Life

Run like no one is watching (because no one is)

abergseyeview running

My wife and I have been watching a lot of Friends recently. And when I say “a lot”, I mean A LOT. We were too young to really appreciate the show when it was on tv and we have really been enjoying watching it from the very beginning.

A recent episode left me with something that I have found myself continuing to think back on in recent weeks. At one point after they have recently moved in together, Rachel and Phoebe decide to go for a run together. In short order, Rachel is horrified by Phoebe’s “emphatic” running style. More than that, she is mortified by what other people would think of her running with Phoebe.

Believe it or not, we should all strive to be a bit more like Phoebe

Believe it or not, we should all strive to be a bit more like Phoebe

Embarrassed by Phoebe, Rachel avoids her during subsequent runs. Eventually, she confronts Phoebe on her unusual running style. Phoebe says something along the lines of “remember how it felt like to run when you were a kid. Running was fun and you felt like you were going so incredibly fast and the wind would just rush by you. I still run that way.” By the end of the episode, Rachel has adopted Phoebe’s “technique” and is having more fun than ever before.

Too few of us run like Phoebe.

We are so scared about what the rest of the world thinks of us, we aren’t true to ourselves. This is even true (maybe especially true) when our only witnesses are strangers.

It is not an accident that we are status-obsessed creatures that spend an inordinate amount of time focused on what others think of us. Not so long ago in most of our genetic histories, our ancestors were living in small villages with little to no mobility or communication with other communities. In this setting, an obsession with not doing anything to look bad makes a lot of sense.

Do or say too many stupid things and you may just ruin your chances with the few suitable mates in your community. This is a big issue when there weren’t a lot of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes in your community. Make an off-color joke about the blacksmith and Gertrude Smith could just write you off as a compelling candidate for a mate altogether. Congratulations. You chances at procreating just dropped by 13%.

You can see how this becomes a problem. (With the number of times I regularly put my foot in my mouth I can almost guarantee I would not have continued the genetic line had I been born a few hundred years earlier.)

Unfortunately, our lizard brains are still stuck in this scarcity mindset despite having overwhelming abundance. The internet. Telephones. Cars. Tinder. You literally could offend 99.99% of people you come into contact with and you would still have a decent shot in this day and age! And yet we act as if saying or doing something stupid in front of people we will literally never see again will somehow be the end of us.

But I want to let you in on a little secret.

The only psychological trait that overpowers our incredible fear of what others think of us…

…is our even more impressive self-absorption.

That’s right.

You shouldn’t care about what other people think of you, because they AREN’T thinking about you. They are all too focused on their own life to expend calories thinking about what you just said or the fact that your boots and your belt clash. And you know what, even if they are looking at you, who cares? Chances are your paths will never cross again. Go ahead, live your life.

This may seem like a pessimistic perspective, but once you accept it, you will find it incredibly freeing. You’ll be able to start living how you would if you weren’t afraid what other people thought. You’d be able to start playing Grand Theft Life.

If I can be honest with you, this is an area where I definitely do not always practice what I preach. I definitely worry sometimes about what others think. This is one of the many (many, many, many, many) opportunities I have for self-improvement. But it’s an area I have definitely improved on. It is something that has been key to overcoming self-doubt and anxiety. And if I can do it, you can do it too.

One of the biggest areas in our modern world where I have seen this obsession with what other people think trip us up is social media. It may seem like everyone and their grandmother have 6 Twitter accounts, 2 Snapchats, 3 Instagrams, and a LinkedIn for their dog (not even the dog still has an active Facebook account though), but I actually think we could use some more people sharing their views and perspectives on the interwebs. Some of the smartest, most interesting people I know refuse to share on social media.

They are worried about what people will think. They are worried that other people are watching.

Here’s what I have learned about sharing content online.

Say something smart and people will find it, share it, and potentially open doors for you.

Say something stupid, and no one will do anything. People won’t spare it a second thought. Now there are limits. You can’t say anything toooo obscene.

But for the most part, sharing content is the ultimate asymmetric bet. Big upside. Minimal downside.

If you are afraid of putting yourself out there, don’t be. People are too busy focusing on own to their own feet to notice your missteps. But they will notice your greatness.

My advice:

Run like no one is watching.

Dance like no one is watching.

Tweet like no one is following.


Lets get ethical, ethical

Abergseyeview dumbledore

Living a life of uncompromising integrity is as difficult as it is important. As with many important things in life, it is a goal that can never truly be reached. It’s the act of reaching for it that matters.

One of the topics that I have written about most on this blog is the power of little things. Little things done over and over and over again turn into big things. And those big things have a significant impact on your life.

I believe morality is often the same way. In the words of Albus Dumbledore ”We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Rarely are we met with ultimatums between right and wrong. Much more often it is this simple choice between doing what is right and doing what is easy. Between taking the high road and the low road.

The sinister part of these decisions is that there is often no immediate negative feedback to choosing the easy path. There is no hot stove to teach you not to place your hand on top of it. In fact, that is often exactly why the wrong choice often appears to be the easy one. It is less a question of avoiding some sort of pain as it is a question of delaying it. Wrong choices compound. They come back to bite us at the worst possible times.

The right choices are usually the opposite. They generally involve short term pain. Telling your boss when you messed up. Apologizing to your spouse when you still don’t think you did anything wrong.

But they tend to compound in the long run. They build trust. They build your reputation. They help you sleep at night.

Your character is what you do when no one is looking. I think we all say we want to be high character people, but how many of us actually take tangible steps to do? I’d wager not many.

