Airport Foot Massage

I’m not a huge fan of scripted ice breakers, but one that caught my attention, invites people to share something that others in the group may not know about you.

There are many ways to approach such a prompt, but a fun response I once threw in the mix, was my unassuming indulgence of foot massages in airports. There’s something luxurious about having your tired feet rubbed while endless strangers pass by, lol! Along with a very public layer of mental relation, the tightness of your body is basically fixed after a conference, golfcation, snowboarding, or any time you had fun while being away on travel.

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Now that you’re smiling, and also secretly planning to try this next time you fly, follow along to reflect on how we approach our endless transitions.

The thought of “transition” came to mind when a recent airport masseuse was melting my feet into mashed potatoes. The subtle tension of this mini moment arrived as the artisan prepared to switch from one foot to the next. There was an undercurrent of disappointment in that one foot’s rub was coming to end, yet this feeling disappeared when the next foot received its first touch of attention. This is quite a stretch, haha, but this tiny transition made me want to explore these kaleidoscopic moments.

Unconscious transitions are constantly happening all around us, yet some transitions bring forth extra weight or take more time than expected. The path for a smooth transition will be different for every situation, but here’s one tactic to try as you navigate your next transition: Acknowledge the past, then use the present to concentrate energy toward what’s next.

This seems obvious, but such centering can be challenging, as the ego often tries to pull us back to what we may be leaving behind. To surpass these ornery moments, take immediate action toward your forthcoming future.

For example, I think back to when we were first building the Regional Rep role for 1 Million Cups. I remember how hard it was transitioning out of my role as a lead 1MC organizer within the local startup community I care so much about. I had loved organizing 1MC in Des Moines for so many years, and every Wednesday morning felt like a ritual that never got old. As I transitioned into my expanded responsibility, whenever a sense of lose or thoughts of “what if” arose, I took abrupt action. Instead of dwelling on the comfort of what I was stepping away from, I twisted toward my own next. In these moments of uncertainty, I left a sense of lose behind by brewing new connections with more 1MC organizers I was excited to support/connect in the new Regional Rep role. This progressive action helped build relationships and a lot of constructive momentum. Over time, what first felt transitional, soon became my practice. This clarified my new role while also providing space to evolve for the new 1MC organizing team in Des Moines.

Wow. That was over four years ago! I’ll always be a 1MC organizer in Des Moines, but that progressive action helped me move forward and released personal bandwidth needed to help build my new role with the Kauffman Foundation. Fast forward to now. I’m still an active 1MC attendee here in Iowa, but I’m also blessed to collaborate with hundreds of remarkable community builders, ecosystem builders, and 1MC organizers throughout all 12 states that make up @1MCMidwest. Even more, after years of complex work with 1MCHQ and the other four Regional Reps, #1MCNation is now more aligned and supported within it’s connected era. As with most ventures, there will always be more to do and everything will continue to evolve, but it’s such a gift knowing so many lifelong friends are enjoying coffee every Wednesday morning, in over a hundred 1MC communities nationwide.

Hopefully the lighthearted ice breaker, followed by that oddly connected reflection, inspires you to stay energized as you grow from within your next transition.

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here’s a telepathic gift. Think back to when you enjoyed a relaxing massage, yoga, workout, or meditation. Alright, in that peaceful state of mind, close your eyes and enjoy five deep breaths. Ahhh…alright, get back to building.

Anticipation

The present is a gift, but it often feels like a window that reflects past experiences into what may come next.

The temporary nature of each moment makes it hard to hold onto. For those who like to build, it can feel lazy if we’re not constantly evolving from things we’ve learned in the past while also actively planning for the future. While staying in the moment provides peace and limitless space to appreciate the entire spectrum of now, mashing this mindfulness with an ability to explore and create fresh things is healthy and often creates the common sense of anticipation.

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This was written on a plane, right before I recorded Landing in Salt Lake City, followed by two days snowboarding in Park City, and then my first time having coffee with 1MC Salt Lake City.

Sometimes anticipation can be confused with worrying too much, but it’s quite different. Worrying is like agreeing to be unhappy until the present delivers whatever originally concerned you. These two feelings do have one key attribute in common: they are both focused on the future. This is one reason why anticipation flies in a similar orbit with worrying. In contrast though, a key difference that anticipation has going for it, is how it often has a more positive spin.

