About a year ago, I was attempting to tame Illustrator for my first print-quality poster, under the theme of an alphabet depiction for a graduate course in the School of Information. Highly recommend SI 520: Graphic Design! Definitely a school I wish I’d explored a little more thoroughly during my time here at U of M.
Earlier this fall, I found myself quietly taking note of my half birthday—marking six (!) more months left as a 19-year-old. I took note of many changes: where I live, who I surround myself with, where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, goals fulfilled and goals still just that—goals.
One of my favorite authors, Philip Delves Broughton, once told me that you are who are you by 18. I generally agree. I still feel the same. My interests are similar, and though certain ideas and things have lost the old shiny newness they once held—my attraction to them can no longer be seen as fleeting, instead now more a long-term relationship tied to the fabric of who I’ve become. One element that remains constant is Startup Weekend.
This weekend we celebrate and commence another weekend of ideas and companies coming to life at Startup Weekend Ann Arbor III. 3 years ago, I was probably as crazy as I am today. In the first 14 weeks of freshman year, alongside my dearest partner-in-crime Dan Lee, we raised over $5k to run this. Since then, we’ve seen 10+ companies come through every year, over 150 pitches circulate, and countless supporters from Boston, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and beyond. We’ve seen classes of students come and go, scores of morning nerves and midnight epiphanies. It never gets old.
Many thanks to everyone who continually make this possible for the greater Michigan community. Thanks for believing in a crazy 17-year-old, thanks for believing in Startup Weekend, thanks for saying yes to this roller coaster ride.
P.S. Another ride is currently under construction. Details to come soon :)
"9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People." "7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on LinkedIn." "5 Toxic Beliefs that Ruin Careers." "7 Habits of Extraordinary Teams."
Just one glance across Twitter feeds, glossy magazine pages, or general business directed articles yield a grandiose amount of listed advice. It seems that there are 7 secrets to anything and everything, 5 things you should always be doing before breakfast, and 8 constant takeaways to cram in.
As I rummage my brain for anything of value I’ve consumed lately, none of it appears in a neat list form. Yet psychologically, I, like many readers, am so instantly drawn to these articles proclaiming steps and bullet points and to do’s to sweep the world with a magic how-to wand.
But where have these steps truly taken us? Are we any more enriched? Any stronger? Any more fulfilled? Probably not. In fact, likely the contrary. We’re bogged down by advice, stressed with more to do’s on top of to do’s, with words that will prove to be more than forgettable down the line.
Instead, there are many more ways to put our thirst for knowledge to practice. Try reading material scoping out the world beyond your typical line of sight. Facts are hard to remember, details even more so, but oftentimes what sticks is the great concept at hand. A biography can expose the instincts of the person in question, a novel or poem inspiring ideas otherwise lost in a mirage of numbered lists.
There is no neatly paved garden path for everyone, so why should we rely on broadly stamped how-to advice to constitute so much of our knowledge? Instead, we can sculpt our own garden, plant our own crops, pick our own fertilizer. A nugget here, a seed there, bringing together a vast array of insights.
They are called classics for a reason. A reason why Aristotle, Thoreau, Franklin—all names that live through the ages. Perhaps it’s time to put away the minute snippets and indulge yourself in the deeply cultivated words of our forefathers, history makers, and men of thought.
Too mighty for the Bold."
— Emily Dickinson, 1252
For the next six weeks, I will not have access to internet or phone…or really anything needing a power outlet.
For someone who wakes up to NYTimes on her iPhone, leaves not one tweet unchecked, Flipboards before bed, engrossed in tech startups on the daily for the past 3 years, with heavy doses of 200+ email onslaughts per day, this will be quite the foreign experience.
It’s one of UofM’s great hidden gems—the New England Literature Program. 6 weeks, 8 credits of 3 classes, 40 incredible people, and 3+ mountains to climb.
I’m a nervous, excited, scared shitless tangle of energy.
I’m excited to correspond with friends by snail mail, to lay my fingers over not a backlit keyboard, but a typewriter, to spend time outdoors, to be in tune with a world without screens, to think, to write, to reflect.
I think more than missing any device, service, or habit, I’ll miss my family.
Letters and mail are more than welcome, in the meantime! Feel free to write to:
P.O. Box 998
Raymond, Maine 04071
Econ 101 tells us it’s the foundation between scarcity and choice.
Intuition and gut tells us it’s what we want more.
We’re faced with infinite choices on a day-to-day basis, from the minute our alarm clocks thunderously announce the day, to our tired tumble under the covers after a long day…or not. Depends what you’re willing to give up.
