Category Archives: General

Help me make the NY Tech Meetup the organization we all know it can be! Vote @tonybgoode in this week’s board election!

* In case you’re new here, my name is Tony Bacigalupo. I’m running for a seat on the board of the NY Tech Meetup. Learn more about me here

* The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

* Earlier, I wrote a post about why the NYTM elections are important. Check that here!

What does the NYTM stand for, anyway?

It means something different to everyone, but it’s safe to say that everyone involved shares a not just a fascination with the possibilities of the incredible advancements of the last few decades, but a desire to actively participate in making those possibilities into realities. We seek to either build new technologies ourselves, or, in many cases, we seek to apply these new technologies to solve problems in ways never before possible. Either way, we’re united by our shared interests.

Just how big a deal could this be?

New York City is the greatest city in the world. All eyes are on us. When we do something here, the world sees it, and learns from it. The example we set affects not just our own local community, but the leaders of communities in cities all around the world as well.

The NYTM has managed to attract nearly 30,000 people to join its ranks, without even trying. How many more out there might join if we decided to reach out to those we might not yet have reached? Could the NYTM have 100,000 members? More?

The person who gets elected to the board this year will complete a process that began four years ago to establish a governing body around the organization. With this 13th member in place, there will finally be a complete board. This person represents a crucial vote among a small group of people who collectively are charged with representing the interests of the greater community as a whole.

With a complete leadership structure in place, a few years of development and growing pains under our belts, and a growing membership, the NY Tech Meetup is in a position to facilitate a tremendous impact, locally and around the world.

What would I focus on improving?

The NYTM could go in a lot of directions. I’d work with the board to help the organization in a few key ways:

Activating greater participation: Aside from attending the monthly event, the vast majority of the members of the NYTM community has been largely dormant. Every time something more is asked of the community, however, the response is incredible. When our own interests were challenged, we rallied in protest of SOPA and PIPA with a force that could not be ignored. When the city at large was in need of our help, we stepped up and continue to step up to help our fellow citizens.

We’re still just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can accomplish as a community and as a constituency. I intend to apply my experience building communities to the membership of the NY Tech Meetup, so there will be more opportunities for people to participate and get more involved.

There are a lot of ways to be more active. In particular, I want to focus on: 

Fostering job creation: While gathering to demo new tech is fun, it’s also serious business. There’s nearly universal agreement that the opportunities created by recent technological advances hold the answers to how we’re going to dig ourselves out of the economic slump we’ve been in. These answers aren’t just going to shop up themselves; we have to seize upon these opportunities together if we want to make real progress. The NY tech community is in a position to play an active role in facilitating the creation of new jobs as a result of these opportunities.

To accomplish these things, we must engage people in a way that empowers the community to participate in what’s happening. To that end, in my work with the Board, I’ll commit to practicing:

Opening up the organization: I’ll let you know when a board meeting is coming up. I’ll ask for you to voice your opinions and concerns, and I’ll report back on how things went. Hold your elected board members accountable!

Why should I be on the board?

I hate tooting my own horn, but if you’re considering voting for me, then this is what you need to know: I’ll apply my experience building communities to the organization. When I’m not running New Work City, I am working with my friends Alex and Adam, the people behind the legendary coworking space IndyHall, on the Community Builder Masterclass. When we built the course, we developed a methodology for organizing and leading communities that’s been successfully applied many times over. As a board member, I’ll apply this approach to the organization itself. I have solid relationships with many members of the board already. They’re good people whom I can get to work with right away. Knowing I’d be on a board with people I share understanding and trust with goes a long way in making me confident that I can be an effective board member. I’m already in the business of making NYC better. As the cofounder and Mayor of New Work City, I’m already committed to working for the best interests of my community and my city. While I will continue to do so regardless of the election results, being elected to the Board will help to better unify my ongoing efforts with those of the NYTM moving forward.

My relationship with the NYTM

In early 2007, I was working from home, living with my parents, saving up some bucks out on Long Island. I had zero friends in NYC.

