Humans usually remember things best when told as a story.
Stories that are emotional are engaging and memorable, while an overwhelming list of facts generally is not. And because of this simple fact of human psychology, we find ourselves drawn to stories of our favorite heroes, and attempting to analyze their lives in order to validate what we do.
The narrative fallacy, as popularized by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan, states that humans have a tendency to oversimplify and explain past events from the bias of their worldview.
Any past event can be explained in an extremely large variety of different ways, and the explanations can be unbelievably far apart. In fact, how many times have you heard two people make two conflicting points from the exact same story?
It’s a common thing to say that the dots always connect looking backwards, but more often than not, they connect because we find some way of explaining the dots so that it supports our hypothesis.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with telling stories. Stories are a great way to inspire and emotionally connect with others, but it’s also easy to get blind-sighted when we take the story-teller’s interpretation as gospel.
I’ll be the first to say that the dots don’t always connect looking backwards, and I’m completely okay with that.
Chris Yin has a huge passion for using startups to build products that make a difference! He has worked both at small scale startups as well as larger startups and has some great thoughts for young aspiring entrepreneurs. Listen in as Chris shares about fulfillment, entrepreneurship, and building products that matter.
Show Notes and References
- Chris’s background, thoughts on moving from Xpenser to Coupa (2:20)
- Process of starting Pathways Ventures (6:00)
- Aqua Design Innovations (http://aquadesigninnovations.com/)
- Invest in people, not ideas (12:40)
- What to learn from failure (14:35)
- How Chris got interested in entrepreneurship (18:35)
- Being driven by the desire to learn (20:50)
- The mentors that have shaped Chris’s life (22:02)
- The difference between tactics and mindsets (23:55)
- The books that have had an impact on Chris (24:36)
- The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hard-Thing-About-Things/dp/0062273205)
- What recommendations would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs? (25:10)
- What does success mean to you? (30:52)
- What do you morning / daily rituals look like? (31:45)
- What books would you recommend most to people? (34:10)
- Zero to One – Peter Thiel (http://zerotoonebook.com/)
- Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman (http://www.amazon.com/The-Design-Everyday-Things-Expanded/dp/0465050654)
- The Art of War – Sun Tzu (http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-War-Liddell-Hart/dp/0195014766)
- Abundance – Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler (http://www.amazon.com/Abundance-Future-Better-Than-Think/dp/1451614217)
- Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Swan-Improbable-Robustness/dp/081297381X)
- Parting thoughts on life, work, business (39:05)
In the past, I’ve written about how to get through unproductive slumps in your days, and how to maintain vision over many days.
Today I’m going to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum: What happens after you achieve something so great and are unable to top it?
Imagine being an astronaut who was part of the Apollo program in the 1960s. After preparing years for your great space expedition, it finally happens. You take a trip to the moon, see the famous view of the earth as a small blue marble with your own eyes, collect some samples form the surface of the moon, and then return home to earth.
How do you reintegrate back into what life was before after such an experience? It’s a general challenge for people who reach the top of their game to maintain vision and continue on. We find that many athletes, astronauts, entrepreneurs, actors, and otherwise aren’t always satisfied after their accomplishments. They’ve accomplished their impossible life dream, but something doesn’t sit right. Some of them find themselves depressed, lost, and unfulfilled.
You may not have gone to the moon or sold a company for millions of dollars, but I’ve found that to the extent you’ve set your dreams is the extent that achieving dreams will produce this effect.
It’s easy to think that you’ll be happy after you achieve x or y, and then spend years working to get there, only to find that reaching that point leaves you still unsatisfied.
The point isn’t to find satisfaction in the achievement of your dreams, but to be satisfied as you live on a daily basis.
In kindergarten, I was the shortest kid in my class. In fact, I was so short that I was less than one percentile of males my age.
As a result, I couldn’t do what most of my peers could physically. I had difficulty shooting hoops, I ran slower than everyone else, and was usually one of the last people to be chosen for kickball matches.
