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This thread on Twitter about the evolution of marketplaces is well worth a read to anyone working in that space.  Most of the low barrier, high-frequency markets have been built and marketplaces are now moving into managed services which are much more difficult.

There are still many areas where the purchase decision and actual completion of the purchase require extra work in the background.

The added complication here is that a lot of high-value marketplaces are in industries where the transactions are low frequency.  As a result, customer knowledge is low and the trust barrier to acquiring their business is high. Examples include home buying, car purchases, and in my experience energy choice.

Consequently, the largest return on $ spent in these industries is on providing the transaction layer while running lead gen on the services because the customer isn’t buying frequently enough (18+ months) to be brand loyal.

In these markets, until consumer confidence in online transaction grows or a dominant brand captures most of the share the costs to retain are too high to also offer services.

So, instead marketplaces focus on purchase & lead gen services b/c it’s the most immediate payback. If not VC backed, this creates great mailbox money for a founder.

All that to say the customer almost always has to be purchased in these markets and the services don’t buy a high frequency of repeat business. Even though their complexity/infrequency could use a high level of end to end service.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article exploring the idea that the smart home is really part of a bigger strategy for Google and Amazon to enter the electricity industry. This has been talked about for a long time amongst people in the space as it’s always been clear Amazon and Google have an interest in becoming major players in energy.

Utilities have made their usage data hard to tap into for decades. Instead of playing a key role and monetizing that data, Google and Amazon have started going around them and, just as both have collected data on our purchasing trends for years, they’ll soon be able to not only understand when we consume energy but where and how.  Energy consumption is a “footprint” of our daily lives inside of our homes.

For example, how valuable would it be for a restaurant to know I get home on average at 6P every day, go to my kitchen looking for dinner, while listening to the jazz music station on Alexa?  You can extract all of that information from the following: connected locks or garage door openers, smart lighting, smart thermostat, and Alexa or Google Home.  Or, as a TV add exec – I want to know when you are in front of your TV and buy things on Amazon.  If you use a Fire Stick, smart lights, and your phone.  I now have a pretty good idea of when to place my ads.

Additionally, only 3 areas make up most of our residential energy consumption – HVAC, water heating, and lighting.  Now that we have “smart” versions of all three algorithms will begin to estimate usage in a far more valuable way than the current techniques used by utilities.  The current methods are optimized for commodity trading, the new methods will be optimized to capture the value in our purchasing and living trends.

It’s also important to note, but not talked about here that consumer expectations are changing. Google and Amazon aren’t just tapping into data, for the most part, they make customers happy across a variety of other products. To this point, they’ve built up enough consumer trust that we’ve allowed them to enter our lives in a deeply personal way without much push back.  Meanwhile, utilities are often at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys and only thought about when things go wrong (outages and high bills).

Add these issues to things like the emergence of microgrids, storage, and more stringent rate regulations and it becomes easy to see why the current utility model is in big trouble despite increasing demand for its product and the value that can be extracted from our energy consumption data.

The overarching theme of my goals this year is to stay more focused. It requires consistently organizing and de-cluttering my schedule and mind. Knowing that this was going to be the case, I started honing in on a productivity stack in late 2018 that allowed me to spend time on deeper work.

After a few weeks of tuning, and months of experimenting with different products, I think I’ve stumbled upon a setup that works really well and wanted to share. In addition to my email and calendar, below are the products that I’m finding I’ve worked really well to help keep me moving forward with purpose.

 

Airtable

I’ve been using Airtable on and off for the last year or so, but the improvements they’ve made in usability over the last 6 months have turned me into a more loyal user.

The most useful thing I’ve built in Airtable is my Personal Relationship Manager (see above). I think of this as a happy medium between LinkedIn and my iOS contact list and the result is a curated professional network.

One of my favorite ways to use the database is the “needs” column on the contacts tab. This allows me to track the needs of my network in a quantitative way while also making better connections that are deeper than “you two should meet” across my network.

Most of the columns and tabs are self-explanatory, but one of the best features within Airtable is the ability to link multiple tables/records across a database with just a few clicks. For example, I have a “Companies” tab and an “Interactions” tab that are used for this purpose.

