Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

The Discipline of Fearlessness or How to be free in your everyday life



No-fear, Fearlessness

Of all the human emotion that create pain for yourself and others, creates limitation and stops progress in businesses, fear is the hidden stopper that causes untold damage if not understood, looked at and let go. As the title of the book “State of Fear” spells out loud an clear, we certainly are in the midst of a fear cycle in the western world. What happened? After years of peace after the World War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the global rise of human rights, why has fear crept up so much that it effects are everyday lives so much.

What is fear? Where does it come from? How does it grow and how can it be released?

In my life there are two completely separate paths that have led to my understanding of fear as an emotion, about as opposite as paths can be.

The first is in the postures and cycle I see in markets that effects business. At a level the 7 year cycle- of which we are at the end of the bottom part of the recession as I write this, is an up abnd down cycle that repeats itself over and over again. I look at my life and even though in general I’ve worked hard throughout, I seem to always do well in the first part of the up cycle. This by itself was an amazing discovery- that the sea level has more to do with the outcome, than just the effort you do. Over time, I am beginning to see these not only as business or financial cycles, but as large emotional cycles.

Consider the adage in a up market the bears say:

This can’t last,” while the bulls say, “no, this time it’s different.”

And in a down market the bulls say:

This can’t last” while the the bears say, “No, this time it’s different.”

What are the forces that drive us to feed off the negative energies of others and in a down cycle feel fear? Yet being realistic at the same time and understanding that life will be different and business will be harder and slower in those times. How can one see the fear, feel the fear, but not allow yourself to be brought down and controlled by it? Or simply, how can one feel the emotion, let it exist, yet keep our minds separate from what is going on.

One of the best examples of trying to avoid this was when the down cycle started at Glam last year. There was the famous email in Silicon Valley that said, “fire 50% of your employees and prepare to not survive.” This created a massive reaction, with employees being fired, people changing their plans, and an overall deep recession. The interesting thing is that many of the companies actually did not have business models, and this created the start of many companies shutting down. Everyone was affected by this and the mood was very very negative.

Given the number of times me and my team that been through these cycles, we decided to take a different approach. We changed our plan in anticipation of the slow down, trying to be as realistic as we could, however, we wanted to listen to the actual market to see what the opportunity really was absent our fears. This led to a plan that believed that we would grow, although at a slower rate than the earlier years, in an environment that everyone assumed, planned for and thus manifested huge losses and lower revenue.

The important thing here was that we listened to the environment and created a plan based on that, not on the raw emotion that was running through the valley. If the reality would have told us that the markets will be down considerably, for example in real estate, we would have acted differently. This grounding in being open, yet not falling in the trap of fear allowed us to buck all the major trends, delivering 40-50% growth is the toughest part of the recession. This also could have been applied to the top part of the market, where the emotions of hyper growth forever were, in fact, not consistent with the realities of the market and a more conservative approach would have helped many companies.

The learning here was to learn about fear and what creates and grows it, and the ability to understand it and finally use it in our lives. The market cycles are at some level, the sum of the emotional states of the people, so to understand this, we do need to understand what creates growth and what leads to fear in people and markets.


Fear as a personal emotion.

This is a much more personal subject. Fear is one of he lowest of the emotional tone specially when not expressed or deeply repressed.

Starting as a baby, one of the first reaction “built-in” is taking the fetal position in dropped suddenly. We come pre-wired with this reaction as a saving ourselves from the force of gravity. This reaction uses many of our flexor muscles and we create a pattern of using our body to support and keep fear in this way from then on. This remarkable discovery was first talked about by Moshe Feldenkrais, and remains one of the deep principles that have helped understand emotions.

From this starts our fear pattern, anytime we feel danger of any kind, we repeat these patterns, creating over time the “red light” posture as Thomas Hanna describes it.

I have never met a person in deep fear that does not also have the matching fear posture. Repressed fear leads to grief. Repressed grief leads to feeling depressed that leads to more serious apathy.


