What Spinks Thinks http://whatspinksthinks.com Fri, 14 Mar 2014 00:36:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Make People Happy by Understanding What Freedom Means to Them http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/03/13/freedom/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/03/13/freedom/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3790 freedomI had a really interesting discussion with Hiten Shah and Nadia Eghbal the other day about freedom and what it really meant for each of us.

Freedom is something many of us strive for. It can affect where we choose to work, who we date, who we live with, where we live and probably a lot of subtle things we don’t realize.

But what does freedom mean?

My knee jerk reaction would be that freedom is having control over what I’m doing at any given moment.

In reality, freedom can look different for everyone. For some it’s important that their entire life feels free. For others, they just want to control certain aspects of their life in order to feel free.

Freedom can be…

…making decisions for yourself.

…not having to answer to others.

…autonomy.

…working on a team.

…working less.

…being mentally challenged.

…being able to spend more time with your kids.

…doing physical activity.

…working from home.

…working in an office.

…vacation time.

…money.

People find a sense of freedom in such a wide range of things and probably a combination of things. As entrepreneurs, managers or leaders, it’s important to understand what freedom means to each person individually instead of creating overarching standards that apply to everyone.

Note that freedom is different from motivation. A lot of people seek to improve someone’s productivity by figuring out what motivates them. Some of the things listed above can be considered motivation as well, but it’s not about finding out what will drive someone to do good work. It’s about understanding the environment in which they’ll be truly happy and in turn, do good work. There a subtle but important difference there.

I think sometimes we don’t even pay attention to what brings ourselves a sense of freedom. We just assume it’s time, money, autonomy…all the things that society says should make you happy. Maybe if you take a step back and think about the moments in your life when you’ve felt completely free, it had nothing to do with those things.

What brings you a sense of freedom? What brings the people around you a sense of freedom?

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Just Hit Publish http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/03/11/just-hit-publish/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/03/11/just-hit-publish/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 11:00:46 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3781 I’ve struggled to keep up with my writing lately.

I started writing a post every day for over 100 days. I accomplished that goal and things were humming along.

Then all of a sudden, I started to falter.

What happens when you write that much is a lot of awesome stuff:

- I started being asked to contribute to other publications

- I had a few post really explode, driving a lot of traffic to the blog

- I actually built a following of people who read most of my posts

Now all of these are really good outcomes, but the problem is when I started writing, I was just doing it for myself to get my thoughts out. I could whip up a post quickly and just get those ideas out there. Now after these outcomes, I’ve felt a large amount of pressure to write really epic posts every time.

Posts like this where I can just write and hit publish have become much harder for me to publish. They’re not good enough because they may not reach the heights of some of my other posts.

I feel like my posts have to be thorough, compelling and super high quality in order to publish. But that feeling is wrong unless you’re writing for another publication or you’re writing for a living.

Here on this blog, I can write whatever is on my mind and hit publish without feeling like I have to make it perfect. If people like the post, great. If they don’t, I still get value out of getting the words flowing.

Sometimes, you just have to hit publish. It’s more important that you keep the flow of ideas going than to make sure every idea is perfect.

That probably applies to other parts of business too. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect or epic. It just have to be something, anything to keep things moving forward.

Plus, you should keep in mind that you have no idea which topics will hit a nerve and explode, and what will fall flat. I’ve had posts that took me 5 minutes to write reach tens of thousands of people. I’ve also worked on posts for hours just to have 50 people read it.

You never know, so just hit publish.

 

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Learned from Failure – Why You Should Never Send Negative Emails http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/28/learned-from-failure-why-you-should-never-send-negative-emails/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/28/learned-from-failure-why-you-should-never-send-negative-emails/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:00:08 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3759 I’ve learned a lot about what makes for good communication in business.

I’ve also learned about what makes for really poor communication that results in anger, drama and failure.

There’s one philosophy that has consistently proven true for me, in multiple jobs, over multiple years with many different kinds of people.

Negative emails make for very poor communication and should always be discussed in person (or at least on the phone) instead.

I’ve learned by making the mistake several times (I still do today). And I’ve learned from other people making the same mistake with me.

Every time I’ve sent an emotional email, I’ve regretted it. Every time someone sends me an emotional email, I get stressed.

It’s not because they’re emotional. I think it’s absolutely essential that when you work closely with people, that everyone feels comfortable sharing their feelings, both good and bad. I have just found that email is the wrong place for it when it’s bad.

If you’re sending negative feedback, that might be okay as long as it’s presented in the positive light of your mutual goal to be better and improve. But as soon as emotion comes into it, take it off email.

This post is based on my own personal experiences so maybe others would respond differently. But in case you’re like me, I figured it’s worth sharing.

Here’s why negative emotional emails are bad news bears…

1. Lack of tone, body language and eye contact

Are they being sarcastic? Angry? Sad? I have no idea.

