Joanne Wilson, Angel Investor, Real Leader 4

Today’s ‘Real Leader’ interview is a very very special one. Regulars here need no introduction to Joanne Wilson. I’ve mentioned her and her cool blog more times than I can count. I started becoming a regular reader on her blog thanks to an interview she’d done with Mark Suster ages ago. And it’s thanks to her blog that I became a religious regular on Fred’s blog and that’s been an incredible learning experience as well.So, in short, I was greatly looking forward to connecting with her and I was really hoping that she would say ‘Yes’ to an interview request for this ‘Real Leaders’ feature and she did. I am so glad! And I could barely conceal my excitement during the call. We had a fantastic 25 minutes where I fired a volley of questions and her answers were full of insight, energy and optimism. Not unexpected at all. But, still amazing. I also realized how thankful I am to this feature as it gives me an excuse to connect with all these ‘Real Leaders’ around the world. Many more to follow..

Excitement aside. It’s time to move to the interview.

Bio: As this is the first question of the interview as well, I thought I would write in a short description of Joanne as I know her. Joanne Wilson a.k.a The Gotham Gal has had many careers – buyer at Macy’s, spearheaded sales at start-ups, dabbled in many business like e-zines and even housing, chaired not-for-profits etc. She is currently an angel investor in NYC.

But, first and foremost, Joanne’s most important job is being a Mom to 3 terrific kids. Her best friend is her husband, Fred – another role model investor and blogger, who I hope to interview soon as well. She has a range of interests including food, travel, art and theater. Do click here for more on Joanne.

The good news for this interview is that I have videos for you this time. I’m still getting the hang of how best to do these videos and this is just a screen recording of our Skype call. So, please ignore some amateurish work, especially towards the end. I take full blame for that. Any suggestions on how I can do this better are welcome.

The total length is about 22 minutes and I hope you enjoy watching them. The transcript is below.

Part I

Part II

How would you describe your story/path?

I’ve had many many careers. I actually think the next generation will have many many careers. No one will stick with one company for thirty years. Leaving the first company was, of course, the hardest thing. But, once you leave and realize you can get a new job somewhere else, it’s kind of empowering. And you say to yourself – if this doesn’t work out, I can go somewhere else!

I’ve been in a variety of verticals because it just ended up happening that way. I’ve been in retail, in wholesale, in the beginnings of the internet, in sales, in helping grow companies and really came back with all of the knowledge I had and the career I’ve had including raising a family and building homes to investing in companies and help entrepreneurs navigate the world as they grow their companies.

And I like it because I like helping people succeed in their dreams and it’s fun to have a bunch of things all going on at the same time and being involved in a little bit of every one of them, which I really enjoy.

And I learn every day, which is great!

What were your motivations to move across so many verticals?

At the beginning, it was just sparked by interest. I got a job out of college in Macy’s training program as I wanted a job in retail. And then the company changed and went private and they weren’t exactly handing out stock options, it didn’t make sense for me to be there. It was basically stock at the top and ‘we’re going to make you work twice as hard’ below. At that point, Fred had just started becoming a venture capitalist and I knew enough to know that continuing was not smart.

And, so, I jumped ship. That was more evolution (of thinking). All of the decisions I made in the post was definitely family oriented.

What is it that drives you/ inspires you/ gives you energy when you wake up in the morning?

I think I’m really inspired by the entrepreneurs I get to meet every day. It’s Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule in practice.

Tomorrow is a perfect example. I have a meeting at 10, 11, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. I’m going to see 7 businesses tomorrow. If you see enough of this stuff, then you can see the whole landscape and see what’s happening, where the economy is going, what kind of business people are getting into, who’s good, who’s not good, what makes sense and what doesn’t. At least from my perspective. It doesn’t mean that I’m right but from an intelligence point of view, it’s gratifying.

You know, I’m not sitting around making cookies all day, though I do that many times too. It’s intellectually stimulating.

What relationship do you have with all these entrepreneurs? Is it as an angel investor or is it different at times?

There’s many of them that I’m friendly with where if they wanted to pick my brain or have a coffee with me, I’d be happy to do it. But, the majority of them that I end up with ask questions like -‘Can you be my mentor? Would you get involved? I would love to see you once a month.’ For the majority of those, I decide whether to invest or not. And I invest at the very very beginning – not the seed round, but the angel round. And then I spend a lot of time with these people.

