Archive for the ‘Mentors’ Category

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Goodbye Steve Jobs, Seriously

Follow your heart

Steve Jobs "Fearless Leaders" © Doug Menuez

Steve Jobs "Fearless Leaders" © Doug Menuez

Today, October 5th, 2011 I heard the news that my mentor Steve Jobs had passed away. All I could do is to leave my office, go down to my car and drive down 280 on this rainy evening in Silicon Valley. I felt the waves of emotion hit me as the images of the past flashed through my heart and trickled down like tiny rain drops from my moist eyes. Nothing can describe the feeling driving home tonight, with deep, dark clouds of the first winter rain parting far away with bright rays of sunshine lighting up the sky facing south towards Cupertino.

Words from the Lament in Evita came rushing up in me:

Remember, I was very young then…

The choice was mine, and mine completely
I could have any prize that I desired
I could burn with the splendor of the brightest fire
Or else, or else I could choose time

Remember I was very young then
And a year was forever and a day
So what use could fifty, sixty, seventy be?
I saw the lights, and I was on my way

And how I lived, how they shone
But how soon the lights were gone

I realized as I started to write this blog post that the last time I wrote was about my letter to Steve when he left Apple. There was so much to said, so much history, so many feelings since that moment to now.

Changing the world, one person at a time

Apple Quote, circa 1984

I know there will be thousands of people talking about him and what he did for computing, I feel all I can do is talk about how he changed my life. The only way to tell the story is to start at the last incidence that brought up how deeply he influenced my life.

I was passing through Kyoto, taking in the beauty and energy of it in last time, and through the knife maker “Aritsugu-san” whose family generations ago made samurai swords, discovered a wonderful Japanese hinoki and sugi wood craftsmen. After seeing his art, I asked if I could get a few items, to which he replied—please write down what you would like. he opened his book, all in Japanese with orders, and I started to order the items I had selected, only to see that the last entry was for Steve Jobs, with his Silicon Valley home address.

I guess your best teachers are the one that light up parts of you that you didn’t even know you didn’t know about.

Steve was like that for me.

My love for design, creative artists, technology, products, hardware, software, engineering, architecture, music, movies, innovation, and changing the industry would never have been actualized if it was not for Steve. Having a visionary that brought together these sides is not something you see in a leader or mentor in the US. I was always told growing up that I needed to choose- Science or Art. Sports or Nerds. Design or Engineering. Management or Finance. Innovating or Scaling. Media or Technology. Advertising or Consumers. Marketing or Evangelism. Products or Sales.

Steve showed that you don’t have to choose either/or, but can choose both. A products can be beautifully designed, but also advanced technically. There is no other person that has embodied that better than Steve.

And of course, for me it was even more personal—I came to the US to work for Apple because of Steve. That’s the whole reason I got to do everything I did and have lived the life I have.

How do you look back and say how one person changed your entire life?

Tonight, all I can say is:

Thank you. And Goodbye Steve, Seriously.


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…

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.