One of the examples Dub Leigh always used was watch a game on TV at the end with the sound turned off. You’ll always know who won by the people that have their hands up in the air and their postures tall and open, and the ones that lost would be crouched down and low.

This is our way of dealing with fear, unfortunately, we pull it in ourselves.

So how do we develop a sense of fear without pulling it deep within us. One of the easiest ways to get mislead is the concept of not feeling fear- specially wrapped up in the messages boys receive- don’t cry, don’t feel fear, etc. There is possibly nothing more damaging than any message that tells us not to feel what we are actually feeling. This alienates our self and creates a whole new set of issues that leads to many many hours spent with our therapists to undo. This is also a trap I see many students of the eastern ways fall into, don’t feel angry does nothing but the opposite of getting you closer to happiness. Many young people who read Ayn Rand fall into another related trap, being for the individual and rational does not mean not listening to your emotions. There is nowhere that Ayn actually said this, but it became enough of an issue that she had to try to explain it in her later years.

There is actually no way to stop feeling what you are in the moment. You can only change what you feel after the moment you felt it has passed.

Fear, like any other emotion, first needs to be allowed space to exist. All emotions are a door. And fear is a door that says there is something that may harm us. Being able to stop and breathe and see the emotion changes its grip on us. We can them have the possibility of looking at the situation and seeing what harm is actually possible or imagined. This is what it is all about.

What about the fears that are now deep within all of us? What so you do with your past?


The work is to look at them- by whatever modality that works for you where you are now. Looking, seeing, understanding, exploring and releasing fears is the only way we can get past them. Anything we don’t get past is brought to the present with us and effects our now and future. The only way to be fearless, is to start by relasing old fears. As Nietzsche said, “if you are not afraid to die, you are strangely free to live.”

What tools can you use to learn the practice of fearlessness? That to come in future posts…

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

The Way of Business: Endō or how to develop yourself through work


I’sen ko-shin ni ataru

One arrow hits the red core/center

With all the news starting with Enron a few years ago to the shocking frauds in business there is an urgent need for helping build core values that should be at the core of everything we do. This internal compass or principles is at the heart of the issue behind so many stories we hear. What is this core and how does one go about developing it?

Learning from the practice of “Budō” with “bu” meaning martial or war, and “dō” meaning the way or Sanskrit mārga (meaning the “path” to enlightenment). Bu also means the cease the struggle, or to find peace and mastery in the self. I have always thought, if the way of the warrior can if followed by the focus, be a path of enlightenment, then why has no one created a way or dō for business? It was with these thoughts I started to think about a new path: “Endō” as a way for entrepreneurs or enterprise business leaders. Founding a new dō is not something I could find any books on, kind of like Richard Bach in his books following the unexpected success of Jonathan and Illusions saying “I wanted a book on how to spend a million dollars, and all I could find was hundred on books on how to make a million dollars.” Interestingly, I found a lot of material on the way of the Arts, or Ethics at work, but non to simply say “I want to be on a path of self actualization through the pursuit of business.”


This reminds me of the concept that Ayn Rand talks about, where businessmen are considered “practical” or “traders” and usually not associated with anything profound or deep. Her article “Philosophy, who needs it?” and her insight on the fact that businessmen more than ever need a philosophical basis is more true than ever right now when the words CEO not just mean leader, visionary, jobs & wealth creator, but have increasingly being smeared by examples of fraud, cheat, not-loyal and hard lies. Yes, I do feel more than ever, this is the time to create a new way or path so the future leaders will have a sense of the profound in a life that has been lived following a path at work. It was interesting to read in the Inc. 500 who people singled out as inspiration: “Mom, Dad and Ayn Rand” in the September 2009 list.

The other reasons for building a way is the number of leaders I meet as peers that are so unhappy at the height of their careers. They’ve followed a career from business school or hands on experience or both, done everything they thought is the way to build your career only to find a strange sense of not having found something or emptiness at the end of it. A path of such dedication and work, should bring with it a sense of yourself, peace and happiness always. Again the words of Francisco in Atlas Shrugged come to mind “Money is a mover, an end result. Anyone who pursues it as the goal usually finds it does not bring happiness.”

