2 Hours

Greg Horowitt is a social architect and pracademic. He is an accomplished entrepreneur, investor and global advisor. I always knew of Greg because he co-authored The Rainforest with Victor Hwang. After years of learning from Victor, I decided it was time to connect with the other half of this intellectual equation. I reached out to Greg and he was generous enough to setup a time to chat. We had no agenda, but ended up talking together for two hours!

This extended discussion allowed me to enjoy fun anecdotes about a bestseller so many entrepreneurial ecosystem builders have on their bookshelf. I learned about Greg’s innovation design role at UC San Diego and his upcoming book about the religion of innovation too. We riffed on entrepreneurship, venture capital, innovation ecosystems, complex adaptive systems, how humans think, economic development, the speed of trust and how storytelling brings everything together. Here is a Twitter thread with our photo and a few more memorable moments, but having Greg Horowitt lob knowledge grenades my way was such a treat.

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Meaningful discussions can form faster without an agenda.

This enlightening interaction has me reflecting on how a hint of initiative unlocked another cool connection. Also, how that extra hour gave Greg and I time to discuss a variety of topics with space for this thoughtful exploration to go deeper. Look at your bookshelf or social media feed. All of us have giants we’d love to meet. Do you seek out learning sessions with people you admire? How might a significant conversation evolve if you give it an extra hour to develop?

We’re all busy, sure, but a peculiar conversation is rarely a waste of time. Perhaps it’s only done occasionally, but more cerebral conversations allow us to go beyond protecting our knowledge with fancy jargon. Perpetual learning with a coexisting effort to accelerate others will release innovative energy that sparks creativity and reveals a path to deconstructed understanding.

Love Triangles

As we celebrate our love for one another, Valentine’s Day felt like a heartfelt time to reflect on building a business with and around members of your family.

The permanence of family leads to many business partnerships. Some operations pass from one generation to the next. Others spawn when family members decide to start something new. Still more businesses come together as people create new family bonds and merge their work into love triangles.

It seems obvious to start something with those you love. In some cases, the convenience makes it easy. In other cases, it can become a necessity to turn the family into a team. No matter the why, transparency and trust within a family is hard to beat. This allows family members to wholeheartedly lean on one another. Such an unwavering ability to count on each other is why family businesses always have a chance.

While family businesses can thrive for generations, there are dangerous downsides as well. Not everyone who loves each other should work together. Home and work are often like night and day. The difference between the two makes each one better. Living and working with family makes it hard to separate the two. This can lead to arguments that extend far beyond the office. These inescapable emotions can damage relationships and bleed into the broader team. While you’ll spend the most time with your family, building a life together doesn’t mean you have to work on the same thing. A healthy amount of individuality allows each person to do more and space makes coming back home even sweeter.

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Do you work with family? If so, share your best tips in the comments! Also, did you know Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor wrote an entire book on this, called Startup Life?

Whether you build a business together or not, family dynamics affect all entrepreneurs. The most direct impact comes from your significant other. Your co-founder in life has a huge influence on your ability to thrive as an entrepreneur. Almost like separations of power, each person can provide contrasting perspectives, honest feedback and valuable support to balance the time, financial and emotional responsibilities of life.

Co-founders in life who share authentic trust give each other stability, fewer restrictions and more opportunities. If you find the love of your life, help them be their best. Admit they are the better half and be humble enough to let them return the favor. Such motivation from inside the home fuels a deep sense of abundance. The result is a more determined mind, body and soul eager to learn from the person who knows you best. This constant support brews loving vibes that spill into your work. Two people who push each other to be better than they would have been alone is the ultimate gift.

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To love is to share life together,
to build special plans just for two,
to work side by side,
and then smile with pride,
as one by one, dreams all come true.
The Meaning of Love – Krina Shah

Super Sentence

Modern gladiators went to battle last weekend and it only took around 11 minutes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win Super Bowl LV. It’s interesting to compare such a small window of actual gameplay to the endless pregame analysis, commentary, predictions, production and post-game highlights.

With two weeks leading up to game day and another week highlighting this annual event, the Super Bowl experience basically lasts three weeks. That’s up to 30,240 minutes of potential attention the NFL can earn from each consumer. With those 11 minutes of live action only representing 0.04% of this three week long spectacle, clearly the Super Bowl is about more than professional football. It’s about the host city coming to life, a stadium full of fans, the TV commercials, the halftime show, the food and everyone sharing the Super Bowl together.

