If you’ve got a good follower game, Twitter can be an incredible platform for content discovery. Over time, you start to ‘trust’ certain accounts. Certain avatars. Certain people. Some of which you’ve met in real life, others of which you haven’t but feel like you’ve known forever. When the content curation is really working, Twitter replaces the need for additional web research and surfaces some great recommendations.

Two of my favorite Twitter follows when it comes to book recommendations are Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Morgan Housel. I found Patrick through Morgan, or perhaps Morgan through Patrick, but the origin story isn’t important. What is important has been their influence on what I’ve read recently. Patrick finds time to read 2-3 hours per day.

A recent suggestion from my virtual book club mates, Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Thinkhas really impressed me. It is the work of the late Swedish academic Hans Rosling, in collaboration with his son and daughter-in-law, and tests our perspective – the way we view the world – through data, and global trends.

I’m an optimist by nature, but it’s clear from Rosling’s work that one thing most humans miss in life is hanging out in the ‘gray’ area. We’re too optimistic or too pessimistic. We’re living too much in the extremes, the edges. We’re missing some nuance. If you’ve scrolled through a social media news feed or caught a glimpse of a political TV show in recent years, I think you would agree that Rosling isn’t too far off…

And in Factfulness he approaches this phenomenon so brilliantly, with a concept he calls “Bad and Better.” He illustrates the concept through the description of a premature baby in an incubator:

The baby’s health status is extremely bad, and her breathing, heart rate, and other important signs are tracked constantly so that changes for better or worse can quickly be seen. After a week, she is getting a lot better. On all the main measures, she is improving, but she still has to stay in the incubator because her health is still critical. Does it make sense to say that the infant’s situation is improving? Yes. Absolutely. Does it make sense to say it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine, and we should all relax and not worry? No, not at all. Is it helpful to have to choose between bad and improving? Definitely not. It’s both. It’s both bad and better. Better, and bad, at the same time. . . . That is how we must think about the current state of the world.

Both bad and better. Rosling’s imagery is so striking and simple. What resonates with me is the emphasis on progress, on context, on small wins.

Getting stuck in the dark or stuck in the light are both glaring but we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge the gray area.

In the second game of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals Steph Curry shot a woeful 1-for-8 on 3-pointers as the NBA’s reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, were embarrassed by the Houston Rockets in a blowout loss.

Out came the headlines. The negative feedback. The 24-hour opinion news cycle. “What’s going on with Stephen Curry?” asked The Sporting News. “The Warriors Can’t Wait on Stephen Curry Any Longer,” The Mercury News reminded Bay Area basketball fans. Sports Twitter lit up – poking at the two-time NBA MVP, as those who have likely never stepped on the floor themselves but can certainly come up with 280 insulting characters are wont to do.

What about Curry? Well – he showed up for work the next day and led the Warriors to a resounding 40+ point win, shimmying his way to 35 points in 34 minutes. At times his movements were so fluid, he was so locked in, that it looked like he was being controlled by a joystick in an Oakland area arcade.

Impressive? Sure. Surprising? Not really. This is, after all, one of the NBA’s greatest ever shooters. But it’s what Curry said after the game, not what he did during it, that really resonated with me. In his post game press conference, Curry was asked about his struggles entering the game. His response was as smooth as his jump shot.

“I’ve just been talking to myself. You have to be your biggest fan sometimes.”

Curry celebrated his made baskets with glee. A shimmy dance here. A not safe for work “This is my fu–ing house,” there. It wasn’t arrogant. It wasn’t mean-spirited. He wasn’t bragging. Or seeking attention. He was enjoying himself. Enjoying his accomplishments.

Sometimes you just have to be your own biggest fan. It’s easier to do that when you’re on a winning streak, when you’ve got what they call in basketball, “the hot hand.” When you’re in the zone. It’s a bit harder to do after you’ve gone 1-for-8 at the office, and those around you are judging you.

I’ve just been talking to myself,” Curry said. A man with seemingly one of the best support systems in the world – experienced coaches, millions of fans, superstar teammates, brilliant agents, savvy managers, and an adorable family. He didn’t rely on them. He talked to himself.

