I recently played the best round of golf of my life. It was the first round of golf I’d played in 14 months. Heck, the first time that I’d swung a golf club in 14 months. I was also playing the Ocean Course at Kiawah Resort in South Carolina, the course that Tiger Woods called, “one of the more challenging courses I’ve ever played.” Did I also mention that I was playing with borrowed clubs?
With all of these factors in mind, you can imagine how frustration it was for the other golfer I was paired with who plays twice a week to watch me play as well as I did. It actually appeared to make him play worse, like I was getting in his head on a Sunday round at the Masters. I started feeling bad about it, but not enough to stop me from crushing my 3-Wood 280 yards down the fairway on the 18th hole approaching the club house.
Enough with my not-at-all-humble brags, what is the point of the story? Where is the ego fueled rant headed? There are two things that factored into how well I played that day: What clubs I played with and who I played with.
What I played with: I mentioned I played with a borrowed seat of clubs but I didn’t mention that they were brand new Titleists with the biggest sweet spots I’ve ever seen. I grew up playing on a set of 1967 Wilson blades that I inherited from my 6-foot 5-inch Grandpa Anderson. They had longer shafts which was helpful for my height, but absolutely nothing but a bent piece of metal with grooves as the club face and therefore no forgiveness for my tendency to slice the ball. These Titleists were more forgiving than a soon to be retired priest.
Who I played with: I mentioned the avid golfer that I played with, but I didn’t mention that part of the tradition at the Ocean Course is that ever group goes out with a caddy. My caddy was Brandon Hartzell, a semi-pro golfer who just missed the qualifier for this year’s U.S. Open. I got to the course early and he accompanied me out to the driving range. At first, I was taken aback by how conversational he was while I was warming up, but what I later realized was that 15 swings into my warm up, he knew my swing better than I did. He watched me go through my irons, then my fairway woods, and then my driver on the practice range and didn’t let me pick a club the rest of the day. He knew exactly how far I could hit each club and how I should play each shot. His understanding of my all but hibernated golf game infused me with confidence that I had no business having.
I recently wrote a blog post about only having one gear on my bike and some of the virtue that I have found that raw experience to give me. A good friend and all together more accomplished cyclist, Adam McManus, tweeted back to me that he understood where I was coming from, but also for me to not discount what can happen by working smarter and some day growing up to a bike with gears for all kinds of routes, hills, and distances.
The same could be said for the precision that I used to cling to with my 1967 golf clubs. While both my one speed and ancient clubs require me to be ultimately much more intentional about the way I operate. But, at a certain point, graduating up to the next rung isn’t just about raw skill but the honing of the foundation you’ve built and going deeper into the realms of possibilities by working smarter after having worked harder.
Working smarter and working harder are not mutually exclusive and the best of the best understand how to do both in harmony.
I am a competitive person. I abhor the idea of playing a game and not keeping score. If there is a way to win, I will find it. If there is even a way to CLAIM a win, I will attempt to. Which is why riding my bike the past few weekends has proven to be an interesting change of pace.
When I ride my bike in NYC, I usually head over to the West Side Highway bike path and ride North along the Hudson River. The path there is just wide enough to pass slower bikers or joggers without scooting over into oncoming traffic. And when I ride, I tend to pass a lot of folks. Even more now that the CitiBikes are out and people who haven’t ridden in NYC are doing so for the first time in a long time.
And sometimes, I get passed. Usually by guys in spandex with bikes that cost more than my first car. At first, being passed bothered me. They were beating me was my default thought process. They were going faster and they were winning. But then I considered, did the people that I passed think the same thing? Was me zooming past them in the realm of consideration that I was winning? Of course not. And neither were the guys zooming past me thinking that they were beating me. It wasn’t a race. We were all out there for different reasons with different levels of equipment and training and health. Even though we were all doing the same activity, an activity that by its very nature showcases speed, strength, and distance, we were not riding with the same end game in mind.
