Hey Technologist, Revel In Your Culture of Killing It, But Realize That Inside You Are Dying

I want to highlight an article in the NY Times about the Big Sur, California-based Esalen Institute reopening. Why this is so interesting is because its new mission is “to help technologists who discover that ‘inside they’re hurting”.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly from the technology industry are starting to get one of my key messages: “Technology without meaning is like work without fulfilment: purposeless noise.”

As Ben Tauber, the new Executive Director at Esalen, puts it:

There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon Valley as people recognise that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place. The CEOs, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.

Another nearby centre, 1440 Multiversity, which lies nestled in the California redwoods near Santa Cruz, has a similar message in its goal: to recognise that the blazing success of the internet catalysed powerful connections, yet did not help people connect to themselves.

1440 was founded by Scott Kriens, Chairman and former CEO of Juniper Networks, with the rationale that there is “great power in immersion learning – setting aside daily urgencies and dedicating uninterrupted time and energy to focus on our more important, but often more elusive, priorities.”

One of the key questions technologists are starting to ask themselves is whether they are doing the right thing for humanity. It’s all very well building a highly addictive, behaviour changing piece of technology, but if it doesn’t progress humanity in some way then what is the point?

Before heading up Esalen, Ben Tauber had created a real-time celebrity geo-stalking service called JustSpotted and then joined Google as an acqui-hire. He then decided his work was causing harm. “I realized I was addicting people to their phones. It’s a crisis that everyone’s in the culture of killing it, and inside they’re dying.”

As former Google chef Bodhi Kalayjian, who now bakes bread at Esalen says, “Everybody’s got a soul. It’s about finding it.”

The article also quotes Gopi Kallayil, Google’s chief evangelist of brand marketing. He has been wondering about the impact of his work and said that many of the people who came to him had floundered this year.

Ultimately, it’s about finding meaning in your work and ensuring that what you invest your precious time into is something that you can feel proud of.

What is an Elder in Residence Program and Why Does Your Business Need One?

In a previous post (Here’s How Older Generations Can Reinvent as Elders and Continue Their Impact) I talk about the importantance of older generations reinventing themselves as elders. I refer to two fantastic examples of individuals joining high tech Silicon Valley companies when they are in their early 50’s. Both have had a profound effect on their respective businesses: Fred Kofman at LinkedIn and Chip Conley at airbnb.

These are relatively ad hoc arrangements and testament to the foresight of the CEOs of those companies for pioneering this path. And then it struck me: what if this was formalised and crystallised into a program that other companies can follow, add to and learn from?

And so I began thinking: when I was at NICTA I had a problem – 600 very, very smart scientists on staff and a remit to create an entrepreneurial culture and commercialise their research. How was I going to help these academically-driven people reinvent as entrepreneurs? And I needed to do so on rocket boosters as we had enormous pressure to produce results.

One of the most successful things I did was to set up an Entrepreneur in Residence Program. I recruited a number of serial entrepreneurs to join us for a year. In this time they firstly acted as mentors to our scientists and secondly identified a project they could work closely with to fast track a spin out. If they were successful in spinning out a new venture they would take the CEO role and lead it through its growth.

The result of this EiR Program was a definite boost to the organization’s entrepreneurial culture and a slew of venture-backed spin outs in record time.

My aim is to take this learning and apply it to creating an Elder in Residence Program. I see the benefits to a company, particularly one that is growing rapidly and dealing with how to scale leadership, being:

1. A close trusted confidante for the CEO – part adviser, part mentor, part CEO coach;

2. A leadership program that will boost compassion, resilience, wisdom and, ultimately, increase diversity, engagement and organizational transformation.

CEOs often have excellent advisers and investors in their milieu, but I see this to be a role more embedded inside the business – working closely with the CEO one on one as well as building up the leadership team for the purposes of scaling – as they transition say from 150 to 300 staff it is imperative that they are ready for this growth inflection point and the rule of 3 and 10 (at 3 and at 10 things change in any organization and as it scales simply add zeroes onto 3 and 10 and the principle continues to be applicable).

