Monthly Archives: May 2012

“I Want Some Nasty”

My friend Kevin Arnovitz on what coach Gregg Popovich told his unbeatable San Antonio Spurs during a time out:

Wired coaches are a nice little frill of the modern-day NBA telecast, but the segment often produces a flurry of well-worn clichés and platitudes. But every once in a while a huddle sound-byte will transmit the essence of a team, its coach and its guiding principles.

“Are we having fun yet?” Gregg Popovich asked the team as they trailed by nine. He raised his voice enough to be heard over “Sweet Caroline,” but no more loudly than he needed to. “I need a little bit more dose of nasty. I’m seeing a little bit of unconfident, a little hesitation. It’s not supposed to be easy. Every round gets tougher. … Penetrate hard, good passes, shoot with confidence. I want some nasty.”

Popovich expressed himself with pure calm. This was one adult speaking to other adults, and the tone was as moderate and measured as anything we’d hear at a random office meeting. Five minutes later, the Spurs took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Be aggressive” is the tired urge of every coach to players. “I want some nasty” takes on a whole new freshness. It feels more actionable somehow. It actually reminds me of DFW in the way one uncommon, vivid adjective can carry an entire thought.

Memorial Day Weekend

“It is on the smallest shoulders that the heaviest price of war is laid.”

(Hat tip: Kai Chang)

Are You Network Literate?

It was fun being back on public radio’s Marketplace this week, with a commentary on network literacy.

Here’s the opening:

Bill Gates once wrote that “The most meaningful way to… put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information,” Gates wrote, “will determine whether you win or lose.”

What’s hard is that the information modern professionals need is always changing. Simply stockpiling facts and knowledge won’t get you anywhere. Rather, you need to know how to access the information you need, when you need it.

You can listen to the audio on the page or embedded below.

Mike Moritz is Chasing Daylight — The Adjustments He’s Making As a Result

Mike Moritz, one of the most successful VCs in Silicon Valley history, announced he’s been diagnosed with an incurable illness and has been told his quality of life will likely decline significantly in the next 5-10 years. Very sad. Moritz says he will continue to do investing but also make some changes in his life:

I will use twelve to fourteen weeks – sprinkled throughout the course of each year – for various pursuits, diversions and trivial indulgences.

Reading this sentence gave me pause and caused me to reflect.

Among other things, I was reminded of the classic 2005 Alex Tabarrok post about travel. To paraphrase: If someone told you you were going to live for 10 additional years (say, living until 110 instead of 100) and ask what you would do with that extra time, you would probably say (among other things), “I’d travel more.” If someone told you were you going to die in the next 5 years and ask what you would do with your time remaining on planet earth, you would probably say (among other things), “I’d travel more.” Those were Alex’s answers, and mine too. As Alex says, “Given that I would travel more if I was to live either less or more, the probability that I was at just that level of mortality that I should not be traveling now must be vanishingly small.” And so he set off for Peru.


The phrase “chasing daylight” from the title of the post comes from the touching book by the same name. I finished the book in tears. My book review is here.

Quick Impressions of Italy, 2012 Edition

I spent last week in Italy (Milan and Naples) launching the The Start-Up of You there. It was my second visit to the beautiful country. Some quick impressions / thoughts:

Unemployment / career anxiety in Italy. I was told 1 in 3 young people are unemployed in Italy right now. Young people are feeling like they need to break into the “digital economy,” not work in a legacy manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, a lot of the historic craft businesses are struggling, and the entrepreneurs there are trying to figure out how to survive in a global economy. Apparently, many entrepreneurs in the north have been committing suicide for fear their businesses were going under.