I am trying something. I think it has been helping me and I think it may help you to.

It’s called keeping score.

I got this practice from Chop Wood, Carry Water. A book that has had an immense impact on my life and the way I view the world.

What you do is that you make a list of the 5 values that you most respect in other people. That is your new scoreboard. Forget about money or status or fake internet points. Measure yourself against the things you most value and respect in people.

Here’s my scoreboard.

  • Uncompromisingly Ethical

  • Brave and stands up for what is right

  • Hard-working and persistent

  • Treats others with respect and compassion no matter who they are

  • Maintains a Learner’s mindset (Focused on the process, views the world as an interconnected system, sees every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow)

  • Builds bridges between others. Seeks to connect the world. Always adds more value to any conversation than he takes away

Clearly, I have built upon some of these. They change and evolve over time. Just as I, and what I value, does.

This is how I determine whether I had a good day or not. No matter what else is happening in life, if I am living according to these principles, then I am at least heading in the right direction. And I think it has made a tangible impact on my behavior. It’s like building muscle memory. Grade yourself down for using someone else’s salad dressing in the work fridge or park in a “For customer’s only” space a couple of times and all of the sudden you start thinking twice about doing something you would’ve done without thinking before.

And it is that pause where you think twice that really allows you to make the changes you want in your life.

I made a tool to help me do this, and I think it can help you do.

a bergs eye view scoreboard

In a previous post, I shared the personal CRM that I had built in Notion to help me hone my superpower of building and maintaining genuine relationships. I got some great feedback from people who were able to leverage that tool so I decided to add to it and start building a dashboard for others to utilize.

Here is the public dashboard that I have added Personal CRM and Scoreboard templates to. Feel free to duplicate in your own workspace and customize to your liking.

a bergs eye view public dashboard

Hopefully this is as helpful to you as it has been for me. Big changes are made up of small changes. And small changes take time. I’ve found holding yourself accountable to even the smallest thing is the best way to enact long-term change.

There is no silver bullet. You won’t magically wake up one day being the person you’ve always wanted to be.

But you can get a little bit closer to being that person.

Every.

Single.

Day.


What it means to end

Abergseyeview venture capital entrepreneurship finishing well

How you finish matters. A lot.

You can destroy years of goodwill in a matter of seconds if you are careless about how you leave a job or an engagement. I was given a start reminder of this recently through Arsenal’s recent outgoing transfers.

Two transfers in particular beautifully illustrate the importance of finishing the race well.

Our long-time captain and a key player of 9 years, Laurent Koscielny, just completed a transfer to Bordeaux in France’s Ligue 1. He was an invaluable member of the squad and an absolute key to all of the success we have had during his time here.

Carl Jenkinson, a perennial back-up who has played few games for Arsenal and spent recent seasons either injured, on loan, or riding the bench, just completed a transfer to Nottingham Forrest in the English Second Division.

On face value, one would assume that Koscielny would be thanked for his long years of exemplary service and that Jenko’s time at Arsenal would end with the lack of fanfare befitting a player who never was quite good enough to make an impact.

This assumption could not be further from the truth and it is all down to the way they ended their time.

Carl ended his time at Arsenal with this. Koscielny ended his time with this. And this. And this.

For 99% of his time at Arsenal, Koscielny was beloved. The way he left will, unfortunately, have a disproportionate effect on how he is remembered.

Jenkinson never really made a meaningful impact on the team. But he will be remembered as a humble, team player who gave everything his all and always did right by the club and his teammates.

Impact on the team aside, I think these two transfers do a great job of emphasizing the importance of finishing well.

How you finish matters. A lot.

Let it be Fear

The world recently got an example of the importance of finishing well that you may be more familiar with.

The final season of Game of Thrones was decried as a monumental failure almost universally by fans. Just look at the average episode ratings from season to season.

Look. You will never be able to please everyone. The show was always going to struggle to live up to the massive hype that surrounded it. But I struggle to think of another example of a show that has had so much excitement and hype around it that fell on its face so spectacularly.

I think if people are being honest, the vast majority of their criticism is centered around how things were executed instead of the bullet points of what actually transpired. Danny going crazy and Bran winning the throne could have been done in a way that felt genuine and impactful (the butchering of Jaime’s storyline however was completely unforgivable). Instead, this season was rushed and the decision to abbreviate it only exacerbated what would have been a monumental task no matter what. This lead to a cascade of failures and viewers couldn’t help but feel the whiplash.

Finishing is important. How you finish is what will be remembered. Will Game of Thrones be remembered for being one of the most impactful shows of the last two decades. Sure. But more than anything its memory will be colored by its lackluster ending.

Finishing has always been a strength of mine. Unfortunately, that strength has been developed out of absolute and self-inflicted necessity. I have a nasty habit of starting myself out in a hole and being forced to agonizingly claw my way out. In college and high school, my final semester was my strongest academically. When my friends were chilling out and kicking back, I was hitting the books and taking an inflated course load. I had to do this because my first semesters were my weakest. I pretty much trended directly up every single semester. I made it work, but it definitely was learning the hard way.

It’s a weakness of mine that I am constantly working on.

My strategy is to start with the end in mind. Don’t start a new project of freshman year thinking you have all the time in the world.

Time moves quick.

Visualize the end and work backward to figure out what you need to do at each stage along the way to reach your goals.

Because believe me, it is a lot easier to start well and maintain your momentum, then it is to begin in a hole and be forced to finish in a frenzy.

And whatever you do.

Don’t ever pull a Game of Thrones.