I’m not the one that says – ‘okay, we need to talk, we haven’t talked in a week’. But I’m always available. If I had an entrepreneur that called me every single day or shot me an email every day with questions, I would call them, I would get back to them, I would help them. If I don’t have the answer, I would find out the answer, if they need to know something that I don’t know, then I’ll find someone in my rolodex who can help.

So, generally, I end up becoming involved in these companies.

What has been the most defining moment of your life? Or a couple of defining moments?

Well, I think having kids is pretty defining! And, each time I was able to get into a new business. People say, ‘oh my god I have been home and haven’t worked for 10 years. I don’t know what to do’ , particularly women. But, I’ve seen these women go to meet ups and before they know it, they’re in the industry. They know what’s going on, they know the people. They’ve either started companies or work in the company.
That’s pretty empowering.

Having my childern is the most defning momement. I’ve known my husband since I was 19 yrs old. So,that was more of an evolution that started met him in college and continued in to life.

There was a point when we were forced to live in the suburbs due to financial difficulty and that was definitely not the place for me.
Things changed and we were able to move back to the city and that was a major defining moment for us.

(I didn’t ask questions here but, in retrospect, I realized I’d read about this earlier in Mark’s blog. For more context, please do check this interview out)

Having read your blog, I know that woman entrepreneurship is a topic close to your heart. Could you tell us more?

I think its very important for women to be entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. First of all, we always hear that there aren’t enough women in corporate offices at the top level, not enough women CEOs, not enough women in technology, not enough on boards of directors etc.

Let’s say I find 100 women entrepreneurs, now we have a 100 women CEOs. So you can change that.

Second is that women have childern. They are the only ones who can! There is more of a partnership in the last couple of generations be it picking up groceries or changing diapers but at the end of the day
women speak in terms of we, men speak in terms of I. Women have this innate nurturing quality. If you can be a woman entrepreneur at any level, its empowering for your children, particularly for your daughters to see that you can figure out how to balance your life.

And if you run the company, you run the show! If you need to go home, go to a basketball game, take a 2 week vacation or be home with your kids, no one is telling you “You cant do that because you dont have 2 weeks vacation”.

I’d like to see all women be entrepreneurs, be it from doing a startup that becomes a multibillion dollar company to a 20 million dollar company or a bakery down the street. I think its better for the economy, for the families and for the community.

The US is going through a tough time. (And, of course, Europe looks to be in deep deep trouble!) In many ways, the world still looks to the US when it comes to entrepreneurship. Do you think , these frequent ups and downs in the economy have changed what entrepreneurship means?

I think the youngest entrepreneurs, ones younger than 30 are looking at their parents and saying “My Dad worked for that company for 30 years and then they laid him off”. I think many people in the new generation are saying it isn’t all about financial success. Of course, you have to put a roof over your head and food on your table, but its also about happiness. And about what am I am passionate about, what I want to do and how I an going to create my own life. And then you read about all these startups, you see the “Social Network” movie and you say. “Hey you know what,I can do that”.

But I think the caveat here is that when people are funding all of these companies, they are not really hand holding them. Many of these companies need to stand back and say ,”I’ve been acknowledged and given money to start something up, I can make a 3 million dollar company.” or “This business is exploding. This could be a 50 million dollar company”

There are all these different levels, and that is something that is going to get flushed out. Everyone who has a business right now thinks they have and want a multi billion dollar business. Maybe that will change a bit. If you are an entrepreneur and you love what you’re doing and can pay for your lifestyle, get up every morning and feel passionate about it what else could you ask for?

How do you manage yourself and your energy? Any tips and tricks that you may have for us would be great.

I don’t have an assistant. I do everything myself from the meetings with entrepreneurs to the evening outings to dinner parties to my children to managing my house, I’m in the middle of 2 major construction projects right now.

This works because I’m extremely organized and I keep lists. I get things done as soon as they come to my desk. One example is with my calendar. One of the reasons my calendar works is because if I email you today and say, ‘lets meet how about Nov 9 at 2 pm’, it goes into my calendar right then.

