Building Confidence

My last post talked about the confidence the Seahawks portrayed throughout their Championship season.  In it, I pointed out founders need to embody a confidence about themselves if they want others to follow.

But how do you do embody confidence?

And how do you build it stronger, especially when you are just starting out?

Find, understand and polish your vision

The first step in developing your confidence is to figure out who you really are and why you are doing what you do.  This comes in the form of identifying your vision – the reason for your businesses existence – and putting it in terms others can relate to.  One must ask themselves questions like “why does the world need my idea?” “what is the problem I am solving?”  “what is it that if I gave it to people, and then took it away, they would break down my door and demand back?”  These questions will help define your vision for a better world.

This is especially hard to for technical people since they think more in technical/functional terms, which most laymen don’t understand.  Most people can’t grasp “we are creating a device smaller than a desktop PC, specific to telephony, but can also access hypertext protocol and other applications for utility.”

But, people easily understand “connect with people across the world  from the palm of your hand.”

Get comfortable at rejection

The only way to get a yes is to get through a no first.  Think of the most confident people in your own life, and know they have been rejected more times than most.  A prerequisite to a strong confidence is the ability to take a no, to be rejected and be shot down by others around them.

How do you do that?

Put yourself out there, take investor meetings and allow them to critique your concept and vision.  Ask the smartest people you know to join your startup.  When these people say no, ask why?  Using these inputs, you will learn how to adjust on the fly and what you should change in your approach.

Rejection challenges one’s constitution.  It makes them look in the mirror, take account and look deeper as to why they are doing what they do.

It’s important because like exercise, these negative experiences put the individual into a position to either learn from it and get even stronger in their confidence, or face the reality they need to leave their vision  altogether and go a different direction.  Which road will be taken?  Either way, they are progressing toward a position of more confidence.

Bring more people along with you

Armed with a vision and the strength built up from taking no’s along the way, it’s now time to find others to join you in your pursuit.  Nothing builds more confidence as much as the feeling of people jumping onboard and joining you in your vision.  It’s the social proof principle, meaning the more people that join you, the more other people will want to join you.

The first few hires are always the most challenging, since people will ask themselves “why isn’t anyone else on the team?”  But once you have a team behind you (even a small team) you will feel invincible.  The confidence that comes with teammates standing behind you and convincing others to join their cause is indescribable.  Soon enough you will find yourself actually having to turn away people because they don’t quite fit the profile of who you are looking for.

It all starts with confidence.

Confidence begins when a person knows who they are and where they are going.  They determine that by identifying something in the world they want to change.  Once they can explain it clearly, others will understand and will want to join.  At that point, they will feel unstoppable.

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.