The positive nature of anticipation can be a signal of purpose and progress. It emerges all around us. It might be that new startup your building toward launch. A first date, booking travel, having a baby, the first day of school, or basically the first time trying anything new delivers different levels of this same sensation.

Another positive effect of anticipation, is how it can help guide proper planning. Creating moments in a business that allow the team to feel anticipation can fuel purpose and over time, this converts into a shared conviction. This leads to the potential to unlock a wonderful wild card: persistent. In business and in life, a strategic effort up front, without overdoing it or getting caught up in things you can’t control, may allow the anticipation of a future moment to soon land exactly the way it was meant to be.

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After whatever created the initial anticipation, it  sure feels great when a small amount of planning is paired with an open mindset and everything turns out just right.

Hybridize

Think back to when you were a kid. Remember that feeling of waking up to a winter wonderland? It’s a snow day! Fresh powder may cause mayhem for some, but all that mattered back then, was how quickly we could get outside to enjoy the day’s frosty gift.

This week we received a few feet of fresh snow. I love the feeling of a blank canvas this provides. I also like to think that one signal for success as an adult, is found in those who have not lost their childhood spirit, so when our little one gets excited about playing in the snow, I make it a priority as well.

After a rushed breakfast, we spent much of the day on a sledding hill. I found myself reflecting on the interactions of this momentary community. The actors are always different people, yet often play the same roles. You have the first-time sledders who are curious, excited, and afraid. In contrast, the action junkies are pushing to always go faster and higher. The adults are on snow patrol, but the personality that I find most interesting, are the hybrids. These are the kids who appreciate the exhilarating activity, but unite others by creating space to ensure newcomers are safe and also having fun. There’s an empathetic maturity in their welcoming enthusiasm.

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The original title was Snow Days.

Fast forward and these hybrids continues to bring things together. We see them in technology, translating nerd to normal, then back from normal to nerd. They are the teachers who inspire our next generation and encouraging children to think differently. Community builders are often hybrids too, as it takes a metaphoric spider to weave, explore, and tighten a collaborative web of actors, factors, and instigators together.

There are many other examples of hybrids connecting dots in almost any environment and they’re all valuable connectors that play important roles. When we think through the lens of complex adaptive systems, hybrids are those who can inclusively identify all that may be possible. They appreciate the entire spectrum of different parts within the system, as well as, the interactions between everything. Almost like chameleons, hybrids have the ability to take different shapes in order to facilitate positive interactions between different perspectives. When this skill is applied through a holistic, positive-sum lens, the effect can be surprisingly wonderful.

For those already hybridizing, thank you, stay curious, and don’t underestimate the limitless value you bring. For those who may not feel such a blended spirit, continue to lead the tribes you trust, but allow intellectual humility to welcome doubt. Such empathy paired with a genuine interest in collaboration, will inevitably unlock fresh ways for those you care about to achieve even more.

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This year-end Tweetstorm was epic and left behind some updates to my website, including a linked library to explore all my Roasted Reflections – https://BenMcDougal.com/Roasted-Reflections

As we reach the end of this wintry ride, I’m grateful for snow days that provide an unexpected chance to slow down. These cozy times provide us a chance to rest and have some fun, while also reflecting on all that’s good. Cheers to these mini moments chilled in our memories, but also to allowing the freeze to melt as we let thoughts pass and stay open to next.

Open to Next

Setting goals and honest resolutions provide a useful purview into what’s next. It’s no secret that appreciating the past and planning for the future can provide a fresh boost during transition times. As this introspective activity warms your thoughts and emotions, joy awaits those who translate such enthusiasm into heartfelt energy that fuels sustained action.

As we look forward, dare to be different by also staying open to things not in the plan. This fluidity helps us avoid the limiting effect of being too rigid.

There are times to remain stringent in order to stay on course, but embracing the plot twists of life ensures that perseverance does not become misguided. Most people like the idea of being a free spirit, but openness can be fleeting, because we find solace by way of control. Think about the last big trip you planned. You locked in travel, accommodations, and maybe even a collection of planned activities. You basically craft a scripted adventure to experience for yourself. If all goes to plan, you’ll surely enjoy the trip, but how often does everything go exactly to plan? Almost never, yet the unexpected detours often lead to the best stories.

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Higher the contrast, better the story.

Openness laced through different types of short and long-term goals, activated by habits that churn goals into surpassing accomplishment, provides clarifying direction with space left over to welcome serendipity. Letting go to stay open can become a source of anxiety, but the unknown can be an exciting place where possibility allows us to discover what’s next.

