So Much Innovation, So Little Wisdom

Incubator, Schmincubator. Hackathon, Schmackathon.

Pause for a moment and consider how many incubators are operating in the world right now. How many hackathons are taking place?

The mind boggles – they used to be geographically dispersed, then they focused on industry sectors, now they have proliferated down to the micro-industry level.

Startups are graduating from not one, but multiple incubators and they have still not been able to find their mojo.

There are ‘professional’ hackathoners who win event after event, but never actually produce anything.

All this innovation. All this busyness. But how much real progress is a being made? Are people and companies learning from these activities. Can we truly say wisdom is on the increase as a result of innovation?

Pause for a longer moment, think about it – what have you done to increase worldly wisdom today?

InNOvation

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What’s impossible when you unleash your absolute potential?

Last week’s 3000 km (1800 mile) drive across Australia may have only covered a relatively small part of this great southern land but it enabled me to do three important things:

1. spend precious family time in the South Australian wine regions;
2. take down time and fly my drone across amazingly stark terrain; and
3. contemplate the work I’m doing and hone my thinking.

All three of these activities are essential for my continued well-being and overall spiritual fitness. I arrived back in Sydney exhausted, but full of energy and motivated to continue with my overarching purpose – using my wisdom to guide leaders unleash their absolute potential.

During this journey I both refined my purpose and crystallized a framework that succinctly explains our approach to strategic leadership.

Absolute Potential

Recently, one of my clients beautifully described how I was guiding her to ‘unleash her potential’. This really resonated as an apt moniker for my work. On the trip I realized that adding one extra word made a world of difference.  That word is ‘absolute’ – my focus is on “unleashing your absolute potential“. By this I mean your unconstrained potential, free of self-imposed limitations and societal constructs.

As I move into the second year of running EXOscalr I aim to apply this insight to my work and ask clients a really big question, “What’s impossible when you unleash your absolute potential?” Imagine what is possible when you operate without constraint.

Strategic Leadership

On my journey I also formulated the EXOscalr Strategic Leadership Model, which you can see in the diagram below.

SLM

 

This provides the framework for the way in which we work with clients. It is designed in three core modules that connect to drive deep self-awareness, build your momentum and empower you to achieve your absolute potential.

As I say in the EXOscalr Overview (Dropbox link), this sounds straightforward and may even give you a sense of comfort. However, don’t be fooled – EXOscale results are not achieved by following a curriculum, nor are they beholden to a set, linear path.

“You are the program. Your words, your voice contain your powers and they come to life within the coaching space.”

Under the Strategic Leadership Model a lot of work goes into self-inquiry and developing a growth engine, but the final element required for achieving your absolute potential is to be fierce, to harness your personal superpowers and, by doing the work, making things happen. This is a true sine qua non and I have seen people flounder who have put in the initial groundwork, but have not been sufficiently fierce, have not been proactive and seized opportunities.

To be fierce is that essential magical element and I have renamed this missive, Be Fierce, as a reminder to all of us to constantly step up and challenge ourselves.

I encourage you to take a read of the EXOscalr Overview and reach back to me if you’d like to talk about coaching yourself. Feel free to also pass it on to colleagues, portfolio CEOs and friends who may be interested in removing their constraints, refining their capabilities and unleashing their absolute potential.

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At EXOscalr we work with our clients to unleash their absolute potential and make a difference. We draw on decades of experience, including insights gained in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

Please share this newsletter on your social networks or via email. If you received this from a friend, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here:http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Psychologically Prepare for a Venture Capital Ice Age

iceage2

 

Since initially publishing this newsletter to subscribers two days ago there have been two additional touchpoints worth highlighting:

* firstly, a comprehensive piece has been published on TechCrunch, After the Gold Rush, which lists a number of views from other pundits that back up my prognosis;

* secondly, reports from New York City of a young startup founder who appears to have jumped to her death.

These two incidents may in no way be connected, but the point of this piece is that entrepreneurs should prepared themselves psychologically for the rigours of startup life, which may become a lot harder in coming months.

Here is the original piece I wrote:

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I’ve never been much of a doomsday kind of person. I’ve been through two venture capital ice ages and definitely would not wish one on anyone. That said, the signs are there that we may well be heading into another one – it may be a gradual cooling rather than an overnight freeze, but entrepreneurs need to prepare.

The facts first:
In Q4 financing of startups fell by 6.6% to $17.13bn. This is still high, but it is the lowest in five quarters.

Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are reigning in the throttle. New financing rounds are being done at lower valuations.

Startups are being urged to cut their cash burn even if they may not yet need to. 10% cuts are now becoming common place. Thanks to John Furrier of SiliconANGLE for this data.

Stats from WSJ/Dow Jones VentureSource point out that the number of US startups valued at $1bn or more for the first time has tentatively dropped by 50% for Q1 ’16 in contrast to Q4, which itself was over 50% down from the Q3 peak. They also point out that 35 of the 48 US tech venture-backed IPOs are trading below their IPO price.

We all know that most startups fail. In the currently cooling climate the number of failures may well skyrocket. Entrepreneurs should continue to listen carefully to their advisers and VC investors regarding trimming back on burn rate and shoring up resources. But what about their emotional side? The pressure of a cooling market can lead to significant psychological stress on founders.

I want to highlight 3 areas that may well help entrepreneurs psychologically prepare with excerpts from my upcoming book, Be Fierce: The Leaders Guide to Unleashing Your Potential:

– Dealing with Failure
– Dealing with Success
– Being Resilient

1. Dealing with Failure
For some people the fear of failure holds them back from doing things. At best such fear is self limiting, at worst it can be debilitating.

Mick Ebeling (of Not Impossible Labs) was able to progress beyond his fear of failure through learning to jump first and making the assumption that the net would appear. He believed things were going to work out even though when he leapt he had no idea how.

You can follow that belief, or you can follow the fear.

He puts it philosophically. We don’t know why we are here, on earth, but it’s not just to make money or have fun. He visualises us all on rickety little boats that are motoring across the narrow of expanse of time that is our lifespan. If we want to be successful then we’ve got to leave a way behind us. If we take life too slow and steady we don’t create a wake and then what’s the point.

The secret to success, for Mick, was the realisation that failure isn’t a big deal.

We tend to find ourselves entangled in what we should and shouldn’t do. When we unravel this we formulate constraints on what can and can’t be done.

They appear fact-like, but they are far from it. They only amount to conversations that we have in our heads, but so often they seem to crystallise into facts.

That’s not a bad thing, as long as the solidifying conversations are motivated by positive, motivating thoughts. It’s when we view fear-induced inner conversations as fact that we limit ourselves.

Without training and mindfully creating a different set of thoughts we can default to that negative conversation.

And so we need to do all we can to banish negative thoughts, banish fear and focus on having a positive conversation in our heads.

You can change reality through the power of what you say to yourself. As your positive thoughts and conversations crystallise into facts, you change reality by having these positive facts guide you, instead of the fearful ones.

By imagining a “Yes” when you’re expecting a “No”, by acting confident when you’re feeling nervous, you can become the person you want to be. Act like the person you want to be and success will triumph over failure.

Success and failure are far from random. They live within the very DNA of our character and personality. They are expressed through our thoughts and actions.

We choose which side of the fine line we find ourselves on – success or failure – by our courage in the face of both adversity and uncertainty and also how we choose to visualise ourselves. Do you see yourself as failing or succeeding?

2. Dealing with Success

Success can come with a dark side.

Loneliness and depression affect everyone in all walks of life. Successful people are more prone to it and entrepreneurs even more so.

Mark Suster, a venture capitalist at Upfront Ventures, believes that success breeds loneliness. It can be a depressogen and in some studies the rate of depression in successful people is higher than 1 in 3.

Mark identifies four reasons success can be a lonely place:
1) the expectations don’t stop – they get higher
2) there is so much more at stake and so many more livelihoods and legacies that you plan for
3) it is only a heartbeat away from failure and the press love a rise and fall story
4) you find yourself surrounded by a bubble and often a bubble with vested interests in your actions.

As leaders you can be thrust into the spotlight of success with far more impetus than other people and are therefore susceptible to the sudden onset of loneliness and depression, many times with no experience in how to identify or cope with it.

One moment Jim was a struggling entrepreneur. His mother kept yelling at him to get a real job. His friends told him that he was crazy. The next moment his company was valued at over a billion dollars and some guy he’d only ever previously seen on the cover of magazines was thrusting a very, very big check into his hands. He spent six months mastering golf and travelling the world. Deep down he began to feel more and more hollow inside. He was becoming detached from his former entrepreneurial self and didn’t know how to identify himself anymore.

What can you do to deal with the dark side of success? There are two avenues you can take.