What textbooks and teachers alike often forget, however, is the factor of time. Sure, you might give up producing fewer guns for more butter, you might take in a few more dollars by selling this new product line versus continuing an old one, but we forget to ask ourselves…how often is this event going to happen again?
Whether it’s sacrificing a few days out of your week before two exams to attend the 2012 Startup Weekend Organizers Summit, or dragging yourself out of a few hours of productivity to grab coffee with a potential sales lead, seize moments that are scarce, not simply tangible goods or returns. If the Summit only happens once a year, the only time you’ll see the greatest people you’ve ever met in one place, or when you’re only in the same town as Sarah once every five months, then get on it. Chances like these are the ones dreamers look back and say, “if only I had…” or “we almost…” Should have, could have, would have. Don’t let yourself say any of those words down the line.
It’s these moments that create stories, build bonds, and take ideas like Zaarly and launch them into action. They’re moments that can help you find a job. They’re moments, settings, people, and places you can never reconstruct.
So. Are you going to be a would’ve, could’ve, should’ve kind of person, or are you going to say, “and that’s where we did this”?
Today balloons are being filled, laughter shared, love shown. Today, my friend Dan is on nearly week 8 in the hospital, diagnosed with aplastic anemia.
Dan rocks. I could go on and on for pages about how much I love him, and how much others do, too. How generous he is, how funny, how witty, how thoughtful, how he’s always willing to give up his own time or resources to help someone else.
I could go on and on about all the memories we’ve shared. The funds we raised, the late nights we pushed through, the way he can make anyone laugh and feel comfortable.
And I could tell you about him. His sisters, his family, his manly Infiniti coupe, how he always wears nice jeans and a troublemaking grin.
Dan needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. There is a 1 in 20,000 chance that you could be the one to give away a part of you to save a whole of him. For those of you away from Ann Arbor, here’s how you can help. It only takes a little piece of you to light up another life.
Stay tuned for the launch of DansOurMan.com.
Hi. You’re not right for me. This isn’t going to work because of a, b, and c. Even more so now that you’ve just committed d. Here’s a feel better package, but after that you need to leave. Simply put, you’re fired.
There’s no easy way to say it. Whether you’re ending a business or personal relationship, your message is as clear as, "We are not a match. You are not helping me, and I am not helping you. Please leave."
In my time serving on MPowered’s executive team, one of the deepest and lasting learning experiences has been in learning when to let go—if at all. Whether it’s a peer, a fellow leader, or friend, it never gets any easier. But there’s certainly ways to make the road a little less rocky, and taste a little more like mint chocolate chip.
- Leave the emotions at home. Tensions are high. Emotions are the last thing this recipe for disaster needs. Be cognizant of your body language, your tone, and most importantly, your volume. It’s in our nature to mirror the person across from us, and once things have escalated, there’s no turning back.
- Use specific examples. Be ready to refer to specific straws that have broken the camel’s back. Avoid accusations, and instead point to ways that the person on the other end has broken your contract, agreement, or collaboration. Facts will have never seemed so friendly, and instead of fingerpointing with “You did x” or “You didn’t understand y,” speak for yourself! Try “I feel that when you did x” or “I think you didn’t understand y.”
- Anticipate reactions. You can never fully prepare yourself for the reaction on the other end, but it doesn’t hurt to empathize. There’s no reason to be unnecessarily harsh or meek if that’s not either yours or his/her style. Be deliberate in your delivery.
- Keep it in person, not on paper…or print! Two words: email forwarding. Sound scary? It is.
- Short, sweet, and safe. Concise, to-the-point statements will carry you through, and lessen the pain for both sides of the table. Now’s not the time for long-winded goodbyes, or a recap of an annual performance report. Focus on the issues at hand and what has provoked this act.
- End on a positive note. It’s over. Why scold, nag, or be upset? After all, this is a person you’ve worked with, and at least at one point (if not still) enjoyed being around! Have a heart. We all do. And you never know when you’ll cross paths again.
In most cases, be sure to come in with a decision already made. Stick to your gut, always remember why, and don’t trip on the way over.
At the end of the day, this should be your very last resort. Letting people go not only distorts your team dynamic, it also sets you back in performance and transitioning is certainly no easy feat—both emotionally and at work.
Better yet—this can be easily steered clear of! Set expectations early (even better if they’re in writing), and always check in! Great collaboration is a two-way street, requiring signals and movement from both ends.
Great leadership is not about control or delegation. It’s about inspiring the team, laying a foundation of common ground, common goals, and a united mission to build, create, and innovate.
In the new year, I need becomes I want, I should becomes I will or I will not, and I can’t becomes I choose not to.
Your choices, your hopes, your wants, your needs, your dreams are all your very own. What they become is borne of your creations and actions.