So, even if it takes 3 days for you to get back to me, you are already on the calendar. And that’s settled.

If I have 2 days in a week that I spend on personal time or real estate projects, they are blocked out on my calendar. I try to work only 1 night between Mon and Thu, although that doesn’t always happen.

And well, at times, it doesn’t all work as per plan. I had a conference call on Thursday afternoon at 5 pm while I was making dinner. Sometimes, that’s what you have to do!

What would your message be to all readers – especially give they would like to be leaders – if not leaders of companies and communities, definitely leaders of their own families.
I’ve always said this even when people worked for me when I was 22 , follow your heart. If you get up every morning for 2 weeks at a job and you think “This is the worst”, move!

You have to be happy and healthy. Life is too short. There is no reason to be in bad relationships, in bad jobs. It’s up to you.

If more people grabbed opportunities and  rocked their boat on a daily basis, it would be a much better world.

Firstly, credit to a close friend of mine and RealAcader, Snigdha, for helping with most of the transcription while taking some time off her holiday in Singapore (Id Mubarak to everyone!). I ran out of time this morning! Thanks Snigdha!

I’m sure I’ve made a few more mistakes as I’ve posted this since I’m just heading out for lunch. Will make more changes when I’m back on blog in the evening. Do feel free to point them out in the comments..

Overall, this 25 minute phone call was fantastic. I was full of energy and possibilities right after and we have Joanne to thank for that.

A couple of things stood out – the calendar suggestion as an immediate next step that I went about implementing for a bunch of calls that were being scheduled.

But, the line that inspired me most was the  ‘Let’s say I find 100 women entrepreneurs, now we have a 100 women CEOs. So you can change that.’

I’ve blogged a lot about the butterfly effect i.e. the massive potential effect of our positive actions on the world, of working within our circle of influence and making a difference in this world one day at a time. But, that line summed it all up. Every day we get better. And every day we change the world, one way or the other.

Thanks Joanne.

More on RealAcad Mondays

On Eskimos, Snow and Negative Words

This week’s book learning draws inspiration from ‘Switch’ by Dan and Chip Heath-

According to an old urban legend , eskimos have 100 different words for snow.
Now, let’s hold that thought for a moment and look at this list.
Angry Annoyed Appalled Apprehensive Delighted Disappointed Ecstatic Excited Ashamed Bewildered Betrayed Confused Confident Cheated Cross Depressed Emotional Envious Embarrassed Furious Frightened Great Happy Horrified
These are 24 of the most common emotion words in the English language. Only 6 positive words..
In a more exhaustive study, 558 emotional words in the language were collected -Here, 62% were found to be negative and only 38% positive.
It turns out negative words are our snow!
There were 17 such studies that studied how people interpret events across various domains like sports, politics and love life.
Results again showed that people spend more time with bad stuff, reflect it on it more, pay closer attention to it, remember it longer and weight it more heavily – this is called positive negative asymmetry. 
This topic is a subject of the Building Fires post today too. We have an interesting thread of conversation beginning to develop. Look forward to your thoughts/comments..

Building Fires

There’s been a lot of activity on this blog since Friday night thanks to the post on Bill Gates. I have been posting these blog posts on Hacker News for a while. Hacker News is a news aggregator and essentially, if the circumstances are right, your post could become a superstar post for a day.

That was the case with this post. And the impact was massive, make no mistake. The average numbers on this blog are 150 unique visitors (according to Google Analytics) + 170 odd feed readers and email subscribers. I estimate that to be 250-300 readers a day. And the comment thread generally reflects that as well. The most popular posts have about 10-12 comments.

Hacker news changed this for that post. It’s fascinating to see the impact. The post had about 90 comments, 39 reactions and I was wondering what the visitor count would be.

There you go – ~11,000. (the highest before this was 520)

And that brings me to the point of this post. I was having a short chat yesterday with an important member of this community. He remarked that this post had given this blog quite a readership. And I remember discussing with him the difference between readership and page views for a post.