Explore the dark

Your life exists as a narrative, a story arc with a past, present and future. In order to truly achieve well-being you need to delve into parts of your past and present that you may feel much trepidation about. There may be dark times when your arc dipped low and this darkness cannot be avoided. It must be explored as it leads to the next point.

Tackle the triggers

Loneliness is often exacerbated by triggers. Things happen in your life that for most people would be viewed as slightly negative, but you view them as off-the-charts negative. Having explored the dark you become aware why these things have such an effect on you. You can identify very early on, even before the trigger starts having an accentuated impact on you, that it is there and you can act.

3. Being Resilient

You want to achieve your best, you want to stand out from the pack. We all do.

And so you push yourself. Nothing wrong with being driven, it can help you attain your stretch goals. You equate stress with success. There is nothing wrong with this on the face of it.

Pushing yourself to overcome a challenge with the awareness that you may well have too few resources at hand to do so is the very definition of stress. And in many instances this stress is the very thing that drives you over the edge and empowers you to overcome that challenge. Cultivating short term stress can only lead to better performance, but it can also protect you through a boost to your immune system.

The issue, though, is that you don’t stop there. You push yourself continuously. You don’t give yourself time to decompress.

Isolated stress turns into chronic stress, and that is deadly.

And yet, as a society, we take pride in how hard we work, in how much stress we are under.

Have you ever asked someone how they are and they’ve replied, “Great, very relaxed, taking my time to complete a few projects.”

You are more likely to get the response, “I’m so stressed. I’ve been working like crazy and I’ve got so much to do.”

Take note of a person’s body language when they give you such a reply. They will puff out their chest with pride, their eyes will widen in excitement and they will smile at you. All is right in their world, this is how it ought to be.

And yet it isn’t ok. Annual stress-related healthcare costs have soared into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Chronic stress will weaken your energy reserves, it will reduce your ability to think and ultimately it can kill you.

Stress, like happiness, lives on a continuum. At one end stress is short-term, it is good. At the other it is chronic and bad. To cultivate stress and optimise your performance you need to determine what your stress limits are. Just the right amount and you are in the zone. Too much and you cross the point of marginal returns and the efficacy of stress in boosting your performance degrades.

The most reliable measure of your particular place on the stress continuum is your resilience: how quickly you recover from a stress event. It translates directly from Latin: “to jump or leap again”.

Resilience measures how long it takes you to revert to your restorative state in which you charge up your strength for your next challenge.

You may undergo a major stress and feel like you have recovered quickly. Feeling fine you take on another stress almost immediately. Again, you feel like you’ve made a quick recovery so you dive into a new challenge. However, each stress can build up a level of resistance to reverting to your restorative state. The end result is that you don’t ever fully restore your energy levels. And then one day you suffer a cataclysmic health issue.

When I was an analyst I saw the effect of this firsthand. My colleagues would step off the plane from a particularly gruelling few weeks travelling, only to literally turn around and do it again the next day. Meanwhile, they were pushing themselves to keep up their writing regime so that could meet their publishing deadlines and also working on keynote presentations for looming events. While they thrived on the stress of each one of these activities, it was their cumulative effect that wore them down.

Besides the constant barrage of challenges that we rise to, you may also be depleting your resilience simply by thinking or participating in routine events like reading a magazine or watching the news on TV. Our default though pattern is to think negatively and so the more we engage in activities that are open to being viewed in a negative light, such as emails and interactions with work colleagues, the more likely we are to stress over them and wear ourselves down. Similarly, marketers and the media are well aware of our how stress-inducing stimuli seize our attention and the daily deluge of ‘act now’ messages we receive have a similar affect.

How can you reduce the effect of stress and build up your resilience?

You come home from work after a busy day and decide to destress with a glass of wine. You try to drown out the thoughts that are stressing you by escaping into a reality program, the latest serial on Netflix or a novel.

But then you have to come back to reality. You do this day after day, night after night until the weekend arrives and you find that you are even more stressed.

This is because constant suppression of negativity leads to an increase in negativity. Not only does it cause you to have more negative emotions, but it can also reduce your self-esteem and lead to depression.

The most effective method to build up resilience is to breathe. By controlling your breathing patterns you alter your emotions and induce stress reduction.

When I was in the military I trained myself to take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. This would help to reduce my anxiety about a stressful situation and also increased my clarity of thought so that I could determine how to deal with the situation in the most effective way.