Let’s build something lasting, something sustainable, and something meaningful. Let’s take leaps of faith. Let’s take a smart risk or two. I’m ready for 2012, are you?
One of the very best gifts my parents has ever bestowed upon me is my brother. Better than any doll because he never breaks. Better than any gift card because he’s never spent. Better than any single surprise because he’s full of them. He is my brother and therefore one half of me. He is one half of all that I see, I hear, I feel, I think, I learn. He is my most persistent teacher and I am his most persistent fan. His ears and thoughts double as my Pandora’s box. He’s shown me that anything is possible. He’s shown me that ideas are only letters and punctuation without action. He’s shown me I have much yet to learn. He’s first to point out my flaws and I am first to point out his. He is my best friend in every sense of the word. Through all of life’s trials and tribulations, all of its leaps and laughter, he is the goofy, gut-wrenching, (sometimes) garrulous gift that keeps on giving.
I think the bubble is popping. After a month of taking in its comforts and discomforts, I’m attempting to slowly slip out of its all-consuming powers.
The college bubble. With the onset of classes, orientations, student organization meetings, events, parties, and more, the ends of the earth felt as if they were closing on the tips of State Street and South University. While the resources are vast, the support is incredible, and the experience is one-of-a-kind, like any community, the college one has its drawbacks.
40,000 students. 40,000 experiences, pathways, backgrounds, families. Yet too often we surround ourselves with the same old—in our organizations, in our industries, in our friendships. Despite our perceptions, do remember that it is in difference there lies the potential to contribute. A more dynamically diverse (both intellectually and culturally) team can power a much stronger engine. You have all the tools you need to learn and succeed by age five. And you can learn from a five year old. From a fifty year old. Surround yourself with a little something new. Get out of the building. Get out of campus. Instead of passively absorbing content someone else is spewing at you, create your own content for a change. Actively seek what you want to know. Actively know that a little different is a little better.
Humble pie. Tastewise, it may be on the same level as Popeye’s spinach and brussels sprouts. But an extra helping or two might just be what the doctor ordered.
It’s a fine tightrope to walk between possessing complete self-confidence and complete conceitedness. But possessing humility is a rare asset.
By tossing the gem of humility in your toolbox, you’ll find that you’re learning, not to mention hearing, much more than before. Throughout my summer at the Kauffman Foundation, I was continually both humbled by and struck by the humility of those that surrounded me. Whether in a contained work environment or between the streets of South University and State, it’s all too easy to trip up on your tightrope of confidence + conceitedness.
As a very wise Munro Richardson of the Kauffman Foundation has once guided me:
Be willing to say “I don’t know.” Don’t worry about perceptions. There is little admiration for those with an answer for everything—instead, try practicing listening. You might come across a golden nugget you wouldn’t have had you only been practicing answering.
In classes, tests, and exams, we’re consistently punished for saying “I don’t know.” Yet avoiding such an admission is avoiding a learning opportunity. We’re taught that the Hermione Grangers of the world are the ones to emulate, yet why is that she plays a supporting role in many of her adventures?
From the words of Danny O’Neill of the Roasterie Coffee:
Put on your sales hat and ask, “What can I do for you?” Sellers and consultants are most often pegged as ‘good with people.’ They’re willing to step back, eliminating the “I,” and reconsider whose agenda is on the table. Expect to give and take. Too often, we are so wrapped up in our own goals that the true reciprocated value of a potential relationship is lost in the glories of “networking,” of overeagerly selling our personal wants.
And finally, with the help of Munro:
Pick your fights and pick your buttons wisely. In class discussions, team meetings, weekly updates, and more, that knee-jerk reaction to speak out against a differing opinion or idea may spill over in negativity or overconfidence. Put in your own cost benefit analysis—is it worth it to pick this fight? Rather than insisting on your way or the highway, will it pay off to play devil’s advocate instead—rooting for the underdog? Will it pay off to compromise? Put yourself in another’s shoes. What’s the root cause of this opinion?
Jumping at every opening to argue your way might feel like a win, but you may load up on a large dose of backfiring. By lending yourself to such situations, you’ve automatically labeled yourself as the overbearing antagonist. Instead of being a problem pointer, try being a problem solver. Sure, a dose of compromise doesn’t seem to serve as the tastiest complement to humble pie, but perhaps it will pave the way to a stronger relationship. A new relationship is like a new hire—you need to be willing to provide guidance and commitment to make it work.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about snagging your very own slice of humble pie—and keep in mind, just like with any of Grannie’s famous pies, humble pie is simply pie; a dessert, not a substantial meal. A small amount goes a long, long way, whether you’re headed to class, to an interview, or to a meeting and more.
