Confidence. Wins.

Wow, after witnessing one of the greatest sports adventures Seattle has ever experienced I have a few thoughts I think can help us all.

Have Confidence.

Seahawks SB winIt wins Super Bowls.  It also wins in entrepreneurship.

Watching the Seahawks this season was a quick schooling in Confidence 101 and I want to peel away a few layers to get to the bottom of how it can help you.  First let’s take a look at some examples from the team.

Russell Wilson

The dude get’s drafted in the 3rd round and is not even slated to be the starting quarterback his rookie season on a 7-9 team the previous season.  So what’s the first thing out of his mouth?

“I intend on winning 4 Super Bowls in my career, and hopefully all of them here in Seattle.”

He pretty much was laughed at around the league, called short and not a typical NFL quarterback…. Until he went on to become the starter and win his first Super Bowl in only his second year.

Who’s laughing now?

Richard Sherman

Say what you want about Richard Sherman, he’s been dead right all along about who he is.  The dude grew up in Compton, graduated from Stanford and is drafted even lower than Wilson, ending up in the 5th round.  Some would say at that point he was a nobody (a thug) and would be washed up in a few years.  But he’s smarter than that and knows who he is.

During his first few seasons he starts telling everyone in the media and around the league he’s the best cornerback in the league.  He says he can stop anyone, even stop the best offense in the league.  They say he’s just a smack-talker and tell him to be quiet.

And what does he do?

Sherman goes on to back up each and every statement with game defining play-after-play, leading the “Legion of Boom” and helping a Seahawks defense become simply one of the best in NFL history.  Today, there’s no doubt who is the best cornerback in the league.

Marshawn Lynch

Lynch has a different approach to his confidence.  The dude was raised in the rough parts of Oakland, where one says the least amount possible in order to wake up the next morning to live another day.  But through this he learned not to allow the outside world to distract him in his craft and he believes in letting his play and the results speak for themselves.

He goes on to become “Beast Mode”,  lead the league in 100 yard rushing games over the last few seasons and ultimately help his team win a Super Bowl this year.  He does this by not talking to the media the entire season, simply saying “I let my play speak for itself.”

Pete Carroll

Pete was hired as the Seahawks head coach straight from his head coaching job at USC, not the most appreciated school around these parts of the country.  Instantly, he changes the tone of the organization and allows his fun-loving and confident demeanor to permeate the team, winning over the city of Seattle.

He also starts picking palyers out of the draft WAY lower than any other teams would do.  Again, look at our Pro Bowl players and take a look at where in the draft they were taken… so low most other teams passed on these players, thinking they weren’t worth the effort.

Yet, Carrol had the cool confidence that he and his coaches could turn seemly low-level players into World Champions.  And you guessed it, he was laughed at too.  Until he won the Super Bowl with a great collection of well rounded players and coaches.

The thing about all these guys – and the entire Seahawks franchise – is their confidence.  They know deep down inside they are champions.  They absolutely knew the entire season – unbeknownst to the rest of us –  they were going to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

And they acted like it, every day.

I don’t reckon any time hearing “I don’t think we are good enough… we might not win.

No, they spoke confidence.  The lived it.  They breathed it.  They embodied it. This calm, cool, and collected confidence is what wins in sports.

It’s also what wins in entrepreneurship.

I don’t know any successful founders who are not confident in their own unique way.  I don’t mean arrogance.  I also don’t mean cockiness or being egotistical and flippant in nature.  I am talking about emitting a cool, calm and collected confidence around knowing who you are and where you are going.

Why?

Because people want to follow those who know who they are and where they are going.  People want to believe in their leader(s) and will not tolerate someone lacking confidence, vision and strength.  If we sense our leader lacks any of those characteristics, we simply switch teams, become a free agent and allow another (more confident) founder to recruit us into their vision.

There’s too much to cover here around success and confidence but it’s that last point – knowing who you are and where you are going – that makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and the ones who can’t quite ever make it.  With all this talk about Seattle founders having more Lynch than Sherman, we might be able to use a little help in building the confidence in ourselves, our community and our companies.

So as a founder, how do you gain confidence in the right areas?  How do you channel your inner Russell, Richard or Marshawn?  That’s for the next post in this series of confidence.  Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Pixelfish.

A Vacation From Writing

After almost 3 years of consistently posting 3-4 times per week, I am taking a break.

