Why Filling the Mind Does Not Fulfil Us, Or Make Us Better Leaders


Jeff is a world class salesperson. His drive, his passion for the deal built the last company he was a co-founder of into the leader in its industry. They started the business in a start up garage and grew it into a billion dollar company.

He could have taken his foot off the pedal and coasted, reaping the rewards of his hard work for years. He peers idolised him. He was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. You would have never guessed it, but he was unhappy. Something was missing for him in his life. He didn’t take the time to think too hard about it though. He assumed that his restlessness was because he needed more business-fuelled adrenaline.

He walked out of the company he had co-founded. His industry experience made him a beacon for best of breed activity. His calendar quickly filled up with clients. Learning from his previous business he kept things lean. He took on no staff. He didn’t have an offices. He kept his focus on the core business – selling high end products to the ultra wealthy.

As one deal morphed into another, time began to tick away and before he knew it several years had passed. He was busier than he’d ever been before. This meant that he saw little of his family and his growing collection of expensive toys sat idle most of the time.

It took a while, but he came to realise that his work wasn’t fulfilling him. That said, he was a master at denying his inner voice. All he wanted was to get through the deal he was working on and then he would pare back. He told himself that after this deal he would be happy. He was certain of it. He would blow away the dust on his toys and spend time with his wife. He would take his eldest son sailing.

– As soon as this deal closes I’m done. I’ll be able to spend time with my family. I can’t wait. I’ll be happy then.

But the deal was one of the most complicated he had worked on. It kept extending out and while it looked like it was about to close, it never did. Another complication arose that he had to resolve. Other deals came along and, while he was choosy, he could not let all those opportunities pass him by. The pressing needs of his clients crowded his mind. Thoughts of happiness, family and quality time faded into the background.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Steve Jobs

You may recognise part of yourself in this story. I do. But for me this never ending cycle of busyness and delayed joy ended abruptly. I’d devoted my whole Sunday to getting ahead of the curve before an international flight in the morning. I spent little time with my wife and two teenage boys before retreating back into my study that day. I never made my flight in the morning. Around 10h30pm that Sunday night I died. I still get goosebumps thinking about it now.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to revive myself and after weeks in three different intensive care units I emerged from hospital. My sudden cardiac death experience became a trigger that set me off on a transformation path.

My priorities changed. I was able to still my busy mind and focus inwards. I peeled back layers and layers until all that remained was my inner voice. Like a muscle that has atrophied it was weak, I could hardly hear it. But with constant exercise it became stronger. As it did I felt myself becoming calmer, more attuned to the universe. Pure joy entered my life. I quit my high flying role advising Fortune 500 companies on leadership and technology trends.

During my transformation I knew I had to do something meaningful with this amazingly rare opportunity. At first my ego stepped in – loud and proud – it shouted, this second life is an opportunity to build a technology business like no other. I’m an expert on autonomous systems, digital business and creating high-growth, disruptive businesses. It’s a no brainer.

I’ll admit it was tempting, but this was a trap. My inner voice asserted itself and I realised it was not my calling. My destiny is to be of service to others. There are so many people like Jeff caught in a vicious cycle of delaying their true joy. They fill their minds, but never find fulfilment. My role is to be a wayshower, a guide who can help them on their own transformation journey.

Why work on a business or deal that, while it may deliver millions of dollars to your personal bank account, does nothing for you as a person?

Invest the time to determine what excites you, what delivers real meaning to you. Work on that for the rest of your life. It’s true value – your fulfilment and inner joy is priceless.

An exhausted Shervin Pishevar found himself in a hotel in Eastern Europe after 3 days of gruelling travel. But the technology entrepreneur was elated. He had found his calling.

“It is in these sleepless hours, propelled by my inner drive to make a dent in world, where I find the solace to connect with the deepest parts of my own soul. Some find that solace in yoga, exercise, religion, music. I find solace when I ‘do’- when every cell in my body is telling me that I am doing something that will move my ideas from my brain into the hands of millions of people. This is when I am most alive. I feel the power that we all have inside of ourselves to bring life to the dreams we hold in our hearts.”

His journey represents our power when we connect with our inner voice, when we connect our being with aligned doing.

Today Shervin continues listening to himself, and he continues to make a difference. He has moved from being an entrepreneur into one of the most powerful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He is now a thought leader to whom entrepreneurs from all over the world turn for guidance.

Rarely does one wake up to find themselves transformed. It can take months, even years. The journey usually starts with a sense of the collapse of a person’s ego structures. Something much deeper within them seeks to voice itself, call it the soul voice. This call marks the start of a journey to recalibrate the structures that surround a person. To align with their soul voice a person may need to change their workplace, their community, their activities.

