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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F*ck Your Bullshit Story: Be Fiercer, Be Happier, Be Greater

So much of what you say, do and feel is layered over by the bullshit narrative we make up about yourself.
It is high time you break free and let your authentic self shine through.
This guided meditation may help:

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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

What’s It Like Taking The First Steps On A Transformational Journey?

Meditate2

One of my clients, Bridget, has written about the first six months of her transformational journey since starting to work with us at EXOscalr. It took a lot of courage to write and I wanted to share it with you. It provides an insider’s view of what it feels like to be ‘under way’ on such a journey and it is powerful stuff:

I had achieved substantial external success. However, internally it was a different story. I felt that I was a fraud hiding my true self and I was constantly burnt out due to anxiety and fear.

When I first started working with Rand I told him that while my quest – contributing towards bringing world peace on earth within my lifetime – was a seed that had been lying in the depths of my soul since my inception, and while I did not yet know how it would be achieved, the road towards action was littered with fears and distance within and between myself, and it was these barriers which needed to be addressed first.

Despite my external successes, my internal was lost. I had written a poem a few months earlier, in which I wrote;

I’m stuck in a wheel.
Why can’t I move on?
Be better, be me, odd as I am.

I knew that I was hiding from myself and others, from my dreams and future, and that the only way to become my best self that I so dearly wanted to reconcile with, would be to peel back the layers of fear that kept holding me back. And peel them back we have!

After a few months of working with Rand I broke through my biggest mountain yet. Denial. In a reflection I wrote;

For the longest time I have been unwilling or unable to accept myself. My true self. My true purpose. And maybe I am still hiding, but I am absolutely closer to accepting who I am and where I am heading.

And I am. This transformational journey has been a rollercoaster as with each layer that is removed a stronger, more aligned me is revealed, and almost as quickly a new fear rises up to be challenged. Despite facing the desire to run away multiple times, I am incredibly proud of myself for standing my ground and fighting for myself. It’s amazing how quickly fears disappear when you do.

I have more fears ahead of me to conquer, more transformation to undergo, and I am aware and gracious for the fact that I could not have achieved such significant and accelerated personal growth without Rand’s absolute acceptance of me, both during times of advancement and setback. I adore our sessions because Rand assists me in shining a light on the compass of my soul, the Sherpa and sage of my internal journey.

I am eternally grateful for the privilege of working with him and can’t wait to see what the next six months unveil.

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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.

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.

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

What would your 21 year old self say to you thirty years later?

#befierce

 

What would your 20 year old self say to your 50 year old self? Would the message stand the test of time, travelling thirty years into the future?

I spent an especially contemplative weekend – this is the second anniversary of my sudden cardiac death – and came across one of the poems I wrote when I was in my early 20s.

I am struck by the messages in this piece and how much they resonate with me. I hope they touch you too.

The Rhythm of Life

ITS BEAT

Fast, slow, fast
Live at your own speed
Be dictated to by no man
Live by your own creed
Let only the word of
The One shape your deeds

ITS FLOW

Rejoice when you are happy
Weep when you are sad
Know your moods
Identify your feelings
For you are an individual
Born alone; you
Will die alone

But, do not be selfish
Apply your knowledge
To the benefit of all
Let others learn from you
Criticise and accept criticism, but
Always adapt in the light
Of what you discover
In your travels

ITS PATH

Sail the seas in search of answers
The questions are inside you
Manifesting themselves and coagulating
Into a thick mass of confusion
But, somewhere along the route you travel
The catalyst will be added
You will light up and
The whole world will begin to fall
Under the eye of eternity

ITS MESSAGE

The crystal waters will
Reflect your image
Like a mirror – you
Will see the light
Living is good, but
Dying will be better
If you live right
Your life will float
Under your nose
Like a waft of sage
You will be at one with
The rhythm of life.

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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