And as I grew up, much of the feelings of being the shortest and slowest stuck with me. Even though I was no longer the shortest kid around in high school, I often downplayed myself and felt uncomfortable around people.
I gave myself a lot of negative self talk. I told myself that I wasn’t the smartest, fastest, or the best at any skill. In fact, I didn’t even give myself the chance to apply to more prestigious schools because I “knew” that I wouldn’t get in.
How many of us sabotage ourselves with this kind of negative self talk? We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or that we’ll take action after some magical event happens, even though deep down we all know we want to be given the opportunity. The fear is that we’ll be found out for our inadequacies.
The truth is, many of us go from our day to day lives trying to prove something, either to other people or to ourselves. I’ve been there, and in many ways still am.
I can’t say that I have it all figured out, but here are a couple things I’ve realized along the way, written out in clear bullet points because I’m not a fan of fluffy, abstract advice:
- Know Yourself – This is a comment that one of my mentors made to me, and has stuck with me ever since I heard the words come out of her mouth. Knowing and admitting your strengths and your weaknesses make for a very powerful understanding of how to be yourself.
- Be present – People who are the most uncomfortable with themselves will often focus heavily on the future or on the past. There’s nothing wrong with looking back and reflecting or looking forward and preparing, but when you’re ignoring what’s in front of you on a day to day basis and enjoying where you’re at and what’s around you, you’re likely uncomfortable.
- Watch Your Language – Instead of saying things like “I can’t” or “I’m not”, try things like “I haven’t yet” or “I’m learning to”.
- Put Yourself Out There – Post something online. Share something vulnerable. Because it’s not until you take a step to be vulnerable that you really see how people respond. I can almost guarantee you that it’ll be different than you expect.
The first thing that most people do after waking up in the morning is check their phone.
I do it too.
But after scrolling through the twittersphere and seeing yet another coffee consuming startup company raised another gazillion dollars in their series gamma, I make my bed.
I haven’t always made my bed. In fact, I only started making my bed within the last couple of months. And although it may seem like the most menial and pointless of tasks, (I mean you’re just going to mess it up again not too long later) it has strangely added a sense of structure to my life.
I’ve talked about habits on a couple different posts before, and what strikes me about making my bed is that it’s a ritual that follows another ritual every morning. (there are very few times where I forget to sleep)
That way, by the time I get up to start my day, I know that I have gotten at least one thing right. A neat bed means I can start and end my day in an organized way. No matter how good or bad my day was, it always feels good to crawl into a neatly folded bed at the end of the day.
In fact, so many things pertaining to life is just like making my bed, because most things in life can be broken down into simple routines that are executed over and over. With just a little effort, so many of the little things add up to make huge differences.
It’s the little things in life, that when done right, contribute to the bigger picture. It’s the small wins that make up the big wins. You can’t run a marathon without learning how to take the first steps, just like you can’t get a degree without going through the first day of school.
I’ve noticed that there are a few areas personally for me to regularly maintain to keep myself at my best condition.
- Food and Water
- Creative Expression
What are your most important rituals?
If there’s any age that a person is the most tolerant to risk, it’d be their twenties.
When Nick Woodman took the stage at a UCSD alumni event to talk about the company he founded in school, he talked a lot about his personal relationship to risk, and how he approached finding his “passion”.
GoPro started as nothing more than a film camera in a plastic box used to take pictures while surfing. And from those humble beginnings, Nick took risk after risk until he built out a company that has forever changed the way people do film.
But if there was anything that stood out to me during the session, it was the simple fact that taking risk gets harder the older I get. Many people tell themselves that they’ll take a risk after they earn enough money, meet the right person, get the right credentials, etc.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being wise about the risks that you take, and mitigating risk as much as possible to increase your success. But never let yourself get in the way of dreaming as big as you possibly can.
GoPro would never have gotten to where it was today if Nick Woodman started it in his 40s.
What’s stopping you?