I’m a bit sad that Google announced this week that they’re shutting down Google Reader. I read Reader on the web when taking work breaks, on my cell when I have downtime on the train, and on my iPad when I want to relax and get caught up with the world.
Discovery is the key
I think the big problem with Reader and it’s declining use has been lack of Discovery. One of the things people who use Twitter like is they can easily search topics and hashtags to find new content.
Reader is very good at keeping my feeds organized, but these are just the websites I already know about. What if the smart algorithms at Google could study a users subscriptions and reading habits on Google News and combine them to give the user a more personalized experience? They could see I’m subscribed to TechCrunch and Mashable and suggest an article on VentureBeat that has lots of views and comments. This would be very valuable.
Then, they could throw in more social features like making it easy to Tweet, Like, and + the articles across the web. Yes, I think sharing News and Reader articles should be social network agnostic… it would generate more interest.
Also, why not allow comments under each article inside of Reader and News? Google could build it’s own comment system…. more like Reddit with a +/- system would be a lot better then the horrible Facebook comment system (a rant for another day).
The Future of News
I believe the future of news is providing a personalized newspaper to each individual. The newspaper would be smart enough the know my previous reading habits and subscriptions to suggest new content for me to consume.
Companies like Outbrain and Taboola do stuff similar to this already, but they only provide recommendations directly on the website where an article is being read. Google could build it’s Reader/News/+ hybrid to be a standalone place where each user could get content just for them.
Like this post? Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and tell me you found me via this article. :-)
When Texas A&M bolted from the Big12 to the SEC, it was quit a shock for college sports fans everywhere. Many people questioned whether A&M would succeed in the SEC. Here’s what I wrote at the time on Quora (note that this was written on Aug. 16th, 2011, before the 2012 football season was played).
Yes and no, but probably mostly yes (that is, if they can pull it off…)
1) From my understanding the SEC schools split their revenue equally (http://www.al.com/sports/index.s…). Whereas the Big12 doesn’t… Texas takes a disproportionate piece of the pie (http://es.pn/o5aQqq) which will only grow now that Texas has it’s own television network, something that isn’t allow in most other conferences.
2) Also, it may lead to better recruits coming to A&M in the future. Face it, the SEC is a more prestigious conference than the Big 12. The SEC has won the past 5 national championships and is able to get the best of the best recruits.
3) Texas threatened to leave for the Pac 10 a year ago, before getting a better deal in the Big12. UT’s arrogance (justified or not) pissed off Nebraska so bad they bolted to the Big 10 at the first opportunity. A&M is simply following suit and the rest of the Big12 may not be far behind, the conference is on thin ice.
4) Yes, A&M has rivals in Texas as John mentioned. South Carolina vs Clemson, Georgia vs Georgia Tech, and Florida vs Florida State are huge state rivalries between schools in different conferences. UT and A&M can still play each other from different conferences. Also, don’t underestimate A&M vs Arkansas and A&M vs LSU becoming big time rivalry games should the Aggies get in the SEC.
1) Because the SEC is such a good conference, the competition is incredibly fierce, much more competitive than the Big12. The Aggies haven’t exactly dominated the Big12; they haven’t won the conference since 1998.
2) Texas A&M has an all-time record of 53-72-4 against the current six members of the SEC West.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it looks like I was mostly spot on. :-) A&M was extremely lucky they got rid of Mike Sherman and hired Kevin Sumlin away from my Houston Cougars. Sumlin promptly brought Kliff Kingsbury with him from UH to coordinate the Aggie offense. And the rest is history.
Very good motivational video I found on YouTube. It’s got an amazing Arnold speech over different footage of him bodybuilding over the years. Arnold is and will always be, The King.
Never let other people define you or try to tell you what you cannot do.
I was going to write a post right now on why I lift weights and how great it is to be good at something, but then I re-read a story by Henry Rollins called “The Iron” and I remembered how beautiful the story was and decided to share that instead. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
“The Iron” by Henry Rollins
I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.