That all changed when I discovered Meetup.com, and in a particular the NY Tech Meetup. Before I knew it, I knew hundreds of people in the city, and was quickly becoming an active organizer of coworking communities, events, and even a Meetup group of my own.

Nearly six years, two coworking spaces, hundreds of events, a bunch of BarCamps, a couple of TEDx’s, some hackathons, a fake startup and a turntable dance party later, I find myself completely transformed by a world that welcomed me with open arms.

Since then, I’ve been a part of the NYTM’s Community Committee, an active organizer of NY Tech Responds, and acted as the unofficial afterparty organizer for several years before making it official, and then handing it off to the organization to run. I’ve attended dozens of Tech Meetups and have stepped up to play a more active role in Tech Meetup-related efforts at every possible opportunity. New Work City has also been a steadfast host of the official NYTM Simulcast event since its inception nearly one year ago, allowing an extra 100 people to participate in the monthly event every month.

The NY Tech Meetup changed my life forever. I know I’m far from the only one, which is why I care so much about the future of the organization. There are countless others out there whose lives are waiting to be changed forever, and I want to see this community help as many of them as possible– just as it helped me.

If you’d like, you can help me out with a tweet or similar social media broadcast. If you know other members of the Tech Meetup personally, it would be awesome if you pointed them here and asked what they thought. If you’re eligible, you should vote. And if you’d like to vote for me, I’d be very grateful. I can promise you your vote will be in good hands. Cheers!

The #NYTM board election is this week. Why should you care?

* Note: Check out the official Meet the Candidates event taking place this Monday, 12/17! 

* Update: I wrote a post with thoughts on my candidacy here. Check it out and let me know your thoughts!

* Update: The polls have opened! Vote here right now and spread the word! Perhaps you’d like to toss me a reteweet of support?

Tonight, the NY Tech Meetup will open voting for the 13th and final seat on its Board of Directors. When this final board member is elected, it will complete a four year transition set in motion by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman when he stepped down as the organizer in 2008. According to the New York Observer, 590 votes were cast for 17 candidates in the first board vote in 2010. In 2011, 471 votes were cast for 20 candidates. This year, we have only six candidates in the running.

Why has participation been so relatively low among the members of an organization that’s so popular? The easy answer is that, for a long time, people had little reason to think of the NY Tech Meetup as much more than a really great monthly event. If you can manage to snag a ticket, you’re sure to see some really great new tech and meet some awesome new people in the crowd, but that’s about it. Why should people care about who’s behind it? When the topic of the election comes up, you can see people switching off. You can almost hear people shouting  “get to the demo”!

Since the last election in late 2011, a few things have changed. The still very young nonprofit organization that’s been formed behind the monthly event has started to assert itself in a more meaningful way, and in a relatively short time it’s not only demonstrated its potential, it’s had a huge impact on the city and potentially the nation.

The first big win was in the wake of rising opposition to SOPA and PIPA. If there were ever an opportunity for the NYTM to assert itself, this was it. In a matter of days, the NYTM organized a rally outside the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, who were both supporters of the bill– at least, until over a thousand of us showed up to tell them why they should reconsider.

They heard us. Literally. Defeating those bills was hugely important to the future of a lot of things, and the NYTM played a non-trivial part in rallying its community to action.

More recently, the organization stepped up in the wake of Sandy, rallying nearly 1,000 people to volunteer and acting as the de facto technology switchboard for Sandy relief efforts throughout the city. Having had the opportunity to help make this effort happen, I was able to witness firsthand just how much impact an organization like the NY Tech Meetup could have not just in a crisis, but in many contexts where the non-tech world and the tech world might find themselves with common interests.

The Tech Meetup’s role in defeating SOPA/PIPA and in aiding Sandy relief efforts demonstrated just how important its role can be in the city and in society at large. These happened to be two crises thrust upon us by circumstance, but in both cases an otherwise dormant community was brought to life, and the results were remarkable.

