#MentalNote · History · Politics · startups · venture capital

It’s Time To Build Pt. 2

Marc Andreessen, one of the co-founders of Andreessen Horowitz, wrote a timely piece during the height of the US COVID-19 crisis. Titled It’s Time to Build. It’s essentially a call to arms for builders to focus on creating a better reality where we’re prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. It was a collective call to create a more conducive environment for builders and sounded like a call to get back to what made the United States great; making and creating. 

Fast track to George Floyd’s death and we’ve seen a significant outpouring of support and collective action around ending racism and destroying racist institutions. Now more than ever, there’s an awakening to the fact that black people are suffering from systems built to disenfranchise and systematically ensure they’re held down. We’re at a pivotal point globally. We’ve all seen the decentralized protests around the world demanding change and justice for George Floyd and others who have died at the hands of those sworn to protect them. People, now more than ever, want to tear down and rebuild these institutions. 

As we think of building and tearing down institutions we should make sure we’re focused on building a more inclusive type of institution. The only way we’ll really achieve the promise of a future where there’s equality for all is to ensure everyone is in the workshop as we’re building. We know this is currently not the reality. Black people lag behind on most indicators that would lead them to be in the rooms to be a part of this building process. In venture capital, for example, where the rubber meets the road when it comes to building, the stats are abysmal. For those who aren’t familiar with the venture capital space, here’s some data to provide some color:

  • 77.1 percent of founders were white—regardless of gender and education.
  • Just one percent of venture-backed founders were black.
  • Women-funded startups received only 9 percent of investments.
  • Latino founders made up 1.8 percent of those receiving funding, while Middle Easterners totaled 2.8 percent.
  • Asians were the second most-backed group, making up 17.7 percent of venture-backed founders.

From Ratemyinvestor.com 

We can’t build this new reality if there’s this much inequality in the venture capital industry. I don’t think individual actors are deliberately enforcing inequality – I believe the “system” of risk capital is flawed and perpetuates actors to not act in an equitable way. Venture capital is just one example. There are disparities in healthcare, education, job creation, urban development, and etc. Everywhere we look, there are systems that disproportionally affect black people, and most of the time, for the worst.

If we aren’t careful, we’ll build on the same bias and power structures and we’ll be back in the same spot 20 years from now wondering how we got to where we are. 

#MentalNote · History

Some Thoughts On This week 5/29/20

  1. This is a cycle. A black person dies. We get angry. The law intervenes. We assume justice comes and then it doesn’t. How do we break the cycle?
  2. There are several definitions of justice. Most relevant to this situation, – the administering of deserved punishment or reward. Justice in the legal sense makes sense but morally, especially around situations of murder, justice as a transaction doesn’t seem to be equitable.
  3. As black people, we need a new social contract with the United States. For those unfamiliar, social contract theory, made famous by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Between COVID / police violence, and economic downturn, there’s probably no better time than now.
  4. These news cycles are Jimmy John’s fast now. Wasn’t it just a week ago that Joe Biden had that gaff with Charlamagne on Breakfast Club? Are people still mad at him? Honestly, it feels like it was weeks ago.
  5. Joe Biden is going to have to put an avengers (endgame) level team together if he wins in November. Between international diplomacy, domestic affairs, a pandemic, an economy that is about to collapse, and a gutted government, he’s going to need people who can execute on day one.
  6. In moments like this, I feel an immense sense of hopelessness. What can I do to really change this world or stop things like this from happening? I’m reminded of a message from Robert F Kennedy –

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work
to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be
written the history of this generation… It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Also gotta throw a Tupac/Wale quote here as well.

I’m not saying I’m going to change the world. But I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world

#MentalNote · Learning

Ideas That Changed My Life

A couple of months ago, I read Ideas That Changed My Life by Morgan Housel, a Partner at the Collaborative Fund. I thought I’d make my own list as a reflection exercise.

Life is suffering

Rough one to start off a list with. Buddha once said that “Life is suffering”. A more pessimistic and often times wrong way of looking at this that life is nothing but suffering. What Buddha means, or at least what I think he means is if you have to accept suffering as much as you accept the happiness in your life. The more you accept that you’ll suffer, the less likely you won’t feel as entrenched in the situations that cause suffering. A great practical example is working out. I work out and I feel sore after I’m done. Underneath it all, my muscle fibers are breaking themselves apart to become stronger in the long run. If I want to enjoy my gains in strength, I have to accept the soreness and discomfort that comes with it.

Understanding life is suffering opens life up to a bunch of new opportunities. It decreases fear of the unknown and allows people to take more risks. It also allows you to maintain a stoic outlook on things that happen to you in life.

You can’t change things outside of your control, but you can change your attitude.

This saying takes from the stoic practice of being a micromanager of your thoughts and feelings like the only thing you can really control. Honestly, by following this practice, I’m always surprised by what happens but always enter a situation with the knowledge I can manage my thought and emotions more than I can dictate the outcome.

Real happiness comes from trying to be the best version of yourself

The real happiness is in growth. Imagine all times you’ve struggled through something or learned a new skill and then seen growth in that activity. Challenging yourself to continuously grow to the best version of yourself is one of the few areas where you can achieve true happiness.