This journey may start with the onset of one of many signals. Some people feel an apathy, an indifference to what used to be important. Closing that deal may not excite Jeff anymore. Others have varying degrees of anger or feelings of isolation.

Fabrice Grinda has an estimated net worth of $100 million. The entrepreneur lived on a 20-acre estate in Bedford, New York. He drove a $300,000 McLaren and had a Madison Square Park apartment for the weekends. But something about his material lifestyle didn’t resonate with him anymore. He moved out of the Bedford house and got rid of his apartment and McLaren. For him it was time to rearrange things and live a more meaningful life. His central focus shifted to family, friends and experiences. They replaced his obsession with busyness and possessions.

The transformation journey involves peeling back the layers, revealing more and more essential truth. This can be a painful time filled with confusion and fear. Repressed feelings can flood into a person’s consciousness, causing discomfort. Moments of uncertainty about the path forward can hinder progress.

A support network can prove invaluable as one goes through this inner self revolution. There are no easy answers, nor is there a digital map to consult. It helps to have a guide who one can talk to about the barriers within as the change begins to unfold.

Alignment with one’s inner self not only makes one feel more fulfilled, but gives one more empathy and turns us into better leaders. Instead of being filled with one’s own joyless noise, we listen at a deeper level and start to hear what our people are really saying.

Rand Leeb-du Toit is Chair & CEO of EXOscalr, the transformational leadership coaching and advisory business. He works with CEOs and other leaders to assist them transform and scale themselves and their businesses from being great to extraordinarily great. EXOscalr’s goal is to add $1 trillion in value and touch the lives of 2 billion people through its clients by 2025.

2011 Reasons Why Social Commerce Is The Next Big Thing

In an interview with VentureWire’s VC Dispatch, Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL recently shared his thoughts regarding social commerce.

These days Steve spends most of his time making investments through Revolution LLC. The firm is focused on investing in consumer companies where there’s some disruptive angle, some new technology or business model to get consumers more choice, more control. LivingSocial fits squarely into this category and so it’s no wonder that they are a Revolution portfolio company.

He believes that LivingSocial have ‘cracked the code to this new approach to social commerce’. They’ve grown from 30 to 600 people in a year and are on track to have 2,000 staff in a years time.

What is most interesting is Steve’s take on where social commerce is at: “It’s the bottom of the first inning in the whole sector.”

Referring to his time at AOL over a decade ago he notes that the “world wasn’t quite ready” for social commerce, “but now it is.”

I totally agree with his prognosis. In 1998 I formulated a model for group buying and spread the word via an electronic brochure built using the first version of Flash. It generated a lot of interest, but the market wasn’t yet ready for such an approach. By comparison, I believe that we have arrived at an inflection point – a time when all the various bits and pieces necessary for social commerce to take off have come together. And it’s for the same reason I am getting heavily involved in the social commerce arena in 2011.

Steve continues, “Groupon and LivingSocial both show this great idea that strikes the right balance between empowering consumers with offers in local communities and giving merchants a much more predictable way to attract new customers, while at the same time providing a great business model for those companies themselves.”

Agreeing with Steve Case, Doug Nielsen, one of the co-founders of Xuba, an Omaha-based social commerce startup notes, “The rapid success of companies like Groupon and Gilt demonstrate how consumers are excited to try new ways of shopping for products and services. But we believe that we are just in the very early stages of social commerce innovation and a number of revolutionary improvements will play out over the next few years.”

In a similar vein, Shervin Pishevar, an active Silicon Valley angel best known for founding Social Gaming Network, has written a post on Quora (which is itself experiencing explosive growth) titled, Social Commerce is the NEXT BIG THING. In it he states that along with Social Search and Social Mobile, Social Commerce is one of his 3 big investment buckets.

He is quoted in the February 2011 edition of Wired UK’s cover story on Social Commerce: “I call it people rank, as opposed to [Google’s] PageRank. Just as PageRank gives more weight to a page with more authority, we can now identify the most in?uential people in a space. Traditional marketing? It’s dead. It’s real-time social marketing and commerce that really matter now. There will be multibillion companies in the social commerce space. We’re where we were with social gaming two or three years ago…It’s about ego, sharing your status and accomplishments, a quest for positive validation.”