When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.
I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.
I hated myself all the time.
As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.
Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.
He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.
Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.
Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.
Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.
It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.
I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.
I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.
Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.
Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.
Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.
I prefer to work out alone.
It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.
I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.
Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.
The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.
The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.
This article originally appeared in Details Magazine
As a busy salesperson, one of the most important traits to have is to be organized. Organization is often what separates a good salesperson from an excellent salesperson.
If you’re not someone who’s naturally very detailed and organized, there’s one very important thing you can do to change that. The trick is to write everything down! Anytime you have an idea, a task that needs to get solved at a later time, or anything else that needs to be remembered: write it down!
Two very awesome tools to manage this:
When you’re in Gmail, simply click the red, dropdown arrow next to the “Gmail” logo on the upper, left-hand corner when you login. When you click “Tasks” the Google Tasks window pops up. You can use this add your to-do list. Personally, I recommend that you write down everything you need to do. The cool thing is you can access this from any computer where you can login to Gmail.
Bonus: There’s a cool third-party app for Android that syncs with your Gmail account’s Google Tasks. Anytime I’m away from my computer and think of something to do, I can add it to my phone. Here’s where you can get the app: http://goo.gl/z4Wvw.
Bonus #2: Want to expand the size of that little Tasks window on your laptop? Bookmark this link to access Google Tasks in canvas mode (full screen): https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas (you need to login to Gmail to view this).
For more detailed to-do lists and project management, I prefer to use Asana. Asana is a startup founded by ex-Facebookers and you can use it for team collaboration, but I just use it manage my work to-do list. Best of all, it’s free for individual use or for a small team up to 30 people!
Every single thing I have to do I write down in Asana. No more stuff written on sticky notes or on yellow legal pads on my desk… it’s all added to Asana.
Asana is pretty sweet because you can group items by “Projects” and under each Project you can have multiple items on your to-do list. From there, you can also have detailed notes on each entry with additional context. It’s pretty sweet!
If you need to have a note to follow-up with someone three weeks out, you can not only have a task that has “Follow-up with customer John Q. Public” but you can also have detailed info on the background of the customer and what the next steps should be. This way when you look at the note three weeks out you know exactly what needs to happen.
Personally, I use Google Tasks for my personal stuff and Asana for anything work related.
Example: At isocket, I would frequently send bug reports to our Ad Ops & Support team to catalog the issues I came across. After sending a bug report, I would make a note in Asana under a Project I had just for bug reports so I could make sure nothing I submitted fell through the cracks. A few times I caught things that hadn’t been even worked on, simply because I had logged them in Asana.
Bonus: Here’s a cool screenshot of Asana from Crunchbase that will help you visualize the product: http://www.crunchbase.com/assets/images/original/0016/8989/168989v2.png.
Are you a Maverick or a Superstar?
As Mark Suster once said, there’s a difference between Maverick salespeople and Superstar salespeople:
The Maverick is an incredibly good salesperson and can probably sell ice to Eskimos, they just usually aren’t the most process orientated people. They are great at sales, just not managing sales people… which is a completely different skill set. He uses the good analogy that a great chef isn’t always well suited to run a restaurant.
The Superstar is the rare individual who can both sell water to a whale but is also incredibly detailed and process orientated. This person is probably suited for a VP of Sales position (at least eventually)… they can both sell and manage others.
The main difference between both of these is organization and attention to detail.
If you want to be a superstar salesperson (or a superstar in any role), the thing that will set you apart is your level of organization and attention to detail. A good tip is to use tools such as Asana and Google Tasks to write everything down to remember everything and to help you get a lot of things done.
Like this post? Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and tell me you found me via this post. :-)
(photo from El Frito under a Creative Commons License)
Recently I watched this HBO documentary called “The Bridge” about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The bridge is said to be one of the most popular suicide locations in the US and even in the world.