  • Companies: This is just a basic list all of the companies my contacts are connected with. The easiest way to do this is pulling a CSV (link) from your LinkedIn account and add the companies column from the resulting spreadsheet. This allows me to create a linked field in both the “Contacts” and “Interactions” tabs which is useful if contacts have multiple companies or interactions include multiple companies in attendance.
  • Interactions (the magic): Here is where I record all of the meetings I have with my contacts. Again, most of the fields are self-explanatory, but I’ve also included a hand-written notes column. There’s nothing like pen and paper in a meeting to show people you’re engaged and disconnected from your device plus it’s my preferred method of notetaking with a few exceptions like annotating decks or PDFs. I simply include a picture of my notes on the row once it’s over. If you take notes in something like Evernote or OneNote you could include a link to those notes instead.

Airtable is great for a multitude of things, but this is my favorite use case and highlights its flexibility extremely well. It’s also a great tool for project management and the site has several preformatted bases that you can customize to fit your needs.

OneNote

A few months ago, I purchased a Microsoft Surface Go (link) and as a result, I’ve migrated from Evernote to OneNote. I’m as surprised as anyone that I actually favor the latter over the former.

Microsoft did a fantastic job developing the stylus for the Surface and OneNote’s freeform nature allows me to take advantage including annotating PDF’s as I mentioned above. Additionally, I like the overall layout of the app much better than Evernote because it feels more like Google Docs and Word.

I use the following notebook structure:

  • My Notes – think Cabinet or Inbox in the GTD method, but more organized. I have sections in the notebook for Ian, articles useful for startups that I share regularly with founders, podcast notes, email templates plus a few more that are personalized to my work style.
  • Kindle Notes – I occasionally read on Kindle and after I complete a book I clip the notes into OneNote (link). This makes the notes more readily accessible as well as searchable.
  • Saved Tweets – I set up an IFTTT integration to have all of my linked tweets sent to OneNote with the primary goal of having them be searchable. It also acts as a bookmark system for tweets.
  • Saved Articles – see above but with Pocket
  • Diligence – resources and templates for performing due diligence on prospective companies
  • Portfolio Companies – see above but for portfolio companies. This is where I track board and touch base notes as well.

OneNote still has some work to do on recognizing handwriting for the “ink-to-text” feature and searching notes that are scanned in from handwritten work. However, it is actually really great for most things. And speaking of things…

Things3

Things3 has become my default to-do list manager and I’ve tried just about all of them. Unfortunately, Things is available only on Mac devices but that hasn’t stopped me from becoming a power user.

The ability to email your to your to-do list (hint: create a contact) and the integrated calendar view are easily the two best features of Things. The “Today” and “Upcoming” lists will not only bring in the tasks you need to get done today but also your meetings which provides a holistic look at the time period ahead.

My to-do list is largely tasks that have come from email or one-line thoughts/tasks that come into my head randomly so my to-do isn’t where the details of the work come together. That’s where I use OneNote. For example, let’s say I had this post as a to-do. In Things, it would be under my “blog” list as “Productivity Stack” then the article itself is written in OneNote.

 

This is probably more than anyone cares to know about the way I work, but I’ve always been a fan of sites like Lifehacker and My Morning Routine that highlight how others go about their days.

Hopefully sharing this post, and the granular boring details that go with it will help prevent others from going through the hassle of tinkering with a setup for months like I’ve done previously and allow them to focus GTD rather than reading about how to GTD.

One of the most popular posts I wrote in 2018 recapped the books I’d read throughout the year, so I’m bringing it back in 2019.  I’m undecided on the format so it may change from time to time, but the three most likely candidates are:

  • Three takeaways, primarily consisting of the three passages I found most interesting
  • One big lesson / theme
  • Intuitive point v. counter-intuitive point (this is my favorite, but I am unsure it will apply to every book)

Below are the books I’ve finished in 2019 in reverse chronological order.

6.  Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Making Things – William McDonough and Michael Braungart

I really enjoyed this take on the history of our industrial processes, even if I strongly disagreed with some of the takes in the middle to latter half of the book.  Early on, the break down of linear processes built for an increasingly exponential world had me nodding along as our legacy manufacturing processes were largely built with nothing but growth in mind without considering several variables we did not understand at the time.  Given what we know today, would we choose differently?  A few key takeaways:

At its deepest foundation, the industrial infrastructure we have today is linear: it is focused on making a product and getting it to a customer as quickly and cheaply without considering much else.

