan and small number of shots a typical fund has makes this forecast much harder, and that’s why I think for someone wanting to break into this industry, the first choice is the most important, because they have to stick to it for some years to be able to see results, and to be supported by the best in class to minimize the number of wrong decisions.

  3. William Mougayar

    Executive summary:”But at some point, you have to learn things yourself.”

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I’d hope that CEOs at this stage would already have understood there’s a cost to learning (cost being inherently neutral); it might even be as high as 20% if you really take into account the inefficiencies and delays. Luckily everyone else is going through a similar path – getting better with the more rodeos they join – however everyone’s relatively delayed just as much and has as much waste.I’ve been self-taught since the age of 11 – web development/design, marketing, business, and now edging into the CEO title slow as she goes.It has its drawbacks:- I have no LinkedIn full of academic credentials from A, and B, C- I have no work history with companies D, E, F- I don’t have as big of a network or as big of a pool of people I worked with/liked working with than if I wasn’t a 1-man showUnfortunately I had no mentors growing up – business or otherwise – otherwise I’m sure I’d be a self-sustainable multi-millionaire re-investing into more ambitious projects now; if someone had just focused me on scaling revenues that I had started earning even at 13 years old – I simply had no care or motivation for money; still now money and profit is simply a sign to me that what you’re doing is successful.I also stumble into people who have a lot of education in an area, say design, and they have no design taste – meaning they have not developed any nuanced understanding. Imagine if @SixgillBlog:disqus had full knowledge of wine but it was all through reading, and he didn’t actually drink wine …. hmmmm.The biggest complaint I have is I’m an accomplished builder (as I’ve been told) and now my plans and vision have evolved to account for everything I have observed, learned – and so after 23 years of experience my plans are ambitious – yet many people want to try to put you in a small box for cookie-cutter purposes, and simply look at your success based on what they see very shallowly.Anyhow, it seems a good step will be applying to accelerator programs to tap into their trust networks, so I have more time with people to get to know me; DMZ, OCAD Imagination Catalyst, Creative Destruction Lab – perhaps there are other good ones in Toronto I haven’t heard of.

      1. LE

        Ironically being able to do what you have done can be a detriment to getting ahead. The more you can do w/o the help of others the less likely you will use others and so you will use up your valuable time.And there is more. The less likely for you to interact with others which could provide serendipity and most importantly luck. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen someone who has gotten ahead because not only they have skills in a particular area (like many) but they happened to work around other people who found it easiest to offer them an opportunity at a new thing they were doing. Simply because it was better than going for door number two. Say like being a member of a band where one of the other four members is the real star and the others simply happen to be in the right place at the right time and have the same talent as 10,000 other musicians..)

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Indeed. I’ve been learning lots. Being in the shit isn’t fun, I’ve finally gotten it out of my eyes and navigating smartly now – I can “see the light.”

