“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.
The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road.
I guarantee you will be very glad you did.
But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think that I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover.
Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon.”
— Part of a letter from Chris McCandless to ‘Ronald Franz’, as documented in Into The Wild
I'm reposting this from Quora. I'm not sure who the Rabois Fanboy is that keeps asking Keith personal questions. But I'm beginning to like it. Here's Keith's answer (republished without permission):
In February of 2000, I agreed to leave the safety and security of large law firm life for the wildnerness of Internet startups. The market crashed less than a month after I started my job at Voter.com, a hot startup funded by over $15 million from CRV, Sigma Partners and Bessemer. Our CEO was a 22-year old Harvard graduate.
This decision would eventually alter my entire identity. Until that moment, I had followed the most predictable, well-established paths and chased the most well-established credentials (Stanford poli sci, HLS, federal appellate clerkship, S&C etc). I eschewed risk.
I had never even used an Internet browser until one year before that decision. We were not even allowed to have an external email address at work until 1998. I spent nearly all of my life with people from the same educational backgrounds and pursuing identical professional aspirations.
I jumped into a world I knew nothing about, with no real life-line. I needed to learn everything on the fly, forge a completely new network, and navigate people who were unreliable, even willing to lie or betray you in a second. We had to fire a guy on my team who would frequently show up for work drunk; this did not happen at Sullivan & Cromwell.
The first month was rough. But by the third month, I was hooked. Fortunately, Geoff Donaker was able to teach me the fundamentals of Internet BD and Excel-modeling quickly. I mastered the BD part, and could at least fake a decent model (although Geoff always barfed on the formatting.) I received a promotion in my fourth month.
If I had not quit the law before the market collapsed at the end of March 2000, I never would have been able to.
To quote a friend of mine from Stanford from the mid 1990's: "Rabois, you went from the most risk averse person I knew".... to someone who intentionally embraces risk.
When I first met Wayne Mak, he made me really angry. But I now love Wayne. In fact, I think Wayne has found it. He's hit his stride, living life as he was meant to live it, and is aggressively pursuing making every day the best day of his life.
He's doing a bunch of awesome things. Since he's a great writer, I'll link to his blog and let it do all the talking.
From the About Me on Wayne's blog:
5 years ago, I decided to turn my life around. Every day since then has been amazing.
I'm a firm believer in Carol Dweck's theory of the growth mindset. You're capable of so much more than you can imagine and you can only realize your potential when you start to believe.
This is the first of a series of my blog I'm calling "People I Like". Like is really a euphemism for admire!
- Wow, the stats are scary: 200M children that should be going to school but do not, 100M that go to school but are illiterate. Because they're so scary, forget about them!
- The Hardy Boys lives on!
- Get parents involved. They want to believe too!
- The girl who effuses joy at the 10:30 mark is moving! Her new-found confidence and ambition is the birthright of all children.
- Progress is hard. Start now.
TED is spectacular! Where is TED China?
In 2004, then first-term Illinois Senator Barack Obama delivered the Keynote Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In case you forgot, as I did, John Kerry had just won the Democratic Nomination.
I'm not sure how he managed to get the gig. I'm not sure how much scheming and "what if-ing" he had in mind when he wrote the speech. I'm not sure if even he, in his wildest dreams, could have foretold what the following decade would bring him.
If you take out any mention of "John Kerry", this speech is Barack Obama running for President in 2004. In fact, the fundamental themes of Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign are set forth in this speech, 4 years prior: his unlikely story, the power of Hope, that there is one undivided United Sates of America. Wow! These themes were already established in his mind, had nothing to do with national polling or what was making news in post-Bush 2008! What vision! The question "is America ready for a black President" is nowhere to be found; in 2004, Obama and his vision have already moved past that.
I can't imagine the surprise of the Democratic Leadership or the American People when hearing such a speech. Did the Democratic Leadership know what was coming? Could even Obama appreciate the irony of the following line in his speech?
In this election, we offer that choice. Our Party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.
It's crazy to, as Steve Jobs would say, connect the dots looking back.
The audience absolutely loses it when Obama says the following:
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
This is great advice. From Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
If I thought it would be effective, I would sing this from the rooftops. Being happy in your career is a pivotal part of happiness. And working diligently to create and pursue opportunities is REQUIRED. Needless to say, this isn't advice just for women. Humans all too often checkout in all aspects of life instead of aggressively making shit happen.
Last week at work I had a conversation with a woman I will call Jamie. We have a new project, and I offered her the opportunity to be its leader. She seemed flattered to be asked but then quickly became very hesitant. She told me she wasn’t sure she should take on more right now. Just before she got up to leave, I looked at her and quietly asked, “Are you worried about taking this on because you are considering getting pregnant sometime soon?”