What often happens is I’ll end up assuming the worse. I assume they’re livid, full of anger and disgust.

It doesn’t matter how descriptive you are or how many emoticons you use, when you write something emotional, how the other person perceives that emotion is completely out of your control.

2. It can create a battle to win out

Written debates are brutal. You can pick apart every single word and phrase of the opponent and you read over your response 17 times before sending it over.

That’s not a conversation, that’s a battle to win out. You’re just trying to shoot down all angles of the other person’s argument rather than come to an understanding and move forward.

I can’t speak for others but when I used to receive emotional emails, I’d overanalyze that thing until I turn blue. Then I’d overanalyze my response, trying to cover every angle.

As a result, everyone loses, the problem never gets settled and it can cause bad juju amongst teammates.

3. Ready, Set, DWELL!

Emails also leave a lot of space between messages. Unlike a conversation where you keep working through the issue together live in real time, an email just sits there, festering.

When I receive emotional emails, I dwell. For days or until I finally talk to the person, I obsess over the email, what it means, how the other person is feeling and how I’ll deal with it. It’s depressing, really.

Passive communication like that is great for coordination and general information exchange. But when you start bringing human emotions into the mix, save it until you can actually have a live conversation about it.

4. We can be irrational in the moment

Most emotional emails are written in the moment of emotion.

Our emotions are strong and can make us say or do things we regret. Forcing yourself to take it offline and talk it out in person will also give you time to reflect and approach the situation rationally.

At the very least, save it as a draft and come back to it later after you’ve had time to calm down, reflect and think rationally.

So here’s what you can do instead of sending emotional emails:

1. Just take it offline

When I want to send one, I’ll write out the draft and then not send it. Then I’ll send something like, “hey, can we hop on a call, had something on my mind” and set up a time to talk through it.

When someone sends me a negative email now, I simply respond with something along the lines of “let’s get on skype and talk this out”.

That simple change in how I deal with communication has vastly improved both my sanity and my ability to work well with others.

2. Set up a regular time to share emotions

Another good strategy that has worked for Nadia and I is to set a specific meeting up at the same time every week that’s dedicated to sharing your thoughts, feelings, fears, excitements etc. We’d go for a walk, go get bubble tea, sit in a park, away from computers, and just talk. This way, if we had something weighing on our mind, we knew we’d have the chance to share it at the meeting and didn’t have to email to bring it up.

Turns out when you have conversations like that, you gain a lot of perspective about yourself and your company as well. Some of our biggest decisions for Feast have come from these talks.

3. Write it out but don’t send it

A friend of mine does this every time he feels angry. He’ll write out the email but never send it. Writing it out makes him feel better and lets him think through the situation. Then he just deletes the draft.

I’ve done the same, sometimes actually writing letters to people in my private journal. Just writing things out can make you feel much better.

If you have no other option than to email, then do that. It’s better than not expressing your feelings at all. But if you can, hold it until you can talk it out live in real time.

Photo Credit: Anita Robicheau via Compfight cc

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How to Make Other People Feel Good About Themselves http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/27/how-to-make-other-people-feel-good-about-themselves/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/27/how-to-make-other-people-feel-good-about-themselves/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 12:00:02 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3761 piggybackrideWant to make friends and build a strong network?

Want to be the person that people want to spend time with?

Want to earn someone’s trust and respect?

Want to be that manager that everyone loves and enjoys working with?

There are a few people I’ve met in my life that I have a deep respect for, more so than anyone else I’ve met. They’ve proven their ability to do all of those things above time and time again. Everyone loves them, they’re incredibly successful and they just seem to live a good life.

Some time ago I noticed there’s something very consistent about what makes them all so successful and well thought of.

They make other people feel really good about themselves.

Every chance they get, whether with friends, strangers, in public, in private, whatever…they make you feel awesome.

There are a number of ways that I’ve seen them work their magic. Some are simple and very obvious. Others take a little more work and aren’t so obvious.

1. Compliment people even if it feels awkward

The simplest most obvious thing you can do it compliment them.

Complimenting can feel awkward and take some willpower sometimes. I catch myself wanting to compliment people but then feeling embarrassed and just keeping it to myself.

I learned from watching these people who are really good at complimenting how effective it can be.

If you like someone’s shoes, you think they’re funny, you respect them…anything good, tell them! By keeping it to yourself you’re missing an opportunity to make someone else feel really good about themselves. That in turn will make you feel good for making them feel good. And your relationship will strengthen.

Take Action: Think about someone you know and care for. What’s one thing you like about them? Have you ever told them that? What’s stopping you from texting it to them right now or telling it to them next time you see them?

2. Make other people successful

This one is harder but more powerful.

I haven’t been so great at this in my career. I remember the first time I was put in a managerial position, this concept didn’t even cross my mind. Instead of focusing on making others successful, I thought they were there to make me and the company successful.