How to Get Better Outcomes With Less Effort

Isn’t it about time you got better outcomes with less effort?

CEO Coaching is your go to method: it’s about leadership development; it’s about being inspired, but ultimately it’s about impact. Your return on investment is a boost to your productivity and your overall well being; which is why at EXOscalr we refer to it as fuel for the soul, rocket fuel for your business.

CEO Coaching helps you find clarity: in your vision, in your role; and this translates across your business with people becoming less confused, more engaging and their overwhelming sense of fear dissipating.

How Reinvention Leads to Continuous Personal and Business Success

We are immersed in a viciously competitive environment in which massive, disruptive change is happening at a ferocious pace. How do we survive such a world, both at a personal and business level?

IBM’s Chair and CEO Ginni Rometty says we “gotta keep reinventing.” But why is reinvention so important and how often should you focus on it?

I asked a panel of six successful reinventors, ranging from private equity and high tech venture capitalists to ad execs, design thinkers and serial entrepreneurs, to weigh in.

Why is reinvention so important to us at a business and personal level?

Sydney-based serial entrepreneur, Pierce Cody views true reinvention as changing the whole way you go about doing stuff. He is on his fourth reinvention: first he was in traditional advertising and then outdoor advertising. He went orthogonal and built an organic whole foods business and today is pioneering digital signboards for real estate with Cody Live (disclosure, I am a shareholder).

Mike Flax lives in Cape Town from where he runs a successful real estate investment business, Spear REIT. He began his career as an accountant, but feeling that his creativity was being stifled he shifted into real estate.  He prefers to see reinvention as a process of ever evolving and is aware of the need to be constantly making small adjustments to his personal and business life.

Also based in Cape Town, Greg James believes that reinvention is key in all aspects of life as we have to constantly evolve and grow. He trained as an accountant and spent years in Switzerland as a mining industry executive managing mergers and acquisitions. He then returned to South Africa and reinvented himself as a private equity practitioner, setting up the Sagitta Group.

“We have to adapt to the changing nature of our world and environment. In order to achieve we have to grow and learn, without this we will stagnate. The world waits for no one. We live in an ever evolving world.”

Peter Bray began his career in Australia founding two advertising agencies before making the leap to New York, where he headed up digital at Saatchi & Saatchi. His take is that reinvention is often the first chance a person has to consciously chart their destiny.

“So much of the first part of our career is falling into a certain time and place. Reinvention is really the first chance for us to consciously invent.”

Design thinker extraordinaire, Doreen Lorenzo was President at frog design and Quirky before she shifted into the role of educator. She is now Director of the Center of Integrated Design at The University of Texas at Austin. Doreen sees reinvention as just another form of learning and in life, we should be continuous learners.

Third generation venture capitalist, Tim Draper lives in Silicon Valley where he founded one of the world’s leading technology venture capital firms, Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In addition to his focus on building high growth technology companies he has also shifted into educating and motivating entrepreneurs as the headmaster of Draper University. He believes in progress.

“Progress to a better life, a better world and to search other worlds. We need to continue to make progress and reinvention allows us to continue to progress faster and better.”

How often should individuals and businesses be considering reinvention and change?

One insight that emerges from the answers given above is that reinvention is not necessarily a one-off.

Mike Flax reflects this, “Individuals and businesses should be continuously refining their business model or raison de’etre. It should never be a once-off change but rather a continuum. By employing your intellect and questioning the future constantly, you will make small, fine-tuning decisions to subtly alter your course daily.  The Big Bang reinvention is clear recognition that you haven’t been paying attention to the world.”

Greg James suggests that people and businesses should always have reinvention in the forefront of their thinking.

Doreen Lorenzo does. She thinks about reinvention a lot.

“I believe that a number of companies and business models would benefit in terms of output and success if design thinking were a greater part of general workflow and product development.

You look at the most successful companies in the world – Apple, Google, Amazon – at the forefront of their process is the human experience. They are constantly thinking how to best respond to the ever changing needs of their customers. Often times companies are too focused on the bottom line or pleasing the board without truly thinking about the end result.