The rest of us? We’re normals. Mere mortals. Perhaps we’re not fortunate enough to be surrounded by world class coaches, managers, or teammates. That makes our task simpler: We’ve got no excuse but to be our own biggest fans.

I just finished Michael Lewis’ new book The Undoing Project – on the trailblazing Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky and their life’s work. It’s certainly no Moneyball, or Shoe Dog, but it’s a good read.

And nestled in between the fascinating origins of behavioral economics and Big Data, I landed on a pretty simple yet powerful passage:

“Amos was not merely an optimist; Amos willed himself to be optimistic, because he had decided pessimism was stupid. When you are a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice, Amos liked to say. Once when you worry about it, and the second time when it happens.

At the beginning of a New Year, or new semester, or new job, it’s easier to be optimistic. Easier to make a resolution or two. Jot down a list of goals. But it’s tougher when you’re down…

In 2008, just days after SpaceX had suffered it’s third straight rocket launch failure, Elon Musk was interviewed by Wired’s Carl Hoffman. Musk was asked, “How do you maintain your optimism?” and he replied, “Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we’re going to make it happen.”

Here’s what I definitely don’t have – Musk’s brilliance or Tversky’s brilliance. There are very few that have walked this earth (or Mars, in Musk’s dreams) with their vision or intellectual prowess. But I can’t help but agreeing with Tversky that optimism can be willed. It’s not off limits. Not reserved for those with a certain IQ, who graduated from a certain school, possess a certain title, or sit in a certain office. Doesn’t cost a penny.

And maybe optimism is contagious, like a strong winter cold. It’s easy to be up when we’re feeling fit, well rested, at the start of the year, like a big smiley face on a sticky note. It’s much more difficult when we’re vulnerable, down, or sick. But those are the times when optimism is most important.

So if Tversky’s or Musk’s words aren’t quite infectious enough on their own, they are at least a platform from which to build. To build that will that Tversky possessed. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for others like them – looking to catch a bit of optimism, and will a bit of it too.

My good friend, a bamboo farmer in North Carolina, went on a morning run recently and by the time he got back, he realized he wanted to go to Taiwan. He flew out the next day. Asheville to O’Hare to Shanghai to Taoyuan International in Taipei. A 30 hour commute.

The bamboo industry, I’ve since learned, is booming in Taiwan, where the plant is an environmentally friendly alternative to products made from plastic or other materials. And while there has been much written about how a good run can clear the mind; even make you feel like a brand new person, this post isn’t about a runner’s high. It’s about a traveler’s high. Ironically, a traveler’s high inspired by a few runners.

I recently finished Shoe Dog, a memoir by the founder of NIKE, Phil Knight. He got his start as a member of the track team at the University of Oregon, but really began to mature as an entrepreneur after a trip around the world in 1962. The passion with which he writes about his international travels really stuck with me, moreso than the business lessons one can learn from Nike’s tremendous ascent.

I’ve been curious about world geography since I was a kid. My grandparents were born in Europe, my mother in the U.S., my father in the Middle East. I moved from Israel to the U.S. as a kid. I collect maps. A vivid memory of my childhood was sitting at the kitchen table with my brother and sister waiting for dinner to be served (my favorite was chicken schnitzel) and reading our world capitals placemats. My preferred MS-DOS computer game in the early ’90s was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? We started off each game as “gumshoes” (rookie detectives). The more experience we acquired, the more we advanced up the ladder from our gumshoe status to investigator, detective, or super sleuth.

And Shoe Dog reminded me about the power of the gumshoe. The power of the curious international explorer. One who sets out humbly to acquire new perspective, new knowledge.

Knight visited Asia frequently in Nike’s formative years, and every time he came back from a trip abroad, he brought with him some inspiration, knowledge, self-clarity. For Knight, the progress was both personal and professional.

In comparison with other developed nations, Americans don’t travel abroad that much. Part of it surely has to do with our woeful vacation policies, workaholic culture, and geography/expense.

We’re missing out on the humility of being the gumshoe.

