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Dave’s blog

Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle.

This headline is a tweet from Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why.

In my conversation with Lee Mayer of Havenly, we talked about the hard work of running a startup, and the huge personal price to be paid.  I asked, “Do those close to you understand your challenges and sacrifice?”  The answer: “No, not always.”  Being a startup CEO is a tough existence.  Social marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Ideas are Shit – it’s all about execution.”  And he’s right.

Our world is so cluttered, particularly in media.  When I get on LinkedIn for example, I see everyone busy posting and reposting – and sometimes I get sucked into admiring them.  Then I remind myself that the people most worthy of respect, the best role models, are not those creating social media IMPRESSIONS.  It’s odd that I have to repeatedly remind myself to respect WORK over impressions.  But I do, and we all should.

So why am I featuring a tweet as the headline?  Because Simon Sinek uses social media to spread his work, not as the work itself. Being an entrepreneur and a leader – that’s hard work – and it’s what we ought to admire to support what Lee Mayer describes as a culture that builds on success.

Killer Marketing Lesson #1 from Congress!

The original title of this blog was, “Congress Sucks – Because of Me!” and it was all about how as a moderate, I don’t make my voice heard.

Then a conversation with my son Dan, got me thinking… actually our members of congress are AWESOME!…


I’ve missed it until now, and I’m feeling pretty dumb about it.

What is the most powerful, most fundamental element of marketing? Find and cultivate a sustainable niche. And what do members of Congress do? “Appeal to their base.” Yup. I’ve been criticizing them for “pandering to the crazies.” Guess what? As a “moderate,” I’m not their customer. They aren’t trying to sell to me. Do we chastise Tesla for appealing to an upscale, image oriented audience? Do we scream at Walmart for focusing on low prices? No – we call them smart, savvy, and focused. Our elected officials are doing what any excellent marketer does – focusing on their customer – those who help them get elected. Improved governance requires that moderates figure out how to make ourselves seen as desired customers of our members of Congress.

In the meantime, perhaps we can at least learn marketing from them.

“I’m too busy for you.”

Chris just replied to my email invitation: he is too busy to meet with me – for several months.

I’ve been rejected before – plenty in sales, and in college when a girl actually did tell me she had to wash her hair.

I recently met Chris and he seems to be a great guy with whom I think I’ll have a lot in common – interests, business philosophy, and values – someone I’d like in my network, and whom, I think, would agree.

Chris called and left a message: “Dave, I appreciate the invitation.  I’m just really involved in this startup and I need to stay focused for a while.  I’m calling because I want you to know that I care – let’s connect this summer.”

My thoughts on this are two.  First – what a classy way to say “No,” and 2nd, don’t we all have the right to say “No thank you” in a polite way?   I’ll reach out to Chris this summer, simply saying, “Hey Chris, I hope your startup is going well.  Just let me know when timing is good to connect.”  In the time I would have spent with Chris when he was too busy to meet, I wrote this post!

Doubted by Others – Crumple or Think?

I love movies with lessons.  “Sully,” brilliantly staring Tom Hanks, is about the pilot who in 2009 successfully performed an emergency landing on the Hudson River, saving all 155 passengers.  Aside from the landing itself, the drama was about the NTSB’s questioning of Captain Sullenberger’s decision to land on the river and not at a nearby airport.  The strongly implied accusation was that Sully had made the wrong decision, needlessly endangering the lives of the passengers and costing a plane.

As I watched, I felt awful for Sully, who under the inquiry, began to doubt himself, and the doubt became escalating fear that maybe they were right.  The deep dread of self-doubt – that gut-wrenching feeling – is one of the most deeply painful human emotions.  I’ve had it too many times.

I saw two business leadership and life lessons in this movie:

First, it’s hard to think clearly, to solve rather than crumple, in the midst of self-doubt – Sully did that, and through his regained composure, managed the situation.

Second, it’s tempting to harshly judge our decisions and those of others. Yes, let’s evaluate.  Then let’s temper the judgment, recognizing that only people who put themselves into situations of gravitas can make decisions that prove to be important.

(Dave Signature)

Note: some disagreed about the depiction of the NTSB in “Sully.”

“The Martian” inspired me to cut a hole in my wall

“Work the problem.”  That’s the attitude of the character played by Matt Damon in “The Martian.”  It’s a movie I liked better the 2nd time, because I considered that theme.  BTW, I read that in the opinion of a NASA director, the science was quite accurate (info).

Back on Earth, this is a story about trying to get a new couch into my basement.

We couldn’t get the couch through the tight turn in the stairwell.  Work the problem.  We removed the door, the handrail and the ceiling light.  Nope.  Work the problem.  Removed the feet.  Still no (the couch was on clearance – returning not an option).  Work the problem.  If we just had a little more room maybe we could tip the couch into the extra space enough to make the turn.  Is it nuts to cut a space in the drywall to try that?

OMG, it worked!  The couch is in the basement and I repaired the wall.

I feel joy from solving the problem and from the experience – a great life metaphor for me, for my family, for us all with entrepreneurial challenges…

 Work the problem!


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