Blog

All posts are my own opinons and do not repersent any organization I am affiliated with.

Most Impactful Mentor

Last night I attended a Jeffersonian style dinner hosted by a couple of friends Nick Karas and Matt Conforti who both work at Flux here in Boulder. The idea of a Jeffersonian dinner is that the dinner conversation has a preset topic that everyone should come prepared to talk about. The topic for last night's dinner was "Who has been the most effective teacher/mentor in your life? Why did they leave a lasting impact?"

There was a wide range of answers. From, basically not having any specific mentors rather considering a friend group as the closest thing. To having very deliberate mentors where the relationship of mentor to mentee was verbally discussed. Also, through the course of the evening, we were able to hone in on a more specific definition of what a mentor is.

We discussed the distinction between a mentor, role model, and a teacher. A teacher is the easiest to define, someone you learn from either with direct contact or not. A role model is someone you look up to and want to become similar to in some or many ways. Finally, a mentor can be both a teacher and a role model. The difference is basically the element of friendship and a good mentor takes some ownership / responsibility in the growth of the mentee. A word that kept coming up around mentors was human. Many people in the group described that their mentors first saw them as a human. Meaning they were much more tolerant of mistakes and treated them with kindness.

Over the past few years since graduating college, I have been very lucky to have had many great mentors. Including Ted Serbinski who taught me the value of giving time to others, a value embodied by Techstars slogan: Give First. And Jason Mendelson whom I picked up the importance of being as kind as possible regardless of who that person is and how busy my own life might be. Those mentors, among many others, have been highly influential in my life over the past few years. However, I would be completely wrong if I had picked any of them as my most influential mentor overall. My answer to that question is indisputably my father. While I was growing up my father was always an entrepreneur. In the late 90s, he started a tech company. And after that, he has run a commercial bakery and been very involved in charitable work. He has always advocated working hard, building things, and that no problem was too difficult or impossible to solve. In addition to being a great teacher and role model, my dad has certainly been the mentor that has left the biggest lasting impact in my life. Thanks, dad!

Finally, thank you again Nick and Matt for hosting all of us for dinner. Hope to do it again!

Moving to a New Place

Moving to a new place is hard. It means starting over in a number of ways. Including making new friends, learning the local area and finding new places to hang out. Daily habits are also retooled. If used thoughtfully moving can be a great opportunity to reshape some of those habits in positive ways.

I moved to Boulder about two months ago from right near my hometown in Michigan. These are a couple of habits I have managed to change since moving:

  1. Exercise. In Michigan, I would exercise about once every two weeks. Here I've been in the rhythm of running or hiking about 3 times per week.
  2. Reading. My regular reading cadence was about 2 book/yr. Since moving, I've finished 5 books and next year I'm setting a goal of reading 25 books. I'm a pretty slow reader but am really enjoying it.
  3. Happiness. Which is not really a habit, but arguably the result of habit. My happiness has been (mostly) up since September 17th when I moved.

I've also been doing a couple things deliberately to meet new people:

  1. I set up a recurring reminder to meet at least one new person every week. My normal method of doing this has been reaching out to someone just outside my network and asking them to grab lunch. At the end of the meeting, I always ask "If there is one person in town I should definitely meet, who is it?" And then follow up with "Will you introduce me?" This is surprisingly effective, and often even ends up in multiple introductions. If I keep this up I will know over 50 people by September next year.
  2. Networking events. As an introvert, I really dislike them generally. However, they are a great way to meet like-minded people. In a small town, it's also a great way to keep up with other people that I've met a couple times in passing.

If anyone has other thoughts or tips on transitioning to a new place I would love to hear them!

Leadership is Influence and Policy

To me, the Trump win does not say that most of Americans are bigots, misogynists or filled with blame and hate. It says that many Americans are not happy with the system.

Our sensationalist media made this election out to be a status quo seasoned politician Hillary vs the evil Donald J Trump. I believe that most people's support for Trump does not come from a bad place. It comes from a deep dissatisfaction and frustration with our government and they support the man who is breaking the mold. Supporters see Hillary and know she will be like other politicians, but see Trump as something new. While not being sure what type of new, his supporters see him bringing change.

My main dissatisfaction with the election result is on the basis of our leader as an influencer, not a policy maker. It's too early to comment on what type of policy maker Trump will be.[1] As an influencer yes, many children will grow up with a president they should not strive to act like. No, I do not believe trump is evil. I believe he wants to help this country. He is a flawed person, he will make mistakes. He will be selfish at times. But I do not believe he has bad intentions. What is best for this country is probably at least priority number two for him. Just like every other politician.

Edit:

This post is my thoughts on why Trump won the election.

[1] My hope is that many of the extreme policies he ran on were campaign rhetoric.

Reflective Listening

I've never been great at communication. From a young age I found it really difficult to grasp that If I understood something in a certain way, it did not mean that everyone automatically understood it in the same way. Starting with the assumption that everyone was on the same page with me meant my speech and writing were often very terse, ineffective and I was responsible for many miscommunications. Improving my communication skills have been something I've been working on ever since.

Last year, David Cohen introduced me to the concept of Reflective Listening. It has changed the way I think about communication. Basically, Reflective Listening is a framework for thinking about the successful transfer of thoughts and ensures that everyone is really on the same page. It's really simple.

  1. Listen to what the other person is saying.
  2. Repeat back, in your own words what you think they said. Be detailed. And ask "Is that right?"
  3. Then ask "Is there anything else?" Repeat the whole process until they say "No, there is nothing else."

Reflective Listening, as implied by the name, first requires listening. Which, while thinking about what my response will be, I sometimes forget to actually do. Then report back what was heard. Asking the question "Is that right?" brings out what wasn't communicated correctly. Finally, asking if there is anything else confirms the complete picture is understood by both parties. Information transfer complete. I love this, it has been really helpful. Thanks for sharing David!

Remember Feeling Bored?

Do you remember the last time you felt bored? I don't, it was a long time ago. Now with the first hint of boredom, I pull out my phone without even thinking about it. It has become a habit for boredom avoidance. Even during a lull in a conversation, it's possible for me to pull out my phone without thinking twice.

I remember reading, but can't find a source, that Zynga the creators of Farmville claimed their main competition was pornography. While this was probably a joke, their point came through; we [Farmville] are competing for your time against other activities that you do when you are bored. With always being connected to work through email and everyone else through facebook, it's clear why boredom is now so rare. There is always something to check or interact with.

In becoming more connected life has become more of a whirlwind. In the same 5 minutes last week, I started by working on a spreadsheet. Saw a text from a family member across the world, excitedly replied. Was notified that the State Government charged my credit card for the toll road I took the day before. Saw and ignored a facebook notification inviting me to a party in another country. Took my turn in Chess With Friends. And finally, reopened the spreadsheet to write another formula. By being absorbed with the whirlwind I was taken away from focusing on what I set out to work on. This happens all the time if I let it.

Another example is when having dinner with a friend. It is so important to me to do nothing but have dinner with that person. Not keep up with anything else in my world. Just be present and enjoy the time together. Presence means being in a particular place and existing now. This used to be automatic if you were in a place, you were automatically experiencing that place. Today, with so many other things competing for attention it's a choice to be present. A choice I'm doing my best to make more often.