As the NY Tech Meetup moves forward, it has an opportunity to establish itself not just as the representative body of in increasingly important constituency of technology makers in the country’s greatest city, but also as a critical link between that constituency and the rest of the city.

That’s always been the case, but this year we saw two very real examples of why that’s important.

The solutions to our economic woes and the path to our future is undoubtedly centered on the actions of the people building new technology and those who are using those technologies in new ways. The people who lead the NY Tech Meetup will have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to guide those actions.

Holding public elections for four of the 13 board seats is an experiment in engaging and involving the public in this discussion. If people haven’t understood why voting was important before, it should be clear now.

A meet and greet with the candidates is scheduled for Monday, December 17 at 6:00pm at Projective Space LES. Get more details and RSVP here. Shortly after that, the polls will open, and campaigning will take place until the polls close on Saturday, December 22.

I’ll be one of the candidates you’ll see there Monday night. You’ll also meet the other candidates, who are all good people who have done great things for the community.

Everything I’ve discussed above only scratches the surface of why I believe the Tech Meetup and this election are important. I’ll dig more into that over the course of the next week, but before we can do that, we must first agree that this election and this organization’s future are important, worth talking about, and worth participating in shaping.

Why does the NY Tech Meetup election matter to you?

Carmelo_Anthony_Slam_Dunk_vs_Miami_Heat_2012

The Routines of Great Performers

I’m fascinated by the people who dominate our pop culture. Athletes, actors, and musicians, while arguably paid and idolized more than they should be, exemplify a kind of work ethic we can learn from. What do they share in common? How do they achieve such greatness? Among all of these groups, I’ve identified a basic pattern which I believe can be reproduced:

THREE PHASES OF A GREAT PERFORMANCE:

1. Training

Before they even begin preparing for their performance, they train. Whether it’s hours in the gym, practicing their instruments, or sculpting their bodies and minds for their parts, there’s an extended period of training. Sometimes it involves extreme weight loss, or gain, or muscle development, or hundreds of hours of playing the same few notes over and over.

It’s not sexy. The crowd never sees it, outside of an occasional behind-the-scenes documentary. But everyone who performs does it– even the crappy, talentless hacks– work their asses off behind the scenes.

They also have a specific, well-defined job to do. The scope is super tight. You play a specific position, or a particular instrument.

2. Preparation

In the months, weeks, days, and hours before a performance, great performers prepare. This is often a continuation of the training, but now with a focused regimen. Playing guitar now becomes practicing a set list. Training in a gym now becomes practicing specific plays and watching game tape of your opponents. Specific lines are memorized.

One thing doesn’t happen during preparation: screwing around. You might see photos of Carmelo Anthony at a fancy club, or diving fast sports cars or whatever, but you won’t see him doing any of those things the night before a big game.

What’s Melo doing the night before a big game? He’s asleep. He’s dreaming of game tape. He’s dreaming of muscle movements. He’s dreaming of killing it.

He can go kite surfing when the season’s over.

3. Performance

Great performers have a reverence for their craft. They survey their scene. They visualize all of the circumstances around them.

And when it’s time for them to perform, they focus every ounce of themselves on the task at hand.

Watch the post-game interviews when a team loses. Why did they lose? They didn’t have it in them, they weren’t focused, they weren’t feeling it. Why did the other team win? They wanted it more. They were hungrier. They came out on fire.

When it’s time for the curtain to come up, or the tip-off, or the cameras to roll, great performers are ready to rock the hell out of what they’re about to do.

Performances occupy specific, small periods of time– usually no more than a few hours. Sporting events are about two to three hours. Stage performances two to three hours. Musical performances generally no more than three. These time constraints exist for a reason: you can only perform at an extremely high level for a finite period of time.

APPLYING THIS TO OTHER CONTEXTS

I run a coworking space. I also help run an online masterclass in community building. I do a bunch of other stuff too, but those are the main things.

Aside from the occasional karaoke competition, when do I get to employ the above?

I want to be the Carmelo Anthony of what I do. I want to be the Daniel Day-Lewis of what I do.

