Category: Technology

This is What Happens When You Teach Kids to be Themselves

This is What Happens When You Teach Kids to be Themselves

My sons and I took a road trip together to attend the 2016 National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists. The unruly romping, cajoling and banter from the car ride totally subsided once we entered the stadium with thousands of kids cheering and hollering. It was an incredible gathering of young people destined to lead the future of humanity’s great achievements. I thoroughly enjoyed learning with my boys, who were among those thirsty minds drinking from a firehose of knowledge. We geeked out on nanorobots, string theory, quantum physics and more.

It’s been a while since I was surrounded by so many pimply-faced, socially awkward teens. It highlighted for me my own awkward journey through puberty and life – my fears, insecurities, deep desires and big aspirations.

As a proud father of twelve-year-old twins, I think a lot about how I can help them reach their full potential. I want them to unabashedly believe in their dreams, and then do whatever it takes to reach them.

It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to become the best version of yourself. Sometimes staying true to who you are means facing judgement, criticism, skepticism and self-doubt. Being an innovator can mean being an outcast. I believe the only way to achieve the greatest version of yourself is by having the courage and confidence to BE yourself.

The greatest leaders of our time didn’t always fit it in. Albert Einstein wrote, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”

I want my sons to be courageous in their beliefs and fearless in their pursuits. The pressure to fit in begins in childhood and intensifies as children grow into young adults. We need to disrupt that. Kids need more than support. They need encouragement to know it’s okay to be different, to stand out. Let’s teach kids that it’s okay to love science or math or theater or any number of things. It’s okay to be absolutely 100% passionate about something and then pursue that passion without regard for what others might say about you. If that makes you a geek, then be a geek – unapologetically. Today’s geeks are tomorrow’s entrepreneurial leaders.

The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones with the audacity to act on their insights, create the reality they envision, take risks, disrupt markets, design entirely new categories of industry and change the world. Their first accomplishment was to discover and nurture the interests that make them uniquely who they are.

The theme of this year’s National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists was “Greatness Awaits.” Greatness awaits those who stay true to themselves, who aren’t afraid to let their best self shine. These inventors of the future enter a new arena.

Welcome to the playground of the fearless!


3 Steps To Becoming A Start-Up Entrepreneur

3 Steps To Becoming A Start-Up Entrepreneur

You saw the movie. Mark Zuckerberg scribbles a couple of things on his window, codes for a few hours, meets Justin Timberlake and then he starts counting his billions. That’s not the way it’s going to work for you. You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. And you shouldn’t try to be.

But you can be a successful startup founder and builder. I’ve been there and done that and had a couple of exits. More importantly, I’ve seen it dozens of times as an advisor and recruiter. It’s not rocket science.

The world already has a Mark Zuckerberg. The world doesn’t need you to try and be someone else. You are the only person in the world who’s capable of being yourself. The world needs you to be awesome at being you.

Too many young people want to head straight for the glory, fame and riches of being a successful entrepreneur. They’ve equated being an entrepreneur with sure success. But in fact, most start-ups fail. Success is more than just ambition. If you want to do this right, you must choose the right career path.

Here’s my blueprint…

  • Optimize for learning
  • Develop insights
  • Learn financial discipline
  • Choose the people with whom you surround yourself wisely
  • Work harder than everybody

Optimize for Learning

Early in your career, what’s most important is to learn. Learn how to do something. Learn how to make tradeoffs. Learn how to prioritize. Learn what is important. Learn a craft. Learn how to play on a team. Learn how to lead a team. And learn all of this by working with the best founders and entrepreneurs you can find. A truly great boss is an invaluable asset; you can learn how to be a leader by being effectively led.

Startups are a great platform for learning because of their disproportionate growth. Disproportionate growth leads to disproportionate learning. Disproportionate learning leads to everything that’s good in life. The ability to learn in 3 years what might otherwise take 10 years — this is what startups are about.

Think of your early jobs at start-ups as a post-graduate education.

Learning and growth happen in phases. Develop technical mastery (and self-mastery). Learn to manage a team and/or function. Learn how to lead leaders by working with great leaders. Take on as much responsibility as you can handle in those roles. Learn to lead a meritocracy.

Develop Insights

Technological advances in the past decade have lowered the cost of computing so much that they’ve created an abundance of opportunity to start an app and immediately have a global audience as an entrepreneur. The opportunity seems tempting. But not every opportunity is made for you to take. Choose your opportunities wisely. Choose to maximize your learning early in your career rather than going straight for the entrepreneurial Promised Land.

