Posts from life lessons

Practicing Patience

We went to the Knicks Celtics game last night.

For three and a half quarters the Knicks and Celtics played a tight game and the game was tied at 95 with six minutes left when Coach Fizdale called a time out.

The Knicks came out of that time out befuddled and turned the ball over on three straight possessions which ultimately led to 12-0 run by the Celtics and the game was over.

As we walked out of MSG, I was depressed. More losing.

But my son Josh had a different take. Dennis Smith Jr is finally coming out of his early-season slump. Kevin Knox had a good game after taking a beating in the press recently.

Losing is hard. The Knicks are 4-16 so far this season. There is not much joy in the Garden right now.

But I appreciate Josh’s optimism. By the time we had gotten to dinner, some of it had rubbed off on me.

Patience is hard. Being a Knick fan is great practice.

#life lessons#Sports

Grinding

It is tempting to search for the one magic move that will make everything better. A new VP of Sales. A new database layer in your tech stack. A new brand for your company. Moving everything to the cloud. More capital in the business.

But it is rarely one thing that a business needs to succeed. It is often a little bit of everything.

Back in the early days of Twitter, we could not keep the website and API up. We would hire advisors and they would recommend something new and we would try it and we would still go down. It was terribly frustrating and threatened the business.

During this period of instability, Twitter purchased a search engine called Summize. Summize was a small team of engineers, most of whom had come out of AOL.

After we cut the deal to acquire Summize, I asked Jack Dorsey, who was running Twitter at the time, how we planned to integrate the Summize team. He looked at me and said “we are not going to integrate them, they are going to integrate us.” And Jack made Greg Pass, Summize’s engineering leader, Twitter’s engineering leader.

It was interesting to watch Greg and the Summize team tackle the “fail whale.” Instead of searching for a magic solution, they instrumented the entire system and just started rebuilding every part that was about to break.

It was a slow and steady approach. It took time. But within six months (or thereabouts), we had a much more stable system. And after about a year of this approach, we had mostly said goodbye to the fail whale.

Grinding isn’t very satisfying. It is hard to stand up in front of everyone and say “we are going to fix things around here bit by bit with a lot of hard work.” Big flashy moves are an easier sell most of the time. But they don’t work nearly as well and are prone to complete and abject failure.

If given a choice between a flashy operator or a grinder, I will take a grinder every time. It is a much higher percentage bet. It requires faith and patience and the results are sometimes hard to see. But if you look at the results from grinding it out over a long enough time frame, you can see the power of that approach.

#entrepreneurship#life lessons#management

Thankfully, ....

there is this thing called the Internet which allows anyone like me to connect a server to it and host content like this blog post.

Thankfully there is open source software like WordPress that allows me to do all of this without using a proprietary service.

Thankfully there is a range of operating systems (some open source) that we can choose from and a range of browsers (many open source) that we can choose from to access this content.

It is this permissionless environment, designed fifty years ago, and developed over the next thirty years, that has done so much for society.

Of course, there are many things about this permissionless environment that are problematic and we are faced now with the need to address them intelligently without undoing all that is good about it.

I am thankful that my lifetime has roughly lined up against this incredible invention and development and that I have been able to play a small role in it and that I can also play a small role in addressing the challenges we now face.

I am also very thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, supporters, and readers.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

#life lessons

Bearing Witness

Normally when we travel, The Gotham Gal posts about the things we do. She is a way better travel blogger than I am.

But today we did something that I want to talk a bit about.

We visited the Auschwitz concentration camps in southern Poland.

This is the first time I have visited one of these camps.

I have been to the various Holocaust memorials and have seen the photographs and heard and read the stories.

But being there in person is something else.

Staring into the rubble of a gas chamber (one of four at Birkenau) where hundreds of thousands were murdered because of their ethnicity and faith takes your breath away and fills your heart with dread.

It is not a pleasurable experience in the least.

But it is a very moving one.

One of the things I have come to understand about life is that bearing witness is something we must all do. We cannot avoid the pain of humanity. We must stare it in the face and feel it.

We did that today and I am glad we did.

#Blogging On The Road#life lessons

Heading East

The Gotham Gal and I are heading to Europe for a couple of weeks of vacation.

I will not be working the next two weeks but do plan to blog about whatever is on my mind.

The Gotham Gal, as is her custom, will blog about the various fun things we are going to do on this trip.