It was a shallow understanding and one that resulted in a brilliant failure, but a memorable lesson.

I’ve tried to adjust my thinking to a new idea: I work for everyone else in my life. My job, is to make them successful. If I can do that, we all win.

Take Action: Look at your todo list for the next week. Look at each item and think about who it’s helping. Is it making someone else successful or just you? Are there other things you can add in there that will make someone else successful?

3. Shine the spotlight on other people

Make sure credit is given where it’s due every chance you get. This is another thing I haven’t been so great at in the past. Turns out I’m decent at finding spotlights and I haven’t always thought about pointing it at the people around me.

There’s a difference between internal and external recognition as well. Just because you’re very grateful and tell the person that all the time, that won’t have the same effect as recognition in the public eye. If you can give them both, that’s ideal.

Take action: Look at your twitter feed. When was the last time you bragged about someone else? When was the last time you put the spotlight on someone else? Who can you tweet about right now to put the spotlight on them?

If you focus on those three things, you’ll make people feel good about themselves. When they win, you win.

 

Photo Credit: Fujoshi via Compfight cc

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7 Lessons Learned from Getting Press for our Startup without Pitching http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/22/7-lessons-learned-from-getting-press-for-our-startup-without-pitching/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/22/7-lessons-learned-from-getting-press-for-our-startup-without-pitching/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 14:00:18 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3752 This post originally appeared on PRTini.

It was 6 years ago I was first introduced to the world of PR.

I picked up an internship for Ruder Finn Interactive where I continued to freelance for about a year.

At the time, twitter was just becoming known, blogger outreach was still considered an “innovative approach” and I spent most of my time working on blogger lists which we’d go through and email in the hopes that 10-15% would write about our client’s product.

Fast forward to today and well, a lot of people are still doing the same thing, myself included.

Whenever I work on a new PR campaign for Feast, with the goal of getting press, I start by doing a ton of research and forming a long list of press/bloggers to pitch.

We’ve been pretty successful at landing a healthy amount of PR and landing guest articles. To date, we’ve landed on Men’s Fitness, Greatist, Summer Tomato, LifehackerFood+Tech Connect, USA Today, Huffington Post, Forbes, Pando Daily, GigaOm, Venture Beat, and The Bold Italic to name a few with many more big ones on the way over the next couple months.

The thing is, out of all of the articles we received, only one has come from a traditional “pitch” process, and even that pitch was unique (I’ll explain). So here are 7 things I’ve learned about getting press about your startup that has nothing to do with pitching a long list of contacts.

1. Nothing beats networking

By far, the single most effective way to get an article on any publication is to know someone at the publication. If you don’t know someone, get an intro. If you can’t get an intro, then figure out who you want to engage with at the publication and start to network with them on social media. Don’t straight up pitch them on twitter (right away) but just start responding to them, sharing their articles, linking to them and showing them love.

Then after you’re confident they recognize you and you’ve developed some trust, ask if it’s alright if you email them (or get coffee if you can).

This probably isn’t a surprise to PR folks who have essentially build entire businesses around the value of their relationships. But for a startup doing our own PR, this was a really important lesson.

2. Quality of traffic is more important than amount of traffic

It’s really important to focus on publications with an audience that’s very in line with your audience. Our product, the “Feast Bootcamp” is a 30 day program to help people build a habit of cooking. So our target audience are people who are health conscious, interested in improving themselves and enjoy reading about life hacks. So naturally, by far the best performing articles for us came from Greatist and Men’s Fitness.

Pando, TNW and GigaOm got us some street cred in tech circles but did little to drive customers.

Everything helps with SEO and general credibility, but some are much more impact for your business that others.

3. Press gets your press

Sometimes, getting a good article on the right publications will lead to more press. The Greatist article led to Men’s Fitness and The Bold Italic articles.

So remember, journalists read other publications to find ideas for articles.

4. Press can also get you partnerships

Think about your goals before doing press. If it’s to get traffic, then make sure consumers are reading that publication. Other publications can be really good for reaching other businesses, investors and other potential partners.

Our articles on Food+Tech Connect resulted in Jamie Oliver’s team and a couple other interesting opportunities reaching out to us.

5. Adapt to stories that journalists are looking for

Using HARO and twitter, you can follow what journalists are interested in writing about and find opportunities to squeeze into an article. That’s how we landed on USA Today. The writer had posted on twitter that they were looking to interview food startups. I responded (luckily a follower of mine turned me onto the tweet), responded to his questions over email and had a nice Thanksgiving surprise a few days later when the article went live and I celebrated with more wine and family.

6. If you’re going to pitch, be unique, funny or weird

The only traditional pitch that worked was with Pando Daily. On Erin’s personal website she said “Send tips, ideas, solicitations and hellos to [email]“. So that’s what I did. Here’s the email I sent:

Subject: tips, ideas, solicitations and hellos, from Feast

Hellos: Hi Erin!