Alt Valg

Almost vested venture capital startups everything is a choice

I am not a negative person. If anything I fall more on the side of naively optimistic at times. But even I sometimes can find myself caught in the spiral of negativity.

I have found myself inhabiting a relatively negative mind-space recently. I was letting things outside of my control that had little to no effect on my day to day life get under my skin. As with most negative thoughts, this turned into somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy as well as a snowball effect. The more negative I was, the more I would notice the negative side of things which caused me to feel even more negative.

And the flywheel turns.

Luckily, I was able to recognize what was going on. I spend a good amount of time and energy on self-analysis/self-awareness and it was relatively obvious that I wasn’t my usual happy-go-lucky self when it came to certain aspects of my life. So I decided to do something about it.

I was feeling negative. So I chose to stop.

Everything Choice

That’s right. I chose to stop being negative. I chose to look at circumstances and events in a more positive light.

I have written about it before, but one of my fundamental core beliefs is that people have significantly more choice in their life than they so often give themselves credit for. This belief has its beginnings in how I was raised. If my family had a motto it would be “Alt Valg” Norwegian for “Everything Choice”. I was raised to believe that everything in life is a choice. That we may not always have control over what life throws at us, but we do always have control over how we react. I love this list of 10 things that require zero talent.

10 things that require zero talent

The power to choose is a marvelous thing. It gives us agency and allows us to chart a course through life instead of being at its every whim.

But it is also a scary thing. Because when you have the power to make choices in your life, the buck stops with you.

Our life is the sum of our choices. It is affected by outside circumstances, sure. But over the course of your life, your choices about how you respond to circumstances will have a much greater bearing on your life than the circumstances themselves in all but the most extreme cases. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it. This comic has a somewhat extreme, un-nuanced view of things, but I do believe that it contains a nugget of truth. We have the life we choose.

There is a second meaning to Alt Valg. Not only is everything a choice. But the ability to choose is everything.

The agency to choose your actions and reactions in life is incredibly powerful.

Relish it. And don’t let anyone try to tell you that you can’t or don’t have that power.

Adopting a Builder’s Mindset

One of the most important choices I try to make every day is the choice to adopt a Builder’s Mindset. Doing so was exactly the mindset shift that I needed to escape my very own spiral of negativity.

Adopting a Builder’s Mindset means looking at everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. It doesn’t mean that you are blind to frustrations, but it does mean you look for silver linings and try to figure out how you can make the best of any situation.

It is a positive way of looking at the world and seeing everything it could aspire to become, instead of what it is today. A builder does not waste time complaining and wishing for more resources, they make do with the resources that they have. They roll their sleeves up and make the most out of what they’ve got.

This perspective is heavily influenced by the book Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. I have brought this book up before, and likely will continue to do so, because it is the book that has had the single greatest impact on my life and my perspective. At 100 pages long, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

At one point in the book, the main character’s teacher tells the story of an architect. The architect is world-renowned for the beautiful homes that he builds and after a long and storied career is finally ready to retire. When he makes the announcement, his boss asks him to design one more home. Frustrated by the change of plan, he does not put the care and effort he was legendary for into the home and the final product is far below his usually high standards. Once the house is complete he goes to his boss and tells him he is done. The boss then hands him the keys to the house he had just finished.

All this time, the architect was building his own house. If he had known, he would have put just as much, if not more, effort, care, and attention into it as he usually did. Instead, he was left with a home that would be a constant source of regret. The message of the story is that each of us is building our own home through the choices that we make every single day.

I love this metaphor. But I suggest a minor tweak to it.

Instead of building our own house, I think we are building our own ships that sail through the oceans of life.

There will be storms. To a degree, we will always be at the mercy of mother nature.

But we can try to build the most resilient little boats that we can. We can learn from mistakes or tragedies and we can try to use those lessons to make our boat just a little bit stronger every time.

The great thing about thinking of our life as building our own boat is that it is not something that simply surrounds us. It is an experience in and of itself.

You are the captain of your life and you have the power of choice to chart your course through the oceans of life however you would like. With a little bit of care and attention, I think that you can build something that can handle whatever life can throw at you.

And I hope that you learn to catch the wind just right and that it is as wonderful of a ride as it has been for me.


Into the Wilds

Venture Capital Wilderness

The suck will happen. It will happen to you and it will happen to me. We don’t have any say in this.

But we are not powerless.

We get to choose how we react to this time in the wilderness.

The Wilderness

Being outside is awesome. I am a firm believer that time spent outside with people we love is the best way to build lasting and impactful memories. That is not the sort of wilderness I am talking about in this post. I am talking about the wilds of life. Times when things get tough. Times when you feel lost and your lack of direction starts making you question if you will ever find the trail head.

I am willing to bet you have spent at least some time in this wilderness. I know I sure have. For most, it is a question of when, not if. This time in the wilderness can be precipitated by a variety of things. Relationships. Career setbacks. Struggles with health. The hallmark of all of them is that you find yourself struggling through without a clear path forward.

I wish you nothing but the worst of luck

A couple of years ago Supreme Court Justice John Roberts gave an unconventional speech at his son’s high school graduation that picked up some attention. I recently read through it for the first time and it really struck a chord with me. I have highlighted an especially impactful section below.

Chief Justice John Roberts graduation speech

I think Justice Roberts does an excellent job capturing the idea that our reactions to life define us even more than our circumstances do. I am a big believer that people have a lot more agency in life than they often believe. The Berg family motto is “Everything in life is a choice”. When something bad happens, you can choose to let it define you. Or you can choose to view it as an opportunity for learning and growth.