Crisis? What crisis?! There was much talk in Italy about the economic crisis. But the effects of the crisis were not visible to this tourist. By contrast, when I was in Greece, people in Athens would tell me about the economic crisis and then I would look around and see trash piled up on the sidewalk corner because the garbage men were striking. I’d see taxis all parked in a parking lot because the taxi drivers were striking. I’d see government workers all congregated on the main square because the government workers were striking…so yes, there was indeed a crisis. There are serious economic challenges throughout the Europe and in Italy, per the previous point, but if you just look around, Milan seemed positively tranquil. People seemed happy. Society was functioning fine. This is not a scientific way to assess an economic situation, but the “look around” litmus test should not be dismissed as irrelevant, either.

Culture matters. A surprising number of Italians proactively told me that Italian culture hinders entrepreneurial thinking. For example, the mindset that gets fostered when kids live at home with their parents into their early 30’s. Or the overall view on failure. Essentially, the themes of my post Culture Matters to Entrepreneurship. It’s striking how universal these cultural challenges seem to be around the world.

Buffalo mozzarella. Especially in Naples, the bufalo mozzarella blew my mind. Again. So good.

Thanks to our very energetic publisher Egea for hosting my visit!

If You Could Be Brutally Honest With Your SO, What Would You Say?

Rely on Reddit for such a stimulating and often funny thread: If you could be brutally honest with your SO what would you say?

A rather serious entry has one person confessing that s/he would say:

You don’t love me as much as I love you, and every time you say those three little words, it breaks my heart.

To which a commenter wisely replies:

One always loves more than the other, and it always hurts. The gap in that love is proportional to the pain it causes. In a healthy relationship, the gap is small and easy to forget. But for the rest, it is a measure of the inevitable end, and a source of power for the one who loves least.

Other samples below and 700+ on the actual page.

# I don’t like a lot of your friends… They are tools. I agree to hang out with them because I know it makes you happy.

# When I suggest you pick where we go to eat, I really mean it . . . like seriously . . . really. . . please just choose a place

# For fucksake woman just watch the movie. I see the same things you do so stop asking if I saw that or ask for an explanation on something in crowded theaters, it’s embarrassing.

# Quit typing ‘lols’ when you IM me about something funny, adding that s makes you seem royally retarded.

# I love you. But you are soooo dumb. So dumb.

# we need to lose weight.

# I wish you would take less time complaining, and more time inquiring about my troubles. I deal with obsessive thoughts and high anxiety, and your trivial, dramatic complaints almost doubles my anxiety. I wish you enjoyed sex more, and I wish you wanted it more often. I wish you were more confident in bed, and took charge more often. I also wish you would stick up for yourself. Most of the things you complain about could be solved by just fucking communicating like a human being…

# Just put the fucking keys in the key bowl when you’re done with them, instead of leaving them in random locations throughout the house. I have enough problem getting the kids out the door without having to go on a treasure hunt for the damn keys every day as well.

# I don’t want to be the one who “lights up your life”. You’ve been feeling down lately, and all I want to do is sit in the darkness along side you until you’re ready to come into the light again. Oh, and you eat ice cream abnormally loudly. It annoys me sometimes.

# If he actually showed serous interest in me, I’d leave you in a heartbeat. I’m sorry.

Hat tip to Chris’s delicious feed, which I’m still following, after all these years. I am myself, by the way, still posting links to Delicious. 8,000 and counting…

The Loneliness That Should Worry Us

Claude Fischer tries to rebut the recent slew of articles suggesting loneliness is at all-time highs. In fact, the “studies” that conclude there’s a loneliness epidemic among Americans — and which serve as the basis for many of the popular writing on the topic — are dinky, Fischer says.

The final paragraph of his piece is the best:

Loneliness is a social problem because lonely people suffer. But it’s not a growing problem. Moreover, the loneliness that should worry us is not generated by a teen’s Facebook humiliation, a globetrotter’s sense of disorientation, or the romantic languor of a novelist. It is, rather, the loneliness of the old man whose wife and best friends have died, the shunned schoolchild, the overburdened single mother, and the immigrant working the night shift to send money home. There’s nothing new or headline-worthy about their loneliness, but it is real and important.


