Time to pay it forward

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”

John F. Kennedy

Don’t ask why no one is helping you, or not taking a chance on you or not believing in you.

Instead, ask why you aren’t helping someone, or giving someone a leg up, or taking a bet on someone even when they still have a lot to prove.

Think back on your own career. Can you name somebody who took a chance on you? Hired you, introduced you, invested time in you, taught you, believed in you?

Pay it forward.

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Tinker, build, fiddle, and experiment

Tinker, build, fiddle, and experiment. Get your head out of the theory and into the practical.

Have a bias towards action. You will quickly learn if you like something or not.

Are you thinking of moving to a new neighborhood or town? Get an Airbnb and stay the weekend and walk through the main street.

Are you thinking about buying a new car? See if you can rent one for the weekend and give it a proper test drive.

Are you thinking about starting a new hobby like cycling, surfing, kiteboarding, fishing, or golf? Rent some equipment and give it a spin.

Once you’ve scratched the itch, you’ll get some authentic feedback, and you’ll know if you want to commit more time and money. The trick is starting small with a low commitment. It’s less intimidating, and it gets you going and saves you time if it’s not for you.

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Choices and Luck

Success is a combination of luck and good choices.

Hard work and long hours don’t automatically result in success. A lot of people work hard. I’ve gotten off a train in Delhi, and seen taxi drivers sleeping in their cars at 5 am waiting for a fare. After I have knocked on their car window and woken them up, they wiped their face with a damp cloth and started the car. The back seat was still warm from where they were sleeping. People around the world work freaking hard. The Americans and the Chinese think they have a monopoly on long hours, my advice to them would be to travel a little and see the world. Travel will humble anyone.

I’ve seen people born on third base blow everything away including money, friends, and reputation because of poor choices. They had the luck of being born to the right parents but screwed up anyway. Being born lucky with a security blanket makes it way less likely thst someone will blow up their life, but a few bad choices will get the ball rolling. That’s why the mega-wealthy people set up trust funds with rules and conditions. The wealthy have learned to build safety valves that protect their offspring from dumb and ego driven decisions.

But it’s not just about luck. Opportunity favors the prepared mind. We are faced with choices every day. Where do you spend your time? Who do you associate with? When someone takes a chance on you, do you accept or do you demure? Who do you marry? Do you marry?

Saying it’s all about luck is a story we tell ourselves to justify our own situation. It’s hard to admit that the right decisions at the right time were involved as well. The trick is to acknowledge the luck, stay humble and choose wisely when they the big decisions are on deck.

When the going gets tough

Take one day at a time. The sun always comes up the next day.

You can only connect the dots looking backward. There will be time for retrospectives later. Now is the time for action.

Over-communicate, don’t bottle it up. Sometimes verbalizing a fear is like slaying the imaginary dragon. Other people will also give you perspective and shared experiences.

Ask yourself how you will feel about this two years from now. It’ll put things in perspective.

Separate what’s out of your control but don’t ignore it.

Worry and stress about things that are certain. Don’t spend energy on worrying.

Ask for help and share the load. Family, friends, co-workers will surprise you.

Stick to your principles and maintain integrity. People will know, and more importantly, you’ll know that when the pressure was on, you dared to be true to yourself.

Take a few deep breaths and check out for a bit. Try to get some sleep and exercise. Sleep and exercise compounds and is a magic stress reliever.

Stay off the coffee and booze.

Keep moving forward and don’t put your head in the sand.

It could be worse.

Persistence and compassion are underrated

These lines in the NYT Michael Bloomberg interview resonated with me. It covers what I think is important. Persistence, compassion and hard work.

Who Gets the Job

What disturbs me is you talk to kids applying today and they invariably say, “I cured cancer, I brought peace to the Mideast.” Spare me. How about, “My father never existed, my mother is a convicted drug dealer. I worked three shifts at McDonald’s.” That’s the kind of kid I want — with an ethic of taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others. Some of us don’t have much prenatal intelligence, but nevertheless go out and try and have a decent chance of surviving. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but nobody’s going to outwork me.

And he doesn’t look in the rear view mirror.

What I Would Have Done Differently

Given the way things turned out, nothing.

It’s a great interview. Read the rest here.