Tracking

Our times in the wilderness are brutally hard when we are in the thick of it. But these times also present a potentially life-transforming opportunity. Times in the wilds are an opportunity for learning, exploration, and self-discovery. When I am unsure of my next step or direction, I often think back on the philosophy of Tracking espoused by Boyd Varty. These tough times often will have clues about what your next step should be, they just often require some tracking to find them.

Look for signals in the noise.

What aspects did you like about your old job versus dislike? What were the attributes of your recently ended relationship that were healthy? Which were toxic?

Use this time to dig in and understand the things that give you energy, joy, intellectual stimulation and purpose. Double down on those things.

I recently finished David Epstein’s latest book Range. I (along with basically every person on twitter) found it fascinating and very informative. There are a lot of excellent takeaways in this book and I highly recommend giving it a read, but the one message that came across strongest to me after putting it down was the importance of “Sampling Periods.” Sampling periods are times of exploration and discovery before someone narrows their focus and specializes. I won’t go too deep into arguing the benefits of this as David does a much better job than I ever could but, suffice to say, study after study demonstrates the benefits of having a period of exploration before specialization in sports, business, science, and life.

That’s what these tough times can be. A sampling period for self-exploration and discovery. Figure out where your talents overlap with your interest and then double down on whatever that is. Keep an open mind and focus on optimizing for learning and growth over the long-term as opposed to performance over the short-term. Use these trying times in the wilds as a sampling period to discover the best fit for your skills and personality.

I know it is difficult. I offer this advice as much to you as myself. I don’t act in this way nearly as much as I would like to. But I am working my way there.

You can too.

All you have do is to remember that whenever you find yourself in the wilds of life, you are being handed an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn and to grow and to track your way to the life you have always wanted.

All there is to it is to choose to do so.


Institutional Contrarianism: On Everest, Mozart, and Instinctual Originality

(Nirmal Purja/AP)

(Nirmal Purja/AP)

You’ve probably all seen this picture. The 2019 Mount Everest summit season has become famous for a high amount of deaths and reports of long lines of climbers waiting to complete the final summit.

Too often investors act like these climbers. Instead, they should act like Mozart. In this post, I will tell you why.

Institutional Contrarianism: When climbing the world’s highest mountain enters the mainstream

The summit of Mount Everest was first reached in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. This success came almost 70 years after it was first suggested the feat might even be possible. Unsurprisingly, the summit of Mount Everest captured the world’s collective imagination in a way that few endeavors had before, or since.

And there was no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Mount everest venture capital climbs

A line of hundreds of climbers waiting on the summit is what happens when climbing the world’s highest mountain enters the mainstream. What was once the domain of a chosen few lofty dreamers has become the world of Fred from El Paso. And Mo from two neighborhoods over. Now, that is maybe a little bit of an exaggeration, but a Sherpa guide has reached the summit of the mountain 24 times (the most a non-Sherpa has reached the summit is American David Hahn who has reached the summit 15 times).

Venture capital bears a striking resemblance to Everest. Everyone claims to be trying to operate on the edge of what is possible, but when everyone is swimming against the current, is anyone really?

Contrary is the biggest buzz word in venture capital today. No, the irony is not lost on me. The cult of contrarianism was seemingly started by Peter Thiel and his oft-posed question of “what is something you believe that those around you disbelieve?” In his book Zero to One, Thiel encouraged people to come up with fundamental insights about the world by looking at it through a different lens than others. I am a big fan of this way of thinking.

But it has warped into something different altogether. It has become the very evil it sought to destroy.

It has institutionalized.

At some point, everyone trying so hard to go against the crowd just becomes a herd moving in the opposite direction.

Everyone pays lip service to being a contrarian, but how much of them actually do it? From what I have observed, some. But not many. This Institutional Contrarianism becomes the very thing it claims to oppose. There are few leaders in a new space, but many followers. People are interested in latching on to the work others have done and seek exposure to hot spaces without necessarily having a strong perspective on them.

How do you break out of the trap of Institutional Contrarianism? How do you strive for true originality?

We look to great creators of the past for answers.

Create like Mozart: Tapping into the power of Instinctual Originality

A book I have learned a lot from is Impro by Keith Johnstone. This book is ostensibly about improvisation in theater but actually has much more far-ranging lessons. You may recognize it from the annals of FinTwit where it is oft-cited for its teachings on physical presence and interpersonal positioning. These lessons are great, but I have found that it has just as much, if not more, to teach us about learning and thinking.

Recently while reading I came across a section on originality that I think offers some striking insights towards solving our problem of Institutional Contrarianism.

Johnstone on originality in theater:

Anyone can run an avant-garde theatre group; you just get the actors to lie naked in heaps or outstare the audience, or move in extreme slow motion, or whatever the fashion is. But the real avant-garde aren't imitating what other people are doing, or what they did forty years ago; they're solving the problems that need solving, like how to get a popular theatre with some worthwhile content, and they may not look avant-garde at all!

Similar to the avant-garde movement, venture capital investors too often find themselves pursuing what is fashionable instead of what is truly differentiated. By definition, a space cannot at the same time be fashionable and contrarian. One need only look at any tech news site to see the dynamics of fashion trends at works. Entire sectors and technologies fluctuate between golden child one moment and untouchable the next. Blockchain. VR. AI. Greentech. All have had, or are having, their moment in the sun. All likewise have at some point been cast aside.

The crux of the issue is that you cannot generate abnormal returns in any asset class by acting the same way as everyone else. When a “contrarian” trend becomes the fashion and everyone starts flooding into the space, you can guarantee that valuations will skyrocket even as the number of quality opportunities diminishes.