Take Amazon for example, they take a hit on their bottom line every quarter to ensure that their customers are getting the best possible prices, the quickest delivery and the best experience. They bet on revenues catching up to the experience. Now, not every company can afford to do that but it’s an interesting model that addresses human-centric experience above almost anything else. More companies need to think this way and incorporate the human in earlier pieces of the process.

Tim Draper echoes this sentiment, “Every minute of every day, people and businesses should be thinking of how they can improve and do their work better and delight their customer more.”

What would be your one piece of advice to anyone wanting to reinvent themselves or their business?

Mike Flax says the one piece of advice he would venture would be not to chase material success at the expense of wellbeing.

“For you, enough will never be enough and you will never attain inner peace. Chase an ideal bigger than you and your immediate needs. Work towards something that can benefit as wide a group of people or creatures as possible.”

“Don’t try and change the world or others. Just try and change yourself. Because if you can change and improve yourself, by doing so, you will be an example for others to follow. And then they will change themselves and be an example to others and, eventually, the world will be changed as a result of your simple act of changing yourself.”

Pierce Cody believes that the first thing in reinventing yourself is the need to realise that you have got to do it.

“If you think everything is ticketyboo, while Rome is burning then you are never going to do it properly. You have to realise that you have a problem.”

“The question then is whether it is a solveable problem. Maybe it is. Maybe it is simple and you should’ve thought about it before. You might need to seek help from other people. Whenever you are in doubt and you are struggling, ask yourself whether you can change the rules of engagement.”

“Probably the most important thing I do in my life is that if I’m travelling on a shit road: a shit highway to shitdom, then I try to get off that road. I would really suggest to people if they are in that situation that they question whether there is another way to do it? When you are faced with a huge wall in front of you, change the rules of engagement and go around it.

What if Pierce was giving that advice to his 17 year old self?

“I’d give the same advice. I’ve done that with two of my three children. If it’s not working where you are, try and change the rules of engagement. No matter how weird that is and foreign, try.”

Greg James suggests you have a vision of where you want to be. Never let go of that vision and pursue it and as the world changes make sure you adapt your plans accordingly.

Peter Bray advises you to forget about trying to fit in and just be yourself.

“I dumbed myself down in the past far too much in order to not be threatening. In terms of my 17 year old self, I would say be more self-ish. If I were on my deathbed, I’d ask my 17 year old self to be kinder to myself.

Doreen Lorenzo keeps her advice simple: just do it.

This can be the greatest challenge for so many people and business though. They are caught between the status quo and a rapidly changing environment. They are too comfortable in their discomfort.

In his piece of advice Tim Draper suggests a way to break this stalemate: “Take the first step. The next step is easier and so on.”

 

Here’s Why AI Can Have My Job: Because I’m Reinventing Myself

AI is expanding in capability and pervasiveness at a rapid rate. This has led to an overwhelming fear from multiple sectors and skill sets that jobs will disappear, taken over by AI who can do the same task at scale and with efficiencies no human could ever match.
 Given this rising fear you would expect humans to rally together and take on such a direct threat to their livelihood. Instead we find that corporate leaders do the opposite: they continue to treat their people with disdain, and not surprisingly we now have unprecedented and mass disengagement and distrust.
In addition, loneliness is at an all time high: people are struggling to connect; people find their lives have no meaning; they are living diminished lives, well below their capabilities and potential as humans.
In turn, this is exacerbating general fear levels and more people have a heightened level of anxiety about the future than ever before.
Here’s our modern day conundrum: we laud ourselves for being so smart for creating amazing technologies like AI, yet we have so much fear and anxiety about the changes it may bring to our lives and the lives of future generations ( loss of control, jobs and self).
In addition, instead of rallying and finding ways to strengthen ourselves against this coming AI onslaught we continue to diminish ourselves and prepare for our inevitable dominion. Our workplaces continue to suck out our humanity and replace our natural compassion and resilience with fear based incentives to achieve meaningless profit-related goals. We have disengaged in droves.
So what can business leaders and entrepreneurs do to ensure we remain relevant in a exponentially more technologically advanced world?
Entrepreneurs and business leaders need to transcend beyond their day to day activities and self-interests and guide their people to focus on the higher purpose of reinventing themselves and fiercely taking back our humanness; leaders need to create a practice that empowers them and their people to not only find their passion again, but also readies them for optimising their ability to add value in an AI-driven future.
It’s time we, as leaders, turned this tide, reinvented ourselves and fiercely took back our humanness.
It will take significant behaviour change; it will require us to step up into the higher, transcendent level of leadership, compassion and fearfulness required to grow our humanness and stand tall against the tide of technological change and corporate disengagement swirling around us.

