Die Empty

Graveyards are full of good intentions, untold ideas, disconnections, and missed opportunities.

As we celebrate year-end holidays and look to 2022, it’s easy to make audacious plans for what’s next, but perhaps it’s wise to pair big ideas with small actions?

This obviously means something different for everyone. For example, there are times in our lives when we seek to do so much more. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when cool ideas, good intentions, and even positive action doesn’t lead to the anticipated outcome. For those who face this mental mountain, first give yourself grace by remembering that we either succeed or learn. This will help you find closure with past failure(s). As you push through this self-limiting mindset, lean back into your community of fellow founders. It’s even harder to show up when you’re experiencing a dip, but movement activates motivation and leaning into the prosperity of others will percolate helpful conversations. Pair this curiosity with a pinch of vulnerability and you’ll be reminded how generosity builds trust and helps you solve new problems.

In contrast, there are other times when a profound sense of accomplishment leaves us wondering what more can be done? This would seemingly be a privileged state, but our sense of purpose can waver when goals have been met. This can cause even the most ambitious spirit to feel lazy. A sense of achievement dysmorphia can also set in, which downplays our accomplishments in an effort to create space for more. Perhaps one way to counter this type of mental moment is to pair celebration with relaxation, creativity, and humility. Rejuvenation often emerges from self-care rooted in gratitude. This form of vulnerability brings peace, which often provides clarity on prolific ways to make a deeper impact on familiar fronts, or energy to explore brand new ways to fuel positive change.

The nudge you need will be dynamic based on the complexity of your ever-shifting environment, but a willingness to persist allows us all to keep building.

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The YDNTB audiobook was just released and listeners love it! It is now available as a direct download (with bonus features) in this special Holiday Bundle. It can also be found on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

It’s impossible to measure the amount of time and effort it took to narrate, edit, and professionally publish this 5-hour audiobook (here’s how I did it), but that’s not what matters. What matters is that I have a remarkable relic to be proud of forever. Enjoy the show my friends!

Along with what you’re able to undertake, appreciate all that you cannot. When idea machines have an opportunity surplus, it’s easy to over commit. It’s much harder to stay cognizant of our personal bandwidth when our connected era is always introducing new ways to spend your time. These are crossroads where you’re invited to be honest about your own purpose, by allowing the superpowers of others to activate something you can/should not. As you share the love, deliver ideas, resources, connections, and opportunities without hidden agendas. You can’t take such things with you, so boldly give them away with a sense of abundance and find renewing joy in helping others bring more good things to life.

My hope is that after reading this year-end reflection, you observe the blunt title less around loneliness, and more as positive encouragement for doing all that we can with our precious time in this life.

A sustainable cadence leads to longevity, but a profound legacy awaits those who exhaust all their love, intelligence, connectivity, and energy to leave satisfied in the end.

13.8 Billion

Based on the latest scientific estimate, our universe is 13.8 billion years old.

I don’t know about you, but over the past decade, I’ve been especially fascinated by the cosmos. If you’re over 30 years old, it’s almost like cosmic curiosity didn’t exists when we grew up. Perhaps I was a bit sheltered by a religious upbringing, but in high school, the narrative around space only focused on our own solar system. I don’t even remember talking about our place within the Milky Way galaxy.

This now feels like such a myopic perspective based on what we’ve learned. As scientific understandings expand, I can’t help but to wonder…

✨ How is our evolving understanding of the universe objectively taught to kids?

📚 What are educational paths to astrophysics?

☯ Can cosmology and religion co-exist?

⚖️ At what point does arguing become a waste of time?

🧫 Can biotech pause, protect, or extend humans for space travel?

⚫️ How long would it take to arrive at the closest black hole? Who’s going in first?

🧠 How might the field of psychology better prepare us for the neon future?

💭 Does digitized consciousness unlock time travel by leaving the limitations of a human body behind?

💾 Where does quantum computing fit into the landscape of cosmic exploration?

👽 It seems statistically impossible that extraterrestrial life does not exist.

⏳ If life on earth has only existed ~25% of the total time our universe has existed, that sure leaves a lot of time for distant civilizations to evolve.

🧭 Considering the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, do we know how fast our solar system is moving and in what direction?