On her first trip to Israel over a decade ago, my then girlfriend (and now wife) landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv after a 12 hour journey and joined the long passport control queue. When it was finally her turn to get her passport stamped, she was “welcomed” to the country by a blunt border agent who told her, “Your last name, ‘Musika,’ is quite beautiful. Your first name, Jennifer, not so much.” Welcome to Israel. Israelis love the hashtag #nofilter. They’re honest. Perhaps rude. But at least sincere. There is no better “welcome to Israel,” than that interaction. You can’t get that cultural context from your Duolingo mobile app.

Every day we are living our autobiography, whether we write it out like Phil Knight did or not. And we can’t fill our pages without curiosity and adventure. We can’t advance from gumshoe status without venturing into the real world and scuffing our sneakers a bit, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first.

So, if you’re a manager, encourage your people to embrace their gumshoe status. Regardless of budget, there are always travel deals to be had. Bamboo factories in Taiwan to visit, surfing trips in Nicaragua to take, Shanghai hotels to experience, Moroccan leather handbags to acquire, and border agents in the Middle East to be rebuffed by.

We’ll come back a bit more seasoned, a bit more inspired, and a bit more humble. Gumshoe graduates.

For the last decade, I’ve spent about 90 minutes every weekend listening to BBC Radio Five Live’s World Football Phone-In podcast. There are very few habits in my life I’ve stuck to more consistently or thoroughly.

If we really are the ‘average’ of the five people we spend the most time with, than outside of my wife and colleagues, the weekly show’s presenter Dotun Adebayo is certainly making a case for his inclusion in my inner circle. I bring Dotun with me to the kitchen whilst doing the dishes, to the grocery store on my weekly shop, on planes, trains, and automobiles.

Of course, the show is partly about soccer players, coaches, and teams, but more interestingly – it is about the unique cultural, geographical, and political nuances of the world’s beautiful game. At once a European, South American, or African history lesson from sport’s perspective. It entertains, but more thoroughly, it educates.

So it was no surprise that the inspiration for this post came from a brief moment this morning when Dotun, joined by his partners Tim Vickery and Mina Rzouki, shared the saying, “Why use a gallon of words to express a spoonful of thoughts.”

It reminded me of a teachable moment in Ocean’s Eleven when Brad Pitt, mentoring Matt Damon, says, “Don’t use seven words when four will do.”

Advice that’s so straightforward yet so difficult to implement. The concise opening to a PowerPoint presentation, in-person meeting, or conference call is pretty rare. It takes preparation to find the right balance between being too brief and too long-winded.

But I think it’s a skill that can be honed. In the 1980s, my mom trained Israeli politicians, CEOs and academics in cross-cultural communications and public speaking. One of her tactics for executive groups was to ask each executive to take out their business card and write on the back of the card – in that small space – what their message was. What they wanted to get across to their audience in their presentation.

The lesson was that you needed to drill down your message to that fine point so you could fit it on the back of a business card. If you yourself don’t know what you want to get across, how will your audience ever understand it?

To some of us, like Dotun Adebayo of BBC’s World Football Phone-In, that ability with the English language comes naturally. Pithy is no problem.

For the rest of us, it’s a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

This post may have taken me ~ 400 words, a liter maybe, but at least it wasn’t a gallon. Perhaps in the future I’ll fit my thoughts into a teaspoon.

 Aerial view of Los Angeles via Jay Mantri

I hit the streets this past week. Caught the 134 to the 5 to the 110 and ended up in downtown LA. Took 45 minutes for the 15 miles, but it was worth it.

I missed my evening routine: walking my dog from 7:00pm – 7:30pm, but it was worth it. I missed dinner with my wife, 7:30pm – 8:00pm, but it was worth it. I missed the latest installment of ESPN’s stunning documentary O.J.: Made in America, but it was worth it.

It was worth it, because, after months of conference calls, emails, GoToMeeting calendar invites, and sitting behind my computer screen interacting with new business partners, we all met in person for the first time. IRL.