It’s Time to Create Your Lean Life Now

Here’s your situation: your life resembles an incumbent corporation (complex, disengaged, and listless); you want to disrupt yourself; you want to create the startup of you, but you don’t know how to do it; you are stuck between your dreams and reality.

And here’s what you know: change is hard; you’ve got to feel that you are ready for change, but there’s never enough time nor is it ever the right time; today you are too busy dealing with all the complexities of your life, that slow moving corporation, to fully contemplate or embark on changing your life.

It’s time to get off the corporate treadmill.

Stop with the excuses.
There is a better way.
You can disrupt your life.
For the better.
Now!

It’s time to create a lean life. 

It’s time to develop a MVC for the startup of you. This minimum viable change and minimum viable challenge will recalibrate your life.

An MVC may seem like a small step, but it will reverberate deeply within you; it will catalyse a different path for you, a path to greatness, a path that is so much more aligned with the true you.

You will sing again.
You will laugh.
You will lean into your lean life free from unnecessary complexities: a simpler, more agile you will emerge, ready to spring into action and grab opportunities that you have only ever wished for before.

I am running a limited number of Lean Life advisory sessions for entrepreneurs and business owners. These are intensive sessions designed to kickstart the startup of you. You will not only develop your MVC, but will formulate a Life Canvas that you can use to iterate and chart your reinvention.

If you are interested in applying for one of these sessions let me know by email (rand at exoscalr dot com) and I’ll be in touch.

How to Create Purpose and Not Fall into the Trap of Entrepreneurial Angst

Everyone asked Harvey, “What’s next?”

He’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur and from the age of 30 he lived the full cycle dream over the next decade: he founded a company; he attracted on board the right people and customers that enabled him to grow the business; he accelerated the company’s market share by raising multiple funding rounds; he sold the company and stayed for a further year before leaving.

At 40 Harvey felt that he had established himself. What’s next is a period of rest: a time to recharge and reflect; an introspective contemplation on the journey, the gruel and the grit and a time to look forward.

When he thought about the journey of building his business certain words came to mind: exciting, frothy, turbulent, dark, viable path, rebuild.

He’d been through a lot: he’d focused exclusively on the business; joy was a distraction and whenever it appeared he quashed it with anxiety; the stress of keeping the business on track was all consuming; he’d deferred his personal well-being until the business was sold.

In his mind he held a construct: growing a business leads to fulfilment, but the journey is an unhappy one; building a business involves a lot of sacrifice; relationships are put to the test and can be destroyed.

He had started his business because of a passion he had and a desire to be an entrepreneur rather than working for someone else. Unfortunately, his entrepreneurial experience had dark moments.

The real question Harvey was grappling with now was how could he do things differently in his next entrepreneurial cycle? He wanted to have the fulfilment of growing another great, world-changing business without the unhappiness along the way.

The challenge for serial entrepreneurs is that their priorities change. When Harvey started his first company he had a girlfriend. He now had a wife and two young children. He wasn’t prepared to sacrifice them and he wanted to make sure this next phase was not about the company at all costs. Having made it once, he hoped to enter his next entrepreneurial journey in a calmer state of mind and not have the anxiety he’d felt when building the first business.

His 30s had been about establishing himself. His hope now was to reach 50 with his family not only intact, but also proud of him. Not achieving a win with his next company would be devastating, but it would be a tragedy to achieve business success without family success.