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Yup, I got a high slot at FedEx mostly because the company was just desperate for a way to schedule the fleet; the guy working on it, and a long time friend of the FedEx founder, knew me in college; in freshman physics and in math I did a lot better than he did; he knew I was in computing; the FedEx founder had said for the scheduling problem “we need a computer”; so I got a call, got the job, quickly designed and wrote the software (with a time sharing terminal, in my living room in Maryland, while teaching two courses in computer science at Georgetown U, right, before my Ph.D.), and one evening ran the software and produced a nice schedule for the whole fleet. The BoD saw the output; two representatives from our BoD Member and investor General Dynamics went over the schedule and announced “It’s a little tight in a few places but it’s flyable”; soon at a senior staff meeting the FedEx founder said the schedule was “An amazing document”,”solved the most important problem facing FedEx”, and it alleviated some serious concerns of the BoD, enabled desperately needed funding, and saved FedEx from going out of business — apparently literally, it was close.The promised stock was late, too late for my patience, and I headed for grad school and got an applied math Ph.D.The best I learned in grad school is a key to my present startup.But by now the networking that helped me get into FedEx naturally, nearly necessarily, mostly can’t help me again: At this point, for what I’m trying to do with my startup, I’m necessarily essentially alone, i.e., what I’m doing is for the first time for anyone.”First time”, “alone”? Sure: For essentially everything that’s ever been done, there was a first time for that thing being done! Or, I’m climbing a hill that no one has ever climbed before; mostly only a very few people have ever climbed such a hill the way I’m climbing before.I’m reminded of the common insult to startup founders that “Anything you are doing someone else has already done that before you.” Well, consider the set of all people who have done that thing. Sort them in ascending order on time. Go to the first instance on the list. Then except for unlikely exact ties in time, that instance was the first with no one ever having done that thing before! Claim debunked!In a big sense, the Ph.D. helped my having confidence climbing alone: The research I did for the Ph.D. I did essentially 100% alone, independently, actually in my first summer with some prerequisites I got in an advanced course in my first year (usually taken by second or third year grad students and, really, not often taught in any US math program).. Moreover, such research is usually climbing some hill for the first time: Indeed, for such research the usual criterion is “an original contribution to knowledge worthy of publication” and the usual criteria for publication is “new, correct, and significant”.So, really, anyone who has published a research paper, especially as sole author, can laugh at the claim that “Anything you are doing someone else has already done” or is also doing. Instead, there really are genuinely new things, never done before.Moreover, it’s an easily observed fact that in applied math and most of science, the best original work is usually done by just one person or at most a few people.E.g., a Ph.D. can be a lesson in how to climb alone a hill never climbed before, and for some cases of information technology startups that can be helpful.So, right, networking can bring lucky results and be helpful, but, still, the founder of an ambitious startup is necessarily, usually out there on their own, mostly past where networking can help them.But, otherwise, that is, with results of networking, a person is following others, and in that acyclic directed graph there must be some people out there alone and not following anyone else. So, necessarily there have to be people out there alone; for an ambitious startup, it’s better if the founder is such a person instead of trying to follow, maybe several connections away, such a person.There are pros and cons being out there alone. Or maybe “It’s a nasty job, but someone has to do it”!

          1. JLM

            .When you are alone, you are in the best company imaginable.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        3. ShanaC

          which is why i think it is important of letting go of what you know. People can be better than you and you can delegate.

    2. karen_e

      For color, I’ll add to your executive summary: “…scars and pain that result from your bad decisions. I have many of them myself and wear them as a badge of honor.” Without the aging process, there would be no wisdom.

      1. JLM

        .Aging IS part of wisdom.What we thought essential at 25 is “meh” come 45.There is a reason why when old men argue, young men do the fighting.I say if the USA and Russia disagree about something, then Putin and Trump should whip off their shirts and fight it out mano a mano with knives.Too political.I say if Apple and Google disagree about something … you finish it up.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. jvollrath2000

      Hi William and everybody else on here – since this is about CEOs and limiting mistakes, I wanted to run this by the present audience – any feedback would be welcome!Is the following something that would be of interest to you or anyone you know:I’m putting together a course ( teaching program), which will meet once aweek, on-line to work through:Identifying an exit strategy for your company by evaluating different options andnailing down the one best suited to your aspirations; Positioning your companyby: Securing your technology (identifying what questions you should be askingyourself when deciding whether to patent an idea (the What, Where, How and Whenof patent filing – to make you the patent expert rather than the attorney who hasa conflict of interest to sell you on as many patents as possible); Avoiding costly mistakes (unwanted agreements; potential law suits), and Growing market share and avoiding obstacles through cooperative arrangements (licenses; joint ventures).I look forward to your comments/criticisms/feedback. This would be the pilot to a larger course and would serve as litmus test to iron out the kinks and identify what CEOs most need.

      1. JLM

        .The “exit process” — when well done — is a means to attain a higher value than when poorly executed.”Going to the pay window” is a thing.http://themusingsofthebigre…It is like knowing how to tie the Monkey’s Paw.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. cavepainting

      The fundamental prerequisite to learning is awareness. I have attended a number of these meets only for CEOs to brag to each other about how they are crushing it.Until there is humility, it is very hard for learning to occur. As a Zen saying goes, a bowl that thinks it is full has no space to receive new soup!