Sure, we spoke about work. Our partnership. Our strategy. Our tactics. We got things done. But more importantly, we realized we could trust each other. We enjoyed each other’s company. We put away our screens for a few hours and connected without the crutch of 4G or WiFi. We debated the greatest father-son duos in sports history: Griffey, Bonds, Manning, Hull, without using Google for “inspiration.” We found mutually shared connections, without using LinkedIn. Shared stories from our recent trips to Cuba or Israel, no TripAdvisor needed.

Technology seduces us to sit behind our screens, crane our necks down at our phones in our laps, and hope for the best. And we can often accomplish much through it’s awesome power. We can learn a lot. We can achieve success in work and life. But the screen experience can never compare to the real life experience. The webinar with a sales prospect almost never produces as much progress as the in-person pitch. A shared Chrome browser is fine, but a shared kale salad kafta kebab will almost always result in more business value in the long run.

The quick double tap on Instagram generating a “like” on your friend’s latest dog photo is not the same as a walk in the park with your labrador, Marley. It’s much easier to generate hearts on Instagram than it is to pick up shit with your hand inside a plastic bag, surely.

I love my screens – small, medium and large. Most of us do. But I believe that there is nothing better, nothing more powerful, than a human connection in real life that can help you get from Point A to Point B, specifically in business relationships.

And this past week, around a crowded dinner table, I had a nice subtle reminder, a nice whisper in the ear from an old friend (real life) that was still lingering in the background. I’m here. 

Now the challenge is to find a healthy balance.

You’re the Chief Revenue Officer and you just hit your sales quota for the month. You’re the CTO and your team just built an extremely fast middle-out compression algorithm. Or you’re the CFO and you just implemented a complex version of Great Plains Accounting Software and rolled it out to your entire finance department, all the while helping your company raise a Series B round.

Congrats, you’re fired.

These were the scenes in London last night: Manchester United’s manager, Louis van Gaal, led his team to their first FA Cup triumph since 2004. And despite the win, within hours it had been leaked reported that Van Gaal was set to be terminated.

I feel for Van Gaal. To rob him of his moment in the sun, for the news to break of his imminent departure within hours of his triumph, certainly seems a bit disrespectful at worst, or unfortunate at best.

The thing is, despite the awkward timing, it’s the correct decision. Yes, Van Gaal led Manchester United to FA Cup glory. The emotion of winning such a massive game, in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium, can surely go a long way in helping a man’s job security, legacy, or both. But the executives at Manchester United weren’t concerned with emotion, they were concerned with data.

Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently. – Charles Duhigg

Van Gaal won a (very important) match, but his results over two years were underwhelming. Keeping him on the job due to the win would have masked Manchester United’s larger issues. So they cut the CTO after he deployed the solid code. Sacked the CFO after he closed the Series B round.

In Van Gaal’s place, they’ll bring in Jose Mourinho, the manager with statistically the best win percentage in Premier League history. They’re choosing data over emotion. Manchester United didn’t let winning mask their problems.

If Van Gaal and Mourinho aren’t your cup of tea, and the other football is your sport – run it back to the New England Patriots in 2001. Starting QB Drew Bledsoe went out injured early in the season. At 29, he was in the prime of his career, he had led the team to a Super Bowl five years prior. Unlike Van Gaal, he was universally loved by Boston sports fans, the media, and his teammates. By the time Bledsoe was healthy again, this unknown kid Tom Brady had come in and led the team to an 11-3 record. Coach Bill Belichick looked at the data and stuck with Brady. He made the choice that most other people would be content to ignore.

The emotion would have said – stick with Bledsoe – it’s “how we’ve always done it,” but the data showed that Brady, despite being newdifferent, and unknown, despite being the uncomfortable choice, was playing better.

Fifteen years and four Super Bowl championships later, it worked out just fine in New England. Data won.

Van Gaal may have been good enough but Mourinho, likely, will be better. Bledsoe was more than serviceable, but Brady had another gear, and took a franchise to another level.

You may be winning – through skill, through luck, through both. But if a difficult or complex change is necessary to take that winning performance to another level, to push out better code with fewer flaws, to make your sales process, and thus hitting your quota even more predictable, to run a tighter financial ship, don’t sit idly by. Make the tough choice and go for the win.