So what should Endō or the Way of Business be?

Lets start with dō, or the way. How do you walk a path? How do you start? It’s not just about learning the skills of Business. What is the goal of being on a path? Do you need a teacher? What do you do everyday?

If you look at Bushidō or the Way of the Samurai (shi means the warrior) as an example, it has a few simple principles:

1. Gi: Making the “right” decisions with the right attitude or rectitude – the Rightness of principle or practice, following rules prescribed for moral conduct

2. Yu: Bravery or courage from the heart

3. Jin: Benevolence or open love and compassion

4. Rei: Right Action out of respect and courtesy

5. Makoto: Honesty, integrity, sincerity and truthfulness

6. Melyo: Honor and glory

7. Chugo: Loyalty, devotion

How can we take this level of focus and development to our western world of instant gratification? How can we bring a secular, non-religious belief system that could layer in to your own system, yet allow a focused development over time. Given how little time is spent of a code for business other than legal or ethics classes, how can we create easy tools that people can use to develop themselves.

When I started on my path, I was filled with great doubt and questions. I did not believe that I needed a”path” or anything like that. In the end, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went in placing my doubt aside but not my relentless questions. Over time, the questions led to other questions, that led to doors I did not even know existed. And now I feel a sense of peace underlying an everyday sense of learning and growth. This balance in the duality of finding a still place, while everything is moving serves a metaphor that repeats over and over again in my life. “It’s like a spinning top,” as Taisen Deshimaru says. “One might think of it as motionless, but it is all motion; one can only see its motion when it starts or slows down in the end. Tranquility in movement…is the secret of Budo”

To keep things simple, a code of business could start with:

1. Right Attitude

2. Right Thinking

3. Right Actions

4. Be Brave

5. Be Honest

6. Be Loyal

7. Be Kind

This is my first pass, always trying to simplify simplify simplify! How does one develop oneself with these 7 simple ways is something I will explore in the posts to come.

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Art of Continuous Change or the World transformed by William Edwards Deming


Hobo seifu okoru

At each step, the clear wind arises

It was the early days of computing, and an average project at Apple ran 3-4 years. It was then I started to notice something – the longer the project, the more the delays. Something about the complexity of people working together over a period of time in a new field called software. Was very hard to do the 3 things: Features, Time, and Quality. And over and over the teams ended up on features that took much longer or had poor quality, that took even longer to fix. Specially complex were the operating systems and large applications.

W._Edwards_DemingIn one of these times, I was introduced to Deming.

Most people have not heard of Deming, or if they have, as a name after World War II – largely in manufacturing or sometimes as one of the core reasons Japan went from bad cheap transistor radios that break to the world leader in design and quality. Who was this man, and how was his learning essential for the web?

Here is what Wikipedia says about him:

“A number of Japanese manufacturers applied his techniques widely and experienced theretofore unheard of levels of quality and productivity. The improved quality combined with the lowered cost created new international demand for Japanese products.”

“The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation. A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside. The aim of this chapter is to provide an outside view—a lens—that I call a system of profound knowledge. It provides a map of theory by which to understand the organizations that we work in.

“The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.”

Gregory_Abowd-June2004Fast forward to 1992, the world wide web was still not known. A professor at Georgia Tech Gregory D. Abowd had decided to teach a course to computer science and design students on something that was developing in Silicon Valley called Rapid Prototyping Design based on the pioneering work that the team at Rae Technology was doing. The ideas started at Apple, but really got developed as a process at Rae.

In Alan Kay’s words – a point of view is worth a 100 IQ points.

What was interesting about this was by taking the view that projects should be done on very short time schedules, you not only change the point of view, you introduce the idea that it is far better to try and do and learn then plan and do perfectly. Or simply put, in Deming’s words, quality is not a by-product or secondary goal – it needs to be designed in the process. This simple notion is transformative- at a personal level in companies and in society at large.