I want to rock the hell out of what I do.

How do I do that when I don’t have the same sort of constructs?

The theory I’m working on is to manufacture similar constructs, and approach them with the same methodology.

1. Define your role

It starts by defining the scope of what you’re going to rock at. Carmelo Anthony is a Power Forward (when Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t busting up the lineup, but I digress). He isn’t going to practice being a Point Guard or a Center. He’s going to practice only what he has to be good at.

(Carmelo Anthony is a bad example because he is good at everything.)

What does that mean for me? I know I’m good when I’m leading, when I’m organizing, and when I’m generally getting people excited about things. When I step outside of those bounds, things get pretty hit-or-miss. But when I’m doing my leaderly organizerly thing, I know I can rock. So I’m going to focus on that role. I’m going to organize something. 

2. Conjure a performance

I don’t have a basketball game to play, nor a tour date to rehearse for. What does a performance look like for me?

When I run an event, or otherwise gather people for some reason, I’m employing a lot of my core skills and strengths. So I should focus on setting up and preparing for gatherings as if they are my performances.

This performance should occupy a specific period of time, so I’ve set a specific start time and end time. Monday morning, 10:00 to 11:30. 

3. Train, prepare, and perform like star

Now that I have a date and scope for my performance, I can treat it like a great performer treats their gigs.

Because I have a specific date and a particular performance in mind, I can rearrange my life accordingly.

My performance is Monday at 10:00am. That means I’m arriving at New Work City by 8:00. I’m doing my warmups. I’m preparing the scene.

The night before, I’m not staying up late. I’m not going out. Hell, I’m not even going to watch Homeland. And I love Homeland.

I’m heading back to the city early from my parents’ house in the suburbs, when normally I’d stay for dinner, just so I can spend some time setting the stage at NWC. I’m going to do a dress rehearsal, maybe.

I’m going to get a good night’s sleep, dream about my performance, get up early, and listen to my “Get Pumped Up” playlist on the subway ride in.

And I’m going to rock the hell out of tomorrow.

I have no idea what’s going to actually happen or if this is going to work, but I can tell you this: I feel a lot more excited about my Sunday night than I usually do. And I’d wager a guess that I’m going to feel a hell of a lot more like I know why I’m getting out of bed tomorrow morning when my alarm goes off than I might have otherwise.

Tipoff is at 10:00 tomorrow. Game on!

What LooseCubes’ shutdown means for coworking and the future of sharing space

A lot of people were sad to hear the news that LooseCubes will be shutting down at the end of this week, myself included.

Workspace-sharing platforms began to emerge in earnest a few years ago, with LooseCubes leading the way as the largest and most well-capitalized. Off the top of my head, there’s Deskwanted, DeskTime, LiquidSpace, eWorky, SharedDesks, and at least a half a dozen more.

TechCrunch has been quick to say that this casts a shadow over the workspace sharing marketplace model.

Perhaps. I don’t think LooseCubes shut down because this concept can’t make money; they had raised plenty of capital and seemed to be executing on a plan that would get them the revenue they needed. If anything, I believe that figuring out how to properly monetize workspace sharing is just a matter of time– perhaps still a little ahead of its time right now– but there’s little question that the workspace equivalents of AirBNB and Zipcar are going to arrive eventually.

Workspace is going the same direction as our homes and our cars. We don’t need them all the time, and there’s money to be made in facilitating the sharing of them. Collective Consumption and the Sharing Economy and all that good stuff. But that’s not as interesting to me as the other major implication of LooseCubes’ departure.

LooseCubes’ departure leaves a vacuum at the top of the world of workspace sharing. 

People loved LooseCubes. It was the top dog not just because it raised loads of cash. It represented something more.

Because for LooseCubes, it was never about the physical features of the facilities. All that stuff is irrelevant now. The name of the game in the workspace sharing world is the people you have a chance to meet. Nobody ever said they loved coworking because they got to sit in a fancy chair. LooseCubes got that better than most, and was putting that first and foremost in the direction they took.