They say about 2% of people who try to commit suicide off of the bridge actually end up living. I guess they were able to land feet first and somehow deflect some of the impact on their body.
Survivors were asked what went through their mind after jumping before they hit the water. Almost all of them said it was at that moment after jumping that they realized all of their problems in life were solvable. Well, except for the problem of having just jumped off the bridge.
Life has it’s ups and downs, good days and bad days. We can’t control the hand we are dealt; we can only control how we play our cards. It’s the down moments that makes the good moments so wonderful. No matter what problems may be going on in my life, I try to think, “Is this fixable?” Fortunately for me, most the time the answer is yes. It helps me not take most things too personally. I don’t spend much energy worrying about the traffic on the freeway, or people who don’t like me for whatever reason, or politicians doing what they’re doing.
Just being able to wake up every day is a blessing. Every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity and I’m extremely excited to see what comes next.
My new favorite feature on my smartphone is Airplane Mode. I got my first smartphone in April 2012 when I upgraded from an old school “dumb” phone, probably the lowest model on the totem pole to a Droid smartphone. It took me until this summer (2012) to realize one of the greatest features of an internet-connected phone is Airplane Mode.
My lovely wife and I were about to head to Sicily for our honeymoon and Verizon didn’t have coverage in Europe. I called and talked to a Verizon rep about what to do with my phone overseas and she told me to use Airplane Mode to still use my phone as a camera on my trip without the internet or phone service trying to connect. Woah!
Also, I soon discovered my battery life increased about five-fold, if not more, since all of the apps on my phone weren’t connecting to the internet and dragging down my batter life.
I soon also discovered a smartphone will charge much faster in Airplane Mode because it isn’t constantly connected to the internet. Airplane mode is also wonderful when I want to leave my phone on, but not be constantly interrupted by emails and text messages. It helps me get work done because I am not checking it every few seconds to see if I have a new notification.
- Your phone will charge faster
- Your battery will last longer
- You can still use your camera overseas when you don’t have service
- It’s a nice way to keep distractions to a minimum
One of my biggest pet peeves related to the startup culture is when people who aren’t programmers refer to themselves as “non-technical.” They will frequently use this term to describe themselves in context such as posting to sites like Hacker News saying, “Non-Technical Founder Seeks Technical Founder for Startup” or some similar crap. It happens quite frequently in the internet tech startup community and it’s junk.
If two people open a restaurant, one who’s an experienced chef and one who handles the business end, I’m sure the business founder doesn’t refer to themselves as the “Non-Cooking Founder.” (Though feel free to comment and tell me if I’m wrong!)
Note: I have no problem when programmers call refer to people who can’t hack as “non-technical”… it isn’t their job to teach business people how to market themselves.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
Stop shooting yourself in the foot by telling people what you aren’t capable of doing right off the bat. What can you do? Can you do Sales, Marketing, or Fundraising? Do you have a decent bankroll yourself to fund the business or have a rich uncle who can help you build your project?
Maybe start calling yourself the “Marketing & Sales Founder” or something similar.
Product Development vs Customer Development
Steve Blank refers to startups as being in two camps: Product Development and Customer Development. The product people are the programmers and designers. If you aren’t going to learn the product side, at least learn as much as you can on the customer side. Learn as much as you can about sales, marketing, customer service, and any other business things you can think of to help the product people you work with out.
If You Have No Skills, Money, or Connections, Get Them!
Maybe if you don’t have the ability to be a A-Player Sales guy for your startup, perhaps you should go work for a startup for a few years before trying your own. Soon after moving to Silicon Valley, I realized I needed to spend a few years cutting my teeth at another startup before even dreaming of going at it on my own. Perhaps you should work at a restaurant for a few years before you try to open your own?
