Find me on foot.

I'm going away. Sort of. Think of it as an Irish Goodbye. A French Exit.

Call it my protest song. My "Message in a Bottle", like Sting belted through the radio in 1979.

I'm not completely checking out or going off the grid. On the other hand, I'm not taking a break either.

For 10 years, along with hundreds of millions of others, and you, I quietly slid into the Upside Down that exists in the tiny little screens on our mobile devices. The first/last things we see and touch every day.

As seconds turn into minutes and minutes stack into hours, I lament all the days I've wasted allowing billions of light-emitting diodes to pass through my retinas in the form of news, information, entertainment and status updates. All the while, I've become less and less social and more and more discontent.

It's time for me to trade Facebook for faces and books ... Instagram posts for a camera and stamps. I understand this may seem a bit extreme.  Then again, so is detox. So is chemotherapy.

Soon I will ride over the Andes with friend-friends, all the way down through Patagonia. All the memories will be captured in my mind, not on my phone. Colorful images to be shared using only words over tables of homemade dishes and bottles of wine from Chile and Argentina ... fire pits and cups of coffee.

I remain convinced you may want a way out, too. Like most, you just can't seem to swim against the undertow. Go into Best Buy and ask for a dumb phone. Use a map on your next road trip. You'll soon find out what I mean.

Over the next year or so, I'll check in from time to time and let you know what I discover untethered.

If you're my friend, you know how and where to find me. If you'd like to be my friend ... well, you will likely need to find me on foot.

 

Get the Hell Out! (Don't Quit)

I'm an idiot. This was a terrible mistake. It’s over. Three lies that slip past the ears of every entrepreneur as they approach failure … and success.

If these words haven’t played in your head before, you’re not taking big enough risks. For the rest of us, all I can say is you’re not nuts. Well, maybe you are nuts but not because of the negative self-talk looping in your head.

Anyone who has striven to do something great has heard this voice. The difference is entrepreneurs that eventually succeed tend to have advocates that refuse to put up with the negative bullshit we tell ourselves.

Don’t take my word for it. Read Jonathan Haidt’s fascinating book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. You’ll soon learn it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings of loss, sadness and isolation in life as you ride along on your elephant. (Read the book.)

For me, I had to learn to stop taking myself and my ideas so seriously. The world will go on without me. And if our dreams aren’t something that can be realized in months or years or even within our lifetime, we still get to choose to find happiness both within ourselves and with others.

So before you nuke your project and jump into Dante’s outermost ring of pain, take a deep breath, drink a large glass of water, and force yourself to take an eight-hour nap. When you wake up, the world will still be here. It may not be as good as the one you imagined but it’ll still be here. And guess what? It needs you. That’s right. The world needs you.

Have a little faith, friend. Yesterday wasn’t your day. Today may not be either. But trust me: in the not-too-distant future, you will get another chance to do something great if you don’t quit.

I’m just hoping the person you were born to be shows up and not the weirdo talking all of that end-of-the-world nonsense that’s wracking your brain.

You’ve got what it takes. You’ve put in your 10,000 hours. You’ve mastered your craft. Get back on your horse and get the heck out of Hades.

Giddy’up!

Sound Check: Grow a Pair

Some entrepreneurs steamroll. Others charm. I paint with my ears.

One of the best gifts I received as a kid was a learning disability. Being diagnosed as dyslexic and ADHD (and understanding how my brain functions differently from others) was liberating for me. I began to adapt the way I communicate my thoughts and ideas with others … to take seemingly intractable subjects and make them simple enough for children to understand. 

But I wasn't able to translate this into commercial success until I first learned how to listen.

One of the greatest challenges an entrepreneur faces early on is learning how to effect change through others. And any psychologist worth their weight will tell you it’s damn-near impossible to change a person's behavior.

If you’re a Strengths Finder 2.0 geek, my leading strength is Connectedness. If you use Predictive Index, I’m Persuasive: more extraverted than dominant, low patience, average formality. Basically, I succeed best through others.

So for me to succeed in business, I had to learn (slowly and painfully) how to lead with my ears, not my mouth. This is a discipline that is often referred to as, “easy to say, hard to do”.

Entrepreneurs can become so consumed with their vision of how the world should be, we forget humans aren’t naturally receptive to change. If we’re not careful, we can mow people over and pigeon-hole ourselves into a cartoonish caricature of mad scientists.

The goal in getting others to see what you see is to inspire them with mediums that connect with their emotions first and logic second. You may have a colorful and compelling story that is backed up by accurate and useful data, but none of it will matter if you never give your audience an opportunity to express how your offering relates to them personally.

As the adage goes, seek first to understand if you wish to be understood. Find friends you trust and hear what they have to say about your widget. To create that first customer, allow them to provide unfiltered feedback on the problem you’re trying to solve.

Trust me on this one and shut up. Put those two ears to work. I promise you'll thank me later.

Angel Funding 101: How committed are you?

Stick with me. This is good stuff.