Avi Bryant, an engineering lead at the technology company Stripe, recently published a blog post titled, “BYOT,” where he encouraged groups of 2 to 5 people to apply to work together at the company. They call it “Bring Your Own Team.”

What an interesting concept. And a dream scenario for those engineers who do manage to successfully navigate the application and interview process and end up together at Stripe.

I’m not sure if Avi or his Stripe colleagues recently read NY Times columnist Charles Duhigg’s new book Smarter Faster Better, but even if they didn’t, they’re on to something here. In it Duhigg tells the fascinating story of a team of data scientists at Google spending nearly half a decade studying what makes teams productive and successful. They found that how a group interacts is more important than who is in the group. That a team of “B” players with high emotional intelligence, who allow each other to speak freely, safely and evenly, can outperform a team of supposed “A” players – superstars on paper.

We’ve all experienced or witnessed this phenomenon. It’s all around us. In England, Leicester’s rise to the top of the Premier League this season – the world’s richest soccer league, is a victory for teamwork. Leicester’s players play for each other – just watch their high tempo, organized style. Each member of the team is accountable, and they’re winning against all odds. 5,000 to 1 odds, to be exact.

Or take a fictional example – like HBO’s tremendous comedy Silicon Valley. Pied Piper’s two engineers, Dinesh and Gilfoyle, need each other. They make each other (and the show) better – if not for their coding collaboration, than at least for the friendly competition they inspire in each other. It’s unorthodox, but it works.

Much has been written about the rise of contingent workers in our new “gigging economy” – economists predict that 40% of America’s workforce will be comprised of freelancers and temps by 2020. And while 2 out of every 5 workers in less than five years may just be freelancers –out for themselves, in teams of “one,” at the end of the day, success in business rarely comes from individual pursuits.

Which is why Stripe’s call for job seekers to apply together as a team has such potential. As Avi describes it, “the industry has always focused on hiring atoms; we’d like to try hiring molecules.” As with any science experiment – Stripe will have to test the hypothesis they’ve constructed and go out and hire these teams of engineers. Some will work out, others may not. There are certainly challenges that will arise and require thinking through related to performance, retention, and advancement of the individuals that make up these teams.

Finding an amazing teammate, or a group of teammates that you work well with, that make you better, that you enjoy being around, is so rare. If you’re lucky enough to have experienced this, you wake up inspired and motivated to succeed.

These are the types of groups that stick together and can change industries and the planet through innovations like PayPal, Tesla, LinkedIn, and SpaceX. The kind of teams that can win the Premier League against all odds because the “how” outweighed the “who.”

The best basketball player in all the land is not named LeBron James. His name is Stephen Curry. It’s pronounced “STEFF-in,” not “Steven,” or “Steph-on.” If you ever meet the Warriors sharpshooter in person, you could probably stick to “nice to meet you, Steph,” and be just fine…

I thought a lot about Steph this week, not only because one of my colleagues is a diehard Warriors fan who grew up in Berkeley but because another one of my friends told me the almost unbelievable story of how Nike lost Steph to Under Armour:

“The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on.” “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says.”

If the above passage is in fact true, it surely must go down as one of the greatest PowerPoint failures in business history. And mispronouncing Steph’s name? What a shitty first impression.

Even more surprising is the offender: Nike – one of the world’s greatest brand and content machines. With a world class team of marketers, graphic designers, and communicators, you’d think Nike would have put a process in place to avoid the above embarrassment.

Here’s the thing. Smart people don’t wing it. They double check their work. They use “Find and Replace” in PowerPoint to make sure they remove Kevin Durant and replace it with Steph Curry. They practice their pitch over and over (and over) again. They seek out a second pair of eyes before they hand in their assignment. Those TED Speakers who impress and inspire us with their thoughts on the science of happiness or motivation don’t just take the stage and wing it. They put in the hours. That’s what the greats do.