I am in San Francisco this morning and I’ve been thinking a lot about the technology scene and industry and how it too isn’t a race. There are countless ways that you could think that someone was passing you or that you were falling behind, but that isn’t a fair race to ride because we are all coming into it with different equipment, skills, and teams than everyone else. And, if we are all smart, we are all riding for a different end game than everyone else. An end game that is ours and ours alone. I’m not talking about an exit or the cover of FastCompany or some other moment in time goal, those can’t be the reason we are all riding as hard as we are. The reasons have to be bigger, otherwise you won’t enjoy the downhill that comes after you powered through the grind to get to your momentary peak.
When it is all said and done, most of life isn’t a race against anyone else but ourselves. Everything that we are building has to be worth it for our own definition of a win, not for anyone else’s.Tweet
The “stolen” idea of Facebook and eternal legal battle between Zuckerberg and the twins is a well documented worst case scenario as to what happens when you share your idea with the wrong people. But what is the best case scenario?
I was recently on 5By (check them out, amazing video conceirge style curation) and checking out their Venture Cap Channel. 5By served me up a pretty great video on finding a technical co-founder, a question I get all the time from the start-ups I work with that are lacking the Hacker to complete the Hipster, Hacker, Hustler trifecta. In this video, Ian Jeffrey of FounderFuel, says that the best way to attract the Hacker is to tell everyone about your idea, especially at events and meet ups where the Hacker types might hang out (look for neck beards and ironic t-shirts) He also addresses the “what if someone steals the idea” concern.
I’ve thought about this idea of people stealing my ideas before telling folks about projects that I think about on nights and weekends and during the first 10,000 feet of airline flights. When it all boils down to it, I could give someone all the details needed and a really good pitch about why some of my ideas are awesome but if they tried to steal them, they would be missing a very important piece of the reason it is a great idea: Me.
At this point in the innovation and start-up industry’s life cycle, we are beyond the point were people are looking for the needle in the haystack of good ideas. Now people are trying to beat back the good ideas and find the great ones, and, most everyone is partial to their own. People don’t have time to steal your ideas, they’re trying to find enough time to do their own.
A great example of this kind of openness was the subject of my Forbes post this morning. John O’Nolan laid out his game plan for building Ghost last year and didn’t hide much. But, it was because of this openness that he got over 100,000 unique views on that blog post and, in the past 24 hours, has doubled his Kickstarterr goal and is well on his way to blowing the doors off of this opportunity. If someone else had taken this idea and run with it without John, it would have failed. There is no one else that cared about it as much as he did. And because of that caring, he’s attracted a team of rock stars to work with him.
So, get out there and share the big ideas. Get out there and find others they resonate with. Then go do them together. That’s what this wild and crazy world is all about.Tweet
In the past week, since returning from SXSW, I’ve seen more than a handful of examples of New York City tech and digital personalities opening calling out others in our community in the oh so context-less 140 characters of Twitter. From hate mail for big companies like Foursquare or young companies like Bib+Tuck (who I am an advisor to), the call outs haven’t been constructive for the companies or their founders and make the VCs, PR professionals, and Media types spouting the digital venom look like playground bullies.
Are there conversations to be had about elevating our game? Can we hold the standard high in our community of chip-on-the-shoulder Silicon Alley start-ups? Can we expect more from our fellow entrepreneurs and partners? Yes to all of the above. But, in such a small, by comparison, community of people working in the technology and digital realm, no one is more than one email introduction away.
Success in the NYC digital scene is not a zero sum game that only one company gets to take home the prize. Investments are being made, companies and jobs are being created, and we have a huge cheerleader in the Mayor’s office. The fledgling community is at a turning point that has all kinds of potential just around the next bend, but only if as a community we raise the bar in a constructive and actionable way. There are more than enough wins to go around, let’s go get them together.
“A rising tide carries all ships.” – Warren BuffettTweet