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Rose in the Concrete

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? You wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. We are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are the damaged petals. Don’t ask me why, ask me how!”

Kids have dreams, passions, and visions. Somehow as we grow up those things get crushed. We get told that we need to study harder or be more focused or get a tutor. We smash the rose for what we perceive as it’s damaged petals. Our school system is grooming this world to say, “Hey, let’s be a lawyer or let’s be a doctor,” and we’re missing out because no one ever says, “Hey, be an entrepreneur with ideas and passions or see these needs in the world and decide to stand up. I think if we could get kids to embrace the idea at a young age of being entrepreneurial, we could change everything in the world that is a problem today. Every problem that’s out there somebody has the idea for.

I think we have an obligation as parents and a society to start teaching our kids to fish instead of giving them the fish — the old parable: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” If we can teach our kids to become entrepreneurial — the ones that show those traits to be — like we teach the ones who have science gifts to go on in science, what if we saw the ones who had entrepreneurial traits and taught them to be entrepreneurs? We could actually have all these kids spreading businesses instead of waiting for government handouts. What we do is teach our kids all the things they shouldn’t do: Don’t hit; don’t bite; don’t swear. Right now we teach our kids to go after really good jobs. The media says that it’s really cool if we could go out and be a model or a singer or a sports hero.

So who’s starting companies, large non-profits, and having the most impact on the world? It’s these random few people and the overwhelming majority are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Do you know that bipolar disorder is nicknamed the CEO disease? Ted Turner’s got it. Steve Jobs had it. All three of the founders of Netscape had it. I could go on and on.  So we give them Ritalin and say, “Don’t be an entrepreneurial type. Fit into this other system and try to become a student.” Sorry, entrepreneurs aren’t students. We are on the fast-track. We figure out the game quick.

Some of the entrepreneurial traits that you’ve got to nurture in kids: attainment, TENACITY, leadership, introspection, interdependence, and values. All these traits you can find in young kids, and you can help nurture them.

5 Entrepreneur lessons from Gladwell

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell is the master of dissecting conventional wisdom and coming up with powerful conclusions that challenge what we think we already know. Over his career, Gladwell’s insightful books have cracked The New York Times bestseller list five times, most recently with Outliers: The Story of Success and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Take a look at some of his most Gladwellian life lessons for entrepreneurs below.

1. On practice:
“Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder… Even Mozart–the greatest musical prodigy of all time–couldn’t hit his stride until he had his ten thousand hours in. Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” –Outliers: The Story of Success

2. On courage:
“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” –David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

3. On fulfillment:
“Those three things–autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between 9 and 5. It’s whether our work fulfills us.” –Outliers: The Story of Success

4. On innovation:
“But crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable, I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant. I mean that on that fifth dimension of the Big Five personality inventory, ‘agreeableness,’ they tend to be on the far end of the continuum. They are people willing to take social risks–to do things that others might disapprove of. That is not easy. Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention.” –David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

5. On opportunity:
“The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that 13-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one 13-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?” — Outliers: The Story of Success

The art of stillness by Pico Iyer

I’m a lifelong traveler. Even as a little kid, I was actually working out that it would be cheaper to go to boarding school in England than just to the best school down the road from my parents’ house in California. So, from the time I was nine years old I was flying alone several times a year over the North Pole, just to go to school. And of course the more I flew the more I came to love to fly, so the very week after I graduated from high school, I got a job mopping tables so that I could spend every season of my 18th year on a different continent. And then, almost inevitably, I became a travel writer so my job and my joy could become one. And I really began to feel that if you were lucky enough to walk around the candlelit temples of Tibet or to wander along the seafronts in Havana with music passing all around you, you could bring those sounds and the high cobalt skies and the flash of the blue ocean back to your friends at home, and really bring some magic and clarity to your own life. Except, as you all know, one of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food. And I found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still. And of course sitting still is how many of us get what we most crave and need in our accelerated lives, a break. But it was also the only way that I could find to sift through the slideshow of my experience and make sense of the future and the past. And so, to my great surprise, I found that going nowhere was at least as exciting as going to Tibet or to Cuba. And by going nowhere, I mean nothing more intimidating than taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.