Innovation happens at the intersection of traditionally unassociated areas.

The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures is a book written by Swedish-American entrepreneur Frans Johansson in 2004. In this book, Johansson describes that disruptive innovation often comes from people who are not in that specific industry and the biggest innovations happen at the intersection of unrelated areas.

This idea provides a process/map where people can find brilliant ideas…Most of the time it’s in a totally random place where most wouldn’t think to look.

You’re a walking miracle

The probability of human birth alone is close enough to zero. The idea that your body didn’t give up on you as many ways as it could, or the fact you survived the day to read this is a testament to miracles. Your existence continues to compound in improbability until you grow old and pass on.

Remember how special you are is super important but it also helps you realize how special those around you are and how lucky they are to have you in their life and for you to be in theirs.

Belief is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans

The power of belief is a testament to the power of the brain and mindset. We can trick our brains into doing things just by believing a couple of fundamental truths, for better or worse.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Perfect is an unattainable, ever fleeting benchmark that really doesn’t exist. Good, most of the time, is enough and perfection gets in the way. This resonates as a product person. They’ll never be the perfect time to launch or the perfect time to refactor, or the perfect set of features. At the end of the day, just get out there. You’ll be better with an executed good rather than waiting on an ideal perfect.

80/20 Rule

I didn’t believe the 80/20 rule but it just proves to be a universal truth. For those who are unaware, 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. This has wide crossing implications but it comes into play when you focus on where to allocate time and resources. Think of businesses, for example. Let’s take Google. Search and Ad business accounts for about 20% of the company and accounts for around 80% of Alphabet/Google revenue. Even personally, when you work out, the last set when you’re tired account for a majority of your gains. I’ve found this to apply in nature, society, life, etc.

Visualize The Worst-Case Scenario

Sometimes we fear the unknown and it festers in our brain which leads to uncertainty, doubt and a lack of confidence. Something I learned from a professional speaking class that made a lot of sense is imagining the total failure of speech/situation. What are the steps you take or don’t take to get to that situation? How do you feel? What happens as a result of the worst-case scenario coming to bare? Visualizing the worst that can happen reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Littlefinger:

“Don’t fight in the North or the South. Fight every battle everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.”

Littlefinger – Game of Thrones

I’ll write a follow up next year…….

#MentalNote · Education

New Hobby Alert

Shot with a One Plus 5. I was visiting my brother’s apartment in Jersey City overlooking New York City and Hudson River.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been interested in tapping into my inner creative. I’ve been looking for areas to explore where I can capture moments and share my perspective and thought photography would be a great place to start. So, I got a phone with an excellent camera and got a Nikon DSLR starter kit and now I’m ready to start sharing my journey to explore the world of photography.

I’ll continue to post pics on my Instagram account here , but I’ll use my blog to explain some of the shots in more detail.

#MentalNote · Idea!!! · Leadership

Getting Past No: A Non-Sales Person Guide To Objection Handling

If you’re doing life right, you hear no or get objections frequently. I had one of those days last week. I heard no/ objections to a lot of different projects, clients, and opportunities. Objections is easy to handle on a one off basis, but when you get an overload in a day, you’ve got to have a system or framework to help navigate objections in an effective and positive way.

I thought back to my early start-up days when I got a chance to work intimately with the sales team. I had the privilege to train under a sales genius who imparted a lot of sales wisdom and business experience on to me and the team. We didn’t have a pure sales training regiment, but I felt like everyday was an opportunity to learn from a well seasoned sales executive.

One of the lessons he taught our team early was on how to handle objections from prospects. Potential clients often say no for several reasons and a good sales professional has tools to identify their reasons for saying no and help the prospect get to yes. But most importantly, great sales professionals re-frame objection as an opportunity to learn more about the client and their needs.

We learned the L.A.E.R framework to manage our responses to objections. When we hear an objection from a prospect, we :

  • Listen– Take a step back and just listen to the prospect. Let them discuss their main concerns uninterrupted.
  • Acknowledge– Repeat back to them their concerns as you hear it. This helps to make sure you understand what they are saying but also they understand what they said during your conversation. Re stating a prospects objections also demonstrates you’re really listening to them and looking to seek a solution.
  • Explore– Most no’s or objections need to be unpacked. A great sales professional uses an objection to get to know more about the prospects needs and values. For example, a prospect might say your product offering is too expensive. What does that really mean? Is there a budget issue? Did you demonstrate and communicate the value your product/service provides? Asking more questions to understand their objections helps get past no’s and find new opportunities to help the prospect see the value in your product or service.
  • Respond– After identifying the objections, acknowledging their concerns, explored and unpacked the reasons for the objection, now you can finally respond with some recommendations. This may not always go in your favor. The main goal is help your prospect understand if the concerns you’ve discussed still exist and if so, what are the next step.

Overall, the L.A.E.R framework really helps to guide conversations with prospects during the sales cycle. It’s definitely applicable to any type of objection handling moments you’ll have personally and professionally. At the core of the L.A.E.R framework is need and a goal to understand and empathize with the prospect. Using L.A.E.R will help you get past objection and hopefully closer to yes.