Tips: Cooking is good for you, people should cook more often.
Ideas: Hey, maybe you can take an online 30-day bootcamp made specifically for busy professionals and tech writers to help them build a habit of cooking.
Solicitations: We uh… we do that - http://letsfeast.com Want to try it out fo free?
-David

She responded to my email almost immediately with an “lol” and we set up a call.

7. Leverage existing communities

I’m a member of the YEC, an invite-only community of entrepreneurs, which provides opportunities for members to contribute to publications where they have existing content agreements. That’s how I was able to contribute on Forbes.

We were covered on Venture Beat as a result of our participation in the 500 Startups accelerator program.

Obviously, these aren’t things that just anyone can do, but if you keep your eyes open you can find communities that will open up press opportunities.

What other unique tactics have worked for you? Share them in the comments.

Photo cred: Coal Miki

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CMX Summit – A Full Day Event to Help You Become an Exceptional Community Builder http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/01/cmx-summit-become-an-exceptional-community-builder/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2014/01/01/cmx-summit-become-an-exceptional-community-builder/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 14:30:58 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3734 CMX-TwitterIt’s been a little quiet on this blog for the last week. I took some time off for the holidays, but I’ve also been heads down working on a side project.

That project is being announced today. It’s a new event focused on building true community. Here’s the announcement, originally posted on TheCommunityManager.com:

Today we are very excited to announce the launch of a new conference, the first of its kind, all focused on true community building:

Say hello to CMX Summit.

We’ve been dreaming about putting together a conference like this for over 3 years and I can’t put into words how excited I am to see it come true.

I’ve been living and breathing community management for my entire career and this is the conference that I’ve always wanted to exist.

It’s the speakers I’d kill to see.

It’s the people attending that I respect and turn to regularly for advice on building communities.

It’s the community builders’ dream event.

Our vision was to bring together the world’s true professional community builders to spend a day sharing ideas, learning and getting inspired.

Our mission is you help you become an exceptional community builder.

If it’s your job to build communities, whether you’re a community manager, a startup founder, you work at an agency or you just build communities for fun, this event will equip you with a wealth of knowledge in various fields that will empower you to attack the challenges of community building from multiple angles.

That’s why this conference won’t bring on speakers who just talk about community in concept. Every speaker is handpicked because they have a fascinating, unique perspective on how to build skills that will make you into an exceptional community builder.

Lets talk about the speakers and what they’ll be sharing:


Robin Dreeke

dreeke

Head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Program

You read that title correctly. The FBI. Robin Dreeke is the head of Behavioral Analysis for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he’ll be talking about how to build trust with individuals.

He’s joined by some of the world’s leading minds on community like….

David McMillan

mcmillan

Community Psychologist and Author of the “Sense of Community” Theory

If you’ve been reading our posts here at TCM for a while now, you’ve probably seen some of our posts about the psychology of community and membership. All of that is based on David McMillan’s theory. His work has defined the field of community psychology since 1986.

Ellen Leanse

ellenleanse2

The First User Evangelist at Apple

Also taking the stage is Ellen Leanse who was the first user evangelist for Apple. As one of the first professional community builders working for a brand, she paved the way for what we know today as community management. The internet was still in its infant stages and there were no case studies to learn from. She’s one of the greatest pioneers of our industry.

Nir Eyal

nirAuthor of “Hooked - How to Build Habit-Forming Products”

Want some more psychology? You got it. Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked, is an expert in how to build products that keeps members coming back. Want to build a community where your members feel a need to come back and participate every day? Nir will help you understand how people think, how they develop habits and how you can use that power for good.

Ligaya Tichy

ligaya

Angel investor and advisor who led community for Airbnb

Ligaya is one of my personal community heroes. She’s run community for Yelp, Airbnb and has advised countless companies. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also working on a book completely focused on professional community building. She has such a wide range of experience that it’s going to be hard for us to just choose one topic.

Dave McClure

davemcclure1Founder of 500 Startups

I’m so thrilled to have Dave join us because he so rarely has the opportunity to share his experience with building community. He’s usually asked to get on stage and light a fire under future founders’ asses.

But Dave isn’t just one of the most well known investors in the valley. He’s also the guy who has built what may be the largest, global community of startups. He’s pioneering a new way of thinking in the startup and investment world by leveraging the power of community to help startups help each other. With well over 500 startups already in the community coming from more countries than I can fit here, Dave McClure has a truly unique perspective on what it takes to build a massive and thriving global community.

…we will be announcing 3-4 more speakers over the next few weeks so stay tuned.

Who should attend this event?

If you work on building communities, you’re ready to take your game to an exceptional level and want to spend a day with today’s top community builders both on stage and in the audience, you should be there.