Taking in slow and deep breaths can stimulate your vagus nerve, which acts against your stress-induced fight or flight response to a stressful situation.

Extending your inhalation and exhalation for just 10 minutes a day can noticeably relax you. This in turn reduces your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. It can also reduce inflammation, improve digestion and brain function.

Deep abdominal breathing involves expanding your diaphragm, the muscle that sits lengthways between your stomach and chest, and reducing your number of breaths by 50% per minute – long and slow, 4-5 seconds in and then 4-5 seconds out.

If you want an even quicker method to activate your vagus nerve, you can immerse you face into a basin of cold water. This method is best done after vigorous exercise. You mainly want to ensure that your eyeballs are completely submerged in the water as they are one of the key vagus nerve stimulation areas.

CEO Richard had a predominantly negative internal dialogue. “We are going to use up all our cash and have to shut down, what will you do then?” Such statements came in waves and at times it seemed like a constant barrage. He delved into one of these times, which has been triggered by a marketing campaign that his internal dialogue told him would fail. What Richard realised is that before the negative thought train left the station there was a primal feeling in the middle of his chest. Feeling always precedes thought. For Richard this was a sharp twisting, squeezing feeling that he best described as crippling anxiety.

He was able to work with this feeling through the practice of meditation. While sitting in his quiet place and meditating, one of these thoughts hit him. Instead of letting it take a hold he decided to explore the feeling itself rather than the accompanying thoughts. He asked himself, “What does it look like? If it were a real thing how would it feel to the touch? What would it smell like?”

These interstitial questions created a major shift in his thought processes. He was able to create a gap between the feeling and the thoughts. Ordinarily, he would notice the feeling and ask himself what was causing him to be anxious. Reasons would flood in. Over a period of months he worked in that gap and strengthened his ability to notice and separate it out.

This enabled him to realise that his anxiety did not stem from any one thing. Instead he had an overarching sense of dread, a feeling that many people experience purely as a result of being conscious.

The act of trying to push that feeling out of his mind had been heightening his anxiety. He decided to accept that it was there, it was a part of him and this acceptance helped ease its affect on him.

By doing so he was accessing his deep well of resiliency, which was as much a part of him as his struggle with anxiety. He did so by essentially standing still, feeling the feeling and not pushing it away with a justification for its existence. From this position of strength he could then return to focus on his purpose, what was driving him to build his company. Coming back to that purpose and holding to it increased his resiliency to the negative barrage.

Remember these three areas, Dealing with Failure, Dealing with Success and Being Resilient, when things get tough for you in your leadership role. Apply them regularly and they will help you deal with the pressure.

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At EXOscalr we work with our clients to unleash their potential and make a difference. We draw on decades of experience, including insights gained in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a professional coach and adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

Please share this newsletter on your social networks or via email. If you received this from a friend, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

How to Increase Your Capability for Consistently Achieving Exponential Growth

Plan

Think about all the vagaries of running a high-technology venture – as executive leaders you need to be setting the vision, formulating strategies for success and operationally attracting and retaining top-level talent, leading and managing teams, sourcing and deploying scarce resources and negotiating ongoing funding rounds, all while building a sustainable platform and compelling products.

Some CEOs and executive leaders have an innate ability to juggle all these balls, keeping them up in the air and constantly moving their business forward. But for every one such person they are 10 others who become increasingly overwhelmed by the level of chaos that surrounds them.

How can you ensure that across your business, or if you are a venture capitalist across your portfolio, there is a constant capability to harness this chaos and turn it into a proactive force for directionally-correct and exponential growth?

At EXOscalr our mantra is:

No plan, No progress

We have developed a comprehensive Exponential Growth Engine & Operating System designed to support a company and a portfolio of companies in executing and operating at optimal efficiency and performance levels, both individually, as a company and as a portfolio.

The Exponential Growth Engine consists of a set of growth levers, algorithms and methodologies for consistently achieving greater scale. The first step is putting in place a bespoke Exponential Growth Engine for each company and then constantly applying granular methodologies for measuring, monitoring and progressing their rate and direction of growth.

The second step is implementing a companywide, team and individualOperating System (this can be applied consistently across a portfolio as well) that is comprised of three core parts:
1. planning – a cascading set of directionally correct personal and business activities,
2. data – methods for ongoing monitoring and the production of rich data,
3. progress – data-driven refinement designed to keep people, teams, companies and portfolios directionally correct to their overall goals.