Again: If you found a start-up without any prior work experience, the odds are high that the company will fail. Well, you might say, failure is a great teacher. You know what is a better teacher? An actual teacher! Think of yourself as Luke Skywalker: He became a hero, but only because he had other heroes willing to teach him the ropes. You need an Obi-Wan or a Yoda, a master from whom you can learn how to do stuff, before you can take on the universe by yourself.

Develop insights. Insight comes from applying experience to knowledge. Knowledge comes from analyzing information. Information comes from organizing data. Learn to organize, analyze and develop insights. Insights are the basis of all business decisions and the important work that advances effort towards outcomes. All progress is made by working on the “important” versus the “urgent”. Learn to develop your own wisdom, your own insights. And, execute the important work with thought leadership and insights. Create a vision for a better world.

Learn Financial Discipline

Once you have your vision in place, it’s easy to assume you’re ready. But you must also learn the day-to-day habits and behaviors that go into successfully running your business. Managing burn rate is one of the most important of these skills.

Keep your operating costs low, and remember that expenses rise to meet income. You may be frustrated because your early jobs don’t pay as much as you want — but as an entrepreneur, you will need to know how to manage costs and prioritize tradeoffs for an organization. Hone these skills by learning to efficiently manage your personal finances and budget.

Resourcefulness can be your greatest resource. Learn how to fully exercise your muscles of resourcefulness. Become a capable manager of resources. Knowing how to create value with scarce resources is the magic of entrepreneurship.

Beginning Your Entrepreneurial Career

Success is not just a matter of ambition. It’s a process: Roll up your sleeves. Do something. Do anything. Do everything. Throw yourself at projects that interest you and learn. Find the inefficiencies and learn how to do things better. Learn how to create value. Gain insights. These insights will give you the ability to lead. Learn to discriminate between good people who are skilled and people who are skilled but not nice. Develop and learn to exercise the full capacity of your horsepower.

THEN, go out and be an entrepreneur!

By all means, disrupt an entire industry! Drive creative destruction. Make your Momma proud. Buy her a house!

But, rather than launching a startup right now just because you can, follow a better plan: Learn, master, found a startup, then work hard and create a great product. Then, when you are successful, give back. Give other young people the ability to learn through your leadership, your mentorship, your guidance.

The best professionals — those that are the top 1% of A+ executive talent — don’t care about the social status of working for this company versus that company. They’re not worried about building a resume or designing a career. They are busy maximizing their learning. They are busy solving problems, implementing solutions, developing the insights on creating maximum value and making the distinctions that accelerate performance. They are leading.

You cannot be king of the world if you are a slave to the grind. If you find the work you are doing to be a grind — get out! Do everyone a favor and figure out what you are most passionate about. Decide & commit upon your true dreams and goals. Rise up and make it happen!

Every millennial saw the Facebook movie. Every millennial spends time on Facebook. Every millennial already has parents and/or grandparents on Facebook. The world doesn’t need another Facebook. The world needs you to be the best that you can be.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this, hit recommend, share and read high performance leadership.

Note: Thanks to Andrew Koch for reviewing and providing comments on an earlier draft.

This post was originally published on the Dave Partners blog.

2015: Year Of The Startup

2015: Year Of The Startup

One last post, as the brightly-shining promise of the New Year approaches:

This past year brought so much for which to be grateful in business and in life. We are still so grateful to Hank Paulson, and others we thanked and mentioned in last year’s post on gratitude. For new friends made; for old relationships made stronger; for the teams & companies that continue to make NYC a thriving metropolis of internet & tech enabled startups and for all our client-partners that had disproportionate growth, we are grateful.

And as part of this ecosystem, I’ve begun blogging seriously this year, and am excited to contribute more significantly to the community of people writing about tech. These are a few posts I’m most proud of:

Humility Is The High Road To Start-Up Success
Building A Startup Is Like Running An Ironman
The Two Most Common Qualities Of The Top 1% Of A+ Exec Talent

We started Dave Partners on a contrarian move during the bottom of the worst economic crisis the world had seen in over 80 years. When most headhunters scurried out of the headhunting business in 2009, we resolved to believe in the power of NYC entrepreneurs and also in the power of technology to create abundance and lead both the US and Global economies out of recession.

I believe that 2015 will be the year of the startup, when agile, lean, fast-moving startups in so many industries become a real alternative to the big-tech companies burdened with innovator’s dilemma. At Dave Partners, we’ve also declared 2015: The Year of the Lion.

With Love & Gratitude, wishing all of the members of our world, our community, our ecosystem and our family a tremendous 2015!

And thank you for reading! Please share with us what you are most grateful for and most excited about for 2015. Also, take a look at these posts for sharing.

Originally posted on Dave Partners blog.