Ignore a lot of the entrepreneur porn: Not every successful entrepreneur is a 20 year old college dropout prodigy. Many successful Founders are people who spend years working in their field and learning their craft. Look at guys like Reid Hoffman and Marc Beinoff for good examples.
My year and a half at a small startup has showed me how to communicate my ideas, thoughts, bugs, and feedback successfully to engineers and how to respect their workflow and processes. If you’ve never worked with engineers working at an existing small startup, it can only help you if you do so. (Note: If you aren’t on first name basis with the CEO, you aren’t in a startup, regardless of what they may tell you).
Learn as much as you can in the real world alongside programmers, because they sure as hell don’t teach a class called “How to Communicate to Engineers” in B-School (…all though these days they probably should!).
Maybe You Should Learn Some Code
There are tons of resources for all of us useless business school grad’s to learn how to code. No, you won’t be a master overnight… but you can at least learn some basics on how code is written.
Or at least learn how to use tools like Balsamiq and mock up your ideas and pay some coder a nominal fee to get you a crappy prototype built.
Ok, I’m done with my little rant. I hope this was helpful in providing a few of you with some tips about how you can be more successful and a little less useless. With a little more hard work and effort at understanding the other side of the business, perhaps one day we’ll consider B-School grads as helpful contributors to the internet community (myself included!).
Did you like my crappy little post? Want to tell me I suck? Or, are you just obsessed with social media time wasting? Add me on LinkedIn and tell me how you found me: http://Linkedin.com/in/WestonLudeke
Watch this short film and see why Arnold is the king of all bodybuilders. The dude had dumbbells hidden in his tank when he was in the Austrian army to workout when he had free time. The dude had dumbbells in his fucking tank! You will never be as badass as Arnold.
“A successful person goes from failure to failure with enthusiasm” -Churchill
So many young people worry about failure. It’s a shame really. Most people in high school and college, not to mention most people post-college have a very narrow view of the world and of success. They think success is something that is linear, when it is fact anything but.
The industrial-era mindset still persists in this country that one simply goes to school, gets a degree, then works a 9-5 job at one company their whole life and is able to retire with a nice pension and social security in their “golden years.” Fuck that shit.
These days are long gone. If you think living life by the book and playing it safe by other people’s rules is the key to happiness and fulfillment, I’ve got a some oceanfront property back in Missouri to sell you.
The truth of the matter is, nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing. Everybody is just sort of winging it. That’s the big secret I’m finally realizing as I get older… adults aren’t always smarter, they’re just… older I guess.
So, to you young people, get off your ass and keep failing until you figure it out. But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fail. And don’t be ashamed of failure. Failure builds character! If it were easy to be a success, you wouldn’t appreciate it and would probably still find a way to complain. Hence, failure allows you to actually appreciate success.
You may not get the home run on your first at-bat, but keep stepping up to the plate! Any successful person has failed many times…. but not all failures have the tenacity to stick with it to succeed. Just get out there!
Look at Jay-Z, one of the greatest rappers of all-time, circa ’89 rapping way too fast, on a Jaz-O record, in a style that was probably outdated before the video even came out….
Then, here he is with Jaz-O again dancing like an asshole in a Hawaiian shirt with a horrible green screen:
But, he got out there damnit! Street cred be damned! Worrying about looking like a fool is pointless when you’re not successful.
Here you can see him circa ’94 slowly getting his style together… much more of that patented Jay-Hova swagger we all know and love:
You see, it took him many years and many false starts before he finally found his style. Would you believe that Jay and his partner (back then) Dame Dash actually had trouble getting a record deal? They finally ended up starting Roc-a-Fella Records to put their own music out. They never stopped hustling and eventually they got it right….they released Jay’s classic debut album Reasonable Doubt. And the rest is, as they say, history.
Hell, I was thrown out of the sales program at the University of Houston. Not for anything like conduct, or for a lack of sales ability, but for grades in their program. No, I’m dead fucking serious. I was busy out hustling across Midtown Houston with my buddy Steven promoting our nightclub events…. you think I bothered to worry about grades? Shiiiit I had 25 lighters (er, flyers) on my dresser.. .I gotsta to get paid!