Real readership would be retaining a small portion of these visitors for the long run. To all our new members, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay.  :)

This post was an outlier. However, it made for an amazing learning experience as always. Aside from being called ‘gay’ by one commenter, I was screamed at by quite a few and was also asked to examine my values by a couple. I was reminded how difficult it must be to be a child star, having to deal with intense criticism at a very young age. That’s what I realized with Steve Jobs as well – a lot of his crazy neurotic behavior came from the fact that he was in the spotlight at a time he wasn’t ready for it. And dealing with this bashing every day definitely requires a strong set of values and sense of self.

I still remember the early days of this blog. Putting yourself out there is so damn difficult. When people critique your writing and point of view, it feels like a direct attack on you. You feel naked and exposed. And you always remember the ones who critiqued you, conveniently forgetting about the many that did actually have nice things to say.

Luckily, this time, I was ready for this kind of attention. I’ve learnt not to take critiques overly personally. And watching seasoned bloggers like Fred (in particular), Joanne and Mark handle comments on their blog has led me to develop my own style. But, it was interesting nevertheless to be the object of intense criticism – even if that was only the case for a day.

I posted this experience in a comment on AVC and had a couple of interesting replies. Fred said ‘Welcome to the jungle’ (he would know..) and another regular LE sent me a link to this article by Mike Arrington that resonated.

Any blogger will tell you how frustrating the early days are. Getting someone, anyone, to link to you. Your first comment! etc. And as your audience grows you are introduced to the first rule of anonymous human behavior – it’s dark and brutal, and reminds me how thin the veil of civilized behavior really is. If there is something nasty that can be said, someone will say it. Over and over.

A big part of blogging is simply keeping the peace. You set rules on whether or not you’ll allow anonymous commenting, or commenting at all. You decide if/how to moderate comments. You decide if/how to respond to opposing arguments and (more often) personal attacks. And you, involuntarily for the most part, evolve your writing in response to the feedback loop. Those are the days of innocence, simple joys and simple sadnesses.

And this led me to think about the whole concept of Building Fires. I replied to one comment with a quote I’ve posted here before..

There are 3 types of people in this world – some light fires, others tend to them and then there are those who spend their life pissing on the fire. Avoid them at all costs.

JLM’s quote stood me in good stead yesterday. I also realized something different. It takes a fire lighter or a fire tender to be the bigger person in any conversation or argument. It is so easy to criticize, so easy to give advice, so easy to gang up on a person’s idea or execution and make them feel stupid – essentially, it is extremely simple to piss on the fire.

But, the ones who have played their part in lighting fires or tending them know how hard it is to actually go out there and ‘do’. To build is hard. Because the way the world works, you will have opposition even before you start building. And once you begin, you will have many around you letting you know the truth and tell you that you will fail.

But, that’s the way of things. You will always have people pissing on your work and ideas. That’s half the fun, in truth. It would probably be boring without them.

On this blog, and in specific that post, however, I tried hard to let the pissers know they are not welcome in the comments. This is a place for anyone and everyone who is building or tending to fires, or wants to build or tend to fires. Here, we make mistakes. We say a few wrong things once in a while. But we learn. And we are always encouraged. Never shot down. If you are searching for negativity and gloom, then this is not the place for you.

And to all you ‘fire’ people reading this, a passage from Theodore Roosevelt came to mind.

Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The naysayers often have good feedback for you as well. One of them pointed out that the quotes weren’t very readable. I’m experimenting with a highlighter in this post. Do let me know if you have other suggestions.. 

3 Questions For the Weekend

I have 3 sets of questions for myself this weekend.

1. Do I give more than I get? How much do I ask of others and how much do I give? And in what situations do I find myself ‘giving’ more?

2. Am I consciously building something special? If so, what am I building? What challenges am I facing? What am I learning?

3. What are the most meaningful learning experiences in my life right now? What am I learning from them?

I’m still reflecting on the answers. The answers to questions 2 and 3 are pretty fascinating. They weren’t entirely what I expected.

There were a couple of posts that got me thinking about this. Brad Feld had one ages ago that I stumbled on about giving more than you get.

Seth Godin had an insightful thought this week about building, a post on the difference between Math and Arithmetic. And it ended with this line that stuck with me.

It’s harder to create an original tweet than it is to retweet. It’s harder to find metaphor than it is to work through a to do list. Hard work, true. But worth it.