2021 Bookend

This year has been transformative. For me, 2021 was a beautiful blend of secluded serenity, new beginnings, expanded connectivity, and milestone moments.

Iowa Breakfast Club

Everyone was thirsty for meaningful connection as the pandemic lingered. Using the transitory popularity of social audio, we fired up an experiment that invited entrepreneurs and ecosystem allies to chat every Friday morning. My role became the AM radio host as the Iowa Breakfast Club invited special guests to lead inclusive conversations on a wide variety of topics. Students, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and community builders enjoyed these enchanting interactions for 30 consecutive weeks, before the group decided to sunset the sparkle. A recap of this experiment still needs crafted, but for now, I’ll leave you IBC fans with something to smile…”Rise and shine, it’s breakfast time!”

You Don’t Need This Book

The release of my first book, You Don’t Need This Book: Entrepreneurship in the Connected Era, was my brightest highlight of 2021. This was the literary project of a lifetime. The YDNTB softcover and eBook published on April 1st and it’s been a wonderful whirlwind ever since. Hearing from energized readers and mentoring more caffeinated authors will never get old and I’m so thankful for the overwhelming sense of peace this achievement brings.

Caffeinated Conversations

Educational organizations play a huge and recurring role within all entrepreneurial ecosystems. Through my work as an ecosystem builder, a focus on the Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem generated a growing amount of conversations with students, teachers, and administrators throughout the state. It soon became time to collide statewide actors with a goal of allowing more inspired people to learn from each other while also exploring fresh ways to collaborate. What started as an introductory email chain, quickly evolved into a monthly meetup online. Together, we explore the intersections of entrepreneurship, innovation, and education by sharing quick updates and upcoming events, then we import/export knowledge by welcoming a special guest each month. Here are a few of the caffeinated conversations we’ve shared and please drop me a note if you’d like to join us in the future.

Startup Weekend

I shared this full recap of my first Startup Weekend experience, but it felt like an important happening this year, as it was a catalyst to a much more involved ecosystem development role with Techstars. We have another statewide, Startup Weekend Iowa event coming together to kick off 2022, and it’ll be neat to see how more connected hackathons can continue bringing curious people together.

Mindfulness

The peace that emerged from publishing YDNTB, creative work that feels like play, treasured family time, and perhaps my 40th birthday looming, seemingly came together to construct more space for mental exercise this year. I found myself thinking deeply about life through the lens of entrepreneurship, but far beyond business. This led to philosophic deep dives in the form of reading, writing, and an eagerness to spark more meaningful conversations. A daily meditation practice (the Calm app is great!) has also centered, relaxed, and recharged my mind, body, and spirit. I may try yoga in 2022. Not for the physical exercise, but more to expand this cerebral exploration.

Return to Travel

Along with sharing my favorite travel tricks, it was good to quietly live in different places throughout the pandemic, and then finally return to being a bit more adventurous toward the end of the year. Trips to Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, Ozarks, Joplin, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City were fun, but the two highlights were returning to where we got married in Florida and golfing on Keystone Mountain in Colorado.

1 Million Cups

I’ve been having coffee at 1MC every Wednesday morning since 2012. Yes, that’s a lot of coffee with a lot of entrepreneurs! As a founder, 1MC was my weekly dose of innovative energy. An appreciation for this consistent gathering led to the early opportunity to lead in Des Moines for many years, and has since evolved into my current role working within the Kauffman Foundation as the Midwest Regional Rep. Today, our leadership team supports and connects 125+ communities nationwide. Over 40 of these 1MC communities are in the 12-state Midwest region (map), which equates to around 200 caffeinated community builders I’m blessed to work with in small, medium, and large entrepreneurial ecosystems. Being a 1MC organizer requires time, curiosity, intellectual humility, generosity, a dedication to show up, a willingness to have fun working within complexity, and a devotion for supporting entrepreneurs. The pandemic has taken its toll on this educational movement fueled by interpersonal connection, but this is a resilient tribe that’s uncovered a silver lining of more connectivity nationwide. There is an evolving sense of renewal brewing and with what’s to come, 2022 will be an interesting chapter in the story of 1 Million Cups. Join us for coffee any Wednesday morning, by visiting www.1millioncups.com.