      1. Twain Twain

        Bank CEOs said they were “crushing it” before 2008 and then … $22 TRILLION of value losses and 8.0+ million global jobs affected. I have some of the most up-close perspectives on CEOs who fool themselves and everyone else that they’re “crushing it” when they’re not.At my most recent hackathon, my guys were struggling with some code after I’d master-architected our build: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…As soon as I discovered we had knowledge gaps, I went and got two of the hackathon coding mentors to sit with my guys so they could learn how to do the things they couldn’t.I know all about guys not wanting to admit they’re not crushing it and are actually lost.In any case, one of my guys who’s been a developer for 25+ years wrote this on the event Slack channel: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…The other who’s new to data science wrote this: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…The sooner the CEO/project leader acknowledges their team isn’t crushing it, the sooner the team gets the tools and help needed.

    5. ShanaC

      It is hard if you don’t. I mean, what if they’re wrong?

  4. San Bhaskaran

    There are some things that cannot be learned without observing/ being trained by a true master.When it comes to learning from others one key thing is to distinguish between insights and opinions – Insights from people who have done it before -Learning by doing mistakes is a costly way to learn but it is the most hard wired. Which can be good or bad depending on the conclusions drawn from the experience.Sometimes people can come to wrong conclusions based on personal mistakes too. Which could in fact be a false but deeply ingrained lesson resulting in biases.So we cannot categorically say one is better than the other.Your “insight” is that for you, it lessons learned by doing ( which could be your preferred way to learn) has been the most insightful.

  5. jason wright

    i would say figure it out for yourself, not by yourself, and be a smart ape.

  6. Matt Zagaja

    Learning from others: being told ergonomics of your work station are important.Learning by experience: dropping $1300 on updating your home office setup after an 8 hour coding work from home session that left your body in pain for a few weeks.Lesson: sometimes the issue isn’t that you do not know the right thing to do, but needing the proper motivation to do it.

  7. awaldstein

    Support is nice-to-have in my experience.Decisions are made invariably without data, with support at times but not because of it.

  8. Glen Hellman

    The problem with learning for yourself is we… as in humans make rational decisions, irrationally. Neuroscience proves we don’t make decisions with the part of our brain that has a capacity for language, logic, or abstract thinking. We make decisions with the same part of our brain that we share with alligators… the so-called reptilian brain.Me might need to learn stuff alone but we need more than a causal network relationship to insure that we are making rational logical decisions. We can’t get this insight from our board, or our employees or our spouses. We need a peer group or a person trained in the art of non-judgemental coaching.CEOs need a safe place to express their deepest fears, doubts and vet their plans to insure their inner-alligator is leading them down the wrong path.

  9. Pankaj Garg

    There are sometime requirements for which you need help with the starting point or course correction. I think talking to others help significantly there.

  10. falicon

    This isn’t just true for CEOs and startups – it’s a basic life lesson.Get mentors, read, watch, discuss, and learn…but still no substitute for “DO”.Personally – I’ve found the tipping point Fred mentions be somewhere around maybe 10% of my time…anything less that 90% “DO” time, and I’m moving way too slow to be anywhere near as successful as I intend for a given “thing”…

    1. PhilipSugar

      Yes, yes, yes!!!

      1. Vasudev Ram

        No. Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss(barman style)

  11. Pete Griffiths

    “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”Otto von BismarckBut to be fair, the number of people who can learn from the experience of others is vanishingly small. Most of us need the stimulus of pain.

    1. JLM

      .Most of us remember pain.It is always cheaper to RENT experience than to create it. Tuition.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. Anne Libby

    To a point. One lesson that keeps leaking out into the press is what happens when you don’t have a trusted advisor in your circle who understands some of the legal elements and responsibilities of employing human beings.There are some lessons that are better learned by not blowing it.https://www.bloomberg.com/n

    1. ShanaC

      sometimes I think culturally, many startups should listen more…

  13. Mark Date

    Hi all I’ve been lurking for a while, but I just had to contribute to this great blog with my favorite quotes on this subject – “You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.and”Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself”.