In attendance will be:

  • Community Builders - Anyone creating communities from the ground up, online and offline
  • Community Managers - Professionals responsible for growing and maintaining communities
  • CEO, Founders and Product Managers - Anyone creating products that require user-to-user interaction

…and anyone curious about how to build communities that can improve lives and change the world

The Details:

Tickets are officially on sale today. We have a limited amount of early bird tickets at the discounted price of $250. They will only be available until Jan 15th or until they sell out.

The event will be in San Francisco on Feb 6th.

Total space is limited so please don’t wait to purchase your tickets. Once filled to capacity, we will not be able to make more tickets available.

Curious about sponsorship opportunities? Email max [at] cmxsummit.com

Interested in being a volunteer? Email info [at] cmxsummit.com

Interested in being a media partner? Email info [at] cmxsummit.com

Any other questions, email info [at] cmxsummit.com

 

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Dear Founders, Startups are Easier if You Write Every Day http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/18/dear-founders-startups-are-easier-if-you-write-every-day/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/18/dear-founders-startups-are-easier-if-you-write-every-day/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:00:53 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3713 typewriterI recently started writing every day.

Since doing so, my life as a startup founder has become significantly easier. I’ve become increasingly happier, level-headed and a lot of good things have come our way as a result of writing (including revenue).

Now I should caveat this blanket statement I just threw out with a few things about my situation:

1. I’ve been writing for my entire life (usually not every day)

2. I really enjoy writing and I’m told I’m at least decent at it

3. I run a small startup with my cofounder

4. I publish most of what I write

So the extent to which this post rings true for you may depend on those factors.

The good news is both 1 and 2 don’t really matter since you’ll get better really quickly. Point 3 is just to state that we’re still early and small, so if you’re running a 50 person startup you may not see the same level of results. Point 4 might affect you if you only write for yourself, which is still amazing and you’ll get a lot out of it, but maybe not everything I talk about here.

If you CAN relate to me, then you should build a habit of writing every day. Here’s how it’s helped me in building a startup:

6. You can clear your mind

As a founder it’s very likely that you have a lot going on in your head and in your business at any given time.

You’re juggling the challenges in front of you, the lessons behind you, the bigger vision and everything in between all up in your brain.

Add to the mix that you’re probably working a lot of hours and you start to see how your brain is working on overdrive at all times.

There are two ways to get ideas out of your head and clear your mind: meditation and writing.

Meditation is a temporary (but amazing) fix. Writing things out is more permanent. You are putting the thought down on paper and making it tangible.

After writing out your thoughts, they’ll be defines and clear, meaning your brain doesn’t have to figure it out anymore.

Key benefit for founders: you become less stressed by all the things going on.

5. Improved understanding of ideas

In addition to getting the idea out of your head you’ll also gain a better understanding of that idea.

You’ll be surprised by how much you already know.

The problem is our thoughts are irrational and inaccurate. Our words are specific. Writing forces you to think through a vague idea.

You’ll learn what you really believe. You’ll learn what you love and hate about an idea. You’ll start to see different angles and perspectives.

Key benefit for founders: Get smarter about the challenges you’re facing and the ideas you have.

4. You become a content machine

If you have a business that needs to reach people on the internet and you’re not thinking about content, you’re doing it wrong.

Content is everywhere. It’s your website, your blog, how you speak to people about your company, the story you tell and every word that you or your company put out into the public.

Writing every day means you become a content machine. You can churn out posts for your blog, articles for other publications and copy for website.

I write here, on The Feast Blog, on The Community Manager and I’m starting to write for a lot of other publications which you’ll see soon.

When you can create content regularly, you can create surround sound (a phrase my friends Rob and Emily taught me) where people start to see your brand everywhere. You improve your brands credibility when people see it over and over again.

You can also define your brand through the content you create. Who you are is created by what you say and do.

Key benefit for founders: You have a never ending pool of content to pull from whenever you need it to spread awareness.

3. Build your network and real relationships

By publishing your content and putting your ideas out there, people start to gravitate toward you.

I can see the tangible results of my writing by simply looking at who I’ve gotten to know through my writing.

I’ve connected with people who I really respect but may have never met without writing. People like Joel Gascoigne, Ryan Hoover and Eric Barker.

Not only have they gone on to help share my content and reach even more people, but they’re all people I learn from every day and I hope to stay close with for years to come.

The people you meet through the content you (and they) create are authentic. You’re connecting with each other based on a true mutual respect rather than one person needing something from the other.

These relationships lead to partnerships and friendships.

It’s how networking should be done.

Key benefit for founders: It’s all about who you know, and writing will increase the odds that good people will get to know you.

2. Get Press

To be honest, I haven’t gotten a great deal of press out of my content yet, but I’ve seen many other people do it successfully.

By creating amazing, unique content or providing valuable data around a certain subject, press might share your content in their articles as references.