Social Commerce Today has summarized the key points in this article – and for your convenience I’ve set them out below:

Speed Summary:

Commerce Gets Social: How Your Networks Are Driving What You Buy

  • Social Commerce, building “a social layer on top of online commerce”, “turning products into conversations”, is attracting big funding, big buzz and generating big revenue.
    • Flash Sale sites such as Vente-Privée use a social layer to promote the sharing of time-limited online deals (and drive member-get-member referrals)
    • Group-Buy sites such as Groupon and Keynoir use a social layer to to promote the sharing of time-limited local deals
    • Social Shopping sites such as PolyvoreKaboodle and Lockerz use a social layer to promote the sharing of products discovered online – thus encouraging ‘social discovery’
    • Social Shopping apps such as Stickybits and ShopKick use a social layer to promote the sharing of store visits, using scanning technology to encourage store discovery and selection
    • Purchase-Sharing sites such as Blippy and Swipely use a social layer to promote the sharing of products purchased – thus encouraging social product discovery and selection
    • Personal Shopper sites such as GoTryItOn use a social layer to promote smart shopping decisions by allowing shoppers to get a second opinion on what to buy
  • E-commerce is Over. Long Live Social Commerce”: Retail has entered a new phase, where product discovery and purchase decisions are informed by the collective and distributed social intelligence of peoples’ social graphs.
  • Facebook is leading the social commerce charge with a) social plugins that add a social layer to retail sites (so people can share likes and purchases with friends, and get personalised recommendations) and b) Facebook Deals that add a social layer to bricks and mortar stores (allowing people to share store visits – and get deals)
  • Social Commerce enhances the retail experience for shoppers – helping them realize the ‘value-expression’ function of shopping (what psychologists call ‘impression-management’ – aka bragging rights, ego-tripping) whilst also helping shoppers make smarter shopping decisions using their social intelligence (personalized recommendations for product discovery, product choice)
  • Social Commerce enhances the retail business for retailers by turning electronic word of mouth into sales – a share on Facebook generates $2.52 for ticketing site Eventbrite, and $20,000 in additional drinks revenue were generated for London restaurant Preto following a Groupon group-buy promotion
  • Big brands want to cash in on your Facebook Friends”: Volkswagen has added a social layer to its online car configurator allowing people to share personal car configurations and get feedback from their social graph.  Of the 450K people using the configurator in November 2010, nearly 1/4 modified their design based on feedback
  • Word of mouth and imitation have always influenced purchase decisions, but social commerce adds scale and transforms this social influence into sales – leaving a trackable (measurable) digital trace: Social commerce makes word of mouth measurable
  • Social commerce makes use of human psychology – the psychology of sunk costs; consumers change from sceptics to advocates once they own a product (part impression-management – we want to be seen as smart shoppers (which is why the average review is 4+ stars out of 5, and part “Post-decision dissonance management“))
  • 90% of purchases are subject to some sort of social in?uence – that’s the size of the social commerce market

Social Commerce Factoids

  • $13m – backing for purchase-sharing site Blippy including Twitter’s Evan Williams and Sequoia Capital
  • $2.52 and 11 visits – what a Facebook share generates for ticketing site Eventbrite
  • $250m – funding for sFund for social applications/services from KPCB, Amazon, Facebook and Zynga
  • 1m+ sites that have integrated Facebook’s social layer on their websites
  • 17m – members of social commerce site Lockerz
  • 98m – “haul video” views for 17-year-old juicystar07 YouTube
  • 60m+ “haul video” views for 23-year-old DulceCandy87 from LA
  • 35 – countries that Groupon operates in – with 2 years of launch
  • £20,000 – extra revenue from drinks earned by London restaurateur Dean Knight of Preto, following a Groupon deal (£20 of food for £8 – 3,006 vouchers sold)
  • 90% – proportion of purchases subject to social influence (Econsultancy)
  • 23% – market share of US display ad impressions on Facebook (vs. 2.7% for Google)
  • 1.75m – UK Facebook users referred to top 200 ecommerce sites in October 2010

Social Commerce Smart Quotes

On the potential for social commerce:

  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) “If I had to guess, social commerce is the next area to really blow up”
  • Andrew Mason (Groupon founder) “The size of the [social commerce] market is the size of every empty restaurant table”
  • Bing Gordon (KPCB investment (sFund)) “The potential for social commerce today is “in?nite”… Every ecommerce site will have to adapt”
  • Christian Hernandez (Facebook) “There was an Econsultancy survey that said that 90 per cent of purchases have some sort of social in?uence – your friend recommended it, or you saw it on somebody. Until now there’s been no way of getting that ‘girls in the mall’ effect on a large scale. That’s the opportunity: it’s huge and untapped. And we have the benefit of both scale and identity”
  • Danny Rimer (Index Ventures) “It’s this notion that a transaction is more communication than the be-all and end-all. We believe that when you go to checkout, the end of that activity is sharing what you’ve purchased with friends. Everything is going to have to integrate a social layer in commerce. No question.”