As Johnstone says above, truly original ideas will often hide behind a sheen of the mundane. In hindsight, it is easy to craft a narrative around why companies like Uber and Airbnb were so transformative, but at the time they seemed anything but. Plenty of incredibly smart, successful investors passed on some of the greatest investments of the past decade (for proof just check twitter any time a tech company goes public).

So how can we tap into this true originality of thought? When asked where his ideas come from, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart replied:

Why my productions take from my hand that particular form and style that makes them mozartish, and different from the works of other composers, is probably owing to the same cause which renders my nose so large or so aquiline, or in short, makes it Mozart's, and different from those of other people. For I really do not study or aim at any originality

Therein lies the secret. One cannot be original by trying to be original. Striving to be contrarian leads you to follow the popular fashions of the day and will inevitably lead to mediocrity. The path to true originality in life and business can only be found by accepting yourself and leaning into the things that make you unique and different. I call this Instinctual Originality.

Ok, Erik, great. Just emulate Mozart. No problem.

It is not as hard as it sounds.

First, accept who you are. All your faults and all your greatness. Be aware of them and honest with yourself about them.

Next, ignore the mainstream. Easier said than done, but possible all the same. Don’t buy the hype. Always ask why and act from principles and fundamental thinking.

Finally, create from a place of Instinctual Originality. Originality is not some external mountaintop that we can scale, it is inherently inside each of us. Let it flow from you. Don’t pursue it. Listen to the voice inside of you. There is a reason that our best ideas often come in the shower or on a run. We already know the answers.

We just need to listen.


Sports, Startups, and the Competition Trap

aubamazette.jpeg

It has been an interesting week from a sporting perspective. A week that has made me reflect on my relationship with sport and with sport’s relationship with life.

Now I am a big sports fan in general, but my one true sports love has, and will always be, Arsenal FC. My dad was an Arsenal fan ever since he was a kid and I had little say in the matter with some of my earliest ever memories involving watching Arsenal games with my dad. To anyone who knows soccer, you will know what a long, strange journey being an Arsenal fan so often is. This week has been no exception.

It started last Sunday with a painful tie at home against Brighton. This was a horrible result which sealed our fate to finish 5th in the table and miss out on a coveted top-4 spot and automatic entrance into next year’s Champions League.

But not all hope was lost! On Thursday we played Valencia in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final, winning 4-2 and booking our ticket to the Europa League final at the end of the month. Besides being Arsenal’s opportunity to win our first European trophy in 25 years, the game also represents another chance to get into next year’s Champions League, with the Europa League victor always being granted automatic access.

Today, we won out 3-1 away to Burnley in a game that contained little significance other than helping our star striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, get the goals necessary to win this year’s Golden Boot trophy (awarded to the league’s top goalscorer).

The rollercoaster week did not end there. This is just covering Arsenal’s exploits on the field! If you are any sort of sports fan at all you will have likely heard of Liverpool and Tottenham’s exploits in the Champions League this past week. Both teams came from huge holes to win their respective semi-finals in spectacular fashion. Their fans and the sports world at large were jubilant. I was crushed. You see Liverpool and Tottenham are two of Arsenal’s fiercest rivals. Especially Tottenham.

And I just could not stand to see them win and their fans happy. It ate me up inside.

Now I am not overly proud of this negative mindset, but rooting against your rivals is a fundamental part of sports. It underlines a certain masochism that comes along with being a sports fan.

You are really only happy when your team wins and, by definition, most teams won’t win trophies each year. So you are setting yourself up for failure right off the bat. Even if you look at the teams who win all the time, expectations are so incredibly high that fans are still miserable when Real Madrid only wins one trophy in a year!

Now I love sports and that isn’t going to change. But being miserable at other people’s happiness was somewhat of a wake up call for me. That is just not how I want to go through life. I think there is a way to be a sports fan without the negativity. Focus on enjoying your team’s journey. The highs and the lows. Try not to focus too much on what everyone else is doing.

And remember, the most beautiful part of sports is that there is always next year.

This competition trap is not unique to sports. It is all too common in everyday life and business. We are so focused on what other people have we don’t appreciate what we have. We look at the 10% of peoples’ lives that they share on Instagram, we assume they live like that all the time, and then we compare it to the 100% of our lives that we are familiar with and can’t help but to feel like we don’t measure up.

Comparison is the death to joy.

Focusing on what other people have will only ever bring you negativity. Either you will be envious of what others have or you will look down on them for not having as much as you.

I think this phenomenon exists in businesses too.

All too often I think businesses get so wrapped up in competition with one another that they forget about the things that made them great in the first place.

Startups are especially susceptible to this. Too often entrepreneurs get overly wrapped up in their competition when that is really an issue for another day. Your competition is not going to matter if you are unable to create a product that solves a fundamental need for your customers. Entrepreneurs, leave competition until you find yourself in a more mature competitive market. No business was ever successful by focusing on what everyone else was doing.

Comparison is natural, but you will lose your way if you give your competitors too much of your attention.

Instead, focus on being the best that you can be. In life and in business.

Focus on the journey, not the destination.

And remember.

There is always next season.

Why Brushing your Teeth is the Secret to Success in Life and Startups

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Brushing your teeth is the secret to being successful in life and entrepreneurship. In this post, I am going to tell you why.