And, finally, a wiser friend of mine and I were discussing our most meaningful experiences of the moment and our biggest trials. So, I do have half my answers to question 3. The answers, by themselves, were pretty fascinating. Definitely not what I expected.

All these made me take a step back and reflect.

We make our way through life searching for answers. At work, it’s answers to the problem of the moment. In our social time, it’s answers to what would make us happy and what would make for nice experiences with people we love. In our spiritual/philosophical time, we are looking for answers to deeper questions about life and it’s meaning. We’re constantly seeking – from people and life, through our questions.

I just thought I’d flip it around today.

And ask myself a few questions. Give before I get, after all.

Have a nice weekend, folks. I’d love to hear of your reflections/questions that inspire you in the thread.

How Can Anyone Still Hate Bill Gates

David Coursey from Forbes has a nice article on Gates titled – How Can Anyone Still Hate Bill Gates?

There were a couple of line in Coursey’s article that rang very true.

All that money you think Gates stole from you? He’s giving it back, with interest, to the world’s poorest.
All that money you think Apple has overcharged people? Apple still has it and Steve got and kept his share.

Steve Jobs has fittingly had a long list of tributes. He was among the greatest technologists, businessmen, marketeers and charismatic leaders of our generation. He was to CEO’s as the late George Best was to football – the first pop star.

However, there’s been an unfair amount of Bill Gates bashing that’s been going on on the side. Especially with Jobs’ new biography. Now, Bill Gates needs no defending whatsoever just like Steve Jobs didn’t need any additional tributes but I’m going to launch into a staunch defence of the great man purely because there are so many lessons in here.

Gates has been the man easy to hate just as Jobs has been so easy to love. Steve Jobs was the maverick, the showman, the obsessive genius while Gates is the boring anti-technology nerd who copies people’s ideas and makes money of them.

Now, I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Microsoft’s products. I think Steve Jobs definitely got the concept of ‘shipping’ spot on. I love my iPhone and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I love Windows, too, though and primarily because it is excellent for collaboration and the world practically runs on Windows. It’s credit to Bill Gates that that has happened. Microsoft’s goal was to put a computer on every desk and thanks to Gates’ leadership and vision, they actually have. I have never been a fan of Microsoft’s business practices but, that said, Apple’s aren’t much better either. For excessive use of lawsuits on one hand, we have a closed app store on the other.

But, the biggest reason I feel Bill Gates is the man to be idolized is because of his work ethic and humility. He is known to be a voracious reader, an extremely hard worker and has constantly carried himself with an incredible amount of humility for what he has achieved. Make no mistake, he is still Superman. A lot has been made of late of Apple overtaking Microsoft in terms of market cap. Mike Arrington puts this in perspective when speaking of Jobs and Gates as supermen

Bill Gates was the co-founder and CEO of Microsoft, building it to an astounding $470B market cap. Under him, Microsoft had multiple acts, among them: DOS, Windows, Office, and enterprise server software. Since Steve Ballmer became CEO, the company’s value has declined to $223B. I’m sure Steve Ballmer is a smart and passionate guy, but he’s no superman.

In short, I am a huge fan. And always will be.

That said, he just went up many notches when I read this bit of news.

ABC news asked Gates of his view on Jobs’ criticism in his Biography.

Here’s the quote from Steve Jobs: 
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
And here’s Bill’s response:
“When you think about why is the world better today, the Internet, the personal computer, the phone, the way you can deal with information is just so phenomenal…Over the course of the 30 years we worked together, he said a lot of very nice things about me and he said a lot of tough things. I mean, he faced, several times at Apple, the fact that their products were so premium priced that they literally might not stay in the marketplace. So the fact that we were succeeding with high volume products, including a range of prices, because of the way we worked with multiple companies, it’s tough. So the fact that at various times, he felt beleaguered, he felt like he was the good guy and we were the bad guys, you know, very understandable. I respect Steve. We got to work together. We spurred each other on, even as competitors. None of that bothers me at all.”
When you have the sort of power that Gates does, it is imperative that you act with equal responsibility because the world, in many ways, is listening. 
And here, Bill Gates once again proved himself worthy of it. 
Thanks Bill, for showing the way. 

Dialogue and Debate

Regulars here would have noted that I’ve been harping a fair bit about building a community of late. I’ve learnt a lot these past 3 months on the blogging side of things.

