Show Navigation

Sarmiento Speaks!

Thinktankin' Latinamerica

Riding the Crest and Nailing the Coffin; or How I Built My Future on Sundays

The Crest, and The Coffin. Both are important in life. One, is the one you should run with. The other, the one you should run from.

I think there are essentially two sort of tasks you can do everyday.

One, “Riding the Crest”, would be doing those tasks that are essentially needed for you to evolve. Be that, read a new management book, invest on that new opportunity, do something “disruptive” that will make you itch and be jumping from one day to the next on new endeavours, new exciting projects… evolution, in one word.

The other is “Nailing the Coffin”, which would be “do the things that need to be done to get the day out of the way already”.

What we don’t realize, is that, most of the times, I’d say around 80% of our time, sometimes more, we’re doing “Nailing the Coffin” stuff. And why did I select such grim metaphor?

Well, when you do only what “you have to do”, you are really saying: “okay, this is me. This is what I’ve become. No more, no less. Here I am, stationary, doing -what needs to be done-, and just that.”

In an ever changing, continuously evolving, world of technology, art, communications and media, where companies struggle to be number 2, or 3 even, doing what you simply “have to do”, is not enough. It’s really just… nailing your coffin.

The Crest metaphor comes of course from the book The Innovator’s Dilemma. For those who haven’t read it, it basically explains that, essentially in technology (although it can be applied to other markets as well) there are “crests”, one on top of the other, one next to the other, intertwined in time, which represent current and past innovations in technology. Basically, if a technology is new, people are afraid to use and invest on it. So the curve is low. Once that technology starts getting known, and people are not scared on using and investing on it, the curve gets higher and higher. When this happens, this technology is most probably replacing an old technology, which people/customers/clients start using less and less… And in time, this new technology that is now “the standard” is replaced yet by ANOTHER technology. These would be the crests; the ones you should ride.

It’s no wonder Amazon today is scoring record revenues, but profits are quite low; they are investing all their money back in new technologies. 

Apple has now struck gold, finally, with their “new” iPad, and thanks to the iPhone, and iPod before that. But don’t forget that the reason Apple made it back into the game was because Steve Jobs had been investing all his money on developing the best OS in history in his company NEXT (for 10 years!!) as well as Pixar (another money-bleeding company) when he was brought back in to manage Apple.

Riding the Crest, is difficult. It takes a lot of money. It takes a lot of time. But it is what’s right. And when does one “ride the crest” when we’re so busy “nailing our coffins”? Good question. The answer? The weekend.

Many people make excuses of why they can’t evolve. They have to pay this, they have to pay that, they don’t have time, blah blah. It’s mostly bullshit.

If you want something, really bad. You go get it. And anyone can do this. It’s just a matter of discipline. Nobody is an excuse. Not your family, not your boss. You don’t have to do it overnight. You just need to be consistent. 

Even if you can do only 10, 15 minutes of “riding the crest”, everyday: that can be enough. You just need to do it, to build your future. If not, you’ll be really nailing your coffin and, believe me, somebody is going to take your place, real fast. If you don’t believe me, go watch a video in youtube of 1 year olds using the iPad. Kids today are learning technology and life in such a way that it will resonate in how we’ve been approaching and understanding the world entirely. These are amazing times, and we should embrace them: not simply say “nah, no time for that”.

Now, think about it. There must be something you can “sacrifice” to get some life building done. Maybe don’t go see that latest Ben Stiller flick to the movies. Maybe don’t spend those long hours playing random match-3 games you download from the appstore. Wake up an hour earlier. Go to sleep an hour later. 

It is when we start riding the crest when we really do evolve. Try to identify in your day what kind of activity is de-braining you (are you spending too much time on Facebook? are you spending too much time answering to e-mails that you shouldn’t have even received in the first place?). You’ll find something, you just need to look, and make some space, to your real future. Try it and let me know if it’s helped you :)

QuickSnap #1: Follow people “in the shit”

Quick!

It has been said that good angel investors always look for people “in the trenches”, or “bootstrapping”, like they like to call it.

I like to call it people “in the shit”.

If you are entrepeneur, CEO, owner of a small shop, business, whatever, be sure to follow (follow, in the twitter sense) people “in the shit”. People “in the shit”, as you must know, are referenced to people in Vietnam, who were caught in actual firefights; the actual “shit”.