As others scramble to fill the void left behind, some will inevitably figure out how to do the best job of offering up the best platform for sharing facilities. It will be dry, and it will make good money. And there will always be a struggle among competitors over securing the most market share.

But someone out there will figure out how to make a platform that truly embraces the fact that sharing space is about the people and not the facilities.

Whoever does that will not only have an opportunity to build a truly successful business; they’ll have an opportunity to play a major role in helping to build the infrastructure that will power the new workforce and the new economy. (See my related thoughts on that here.) GoodCoworking, a brand new site that is entirely powered by testimonials, represents a promising insight into what that could look like, but it’s all still very early. There’s much still to be explored.

This is currently the top comment on the TechCrunch article:

Somebody out there must fill that gap. Someone must step up to inspire Amanda and the countless others who saw LooseCubes as a beacon. It won’t be LooseCubes anymore, but it will be someone.

Seeing LooseCubes go away breaks my heart. The memories of the laughter and energy and deep conversations they brought to my community in their early formative days at New Work City will be with me forever. I wish the best to the team and everyone affected.

Join us at New Work City’s temporary home in Brooklyn and help with Sandy relief efforts!

As we enter the fourth day of Sandy’s aftermath, countless New Yorkers are still without access to power, communications, and basic needs. This is an enormous crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Our neighbors are in need, and now is the time for us to do our part to help.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve corresponded with people connected to the Mayor’s office, City Council, FEMA, the Barclays Center, NY Tech Meetup, Recovers.org, Occupy, CrisisCamp, Entrepreneur Week, Twilio, the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (who are en route right now from Texas!) and countless other inpiduals who are stepping up to help.

The response by the NY Tech Community since the hurricane passed has been absolutely incredible. To see people I’ve only ever known by sharing beers at Meetups over the years now coming together in joint action is one of the most inspiring things I’ve experienced in a long time.

We’ve collected over 200 names of people who have technical skills and expertise and are ready to help. Now, today, it is time for us to take action.

Help us help those in need. Now.

A massive outreach effort is underway to connect those of us who are in a position to help with those who are in need. We have already identified a few projects to work on, but will be brainstorming new projects today.

About that new space…

Join us at NWC’s temporary Brooklyn HQ today & tomorrow

The fine folks at Brooklyn Brainery (seriously, they’re some of the most wonderful people ever) have welcomed us to use their beautiful space in Carroll Gardens as a temporary home base while we wait for our space in Manhattan to get its power and internet back.

For anyone in South Brooklyn, I encourage you to come by. Coworking in circumstances like these is awesomer than usual.

Brooklyn Brainery / NWC:BK
515 Court Street at 9th Street (map)
F/G to 4 Av / R to 9 St / B61 bus

We open at 10:00am today. Free and open to all NWC and BKBrains members/teachers and people committed to helping with relief efforts. If you’re none of those things, email me and ask nicely :) tony at nwc.co

Seriously, this place is lovely, and it’s all ours for now. Check it out:

  • For those of us in North Brooklyn, a similar effort is forming to gather people at the Secret Clubhouse. Crisis organizers Jessica Lawrence and Noel Hidalgo are making that their HQ; join them there if you can!
  • For more information on the ongoing recovery efforts, see my earlier post!

Let’s help our fellow New Yorkers in need!

Cheers,
Tony Bacigalupo
New Work City / Community Builder Masterclass / Let’s fix the stupid job crisis

NY Tech community: now is your time to shine.

In earlier crises around the world, members of NYC’s tech community have stepped up to build solutions to help with relief efforts. Now, the crisis is literally in our own backyard. In the face of tremendous challenges in the days and weeks and months ahead, we have an opportunity to contribute our unique capabilities to help those who need assistance with their technology needs, and to build better ways to assist those who are coordinating relief efforts. New Yorkers have shown time and again what they are really made of when faced with adversity. Now is our time to shine.