I am the product of cheetah parents. Unlike the big cats, they do not roar, but they purr. They have semi-retractable claws (key word: semi). They are fast, they are fearless, and they are formidable both as hunters and as family protectors.
Growing up, my parents were unlike their tiger counterparts—I did not attend Chinese school on the weekends, I was encouraged to pursue interests in drama and the arts, and yes, I received my fair share of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
They always said yes. Yes to anything I wanted to pursue; they never cringed at my constant piano and swimming bills, my tuition, my books, my magazine subscriptions, or all the trivial things a growing girl requests. But the yes always came with a stipulation; they wanted to see me put my all into it. They hoped I would appreciate it, they dreamed I would achieve the very same dreams that filled my sleep at night. Nothing was ever simply given outright—it was earned, and only then deserved. As my long-awaited sixteenth birthday neared, my parents weren’t about to fork over a car simply because I now held a plastic card to freedom. Since I was twelve, I knew the rule—any car was mine, if, and only if, I received award recognition at the state level for one of my academic and extracurricular pursuits.
They taught me the power of resilience, the power of perspiration, the power of dogged tenacity. And now, as I round up my first summer away from home, I’ve begun to wonder…have I been bred to become an entrepreneur?
In Mark Suster’s series on Entrepreneur DNA, he lists 12 attributes to possess to become a successful entrepreneur. But is there any kind of training that might encourage these traits? Where are these qualities most persistent? Most accessible? Most dominant? Most visible?
Does playing team sports build entrepreneurs? It sure helps in the competitiveness, resiliency, perspiration, and decisiveness departments!
Does playing instruments build entrepreneurs? You’re taught to pay attention to detail, to put in the hours, to continue to iterate on your previous attempts at a piece.
Are science labs the secret ingredient behind producing lean startup experts? Spending hours in the lab equates to hours of experimenting, testing, measuring, and even pivoting.
Perhaps Momma Xiao was onto something. Perhaps she wasn’t. In any case, Cheetah Mom, thanks.
We all have a bucket list, but what are we waiting for? Why is it that we collect these hopes and desires only to note, “I want to do this someday,” and prioritize monetary needs before anything else? Why is it that society influences our youngest generations to work 80, 90, 100 hour weeks when they are in their prime, in their 20s? When they could be exploring so many things beyond the walls of their cubicle, beyond the ends of an Excel spreadsheet. But instead, we save all these things for our so-called bucket list, which simply collects dust as we proceed through the expected stages of life. Why not save the crazy workweeks for later? When, perhaps, after exploring so many new things, after allowing ourselves to explore so many new facets of the world, we may be much more informed? Our perspectives may be broadened, our relationships may be stronger, our minds more mature, and our lives more fulfilled.
More to come soon. Current reads: Success Built to Last, the Audacity to Win, Ahead of the Curve, and the Alchemist.
I have been eighteen years old for just over ten days, and I feel ten times more enlightened, and more humbled already.
In ten days, I’ve left my hometown of Seattle for my first trip to the Big Apple, attending TechCrunch Disrupt. Day twelve finds me in Kansas City, Missouri, for my second day as an intern at the Kauffman Foundation.
Over the course of countless panels, fireside chats, and meeting entrepreneurs across the globe, Disrupt served a great launchpad in identifying the next big trends in tech, in addition to opening up new questions and thoughts to ponder.
We are on the brink of a “societal revolution,” as Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures puts it. As founders, we are revolutionizing the way people approach a problem. As leaders, we are revolutionizing how people think and behave. As students, we are revolutionizing the way our peers + our following generations view the world. As MPowered members, we are revolutionizing the way our campus evolves, empowering them to embrace entrepreneurship + entrepreneurial thinking as a way of life.
Such a revolution requires noise. It requires interaction among many parties, and it requires collaboration and compromise as well. It requires the promise of achieving a remarkable end result.
Such a revolution requires certain key players. It requires founders, leaders, and strong team members. Are good founders always good leaders? Are good leaders always good entrepreneurs?
These are questions I continue to search answers for as summer @ Kauffman progresses. My biggest question lies here—what are the traits that produce a great entrepreneur? While many have tackled this question, from Mark Suster to Thomas Zurbuchen and more, perhaps we can also examine the behaviors that lead us to become entrepreneurs. Is it the competitive streak from playing sports throughout those teenage years? Is it the persistence of learning an instrument as a child? Perhaps a better understanding of where this entrepreneurial mindset stems from the is the first step to igniting an even more powerful societal revolution.
What are your thoughts? Post to follow soon.
—And parents: instead of yet another bundle of gift cards, jewelry, or gadgets, considering purchasing your child a ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt for their next birthday. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to the Kauffman Foundation for the great opportunity + ongoing summer of learning!
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