You may have noticed I have been less frequent in my writing lately, and that is indeed true.  I have quite a bit of things going on in my life and business(es) and it seems like I cannot find the time and mental clarity to get a post together.    

photo (4)I recently noticed myself getting anxious as I realized I had not been writing as frequently, and I don’t like to get anxious.  I would think of great topics for posts and then wouldn’t get around to putting pen to paper (er.. fingers to keyboard?)

I finally sat back and thought to myself “why not just make it official and take a break so you don’t feel like you are struggling to write?”

So I am taking a vacation from writing.

I have no idea how long this break will last. It could be weeks.  It could be months…

But have no fear, I will continue to post/update videos on Founders RAW each day since those don’t require much time each day, so you can head on over there and get your Nick fix.

Mahalo.

New Year, Same Ol’ Commitments

If you have been reading my writing long enough you’ll know I don’t set New Year’s resolutions.  I feel they are akin to the “yo-yo dieter” who for the umpteenth time says “ok, I am really going to lose 50 pounds this time!”

Sure!

The fact that it takes a specific day of the year to encourage someone to make decision to better their life should be the first sign something is not right about it.  Come February 1st, talk to most people (90%) who set a resolution and they will tell you they failed to keep it.

So, I don’t make them.

But I do review/make/remake commitments around the focal points in my life.  The three things I will continue to be committed to are as follows.  (Also, I woke up to this today so the new year seems to be starting off quite nicely I must add).

photo (4)

1.  My Entrepreneurial Journey

I will see through my investment and commitment to Seconds and moving mobile payments forward in our society.  Some unexpected activity arose on this topic late last year and I should have more to report on in the coming months.  Also, I have a number of other projects in various stages of planning I cannot wait to start talking about.

2.  My Influence

I have committed to expand my (and others close to me) influence on the technology industry through writing, videos (Founders RAW) and real world networking/industry events.  Creating great content and sharing it with others has become a theme throughout my life.

3.  My Health

I will continue my balanced approach to maintaining my health, wellness and fitness.  I do this by isolating specific times and days where I spend 30-60 minutes running and working out.  This is a non-negotiable for me.  I am not obsessed with my fitness – going to the gym everyday or highly restrictive eating habits – but I guess I am obsessed with keeping it a normal part of my weekly routine.

So rather than setting some crazy resolution I know I won’t be able to stick to, I reconfirm on the pillars I have already set in my life.  I encourage you to look within and commit/recommit to important aspects of your life.

Real World Interactions Become More Important As Technology Progresses

Tis the season to see evermore predictions as to what technological breakthroughs the new year will bring.  These predictions inspire, frighten, and perplex me all at the same time.

I am very excited about what we’ll see hit mainstream this year – be it better mobile devices, wearable technology, implanted medical devices or intelligent robots, just to name a few.  But as technologically advanced as these things may be, I keep coming back to a thought:

Every new technological advancement makes real world person-to-person interaction that much more important.

I have written about this before and will continue to do so as I feel it is of utmost importance.  The more you depend on digital communication tools, the less you end up “connecting” with the individual you are communicating with.  Digital communications such as text message, gchat, SnapChat, Instagram, Skype and the like lack any non-verbal cues and the innate human feeling of connection you get when you make eye contact with another human.

This results in a net negative within your social interactions.  “What did he mean by that text?”  “Is she mad or just being sarcastic?”  “Why does he check his phone every 30 seconds?  Is he bored talking with me?” “Am I the only one he flirts with through text messages?”  “Who else is he connected with on Facebook?”

The lesson here is even as we continually progress as a society and adopt more digital communication tools, you must never forget the best experience is analog.  Actually, it would be best if you committed this year to spend more time with more people – offline.

Grab coffee.

Buy them a beer.

Share a bottle of wine.

Take a hike.

Go rafting.

Take a walk.

And then take some time to look them in the eye and really connect with them.  Trust me, it will be unique and special since almost nobody does this anymore.

It’s amazing that in a world where we have thousands of followers, scores of readers and hundreds of “friends” one can feel alone and disconnected.   I believe the reason is because we really can’t “connect” to another being in the digital world.

So don’t fall into the trap.

Live in the real world and let people know how you really feel about them through authentic human interactions.

Life, Death And Living With Faith

My heart is heavy this week as I learned a close family member lost his battle with cancer at the age of 61.  Rather than mourn I am choosing to celebrate a life in the only way I know how, by pulling out lessons for the benefit of all of us.