    1. JLM

      .”The earlier you come to work, the later you stay, the harder you work, the more luck you encounter.”You create your own luck.Welcome, stranger.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Mark Date

        Thank you…it’s great to be here!I agree that the term ‘luck’ is subjective. It’s normally an outsider’s view on someone else’s achievement. They are not in the position to see the hours of grind, and string of failures it took to become ‘lucky’Reminds me of another of my favourite quotes, think it was golfer Gary Player.Supposed to be a response to one of his shots being called lucky’Yep, the more I practice, the luckier I seem to become,’Love it

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Ha, good one. Also reminds me of the story of Picasso and the lady in the park who recognized him, and asked him to draw her portrait:http://www.davidairey.com/p

  14. pointsnfigures

    Can’t really learn it in one day either. You can get tips, check your gut feel against other’s experiences and network but that’s about it.

  15. Tom Labus

    It’s good to know others have major problems/headaches too.

  16. Frank W. Miller

    You and Brad seem to be relatively activist VCs compared to my experience years ago. The 7 or 8 VC firms that I dealt with during my startup days were very hands off. In the spirit of the trend towards unmanaged funds in equity assets here’s a question. Wouldn’t it be interesting to study the ROI of startups vs. the level of involvement those startups had with their investors?

    1. LE

      Part of the reason for these meetings, whether intended or not, is for marketing and pr purposes.

  17. Joe Marchese

    “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas AdamsFor this reason, I’m more inclined to create situations where leaders and managers can learn from personal experience rather than listen to others. Learning from observation and hearing from others can, however, avoid the same-ol’ mistakes and expand learning from new ones.

  18. LE

    I sometimes wonder if there is a point of marginal utility for them in all of this “learning from others.”As always it’s a great big ‘it depends’. Most important is deciding when you need the advice of others and when you need to ‘not be lazy’ and just figure it out on your own. I think from what I have seen over the years some people find it to easy to take a shortcut and get the answer from someone else. Instead of taking the time to figure it out themselves, do the work and research or make the mistakes. In some cases that’s smart. And in other cases it’s not and only ends up hurting you in the long run. Because you have not developed the skills and always need the help of others. You also lose the pleasure of being able to find the excitement of what you are able to do which tends to be I have found highly motivating.This isn’t a science it’s an art. Which is why you ‘wonder’ there isn’t a right or wrong answer.

    1. PhilipSugar

      I think it’s great to learn from others. That means learning. That means actually doing after you learn at least a little bit. You see many people say: “Oh, I don’t understand this computer stuff, or oh I don’t understand accounting stuff, or oh I don’t understand how this or that works”Well then you are the mercy of others and frankly you will end up begging for mercy.

  19. PhilipSugar

    “Once blessed are those that learn from their mistakes. Thrice blessed are those that learn from other’s mistakes”

  20. Twain Twain

    We learn a lot being here and from each other. The mind muscles of actually piloting a rocket ship are very different from those in Houston command control, the makers of the rocket engine and the people watching lift-off.My systems invention for data classifications to get AI towards Natural Language Understanding passed the prior art test in the patent process this March, including against citations from Microsoft and LinkedIn.March was before the recent awakenings in the media and in AI research that existing AI frameworks are either biased, inadequate and/or indecipherable, or a combination of these.* https://arstechnica.com/sci…* https://www.technologyrevie…Christian Szegedy of Google Brain, 02 March 2017: “Matching syntactic (symbols) is not good enough. We need to get more of the semantics of the representative. How are things transformed & how do things behave? We don’t know — unless someone wants to tell us … “SO GOOGLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO SOLVE THE NLU PROBLEM.I’d be the only person in the world with the knowhow.I’m light years ahead of Google et al in ideation+implementation to get the machines towards NLU. They’re going to be stuck in their little black boxes of AI and force us to be stuck there with them for a long time — unless I get the resources (team and financing) to ship my systems invention.I spent years trying to find mentors (even joining an incubator where the former CTO of Powerset — now part of MS Bing — was a mentor), going to tech meetups to learn from others, etcetcetc.NONE OF THEM COULD HAVE GUIDED OR TOLD ME TO INVENT THIS SYSTEM.It could only be invented by me, from the way I see data+tech+people+theworld and everything that I’d learned and experienced.Inventors are N-times lonelier than anyone else on the planet and that’s the nature of the process.===========@fredwilson:disqus — Sure the patent system is broken. I filed for two reasons:(1.) Visibility for women that we can invent.(2.) If Google et al now try to file a similar system, their application would be challenged because mine is already in the system.As a teenage undergraduate, I walked past Rosalind Franklin’s labs every day. I’ve known about her story as well as countless others where the hard work of women was appropriated by male colleagues and the women didn’t get due credit for it.Male managers I’ve worked for have been brilliant in publicly crediting and rewarding my work. However, I’m aware that the world of work is also stacked against women.I have plenty of scars and maybe even a broken heart because I know this.