SeatGeek, a company I used to work with, has always been really amazing at this as they publish their data about sports and concert tickets which a lot of the sport publications would then use in their articles.

Writing constantly also improves your ability to relate to the journalists you’re pitching. You start to understand what makes a good story and what sounds like marketing BS. You become much better at crafting a pitch so that it’s helpful for the journalist instead of just another pitch.

Key benefit for founders: Get more traffic through press mentions and get better at pitching media.

 

1. Boost your Reputation

My recent writing binge is now the second time that I’ve built my reputation entirely through my writing.

The first time was when I first started my career. I blogged about social media and I was one of the first young professionals to do that. My blog quickly grew and while it never made it do “internet celebrity” status, it created a great deal of credibility for me.

The funny thing is I was just a kid who had no clue wtf I was talking about. But I would be honest and open. I’d share my opinions, which were often counter to what everyone else was saying, and people respected that.

The times when my career has thrives correlates directly with the times that I’m blogging consistently.

For whatever reason, people respect those who write and share their ideas. True, it doesn’t always add up to actual value, but that’s up to you. If you want to be someone who just writes but doesn’t actually DO anything of value, we won’t stop you.

The simple lesson, write and people will follow (eventually).

Key benefit for founders: Your reputation is everything. It will determine who you get to meet, how much you can raise, who will work with you and for you and anything else where people might make a decision based on your character.

Photo Credit: dawolf- via Compfight cc

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SHHH! How Silence Can Make you a Better Leader http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/17/the-power-of-silence/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/17/the-power-of-silence/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 14:00:53 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3706 thinking3This post originally appeared on the Feast Blog.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
- Viktor Frankl

I recently discovered this simple concept and it has completely changed the way I communicate with people.

I noticed all the leaders I look up to, all the wisest people I know, the best communicators and mentors, do this same exact thing.

It’s so simple but it makes a ton of sense…

They never respond immediately to a tough question or a matter of opinion.

They always stop, and think.

In person, they might look away from you for a minute and get the wheels turning.

On the phone they might actually say, “give me a moment to think about that”.

Having noticed this, I started to try it for myself and the results have been eye opening.

I for one, feel much better about the responses I give. They’re more concise and thoughtful. And the people I’m talking to respond in a really positive way. They actually find more trust in what I say because they see me take the time to think it through.

When someone asks you a question, do you respond right away?

What if you’re not sure of the answer? What if the question is complicated and multifaceted?

If you’re like I’ve always been, you’d just start talking.

God forbid they’d think I was less intelligent because I wasn’t able to immediately snap back with a perfect answer.

Maybe it’s the Jeopardy dreamers in all of us or maybe we’re influenced by what we see in movies, aspiring to be the quick with a quip Clooney in our own every day lives…

In conversation, we continue to wrongly associate speed with intelligence. 

I think we also just don’t like awkward silences. It’s tense when you’re engaged in conversation with someone and then it goes silent. We try to avoid awkward silences in our life. But…

Silence is powerful

That tension is so important. It’s in those times of tense silence where new discoveries are made.

If someone asks you a question and then there’s silence, they start thinking of answers to the question as well. They might even come up with their own solution to their question. The funny thing is they’ll probably still praise you for your wisdom!

When you have an argument with someone, whether it be a coworker or a significant other, creating space for silence allows you both to gain perspective, to contemplate the larger argument, rather than just constantly trying to respond to the last statement.

In reality, the speed of your response isn’t nearly as important as the response itself.

A good response is thoughtful, it’s carefully considered, it’s expressed tactfully.

It can work in group settings as well, like work meetings

When you can be consistently silent, waiting for the moment where your response is most relevant, your words will hold more weight because they aren’t buried in all of your other words.

When you choose to speak less often, people listen closely when you do choose to speak.

It’s easy to talk. Being silent takes confidence, patience and resolve. Great leaders utilize silence and are respected as a result.

If you just blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind every time, your responses will end up being verbose, ineffective and potentially counter to what you actually believe.

Give it a shot.

Next time you’re giving advice, answering someone’s question or arguing try to recognize those moments when you’d usually blurt out a response, but this time don’t.

Stop.

Wait.

Think.

Then respond.

Let me know how it goes (=

Photo Credit: Jacob Bøtter

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7 Signs You’re Fundraising Too Early http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/12/7-signs-youre-fundraising-too-early/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/12/7-signs-youre-fundraising-too-early/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 14:00:13 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3688 Few packs of dollars on a fishing hookThere’s a big problem in the startup world today: The perception around seed stage fundraising.

Perhaps it’s the new ”American dream” of scaling like Zuckerberg or selling like Systrom, but every entrepreneur seems to think that if they’re going to make it big, they have to raise money asap.

The amount of money you raise has become associated with your perceived success, credibility, respect in the valley… as if you have to raise money to be legit.

As a result, way too many startups are raising money way too early.