To achieve their universal design solutions, manufacturers design for a worst- case scenario; they design a product for the worst possible circumstance so that it will always operate with the same efficacy.

Today’s industrial infrastructure was designed to chase economic growth. It does so at the expense of other vital concerns, particularly human and ecological health, cultural and natural richness, and is unintentionally depletive of resources.

5.  Best Practices for Equity Research Analysts: Essentials for Buy-Side and Sell-Side Analysts – James Valentine

Not as helpful as I had hoped.  I was looking for a book that would help me develop new frameworks for both quantitative and qualitative financial research. This book is not that – it’s more focused on the day-to-day of a great research analyst including where to get information and time management.  I did still pick up a few helpful tips like sector analysis and critical factor flow charts, but the book spends several chapters on Excel, information sourcing, statistics, etc.. all of which I already knew.

4. Red Notice – Bill Browder

It’s not often that I read a book mostly for fun, but I heard great things about this story so I decided to give it a shot especially since I’ve been behind the pace I’d like to have for the year.  Bill Browder’s story is amazing, he certainly followed the Keith Rabois approach of being the best at one thing, unfortunately, that thing was making money in Russia.  What follows is an unbelievable story of fraud, theft, and murder by some of Russia’s top oligarchs.

3. Influence – Robert Cialdini

This book highlights the 6 principles on which we all make our decisions, it’s a great book for anyone in sales or marketing that wants to better understand the behavioral psychology behind our decision-making process.

Lesson: We all make decisions on stereotypes, our rules of thumb that classify things intuitively.  Once we see a trigger connected to one of the six principles of decision making we almost always answer in the affirmative. This process has allowed us to advance as a species in that we’ve extended the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.

2. How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone – Brian McCullough

I knew a lot of the basic history behind the web and the dot-com bubble, but this book was a fascinating story of how it all came together, fell-apart, and came together again. Highly recommend if you’re interested in learning more about the dot-com era. There’s one thing that’s clear from this book: luck and timing matter.

A few favorite takeaways:

  • Microsoft was hesitant about the internet because it didn’t see how it would make money.
  • AOL bought Time Warner after considering eBay but didn’t want to double down on the web.
  • The middle-class suffered two major bubbles within 7-8 years after being told to a) invest and hold internet stocks and b) buy a home it’s a safe investment. Both of these events are likely to have played a role in the distrust we currently see in our political and economic system.

 

1. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

I mentioned on my Twitter feed that this book was the first one I’ve ever read where one minute I was in staunch agreement and the next I was thinking “that will never work for most companies”.  It was the inspiration for format number three above and so I will use it here.

Intuitive: Your company is your product and so tweaking it in the same way you would actual software makes sense. Elon Musk has championed this theory in the past, build the machine that builds the machine.  Less waste, more production, and few distractions.

Counter-Intuitive: No long-term planning, make it up as you go. While I agree that no one knows what the world will look like in 36 months, it’s a great exercise to anticipate and think through scenarios.  Yet, the book is spot on here, “Seeing a bad idea through just because at one point it sounded like a good idea is a tragic waste of energy and talent.”

Recently, a good friend sent over the TechCrunch article “VC’s Urge Their Portfolios to Prepare for Winter”. Obviously, I’m new to this and as an operator have only known a bull market, but I suspect some market cyclicality will be introduced in the infancy of my investing career.

It’s important that I’m thinking about the potential impacts while researching lessons from past economic downturns. I figured it would be worthwhile to share a snapshot of my response to the article above as it highlights my thinking.

We went through something similar at Choose Energy, but instead it was a VC specific cooling off. Our Series C closed in 2015 and our leadership team anticipated the market could not stay as active as it had previously been.

While the decrease wasn’t as strong as anticipated, it did happen – YoY total deals declined by about 15% in 2016.  As a result, we raised a bit more than needed at a strong valuation allowing us to extend our runway through 2016 and eventually increase our operating leverage which also led to profitability.

This was also part of our thinking with our investment in WNDYR, we saw a strong services business that would be the backbone of a company as the software gained traction. Additionally, the efficiency gains they bring to businesses will become more important both to SaaS companies and startups looking for efficient growth as well as large firms looking to be more productive with fewer resources in the event of an economic downturn.