    1. JLM

      .A broken heart?West Texas welding joke:”Son, I can weld anything. Anything, I can weld. Except for three things.””What, welder person?””The crack of dawn, tissue paper, and a BROKEN HEART.”True story.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. sigmaalgebra

        If your loved cat or dog dies, then the best fix is another cat or dog.Applying this advice to wives is likely also important but usually much more challenging.

      2. Twain Twain

        LOL. Well, JLM, the soul may be more powerful than the mind and the heart. It can orchestrate both to overcome the worst of worst challenges — solely on belief and hope.

    2. creative group

      Twain Twain:Hidden figures not so hidden now,

  21. JLM

    .So what do you think the CEOs think about and talk about at such confabs?Having been a CEO for 33 years and with a big relationship with GE Capital who took us on cruises, I can tell you.We spend our times comparing notes on the points of contact, our deals, what we think of the GE boys. Our future deal structures get better as we mine the reality of others’ relationships.Lots of time in hot tubs comparing notes.I used to belong to YPO (Young Presidents Organization) and we had three to-be billionaires in our Austin-San Antonio Chapter. Belonged to TAB (the Alernative Board) and Vistage.These peer-to-peer CEO groups are great. Fabulous.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  22. sigmaalgebra

    “Experience is the great teacher, and some will learn from no other.”

  23. JLM

    .Daily postage limit reached. Adios, MFers.Call me.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  24. Guy Lepage

    I personally feel that “great” CEO’s can learn from others around them better than they can by going through the trials and tribulations of failure. After all they would not be leaders if they did not possess this skill and usually from an early age. They somehow grasped the skill of taking the right pieces of advice from a parent, a sibling, a early on mentor, a grandparent, or someone in their early years.Then as a secondary skill they learned how to fail.But failure should only happen on the odd occasion and painful failures, the ones that get ingrained into your psyche, are usually the ones that end a company or leave the entrepreneur struggling for quite some time longer than a more insignificant one.

  25. Kevin Hill

    There’s also a lot of people the opposite side of the solo/collab spectrum that never get to the stage of meeting someone like Fred, so there’s a bit of survivor bias build into the thread.I’ve seen plenty of people that wanted to figure everything out for themselves and as a consequence get nothing done. It’s a great mentality for a mad scientist who will reinvent the world 2 decades from now, but a bad one for entrepreneurs.

  26. Sandy Kory

    Sequencing of what to learn is important. Key 2-3 things to learn to go from seed to A are different than from A to B, B to C, etc. If you’re not focused on what is critical to learn/do today, then there is a danger of drinking from firehouse.

  27. george

    I’ve been blessed to partake in such venues and found the setting exceptional. Some of the things I enjoyed and valued through my experience were – developing alliances, peer benchmarking and learning/listening to how other leaders became more effective stewards.When you’re at the top, you have to be brave and learn fast and succeed, it’s nice to compare notes with others who travel at the same altitude.

  28. Matt A. Myers

    I imagine that’s the whole point of Fred’s post – to let their portfolio’s CEOs know it’s safe; what we don’t see is how USV and partners respond to situations specifically, all too nuanced to the scenario I am sure to really and easily share openly.