I know this to be true, because I’ve been one of those people.

This past summer we spent about 3 months of our time trying to raise money. We weren’t successful. The truth is, it was too early to be fundraising. I know that in hindsight, but at the time I convinced myself otherwise.

We had taken $50,000 to join the 500 Startups accelerator which is built to help you fundraise and grow. After a couple pivots we still hadn’t figured out our product-market-team fit yet but figured if we could play the fundraising game right, we could still raise our round. Hell, we got into 500 because they liked our team, who’s to say we couldn’t get other investors on board?

That’s the story that’s told so often. You have to pitch 100 investors before one says yes, then the other investors you spoke with will want to get in as well. You have to create the perception that they’re going to miss out on a deal and that time is limited. If you know how to talk to investors with confidence and create the perception of demand, you’ll raise your round.

We bought into that idea…all in.

Over the three months I focused full time on fundraising, pitched hundreds of investors, sat down for probably 40-50 meetings with VC’s, angels and angel groups, did 3 demo days in 3 cities and even got a bunch of press.

After three months we had a couple angels who loved our team and mission and a WHOLE lot of “No’s”.

We made the difficult decision to bootstrap our way to profitability. One of those angels offered to be our safety net but encouraged us to bootstrap for as long as we can. So we hung up our fundraising hats and turned our full attention to building the product that Nadia and I wanted to build, ignoring all other influences.

Bootstrapping was perhaps the best decision we’ve made since starting Feast as it set us on track to build the product that we have today which is showing real traction and it’s something we strongly believe in.

So failing to raise money turned out to be a blessing. If we had succeeded at forcing our fundraising at that stage, I truly believe we’d be lost now. Raising money too early, even if you “play the game” right, results in having the wrong investors on board, the wrong product and the wrong motivations.

 

Here’s how I now know we were raising too early:

You can use these as red flags to check if you’re fundraising too early too. If you are, my best advice is to pull out quick and focus on your product and customers until you’re ready to grow.

1. You start adapting the product based on the fundraising landscape

You’ll know you’re ready to fundraise when you have a product that you believe in and that the market loves. If you haven’t found that yet, the risk you take by fundraising is that you’ll start to build a product that appeals to the questions investors are asking you.

They’ll ask about market size, about scalability, about margins… those are good questions to be aware of, but what you end up doing is building a product for investors instead of for customers.

You’ll be doomed.

With Feast, we started building an “education marketplace” because it checked off all the things that investors were looking for.

Never build a product to raise money. Only raise money to scale a product.

2. You feel like you have to invent traction

Watch any accelerator demo day and you’ll see lots of hockey stick growth curves and huge market sizes. Some of them might even be true. Most are manufactured.

Startups know it. Investors know it. Yet people do it anyway.

It’s crazy that this has to be said, but if you’re struggling to figure out how to show your traction, you don’t have it yet.

And if you’re just doing unsustainable things or manipulating your data to show a fancy graph, it’s going to be pretty awkward when that check shows up in your bank account and you can’t keep up the act.

Don’t invent traction to fundraise. Fundraise because you’ve already found traction.

3. Conversations flow outward instead of inward

Assuming you’ve built a product that’s solving a fundamental problem for people, and you’ve seen real, honest traction, the tides will start to shift.

Customers will start coming to you. People wanting to partner, big brands wanting to “chat to learn more” (keep tabs on you) and even investors might start to get in touch with you.

Even if they aren’t calling you up, when you talk to them, the conversation will feel infinitely different.

Instead of feeling like you’re begging for money from investors, you’ll feel like investors should have to convince you why they’re a good fit for your company.

It’s a completely different dynamic. That’s how you get the right people on the bus for the right reasons.

4. Investors are telling you it’s too early

Investors might not always have the best advice but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to what they’re saying.

We heard the same thing time and time again. “It’s a bit early for us so we want to wait and see how things go.” Or “Get back in touch when things are a little further along.” And “this looks awesome but I don’t know how big the market is.”

They told us it’s too early but we just took that as, we didn’t do a good enough job of convincing them, or they just don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe they’re just not the right fit.

It’s one thing to hear the same feedback a couple times but when it’s coming at you consistently, you might need to take a step back and see if there’s truth in it.

5. You’re raising survival money at the seed stage

We had a lot of plans for what we’d use the money for, but at the root of it was salary. We wanted money that will give us enough time to figure it out.

This is a tough one because you hear the advice all the time:

“Startups die when they run out of money.”

“Timing is everything and you might be early so make sure you have enough money in the bank to make timing less of an issue.”

“You never know what will happen in the market so raise as much as you can in case there’s a bubble burst.”

It’s pretty widely accepted that it’s okay to raise more, early on.

I disagree. You’re a startup, you should have a small team that’s all personally committed to the mission and you will survive even if you go broke doing it. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to “survive”. You need enough to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head until you figure out your product. You’re a cockroach and you cant be killed.