So, this quickie says: go grab your twitter account, and look for talents in your area of expertise that you’d like to learn from, and make a Twitter List for them. Call it: “Dudes and gals in the Shit”, or… whatever you want. 

Then, if you have an iPad (or iPhone, Android, etc.), download the Flipboard app (or similar, like Pulse, which has a web/desktop version that’s pretty cool) and make a channel exclusive for this list. And view it a bit everyday.

You’ll be amazed of what you’d learn from getting instant feedback and instant tweets from people “in the shit”. You’ll get to see how they react to everyday life, from family and friends things and business things. And now, you can make your own conclusions, and not wait to read about news from any other sources, which filter most stuff and don’t leave the actual reaction of the people “in the shit”.

Snap!

Learning Management from playing Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero's got something… It's various things, really. And I'm guessing people must've blogged about this game quite a bit. But not probably from this perspective. First of all, only keep reading if you've played Guitar Hero (or any variation, for that matter) in the past. If you haven't… please, get one.

Now, what makes this game so unique? Basically it’s three things:

1) Everyone wants to feel like a rockstar

2) Everyone just loves to hear their fav songs

and, most important of all

3) It has a sort-of logarithmic “scalability”

Now what the heck am I trying to say with point number 3? First of all, I’m no mathematician, so keep on reading, this won’t get any more complex than that. I just love saying the word “logarithm” and feel smart. Anyways, what I mean, is that Guitar Hero, has a “learning curve”. Like most things, actually.

Basically, you take your guitar hero, choose one of your favourite songs, and start playing. Chances are the first time you play you’ll suck and miss all the notes. And the song will stop, right in the middle. And you lose.

In a world where games are nowadays being about “not losing” (no Game Over) and simply “keep on going” (so that their makers can make more $$$ selling in-app purchases etc.), a game where you lose….. and actually want to keep on playing, is practically unheard of.

And what is it that makes you re-play Guitar Hero?

For one, it’s simply to hear that song again and hear the end of it (point 2) and feeling a bit like a rockstar (point one) again, even if you sucked at most notes. Probably you hit one or two.

When you play that second time, you’ll get better at it. And better and better everytime you play, adjusting and upping that difficulty from Easy to Medium to Hard, and eventually the all blazing Expert if you really nailed the gameplay.

Now, this all seems like obvious, but let me tell you, it its not.

Are people working with you in your company feeling like playing Guitar Hero?

Think about it. A new talent starts working in your company. She is good at what she does, and loves to do it (point 2), she really wants to be socially comfortable and happy with that she does (and show off a bit, point 1), but she stills needs to learn and get better, to evolve in her workspace (learning curve, point 3).

Again. This seems obvious. But do you, as a manager, give this to your talent?

Let’s review:

Point 1)

Everyone just loves to hear songs

Are your talents doing what they were hired to do? Are they doing what they like to do, or do you give them just about any task there is to do, even if you hired them to do something else? Are they focused on their work, like they are when they listen to the music they like or do stuff they enjoy?

Point 2)

Feel like a rockstar

Are your talents able to show-off their work? To peers and friends? Or to colleagues or people from other companies? Are they thoroughly credited for their work, or not? Do they go to conferences and meetings? Do people recognize them outside the company?

Point 3)

"Logarithmic Scalability" (a.k.a. the nerd part)

Are you allowing your team to “lose”? Are you allowing them to score low points on stuff, but letting them do it over and over again, so they can get better? Or are you scratching them out of the earth and hiring the next hotshot that sends a shiny resume your way?

I’ve played all Guitar Hero versions, from WII, PS3… everything. Now? I’m not playing it anymore. Why? Because I’ve played them all and I already scored top points on all the songs I know and like.

Conclusion?

Be sure your talents don’t get tired of listening to the “same songs” over and over. Give them new ones. Give them new places and skills to “score top points”. Give them something to enjoy, and be focused.

If not, don’t go whining when they throw out that guitar and go play something else.

The Three Pilars to Great Relationships. And How They Apply to Business.

After several relationships, coming and goings, and some very interesting chats with fellow biz partner Tomas Garcia, I came to several conclusions of why or how some relationships do work, or do not work at all.