  29. LE

    Can you elaborate on your use of ‘safe space’ in this context?I don’t think that this particular group (I have dealt with them) needs to be coddled and protected from vicious attacks or that it’s even helpful to walk on eggshells around them.

  30. awaldstein

    Hard to make vulnerability normalized.Can do it with some advisors and some friends. Board members and networks–not so much.

  31. JLM

    .OK, so I admit I laughed — “safe space for your CEOs to be vulnerable”.Agree with it completely, but made me laugh.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  32. cavepainting

    Vulnerability really does not happen in a group setting. But yes, the LP can provide the right environment in the meet to enable learning. Personal support in a 1:1 or smaller setting can be incredibly valuable

  33. awaldstein

    Inspiring actually. I’ve never had that.

  34. JLM

    .Never, ever, ever, ever confide your troubles in people who have the authority to fire you. Pro TipJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  35. Matt A. Myers

    I think in each context the scope of vulnerability that’s appropriate would change, however still at least a certain amount of safe space.

  36. JLM

    .Do you think they invite the CEOs whose companies they shut down? Or too nuanced?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  37. LE

    And since you don’t know who the yentas are and who they aren’t it can be dangerous to share certain information even with people that can’t fire you.

  38. awaldstein

    On this we agree 100%.This is one of my golden rules.Feels good to sync on something!

  39. Matt A. Myers

    That seems so backwards to me – even if that’s the status quo. Elon Musk could probably show up naked to all board meetings (literally or figuratively) and they’d understand/trust that he’ll navigate out of it, why not other CEOs?

  40. Lawrence Brass

    So true comrade Jeff. I would add.. never ever be taller than the one that have authority to fire you, particularly if he can’t stand being shorter. 😉

  41. JLM

    .The three most reliable forms of Old School widespread communication.1. Tele-phone2. Tele-graph3. Tele-yentaJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  42. Matt A. Myers

    Great question – I wonder. That could be really valuable – especially if USV would want to potentially invest in those CEOs again; did something fail because of the CEO or some other market force, etc..

  43. JLM

    .Failure is an orphan. Victory has a thousand mothers.We learn way more from failure than success. Why not invite the big learnings?See the first sentence.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  44. JLM

    .Confide in people who cannot fire you? That is difficult to understand? That is counterintuitive?Prediction: Elon Musk is going to lose a lot of people a lot of money before his ride is over. He already lost a ton of money on his solar deal.Other CEOs are not Elon Musk. Ask Amber Heard and his former wife.And, yes, the Emperor and his new clothes are a real thing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  45. Girish Mehta

    A few days back I said here that if he did nothing else from here on, Elon Musk would go down as an extraordinarily brilliant enterpreneur of these times.But – Beware the Halo Effect.Sometime in late 1999/early 2000, Fortune ran a story on Cisco and asked rhetorically if John Chambers was the Best CEO in the world. (I could be off on the date slightly).In April 2001, Cisco took a $2 Billion inventory writeoff.https://www.cnet.com/news/c…Beware the Halo Effect.

  46. JLM

    .Fight the feeling. Don’t get sloppy. I am still the Devil. Do not get sappy on me or I will make a very long post.JKYou know we agree on everything. You hate to admit it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  47. Vasudev Ram

    Reading DEVIL backwards is instructive:LIVED

  48. sigmaalgebra

    Yentas. Yup, I learned that danger in the school of hard knocks and paid “full tuition”.I formulated a management rule: If subordinate A comes to me and tells me a lot of dirt on subordinate B, then B better be really bad, so bad I would have already noticed it, or I fire A.Anyone got any better ideas for that situation?