As a greying entrepreneur, I get hit up for advice and funding. (Mostly funding.) The truth is, I hit up my share of veteran entrepreneurs when I was striking out. When rookies hit me up now, I try to make myself available but with one caveat.

If you want my advice on your career or a venture you’re working on, you have to tolerate a parable first and then answer a few questions. The parable is from the gospel of Saint Matthew and it goes like this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Alright. Let’s break it down.

The treasure was obviously hidden. What was this guy doing digging around on someone else’s property? The fact he chose to hide it “again” means the treasure wasn’t in plain sight.

The guy scores a few points considering he decided against stealing it.

Maybe he was honest. Maybe he knew he couldn’t keep or sell it without getting busted.

He definitely had an idea of what the treasure was worth.

And why did he hide it again? My guess: if he found it, it’s likely someone else would, too.

To me, the most valuable phrase in this parable is, “in his joy”.

Joy is a powerful word. It seems this dude had a genuine sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment in whatever it was he found. And to top it off, he knew what his possessions were worth.

Assuming this guy may have been married, he would have had to talk the missus into selling her stuff, too.

Listen, it’s one thing to be excited about an opportunity. It’s another to persuade others to buy into your vision and mutually commit. This leaves us with two big questions:

What did the treasure consist of?

When I ask entrepreneurs this question, I get a version of one of the following answers:

“Financial independence!”

“Market share!”

“Being admired as an industry leader by my peers!”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I’m skipping ahead here but here’s how I address these kinds of responses.

It’s you that is hidden in the box. YOU.

This always triggers a response like, “How can I be in the box? I found the box!”

I remind them we cannot be discovered until we first discover ourselves. If you ask anyone who has achieved success, you learn there are no big breaks. These folks believed in themselves when few others did and they refused to quit until they found their joy.

Now, if they are asking for funding, I ask them one more question: 

Are you asking me to sell my stuff to buy your field?

While they’re letting that question sink in, I kindly convey the following:

1. Discover yourself FIRST.

2. Prepared to make serious sacrifices to achieve what it is you seek.

3. Get used to putting in tons of ass-breaking work.

Only then, can we begin to understand the cost of being fully committed.

Grandma's Porn Problem

Food Porn, Travel Porn, Adventure Porn, Porn Porn: These are the drugs of choice that slowly crush our souls and steal our joy.

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, now on newsstands everywhere, they cover the state of modern pornography.

"In 2014, Pornhub alone had seventy-eight billion page views, and XVideos is the fifty-sixth most popular Web site in the world. Some porn sites get more traffic than news sites like CNN, and less only than platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal."

Whether your fingerprints are on one or more of those 78 billion page views, the truth is, we all have a serious porn problem. Even grandma.

Pornography, as defined in most dictionaries, means printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.

"Rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings." That got me thinking.

Think about how much time we waste looking at explicit displays of ... everything. Games and movies. Cooking shows. Travel magazines. Adventure catalogues. Foodie blogs and news feeds.

All of these ancillary forms of "porn" are eating up large amounts of our time and resources.

Recently, one of my heroes was ranting that Red Bull was nothing more than a seller of Snuff. A friend of mine pointed out that if that is true, and I believe it is, than this icon of mine (I'm looking at you, Yvon Chouinard), is guilty of being a purveyor of Adventure Porn. Ouch. (Let's just say my friend completely ruined my habit of reading Patagonia catalogues cover-to-cover.)

Whatever it is in the virtual world that's sucking the reality out of our lives and relationships, let's knock it off. 

Let's go outside and do something. Spend time with another living being.

Let's go somewhere we've never been. Let's talk to the people we meet along the way.

Make something. Start a new business. Start a new school

Trade information for experiences.

The point is this: stop fantasizing and start doing.

Sure.

Every once in a while a word gets hijacked.

You say it. I say it. And not because we enjoy being cooperative. While it may be received as a variation of “yes”, what we really mean is a bit more snarky/dickish.

There are degrees of sincerity often attached to this overused expression. 

Scenario A

A neighbor takes you up on your offer to (fill-in-the-blank). You can’t really say no … you did offer to help. Granted, you were on your fifth beer.

Your initial thought: Oh yeah … I did offer to help. I’m such a moron. What you audibly say: “Sure!”

Scenario B

A client emails you and asks for something that’s way beyond the scope of the project. To top it off, she calls you “buddy”. You can’t afford to piss her off but it burns your ass she’s taking advantage of the situation.

What you’re thinking: There goes my weekend. What you text after a 60-second death stare at blinking cursor: “Sure.”

This four-letter word has become a last ditch effort to downplay our just how put out we are, whether we’re right or wrong for thinking so.

If you think I’m off here, just wait until the next time you get a “Sure!” or a “Sure.” And when you feel this smooth yet snarky word about to slip out, go with a sincere reply instead. Something like:

Absolutely. I’m happy to help.

Or, “You bet. I may need to move my schedule around but I think can do it.

Whatever you decide, be kind. The business world in is short supply of this precious commodity, and honestly, what do you have to lose? By being kind and direct, people are more likely to see you as someone they can count on and are less likely to steamroll in the future.