Sometimes we’re so desperate in finding ourselves, criticising ourselves, or so anxious for that “next big thing” that we delve into things we shouldn’t, or crap on opportunities that are actually good, but we can’t really visualize or get a grip on.

After some hours of thoughts, and some hours of introspection, I came to these three pillars.

1- Cosmic Connection

You probably know what this is, and it explains for itself. It’s that moment when you’re talking to someone and you both say “Oh, that’s right! you’re so right! I feel the same way!”. It doesn’t have to relate to the intelligence of any of the two people involved. It doesn’t involve their IQ, even their own tastes in music, movies, whatever. It just means that both have had the same experience, in different moments, and that both have the same view/perspective to that same experience. If one likes Reggae, and the other likes Heavy Metal, that doesn’t matter. Of course, it might matter if you’re a musician, and there might be some exceptions to the rule. But it mainly is not focused on “tastes.” That’s less relevant than what happened to you in your life and how you chose to accept/view/interpret it.

2- Feeling of Home

Well, this Talkin Heads’ song says it pretty clearly. What is that “feeling of home”, really? Well, I gave this some deal of thought. Basically, “feeling of home” means being taken care of. Whoever you are, you probably have this “feeling of home”, in someone. Maybe it’s an older brother, your fathers, maybe a close friend who was there with you whenever you needed her. Someone who is there to pick up the pieces when you break. We generally relate to this feeling of home to our own homes, when we were growing up, whichever that is, be it a foster home, a good ol’ fashion american family home, or boarding school. I’ve always remember this awesome conversation about “home” in Spielberg’s Munich (around minute 2:00). And it’s so true. Everyone needs their home. And it’s a truth in all mythology and the monomyth that one really starts to grow up when our infance’s home ceases to exist, for whichever reason (that very cinematographic scene in Star Wars when Luke gets home only to find both his uncle’s burned up in flames, or that chapter in Treasure Island where Jim Hawkins finds his parent’s inn (which served as his home, the Admiral Benbow) all destroyed by all-mighty pirates). Once we lose that first home (when adolescence is gone), we are off to seek a new one. And we generally deposit or search for it in our relationships. To wrap it up, it’s basically to feel taken care of.

3- Sex

If there’s no sex between two people, and you get along, and you date, and you eat, and… whatever… then you are friends, not an actual relationship. Sex is healthy for every relationship, it deals with letting go and be controled, and at the same time to control someone else. It’s that play of coming and going… pulling and pushing. It’s the histeria and mystery all wrapped up into one same act. It also represents and embodies the possibility of pregnancy, of having actual offspring. It’s the friction that makes existence possible and so exciting. Be mindful that I left “histeria” and “mistery” out of all pillars, except in sex. Because I honestly feel that when people are histeric, and simply generating a “fake mistery” about themselves, they are simply not connecting with their fellow couple (point number 1) and are not really generating a real sense of home (point number 2). That only works for sex. We as primal beings NEED the mistery, we NEED the histeria, simply because it’s something more… psicological, than anything else. We need to -not- have something, to want it. I honestly think that sex plays an important part here in this sense. If this same thing happens in Point number 1 and Point number 2, most probably that relationship won’t last more than a month, as it doesn’t create any sense of “trust”.  Also, these are the things that make sex good, but point 1 and 2 bad.

Now, how the heck this applies to business?
Let’s give a closer look.

1- Cosmic Connection

The idea of finding a life partner has many times been related to the notion of finding a business partner. You share life with your biz partners, and you certainly must look as the business as your own “son”, and of your partners as a “couple” or “real couple” relationship to work.

In point number 1 we basically said that you need to find someone who has had similar experiences to you, and who has reacted to them in a very similar way as yourself. One might not seek in a partner someone who has had the exact same experiences, but yes someone that reacted to them the same way you would’ve it they would’ve happened to you. Meaning, that you both share one same point of view. Which, seems a bit idiotic and obvious whenever you start a business… but it might not be as obvious for many.

Also, in many start-ups, you wind up getting lots of pressure from new things, that you never knew that would happen. Or you must do things that you never did before. So, you’re quite unprepared to what’s going to happen. BUT, if you share this cosmic connection with your partner and, bottomline, you both feel the same about “life” in general… then everything should be alright (at least for point 1).