  49. JLM

    .Group gropes are never as intimate as a one-on-one session. Sorry, I have to side with the cave man v the bread man in this non-vegan beef.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  50. JLM

    .Weirdly true.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  51. Matt A. Myers

    Oh wow – you’re just totally wrong on Elon Musk.Ask Amber Heard or his former wife what exactly? Not sure why referencing personal relationships.Elon understands economies of scale just as well or better than Jeff Bezos – so I’m curious what your opinion on Bezos is?Elon definitely understands network effects and synergy purely as well – the synergy between Tesla, Solar City, the Gigafactory for batteries is practically unimaginable. The battery factory will knock down the worldwide price of batteries by 50% because they’ll be producing more batteries than the current world supply; those batteries will be used in Tesla vehicles, in homes, and cities will purchase them too. In reality what this synergy means is you can have everything cheaper than any competitor can offer.And what about SpaceX, why not bring up his other company? SpaceX is going so well that Bezos is copying him, albeit poorly from the limited knowledge I have that company.I think Elon will also transform transportation even further with the Hyperloop. They already have started recruiting for Hyperloop: they have had a pod competition (the vehicles that float/fly through the almost-vaccuum-like tube), with engineering competitions being the perfect way to recruit the best talent from universities – talented and passionate about the problem; not to confuse Elon’s Hyperloop with a company called “Hyperloop One.”Elon’s also the only person on Earth I would trust to develop and oversee the design and safety of the Hyperloop – purely based on his track record of Tesla and SpaceX, relating to building and guiding solid engineering teams and in regards to his experience with the complexity with the physics involved.*mic drop*

  52. ShanaC

    I’d totally buy Elon’s roof.

  53. Matt A. Myers

    Victory has a thousand mothers – is that meant to be interpreted to you as many people claiming the success of something, and as a negative or positive thing?

  54. JLM

    .Interpret it as it resonates in your head, not mine.Negative or positive?Depends on one’s point of view. Again, your viewpoint is the only important one in interpreting anything.It’s just a thing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  55. JLM

    .Pick that mic up, Matt. Do not litter on AVC.com.Elon Musk is all that you suggest and still my pointed assertion as to his future call on other people’s money and losing it will be true.I did not indict the man’s many accomplishments. I said he would “lose a lot of people a lot of money before his ride is over.”You extrapolate that simple statement to foreign shores I did not intend it to visit. Can you see that?As to the relevance of his marital status, let’s explore that, shall we?The guy marries his college sweetheart, one Justine Wilson, with whom he has six children. One tragically passes away, a sorrow no parent should endure.Justine critiques the marriage with an interesting (scathing) tome: “I Was a Starter Wife: Inside America’s Messiest Divorce.” Interesting read. One has to give her credit for six children. She went all-in, no?He divorces her.He then takes up with a cadre of sleek, fast moving beauties including Talulah Riley. One has to admire his energy and stamina.He marries her, Talulah.They marry, separate, divorce, re-marry, file for divorce, reconcile, divorce.Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s ex, has a cameo role which is expanding to become, potentially, wife #X. I use “X” as I don’t know how to count the wives as he and Talulah have been married more than once.So, yes, Elon Musk is a weirdo.In comparing him to Jeff Bezos, a lazy thinker might be tempted to suggest that Elon is not a finisher, not a guy who gets his gigs to the finish line.Bezos is a finisher and Amazon is a powerhouse which will survive him and thrive. Therein lies the distinction I would use to compare them.My comment is not intended to condemn Musk, but just to shine a light on the Emperor and see if he is clothed.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  56. JLM

    .Just put a 6100 SF roof on my house using 40-year shingles (lifetime say they) for $18,650. That’s about $3.05/SF.Same roof, Muskie says spend $22-30/SF.Do the math. You’re going to spend a lot more money.Head fake?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  57. ShanaC

    Nah, it’s a roof that pays itself back because I’m not paying electrical costs all the time.I know you’re not going to love the analogy, but it’s kind of like my hormonal iud. I needed a low dose hormonal birth control, both because I was about to get engaged and because I never met the minimum time threshold reccomended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist to decrease my ovarian cancer risk. ( http://www.aafp.org/afp/201… Reaffirmed in 2016)Hormonal iuds are expensive without insurance up front (over $1k). While my insurance covered it, if it hadn’t, I still would have saved for it, since decreasing my risk over my lifetime is well worth it. $1k is less than the $20k for one month’s supply of some chemo medication, and unlike chemo medication, I’d only pay once.