Optimal Number of Embarrassing Shock Experiences

I remember standing in the parking lot outside the offices of potential client several years ago before a big presentation. I was shaking with nervousness. Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy. I was nervous about how I'd win over a group of skeptical managers. I was nervous about not being taken seriously due to my age (14). Nervous about being mentally outmatched.

I remember arriving at a business networking function in San Francisco. I surveyed the room of strangers standing around small tall circular tables holding drinks and chatting. My muscles tightened as I contemplated having to penetrate seemingly closed circles, insert myself into conversation, and then make small talk with all the formally dressed men and women with many more years of experience.

So I made a bee line to the bathroom, went into a stall, locked the door, put the cover seat down, and sat on the toilet for 30 minutes. Eventually I left my self-imposed bathroom stall imprisonment and chatted with the other attendees at the event, but it was not easy-going. The whole while I asked myself questions like, "Am I saying the right things? Do they think I'm dumb?" This happened at most business social functions I attended.

I remember countless phone call screw-ups. One time I called a guy as part of a sales pitch. He was a big deal and I wanted to nail the call. I reached his voicemail, and started leaving a message, and when I was done with my bit I realized I didn't know how to close. I stumbled through a few "OK well look forward to hearing back from you" lines before saying: "thanks so much again Richard, talk to you soon, take care, thanks, thanks thanks." Then I hung up. I literally said "thanks, thanks thanks" three times in a row before hanging up the phone. Man, did I feel like an idiot and not at all on the level of the guy I was courting.

These were shock experiences. Two reflections:

First, as I experienced these embarrassing moments I did not attribute my missteps to social inexperience or immaturity but I instead concluded that I was less intelligent than the other people at these events. This may explain my drive to keep learning and improving so as to avoid this kind of embarrassment in the future.

Second, there is such a thing as an optimal number of embarrassing / failure experiences. Too many too young and it can destroy foundational self-confidence. Too few, and arrogance reigns.

There is such a thing as an optimal level of insecurity in a person.

Japanese and Korean Editions of My Start-Up Life

The Japanese and Korean editions of My Start-Up Life are available for sale. Here’s the link to the Korean edition. Here’s the link to the Japanese edition on Amazon.com Japan. Below are the covers of each. Apparently the Japanese edition has several manga drawings of me and of other scenes, which is pretty amusing.

Koreamslcover Japancover

The Gritty Reality of the Publishing World

I contributed a post to the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog. It’s a brief caution to the many, many people who are considering trying to write a book. Opening graf:

Do you have a book in you? Imagine: Late nights pecking furiously on the keyboard with a glass of red wine by your side, animated conversations with your editor and agent and, eventually, the final, beautiful product: a hardcover book with your name on the cover. Then your publisher sends you on a book tour where you sign books, do readings, hobnob with literary types and generally feel very writerly. Dream on, baby!

I go on to say that while there are still good reasons to write upon dead-trees, the publishing process is much grittier than advertised.

I got extremely lucky with my book and publisher. So this sentiment is based more on what I’ve observed in the industry over the past year while meeting and brainstorming with dozens of authors. It can be a tough slog, and people ought to know this before committing themselves to the particular medium of book.

From Jakarta, Indonesia

My friend Shawn Powers — who I met randomly a year and a half ago in a laundry mat in Dresden, Germany, and then re-connected when he pursued his PhD at USC — just sent me this photo of My Start-Up Life in a small bookstore at the Jakarta, Indonesia airport. Second row from the front, on the left. Discover Your Inner Economist is also there. Thanks to the proliferation of English language bookstores around the world, authors who sell worldwide rights to a big publisher will find their book in all sorts of cool nooks and crannies.


Semi-Finalist for Best Biz Book of 2007

Like every other author out there, I must humbly remind you to consider My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley as a gift this holiday season. Have a friend who’s thinking about starting a business? Have a teenager at home who’s restless? Just want to support this pajama-wearing blogger? Get it on Amazon today.

I was excited to see 800-CEO-Read, the premier business book outlet and reviewer, name My Start-Up Life as a semi-finalist in the "Small Business / Entrepreneurship Category" for Best Book of 2007. We’ll find out the final winners in January.

Economist Arnold Kling named the book one of the best of 2007 in the business category.

Hedge fund manager Jason Wood, in a holiday gift list, called it "worth buying for your favorite geek."

Professor of entrepreneurship Jeff Cornwall called it "worth your read over the holidays…a good read for entrepreneurs young or old."