Harvey’s first business had taught him that the end – a business success – did not always justify the means – a dark and painful journey. He realized that the joy-fulfilment ratio didn’t stack up against the sacrifices and pain of the journey to get there.

What Harvey needs is a superpower to give himself the staying power and emotional strength to both reach for his goals of consequence and work like crazy to achieve those goals. This superpower will give him the resilience he needs: to stay off the rocks of despair and avoid physical or mental breakdown; and to ensure he arrives at his 50s with his family intact, proud of himself and in a state of optimized well-being.

Here’s the secret: Harvey needs the superpower of fusion: he must interfuse happiness and fulfilment; by integrating the two he will find joy in his purpose; he will find that by working on his soul purpose he can be happy during the journey to achieve this goal.

Harvey need only remind himself of the people he knows who appear successful, but who are deeply unhappy to know that fusion is the answer. These confused people have let factors external to their soul purpose determine their path and their egos have trapped them in a loop of unhappiness: they become so focused on holding onto the construct that is fulfilling their measure of success that they are willing to forego any actual, intrinsic fulfilment.

Harvey is grateful that he has had his eyes opened before he did too much harm to himself. Given how much he had focused on his company above all else, he could very well have ended up on the rocks of despair – his company could have failed, his family could have left him. Yet here he was, conscious of the superpower he needs and aware of the dangers of not achieving fusion.

Going forward, Harvey has much work to do to align himself.

Firstly, he will need to go through a process of self-inquiry to determine his goals of consequence.

Secondly, he will also need to set his internal altimeter so he can measure his soul integrity and ensure he stays true to this. Doing so will empower him to achieve personal fulfilment. It will also have the added benefit of creating a powerful magnetic attractor: other people will observe how aligned he is to his soul purpose and be attracted to work with him in achieving his goals of consequence.

You can read more about fusing happiness and fulfilment in my book Fierce Reinvention.

A Near Death Experience Changes Perspective on Success

Sometimes major life events, like near death experiences, can help entrepreneurs find some much-needed perspective about what success means to them.

Read and listen to me being interviewed by the high energy Ramon Ray.

Want to Know the Secret to Being an Extraordinarily Great Leader?

You want to step up, but something always seems to hold you back. Could it be the intensity you bring to achieving your goals? There are ways you can ratchet up your intensity level and achieve extraordinary greatness.

First off, the greater intensity that is required for extraordinary greatness is encapsulated in the mantra: “being fierce.”

In a nutshell, being fierce involves:

  1. coming from a place of truth,
  2. ultimate authenticity, and
  3. being totally present in all that we do and think.

Let’s not forget though that being fierce is not about smashing it, owning it or any other form of faux aggression.

It turns out that consciously seeking and saying the truth involves knowing and working on our weaknesses. Constantly improving and stretching ourselves and our teams is a key element of being fierce and making the shift to extraordinary greatness.

Here’s the secret: extraordinarily great leaders are fierce with the truth. They never let a good story get in the way of telling it as it is. For example, if their business, venture or project is slipping on a deadline they don’t cover this up to the board, investors, or stakeholders. They speak plainly and this empowers their people to do the same. The result is a much more aligned organization that can rally around the problem areas and collectively make that deadline.

And get this: authenticity is Intertwined with fierce truth. We’ve all seen this situation play out: someone in a power role is disingenuous and manipulative with the truth. They may end up getting what they want in the short term, but along the way they lose followers. Inauthentic behaviour is deeply offensive and as humans we disassociate ourselves from it.

The fact is that when we are totally present we are more likely to both be more truthful and to appear more authentic. Again, we’ve all seen this situation play out: you are standing in your manager’s office at work and they aren’t listening to what you are saying. They could be thinking about something important to the business, like achieving the quarter’s looming targets, but you feel that you are being disrespected and made to feel insignificant. It is hard to remain engaged when your manager treats you this way.

But what if you flipped this situation around? Remember how you make your people feel by being fierce with yourself in their presence. Giving them your undivided attention, asking them how they are doing, and watching the beam on their face when they realise that you care about them, as people.

 

Discover more in my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, 15.99 print (USD), October 2017) is available from Amazon.