Everything in life whether it be business or family or otherwise, all boils down to interactions and relationships with people.
Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, A black woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus during the era of racial segregation. But the reason Parks was able to spark such a movement was not because of her brave act. Many blacks during that time were also standing up for themselves when whites mistreated them.
But why was Rosa Parks so successful?
Simply put, Rosa Parks was extremely well connected. She was known by government officials for her work in the NAACP and known by communities for being extremely supportive in schools and churches. She had a way of building rapport with everyone around her.
Then, when the famous event happened on the bus on that historical day, it united everyone who knew her and stirred up a reaction big enough to put the event into history.
The same goes for countless of other instances in history.
It’s easy as a creative or an entrepreneur to think that as long as I build something of quality, people will come. It’s easy to just focus on our craft and not get to know the people and the markets around us. Especially with the internet it’s easy to assume that posting on facebook or tweeting a message will get engagement, but that has no comparison to truly getting to know and building a relationship with someone else.
If you just know how to connect people and don’t have anything of quality, people won’t stay. But when you are both connected and have something incomparable to anything else out there, you can start a movement.
I’ve been on the internet as long as I can remember.
Being a millennial growing up alongside the internet age, there are many things that are hard to imagine about life before such interconnectivity existed. My father would tell me about fax machines and other tools that were widely popular in his youth.
But being a millennial who has grown up knowing nothing but the internet, I’ve learned a great deal about internet publicity by watching all the viral fads pass through as well as platforms that have come and go. The internet is always changing, and what works today probably isn’t going to work tomorrow, and what worked yesterday most likely won’t work today. The only constant to the internet is it’s constant change.
The internet is a place of noise. Thousands of petabytes are being flung around everyday from computer to computer, with almost everyone trying to extend their reach or get more followers and likes. Google Analytics and other analytics tools have risen to help meet the demands of content producers wanting to know what works, and A/B testing to scientifically test two different hypotheses.
I started making websites in 2009, and since then have built various websites, portfolios, platforms, and applications that can be accessed through the little window in your computer. If there’s any trend that I’ve seen in the past five years, it is that people are spending more and more time in their browsers visiting websites than in any other application.
What does this mean for the individual trying to make a presence on the internet? How does one rise above the noise to share their message in a way that attracts the right audience?
Be Clean and Be Clear – In terms of design, almost everyone and anyone can recognize a clean design from a mile away. But having a clean design doesn’t matter if what you’re trying to say isn’t clear to your viewer and clear to yourself. I’ve found myself oftentimes scrolling through a website that looks great, but is filled with content that is overwhelming and unclear as to it’s purpose and why it is unique. Express the one sentence that you want your viewers to take away from visiting your website.
Understand Your Audience and Be Specific – Who are you trying to reach out to? If your answer is everyone, you’re going to have a lot of trouble. Figure out which age group, gender, ethnicity, occupation, location, relationship status, etc that you’re trying to speak to. Having fewer people who loyally care about your content and will evangelize for you is more important than a million email subscribers that receive your emails in their spam folder.
Provide Value – What makes you unique? What makes what you have stand out above the petabytes of noise? How are you better than the next person to the specific group of people that you have deemed your audience? Stick to that and provide the best value that you possibly can. Don’t add to the noise if you have nothing of value to share.
Let Your Community Build Itself – Don’t constantly be the one broadcasting your message. Make it easy for other people to help share your content in an authentic way. Don’t manipulate people to buy into what you have to offer. Let the organic word of mouth help you to get more people in your target demographic to view your content. Pay attention to other people that you can build relationships with to help you out.
Work Your Hardest and Be Patient – Be extremely diligent with your commitments, being consistent with the quality and frequency of content that you share, and don’t expect to be featured in Forbes overnight.
The internet is going to be around for a while, I think it’s about time people learn how to use it.
LAHacks was both a terrible and amazing experience.
Let’s start with the terrible. 36 straight hours of sitting in front of a computer or trying to sleep in the overly lit Pauley Pavilion, consuming food produced for quantity over quality, and trying to evade the crowd of people constantly storming the bathroom. I don’t think I will ever be able to sleep so little again (or at least until my next hackathon).
For those of you unfamiliar with LAHacks or hackathons in general, hackathons are a place where developers come together to code products and applications in a very short amount of time. LAHacks was a 36 hour hackathon sponsored by a large number of companies, with Quixey being the head sponsor.
Beyond the hogepodge smorgasbord of people and computers everywhere, LAHacks was an opportunity for me to dive into a little bit more code, but more importantly survey the landscape of where the tech industry is headed by meeting up-and-coming companies and rockstar developers.
Perhaps what was most interesting to me was the whole culture and environment of the hackathon. Events like LAHacks would not have been possible even ten years ago, or even five years ago. Events like LAHacks are possible because of internet platforms that have freely accessible APIs for any developer to use. The ease of adapting such APIs and libraries makes building the next photo sharing app almost trivial. In other words, the barrier of entry to creating another mobile or web application has become extremely low.
The number of simple applications extending an existing platform built at LAHacks was incredible. There were countless android, iphone, music, and photo apps, all of which were built upon various platforms that already exist.
The challenge to budding entrepreneurs is no longer about making an app that works or looks cool, but the real challenge now is making an app that matters. Anyone can extend libraries and APIs to put something together, but the real question is learning to put something together in a way that really changes the world because it matters to people.
LAHacks didn’t teach me just about writing code, but writing history. There’s a difference.
Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible!
April 4th, 2014 found me on the edge of my seat listening to Randy Komisar, a serial entrepreneur and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. He talked about entrepreneurship, venture capital, and other current trends and aspects in the market.