Am I right? Sure I am.

Who farted? When business honeymoons end.

Remember when the love of your life let it rip for the first time?

Dad was painting his house when he heard JFK had been shot.

I was waiting for the bus on a dark December morning when I learned John Lennon was gone forever.

How strange that our brains index certain memories this way.

Do you remember where you were when that special someone — that gorgeous, intelligent person that seemed too good to be true — let one rip right in front of you for the very first time?

I grew up in a conservative, religious home. In a house full of kids, including adopted kids, neighborhood kids and foreign exchange kids. We were reared (pun intended) to be respectful. Especially when it came to containing bodily noises.

I had to attend Etiquette Class as a kid. Under no circumstance were you to fart in public … or as my mom called it, “passing wind”.

I made it through High School without ever hearing a member of the opposition sex cut the cheese. Stack of Bibles. And when I departed for college, I was under the impression this just wasn’t something girls did.

And then it happened.

If you have ever truly and completely loved someone, and then, for whatever reason, they pinch one off within earshot for the first time, it can be fairly traumatic.

Whether it sounded like a mouse squeak or a violent clap of thunder, it can be quite an unsettling experience for all involved.

Where am I going with this nonsense? Well, people do this metaphorically in business every day.

We work so hard to create new customers and develop meaningful working relationships. We go to extreme measures to impress others in order to convey our profound level of commitment, dedication and professionalism. And then, when everything appears to have reached unprecedented levels of goodness, the apple of your eye does the unthinkable. Or worse, you do. And nothing will ever be the same. But that’s OK. Because it isn’t natural for us to sustain this kind of unrealistic expectations in the first place.

The truth is, everybody farts. Literally and figuratively. Get over it.

The next time you catch yourself either trying to produce completely unrealistic results in order to impress a client or colleague, or worse, the next time you embarrass yourself by nearly sharting yourself in a collaborative situation, do yourself a favor. Follow these three simple steps:

  1. Offer a simple apology. Then go for a really long walk.
  2. After the walk, using 100 words or less, write down what you learned from the situation and what you can do to avoid doing it again.
  3. If you can’t get face-to-face, call the person and talk through the situation. Whatever you do, find a way to inject some humor.

Here’s what I’ve experienced after most post-fart standoffs:

It doesn’t take long for everyone to see the situation as a shared experience. A gift, really … a kind of unique breakthrough that can lead to new levels of honesty, mutual respect and collaboration.

Killing (Gently Bruising) with Kindness

I was surprised (and happy) to recently hear Tom Peters rant about kindness of all things. It’s not a topic covered in business books, B-schools, or board rooms these days. Maybe ever.

My dad is one of the best-read guys you will meet. Even he gave a double take when I suggested kindness had to be one of the most underrated qualities among business leaders today.

In business and anything else that keeps score, kindness is often received as one thing and one thing only: weakness.

Mothers and teachers, grandfathers and preachers, they’ve all tried to persuade us to be kind; that kindness is more than just pleasantness. Kindness — and more precisely, intentional kindness in the form of genuine encouragement — is one of the elements that makes us human.

It has been my experience over the years that dispensing kindness as equitably as you can is the only way to go.

How old were you when you first heard, “Kill ’em with kindness”? I was in Sunday School where other boys with clip-on ties were taught to be kind to their enemies. Like the Good Book says, it’s like “putting hot coals on their head”, which as a kid, and even now, sounds awfully sinister.

This notion felt off to me. Why should I act nice to someone just to get back at them? Especially when I could knock their teeth out and be done with it.

Now that I’m older, here’s what I think they were trying to teach us before we raced off in our station wagon to beat the Baptists to the cafeteria:

Responding to unkind people with kindness is the dignified thing to do.

Of course it’s a hassle. It’s certainly unnatural. But leading with kindness has to be one of the best ways to prevent oneself from devolving into pettiness, resentfulness and ugliness — attributes that devalue ourselves and others.

Having bussed my fair share of tables as a kid, I got a taste for what it feels like to be treated as a nobody. On the flip-side, I also benefited from the kindness of strangers, whether it be a smile, kind word, or a small tip.

A friend reminded me today that learning how to serve others in our youth does three things for us: we learn to be a better people, we become better customers, and for many of us, we pride ourselves in being big tippers.

Take this to the bank:

The next time you are at dinner with a client, pay attention to how they treat the wait staff. Are they demanding? Do they talk down to them or ignore them completely? Did they leave a small tip or stiff the waiter completely?

If this is the case, you may be dealing with a unkind person. If my mom wasn’t reading this, I would say you’re dining with a total dick, a/k/a someone you shouldn't build a relationship with. You can try. But it rarely works out.

At the risk of being soft or being perceived as less-than strong, powerful, or in-control, do yourself and your world a favor: be kind in your dealings. You will reap more kindness than the kindness you sow. And the kindness you receive may be just the thing that opens a door of opportunity and sets you on a path towards greatness.