Brushing your teeth is not difficult. It is something we all do. But how many people do it the right way? It’s recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day, every day. There is proper form and improper form. I am sure some kinds of toothpaste are better than others, but admittedly, it can be difficult distinguishing which toothpastes are the best given that each and every one is recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists (I hope I never come across the 10th dentist. Must be a terribly negative person).

The key to dental health is consistency. You need to put in consistent effort day in and day out. Brushing your teeth for an hour at a time will not allow you to skip brushing your teeth for the next month.

Now, as much as I appreciate the importance of dental hygiene, this isn’t really a post about brushing your teeth. This is a post about life and business, two areas where we all too often brush for an hour once a month.

The key to success in life is consistent application of effort. This is true for everything from relationships and startups, to exercise and reading. Very rarely will you find yourself in situations where a single herculean effort is all that stands between success and failure. Much more often, slow and steady really does win the race.

When I was working at Carlyle the head of my team had a favorite phrase, “Do your day job.” It means taking care of the fundamentals of your role and making sure that you excel on the little things. Because if you don’t, it tends to be a slippery slope.

I am a big Broncos fan and our newest coach, Vic Fangio, put it well in his introductory press conference. When asked to explain his famous “death by inches” mantra he said:

“If you're running a meeting, whether it be a team meeting, offense or defense meeting, a position coach meeting and a player walks in, say 30 seconds late, 45 seconds late -- that act in it of itself really has no impact on whether you're going to win or lose that week.

"But if you let it slide, the next day there's two or three guys late or it went from 30 seconds to two minutes. It causes an avalanche of problems. That's 'death by inches.'”

The little things matter. Showing up consistently and putting in the effort is what makes the difference between success and failure.

No place is this truer than with startups.

On the startup battlefield, wars are not won in a decisive moment. Startup successes are a culmination of years of executing on the little things and consistently making progress. In tech, that steady progress tends to grow exponentially. This fact is sometimes hard to see among twitter hype threads and Techcrunch headlines, but the saying “an overnight success, 10 years in the making” really does ring true.

Execution is so, so key. A VC I really respect once told me that he would take a team that can execute in a small market over a team that can’t in a big market every single day of the week. Execution really is what sets apart A+ teams from the rest, and in venture you need those A+ teams to get the outcomes that justify the whole model.

You can bet that this hyper-focus on execution is something that VCs pay attention to.

A great example of this is due diligence. Due diligence is a necessary, but slow, and sometimes painful, process for everyone involved. A secret of venture capital that not many may know is that how an entrepreneur conducts themselves during due diligence, is just as big of a signal about whether the startup will be successful as anything else. An entrepreneur that is organized, prompt, respectful, and who has a masterful understanding of the ins and outs of their business during due diligence will likely exhibit that same attention-to-detail and execution mastery when it comes to running their business. Entrepreneurs who are difficult to deal with and get easily frustrated or are dodgy about direct questions about the business are unknowingly flying a pretty big red flag for all investors involved.

So now that we have agreed that consistent effort is the key to success, what is the best way to go about applying that effort?

In the immortal words of Joel Embidd:

“Trust the process”

The best way that you can ensure that you are properly applying just the right amount of force and using the proper technique when brushing your way through life is to build a process and stick to it. Our culture is far too outcome oriented. We operate on a last-in-first-out basis and optimize based on the outcomes we see, even when those outcomes are often nothing more than luck. If you flip a coin 4 times and get tails every time, you would not conclude that a coin will always land on tails. And yet, far too often our personal and professional actions are the equivalent of flipping a coin once, and assuming that every other time we ever flip a coin we will get the same result.

I have had a big focus on process ever since reading the book Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. I can honestly say this book has had a bigger impact on my life than any other. The subtitle says it all, “How to fall in love with the process of becoming great.” I highly recommend this book to any looking to lead a more process-oriented life.

My advice for you:

Focus on doing the little things right.

Fall in love with the process of becoming great. If you are able to truly do this, the outcomes will take care of themselves.

Maintain consistent effort instead of bursts of hyperactivity.

Take care of things like your health, your body, your relationships, your spirituality, and your mindset that only need a little bit of time each day to maintain and yet, are all too often neglected. These are things that are vitally important to your success in life, and yet not one of these things can be maintained by brushing for an hour once a month.

And speaking of.

Brush daily with consistent application of effort.

You’ll be surprised where you end up.

The only thing that is permanent is impermanence

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I don’t like change.

Never have.

Never will.

I am a creature of habit and I get used to having things be a certain way. Life unfortunately rarely works that way.

I saw the final Avengers movie on opening night and it got me thinking about change. Not the movie itself (though it was amazing), but what the movie represents.

When the first Iron Man came out on May 2, 2008, I was 14 years old in Denver, Colorado. I was in eighth grade, the school year was almost over, and after the summer I would be headed to high school.

11 years and 21 movies later, I watched Avengers: Endgame sitting in a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio watching with my wife.

In that time, I went to high school, college, met the love of my life in the library, had internships in Chicago, Portland, New Hampshire, got a job in private equity, lived on my own in DC, got married, moved with my wife to Bethesda, and finally moved to Columbus to take a job in venture capital.

For someone who doesn’t like change, I sure have done a lot of it!

Maybe it is just a movie and maybe I shouldn’t be so introspective, but in some ways it is hard for me to look at Avengers and see anything other than a monumental shift in my life from adolescence to adulthood.

By the end of 2019, Avengers, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars will all have come to an end. Three stories that have brought me countless hours of entertainment, joy, inspiration, and in the case of Game of Thrones, intermittent spurts of horror (but in the best possible way).

