Posts from life lessons

Hubspot

I do a lot of “bulk emailing” but I hate sending bulk emails. I prefer to personalize emails and send them one by one so that the recipient understands that the email came from me.

What that has meant is that I take google sheets full of email addresses and I cut and paste a message into my gmail for each and every email address. That is incredibly slow, dull, repetitive, and painful.

About a year ago, we started using Hubspot for our family’s philanthropic efforts and it was a revelation to me. Hubspot connects to my gmail account and the emails I send from it appear to the recipient like I sent them personally from my gmail.

But behind the scenes, I can collaborate with my colleagues on templates and lists for various bulk emails that I need to send. When it is time for me to send the emails, I simply work my way through the list, selecting a new name, adding the template, making any little changes to personalize the message, and then I hit send.

It is still a fair bit of work to do that for twenty or thirty or forty names, but I can do it in ten to twenty minutes and the recipient gets a personalized email from me which as we all know increases the open and reply rate by orders of magnitude.

If you are looking for a great way to do bulk emailing, I highly recommend Hubspot.

#life lessons

Staying Positive

One of the gifts that I got was the ability to stay positive. I am grateful to my parents, my wife, and my genes (and anyone else responsible too). It is such a superpower.

I don’t just mean optimism. I mean saying nice things about people. I mean keeping a smile on your face. I mean positivity in all things. I do have my moments of negativity, but they come infrequently and go away quickly.

I saw Magic Johnson say something nice about the Lakers last night and I texted my son that I appreciate how Magic is always so positive. He always has a smile on his face. He is always saying nice things. I am sure he was a vicious competitor on the court, but he did it nicely.

I recall when David Karp was building Tumblr, he refused to have comments. He refused to have downvotes. The only user engagement was a heart and a repost. He told me he wanted to emphasize positivity and de-emphasize negativity. And Tumblr was a very positive place to be during its heyday.

For every negative thought, there is a positive counter thought. If you don’t like the Celtics, maybe you like the Knicks. If you don’t like Trump, maybe you like Biden. If you don’t like Bitcoin, maybe you like Ethereum. It is a pretty simple move, and also a very powerful move, to focus on what you like versus what you don’t like.

Doing this not only can change how others feel about you, it can change how you feel about yourself. I highly recommend it. I hope it becomes a trend. We would all be happier and nicer. Social media would be tolerable. Life would be better.

#life lessons

Decompressing

The last two months have been challenging in NYC. It has been cold, rainy, and snowy. There has not been a lot of sun. And the pandemic has things locked down. I know so many people who have found the last few months very challenging.

At the same time, more and more friends and loved ones are getting vaccinated. I hope to be able to do that soon myself. So there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel.

The other thing about the pandemic is it feels like we work all the time as there is little else to do. One one hand it is comforting to have something to occupy the time. On the other hand, working all of the time is not healthy.

The Gotham Gal and I decided to take some mental health time with some of our family and go skiing for a few weeks. I am looking to getting out in the fresh air, sun on my face, wind in my hair, and not working all of the time.

Decompressing is important. I am excited to do it and hope that all of you can find some time to do the same while we wait this thing out.

#life lessons

A Nice Zoom Hack - Take Two

I wrote yesterday about a couple of Zoom tricks I learned last week. Unfortunately, I messed up that post and conflated two different features and confused everyone. So I am going to try this again.

If you are tired of looking at yourself on the endless Zoom meetings we are all doing all day long, you can click on the three little blue dots on the upper right of your own “box” in Zoom and select “Hide Self View.” Everyone else will continue to see you on their screens, but you will no longer see yourself on your screen.

If you want to literally disappear from the Zoom meeting you are in, but still be in it, then you can go into Zoom settings and select “hide non-video participants”. Then you can turn your video off and nobody will see your profile hanging out there with video off.

I am now using a combination of these two features to reduce Zoom stress in my daily grind.

I am sorry for mixing them up in my post yesterday and confusing everyone. Hopefully this fixes that mess up.

Update: I still don’t have this right. My friend who showed me these tricks wrote me this today: ““Hide non video participants” only works on the screen of the person who checks that box.  You can’t force yourself to be hidden on other people’s screens – only they can check that box. “

#life lessons

A Nice Zoom Hack

After almost a year of being on Zoom all day, I am sick and tired of looking at myself on the screen. But I don’t love going off video and then everyone seeing a black box with a profile picture of me.

So I learned a new Zoom trick in a board meeting last week.

If you check the box in the Zoom video settings called “hide non-video participants”, then you can turn your video off and nobody will see your profile hanging out there with video off.

When you turn video back on, you will be seen by everyone.

It’s a bit like muting and unmuting. But for video.

I like it.

#life lessons

Learning From Your Mistakes

Show me a successful person and I will show you someone who has made a ton of mistakes. That’s how things go. You can’t really learn from your successes. You can try to replicate the wins and sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. But mistakes – those are powerful learning moments.

I have made my share of mistakes over the years and continue to do so, particularly in new areas where I am not experienced. It’s always a bummer when the mistake comes home to roost and you have losses, egg on your face, a problem, a mess, or any and all of that. You feel terrible, you are angry at yourself and possibly angry at those who were involved in the mistake. I think it is best to own it, fix it if possible, and mostly to learn from it and not make that one again.

There will always be new mistakes to make. It is best not to repeat the ones you’ve already made.