Long story short: I didn’t take it personally. Hell, I knew I could sell ice to an Eskimo … I didn’t need those oxford shirt wearing, academic punks to tell me what I could or could not do. I knew the joke will be on them when they walk across that campus in 30 years and see my name on some of the buildings!
Fail early, fail often. Learn from it and iterate…eventually you’ll get it right. …And never let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do!
My little brother, Charles, recently had his first solo photo exhibition Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver. The exhibit was titled “The Flying Horsemen” after my grandparents farm in Burkburnett, Texas. The name was taken from my Grandfather James’ troop he flew with during WWII.
I must say it’s pretty surreal to see a piece of my family’s history in a museum…. not to mention my kid brother’s name on the wall right above the name of my grandparent’s ranch. Glad to see someone in my family has talent! :-D
Click here to see photos of the exhibit: http://charlesludeke.com/2012/02/15/photos-my-first-solo-exhibition/
Looking at the photos from the exhibit Charles put together gives me a flood of emotions: From a sense of sadness from having lost my Grandfather in August 2010, to humility reminding me how hard my family and ancestry have worked to provide a better life for future generations, to intense pride for my Texas heritage which goes back seven generations. No matter where I live, where I move, or where I end up… I’ll remain Texan to my core and intensely proud of my family.
The pictures featured in the exhibit are here: http://charlesludeke.com/the-flying-horsemen/
Congrats to my buddy Jason Shen and the team over at RideJoy for raising a cool $1.3m of funding! w00t w00t!
Full story here: http://bit.ly/xyVSnh
I make sure to start every day as a producer, not a consumer.
When you get up, you may start with a good routine like showering and eating, but as soon as you find yourself with some free time you probably get that urge to check Reddit, open that game you were playing, see what you’re missing on Facebook, etc.
Put all of this off until “later”. Start your first free moments of the day with thoughts of what you really want to do; those long-term things you’re working on, or even the basic stuff you need to do today, like cooking, getting ready for exercise, etc.
This keeps you from falling into the needy consumer mindset. That mindset where you find yourself endlessly surfing Reddit, Facebook, etc. trying to fill a void in yourself, trying to find out what you’re missing, but never feeling satisfied.
When you’ve started your day with doing awesome (not necessarily difficult) things for yourself, these distractions start to feel like a waste of time. You check Facebook just to make sure you’re not missing anything important directed at you, but scrolling down and reading random stuff in your feed feels like stepping out into the Disneyland parking lot to listen to what’s playing on the car radio – a complete waste of time compared to what you’re really doing today.
It sounds subtle, but these are the only days where I find myself getting anything done. I either start my day like this and feel normal and productive, or I look up and realize it’s early evening, I haven’t accomplished anything and I can’t bring myself to focus no matter how hard I want to.
Hard to believe we’re winding down the final hours of 2011. 2012 looks to be an incredible year as well.
Over this past year Gaby and I made the move from Houston, TX to Mountain View, CA. I quit my corporate job at Symantec and got a kickass startup job at isocket. We’ve gotten settled in nicely in our new hometown and have met some pretty cool people. We even were able to get out to Reno and Lake Tahoe one weekend to spend a day hiking and see my buddy Matt who I went to UH with and who’s now at Univ. of Nevada.
I was able to squeeze in some travelling to New York City for the first time since I was ten, as well as Boston, St. Louis, Austin, Dallas, New Orleans, and Memphis. It’s always fun visiting other cities. Lot’s of people I know got married in 2011 and plenty more will be getting married in 2012 (including yours truly).
I can only imagine what incredible things 2012 will bring. The Hustle don’t stop!
As seen on Quora: A user asks a question, “How do you dodge being “politely turned down” when you want to “grab coffee sometime” with someone when you have meaningful things to talk about?”