Now I am sure that these worlds will live on in the form of infinite sequels, prequels, add-ons, tie-ins, and everything in between. But it won’t be the same. Because I won’t be the same.

And that is ok.

As much as I don’t like change, I have learned to embrace it.

Life is a story, and if you want your life to be a tale of adventure, you are going to have to put up with a little bit of change here and there. The idea of change will always put a little tiny pit in my stomach, but I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted any of the changes I have made. There have been missteps and pitfalls along the way, but each fork in the road has led me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

They say, you overestimate what you can accomplish in a year, but underestimate what you can accomplish in 5.

If my life is any example, that is definitely true. A lot can change over the years.

Especially over the past 11 years and 21 movies.


I know this post didn’t exactly include earth shattering insights about the tech and venture capital world. That’s the beauty of writing a personal blog. Sometimes you can make it just that. Personal. And on a rainy day after my childhood came to an end, I am hoping you can indulge me.

What was your life like 11 years ago? I am sure a lot has changed for you too!

Pink Dragons, Serendipity Vehicles, and Mentos

Serendipity Startups Tech Venture Capital

When I was a kid one of my all time favorite things to do on friday nights was to have a movie night (who am I kidding, that is still one of my favorite things to do). My mom and I would go to Blockbuster to pick out a movie or two and then we would skip next store to Papa Murphy’s to pick up some pizza (I will contend till my dying breath Papa Murphy’s is by far the most underrated pizza on the planet. So good). One of the movies I distinctly remember watching during multiple movie nights was Serendipity The Pink Dragon. Serendipity was a pink sea dragon who lived on a magical island with all of her friends learning life lessons about friendship. I have no idea why we ever picked this particular movie out, but I do remember watching it more than once (to this day, my go to nickname for a Lapras in any Pokemon game is Serendipity).

I was reminded of Serendipity the pink dragon while listening to this interview from Sara Dietschy with Nik Sharma and David Perell. This episode is definitely worth listening to. They cover a lot of ground from influencer marketing to direct-to-consumer brands to their own stories and how they got where they are today. As part of this last part, they spoke about the role that serendipity had in each of their lives. They drew a line in the sand between serendipity and luck. Luck is something good that just happens to you. Serendipity is something good that happens to you because your hard work and patience put you in a position where it could happen to you. I love this distinction.

If you talk to anyone with a modicum of success in life, the vast majority can point to a handful of “lucky” events where they caught a break or were given a chance to take on a project they were woefully underqualified for. Rare, however, is the successful person who had this happen to them while watching Netflix and eating cheetos on a Thursday afternoon.

Luck is a factor in everyone’s story. What differs is how prepared people are to take advantage of the situation when the dice start rolling their way.

That is where Serendipity Vehicles come in.

Serendipity Vehicles are a concept coined by David Perell in this post. He talks about purposefully building structures that increase the likelihood of both serendipitous things happening to you as well as increasing the chances that you are able to take advantage of them when they occur. Serendipity vehicles can range from simple structures like attending a dinner party to more much more complex things like writing books.

This blog is one of my serendipity vehicles. Twitter is another. Both require relatively minimal, but consistent, effort to maintain. Both have lead to significant outsized opportunities far and above what I would’ve ever expected.

Now all of this talk of lifestyle design may sound complicated, but I think the most important thing is simply the way you approach it. I think the best way to think about designing your serendipity vehicles is to make yourself into a Mentos. Mentos are a type of spherical candy that are sold all across the world. To be perfectly honest, I think they are pretty average. What is not average are the explosive effects they have when combined with any sort of carbonated beverage (but especially Diet Coke). There is a whole lot of science behind why this happens, but the short of it is that even though Mentos looks like smooth spheres, on a microscopic level their surfaces are very rough. This increased surface area acts environments where bubbles can form, launching soda up into the air. The key is the surface area.

You can make your life resemble Mentos by increasing your surface area so you have a lot of different places where serendipity bubbles can form.

Say yes to thing even if they are outside your comfort zone.

Cultivate curiosity in a broad range of subjects and areas.

Go out of your way to go to new places and meet new people.

Jump at opportunities even if the timing is not always ideal.

Create excuses to talk with interesting people.

Provide value to people instead of just asks.

At the end of the day, your goal should be to have as many areas in your life where serendipity can form as possible The challenge is to recognize serendipity and then make sure you are able to take advantage of it.

This advice is equally true for both individuals and startups.

Well designed startups are a lot like giant serendipity vehicles. A lot of work goes into designing them so that they are in a position to shoot for the stars as soon as a serendipitous customer connection or technological development breaks their way. As a founder you need to balance the need to stay focused on what you are building with providing yourself as much surface area as possible in order to take advantage of connections with investors, talent, customers, etc.

I can’t tell you what the right balance for that is. You will need to figure that out for yourself. But I can tell you what the wrong balances are. There are two.

1) Ignoring any thought of the outside world to focus solely on your business.

2) Ignoring your business to focus solely on hoping something happens in the outside world.

Everything in between is fair game.

No matter where you land on the spectrum between focusing your time and energy on building your business and increasing your surface area to optimize for serendipity, there is one lever that you can pull to maximize your chances for success.

Burning responsibly.

Responsibly managing your burn rate as a startup is one of the most important things you do as a founder. Burn too fast and you won’t get enough at bats to have something serendipitous happen for your business, no matter how much you optimize for it.

As an individual and as a business, design your life so that you can take advantage of serendipity when it comes knocking at your door.

That is how you and your company achieve success.