A few years ago I would have been afraid to ask such a direct and personal question. Nothing is more private than the decision to have a child. Bringing up that topic in the workplace feels like a dangerous thing to do. We are not supposed to show any bias or take childbearing plans into account as we manage people. But after watching talented woman after talented woman let her career go before she actually leaves it, I now ask this question and I ask it directly.
I always give people the option of not answering, but so far, everyone has appeared grateful for a chance to talk. There is just one reason why I ask–to make sure people aren’t leaving before they leave.
Here is what happens. An ambitious and successful woman starts considering having children, typically once she finds a domestic partner. She thinks hard about how busy she is and realizes that finding time for a child means something will have to give. As soon as that thinking process starts, she is already looking for ways to scale back. She no longer searches for new opportunities; if any are presented to her, she is likely to decline or offer the kind of hesitant “yes” that gets the project assigned to someone else, just like “Jamie” did last week in my office.
The problem is that even if she gets pregnant immediately, she still has nine months of pregnancy ahead of her, months of maternity leave and then another lengthy period after returning to work to even catch her breath. And since women usually start the thinking process before even trying to conceive, often several years actually pass. By the time she is back to focusing on her career, she is in a radically different place than she was before.
She was always a top performer–always on par with her peers in responsibility, opportunity, and pay. But now she is not. By not finding ways to stretch herself during the years before she has a child, she has fallen behind.
While I don’t believe that the choice to work fulltime and be a parent is the right choice for everyone, it is a wonderful–and often necessary–choice for many people. I also believe that once you have a child, it becomes necessary to make real changes, including potentially deemphasizing your career. But slowing down too early is a mistake that too many women make today, often without even realizing it. Because they sincerely want to stay in the workforce, they try to make room for everything and they slow down–or unconsciously pull back–well before their circumstances actually change. By the time they fully return, they are in jobs that no longer challenge or reward them enough to hold their attention.
I don’t know any women–or men for that matter–who do not have days when they wonder if leaving their children in someone else’s care for their careers is the right thing to do. I know I do. If your job feels less fulfilling because you have been in the same role for too long or are no longer paid comparably to your peers, that choice becomes a hard one to make day after day. One of the tragic ironies for working women today is that the very desire to stay in the workforce leads to decisions that eventually cause them to leave.
No one can know in advance the choices they will make after going through a life change as profound as becoming a parent. But if you want to preserve the option of staying in the workforce and building a career, my advice is simple. Stay fully engaged, take on new and interesting challenges, and do so until you have a child. Keep your foot on the gas pedal until your life actually changes. Then you can make the decision to keep driving quickly, slow down, or step out of the car.
I joined Facebook as its COO when I had just returned to work from having my second child. The timing was far from ideal. As many people had told me–but I had not believed–having two children was more than double the work of having one. At the time I was not looking for a new opportunity but rather trying to get through each day. But both my husband and I recognized that if I waited until the time was exactly right, the opportunity would be gone. So I jumped in.
I can’t say it was easy. The first six months were a struggle both at work and at home. But now I am settled in, finding just enough balance to make it work, and learning and growing with new responsibilities and challenges. Looking back, if I hadn’t taken on something new, I might easily have left the workforce by now, because it would not have been worth making the daily tradeoffs to continue in the job I’d held for the previous six years.
There is a broader lesson here that applies not just to women contemplating starting a family, but to anyone trying to plan for the future. Making decisions too early, trying to plan life too carefully, can close doors rather than keep them open. Any time you make a plan, you do it with imperfect information; the further in advance you make that plan, the less information you have. You never know how you will feel or what choices you might face. Take life one step at a time and don’t make decisions before you have to.
A few months ago we were interviewing a fantastic woman to join Facebook’s Business Development team. After we extended an offer, she came in to ask some follow-up questions about the role. She did not mention lifestyle or hours. But she was the typical age of the people who leave before they leave. So I shocked her by asking the question no one asks. “Priti,” I said, “I’m sorry for bringing up something so personal, and feel free to tell me you don’t want to discuss it. But just in case you are thinking that you might want to have a child sometime soon and need to stay where you are to have room to slow down, I’d love a chance to tell you why that makes it even more important that you change jobs now.”
Priti accepted our offer. And just a few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant. Her timing could not have been better.
My alma mater, Georgia Tech, is having it's 27th Annual Career Fair. How awesome! I thought I'd check out the Career Fair website to explore recruiting GT engineers for my company.
I land on the Career Fair website and see a heading that says "What Other Employers Have Said" in bold letters. "Oh yay!", I think, "I wonder what the likes of Google and Boeing and Bose think of GT engineers." Then I discover the following:
"The Georgia Tech Alumni Career Fair has proven year after year to be one of the best recruiting events in Atlanta for our organization. We have recruited top quality individuals that have outstanding educational and professional experience. Additionally, the career fair is well organized and the GT Event Staff is great at maximizing the experience of face to face interaction with the career seekers. It is the one recruiting event that we don't miss!"
Iris Jackson, Area People Director Waffle House, Inc.
