A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here.
The words and images people share through social media have enormous spin.
This is especially true in the startup world where image is everything and perception is key to the next round of funding or investment.
The purpose is to tell the world how world-changing the tech, amazing the team, great the opportunity and how perfectly they are executing.
In other words, they are ‘crushing their goals’, ‘wowing the world’ and ‘killing it’.
Not only that, they are doing it with nary a bump or pothole along the way.
(If you believe that I have a great deal on a lovely orange bridge that would look great in your backyard after you IPO.)
Lee Hower, Co-founder & Partner of NextView Ventures and former entrepreneur at LinkedIn and PayPal, wrote a very needed commentary regarding the hyperbole that irrigates the startup ecosystem.
As he says, “not everybody is killing it and certainly not all the time.”
If anything, the constant social media barrage claiming to be ‘killing it’ is increasing denial, making it harder to admit the challenges, let alone actual problems, and further limiting entrepreneurs ability to talk about it.
Entrepreneurs who go public do so after the fact offering useful insights on how they overcame. While this is valuable, it can make it even more difficult for those in the throes, with no one to talk to.
Entrepreneurship is a double-edged sword; while it can be enormously rewarding, it can also destroy and even kill you — or all of the above.
There are two important take-aways in all this.
Don’t believe everything you see/hear about how others are doing.
Never forget that your pursuits won’t thrive unless you survive.
Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,
“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”
Great music, but little effect.
Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.
Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.
There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.
The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.
Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).
Which, to put it politely, is a crock.
Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.
This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.
But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”
Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.
I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.
Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.
The company provided what has come to be a boilerplate apology.
“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”
Within days it was Pepsi on the social media hot seat for an incredibly insensitive, incredibly white ad focusing on the Black Lives Matter protests.
The ad was pulled in hours, although, as you can see, nothing posted is ever truly deleted; here is Pepsi’s gussied up version of the boilerplate apology.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
Nivea’s story was from an agency, while Pepsi’s was developed in-house.
While I’m no fan of social media in general and its penchant for spreading fake news, in this case the lightening reactions actually did some good.
Heineken is another story (pun intended) entirely and has the awards to prove it, so it isn’t surprising that it was Heineken that successfully created the story the others screwed up so badly.
The take-away is that stories are a two-edged sword, so be sure to do them outside the echo chamber or don’t do them.
Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist, and Katie Brunelle, a former elementary school teacher and coach, responded by creating the Adulting School, a place for people to gain the skills they need to feel like an adult, from goal-setting and sheet-fitting to how to manage money or hang a picture.
Simon Senek, a British author and motivational speaker, also blames parents for the false expectations of so many Millennials, who never were given the chance to learn/live the process of achievement.
“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except for job satisfaction and strength of relationships,” Senek argues. “There’s no app for that; they are slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.”
Whatever you think about a school that teaches adults how to be adults the real question is: in what direction will the next generation go?
Do you believe that Twitter was founded with effects like Arab Spring in mind? Or that Mark Zukerberg started Facebook for altruistic reasons? Or that Instagram, Snapchat and other similar sites actually have your wellbeing in mind?
If so, you probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
The primary purpose of every one of these sites is simple: to make as much money as possible.
Infinite personalization comprises the artificial intelligence-driven, big-data based tools that allow algorithms to build a personalized Internet echo chamber customized just for you, designed to make you feel great. Infinite personalization feeds you the real, the fake, and everything in between, with the simple goal of holding your attention and getting you to come back for more. It is the process by which companies can measure, match, and predict consumers’ individual preferences with amazing accuracy and then tailor offerings to maximize revenue.
It’s done with full knowledge and, in my opinion, malice afore thought.
It’s why tech titans, starting with Steve Jobs in 2010, limit their kids, as I said a couple of years ago in The Hypocrites of Tech.
They want their kids to grow to positions of leadership and power and know they can’t if their world shrinks to a self-enhancing echo chamber that only regurgitates information that fits their preconceived ideas.
It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.
Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.
New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.
It’s not just a case of being distracted.
Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.
In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.
Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?
Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.
It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.
“Name selection is more important now than ever before,” says Alexandra Watkins, founder of brand consulting agency Eat My Words. “Your name has to work harder than it did 20 years ago.”
Driving the charge are shifts in technology and consumer habits. The ubiquitous presence of internet domain names and web addresses, or URLs, social media and the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets with their smaller screens call for new rules on how a company, product or service should select its name, marketing experts say.
I thought it was very good and sent it to several serial entrepreneurs who have been through the naming fire multiple times.
They also thought it was excellent and said to share it.
“Pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button”.
Psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of the upcoming book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, recommends retraining your brain.
“Our brains are equipped to deal with the world the way it was many thousands of years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. Back then the amount of information that was coming at us was much less and it came at us much more slowly.”
“I deleted my Facebook account completely. I found it was just overwhelming me. I’m only on Twitter, I’m on SalesforceOne, which is my internal one for work, I’m on email, and that’s it. And I’m limited to that. I’m trying not to take on more stuff. I was with a friend this weekend, he’s got his Twitter, his Facebook, he has his Snapchat, he’s got all these – too much.”
Of course, part of the overload is work-related, but it’s amazing how much is pure trivia driven by FoMO and/or the need to impress by sounding knowledgeable about a twist in Game of Thrones.
You are the only person who can evaluate just how necessary your various information streams are sooner rather than later.
Because even the smallest stream adds to the river in which it is oh, so easy to drown.
Then you need gather your courage, follow Benioff’s lead and shut down the unnecessary streams.