One of the times I was with Nathaniel Brandon in LA, we spoke about this idea. His books talk about bringing 1% change in your life. The same principle here. How do you abandon the idea of a long term future where perfection exists, only to realize that you never actually can get there. And embrace the idea that you need short and mid-term projects with long term vision.

This idea that Deming had was a very big idea, and it has influenced my focus on the “process” and undoubtedly has lead to many successes in my life. What does this mean to me? This gets to the heart of creativity and productivity. After leaving Apple, I started to experiment with this – what would happen if we completely changed the way things were and instead of long large projects, we would start something small.

The largest change was to create a process around “Date, Quality, Features” instead of “Features, Date, Quality.” Today, this is deep in the vocabulary of the Internet and technology & media development. Getting products launched fast, that work, and then evolving creates an intimate bond with users. They are a part of what you build. As an example, NetObjects Fusion continued to have 10,000′s of “fans” because they helped participate in the building pf the product. Their ideas were heard and captured and responded to early part of the cycle.

Today, in the age of open source and Twitter, where information and media have become “real-time” it is good to look back and see how this was created. The human processes and focus are as much a part of the technological and social changes we have seen in the last decade as the ideas themselves. Also important is the notion of evolving and learning, as opposed to our focus on perfection. Being early or first makes a big difference.

Glam is a fascinating study in this. The company with focus on Vertical Media targeting women, is always on the technological try and build process. Some projects stick and have survived, others tried and merged into learning or newer projects. Perhaps it is this process and curiosity that allowed a company like Glam to launch one of the first “Real-time” applications on Twitter- before Twitter became a household name. This discovery and creativity allows for teams to come together and work and release things that can be category changing. I remain a firm believer that a culture that supports rapid prototyping, supports learning and evolving, ultimately supports innovation.

Even business plans can be like this. Startups in Silicon Valley wait far too long sometimes before trying something new. A culture of innovation needs to be flexible and above all – fast.

I launched one of the applications that was built using this process in 1992 for Macintosh. As many of you know, the entire architecture of Mac- hardware and operating system has gone through complete change, and to my surprise and excitement, it worked flawlessly. A great reminder to me of the Art of Continuous Change helping create long lasting value.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Win, then Strike: the Art of Strategy, Takuan Soho Writings from a Zen Master to a Samurai


Victorious warriors win first and then go to war

Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

If there is but one Art of Strategy I would use before launching a product, a company or going up against a competitor, it would be this one. Far too many times you see people jump into a conflict, without thinking through the strategy of how to win. Once you are in the battlefield, Art of Strategy reduces to the Art of Street-fighting and its too late in most cases other than a lengthy drawn out conflict to easily win.

Ultimately, if possible I would change the first rule to: Win, without striking. Asking the question, Are you likely to succeed. If so how, and if not, what can you do to succeed.

Many a warrior has used this technique. Part of it is getting ready in mind or in attitude to win. But the art is actually deeper.

My path to understanding this came after many years at Apple, where we launched product after product, only to find ourselves always getting killed by Microsoft. True the products were always better in design, quality and ease of use. Yet we would find Microsoft at every step, out flanking any move that Apple made. It was only later that Apple changed its strategy, instead of Macintosh “for the rest of us” it became Macintosh for “design and desktop publishing” In doing so, Apple survived and grew to be a great company, only to almost lose it all, and then like a phoenix, rising again under Steve Jobs.

By the time I was running Glam, this was used very effectively by the team. Glam became #1 before it went out and became known as the leader. The focus was to reach Number One, or win and then strike right through it in the market.

How does one build the Art of Strategy? How does one learn to think like that? How does one bring the Way of the Warrior in everything you do?


Tshua-Roshi Starts by placing the arrow

Quick, look, has the arrow already struck the target?


Just like Al Ries says in the Positioning: the battleground of the mind- Winning in positioning is meaningless, unless one wins in the minds of the people.