I liken the evolution to doing interviews. I remember my first experience as an interviewer in my 2nd year of university in our little start up. I clearly remember being so excited that first session that all focus was on myself and not on the candidate. I was constantly wondering if I was sounding credible to the candidate and behaving like a seasoned interviewer would. All this meant that the interviewee was secondary. It really was more about me than him.

Dozens of interviews later, I learnt to relax. And slowly, it turned to be more about the interviewee. Over time, I was self aware enough to see more hints that were coming my way and feeling at home.

We go through this learning curve in almost everything we do. Driving and leadership comes to mind. When we begin learning driving, we tend to give our cars a really bad ride (especially, if it is a geared vehicle). And when leading, our first followers likely had hell to pay. Mine did, certainly. God bless them.

It’s been similar with blogging. The learning curve, however, has been longer. In my first year, it was all about reminding myself to look for a learning every day. In the second, it was being disciplined enough to blog about it. And in the third, it gradually come down to picking the most significant and blogging about it. And now, it’s evolving to see the bigger picture. The attitude/comfort is in place. Now, I can spend more time on the real thing.

I’ve said this a few times now but I’ve come to realize that a blog is like a coffee shop/bar/meeting place. And the blogger is like a host. Very naturally, there is a community of people around it who visit every day. Some visit once a week and some less regularly. But, to the regulars, it’s an institution of sorts. You tend to like that regularity. You tend to like that bit of dialogue and even, debate. I’ve seen this most at AVC and BothSidesoftheTable, also at TheGothamGal. When I started visiting these blogs last year, I used to go for the purpose of reading. It was similar with blogs of my friends. Over time though, I realized that there are few things I enjoy as a blogger as to see comments and discussions. And keeping the Golden Rule in view, it is but expected that I do the same.

So, over time, I’ve made it a point to comment every time I read a post. At my friends’ blogs, I’ve requested for Disqus (versus the extremely unfriendly built in comments at Blogger, WordPress) and have tried to engage. At AVC and the like, I’ve seen myself become one of the regulars and I love the dialogue and debate. It’s a wonderful way to spend breaks at work. Instead of mindless surfing, there’s some intellectual stimulation. The brain is like a muscle after all, and it’s nice to give it some varied exercise. Besides, like in a pub/coffee shop, it’s nice to see some friendships develop with people from very different backgrounds.

This is a huge evolution in my thinking, though. It’s resulted in a huge change in behavior. Now, I find that I hardly ever read to take in but also to engage. And, in the process, I realize I give back, even if it is just a little bit. There are places I choose not to engage as well. The Harvard Business Review blog is one of them. There is so much of people and blogger bashing that goes on that it doesn’t feel like a place I’d like to share my own views as often.

The key in maintaining a culture of dialogue and debate is to keep it open, welcoming and civilized. And, bloggers and readers alike, have a huge role to play in making that happen.

Besides, wouldn’t it be a pity if most of the discussion (and debate?) of our time takes place under photos of people on Facebook?

As always, I welcome your thoughts. :)

Finding the Real Problem

I’ve mentioned it in passing many times that I am attempting to self publish a book by the end of the year. As it is the case with a task of the nature, I’ve been having my struggles with this. I actually did okay until April but dropped the ball ever since making a few valid excuses that ran until August. Ever since, it’s been a struggle.

Essentially, it’s a problem I avoided. Book-a-day used to be a constant unchecked task on my task list until a week ago.

I didn’t avoid the problem on purpose, I must add. It always felt like I had more important things to do and it was always easier to check a task like Blog or Blessings-a-day versus Book-a-day. I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it anyway. There’s a lot of very good literature about unclear to-do’s and this was the mother of unclear to-do’s.

It was 2 weeks ago that I finally realized that I was running out of time if I wanted to finish the book, as I had hoped to, by the end of the year. December was bound to be a busy month and taking such factors into consideration, I realistically had until the end of November to finish.

Holy cow. I finally had to face the problem. There was no way around it.

I realized that I was not resisting the writing but the task of sitting down and reading the 10 written chapters. I never read on my computer. How did I expect to get this done?