Our data points show that such a complex system approach greatly enhances and significantly increases collective capability for achieving high levels of growth.

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Exponential Growth & Leadership #4: Let’s Achieve Success Together in 2016

Life

2015 was a fantastic year in many ways. I broke away from being part of a big machine where I was an important cog, but a cog nonetheless. And with your support I laser-focused on where I believe I can add most value to society.

But make no mistake, there were moments of self-doubt, flickers of fear that I had taken on too much, too soon after my sudden-death experience. Again, with your help, particularly through my current clients who infuse me with huge jolts of energy, I looked at my negative thoughts and saw them for what they are – something undesirable, something I didn’t want. I was able to self correct and, steering clear of failure, gather my energy and guide myself onto continued success.

I mention this because if I, who coaches others, can have negative feelings that require not insignificant amounts of positive thinking to overcome, then how much more prevalent is such fear out there among CEOs and leaders who are exposing themselves and putting their necks on the line daily?

My main message to you is that you’re not alone – we all experience such negative thoughts. It is how you deal with them that sets you apart. I’ve got three mantras that help guide me in this respect and I want to share them with you:

1. Success is what you do, not a place you are trying to get to

Success is not a place, it’s not a noun. It’s a journey that you actively engage in, it’s a verb. Success is also subjective – your definition of what brings you joy defines what success is for you. If you allow yourself to be too influenced by others you will find that what you took to be success will be hollow, it won’t resonate with you and you will be unfulfilled.

2. Find your reason for being and you’ll find yourself

The Japanese talk about finding your ikigai, which translates to ‘reason for being’. When you find it and set yourself goals to strive for based on your ikigaithen you experience true joy. You will more readily enter the flow zone, you’ll find yourself experiencing the small things in life with more gusto – food will taste better, the air will be fresher, you’ll hear the birds. When you are in this state your unconscious will more readily take over the task of achieving goals that you set for yourself and things will feel like they are magically falling into place.

3. Embrace failure: don’t let your greatest mistake be making none

Failure is all around us. Accept it, learn from it and move forward. If you aren’t failing then you aren’t pushing yourself enough. This doesn’t mean betting the business at random, nor does it mean playing with the lives of your staff as if they are inconsequential. On the contrary, it means caring so deeply about your business and your people that you want only the best for them. The best inherently comes with more risk, the need for greater experimentation and following a path less trodden. If you’ve taken a considered action with this mindset, and that leads to failure, then embrace it, celebrate it, and push forward.

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With 2016 upon us I want you to see this as your year. Seize it with gusto and make the most of it.

My quest, at EXOscalr, is to positively impact the lives of 2 billion people and generate $1 trillion in value, for and through our clients. To achieve this goal I need to keep pushing both myself and the people I’m working with.

And so let me ask you,

How can I help you more?”

“In what areas of leadership, of achieving success, do you most need a trusted advisor in your personal camp in 2016?

Reach out and let me know. I’m here to serve you!

Join me on my quest, or dive in deeper – let’s make magic happen!

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At EXOscalr we work with our clients to burst the constraints of their potential and make a difference. We have created algorithms and an operating system to help leaders navigate their exponential growth. We also draw on decades of experience in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a coach and leadership adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181, +1-646-480-0205 and +61-417-655-947.

Please share this newsletter on your social networks or via email. If you received this from a friend, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here:http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

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If Not Now, When? 2016 Is Yours For The Taking

IF NOT NOW, WHEN-

THIS YEAR IS YOURS!

2016 is upon you.

It’s staring you square in the eyes. It’s reaching beyond your walls, peering through your barriers and delving into your dark places – full of fears and secrets.

2016 is screaming. It’s calling to your soul. “If not now, when?”
It’s ripping your ‘what if’s” out of your mouth and replacing them with “right now’s”.

2016 is shaking the life out of the “maybe’s” that made you stuck. It’s breaking through your inactions and freeing your passion.

2016 is giving you the ability to be the leader you were born to be.

2016 is here, knocking on your door.

Hear the call!

2016 is yours for the taking.

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Join us at the SuperCEO Leadership Accelerator in February 2016 and grow your super powers as a leader. Make 2016 your year.

Expressions of interest can be emailed to rand at exoscalr dot com including 100 words on yourself, your leadership position and what you want to achieve in 2016.

Act now. Places are limited.

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