Podcast of the Week: Invest Like the Best, EP. 32 - The Art of Tracking, with Boyd Varty

This episode is from over a year ago, but it is has definitely been one of the most impactful and transformative podcasts I have ever listened to. Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy is my current favorite podcast and every episode is a must-listen as soon as it is published every week. This particular podcast with Boyd Varty about living the life of a tracker and bringing a restoration mindset to everything you do has made a particular impact on my life. It is the podcast I have shared the most with others and I just finished my third listen through on my drive back to Virginia for Thanksgiving. Be sure to give it a listen and if you are interested in hearing more from Boyd, check out Part II and Part III.


I mentioned that this podcast has had a big impact on me. It has served as an impetuous to adopt a more process/journey focused mindset instead of obsessing about goals and outcomes. Another great resource that has helped shape this mindset is the book Chop Wood, Carry Water. It is a only about 100 pages long, but I am not exaggerating when I say reading it has changed my life for the better. It is another Patrick O’Shaughnessy recommendation and if you would like to read it, you can pick up a copy here.

One-Thousand Thanks

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I have always loved Thanksgiving. Great times with family. Lots and lots of great food. And most of all, some time set aside to step back and reflect upon everything you are grateful for in life. My father is Norwegian and one of the common phrases you’ll hear in Norway is “tusen takk”. Tusen takk literally translates to one-thousand thanks and is how a Norwegian might say “thank you very much”. I have always enjoyed the image of someone thanking you emphatically by saying “thank you” one-thousand times over and over again. As I write this post out at my father-in-law’s office (no internet at my wife’s childhood home in rural Virginia. I know, I think it is crazy too, but they really don’t seem to mind), I can’t help but think about the thousand things I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. Here are a few of the things I have been thinking about most.

My Family

I am incredibly lucky to have the family I do. I have the best wife in the world and the past year of our marriage has without a doubt been the greatest year of my life. My family has always been incredibly supportive and they are still always there for me even though we no longer live close to one another. My brothers are my best friends. My dad is my role model. My mom is the rock that holds our family together. I am also so incredibly grateful for my in-laws who have welcomed me into their family with open arms.

My Faith

This isn’t something I talk about a lot on this blog because of its personal nature, but I would be making too big of an omission if I left it out of this post. My faith is the foundation of who I am and it is my guiding light through thick and thin.

Our New Home

My wife and I are so grateful for the new home we have found in Columbus. We have really enjoyed our short time in the city and cannot overstate how much we have felt welcomed with open arms. I had never spent any meaningful time in the Midwest prior to our move, and I have been struck time and time again by the kindness of people living here (and the deliciousness of their food…). It is truly a privilege to be part of such a young, growing city. In Columbus, there is a palpable optimism that is wonderful to be a part of. People here truly believe that tomorrow will be better than yesterday (which is not something that can be said about many parts of our country, especially our previous home, Washington, DC.)

My New Job

The reason I moved my family half-way across the country to a state we had never been before was to take a job as an Analyst at Rev1 Ventures. I took this leap because I wanted to be a part of building the next great tech ecosystem and because I wanted to help support entrepreneurs that were creating truly impactful companies. I couldn’t be happier with the progress I have made so far. There is still a lot of work to be done and I am not anywhere close to accomplishing what I have set out to at Rev1, but I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to work at an organization like Rev1. I am grateful to work alongside some incredible colleagues who all believe in the power for entrepreneurship to fuel the American Dream as much as I do. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to support entrepreneurs that are genuinely trying to change the world. I am grateful that my Sunday evenings are a time of eager anticipation.

You

This blog started out as a tool in my VC-job-search utility belt. It was a way to demonstrate that I was using my free time to be thoughtful about the space. It has become so much more than that to me and I am truly grateful for everyone that takes time out of their day to read through my musings (sometimes ramblings) on the world of venture capital and tech startups. I have been really happy with the cadence I have worked up to and really believe that my writing and analysis improves with every post. Thanks for reading!

These are just a few of the things I am most grateful for. If I really listed out everything that I am thankful for, I would still be working on this post come next Thanksgiving. I know this post is a little bit outside the norm, but I hope that you enjoyed it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving with you and yours!

Podcast of the Week: The Tim Ferriss Show #341: Nick Kokonas

I love podcasts. They are my absolute favorite way to consume content. The great thing about podcasts is that they are the only form of content that gives you your time BACK instead of taking it away from you. Since you can listen to podcasts speed up and while you are doing something else, you are able to squeeze more hours into your day. I typically listen to 2-3 hrs of podcasts a day during my commute and while doing chores around the house. These podcasts are a great source of learning and give me the super power of having 27 hours in every day.

My favorite part of listening to podcasts, is sharing them with others! I thought it would be fun to start sharing my favorite podcast from the week with my readers. I’ll give brief overview of the podcast, topic/guest, and I will embed the podcast so you can enjoy it too! I am planning on doing a Podcast of the Week post once a week (surprise, surprise). Let me know in the comments what your favorite podcasts are and if you have any suggested shows for future weeks!


This first podcast is without doubt one of my favorite podcasts of all time. In episode #341 of the Tim Ferriss show, Tim interviews Nick Kokonas about hist story from commodity trader on the floor of the Chicago exchange to co-owner of one of the most successful high-end restaurant groups in the country, The Alinea Group. The thing I love about Nick’s story is that at every turn he questioned the status quo and tried to come up with how things SHOULD be done instead of just how they had always been done in the past. It is a refreshing mindset and a thoroughly enjoyable episode. Do not miss this one and do not be scared away by it’s hefty length, it is absolutely worth it!