There are already an impressive array of efforts underway. The speed with which these early efforts have come together speaks to just how capable we are of doing more. I want to talk to anyone who wants to hack on solutions in the Prospect Heights / Park Slope area over the next day or so. Fill out the NYTM form below or ping me directly! Here’s a breakdown of the major efforts I’ve discovered so far:

NY Tech Meetup Coordination

I’ve worked with Jessica Lawrence of the NY Tech Meetup to build a basic form where we can collect information from people who have something to offer.

Update: #sandycoworking

People are gathering at spots with wifi and power. Follow the conversation here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23sandycoworking&src=hash

NY Tech Responds

Rob Underwood set up this site and tweeted about it to help coordinate efforts. More to come: http://nytechresponds.org

HurricaneHackers

Coordinating efforts around the city. From their site’s main page:

#HurricaneHackers key links:

  1. Index: http://bit.ly/hh-index
  2. Linklist: http://bit.ly/hh-linklist
  3. Projects: http://bit.ly/hh-projects-read
  4. Chat: IRC, Freenode, #hurricanehackers: http://irc.lc/freenode/hurricanehackers

Recovers.org

Local organizers have been putting together pages for the hardest-hit neighborhoods on Recovers.org:

Occupy Notepad

Putting politics aside, the folks behind OWS have been out in force coordinating relief efforts online. They’re heavily involved in some of the above projects, and have also assembled a wiki here:
I’ll add more here as I find it!
Cheers,
Tony Bacigalupo

Like Starfish, Good Ideas are Hard to Kill

I always thought the analogy of the Starfish and the Spider was great, but could never really be fully implemented. A decentralized community is great in theory, because it is more versatile, but eventually, some critical thing depends on one person to make it all hang together. Somebody has to purchase the dot com. Somebody has to sign the lease. I always thought that the idea was to build something that was as starfish-like as possible, minimizing the number of things that in fact did require a single leader.

At least until now. While working on the Community Builders Masterclass with Alex, I realized that I was wrong this whole time. I had believed in the Starfish analogy, but wasn’t taking it far enough.

A well-built Starfish community should be able to survive even a severe blow– like the loss of its space, or its leader. It might be hurting for a while. It should be able to repair itself and continue on. The supposedly required things, like leases or domains, weren’t absolutely necessary for the community to survive; they were just really close to the center.

The stuff at the center is really important to the stuff at the edges, but removing them doesn’t kill the whole thing. A starfish can be cut in half and live. A starfish can do without. So too can a healthy community.

Because at its root, a community draws its life from a shared belief in an important idea. And good ideas are really hard to kill.

They show up, unpredictably, in more than one place at a time. Countless people came up with the idea for coworking before they knew there was already a global movement for it, myself included. The idea could never be stopped, because it was popping into people’s heads all over the world all on its own.

Align yourself with an idea that’s hard to kill, and what you’re building becomes hard to kill too.

The analogy holds. Long live the Starfish!

Leona Lansing, Shareholders, Crowfunding, and Fixing the Economy

Who is the villain in HBO’s Sorkin series The Newsroom?

Is it the jerk President, who cares only about ratings? Or the viewers, who seem to prize entertainment over real news?

Surely it’s Leona Lansing, the devious owner of the network, who will go so far as to use her own tabloids to sully the reputations of employees who have fallen out of her favor.

I would posit that the real bad guy isn’t one we’ve seen, or are likely to see: the shareholders. Or, more specifically, the system that governs the manner in which a publicly traded company operates.

As a publicly traded (fictional) company, ACN has a fiduciary obligation to maximize financial return to shareholders. Shareholders can buy and sell at any moment, which compels companies to do things that are increasingly short-sighted.

If a news organization is doing something stupid, like reporting the Casey Anthony trial instead of the debt ceiling crisis, and getting rewarded for it in the immediate term with higher ratings, it compels competitors to respond in kind. The result? News organizations no longer reporting the news.

Leona Lansing is a villain, sure, but she would argue she’s just doing her job. She’s doing what she has to do to achieve the goals she’s been put in place to fulfill.