Regardless of your personal views around organized religion, I am inviting you on a journey around faith and the joy of life.   I urge us to put down our swords of religion and embrace the notion of faith as it pertains to living a full life.

pastor_ken_hutchersonKen Hutcherson was a unique individual.  He was first an athlete, then a pastor, a boisterous presence and always a family man.  Our paths crossed at age 13 when my mother remarried and our family unit was “adopted” into my step father’s larger family, which includes more than 100 people during holiday gatherings.  “Hutch” had previously married one of my stepfather’s nieces, and our entry into the family now made us relatives.   Of course being a large, vocal african american, Hutch stood out in a family mostly of German heritage.  As a young and impressionable man I learned he was an ex-NFL player turned pastor and was immediately intrigued and instantly wanted to get to know this person.

Being around Hutch even for a short period of time one could feel he was full of joy.  He had a spark of life you don’t find in most people.  Some would say that was the Lord working through him, and although I believe that I say he chose to live with joy and energy.   He made the decision be positive, put a smile on his face and energetically face the day regardless of his religious beliefs.   Amazing to me, some people don’t choose this way of life and it’s to their detriment.  He did,  even during his long battle with cancer when probably the last thing he felt like doing was stand there and empathetically talk to someone.

Joy is a choice we must choose each day.  Sometimes it’s not the easy choice when things are going wrong in your life.  Sometimes we want to curl up under the covers and shout profanities at anyone who approaches us.   But part of good character is being able to channel joy from within and outwardly project it towards others, especially when it’s not a Sunday stroll in the park.

Hutch actively embraced people.  The moment you came in contact with him you felt his warmth and compassion.  Although outspoken and holding controversial stances on certain social views, he still loved all people.   His big smile and encouraging laugh made you instantly take to him.

As a young man this greatly impacted me, and even more so in my mid-twenties during the time I spent within the church he started many years ago.  I often noticed how he approached people in his congregation, hugged them, asked about their family, joked with them and left them better than he found them.  I silently committed to do the same thing as I grew up.  People are people, and deserve to be treated with respect.  They deserve to be approached by you, rather than you bashfully waiting for them to approach.   They deserve to be looked in the eye and communicated to with honesty and encouragement, since you never know it might have been the only encouragement they received that day.  I am no better than anyone else, no matter if I am leading a large organization or just a one-man shop, but also no one is better than me.  Hutch knew the secret of Leadership – love your people and they will love you back.  He also knew you say more to people nob-verbally then you ever do verbally.  I will never lose sight of those lessons.

If you knew Hutch you knew he was on a mission.  His mission was faith based and religious in nature, with his pastoral duties engulfing his life.  Believe whatever you believe, you couldn’t help but be jealous of Hutch in his deep commitment to his mission.  It guided his every decision and aided everyday discussions he had with people.   Germaine in his commitment was his steadfastness in the views he felt towards his mission, even if those views rattled cages and frustrated others.   Being steadfast in our views is something we don’t encounter much today.  Given the political mess our country finds itself in it’s not uncommon to observe someone holding two different (and opposing) views in two different social conversations.  Hutch’s strength in commitment is also something I will never forget.

To make the largest impact possible entrepreneurs need to find a mission worth pursuing.  This mission can be anything you want it to be, and quite frankly it needs to come from within rather than externally forced upon you so as to preserve its authenticity.  Once you find it – and trust me it takes time – you must protect it through everlasting commitment.  Commitment means you work when you don’t feel like it.  You keep going when doors are shut in your face and countless emails go un-responded.  Commitment also means you stand strong in your views even if it’s not popular or common.  Ironically, anything worthwhile will initially be opposed.  Just look at Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela… and even our own Hutch.

The common thread I see in all this is Faith.  Hutch lived with Faith.  No, he embodied it.  Not only was it Christian faith but I am now referring to general faith in a better tomorrow and a just world.  Faith transcends all else to help us see through the fog and trust something better is on the other side.  It is what allows us to build technologies, organizations, families, congregations (in Hutch’s case) and all other things because without faith in a better tomorrow there is no reason to continue living today.

This is what I take from Hutch’s life and his fatal battle with cancer.  He, in a way he probably had no idea his influence, taught me and others to have faith in ourselves, our creator, our society and our mission.

Watch this clip to gain a better understanding of the significance of Ken Hutcherson’s life.

Chop Wood; Carry Water

I recently sat down for a great lunch conversation with Nick Soman, a founder friend of mine here in Seattle.  Nick is the founder and CEO of LikeBright and a TechStars graduate.