It starts with your attitude and then your thoughts. Have you won in your mind? Are you sure this is something you can and want to win? Are you being realistic and honest, yet pushing yourself to your maximum limits? Do you consider success as a reality?

In many ways, this is one of the most common things I see with leaders, visionaries, CEO’s, and founders. The ability to see the future and plan for it.

The Art of Strategy goes deeper. Not just to win in your mind, but to be able to see you and the world in a way victory is possible. This is the most elusive part. Josh Stein, one of the talented VC’s at DFJ says this many times- “You are dealing with running the company now, but are planning and working through things 6 months to 1 year ahead of time.” Winning in your mind is not just seeing the future, it is seeing the present, the full real Now, and every step along the way, the world around you and your competitors, their mind and moves, and the work it will take to win, the execution and the follow through to ensure the victory.

Fudochi Shimmyo Roku

Takuan Soho

Essential Dialog for Developing the Mind

In the writings on the way to train your mind in Fudochi, or unmovable wisdom, the question is asked “where to place your mind?” For me this has been a source of tremendous learning and focus. Lets take the example of Win, then strike. Is your mind placed on the winning or the striking? One of the reasons we hold training to build the team on Art of Strategy is that this is a path that needs learning, time and experience. (Takuan Soho is the zen master who also known for the little yellow daikon pickles “takuan” that you enjoy in Japanese Food!)

For beginners, the mind is asked to be placed at one place or focus on one step at a time. At work, this would mean taking a long term goal, and as Steven Covey suggests, break it down to mid-term an then to short term baby steps. The mind is placed on these baby steps, as we learn to build ourselves. With time, the mind can be placed at the whole. Sort of like hearing Bach’s music without following one of instruments in a Fugue, or seeing the sky not only the moon. Then with time, the mind can be placed anywhere- seeing the whole or parts without loosing the experience. Finally the mind can be free to be anywhere and  nowhere. Always, as we transcend through the barrier, there is always a duality that breaks through our beliefs. That is the goal of learning the Art of Strategy and practicing it in our everyday lives.

Takuan says: “If you place your mind in the action of your opponent, the mind will be taken by the action of the opponent. If you place your mind in the sword of your opponent, it will be taken by the sword. If you place it at the intention of the opponent, it will be taken by the thoughts of the opponent to strike you. If you place it on your own intention of not being struck, it will be taken by your own thoughts. If you put it in the posture of the opponent, it will be taken by the other person’s posture.” What this means is there is no place to put the mind. Not stopping the mind is the object and essence and takes training and discipline. Put nowhere, the mind can be everywhere. If not restricted to one direction, it can be in all.

Once we have found a way to place the mind nowhere, it becomes our tool and we are free of it. Again, another path that leads to the way. But how to train the mind? That is another story, one with kings, treasure and gifts…

There is the story from The Zen Ways to Martial Arts of the king that wanted a fighting cock that would always win, so he asked a zen master of the samurai to help teach it the techniques of combat. After a few days the king asked if it was ready at which the zen master replied:

“No. He is strong, but his strength is empty. All he wants to do is fight.”

After a few days the king asked again to which the response was “No, not yet. He is fierce now, and looking for a fight to to test his strength.”

Again after days of training the king inquired if it was now ready. “Now, it may be possible” said the zen master. “He remains calm , his posture is good, and yet it has a lot of power deep within.”

“So we should go ahead with the fight.” said the king.

To which the zen master replied, “Possibly”.

So all the great fighting birds were brought together and the combat started. But not one would come near that one. They all looked at him and ran away terrified and he never needed to fight.”

Or as the koan goes:

Although it does not

mindfully keep guard,

the scarecrow

does not stand in vain

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Magnificence in Life: my story of Bill Campbell at Apple now at Intuit


Ro: Present, Appearance
Do-do:  Magnificent

Magnificence in Life: my story of Bill Campbell.