Here’s my post on the myth of urban loneliness. Here’s my post on the guilt-free, pain-free solitude that you get when traveling abroad alone.

Start-Up of You: Odds and Ends

A few odds and ends:

— We were pleased to see a favorable review of the book in The Economist. Check it out:

“IF YOU start me up. If you start me up I’ll never stop”. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards probably did not have career advice in mind when they wrote these lyrics. But thinking like a start-up seems to be an excellent way for workers to prosper in a world in which the notion of a job for life has been consigned to the scrapheap. By being on the lookout for new opportunities all the time, changing course if markets shift and tapping professional contacts for advice and leads, people can avoid ending up on the slush pile themselves.

— A particularly rewarding outcome of the project for us has been the thousands of people who have shared their stories about what they now do differently in their career. We’ve featured some of the Reader Stories on the book site. Read the stories and get inspired to enact change in your own career…

— I’ll be speaking in Milan next week (and elsewhere in Italy) and Toronto the week after. You can buy a ticket to the Toronto gig here; email me for info on Italy.

— The Start-Up of You LinkedIn Group has been vibrant, and there are several interesting threads. You can join the community for free. Here are a few recent threads:

— The trailer for the book has over 710,000 views. Reid also recorded about a dozen short video clips about investing in yourself that you can watch as a playlist at YouTube.

Simile of the Day

 The plastic scoop lying in a can of weight-gain powder “like an abandoned beach toy.”

It’s quoted as a positive example in The Art of Fielding of good prose in this otherwise negative review of the book.

Those who effectively deploy metaphor and simile tend to be effective communicators overall.

I sometimes wonder about how one can become better at the art of metaphor…

People Don’t Want to Be Blamed for Giving Bad Advice

Sometimes, when facing a hard decision in our career or in a relationship, we just want someone to tell us what to do. Or, if not tell us exactly what to do, at least to proactively assert ideas for what we may want to do.

But you’ll find that thoughtful advice-givers are sometimes reticent to proactively assert very much. Rather, they ask, “What do you want to do? What are you passionate about?” Then, once you express a preference, they figure out how they can help you realize your goal. Based on your existing inclinations, they’ll amplify what they see are the important things to keep in mind.

Why is this? One perhaps a non-obvious reason: People don’t want to be blamed if something goes wrong. If a person gets you thinking that the right move in life is to backpack around Asia for two months, or accept job XYZ, or go to grad school, and it doesn’t work out — you may (if unconsciously) blame them.

So if you ask for blue sky feedback — open ended advice on what you should do in your life  — be aware of risk aversion on the part of the advice giver, and perhaps make it easier for them by saying something like  “Don’t worry, I’m going to own this decision, be completely honest and throw out any idea that comes you.”

But, really, even with this qualifier, the open ended advice conversations like this only work if you know the other person really well and vice versa. In a majority of cases, proposing specific ideas and asking for specific reactions works best…


David Cohen recently posted about asking for introductions, and encouraged people to not ask him blue sky questions like, “Know any good investors for our company” but rather to request introductions to specific people. When you request an intro to a specific person, David can…

explain to [the person he’s introducing you to] that YOU thought of HIM for a specific reason, and are requesting that I introduce you to him. In this case, I’m merely facilitating an introduction that you requested. Socially, it’s pretty much expected of me that I would do this, and doing it as a double-opt in literally has no “cost” in terms of social currency associated with it.

In other words, there’s less downside risk to David if the meeting goes poorly. You asked for it; he just facilitated. Had HE been the one to suggest meeting a certain person, and the meeting goes poorly, he takes some of the blame. He’d quite understandably rather you request and he enable, instead of dreaming up who would be the best person to meet. Same principle as I discussed above.

But, it can be helpful when someone proactively recommends meeting someone you didn’t previously know about it. I’m sure David does this for close allies. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know…and you don’t know who you don’t know!