During the last recession, venture funding fell by 50% nationally in Q1 2009 from Q1 2008 to a total of $3.9 billion and continued on that trend for the remainder of the year. 2009 was the lowest total funding since 1998, yet here’s a small sample of firms close to an IPO and founded during that time:

Airbnb (8/2008)
Uber (3/2009)
Slack (2009)
Cloudflare (2009)
Pinterest (2009/10)

Lesson: the bear market can be a good time to invest if you are focused on building long-term value and expect your holding periods to be on the longer end, especially since you’ll see less yield everywhere else. Good companies are still founded during recessions.

Obviously, we think industrials are well suited for this shift as the larger companies usually shy away from startups that don’t have a path to a strong balance sheet. The flip side is that there have to be levers that allow that to happen. If you aren’t acquired, those levers can still be pulled if capital becomes less readily available.

Lastly, it’s possible the startup capital crunch could be smaller than anticipated if the downturn is a short one, though I’d advise startups to plan on the opposite.

Currently, there’s still a lot of dry powder on the sidelines from all of the mega funds VC firms have been raised ahead of the slowdown that’s supposedly been on the horizon for several months now. They’ll be in a great position to follow on to good deals if pricing decreases due to a cash crunch and startups should be aware of this in the event funding slows for a while.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted, having a newborn will do that to you.  But I’m back and hoping to continue writing regularly from here until the end of the year.

During my time away, I traded-in an old MacBook Pro and iPad mini for a new Surface Go.

At least part of the reason I decided to try a Surface is that I love what Microsoft is doing as a company.  I’ve told anyone who will listen for the last 2 years that I am bullish on Microsoft under Satya’s leadership and the Surface is a big part of my reasoning.

The verdict: I’m only a week or so into using my Surface Go regularly, but so far I love it.

Pros:

  • the keyboard – I love the feel and size even if it takes some getting used to
  • the size – it’s perfect for both tablet uses like reading/browsing and computer use cases like working on email/writing
  • the OS – I like having a full OS instead of a mobile version

Cons:

  • power – the Surface Go does lag for some heavier tasks even though I purchased the 8GB RAM version
  • battery life – on a full charge the battery lasts only ~5-6 hours which is dismal compared to iPads
  • bezel – this is a minor complaint, but the bezel did not need to be so large with the advancements that have been made in screen technologies over the last few years

It’s not a device I’d recommend as your “daily driver”, but if you have a computer for heavy lifting and are looking for something more portable that is still powerful enough to get basic tasks done then the Surface is definitely worth considering.

I’ve attempted to use an iPad off and on for the last few years but the lack of a mouse kept me from using it as an additional computer.  The touchscreen UX just doesn’t work for me. The new iPads still do not solve this problem and so the Surface still feels like the right choice for most of my use cases.

The addition of the mouse and a great keyboard mean I pick up my Surface Go every chance I get and that means more productivity which is what having a secondary device is all about in my mind.

It seems like a lifetime since I have been out of the retail industry.  Around this time of year, I always think of those who have to work through the holidays while most of us are able to enjoy time off with our friends and family.

The truth is, the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day is often the worst. The sales start trickling back as returns while stores are working feverishly to meet their year-end goals. Meanwhile, customers seem a lot less excited about returning gifts than the anticipation of giving them.

This year, as I was reflecting back on what a wild, crazy, and mostly lucky ride I’ve been on for the last decade, I realized several of the first business principles in which I now believe were actually born during those days in retail as I was working to put myself through college.

First and foremost, I learned that, as in all businesses, success depends on an entire team and culture starts with the hiring process.  Today, the staff we hired looks like this:

  • 1 doctor
  • 1 dentist
  • 1 Navy member
  • 1 special-needs teacher
  • 3 accountants (all with master’s degrees)
  • 3 team-members still working together, with 1 a Sr. Product Manager
  • 85% college graduation rate
  • 0 remaining in retail

I wish I could take credit for these numbers, but the truth is we hired people that had the determination to succeed long before they joined our team.  However, I realized during that time that I loved mentoring those who were going through big changes or making big decisions in their lives.

“The customer is always right,” is a phrase uttered throughout every service industry.  While I don’t believe this is the case for every interaction (and I’ve seen some bad ones), I do think it is correct from a macro perspective.

Fossil had built a reputation for trendy watches with a wide selection at a reasonable price.  Additionally, they’d built a vintage brand with a distinctly American feel.