How one man helped me take the leap to do a startup


Bill Campbell

Apple BOD

Chairman, Intuit

Former CEO Claris

Former CEO Go Corporation

EVP Apple USA, Sales & Marketing

Former Coach (In real life :) )

It all started in 1987, when I was called to fly to Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of Apple Computer’s potential large customers we were trying to convert to Macintosh Domino’s Pizza was having some problems. A big presentation was schedule for Friday, and here it was Monday of that week and things were simply not working. I was on a plane Tuesday morning- my first visit to the Domino’s campus.

Dominos pizza

It was typical, software on PC’s was still evolving, and applications for pre-web e-commerce and brand catalogs were all done as one-offs. Tuesday to Thursday was spent in this beautiful FLW Prairie Style offices working to show how Macintosh could completely change the way Domino operated.

Friday came, a beautiful sunrise hit us as we raced to finish the last 3 days and nights work. Physically exhausted, but charged we walked into the conference room. A tall man, dressed in a suit with a big smile on his face walked over to me- giving me a big hug and loud pats on the back.

“Hello Samir, I’m Bill Campbell. Thanks for the work to help Apple USA out today.”

And that’s the first time I met Bill.


Over the years Bill became a very important mentor to me with his attitude, energy, coaching and of course the twinkle in his eyes. Probably the most important time, when I was trying to decide to do something at Apple or so a startup- Bill was at Claris as CEO. Over lunch,  I remember his words clearly to this day:

“There are only two types of companies- startups and departments of large companies. Decide what you want to be and do it 100%”

These are simple but very power words that had a deep impact on me. Coming from someone at a large corporation that had started in a garage, it really summed up what I needed thinking through. I realized I wanted to go back to my roots as an entrepreneur, and this was one of the most life changing decisions I made.

Following this period in history, Bill left Claris to become CEO of Go, as Apple did not spin-off Claris completely- it remained in Bill words, a department of a large company. Bill went on to become CEO of Go, then Intuit, and finally returned to Apple as Chairman of the Board and helped many companies and CEO’s like Google in Silicon Valley.

I chose the words Magnificence in the present or appearance as it captures this wonderful person. I remain very fond of Bill, as he continues his path as Chairman of Intuit and on Apple Computer’s Board helping people everyday through his essence.

Here are some words from Bill from his article in Fortune by Jennifer Reingold:

Think big with talent
Campbell believes startups often hire “early stage” people without thinking about whether they will succeed as the company grows. They should instead hire major players who know how to scale up. Once they’re in, Campbell uses a review system that measures four areas: on-the-job performance – the typical quantitative goals; peer group relationships; management/leadership, or how well you develop the people around you; and innovation/best practices.

Be honest – and accountable
“I remember him describing me as a human missile,” says Danny Shader, CEO of Jasper Wireless, who at the time was a disgruntled employee at Go Corp. Campbell, the CEO, sat him down, saying, “Here are a bunch of things you need to do to improve yourself and things that I need to do.” By talking straight with employees – and committing to helping them succeed – Campbell helps create a team dynamic.

Skip the chief operating officer
Most Campbell-led or -mentored companies (Google and Intuit, for example) have no COO. Campbell thinks the COO often takes over management details that the CEO should be deeply involved in. And COOs often end up isolated, with star managers insisting on reporting to the CEO.

Invest in the future
Campbell believes technology companies should never slack on innovation. “He is a huge advocate of having to be on the leading edge,” says Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, Opsware, and Ning. “He was always on us [at Opsware] with the budget about having to invest more in R&D.”

Empower the engineer
Campbell thinks engineers are the innovation core of any tech company. Giving engineers the freedom to create, free of marketing dictates, is critical. On Campbell’s suggestion, Intuit CEO Brad Smith gave his engineers four hours a week of unstructured time. The result: six new products in the past year.
In closing
Bill has spent years behind the scenes in Silicon Valley as a friend, mentor and coach to many people. As  Intuit founder Scott Cook said once, “This is a story that needs to be told.” He is really a magnificent human being and someone that really helped shape and mentor my management style and the desire to give back by helping mentor and see the potential in people as future leaders.