As we were reminiscing about the founder life he said something quite profound.

Chop Wood; Carry Water.

It’s obviously a nod to early times in society where life depended on staying warm and keeping hydrated.  People couldn’t just hide in their cave if something went wrong, they would eventually die.  Or if successful, they couldn’t just rest on their laurels when something went right.  Simply put, life goes on. They needed to keep chopping wood and carrying water no matter what.

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I believe that thinking applies today.  Actually, the principle applies even more today than ever since we have so many distractions in the palm of our hands and right in front of our faces.

If you have experienced something exhilarating, exciting and greatly advantageous for you or your business, the question is what do you do next?

You need to chop wood; carry water.

If you are down and out, struggling with life and fighting the feelings of disappointment the question is what are you going to do tomorrow?

You need to chop wood; carry water.

The point is you need to stay alive.  You need to keep working.  You need to keep doing what got you that advantageous opportunity in the first place.  And if you have hit a negative streak you need to just keep going, things will come back if you get back into the game and work on the basics.

Successful people make it a habit to be steadfast in their ways – they don’t get too high when things go well and they don’t get too low when things get challenging.  They stay even keel.

They keep chopping their wood and carrying their water no matter what happens to them.

I like that.  And it’s what I have been telling myself lately as I have been enduring some exciting times.

I hope you do as well.

I told You So

RG3I hate to say it but I will.

I told you so.

You may remember almost a year ago I wrote about The Washington Redskins and the failure of their team leadership when dealing with Robert Griffin III and his knee injuries.  During that post, I detailed their game against the Seattle Seahawks in which the Redskins – wanting to win and advance in the NFL playoffs – kept playing their highly talented rookie quarterback even though his was visibly hurt, risking his future at the same time.  One specific part of the article I will share again:

RG3 went down, and the future of the franchise lay on the ground to the disappointment of the silent stadium full of Redskins fans. Although the injury is not career threatening at this point, it’s arguable if RG3 will actually be able to play at the level he was before the injury.

So whose fault is it?

Not RG3′s. The problem is the person involved is not thinking clearly or wisely at the moment. They are focused on themselves, considering only the moment and the short term, not the long term. They do not understand the long-term ramifications of their actions. Even though RG3 said he could still play the responsibility to make the right decision ultimately falls on the coach, the leader of the team. He should be realistic enough to make the right decision.

Well, I told you so.

This year, The Washington Redskins – once favorites to win their division and challenge for the Super Bowl – are 3-10.  They will not even be making the playoffs and their coach is under intense scrutiny. Their quarterback RG3 has looked awful this year and it seems he still isn’t fully health, hasn’t regained his speed and quickness from before the ACL injury.

CBS reports Coach Shanahan is contemplating shutting RG3 down for the rest of the year so he can get healthy and concentrate on next year.

Though Griffin hasn’t been nearly as good in his second season as he was when he was a rookie, Shanahan said this isn’t an instance where he’s benching his quarterback because of performance issues. Instead, he’d do it to keep Griffin healthy going into the offseason.

Hmm, maybe something he should thought of last year before he chose to risk his future investment.

The point here is to not make fun of a struggling team (ha, the Seahawks are league leading 11-2) nor pick on an injured player.  It’s to review a huge leadership lesson from a year ago and look at it from the framework of what has transpired.

As I predicted last year, keeping Griffin in the game risked not only that season but they ended up losing the next one (that being this season).  It was a risk and they took it.

The thing is, as a leader our decisions have major consequences.  Sometimes the most drastic affect the immediate, such as the choice of throwing the ball to the wrong team as to cause an interception.  But sometimes – and often most times – our decisions have consequences we cannot see or aren’t even aware of yet.  They are long term consequences.

That last statement is the hardest part of Leadership.  Being a Leader is all about taking risks – albeit calculated and well thought out risks.  During a time of decision, you must be able to inuit enough about the future to understand the long term consequences of the choices right in front of you.  And unfortunately, maximizing for the immediate usually comes with a huge price tag in the future.

In this case, it might even be a shortened career of one of the most gifted quarterbacks to come out of college.

It’s tough to watch a highly talented athlete struggle like how RG3 is currently.  But it’s even harder to be in the leadership role and faced with difficult decisions.  Next time you find yourself in a challenging conundrum ask yourself what would you think about each choice a year from now.  Almost always, the one you will think higher of a year down the road is the choice you need to make today.

Better take time to think about the future now rather than mentally replaying the past and wishing you made a different decision.