But preparation and persistence aren’t the only ingredients for greatness. The secret ingredient is actually a strong support system. Surrounding yourself with the right team to provide that feedback and help us improve. Every strong writer has a strong editor.

In software development, we have QA. Imagine deploying code to a production environment without first simulating what may happen in a staging environment?

Non-technical professionals should approach their work in the same way. Don’t just hang out alone on an island with your latest case study, white paper, or pitch deck – waking up super early, skipping the trip to the gym, and rushing to the office to finish your slides and practice your transitions. Rely on your teammates. Bring them into the fold. Walk them through your thoughts and ideas. You may just find a new wrinkle that will catapult your work from “good enough” to excellent. Or you may just find a typo to fix. Either way, you’re ahead.

A Nike executive presenting a PowerPoint to Steph Curry with Kevin Durant’s name on a slide isn’t just a “sloppy mistake,” it’s a credibility hit in my opinion. And I think it’s (almost always) avoidable with a strong team around you.

Not detail oriented by nature? That’s OK – trust in your teammates. Share your work with them. Ask for feedback. That’s the whole point of a team. Steph may be the best basketball player in the world, but he didn’t get there on his own. His Warriors teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have his back.

Before submitting that final presentation, make sure somebody has yours.


One of the nicest guys in venture capital, Jonathon Triest, recently hired a new associate, Blake Robbins. It’s clear from Jonathon’s tweet above that Blake has already hit the ground running.

But let’s flashback about two years… Here’s the backstory to Blake landing his new gig. He reached out to Jonathon while an undergraduate at Michigan State, asking for an internship. He got the internship. Less than two years later, it turned into a full-time job.

For those of you who know my background, you’re thinking this is going to be another “power of experiential education,” sermon. Nope, though it could be. While data suggests that seven out of ten internships turn into a full-time job, Blake is where he is today through hustle. Chutzpah. Relentlessness.

It’s pretty simple, really. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 

I wrote a blog post in 2014 on leveraging social media to get hired which Blake executed to perfection:

One of the benefits of social media is the access it has afforded those ‘on their way up’ to those with greater experience. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help… You may not receive a response a majority of the time, but when you do, it could lead to career guidance and growth.

Raising your hand is what separates the special ones from the normal ones. Blake may (or may not) be the most talented VC associate in all the land. But he hustled. He asked, he got.

And now, a month into his new role, he’s showing that same hustle and speed on the job as he did landing the job – 30 days later, his firm is already closing on a deal he sourced. Even if hustling doesn’t coarse through your veins like it does through Blake’s, asking is an important skill to practice and implement, specifically if you work in an entrepreneurial or startup role where bandwidth and other resources may be constrained.

Attending a SXSW panel in Austin where you really admire one of the speakers? Don’t just mention their advice on your Twitter account mid-panel to gain a few likes and retweets, queue up in a physical line at the end of their speech and introduce yourself. Authentically. Articulately. Humbly. Lunch at the food trucks can wait. Make that connection. Say hi, shake a hand. Offer something valuable. Get inspired further.

I’ve seen dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs who connected with legendary VC Fred Wilson through the comments section of his blog. They were authentic. They were articulate. They communicated well. They, like Blake, evidently had the talent.

Think outside the box, like Blake did. LA’s top VC, Mark Suster, recently responded to several entrepreneurs from Israel, Ghana, South Africa, and New Zealand on Snapchat. [Sidenote: It’s a blue ocean for Suster on Snapchat at the moment, there aren’t any other VCs that I am aware of that have the same love affair he does with the platform, and thus provide the same access that he has.]

And it’s not just the power of networking. We can ask more frequently in our personal lives as well. In line for an expensive root canal with your oral surgeon but don’t have great dental insurance? Ask for a discount – (almost) everything in life is negotiable. You just have to ask.

Of course, you will get turned down pretty frequently. Suster and Wilson are busy guys after all, and your oral surgeon has a family to feed. But what will surprise you is that your hit rate will be better than nil – which is what it would have been if you never asked at all.

The thing I love about entrepreneurship is that there is no shame in saying, “well that didn’t work out, let’s try something else.” The same is true when it comes to the ask.