It’s why the heroes of The Newsroom will always struggle, and likely fail.

But we don’t want them to fail. We want them to win. We want the news to be better, dammit!

How might we go about changing that? We have to change the rules of the game.

Let’s say ACN was managed by a different set of investors. These investors would seek to get a return on their financial investment, but they also invest because they believe in journalism and its importance in society. They invest not just because they wanted to make more money, but because their interests are aligned with ACN’s stated mission.

Let’s say that, in this model, ACN reported quarterly not just on their finances, but on how effectively they reported the news. How often they got the facts right when the other guys didn’t. Scoops. The stuff that really validates their existence.

I don’t have much money, but I would put a few bucks into a news organization that held itself to that. And I’d watch their shows and tell my friends to do so as well.

Here’s the kicker: it doesn’t need to get the best ratings to be successful. It doesn’t even need to get fantastic ratings. It just has to get good enough ratings to pay for the people who run it to do their jobs well.

Instead of responding to an unending chant of “make my money make more money for me now!” they instead can focus on “do what you’re supposed to do and do it well!”

But it would be impossible to change the way we invest in businesses, right? We can’t really build an alternative model to the stock market that could have any real effect, could we?

I think we can do it. I think it’s already begun. Kickstarter and all of the other new crowdfunding platforms are proving that people can raise money– real money– from a population of people who care about something other than making more cash. People are giving their money, in droves, to projects that represent something they believe.

And next year, when the JOBS act kicks in, and Kickstarter and others become platforms not just for donations but for formal legal investments– people will increasingly have opportunities to architect companies that have a fundamentally different DNA.

Companies that have an obligation to do well. To strive to be better.

I can’t wait to invest in that.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to consider voting for my SXSW panel proposal. I hate whoring for votes but would also love the opportunity to spread this message to more people.

You can’t pull the plant out of the seed.

I’ve been journaling on Buster Benson’s incredible site, 750 Words, for the past few weeks, and found it to be an immensely effective way to get things out of my head and into a form where I can understand it and organize it. It’s downright therapeutic. What follows is today’s entry, which is not a typical entry, but one which I feel comfortable sharing.

“You got your passion, you got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
When will you realize Vienna waits for you?”

You can’t pull the plant out of the seed. You can work hard to prepare the soil, provide water, sunlight, warmth, but in the end, the plant will come out when it is damn well ready.

I have been battling lately between two tendencies. One is my tendency to overthink and overplan something. The counter voice in my head shouts, “JFDI!” — knowing I all too often think and think and think and never eventually produce.

That collides, however, with another tendency– the tendency to rush. To feel like everything has to be done now. Time is of the essence. Pressure. Go go go.

Well, that doesn’t work so well either. It’s not healthy and doesn’t produce the best results.

So what’s the balance? What’s the right thing that satisfies both of these issues?

The farming analogy is apt. It’s an elegant thing to go back to.

You can’t force a plant out of a seed. You can’t force yourself to launch into something you’re not ready to launch into yet. But if you rest on your laurels, you won’t get anywhere either.

So prepare the soil. Provide ample water and warmth and sunlight. Focus on aligning the necessary conditions. This stuff isn’t simple or easy or obvious. It’s not a matter of just throwing a lot of work at something until it sticks. It’s not about working hard, it’s about working smart.

My first philosophy class in college frustrated the hell out of me. I wasn’t the type to talk to professors after class, especially when it was a 100-level stadium-seating 100+ student lecture. But I was so frustrated by the lack of answers the various philosophical approaches we studied were providing that I felt compelled to challenge my professor on the point of studying this stuff at all.

What’s the point of studying all of these things if none of them prove to be correct? Are there never any answers?

My professor, who had no idea who I was, who didn’t particularly care, who was on his way to something that was certainly more important to him, stopped for a moment and gave me his attention and said something to me that I’ll never forget.

“There are answers,” he said. “But it takes time.”