For reasons, I still don’t quite understand, we pivoted to a streamlined selection and began to raise price points rather dramatically.  Customer purchasing decisions for Fossil were driven by brand, selection, and value.  All of which were drastically changed in the span of a year, decisions which our team had warned HQ against.

Enter Shinola: a watch company that has sold itself as a catalyst for the rebirth of Detroit, making a variety of durable goods at the higher price point Fossil so badly desired.  It wasn’t about price, customers wanted a product they valued from a brand that felt authentic.

The lesson: listen to your sales teams. They are the front lines of your business and interact with the customer every day. It’s possible they could be the key to raising prices while still winning the market.

Lastly, I learned that execution and operations matter.  More importantly, execution and operations often go unnoticed until they are being done poorly.

In retail, that may mean things like inventory being unorganized or poor scheduling leading to missed sales.

In early stage startups, that may mean poor product organization leading missed deadlines, bad database design making effective accounting and marketing almost impossible, or strategic meetings that lead to nowhere.

My time in retail was a necessary grind to help me accomplish a life goal.  However, looking back, I took many good lessons that helped me set the foundation for a few key business values which have served me well so far.

Finally, if you’re working in the service industries this holiday season, thank you for putting up with all of us and enjoy the well-deserved break after inventory in January.

It was revealed last week that Facebook is experimenting and planning the wide release of a stories feature similar to Snapchat. Haven’t we been here before?  But count me out amongst the many who criticize Facebook for it’s lack of creativity and imagination.

Snapchat’s IPO roadshow will likely reveal just how well Facebook’s strategy is working, but my guess is the impact will be significant especially with customers who prefer the comfort of the Facebook / Instagram platform. Truthfully, Facebook can leverage this familiarity to build a product that is functionally the same but not as good and still likely re-capture a significant share of user engagement from Snap.

The reasoning is simple, take a look at Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report from last year.  Facebook was DRAMATICALLY better than Snapchat when it came to user engagement (even with Millennials) in terms of AUM’s and time spent on the site, the only place Snap excelled was video.  Since most people visit Facebook first and more frequently, what happens when Facebook is just good enough to keep Snap’s users from needing their feature?

 

Silicon Valley, and the tech community as a whole, can sometimes become an echo chamber.  However, it’s important to remember the majority of users live outside of the Valley and are more concerned with convenience and utility than originality.

I’m a proponent of listening to the market over building a feature that is “different” or the latest tech.  I’ve personally made this mistake, and have seen it made more than once.  We’ve focused on extra features, design, and new shopping UX’s when customers craved simplicity that competitors provided.

The key to unlocking new business was accepting the market feedback that was so visible all around us. We spent time and resources on building for the sake of building when the customers really wanted optionally of enrollment, an update that took little time and provided a high ROI.

Even when you are building tech that is advanced, always do so with your users in mind.  Never underestimate your competition, if they are growing by leveraging a feature you don’t provide, consider building it or risk losing the customer base you’ve worked so hard to capture.

 

Since I am just beginning to write on a consistent basis, this might be fluid but at least for awhile my plan on Friday’s is to write briefly on one of a few topics: a product feature I really enjoy or think needs some work, something fun (for those days when I am short on time), or a funding that I find interesting.

One product I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is Amazon Alexa / Echo.  Judging by the the reports from CES so is everyone else.  Not only are the skills Alexa can do expanding rapidly, now over 7,000, but sales of Echo during the holiday reportedly grew 9x over last year.

Yet, despite all of this growth, I am still not sure that the Echo will gain long-term, broad appeal.  The reasoning is simple, and I’ve experienced this first hand, engagement with the device dwindles over time.

amazonechousage.jpg

The graph above illustrates this point well.  Almost everyone “plays” with Alexa when they open it out of the box.  But as time goes on and the novelty wears off, Echo begins to be just another household electronic.

While sales are great, and growing, consumers don’t appear to be continuously engaging with Echo.  Using myself as a case study, I have Prime, but I also subscribe to Fresh, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon Music.  Despite all of these Amazon products the only things I use Echo for are a timer, changing my thermostat, and music (Pandora).  However, I used all of these features less than once a month at best.  I don’t even use the features that generate revenue for Amazon, like ordering from a shopping list.