Over the past couple decades, Sand Hill Road has built the foundation for the Silicon Valley we know today, providing the financial footing for companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to change the world and making millionaires appear all over the silicon valley. Growing up not twenty minutes away from where all of this history took place, BrightEyes 2014 provided me not only with an opportunity to learn more about the venture capital and technology space, but also my own hometown.
“There is no straight line from idea to success.” – Randy Komisar (tweet that)
Listening to Randy was surreal. Every word he spoke was a piece of candy, inspiring and exciting the kid inside of me. Never would I have expected to be sitting in a historical venture capital firm at the age of 19, personally asking questions and interacting with a venture capitalist.
BrightEyes 2014 is a study tour that gives students an opportunity to learn about the tech and VC space in a very practical way by flying students out to the heart of the industry to meet and interact with the very people at the forefront of these industries. Run by Tiffany Stone, a 2012 UCSD grad, this study tour provided a huge supplement and a great deal of inspiration for my own education.
BrightEyes gave me the opportunity to interact with the people behind companies such as Boost VC, Nexgate, Lyft, Bitpay, AirBnB, Quixey, Andreessen Horowitz, Yahoo, Kleiner Perkins, Nest, Facebook, Sierra Ventures, Dorm Room Fund, and Amazon.
The first day started with a meeting with Adam Draper and Brayton Williams, the leaders behind Boost VC. We walked into a building with a gutted Tesla Model S turned into a desk, and walked down the stairs into a small conference room where we plopped down on beanbags.
We talked about many things, but among them included conversations about Bitcoin, where it currently is and where it’s headed. The conversation offered a pretty good case for the future of bitcoin, and made me reconsider cryptocurrencies as a whole. Maybe it’s onto something.
Either way, all the talk about upcoming disruptive ideas really struck a chord in me. It made me wonder not only about what the future is going to look like, but how I would take place in the whole orchestration of these evolving industries. AirBnB showed us the evolution of the hospitality industry, Lyft showed us the evolution of the transportation industry, Facebook showed us the evolution of social industries, etc etc.
For those of you who have known me or read my blog for a while, you’ll know that education is a big thing on my mind, and that I’m always thinking about ways to build a better system of learning that empowers people to truly reach their potential. Meeting all of these entrepreneurs has helped me reignite my passion for learning and education, but has also given me ideas on how to practically make a difference in the world that we live in. Just because the education space has historically been a very difficult market to bring change to doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it everything that I’ve got.
The entire trip, from dawn to dusk, was full of conversations about building companies, developing teams, and changing the world. We had the privilege of staying at a home listed on AirBnB called Village Looky run by a very hospitable and smart entrepreneur Heigo Paartalu. Everywhere from meetings with companies to in between transportation time to meals to our stay at Villa Looky, the conversations were all nothing short of eye opening and inspiring.
One common thread that came up repeatedly when talking about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneurs and companies, was idea of “scrappiness”. Scrappiness is essentially the grit, tenacity, and endurance an individual gives to the work that they do. Scrappy people take big risks because they know exactly what they care about and exactly what they believe in.
While driving on the way to a meeting at Stanford on a perfect California day, Tiffany said “I want you to know yourself”, speaking it as if it was the secret that would make me successful.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself. It was a chance to have conversations to understand my passions, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It was a chance to learn how to communicate different aspects of who I am in different situations.
And in a strange but practical way, BrightEyes was the missing piece that I had been longing for in my educational experience. It was a study tour that helped give much more context behind the things that I am learning in school, and more vision for my education. Every student should be given the chance to interact and network with people in industries.
The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself.
Thanks BrightEyes for the amazing life-changing experience!
Words can be confused with communication.
Words are a vehicle for communication, but it is not communication in itself.
Communication is simply sharing my thoughts so that someone else understands my thoughts and where I’m coming from; it’s translating the thoughts from my head into someone else’s head.
People that talk the most aren’t necessarily the best communicators. Talk isn’t necessarily communication.
The best communicators are ones who are able to understand the person they are speaking to. They are able to pick up on their audience’s culture, or frame of reference they are using when processing what they are saying. They are able to address the varying concerns of different audiences depending on who they talk to. Thus, the best communicators are open and understand the backgrounds and cultures of other people. Top communicators understand and transcend culture. (tweet that)
That’s why most of us find it easier to communicate and interact with people who are from similar backgrounds or cultures, because people these people already think and act similarly, saving the need to communicate as much context.
Therefore, the most quick and dirty way to foster effective communication within a team or organization isn’t to talk more, but to focus on creating a unique culture. This phenomenon is seen in practically all the fun and hip companies such as Google, Pinterest, IDEO, Facebook, etc.
The power of building a unique culture is to foster more effective communication, but the danger happens when people in a culture become elitist and closed to becoming a communicator that is effective across cultures.
Building a culture is great, but understanding culture is legendary.
People are unpredictable. That’s why leadership is so difficult; there’s no set formula for organizing people and starting a movement.
The best leader is one who earns their authority, not one who expects a position of authority. Great leaders understand that respect is earned from your followers, not merely given. Leadership is stronger when given from below, not above.
That’s why much of what people are writing about leadership nowadays talk about the leader being a servant. In fact, that’s why Jesus taught this principle when he was on earth.
The leader that expects authority simply because they are in a position with a title of authority will struggle to find a formula to organize people who are inherently unpredictable.
The leader that spends the time serving and earning the respect of people will have a positive reputation that precedes him.
Putting someone in a place of influence is always a choice by the people they are leading.