I’ve been thinking of this concept of mentorship. Through my young adult and professional life I have always been encouraged to seek out a mentor. And we seem to read about it a lot in career advice columns, blog posts, self-improvement literature, etc. And yes, I have had a handful of more wise, experienced individuals guide me through challenging and uncertain times, both men and women. Not sure I would call them mentors though.
Here’s the observation that I’ve made. It becomes dangerous when the mentor is treated as a hero. Then the mentorship experience becomes hero worship. This creates limitations on your self development. You fail to develop to your fullest potential because you become so focused on BEING your mentor. Do you really want to be a second-rate copy of your Mentor or a first-rate you? So here lies another meaning of “bcc”: do you want to become a Blind Carbon Copy?
Here’s a simplified analogy regarding the above. Steve Jobs died this past year in case you didn’t hear. He is probably the first person associated with that brand called Apple. There was a lot of attention focused on him after he died. Lots of people were sad. There were a lot of tributes written about him. He was worshipped and he continues to be worshipped. He has been deified. So the question I’ve heard is “Who is the next Steve Jobs?” And it continues with “Who is the next Mark Zuckerberg?” Or “Who is the next Arianna Huffington?” Or “Who is the next Angela Merkl?” Or “Who is the next Margaret Thatcher?” (Huh? That was a curve ball, right?) Yes, I look forward to watching Meryl Streep portray the Reagan era politician in “The Iron Lady” which is coming soon to a theater near you. These questions are silly. Seeking out “The Next” whatever creates limitations and ceilings on inventing something different that can change the world in even a greater capacity. Sure, the aforementioned people have made a major impact on the world but that does not mean that they represent the absolute potential. Mentorship and learning from great leaders has value but be careful not to diminish your own ability to do amazing things. Do something different.
It’s the day after Christmas. I have post Holiday food fatigue. I need a cure. I need a San Francisco Food Nerd to deliver an organic, local, sustainable, seasonal, affordable, nutritional, environmental, humane, artisanal, wholesome, eco-friendly, fresh-from-the-earth, unpretentious, vegetarian food kit to get me out of the Holiday food blues!
Gluttony is bad. It’s a terrible way to treat your body. Never mind the behavior part of it. Physically it’s just wrong. Your body should be treated like a shrine. A sacred vessel. But then again does the Holiday Season just give us license to engage in sinful behavior?
Sometimes this is what I do on Friday afternoon before an evening out. I seek to entertain and educate myself by checking out YouTube. I had a recent discussion with a date about Arianna Huffington and why she is such a Big Deal in the media and blogosphere. So I decided to find out what Search results YouTube (Google) would produce for “Arianna Huffington”, the woman who has been called the “World’s Most Powerful Blogger.” And I found this piece from 2007 uploaded by GoogleTalks where a very pregnant Sheryl Sandberg then of Google, now the COO of Facebook interviews the New Media titan.
Aside from her explanation of how she transformed from a Conservative to a Liberal what I found interesting was Ms. Huffington’s insight about the concept of fear. Women and men handle the feeling of fear differently. Nothing too earth shattering there. But what kinds of things are women fearful of? Ms. Huffington illustrates her point with the concept of the “Evil Roommate” which lives in our brain and tells us mean or undermining things. The Evil Roommate exists in the minds of both men and women. But here again lies the difference. For example, women wake up in the morning and the Evil Roommate may whisper something like this to them, “Look in the mirror, is that another wrinkle?” or “Those jeans are tighter on you because you threw them in the dryer, right?” She goes on to posit that it’s not about the absence of fear which will move us forward, but of mastering it. I think this thought approach applies to human beings in general. Both men and women have different perceptions of what may cripple them mentally and/or emotionally but perhaps it’s a matter of first identifying the nature of the fear and why it’s given permission to exist in our minds.
Ms. Huffington is an interesting personality to listen to. Her thoughts about the perception of the “outspoken woman” and what needs to change to move women forward are not revolutionary but she speaks to the themes of human dignity and the democratization of the Voice. Human beings feel valued when they have a Voice that is acknowledged and heard. So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her political views or maybe just don’t like her, in the big picture she reminds us about the beauty and power of the blogosphere to deliver Truth from ordinary people. The emergence of New Media has granted a voice to ordinary people who can blog about things that matter to them up to a potentially institution-changing and revolutionary way. I do understand that a double-edged sword exists where any non-Truth can also be broadcast by an ordinary person with evil intentions to destroy the World. But the global activism that this form of communication has spawned just in 2011 also amplifies the new era of individual self-fulfillment and attempting to “do good” in the world. So the next time the Evil Roommate rears itself, press the mute button. That Voice does not earn the right to be heard.
I discovered this article on Twitter during my morning news run. It was written by Boston entrepreneur Jason Evanish about his visit to the Valley. The Valley collectively refers to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. He believes that there are six reasons why the Valley is the Center of the Universe and these beliefs resonate with my recent experiences in the space.
Here are his observations:
(1) Openness (#payitforward): There is a “How can I help?” attitude. Most recently, I experienced this kind of generosity at AngelHackSF, the SF Ruby on Rails community, WomenWhoCode (led by the fearless Sasha Laundy) and Women 2.0 events.
(2) Optimism: Anyone with a vision is encouraged. The energy of the startup community is contagious and this fosters an entrepreneurial environment. At the beginning of the journey, it’s the subjective feeling of hope that prevails over a revenue model or the analytical razzle dazzle.