The remedy to this problem could be in the news that Amazon has licensed it to Lenovo. Officially making Alexa an OS for other devices in an effort to become the platform for home devices amongst growing competition from Google Home and, assuming it ever happens, Apple’s smart home platform.  It makes perfect sense as the value isn’t in the device itself but in increasing the likelihood you’ll use Amazon’s other services much in the way Android is used to get other Google products into consumers’ hands.

Obviously, Amazon has a great product with Echo and the home is the next great frontier for technology.  Much like mobile, a few devices and operating systems will own a significant share of the market and Amazon has a significant lead thus far.  While the numbers focus on sales of the device, the real trend to watch will be how often Alexa finds it’s way into homes via other devices. Time will only tell if they can leverage Alexa much in the way Google used Android to gain significant share in mobile.

 

 

A few days ago I read M.G. Siegler’s Medium post on his 2016 Homescreen which provoked me to think about the apps I use on a daily basis.  Siegler does a really great job explaining not only how his workflows have changed but how the changes in tech are affecting his daily app usage.  I thought it would be a good idea to do something similar but instead look at the apps with which I’d like to interact more over the coming year based on my goals.  Below is my list, which is primarily focused on reading more efficiently, interacting with a new, evolving platform, and contributing content to both my personal and professional networks.

  1. Kindle I’ve always preferred real books to e-books but this year I am looking to read more on my iPad.   Depending on how much I enjoy a particular book I’ll still purchase a hard copy and transfer my notes there to have a permanent record.  This should give me a second chance to digest important content as well. Audible was an option I considered here but I love to take notes and while I could increase my throughput of content I’m not sure the quality of consumption would be the same.
  2. Alexa – I’ve had an Echo Dot in my kitchen for about 6 months now and still only use it for music.  Like most, I see voice becoming a more prominent AI in 2017 and it’ll be important to get a sense of what third-party apps are doing particularly well on Echo and Google Home.
  3. SoundCloud As a frequent podcast listener I’ve always struggled to find an app that syncs across multiple devices.  Despite a lackluster mobile UI and search, SoundCloud works seamlessly across multiple devices and operating systems.   There’s also a social and discovery component to SoundCloud I really enjoy and want to interact with more.
  4. Evernote / Bear- These are two notetaking apps that I already use almost as much as any app on my mobile devices but I plan on writing more in the coming year.  Each of these apps serves a unique purpose, Evernote is great for collecting and organizing information / ideas while Bear is a clean, distraction-free writing app.  Additionally, this is an app category that has always interested me.  Between these two apps, Wunderlist, To-Doist, Trello, etc… there is still not one app that serves every function I’m looking for in a great productivity app.  The perfect combo for me would be Evernote’s organization with Wunderlist’s to-do list structure combined with a word processor similar to Bear. Instead, I’ll live with all three apps on my phone for now.
  5. Instagram- Here’s another app that I already use almost daily but only for keeping up with my friends and family without much engagement.   My goal is to share a bit more and begin to generate more personal and professional content across multiple platforms.  Instagram will be my primary mode of sharing with my family and friends much in the way I plan on using Twitter and Medium to distribute content relating to my professional interests.

There you have it, the apps I plan on engaging with more in the coming year.  This is something I plan on revisiting yearly to hold myself accountable and also to see the evolution in tech much the way Siegler has over the last three years.

 

This year, I’ve attended two weddings and both were of mixed religion. First, I was lucky enough to attend a wedding between a Jewish bride and one of my best friends. Their ceremony incorporated both traditions and combined two families of different religious backgrounds into one. Those two families embraced their differences and came together to create a stronger bond.

Fast forward to this weekend, I attended yet another mixed wedding this time between a Hindu and his Muslim bride. To my surprise, I was asked to participate in a small part of one of the Hindu ceremonies with a stranger I’d never met. My reaction, to pick the man up with a big hug and welcome him to our family. These two religions have fought for centuries but again, two families came together over commonalities.

Finally, as I approach my two year anniversary with my Muslim bride, I know that she and her family are some of the most generous, caring, kind, and accepting people I have ever met and I’m proud to call them my family. When my Christian grandfather passed away, they showed up to a Christian ceremony to support me in my time of need. There has never been a day where I have felt like I am an outcast or that they love me any less than their own flesh and blood. I speak from experience that most Muslims are this way.

Extremists don’t hate a single religion, in fact, ISIS has killed many many more Muslims than Christians since their inception. What they hate is the picture I painted above. They hate when people are free to choose what God they worship, when people are free to educate themselves the way they see fit, when people are free to marry who they want. We’ve built our country on these freedoms and it’s what makes us different than other parts of the world.