You feel the same way about charity? War? About racism? About culture? About life, in general? Do you share the same values, when it comes to family, art, almost everything really? That would be a cosmic connection needed for business. What happens if our company gets sued? What happens if our company gets the possibility to delve into a new business which isn’t the one we planned for originally? Are our views lined up? Or do we think different? This is what the Casual Connection should definitely please.

2- Feeling of Home

Again, the feeling of home is more of “feeling taken care of”, rather than anything else. So, this means that you must seek a partner, who will take care of your defects. I think I said this too bluntly, let me explain. When you are a young boy or girl, at your home, you’re starting up. You walk, and you fall to the ground. You eat, and you get chucked. You go play, and you make a mess of yourself with all dirt inside your ears. And what does your big brother, mother, stepfather (what have you) do? They help you (clean you, get you up, etc.) and then they teach you.

Many would relate this notion to the idea of “finding a good mentor” in business. That’s probably close to this notion, but it’s not really. Why? A good mentor will NOT clean you up, will NOT pick you up (unless he’s a business partner of yours, in that case, that’s fine). A good mentor will probably teach you and give you solid feedback, before and after you make a mess. But they won’t pick you up when you fall down.

The ones that will do, are your partners. And the metaphor here is that, your defects, is what your partners should “take care of” and make you “feel taken care of”.

Meaning, find a partner who does what you do bad, great. And give them the power to make the choices and decisions in those areas, where you… simply are still a spoiled little kid playing in the playground.

3- Sex

Well, before making this post into some “controversial” post, no, I do not have sex with Tomas Garcia. It’s more about the concept of sex we stated before. The to-and-fros, the friction, that coming and going, pushing and pulling thing that sex has. That sense of being in control and being controlled. Fighting. But always fighting for a common cause, to get to a same place. And that same place would eventually lead to the born of a child. Also, the “sex” (now in between commas) is that moment of *attention*, of grasping the other’s attention, and deeply connecting with your mate. Which relates to a notion and concept I’ve studied form a very interesting book by Oren Klaff, Pitch Anything, where he states a very interesting formula, which is: Attention = Yerning for something (desire) + can’t have it (tension). Here’s an extract from the book:

To control attention, I have always felt that it’s important to know what it’s made of. (…) How did I find what the ingredients are? I didn’t have to. Researchers with brain scanners and hardcore neuroscience chops did the work. What they’ve worked out is that when a person is feeling both desire and tension, that person is paying serious attention to what’s in front of him or her. (…) It comes down to the presence of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephire.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire.

Norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter of tension.

Together they add up to attention.

Oren relates it to pitching, to trying to win a case, to trying to win someone over with an idea, or your persona. Basically, it’s that simple idea of “histeria” we talked about earlier.  You can watch it, but you can’t touch it. So that, when you finally “touch it”, there’s a sense in the brain of “oh, finally I got there!”.

This tension, this build up tension, is actually pretty healthy. Why? Because it helps one introspect himself, it brings everyone to “mature” and “learn from themselves and the other” a little bit more.

Also, because in a business, as in any other type of cooperative endeavour, two brains think better than one. And why is this? Simply because more perspectives, and fresh perspectives, give “aggregated value” to any endeavor. The more perspectives there is to something, the better chances that something will have in succeeding. (Of course, as long as the perspectives are true and honest to themselves and align with the overall objective/karma of the project in question, which deals with Point 1 (Cosmic Connection).)

Conclusions?

So, what I do I really believe? I think that this pillars can be constructed if missing, and can be dealt with… if they are weak, they can be strengthened. If they are not there at all, well, maybe there’s a way to find them. But, as with everything… it will take time, dedication, and patience, to get a pillar “right off the ground” or to simply heal it, or strengthen it. It will all depend of how committed you are to the project/endeavor you’ve delved into, and how much time you have on your hands to try everything and turn it around, and build strategies around it.

Or, of course, if you find a partner who already has all this conditions, then… the easier it would be for you. Sometimes’ it’s about searching for that great partner in life. Or sometimes it’s about making the best with what we’ve got… since, most times, the best things in life are not particularly “gifts”, but something we had to bust our asses for to get.

"A man makes his own luck"
I think someone in Titanic said this, but quoting him would really make this post quite juvenile. Oh, already did. Well… hope it helped the same.