#life lessons

Controlling Your Destiny

I am returning to a theme that I feel quite strongly about.

I blog on WordPress using a host that I have selected and can move from at any time. WordPress is open source software and I can download it and run it on my own machines if I want to. I don’t. But being able to do that is key.

Medium and Substack and Clubhouse and Twitter, etc, etc are fantastic. They make it drop dead simple for anyone to share their thoughts with the world.

But they are controlled by someone else. You can get kicked off. And when you get kicked off, you lose all of your followers, all of your content. Gone.

I’m not down for that.

Nor should you be.

#life lessons#Weblogs

Introducing The New CEO

When a CEO has been removed for failed leadership, it is best to have a new CEO waiting in the wings to take over. I have been in the middle of this transition many times and have often been the person announcing the change to the company and introducing the new CEO. I have seen this done well and I have seen this done poorly.

That first all-hands meeting is a critical moment for the new CEO. He/she needs to connect with the team, tell them who they are, what they care about, and, most importantly, where they are going to lead the Company.

Most of the time the team is shaken up, things are not going well, they are nervous. There may have been layoffs. There may be more layoffs. Calm, confident, assured leadership is what is needed. But it is also critical to show empathy for the team and humanity in the leader. A warm smile and a sense of humor can help a lot.

When explaining where they will take the Company, less is more. Companies cannot do that many things at the same time. Failed leadership often results in doing too many things. So a shortlist of things that the Company will do and a longer list of things that it will not do anymore is a great start for a new leader. If there will be more layoffs, it is best to say that right upfront. You must start off by being honest with the team. Anything else will doom you to failure.

Getting off on the right foot is so important. If you do it well, the team will rally around you. If you do it poorly, you are done before you even started.

The United States is getting a new leader today. I plan to watch his introduction to the country. I wish him well. Good luck President Biden.

#life lessons

Mentors

Look at any successful person; Angela Merkel, LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos, and you will see someone who has benefitted tremendously from one or more mentors in their life. Nobody gets somewhere on their own. Everyone has help.

I was reminded of this when I read this touching remembrance that my friend Brad Feld wrote about his mentor Len Fassler yesterday. I first met Brad a few years after Len bought Brad’s first company and a few years before Brad and Len went through hell with Interliant. You could see how much Brad was learning from Len, how much he loved Len, and how much Len loved him back. As mentor/mentee relationships go, this was one for the ages.

I had two mentors early in my career; Milton Pappas and Bliss McCrum. They hired me as an associate at their venture capital firm, Euclid Partners, when I was 25 years old and between years at Wharton where I was getting an MBA. I worked for them for ten years and learned pretty much everything I know about venture capital from them. Bliss passed away a few years ago. Milton is still with us thankfully.

Of course, I learned so much about business from them. But the thing about great mentors is that they don’t stop with business. When I told Milton that Joanne and I were getting married, he dropped what he was working on in that moment, called across the street to his high touch travel agent, and we walked over there and he got us going on a first-class honeymoon. That was such a strong move and we learned a lot about traveling in style from that trip.

Bliss taught me how to chart stocks (technical analysis). We had no use for charting in the VC business, but that didn’t matter to Bliss. He liked to do it and taught me to do it with him. I don’t use that skill, but whenever I see a technical stock chart, I think of Bliss.

The thing about mentors is you can’t really ask someone to mentor you. It kind of happens organically. Someone takes you under their wing. They see something in you and want to bring it out, develop it. That’s how the best mentor/mentee relationships happen. And they are so great.

I remember the feeling when Milton would ask me to join him for lunch at the University Club. We would walk over there, order lunch, and talk about VC, business, life, and more for a couple hours. I always found a way to say yes when Milton invited me to lunch.

So if you are early in your career, look for opportunities to connect with someone a few decades ahead of you to help you figure stuff out. It helps so much. I am so grateful for what Milton and Bliss taught me early in my career.

#life lessons

Current Events and Math

Watching the election returns last night made me think about all of the math we are learning in the last year.

Now that our elections include different kinds of votes that have different demographics associated with them (mail-in votes, early votes, same-day votes), the absolute numbers move all around as the votes are being counted and reported.

The networks are doing a pretty good job of trying to explain all of this math to us while it is happening and it is a real teaching/learning moment.

The same is true of the Covid pandemic. We are living in the midst of a disease that can expand exponentially. And we can see how lockdowns and other things (vaccines?) can change the viral coefficient of the spread. That is another teaching/learning moment.

There is nothing like using real-world examples and experiences to explain things that are not easy to understand. If I was teaching math right now, I would be using these events to teach complicated math concepts to my students.

I am not a teacher but my dad was. I will end with a story about him that I got via email last week. His passing has generated a lot of this sort of thing and my family and I appreciate it very much.

I recall the first day of class in Vector Mechanics.  The bell rang to signal the beginning  of class and the section marcher called us to attention.  MAJ Wilson did not appear through the door on cue.  All heads looked toward  the door.  Suddenly an arrow (with a suction cup) shot through the door and hit the board at the other end of the room.  As it vibrated against the wall MAJ Wilson entered the room with bow in hand and announced,  “That gentlemen was a vector.” 

Apparently that toy arrow was from my brother and my toy chest. My dad took it work to use something real to explain something a bit hard to understand. And it worked.

So as we all go through our days explaining things to our kids and colleagues, it is good to remember to leverage real world examples we all know and understand. They really work.

#life lessons