Someone awesome named Yishan Wong writes a brilliant post about how to get to exactly what you want from a busy person:
Send them a plainly written email explicitly outlining what you want from them, and ask if they are willing to provide it to you. If you don’t hear back (or they say no), then drop it.
This whole “grab coffee sometime” thing in Silicon Valley is incredibly annoying and stupid, and needs to go away and be replaced with straightforward requests like “I would like to ask you to invest, may I pitch to you” or “I want to get your advice on X, will you give it to me,” etc. I’ll give a long answer based on my experience with these sorts of situations.
The problem is that people whose time is “in demand,” i.e. they have a larger number of requests for their time than they can service, and despite the fact that they would like to be helpful, requests to “have coffee” completely obscure the true nature of the request. It’s not that the obscuring is considered offensive – it’s understandable, I can see how someone might not want to just come out and say that they want to ask you for e.g. several thousands of dollars – it’s that it makes it very hard to tell if we can actually help.
For example, when people want to meet me in person, they are typically looking for one of the following things:
- advice on the viability of their product
- advice on their career
- funding for their startup
- funding for their startup and referrals to other angels like Keith Rabois
- an intro to someone else that I know
- working at Sunfire Offices
- an employment referral to Facebook
- reference check on someone who worked at Facebook or PayPal
- hiring me for their startup
- being a technical co-founder
- consulting for their startup
The problem is that very rarely will the person say any of these things up front; instead, they’ll request to “grab lunch or coffee” and then beat around the bush for most of the conversation and then in the last 5-10 minutes of the meeting they will bring up the thing that they want, and I will quickly either agree or decline, depending on whether I’m able to fulfill the request. This pattern is incredibly consistent and happens almost every time. I can basically tell within the first 2 minutes of the conversation that this is going to be one of those times and so I resign myself to (hopefully only) a 30-minute-long meaningless conversation before the guy gets to the point. At the end, I can even tell the point where the guy is going to get to his actual request, and I think, “Ah, finally, here it comes.” Unfortunately, there is no way to short-circuit this process at the beginning by saying, e.g. “Just tell me what you want from me” without it coming across as being incredibly rude and presumptuous.
Interestingly, I want to be able to help whenever possible, but it turns out that I don’t have time to field numerous 30-60 minute conversations every day in order to get to the 5-minute request whose feasibility I can almost always evaluate immediately. And, because many of the assumptions made about what I can do are actually wrong, the answer to some of the items above is almost always no, i.e. I don’t invest in many startups, I’m not going to take a full-time job at someone’s startup or be their technical co-founder, Sunfire Offices is basically full, and Keith clearly gets annoyed when I pass on intros to him from anyone but people who can probably already just call him up themselves.
In general, I’d like to help if I can, and if I can’t, I still want to be as helpful as possible in giving you a clear and clean rejection so that you can mark me off your checklist and move on to the next guy you’re going to ask, and save you precious time. But this is impossible, because the obscured nature of the requests I get means that, as an overall percentage, the likelihood of my saying no is high, even if your request falls into one of the categories where I might actually be able to help.
So this is why people get politely turned down when asking to “grab coffee sometime.”
If you want to get around this, skip the fucking coffee and make your request clear and explicit. Most people in the Valley who are likely to get asked things of them want to be helpful if they can, and if they can fulfill your request, they will either do it right there on the spot in email (thus saving you both a meaningless coffeeshop trip) or say no, again saving you time. And time is your most precious resource almost all of the time.
 I’m even fearing that this answer will sound really presumptuous and arrogant, but I’m going to take that risk, in the hopes that it will help some young, striving entrepreneur.
 I don’t even drink coffee.
My final thoughts: This ties into a lot of the Hustling, particularly about getting what you want and no wasting people’s time. If everyone you know is doing things the same way, what are you going to do different that is going to get you noticed?