⚡️ Unless it’s to find a more sustainable source, it feels careless to fuel energy using resources that won’t last.

🧬 Can nanotechnology alter the input of an energy source at a subatomic level to dramatically transform the output?

🧪 Will material science support deeper exploration?

🪐 Visiting, even colonizing Mars feels like an important exercise, but somehow starts to feel trivial.

🔭 Does seeing deeper fuel urgency?

🌌 Action may require sacrifice, so how can we encourage and celebrate those who lead the way?

These are extraordinary things to think about, but such concentration can quickly feel overly theoretical. In practice, perpetual learning, comfort within complexity, and a willingness to think again feels essential. Through such a curious lens, perhaps the most significant opportunity we have, is to aspire toward an existence which exceeds our imagination.

I talk often about collaboration in business and within entrepreneurial ecosystems, but when we put our delicate existence into perspective, it’s hard to think that anything besides collaboration allows us to survive.

Santa is Real

Humans tell stories.

Storytelling is the way we communicate and a key to humanity’s evolution. The stories we share come in all genres, but each one builds a different type of connection.

Stories often exist in the moment, but some are passed for generations. The most successful stories humans have ever told may be science, religion, mathematics, or money, but holidays may also land somewhere on this list of extraordinary, generational storytelling.

In the United States, 11 federal holidays are all observed in their own way, but Christmas (and comparable year-end celebrations around the world) creates a special atmosphere. In fact, the entire calendar and our fundamental sense of time seems to revolve around this cozy time of year. It’s when we pause to remember the year that was, and then look forward to what’s next. With such a shared inflection point, the year-end holiday season has created many recognizable symbols. Many holiday traditions revolve around religion, and just as many do not, but the legend of Santa seems synonymous with the holiday spirit. Whether you believe in Santa or not, it’s hard to argue with how well this jolly character embodies the essence of joy and generosity.

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Balancing this reflection made me feel like a scientist without a clear thesis, but watching our little one lean into the holiday spirit makes me grateful and full of pure wonder.

Our generational stories, decorations, music, events, letters, gifts, movies, and all that is the holiday season, can spark an undeniable truth. Great stories bring us together and if the result is anything close to the beautiful innocence of a child’s sparkle this time of year, I’m a believer and thankful that Santa is real.

Neon Future

I’ve always been fascinated by technology and how humanity interacts with what’s next.

Whether it’s artificial intelligence (AI), space travel, computer vision, machine learning, biotech, transformative energy, quantum computing, cerebral transcendence, or synthetic materials, math, or physics we have yet to discover, the deep future is one of my favorite day dreams. I don’t often get to talk with others about these questions we can not answer, but TV shows, movies, books, and music provide fun ways to personalize each paradox.

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Year Million, Cosmos, Altered Carbon, Foundation, and NOVA are a few TV shows that lean into what our neon future may look like. The Matrix, Ghost In the Shell, Finch, Transcendence, Dune, Ready Player Two, Interstellar, The Martian, Lucy, and Ex Machina are a few of my favorite sci-fi movies in this realm. I can’t say I’ve read many books that connect on this front, but when it comes to music, a lot of EDM feels futuristic. In fact, the inspiration for my title comes from Steve Aoki’s latest odyssey and I’ll close with lyrics to maintain this state of trance.

As I think about the future and what technology may allow humanity to achieve, my mind drifts through an eternal field of abundance. Our destiny will naturally change the future of work. My hope is that instead of stealing jobs, the heightened infrastructure will advance our kind and provide more humans the chance to scrutinize their own creativity. Instead of worrying about turning a knob all day, society can focus more on what the turning knob accomplishes.

It’s hard to reflect on such vast unknowns. It’s even harder to find closure. This doesn’t do the trick, but one interesting question that I’ve asked many people, is “does everyone have an entrepreneurial spirit?” I’ve been surprised with how many people say no, but one of my favorite responses included a thoughtful caveat. Perhaps everyone has a creative spirit, but those who are able/willing to tolerate risk, unlock the opportunity to decipher their entrepreneurial spirit.

That said, when it comes to this discourse, I’m interested less about business, and more about the enjoyment of deep thoughts, interesting conversation, and pure wonder.