Techstars

As a tech founder, I’ve always admired Techstars. When this global startup accelerator arrived in Iowa, it was a tremendous boost for the statewide entrepreneurial ecosystem. During the first year’s #TSDemoDay in 2020, I was talking with some of the founders about their interest in a place to land after their accelerator experience. In doing so, it dawned on me that we hadn’t hosted a Startup Weekend in a long time. This sparked an interesting conversation with my long-time friend and Managing Director of the program, Kerty Levy. She and I ended up crafted an innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem building role that gave me the freedom to holistically explore, support, and connect actors and factors throughout the Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem. This ecosystem building work has been momentous, so when a position more involved with the actual accelerator emerged, it was a natural opportunity to get more involved. I joined Kerty in a hybrid role we titled Entrepreneur in Residence / Ecosystem Development. The 2021 Techstars Iowa Accelerator Class arrived in Des Moines soon after I accepted this expanded role, so it was definitely flying a plane while building it at the same time, but what a vigorous experience. We had ten different companies all building in different industries for 13 weeks. Along with working with each team, I leaned into fueling a community-driven culture with mentors and got to flex my event development skills by organizing mentor madness and a monumental #TSDemoDay that helped define our 2021 program. Looking forward, applications for the 2022 accelerator program open January 18th, so we’re talking with founders about their next moves. If your team is ready to scale, I’d highly recommend following @TechstarsIowa on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, then visit TechstarsIowa.com and hitting the green “Get in Touch” button to explore what Techstars can do for your startup.

Kindergarten

Our beautiful startup that pays in love is my greatest achievement. I’ve realized that one of the best things about entrepreneurship, is that it’s allowed me to be a #1 DAD! I’ve worked 80 hours so that I’m not forced to work 40. Over time, this has unlocked a freedom to avoid routine while providing a choice to how I spend my precious time. In fact, this is one reason why I’m such an advocate for entrepreneurship! Life is too short not to enjoy how we spend our time and I’m lucky to have spent so much of it with our little girl. 2021 brought a milestone moment for our family, as our daughter went to Kindergarten. As a highly involved parent, I found myself experiencing a pie chart of emotions. I was excited for her, but also selfishly felt a deep sense of loss. I also had mixed feelings about the educational system and how our little one would behave in her new environment. Perhaps this is what many parents feel when they first send their kids off to school, but this mangled mindset inspired the realization I wrote about in One & Only. It was neat to start that blog not knowing where I was headed, but in the end, realizing that gratitude provides peace. Kindergarten has been wonderful and this passage turned out to be a wonderful life lesson I’ll always appreciate.

YDNTB Audiobook

This was one of the most grueling, yet invaluable projects of my life. Building my own studio and narrating the audiobook version of YDNTB was fun, as recording an audiobook felt like performing art. The decision to then edit the entire thing myself is where the fun ended and the grind became real. I literally hand treated the accuracy, tone, and timing of every single sentence and all 37,456 words so that each listener would cherish a resonating experience. Grumbles aside, what kept me pushing, was the idea of having something I can be proud of for life. The YDNTB audiobook is now available everywhere and I can’t wait to hear what you think!

FliteBrite | OpenOpen | Jet Set Studio

With the landmark effort required to publish my first book and my expanding work as an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, all three of my own entrepreneurial ventures received less attention. With a watchful eye on my personal bandwidth, I was well aware of how this impacted my diversified career portfolio. The pandemic had forced beer festivals, open houses, and live video game events into hibernation, so 2021 was the perfect time to expand the impact of my work. As the pandemic subsides, it’ll be difficult to regenerate momentum, but FliteBrite has a tasty beer festival app and incredible potential with our electronic serving systemOpenOpen is an open house scheduler expressly designed to save substantial time for home builders and real estate agents… and Jet Set Studio will always remain an epic hobby that pays.

Roasted Reflections

I’m grateful for the privilege to have consistently delivered these Roasted Reflections every week since activating this literary practice on December 14th, 2020. Along with this achievement I’m thankful for, the added layer of recapping each month’s writings into a threaded tweet (example) creates a shareable, linked index that also acts like an accountability pit stop to refuel my own potential to persevere.

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Reading helps us understand the world.

Writing helps us understand ourselves.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly ruminations. This threaded relic I shared on Twitter includes ALL of my Roasted Reflections from 2021, organized by each month’s contemplative recap. I built into this shareable index all year and really enjoyed this summit before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

Cheers to the wonderful whirlwind that was 2021, and to all that comes next in 2022!