Learn To Duck

by Micah Baldwin

Sometimes the best way to learn to duck is to get punched in the face

Page 5


Cut Me, Mick

The best way to learn to duck is to get punched in the face.

I thought that up while driving around. In fact, most of my little sayings come while I am driving around, and a few of them stick in my brain and become blog posts.

The latest one?

It’s hard to see with blood in your eyes.

There is a lot of talk about how hard (or easy) it is to be a CEO, which is a bit frustrating given that “CEO” is a job function and most founders eventually make horrible CEOs. But, lets leave that discussion for another day.

Great founders tend to be single minded in their focus, which is a huge asset. But, they also tend to be highly optimistic and egotistical. Those three things: focus, optimism and ego create a perfect storm of reaction during the funding and growth stage of the business.

Unless you are highly successful and are able to quickly match the right investor with your...

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Pushing Through the Pain

I’ve been thinking about this post a long time.

Thinking about it during every single mile of the 203.12 miles I have walked in the past 30 days. The 334,448 steps. The millions of drops of sweat.

I would have written it sooner, but both of my baby toes are full of blisters and are probably going to fall off. My knees are creaking like I am 150 years old, and I won’t even try and explain the soreness in my ankles and feet as they lug 350 pounds around.

Each time I walk there is a point where I want to just give up. Just stop. It’s easy, the Stop button on the treadmill is less than six inches from my hand. It even is labelled “Pause,” which would mean I wasn’t really quitting, just pausing.

It is the little things after all.

Each time I think to myself that I should quit, that the pain is just not worth it, I remind myself of something my lacrosse...

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Changing The World

Three little words that mean so much.

Change the world.

Entrepreneurs utter them like a badge of honor, after all its what we are put on this planet to do, right?

Yet, so many of the startups I meet are trying to figure out how to put crap in a box and sell it every month, or as Jeff Hammerbacher, founder of Cloudera said:

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

Why?

Is it so hard to take the intelligence, savvy and problem solving skills and apply them to a difficult problem? Is our world so fucked up that it has become impossible to change it?

When did it become preferable to build a small company solving a questionable problem as a resume to be acqui-hired by Google or Facebook?

This is not the Silicon Valley I grew up in. I know that I am old, and with age idealism returns from youth carrying expectations and requirements; and I know...

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Just STFU

The best advice I ever got was to STFU and listen.

Entrepreneurs are taught to believe that we shouldn’t listen, in fact listening puts us at a distinct disadvantage. If we listen to the status quo or competitors or potential investors, we will fail.

(Of course, to make it complicated, we should listen to customers, and people that actually invested, and maybe mentors too – well, not all mentors, just the ones that seem to be helpful.)

The traditional origin myth of a couple of folks locking themselves in a basement (or garage) to build the next great company is so hurtful to the actual process of refining your entrepreneurial skillset to be almost criminal.

You cannot listen the world or potential customers while drowning yourself in Red Bull and code. And listening, more than any other skill, when highly refined, is what sets the great entrepreneurs apart from the rest...

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The Curse of Bullshit

How are you?

In your head, how did you respond? Did you automatically blurt out “fine”?

My freshman English teacher, Mrs. Carter, once told me that answering the question “How are you?” with anything other than “I’m fine” was a waste of breath.

People don’t really care how you are.

It’s the same with honesty. People don’t want honesty.

“How’s it going with your company?”

“We’re killing it.”

Shut up.

I’ve taken to answering that question with “It’s interesting.”

Blank stares and fear that I am eliciting a response flow over faces.

We have been cursed by a belief that being anything other than bullshit is helpful to whomever we are speaking with. Don’t burden them with your problems, let them enjoy a false sense that your life is better than theirs (after all we...

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The Perfect Cup of Coffee

Over the past week or so, I’ve been asked a couple of times about my process for making a cup of coffee. I am not sure if its up to the hipster barista standards of some folks, but it makes a damn fine cup in less time than an automated coffee maker (take that technology!). So here is what I do.

Total time: 3-5 min

Equipment:

  • Baratza Virtuoso Perciso Burr Grinder
  • Baratza Esatto
  • Zojirushi Hybrid Water Boiler and Heater
  • Chemex 3-cup
  • Chemex Filters
  • Whole Coffee Beans

(Yeah, some of that is overkill, but if you are going to bang a nail, might as well use a big ass hammer.)

Assumptions:

  • The water boiler should be filled and set at 195 degrees.
  • You have 5 minutes.

Steps:

  1. Set the Esatto to 23.5 grams (I like it a bit on the light side)
  2. Make sure the Perciso is set to 24 on the main dial and E on the micro-dial.
  3. Put your beans in the grinder and press start.
  4. While its grinding,...

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Cheater? Entrepreneur.

This afternoon I was over at Greylock Ventures where they had pulled 4 food trucks into the parking lot and invited their friends (thanks Brendan Baker!). As I ate Josh Elman’s lobster roll (take that for going to London!) I got to talk to a bunch of entrepreneurs, investors and the like.

I was excited to hear how many of them had read my post on the essence of the entrepreneur and wanted to chat about it. Not surprisingly, the topic of how to discover an entrepreneur is a hot one. VCs are constantly trying to pattern match against what a “great” entrepreneur is, and founders, regardless of how much they view being a CEO as skipping through the daises, are constantly asking themselves if they are true entrepreneurs. (Yes, I know “you,” White Whale, are the one founder than never questions your ability as an entrepreneur.)

As the conversation grew and...

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Living a Life of Brutal Honesty

I am a honest person. I wasn’t always.

About six years ago or so, I “got sober.” I hate describing it that way, feels like I landed somewhere between “got milk,” and “got crabs.” Mostly, I just stopped doing drugs and drinking. I even, pretty much, stopped smoking.

When I realized it was time to clean up my act I knew that I also had to live differently. Primarily, I had to change the mental dynamic that I was mired in immediately. I knew that there was something wrong in my brain, but like most of what I had done to that point, I figured I would just power past it.

I was wrong. This was something that was bigger than me, something that couldn’t be solved with a mix of ego and elbow grease. I had to come up with a few rules. Two to be specific.

1) Always Be Honest. 2) Always Do the Right Thing.

My first rule has had a bigger impact on...

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Thinking About Thinking

About a month ago, I was thinking, really contemplating, something. Don’t really remember what it was, but I do remember pausing in the middle of the contemplation and thinking to myself:

Why do you think so much?

I started to wonder if the act of contemplation was common among entrepreneurs. After all, if at this point it is not clear that I am obsessed with distilling entrepreneurship (in the greater sense, not the tech startup sense) to its core, then you haven’t spent 5 minutes speaking to me.

The question that is currently burning a hole through my brain is “What is the essence of entrepreneurship?” Are there key characteristics in entrepreneurs that one can see at birth? at 9 years old? In high school? Beyond?

Can a test be developed to determine the “entrepreneurial potential” of an individual that can be administered long before the person...

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Designing for the Hopeless

Entrepreneurs are hopelessly hopeful. Given the disposition to always see the world as it could be, its impossible for an entrepreneur to be anything less than hopeful.

Mix that with never-ending optimism, and you have someone who can change the world and motivate the people around them to join them in that battle.

And, given that entrepreneurs are often taught to solve problems that they have, its not surprising to hear creation myths that include some roadblock that the entrepreneur experienced and which inspired him to start a company to build a product to solve a problem.

But here is the part we all miss: The people we are building for are inherently hopeless.

Before you stop reading and curse me under your breath, follow my reasoning.

Most people chase the American Dream. the American Dream is a happy marriage, with kids. Its owning a nice house, in a good neighborhood with solid...

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