There’s light years more to unpack here and this was never meant to be a scientific summary. Think of this flickering spark as more of an invitation to cut loose for the neon future is entirely unpredictable, expect for one thing: that before you know it, the neon future, will be the past. Stay wild my friends!

Life has limitless variety
But today, because of aging, it does not have limitless scope
In the neon future life will have opportunity to explore its limitless diversity
Life will have no boundaries

Slide Deck Design

Ready to inspire the audience at pitch competitions? Perhaps you’re presenting a business at an event? Maybe you’re simply looking to host a meaningful meeting this week? Let’s explore translating your transmission with sharp slide deck design.

Before we dive in, why are slides even needed? Building a slide deck supports your key points while also establishing the tone and cadence of your performance. One development approach is to plan what will be said, and then wrap slides around that narrative. An alternate approach is to build the slide deck, which helps synthesize your storytelling. I personally find that the process of building a slide deck helps me lock in the story.

No matter how you find your flow, allow clean visuals to support your verbal queues and learn how to share your story in a natural way. The goal is to deliver the most lasting impact in the least amount of time. Honest passion, transparent vulnerability, and concise simplicity are great ways to accomplish this.

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Pitches are built to impress. Presentations are mean to share.

No matter the environment, a clean slide deck is always a good place to start. This is the visualization of your story. Slide decks should create flow while supporting your verbal presentation. They must concisely highlight key aspects of your business. Slides also help address any specific criteria of the environment it’s being used at, such as pitch competitions or other business presentations. Slides should not include full sentences or bullet points for you to read aloud. If the audience is asked to read the slide, they’re unable to pay attention to what you’re actually saying. Titles or short phrases may help guide the audience, but great slide decks use very few words.

With a foundation of strong imagery, make your presentation stand out. This does not mean a bunch of distracting transitions. Keep transitions between each slide simple, but consider how content comes and goes on each slide. Subtle animations and thoughtful hints of movement on each slide will keep your audience captivated. With a striking slide deck in place, practice what you plan to say and sync the narrative to the timing of each slide.

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Think deeply about the specific environment, your audience, and various objectives to craft the most compelling experience. When a message resonates, attendees express interest through questions, introductions, and future engagement.

Being prepared is obviously important when all eyes are on you. Whether you use animated content or not, it’s best to have a single click to move between each slide. As you speak, your attention should be on connecting with the audience, not the slide deck or the handheld clicker. My suggestion is to memorize the flow and order of your slides, but not exactly what you plan to say. The sentiment of your pitch should remain consistent, but it won’t sound the same each time. Memorizing a talk word-for-word is safe for some, but a more genuine tone comes from the heart.

Are questions allowed? If so, include supportive back slides. Back slides live behind the final slide. They are used to highlight material not included in the main presentation. Handy back slides include detailed pricing, competitive analysis, marketing strategies, research data, and intricate financial information. The optional, but available coverage back slides provide make them well worth the time to prepare. People who understand what they’re talking about can use fewer words, and back slides allow you to deliver a strategically simplified presentation. For the audience, this reduces the numbing effect of information overload. With back slides in place, you can indulge in clarifying conciseness. This makes for a more impactful tone. It can even be good to purposefully leave out a curious topic from the main presentation. When the inevitable question pops, you can use the sneaky back slide to share a more focused response. Memorize the order of your back slides and you’ll soon be leading a smooth, more authoritative exchange. In short, back slides prove you’re a pro.

To complete a slide deck build, export all the slides into one PDF and include a JPG image for each slide. The richest presentation will always come from the software (Apple Keynote, Microsoft Powerpoint, Google Slides, etc.) a slide deck was built from, but the PDF and JPG formats can be used as marketing materials. More important, they are quick substitutes to counter any sort of last minute technical issues. Deliver the digital assets on time and drop everything on a flash drive, just in case.

As you tell your story, take feedback seriously. Feedback from people you don’t know will sharpen the business, your slide deck design, and your presentation overall.

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Happy Thanksgiving!  2021 has been remarkable and I’m grateful for so many things. Along with treasured time with family and work I’ll always remember, the ability to consistently deliver these Roasted Reflections every single week is definitely an achievement I’m thankful for. I hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly ruminations and I can’t wait to hear what you think of the YDNTB audiobook this holiday season!