Use this time to your advantage. You’ll never be as focused on solving a fundamental problem as you are when you’re broke.

Only raise money when you’ll use it to grow the business. That’s what investor money is for. That’s how it works.

6. Friends and advisors give you excuses

This should have been a big red flag for me but my pride was too strong.

People I considered to be close friends and big personal supporters wouldn’t invest in us. They all had excuses about not being able to invest at that time because of budgets, family, timing etc. I’m not mad at all, it’s my fault not theirs. We were too early and they didn’t want to let us down by telling us they didn’t believe in the business. They wanted to support us, they just wouldn’t put their money behind something so unproven.

It’s hard because friends will tell you how awesome you are and how much they love your product. Usually they’re just saying that because they’re proud of you and want you to feel good. You have to be able to be honest with yourself.

If the people who already know and trust you deeply won’t invest (assuming they’re investors) and they’re giving you random excuses then take a hard look at where you’re at. You’re probably too early.

 

7. It just doesn’t feel right

Don’t you just hate advice that you hear over and over again but it never really helps you? Well here’s one of them:

When it’s working, you’ll know.

Startups are hard. That’s the understatement of my lifetime. They’re near impossible. You will have low lows and then lower lows. They’re inevitable.

You’ll also have short bursts of highs.

But eventually, after grinding and fighting and pushing and hanging on for dear life, something will click. All of these red flags I mention here will start to fade away. You’ll find a true, sustained feeling that things are working.

You will know it when you feel it.

So if you don’t know now, you might still be too early to fundraise. If you have to ask yourself if you feel it, you don’t feel it.

Even if you feel it, you might not want to fundraise just yet. Hell, you might not even need to anymore!

I know this advice is impossible to follow. I look back now and old Dr. Hindsight can perfectly diagnose the symptoms of those days. But there were several times where I had myself convinced that everything was peachy when we were still very far away.

Just remember to always take the time to reflect, check yourself and make sure your direction feels right.

You can do this by writing constantly, and having very honest discussions with your cofounder.

Then fundraise when you know how you’ll grow and how the cash will help you make it happen.

 

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Embracing Imperfection Every Day http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/10/practice/ http://whatspinksthinks.com/2013/12/10/practice/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:00:53 +0000 http://whatspinksthinks.com/?p=3675 image

The original version of this post appeared on The Feast Blog.

Jerry Seinfeld writes a joke every day.

Most of them probably sucked when he started.

“…it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes.” -Brad Isaac 

Recently I started writing every day.

It’s fricken tough but every day, before I go to bed, I write.

At first it was actually a bit easier. I had nothing to prove, no one to impress. I could just write and if a few people ended up reading it, that’s awesome.

Then everything changed.

I had a few posts that became very popular.

Afterward, I found myself trying to replicate that success every time I would write. I tried to make every post epic.

If it wasn’t good enough to be “huge”, I would hesitate to write it. I was afraid of imperfection.

Have you found yourself attempting the same thing in other areas of your life?

At work do you try to do every task absolutely perfectly?

In social situations are you always looking for the perfect joke or the perfect time to ask a girl to dance?

When trying to exercise every day, do you ever wake up and decide not to go because the weather isn’t perfect, or you aren’t completely energized?

We try to make every attempt perfect and when we can’t make it perfect, we tend avoid it altogether.

But everything in life is practice. Even if it’s “the real thing”, every task you do at work, every joke you tell and every day you go for a run is practice for the next time you do the same thing.

The point of practice isn’t to be perfect every time. It’s to do something regularly. It’s consistency.

By doing it over and over again even when you’re lacking motivation and inspiration, that’s how you’ll become great.

As you build the habit and practice every day, your chance of big wins increase you become better, more intuitive and you start to win more consistently.

Fred Wilson writes every day. Every post isn’t world changing, but a lot of them are pretty damn good because he’s been doing it so long.

“As all of you know, I write every day. It is my discipline, my practice, my thing. It forces me to think, articulate, and question. And I get feedback from it. When I hit publish, I get a rush. Every time. Just like the first time. It is incredibly powerful.” -Fred Wilson

Seth Godin writes every day and most of his posts are straight up paradigm shifting because he’s done it for so damn long.

It’s the same with any skill. The more you practice, the more consistently you’ll win.

I recently became a good cook by doing it every day for months.

Cooks don’t hit a homerun at every dinner party because they’re lucky or try super hard. They can cook an amazing dish because they’ve built a habit of cooking every day and over time, the frequency of it coming out delicious increased.

So remember…

Everything in our life is just practice for the next time we need to do it.

Don’t worry about making everything perfect. It won’t be. The only thing that matters is that you do it regularly and consistently, even if it’s imperfect.

If you can do that, you’ll start to win more frequently.

And imperfect practice will make perfect.

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