Posts from 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

Back At It

The summer is over and the fall season is upon us.

I love the fall in NYC. It hums with energy, the air cools a bit, and everyone is out and about.

It is also a good time to get things done. Everyone is back at work and focused.

That includes me.

#life lessons

Fifty-Eight

Fifty-eight years ago this morning, my mother went to the hospital at West Point New York and shortly thereafter I arrived on planet earth.

I’ve always liked having a birthday late in August, at the tail end of the summer and right before labor day.

It is the most relaxed time of year for me, with the start of the fall season right around the corner.

I plan to celebrate it at the beach with family and friends.

#life lessons

Zooming

For the past three or four years, I have been trying to reduce my air travel for a host of reasons (wellness, reducing carbon footprint, increasing productivity, etc) and I would say that this effort has largely been successful.

The main tool that I have used to accomplish this is videoconferencing and although I use whatever videoconferencing software that the other side wants to use, it turns out that I am mostly Zooming these days.

We use Zoom at USV for all of our team meetings and for many of the pitches we receive over video (which has increased significantly in the last few years).

And the vast majority of our portfolio companies use Zoom too.

There are many days when I will be on Zoom for three, four, five hours and I can get a lot done that way.

We had a board meeting yesterday that was one of the best meetings that the company has had and everybody was on Zoom.

I will say that video works better when everyone knows each other well (like the USV team) and the benefits of body language are less.

But without a doubt, videoconferencing has arrived and it can and should reduce your need for air travel. We can’t fully replace the in-person, face to face experience, but we are pretty close to it now. And so we should leverage that to improve our lives, our effectiveness, and our business.

#life lessons

Streaks

Seth Godin says it so well in this blog post celebrating his 11th anniversary of writing every day on his personal blog.

Streaks are their own reward.
Streaks create internal pressure that keeps streaks going.
Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.
Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.

We see this in several of our portfolio companies. Duolingo leverages streaks to encourage people to stick with language learning. Foursquare’s Swarm uses streaks to reward people for continuing to play that game (one I’ve played religiously for over a decade).

And of course my 16 year streak here at AVC is working powerfully too.

As Seth says:

once a commitment is made to a streak, the question shifts from, “should I blog tomorrow,” to, “what will tomorrow’s blog say?”

Bingo

#life lessons

Ignoring vs Not Replying

I had an exchange recently that has stuck with me and so I thought I would write a bit about this topic.

When someone tweets at me, emails me, texts me, tags me, etc, and I don’t reply, they assume I either did not see it or am ignoring it. That might be true but generally, it is not the case.

What is more likely is that I saw it, I got the message, I understand it, and I may even be acting on it. But for any number of good reasons, I have chosen not to reply to it.

There is a very big difference between ignoring something and acting on it, but that difference is not visible to the person sending the message. And so they assume that it is being ignored.

Sometimes I will like the message (if it is on social media) to acknowledge that I saw it. But if I don’t actually like the message (eg “you are the dumbest person in the world Fred”), I might not do that. Or I might. It sort of depends on my mood.

But the truth is I read a lot more and act on a lot more than I acknowledge publicly. And that is the case for many people I know who for various reasons (volume, legal, PR, etc) can’t or don’t reply to many messages.

So my point is don’t assume your messages are being ignored. They may be having the desired impact. But you may not know it.

#life lessons