Not Everyone Needs To Take The Same Risks

When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.
–Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)

Last week I read a couple posts about hiring MBAs into startups by Ed Zimmerman and Phin Barnes. They took a thoughtful look at hiring and funding MBAs, with both largely ending up on the “it ultimately depends – but I’m usually extra cautious about it” answer. My view is a little more nuanced view, in that I think that most MBAs should ignore the startup hype and go after the big roles at corporates that they dream about. Much like a Rabbi telling the wannabe convert to get stuffed 3 times before welcoming  them into the fold, founders should push the limits of potential MBA candidates.

If they don’t do the startup thing, it’s totally ok! Other people do not need to define success, or their life, the way that a startup founder does. It makes me extremely upset when I see startups poopooing other people’s career goals as not valiant. It is perfectly acceptable, and more logical, to make a conscious effort to de-risk career choices. Hell, in the depths of the dark days there isn’t a single startup founder who makes it past the “just messing around stage” that doesn’t rethink their own huge risk taking. Over the past year I’ve had more than my share of dark days, many of which had me thinking how to seriously de-risk.

When an MBA decides to take on the extra risk, they can be a huge asset. Many MBAs have an element of unrestrained ambition that makes them a force when deployed in the right way. They will give up all other aspects of their life for professional success, throw personal relationships out the door and maybe even sacrifice their own health. They also usually have the intelligence and attitude to be a key contributor to the team. The problem, as both Phin and Ed point out, is that they are usually wired to take safe bets and seek out status, security and prestige. As a founder, you question their motives for wanting to be involved, worse you fear that they’ll jump ship when something shinier comes along.  If you can find one that truly wants to be involved, they usually have something to prove and that kind of fire translates into an employee that will be very hard to stop.

So when an MBA comes looking for startup opportunities as their modern “safety school” equivalent, they get shown the door.  If you put up every roadblock and they knock them down one by one and are relentless because either your idea or your team is something they need to be a part of, then open up and use their fire to your benefit.

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Not Everyone Needs To Take The Same Risks

Ode To Colorado

For Purple Mountain Majesties
Above the fruited plane

– America The Beautiful

It’s been about a month since I left Colorado and I wanted to reflect on the things that I miss the most about Colorado and Boulder in particular. It is one of the most beautiful and amazing places that I’ve ever been, it was home for longer than nearly every place besides the city in which I grew up. So without further ado, let’s get into a top ten 15 list:

1 – People – After traveling for years, being in one place showed me the power of really deep relationships. I’ve formed friendships that will last the rest of my life with people who I can be myself with and who inspire happiness. You know who you are.

2 – Access to the backcountry – It’s no secret that the outdoors is my main jam, it’s my haven away from the intensity with which I live. The stress just melts away, and no where else has quite the same backcountry access (while still maintaining an awesome city life) as Boulder. Having a bad day, it’s about as easy to get away as it is to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan. Maybe easier.

3 – Cool mornings & evenings – Mmmmm, so nice to wake up to cool mountain air.

4 – Sunny days – All 300+ of them per year.

5 – The 2 main emotions of mountain biking (terrified and exhausted) – Actually, you can say that about a lot of the sports that I like, and Colorado boasts.

6 – Small mountain towns – There is something intoxicating about the atmosphere of a Colorado mountain town that is hard to explain. It’s not just the pot.

7 – Learning to love Blue Grass music

8 – Good food – I’m not just talking about how it tastes

9 – Commuting by bike without true existential fear of dying in a horrible motor vehicle accident

10 – Competitive nature of people – Only in Boulder can you be pushing yourself to run up a mountain at your top speed only to be passed by a 13yr old girl or a 75yr old guy.

11 – I usually hate homogenous communities, but Boulder’s self selects for my human personality Kryptonite (adventurous, smart, successful)

12 – Hike meetings –

13 – Hike dates

14 – Nearly every moment is photogenic – Thanks to Instagram I relive the beauty, and foster jealousy, everyday.

15 – Being able to work outside in the middle of town (not even close to possible in NYC) – Ah conference room park 🙂

There are more reasons, but my nostalgia has been satisfied, for now.

Ode To Colorado

I’m Printing A Gun

I’m really tired of this nonsensical political debate about printing of weapons. Let’s get something straight, 3D Printing allows anyone to make anything they want. As easily as I was downloading illegal MP3s in middle school, people will be able to download and print physical items. No government, no organization and no army is going to be able to block this from happening.

The future of 3D printing offers individuals around the world immense powers of creation. From current materials we can easily print to biological and chemical materials that will one day be commonplace too. Talk about powerful weapons.

Let’s, as a society, stop trying to block things we don’t understand and talk about reasonable ways to achieve our shared objectives (keeping guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous or otherwise not fit to have them). Let me propose a simple law:

  1. Every gun in the United States should be licensed by the government. Similar testing as a driver’s license.
  2. If you are caught with a non-licensed gun you are severely fined. Minimum jail sentences for certain kinds of weaponry.

Does this stop the psychopath from printing some dangerous weapons and planning a mass killing at a school? No, but I for one cannot think of a single thing that would prevent that. Even today without a world filled with cheap 3D printers.

In the meantime I’m going to go print a one-shot gun and shoot it in a controlled, safe, environment for fun. Printing guns isn’t just for gun-toting republicans, this Independent (but mostly Liberal) Jewish boy wants to do it too.

I’m Printing A Gun

Have The Guts To Say No

If you love me
tell me you love me
don’t stab me man
– 50 Cent (High All The Time)

For some reason, many people seem to have been conditioned over time to choose tact over honesty. In both personal and business life this manifests itself as white lies, dropped e-mail threads, and ultimately, resentment. Why can’t we as a society be upfront with our thoughts and feelings? What is there lose?

Last week, I got an email from a friend talking about another entrepreneur: “[xyz knowledgeable entrepreneur] is totally unresponsive. To a point where I’ve written him off….all his friends believe the drop off is due to ego, he’s too good for people now”. Ugh, can you think of a worse insult for an entrepreneur (or for anyone)?

Like many of you I get a good amount of unsolicited requests, resumes and other small-asks. It’s annoying, sure, but I don’t ignore them, and usually send a polite “Sorry, but I can’t do this” response. No need to go through the rig-a-ma-roll of explaining the reasoning for your decision, just be direct and up-front. As adults, we should be accustomed to rejection (hell, entrepreneurs even more so) but I know for myself, and nearly everyone I know, hearing directly “no” is 100X better than being ignored, or worse, being lied to.

There are a million and one reasons why you may not want, or be able, to help someone. Have the decency and guts to close the loop and say what you think. We’ll be more productive, happy and successful for it.

Have The Guts To Say No