But then, I did read on my phone. So, now, I had to get it on my phone. A bit of research told me that the Dropbox app was perfect for reading stuff on my phone. Perfect! All my files are on Dropbox anyway (I’d done this earlier this year to save myself the trouble of any backing up).

And ever since mid-week last week, I’ve finally been able to get to reading my previous chapters. All inspired, I even penned down the epilogue chapter on the train and I’ve now dedicated my morning’s journey to my book. If I can get through the reading of all chapters by the weekend, I think I would be very inspired to get a lot of writing done when I’m away from work and email on Saturday evening. And yes, I’m very happy.

All that said, one part of me does feel like banging my head on the wall. The real problem was never the book. I’ve always wanted to finish writing it and I’ve always had the energy for it. The real problem was to find a tool that would enable me to read previous chapters when I wanted. Essentially, all these months, I was 1 app download away from making progress.

Relentless focus on removing obstacles and finding the real problem. That’s all I needed. We often get stuck not because we lack the energy to do a job but just because we lack the environment or the tools that would enable us to do it. And all we need to do then is to use our ability to think to enable ourselves to do just that. The rest will happen. And that begins by defining the real problem in the first place.

When stuck, define the problem.

A ‘Duh’ moment.

High time I learnt the lesson. 


Most of you would have likely heard of a blog called Techcrunch. For many years, an article on Techcrunch for a start-up has been perceived to be synonymous to the ‘We’ve arrived’ message to the world.

Techcrunch was founded by leading blogger Michael Arrington who was recent fired from Techcrunch by their new owners, AOL thanks to reported conflicts of interest with a new investment fund that he founded recently. Michael popularized Techcrunch with his ‘I don’t give a sh*t’ style of writing and inculcated that culture amongst his team as well. Now, Michael has started blogging on his own blog called Uncrunched and I wanted to draw attention to a part of his first post.

He writes of the 3 things to expect from him and after Transparency and Truth, he writes about Bias –

– BIAS: I have lots of it, and I never try to ignore it or hide from it. The main thing to know about me is that I’m a champion of entrepreneurs and the startups they build. They are my rock stars. If in doubt I side with them, and that’s clear from my writing. For more on this, read my pirate post and mythoughts on how government can best help Silicon Valley.

I found this bit very fascinating. And I started reflecting on where my biases lay. And I really like the way he demonstrates his biases by saying ‘If in doubt, I side with them.’

I realized I naturally have many biases as well. And they naturally stem from ideas/ideals that I believe in. What I would find scary is if I didn’t have any biases because I would assume that means I don’t feel strongly about anything..

I have a natural bias towards ‘doing’ and ‘doers’, towards entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs, towards books and advancing our education, towards leadership and management primarily in reference to ourselves, towards family and the importance of having a steady personal life, to living below our means, to self discipline and persistence, to inspiration, to principles and values, to risks, failure, openness and to a search for understanding of ourselves.

I naturally favor experience and action over speculation. Almost every learning written here has only been brought in here after I’ve tried and experienced it. That’s why this blog will only ever be as experienced (or good) as I am. That’s the way of things. In a previous comment thread, I had a very kind comment from AbCarl who also request a post on Careers. I admit that one is long overdue but again, I find myself inadequate to shed any light on this subject when I haven’t been able to figure it out for myself. In time though, I’m hopeful it would happen.

And I also realize I truly believe in the power of a learning a day. I believe there will come a time when schools educate their students on this philosophy as a way of life. There are limits on what we can do career wise depends on where our talents lie. I can never dream of being a professional basketball player because I just don’t have what it takes. But, I can definitely believe in my ability to keep learning, try, fail and eventually find where my talents do lie.

Make no mistake, a learning a day assumes failure. But in that, it is unflaggingly optimistic. It assumed that you have stumbled, and not fallen. And that the stumbling will be the making of you.

It’s with these biases that I operate. Over time, my beliefs on some of these may change but what won’t change will be the fact that there always will be strong biases. And I always welcome you to challenge them in the comments as many of you do from time to time because I also value openness and I’m looking forward to the discussions. Besides, there are few things that get me going as much as some good spirited debate.

We live and we learn.

The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one, after all.

That said, as Arrington put it..
Ok, now that we’ve got that stuff behind us, let’s do some blogging!