Uhhhhh, whaaat? Georgia Tech is using testimonials from Waffle House to tout GT engineers? WAFFLE HOUSE, really? And even Waffle House puts in a couple qualifiers when describing the utility of the GT Career Fair: "one of the best recruiting events in Atlanta for our organization". Does that mean the Emory Career Fair is even more fruitful? And that, outside Atlanta, when the Waffle House heads to MIT, it finds even better engineers?
I study the love affair between Jim and Pam of The Office with curious intensity. I think it’s real. Or at least, I use it as a proxy for what that stage of love is like. How are you suppose to feel, think, and behave when you’re getting married? You’re suppose to get the world’s tiniest Bluetooth headset and listen to your lover’s every conversation? Ok! I replay what Jim and Pam say to each other. I plan out the next steps in their relationship. I look for my own Dwight Shrute to befriend and prank on a daily basis. I speculate about potential sources of conflict (you do know that Pam wants to go back to NYC and that Jim will go with her, don’t ya?). I measure my own relationships against this make believe world. Pam and Jim have off-days, so can I!
Jim and Pam are in love. I love how they got there: they fell in love gradually without drama or artifice. It wasn't love at first sight; it was love built over lots of boring and semi-fun days at the Dunder Mifflin office.
Jim & Pam's passsion for each other is well grounded in reality. No boob jobs here! They love each other because they share the same sense of humor and love to make each other laugh! Jim supports Pam in her aspirations. Pam supports Jim. Jim worries about what Pam will think of him buying his parents house. Jim wants to buy Pam a house. It's awesome. It's what two people acting as a single unit is all about.
But honestly, I want more from them. Once they've realized that the world can give life to their love, how can they live without that same magic, intensity, and joy in other aspects of life? Now, they don't need to write each other love peoms or adopt an Ethopian orphan and name it Zahara. Or do anything out of character. But I do want them to do more. I want them to have friends that they like and enjoy socializing with. I want them to thwart the daily lives they find so dumb and boring. I want Jim to exercise his god-given ability to lead and lead something. Anything really. A troupe of girl scouts would do. I want Pam to give in to her desire for boldness. I want Pam to admit her love for the big city, move to NYC, and make a go of an art career. Or at least try to sell her doodles on Etsy.com. (And, for god sakes Pam, puhlease stop wearing cardigans!)
This post would be remiss without a link to Hulu, so here it is!
Yelp is pretty cool. And certainly pretty valuable. Google threw $500 million at it. Apparently, founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman threw it back. Instead, Yelp opted for a up-to-$100 million investment from Elevation Partners followed, presumably, by an IPO.
Anyhoo, Yelp has been around for a couple years at this point. But, as far as I can tell, Yelp has been horribly slow at innovating. So much so that I assumed Jeremy and his grandma were the only people at Yelp! But no! They've got pplz. Recently, Yelp abashedly or unabashedly cloned FourSquare, enabling users to check-in at restaurants, gyms and OBGYNs. At first, I thought, "oh awesome, I can check-in when at my OBGYN!" and "Yelp is making shit happen; Go Jeremy's Grandma!" Then I realized that of the litany of things I wish Yelp did better, none of them was clone FourSquare.
Yelp, you're good at cloning stuff! That's a great skill to have. But please clone any of the following companies! Because they actually make money.
- GrubHub/SeamlessWeb. Um, this is so obvious, I feel like a moron for saying it outloud. One of the most popular uses of Yelp is "ME HUNGRY, FIND RESTAURANT". How about you add a "GET FOOD HERE" to the end of that? And while you're at it, make some money on each order? Grandma gotta get paid.
- OpenTable. Um again, so obvious, don't think less of me for suggesting it. This adds a "GET FOOD THERE" to the end of "ME HUNGRY, FIND RESTAURANT". OpenTable already IPO'ed. So you know it's fo real.
- ZocDoc. This one may be easy to miss. But if you talk to my homey Aaron Blackledge at Care Practice (see their awesome blog), you'll get the dilly. Yelp is the primary source of new patients for him. ZocDoc adds the "GET DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT" to the end of "ME HURT, FIND MEDICAL CARE".
- Groupon. I love Groupon. I think it's one of the best businesses I learned about in 2009. Groupon is "YOU HUNGRY? EAT HERE!". A great fit for what Yelp has done well (build a trustworthy brand for consumers, build awareness/relationships with tens of thousands of small businesses that they can effectively sell to).
Oh, and if cloning is too hard, how about you use that overvalued stock to buy one of these companies?
PS Osha Thai on 2nd Street=5 stars!
UPDATE on 6/3/2010: Yelp agrees with me (well, sort of)! Yelp hasn't quite cloned OpenTable, but they did decide to outsource to OpenTable. This isn't quite as good, Yelp! You'll miss out on the majority of revenue and miss the opportunity to build relationships with restauranters, relationships you can use to extract more money and create more value for them in the future.