On the rationale for social commerce

  • Andrew Mason (Groupon founder)  “Middle-class people sit around trying to think of how to spend money.  One of the most powerful ways to figure that out is looking at what you friends are buying, people you trust”
  • Christian Hernandez (Facebook) “Social recommendations can help you discover things that some algorithm won’t”
  • Danny Rimer (Index Ventures)  “When we buy something, we become its greatest champion. That is what social [commerce] can do. It really is transaction as communication. The internet lends itself to promoting and building validation, con?rming that what you’ve bought is great. It’s one of the irrational, unexplainable but inherent bits of human behaviour.”
  • Shervin Pishevar (Social Gaming Network founder, investor) “It’s about ego, sharing your status and accomplishments, a quest for positive validation”

On social commerce business opportunities

  • Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder)  People will converse about your brand independently of you. You can’t stop the negative comments. But what you can do is maximise the likelihood of a distributed set of very good conversations. That has to be your strategy.
  • Christian Hernandez (Facebook) “I’m most excited about Deals – so when you check into a physical Gap, it gives away 10,000 pairs of jeans. Imagine you run a Gap promotion on Facebook, and track who walked into the store and cashed it in for a pair of jeans. It’s the advertiser’s holy grail: how does my brand money lead to foot traf?c? It means you can ?gure out the return on your advertising. And users get to discover deals – your friend checks in and cashes in a deal, it gets shared. So if I learn that Tommy Hil?ger is doing an interesting deal nearby, I might just go and check it out myself. It ampli?es the coupon model to 500 million people.  There’s discovery, sharing, bragging about what you’ve bought, and redemption at the storefront”.
  • Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder) With millions of people in the role of publisher, the challenge for marketers is how you tastemake…Rather than buy [ads in] one TV show, it’s better to be in the fabric of the conversations. It makes more sense to participate in, say, girls displaying their purchase”
  • Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder)  “You don’t say, ‘Wow, I bought this really cool toaster,” he says. “But it’s really relevant with music, movies, books – they are part of our identity, and they’re repetitive purchases. We buy maybe three books a month, at least one album a month, see three movies. That’s key. Look for purchases that can be part of people’s everyday lives”
  • Michael Lazero (Buddy Media founder) “Facebook is now ‘This place where 50 per cent or more of our customers live online, where a quarter of all US ad impressions are – if we don’t go there I’ll be ?red.’ So all of a sudden, brands are publishers who sell directly through social channels – bookstores, travel companies. And we’re just at the beginning.”
  • Shervin Pishevar (Social Gaming Network founder) “I call it people rank, as opposed to [Google’s] PageRank. Just as PageRank gives more weight to a page with more authority, we can now identify the most in?uential people in a space. Traditional marketing? It’s dead. It’s real-time social marketing and commerce that really matter now. There will be multibillion companies in the social commerce space. We’re where we were with social gaming two or three years ago.”
  • Sinan Aral (Stern School of Business, chief scientist, SocialAmp) “The companies that will succeed with social shopping are the ones that have science under the hood.”
  • Danny Rimer (Index Ventures) “We picked up a trend on YouTube called v-hauling. We saw these 18- to 25-year-old girls going online with their most recent shopping bag from Topshop and Target, explaining to the camera why these were awesome goods. And some of them had followers in the hundreds of thousands.”
  • Danny Rimer (Index Ventures) “[Privacy], It’s a generational thing: the new generation want to scream from the mountain-tops what they’ve bought and share the value with the largest audience they can get.”

Appspace: $15M First Round Funding For Social Gaming Network

The creators of social network game apps like Warbook and Jetman, Social Gaming Network has raised a weighty $15M in first round funding. The previous highest first round in this category was $10M, which went to Mark Pincus’s Zynga Networks.

Spun out of Freewebs, SGN has located itself in Silicon Valley and is led by Shervin Pishevar. He’s secured this round from Greylock Partners, Founders Fund, Columbia Capital and Novak Biddle Venture Partners.

This funding comes on the back of some healthy installs and DAU rates across Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and hi5. To date, SGN has attracted over 1 billion page views, 54 million installs and almost 1.1 million daily active users.

Wagner James Au spoke with Shervin:

While Social Gaming Network’s low-graphics games aren’t likely to be confused with a next-gen title, he told me, they’re successful enough. “Small is the new big, right?” Games like Warbook can be made with a low budget, he noted. “Even having a 100,000 daily active users is good revenue.” (At peak usage with a sponsorship deal, he said, Warbook was making $100,000 a month.) “We’re much more about engagement and retentions than virality,” Pishevar told me.

Over the next few months, Shervin Pishevar and his small team will be working on several top secret games that’ll leverage advertising and virtual item sales for revenue. While still relatively low budget, he’s working with developers to give these new titles more polish. The goal, said Pishevar, is to transform Social Gaming Network into “the Pixar of social games.”

[Disclosure: metarand’s Randal Leeb-du Toit is an advisor to MySpace’s parent company, Fox Interactive Media and Chairman of app developer, Creative Enclave, which has released the massively multiplayer game, Imperial Galaxy on Facebook]