This is not by accident. The NFL understands their audience. They’ve achieved product-market fit and since 1920, have built around what they do best. This entertainment behemoth does American football really well, but $15 Billion in annual revenue doesn’t come from 150 snaps per game. It comes from being the best at one thing, then expanding on that with complementing (and profitable) activities. This has strengthened their existing fan base, created opportunities to increase their audience and transformed their product into a cultural phenomenon.

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If your company was given a free Super Bowl commercial, who would be your target audience? What story would you tell? What action would you want viewers to take and would you be ready to convert attention into trust when they took that action?

The NFL makes product-market fit look easy, but building something that satisfies true demand is harder than it sounds. Avoid getting sacked by admitting your idea isn’t special and that the future of your business relies on your ability to consistently execute. Trust that early success relies on clarifying your value proposition, evolving your business based on continued customer discovery and your ability to collaborate with those around you. This takes finesse, thick skin and a special combination of urgency mixed with patience, but as you secure more paying customers, you may be given a chance to broaden the impact.

Can you describe what you and/or your company does best in one sentence? Hit me with it! If you send me your own super sentence, I’ll connect you with someone who can get you to the next first down.

The Idea Machine

Ideas that you can wrap a business around do not come naturally for everyone. If you’re struggling to generate realistic ideas, you must first learn how to flex your mind. With practice, you’ll soon be firing good, bad, big, small, crazy, and enlightened ideas into the world. You’ll end up with plenty to choose from and even more to give others. In fact, as you become an idea machine, the hard part will be deciding which ideas to execute around. Let’s hit the gym.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a simple exercise that will train your brain to become an idea machine. Pick up a pocket-sized notebook that inspires you to write within it the moment you think of an idea. Every day, write five ideas in this small notebook. No less, but more is fine. See how long you can maintain this daily activity. After only a few days, you will have transformed it into a personal idea book.

The ideas need not be world changing; the important part is to write them down the moment they spark. It’s tempting to use technology, like an app on your phone, but pen on paper provides freedom to practice in more creative ways. Go old school and give yourself the blank canvas needed to explore any type of idea. As you thicken your idea book, don’t worry about how good or bad each idea is. Dump them on the page and focus your energy on maintaining the daily habit. If you need a few extra ideas to achieve your daily goal, spend a focused moment to think and jot them all down at once. No matter how you reach your daily goal, the momentum of your consistency will soon surprise you. The longer you maintain this daily routine, the more you’ll feel your mind flexing in new ways.

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With these physical notebooks, I must warn you to check your pockets before you do laundry. I once had a solid idea book that went through the wash. I was able to transfer some of the thoughts into a new idea book, but there was still a sense of loss. Having space to scribble is key, but it’s smart to back things up digitally as well.

You can also add wrinkles of complexity to continue challenging yourself. Focus on a theme. To give this a try, think about ideas for a specific person, product, service or market and imagine ways to improve it.

The pure quantity of ideas you’ll amass will result in many worth forgetting. That’s the point. Amongst all the clutter, you’ll find yourself returning to a few sharp ideas. These are the treasures to spend more time exploring.

This sounds easy, but like working out after a New Year’s resolution, it’s easy to burn out. Here’s what will happen. You’ll track some ideas for a week. Soon after, you’ll start mentally sidelining ideas. You’ll document them all at once for a few more days to maintain your streak. This will feel efficient, but then you’ll miss a day or two. Before you know it, your idea book sits on the shelf collecting dust. When this happens, don’t be hard on yourself. Even a little time committed to this exercise can spark a more creative mindset.

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It’s crazy how quickly the mental effects are felt from this simple exercise. Whenever I activate this practice, I love how the abundance of ideas lead to things I can share with fellow founders.

Pure Wonder

Children embody a state of wonder that entrepreneurs can learn from.

They wake up each morning without a plan. They have no preconceptions. No judgments. No worries. A lack of expectations allow kids to naturally live in the moment. They get excited about the little things and cry over nothing. Their states of pure wonder is fascinating.

Now, fast forward 20 years. The world hardens us. We want to impress and make our mark, but life can feel exhausting and the need to make ends meet adds constant stress. Our experiences make us more intelligent, capable and aware of our surroundings, but they also limit our ability to feel pure wonder.

As you’re building a business, release from the daily grind by thinking like a child. Pretend you were born yesterday. Be silly once in awhile. Forget the agenda. Color outside the lines. Get weird to solve problems. Laugh at your mistakes. Play in your sandbox and have fun getting messy. Let a child-like sense of wonder shrink your ego to make room for what’s next. What you’re building matters and if your work allows you to feel pure wonder, be thankful and pass it on.