(3) Culture: The Valley is competitive but also collaborative. The Valley attracts a lot of talent because of this kind of culture. Talent wars abound so companies must provide a great work culture in addition to a fun environment. Mr. Evanish remarks how he was impressed with his visit to San Francisco based Twilio.
(4) Evangelism: People are happy with work and life in the Valley. They want you to move here now. Mr. Evanish believes that there are three hubs in the Valley ecosystem: San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mountain View. My observation is that San Francisco is THE hub of the Valley ecosystem where the Peninsula (Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park) and the South Bay (Santa Clara, San Jose and Cupertino) are also important and complete the ecosystem. Facebook is moving to Menlo Park and Apple is Cupertino – they are in the ecosystem. The Valley is a regional ecosystem which offers a phenomenal lifestyle. One can live in San Francisco, work in Mountain View, enjoy the culture/nightlife of San Francisco during off hours, catch a music concert or lecture in Berkeley, take off to Tahoe for skiing, run off to Napa or Sonoma up in the Wine Country, drive down the coast to Big Sur to be on the water, etc. etc. etc. (you get the picture). Plenty of things to do. All the time.
(5) Weather: The Bay Area climate is more favorable than the East Coast. This has a tremendous impact on lifestyle. Thus far, at every tech event I have been to I have always met a transplant who said they left the East Coast because of the weather. They were tired of shoveling snow, or tired of not being able to go out, or tired of being unsatisfied with their heating system in their apartment. They just got tired.
(6) Omnipresence: Mr. Evanish thinks it’s “cool” to see a familiar tech company’s logo on a billboard. These billboards are ubiquitious in San Francisco (the “City”) and the rest of the Valley. Walk or bike in the City, or drive along 101 or 280 and it’s just not possible to not see one of these gigantic manifestations of a Brand. This concept of omnipresence is also similar to how technology is so relevant in our lives.
At the end of the day the Valley has created a Winning Tradition because of the people who inhabit it. There is a diverse group of individuals from all over the world who converge here with hopes and dreams to build something great that will impact humanity. And even if the dream is not realized, the experience of engaging within a vibrant talented community and building life long relationships contributes to the richness of the Tradition. It’s the dynamic human element that matters.
This is what I do at 1am in the morning. I troll Quora for interesting data. I discovered a string about public relations strategies for startup companies. The post suggested taking an OkCupid, OkTrends approach of “always keeping data fresh” since it recommends to constantly be coming up with new product, new features, new data after launch. OkCupid is an online dating site which produces a blog called OkTrends which reports on trends based on their users. And this data is always re-freshed with new insights, graphs and visuals. I personally don’t do online dating but most of my girlfriends do. And I respect that. It’s just another approach to dating. But here are two reasons why I personally prefer not to adopt that approach: (1) You cannot feel a person’s essence online (first impression/chemistry). So therefore it becomes a huge time-waster if you are interested in their online profile and then let down when you initially meet them in person. (2) People will embellish their personal profile when it comes to finding a date or a mate. Here is an OkTrends post based on user data which supports my second reason. So at the end of the day (at 1am in the morning), I would prefer mining for data than reading about some guy who says he is something he is not. Yes, people also lie in person; both men and women could lie regardless of whether they are looking online or offline but the first impression/chemistry qualifier is a more important starting point for me in this process of discovery. I would prefer to take the organic approach in the dating world and meet a live human being from the beginning. So call me a geek since I’d rather be trolling for data than trolling for dates online.
I just read this article in Reset San Francisco which asserts that San Francisco is lagging behind New York City in the race to build an online infrastructure to encourage civic engagement and create jobs. Keep in mind that this article was published in May 2011 and I also believe the Reset team was started by a San Francisco politician. The purpose of this post then is to invite discussion and inspire thought for those who care about this city.
Embracing technology, this past spring New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had announced that QR codes would start appearing on construction permits in the city. So, if you’ve ever been wondering what they are building around the corner from your house or workplace, you could simply zap a code with your smart phone and get additional information. I guess that is what they call “transparency in government.” I would presume that this applies to any government project. For the past week, I have been constantly reminded of where my tax dollars are going in my neighborhood. It’s a noisy mess as they are installing new plumbing in the street. That’s great! New pipes! Awesome improvement! However, no QR code for me to access. Bah. So I simply asked one of the workers in the neon vests what was going on. One minute of Q & A. Perhaps QR codes are cool and efficient but inquiring with a human being and taking an organic approach could also be effective. You may also get non-official information not accessible through the code. So my point is this. Technology tools can save time and increase efficiency but nonetheless human to human engagement still produces quick and meaningful results. Perhaps the San Francisco government needs help with integrating online tools within their governance model but I’m constantly reminded of a deeper issue like the homeless problem. Could job creation in the digital economy be spurred if more profound societal problems were addressed and attempted to be eradicated first?
At the end of the day, I’m not concerned that New York City will “beat” San Francisco in the race to become the digital economy capitol of America. In fact, I’m not losing sleep over it. San Francisco is the hub of the Bay Area digital economy. Silicon Valley is still the global innovation center. The ECOSYSTEM is here. The talent and human capital that matter continue to be attracted to a life out West, in Northern California. The San Francisco Bay Area ~ there is nothing else like it on Planet Earth.