I am looking forward to some down time, some good books, and seeing the sights and sounds of different places.

I am a big believer in vacations. We all work hard, get ground down, and taking some time with friends and family to unwind, clear the head, and refresh is always a wonderful thing. I am excited to do that myself.

#life lessons

Principles Over Profit

I was pleased to see NBA Commissioner Adam Silver say this with respect to the controversy over Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the protest movement in Hong Kong:

The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say. We simply could not operate that way.

The NBA faces the potential of a backlash in China that could impact the league’s business interests there.

That could reduce the profits of the league and players and owners.

But the NBA is putting principles over profits here and that is a good thing.

We have faced this issue a number of times over the years at USV and we have tried to do the same.

We have also been on boards of companies that have faced this issue over the years and we have advocated for this approach.

It is not an easy choice. Companies have employees to pay, families to feed, and customers to serve. And principles are not always shared by everyone and the lines are not always clear

But one thing is for sure. The search for profits can lead a founder, a CEO, a team, a Board, and a Company to forget their principles and that is never a good thing.

#entrepreneurship#life lessons#management

Cards

I played cards all through college and on and off since then. I don’t have a regular card game right now and I miss playing cards.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently and she complained that her son was more interested in playing poker than going to college. I told her that I thought he could learn more from poker than some schools and many majors.

I don’t think playing cards is a replacement for reading the great novels and I don’t think cards can replace the fundamentals of writing, math, and science.

But I do think that cards are a great compliment to all of that and I think there are things you can learn from playing cards that are hard to learn elsewhere.

Here are a few of the things I have learned from playing cards:

  • How to evaluate risk and return quickly
  • How to trust your instincts and comfortably act on them
  • How to read a room and size people up
  • How to bluff (a better word than lie which I used in a recent post)
  • How to keep large sets of numbers in your mind and available to you
  • The joys of a group of friends getting together frequently and regularly

There are many more but those are some of the ones that come to mind at this moment.

I think playing cards is a great way to learn many important life skills and I have found it to be very helpful in the venture capital business. So if your child seems obsessed with cards, I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it. It might be a great learning experience for them.

#life lessons

Staying Focused

With all the crazy stuff going on all around us all day long it can be tough to stay focused.

But I would argue that is exactly why we must stay focused.

Some people do this by getting off social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Some people do this by using features like Screen Time to manage phone addiction.

Some people do this by adding meditation and other mindfulness practices to their daily routines.

All of these are good things and helpful.

For me, it is important to keep the things that really matter to me (family, friends, USV and our portfolio, my causes) front and center in my mind and tune everything else out.

I know what happened yesterday. But I don’t let it take up too much space in my brain.

It is not that I don’t care about all of it. I really do.

But I can’t do that much about it and I can do a lot about the things that I am focused on.

So I focus on them and let the craziness pass me by.

#life lessons

September 11th

We were having breakfast in lower Manhattan that morning before a board meeting. It was the CEO, another board member and me. We were sitting outside in a sidewalk cafe in lower Soho and the plane flew right over us, at a height that was clearly not normal, and banked and slammed right into the first tower.

The CEO knew right away it was a terrorist act and we quickly settled up and headed over to the company’s offices. We told everyone to go home that could go home, and then waited to see how many people would arrive at work. Once we had sent everyone home who could go home, we got everyone who could not go home and started walking uptown to our house in Chelsea. We invited everyone in to our home and went out and got sandwiches and made a buffet lunch.

Nobody did anything but watch TV and call their loved ones, if they could get a call out on the overloaded cell networks.

By evening everyone had made plans for the night or figured out how to get home.

It was a horrible day, one that I certainly will never forget, and one that changed everything in many ways.

But when I look back at it, the ability to take everyone in, feed them, and provide some community and comfort, made that day a lot easier for me and my family. I am grateful for that.

#life lessons#NYC

Learning The Hard Way

I got schooled on Crypto Twitter yesterday. It turns out many believe I was wrong about most everything in my post yesterday and they let me have it. Crypto Twitter is a really special place.

One of the comments was that I learned the hard way that crypto networks are not companies:

Pretty much everything I have learned in the venture capital and tech business I have learned the hard way. Easy lessons aren’t very powerful. Hard ones are.

I have gotten more things wrong than you can possibly imagine.

That’s life, that’s learning, that’s winning.

#life lessons