When things go wrong in other parts of the world, division ensues, war breaks out. Here we debate and we vote. But lately, I fear that our country falls into hate as a default reaction to these events because its easy. What is difficult is stepping outside your comfort zone, finding what you have in common with people who don’t look like you, think the same way you do, or believe what you believe, and using that bond to create a whole that is better than its individual parts. This is true in all facets of life rather it be politics, business or relationships.

This is the last I will say about the issue as I know that no Facebook post will change the way people feel nor do I enjoy arguing politics in public with people who have become complete strangers. I will leave with this Abraham Lincoln quote:

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

In a blog that is going to be focused mostly on energy, tech, startups, and similar topics at the outset, I couldn’t help but write about Jordan Spieth’s Masters victory for my first post.  I found several aspects of Spieth’s road to victory to be relatable to the business world.  In particular, 5 things stood out as particularly relevant to help leaders shape their organizations and careers.

1.  Set Goals

Jordan was featured in a local news story on WFAA in Dallas at 14 (video) in the feature he states his ultimate goal is to win the Masters someday.  Fast forward 7 years and he is now being fitted for the green jacket.  It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the fast paced environment of today’s business world where short term accomplishments can be more valued than long-term goals but don’t forget to set goals and stick to them.  A fake study attributed to Harvard in 1979 stated those who write down their goals earn up to 97% more than their counterparts who do not. Rather this is true or not, the effect of goal setting on long-term success is undeniable.

2. Sometimes its better to value “fit” over skills

Eight years ago, Jordan’s caddy Michael Greller attended a USGA amateur golf tournament near his home when he noticed a competitor carrying his own bags, struggling to compete, and offered to caddy for him for free. (Bonus Tip: Always be kind, you never know where your relationships might take you.)  Three years after that Greller would find himself on Spieth’s bag for the first time and a bond was formed.  You can read the full story on WSJ.

When Spieth’s star began to rise, more qualified caddies began to vie for the position on Spieth’s bag.  Jordan stuck with Greller and the relationship has blossomed ever since.  This is an important lesson for business leaders.  When hiring or promoting it’s not always about a candidate’s skillset.  More often than not chemistry and cultural fit are just as important as any list of qualifications.

3. Always Give Back

Inspired by his sister Ellie who has a neurological condition similar to Autism, Jordan and his family started The Jordan Spieth Family Foundation in 2014 to support special needs children and their family.  It’s not uncommon for professional athletes to start charities and give back but Spieth was quick to establish his charity with which he has a deeply personal connection.

Regardless of the amount of success we have, parts of our accomplishments are owed to the help of others.  Charity can take place in many different forms, rather it’s donating money to a cause that is close to your heart or your time to mentor someone who needs your help, always give back to those who aren’t as fortunate as you or are striving to better their lives.  No one becomes their best-self alone.

4. Stay Humble and Thank Those Who Support You

Much like Tiger and Earl Woods in 1997 it’s clear that Jordan and his dad have a special bond.  The aspect of their post victory embrace that garnered the majority of my attention was Spieth’s dad telling him to thank the crowd for their encouragement.  Not only did Jordan immediately return to the 18th green to thank his supporters but he also thanked the food and beverage servers in his ceremonial press conference.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this much humility from a 21 year old.

Good leaders recognize their accomplishments would not be possible with out the support of their team and all of those who work with them.  No matter the title or position it is always important to recognize those who help you achieve your goals and support you in your pursuit of them.

5. Learn from Your Mistakes and Be Aggressive

Last year Jordan finished runner-up to Bubba Watson after surrendering a 2 stroke lead during the last 9 holes.  Spieth stopped playing his game and became overly cautious resulting in the second place finish at his first ever Masters.  This year was a different story.  Spieth recounted last year’s let down and played aggressively until the very end.  Instead of choosing to play it safe on the par 3 12th, Jordan attacked the pin where just the year before he’d found Rae’s Creek.  This trend continued for the rest of the round where Spieth kept hitting driver and woods instead of irons.

“If you’re going to eat shit, don’t nibble” – Ben Horrowitz

Don’t lay-up when chasing your dreams, stay aggressive and learn from your previous mistakes.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts.

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.