I don’t remember the rest, but what I took away from it was clear: the answers aren’t simply going to manifest in the form of words on paper. It’s not something you can approach using simple low-level activity like reading and writing and talking. Real, high-level answers require high-level thinking. It requires transcending the details and the distractions of the immediate circumstances and synthesizing concepts in a way that might be easily described but not so easily understood.

Answers to a philosophy of life aren’t going to come by you reading them in a book. They’re going to come when you stop thinking that the answers are in the words and start thinking that the answers are in what you do with those words.

Hacking away at success is too often the M.O. and it usually has to be that way– real life progress is inherently horribly inefficient. It can take years or decades or a lifetime to learn a simple lesson. But we shouldn’t accept that as the best way to approach doing things. It’s a tendency we have as people to fumble around trying stuff as we work our way towards actually figuring something out, but we should be focusing on minimizing that approach in favor of something more efficient and effective.

Silent Bob speaks only when he has something to say that he knows is worth saying. Otherwise he doesn’t bother. He accomplishes with a few words as much if not more than those who spout thousands of words in the same span of time, with far less effort expended.

That’s a stupid analogy, but this is a stream of consciousness, so we’re just going to have to roll with it.

688 words and about 60 more to go. There’s more on the to-do list than there are things which will get done. We know this. It’s okay. I don’t want to run out of things to do. If I do, I’ll just manufacture more. It need not all be done today. What’s more important is that I approach the work that I will do today with a mindset of strength and focus.

Preparing the soil. Providing the water, the warmth, the sunlight.

Time to get to farming.

Piloting Community-Based Partnerships at New Work City

Over the years, I’ve been approached by a ton of people with ideas for how we might partner with them to better serve our members in some way. It’s been exciting to talk to people about a lot of really cool ideas, but it’s also tested my ability to maintain a clear focus on our core mission.

What’s the line between defending the healthy organic development of the community and providing members with a service or resource that could be useful and helpful to them?

It’s honestly a rather stressful experience to manage, and it never seems to go away. Until, I hope, now.

The old way of handling partnerships

(Painful for me and not super effective)

Outside entity –> Me –> NWC community

  • Entity has to convince me to work with them
  • I have to spend time and energy deciding what to do
  • Community may or may not respond well
  • Relationship with community is indirect and transactional
  • Generally not sustainable or fun

In almost every instance where I have a dilemma or ongoing issue managing something at New Work City, the answer seems to be “go back to the community.” In this case, it looks like my job should be to remove myself as the middleman as much as possible and let things enforce themselves.

How can we do that? By simplifying things and routing everything through the community.

So here’s the experiment now: if you want to do something with or for the community, go for it. It starts with you becoming a part of the community. No more outsiders. If you have something to offer, join the community and earn the support of the membership. We’ve built out a pretty robust array of tools, including an internal wiki that gets blasted to all members once a week, a discussion group, a profile directory, a monthly show-and-tell, and, of course, the space itself where you can meet people face to face. For only $30 a month.

New way of handling partnerships

(Sustainable, elegant, more effective)

Outside entity –> Join as a member –> NWC community

  • Outsider becomes a part of the community themselves
  • “They” become part of “us,” and can engage community members directly
  • Relationship with community is direct and personal
  • Results in better feedback and participation from interested members
  • Less artificial barriers to participation

Members have really good bullshit detectors, so it’s only worth your effort if you’re truly trying to do something that helps them. Anyone trying to play games or spam people will be wasting their time, and I’ll throw the hammer down if I have to.

Instead, people can look at it as an opportunity to do some good healthy biz dev. When you earn the support of members yourself, you’ll have an opportunity to engage a really great group of people who can help you in some spectacular ways. That’s what we do for each other here every day already. Alex preaches “relationships before transactions,” and with good reason. Building legitimate, healthy relationships with people circumvents the schlocky salesy stuff that we’re inundated with everywhere else.

Will this work? I have no idea. But cutting myself out as the middleman and betting on the community to self-enforce tends to be a good direction, so I’m hopeful.

I think this could turn out to be an awesome way to make the community better and my life a little easier. What do you think?