And of course, this is what wise beings through the centuries from every tradition have been telling us. It’s an old idea. More than 2,000 years ago, the Stoics were reminding us it’s not our experience that makes our lives, it’s what we do with it. Imagine a hurricane suddenly sweeps through your town and reduces every last thing to rubble. One man is traumatized for life. But another, maybe even his brother, almost feels liberated, and decides this is a great chance to start his life anew. It’s exactly the same event, but radically different responses. There is nothing either good or bad, as Shakespeare told us in “Hamlet,” but thinking makes it so. And this has certainly been my experience as a traveler. Twenty-four years ago I took the most mind-bending trip across North Korea. But the trip lasted a few days. What I’ve done with it sitting still, going back to it in my head, trying to understand it, finding a place for it in my thinking, that’s lasted 24 years already and will probably last a lifetime. The trip, in other words, gave me some amazing sights, but it’s only sitting still that allows me to turn those into lasting insights. And I sometimes think that so much of our life takes place inside our heads, in memory or imagination or interpretation or speculation, that if I really want to change my life I might best begin by changing my mind. Again, none of this is new; that’s why Shakespeare and the Stoics were telling us this centuries ago, but Shakespeare never had to face 200 emails in a day. The Stoics, as far as I know, were not on Facebook. We all know that in our on-demand lives, one of the things that’s most on demand is ourselves. Wherever we are, any time of night or day, our bosses, junk-mailers, our parents can get to us. Sociologists have actually found that in recent years Americans are working fewer hours than 50 years ago, but we feel as if we’re working more. We have more and more time-saving devices, but sometimes, it seems, less and less time. We can more and more easily make contact with people on the furthest corners of the planet, but sometimes in that process we lose contact with ourselves. And one of my biggest surprises as a traveler has been to find that often it’s exactly the people who have most enabled us to get anywhere who are intent on going nowhere. In other words, precisely those beings who have created the technologies that override so many of the limits of old, are the ones wisest about the need for limits, even when it comes to technology. I once went to the Google headquarters and I saw all the things many of you have heard about; the indoor tree houses, the trampolines, workers at that time enjoying 20 percent of their paid time free so that they could just let their imaginations go wandering. But what impressed me even more was that as I was waiting for my digital I.D., one Googler was telling me about the program that he was about to start to teach the many, many Googlers who practice yoga to become trainers in it, and the other Googler was telling me about the book that he was about to write on the inner search engine, and the ways in which science has empirically shown that sitting still, or meditation, can lead not just to better health or to clearer thinking, but even to emotional intelligence. I have another friend in Silicon Valley who is really one of the most eloquent spokesmen for the latest technologies, and in fact was one of the founders of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly. And Kevin wrote his last book on fresh technologies without a smartphone or a laptop or a TV in his home. And like many in Silicon Valley, he tries really hard to observe what they call an Internet sabbath, whereby for 24 or 48 hours every week they go completely offline in order to gather the sense of direction and proportion they’ll need when they go online again. The one thing perhaps that technology hasn’t always given us is a sense of how to make the wisest use of technology. And when you speak of the sabbath, look at the Ten Commandments — there’s only one word there for which the adjective “holy” is used, and that’s the Sabbath. I pick up the Jewish holy book of the Torah — its longest chapter, it’s on the Sabbath. And we all know that it’s really one of our greatest luxuries, the empty space. In many a piece of music, it’s the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape. And I know I as a writer will often try to include a lot of empty space on the page so that the reader can complete my thoughts and sentences and so that her imagination has room to breathe.

Now, in the physical domain, of course, many people, if they have the resources, will try to get a place in the country, a second home. I’ve never begun to have those resources, but I sometimes remember that any time I want, I can get a second home in time, if not in space, just by taking a day off. And it’s never easy because, of course, whenever I do I spend much of it worried about all the extra stuff that’s going to crash down on me the following day. I sometimes think I’d rather give up meat or sex or wine than the chance to check on my emails. And every season I do try to take three days off on retreat but a part of me still feels guilty to be leaving my poor wife behind and to be ignoring all those seemingly urgent emails from my bosses and maybe to be missing a friend’s birthday party. But as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize that it’s only by going there that I’ll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share with my wife or bosses or friends. Otherwise, really, I’m just foisting on them my exhaustion or my distractedness, which is no blessing at all.

And so when I was 29, I decided to remake my entire life in the light of going nowhere. One evening I was coming back from the office, it was after midnight, I was in a taxi driving through Times Square, and I suddenly realized that I was racing around so much I could never catch up with my life. And my life then, as it happened, was pretty much the one I might have dreamed of as a little boy. I had really interesting friends and colleagues, I had a nice apartment on Park Avenue and 20th Street. I had, to me, a fascinating job writing about world affairs, but I could never separate myself enough from them to hear myself think — or really, to understand if I was truly happy. And so, I abandoned my dream life for a single room on the backstreets of Kyoto, Japan, which was the place that had long exerted a strong, really mysterious gravitational pull on me. Even as a child I would just look at a painting of Kyoto and feel I recognized it; I knew it before I ever laid eyes on it. But it’s also, as you all know, a beautiful city encircled by hills, filled with more than 2,000 temples and shrines, where people have been sitting still for 800 years or more. And quite soon after I moved there, I ended up where I still am with my wife, formerly our kids, in a two-room apartment in the middle of nowhere where we have no bicycle, no car, no TV I can understand, and I still have to support my loved ones as a travel writer and a journalist, so clearly this is not ideal for job advancement or for cultural excitement or for social diversion. But I realized that it gives me what I prize most, which is days and hours. I have never once had to use a cell phone there. I almost never have to look at the time, and every morning when I wake up, really the day stretches in front of me like an open meadow. And when life throws up one of its nasty surprises, as it will, more than once, when a doctor comes into my room wearing a grave expression, or a car suddenly veers in front of mine on the freeway, I know, in my bones, that it’s the time I’ve spent going nowhere that is going to sustain me much more than all the time I’ve spent racing around to Bhutan or Easter Island.

I’ll always be a traveler — my livelihood depends on it — but one of the beauties of travel is that it allows you to bring stillness into the motion and the commotion of the world. I once got on a plane in Frankfurt, Germany, and a young German woman came down and sat next to me and engaged me in a very friendly conversation for about 30 minutes, and then she just turned around and sat still for 12 hours. She didn’t once turn on her video monitor, she never pulled out a book, she didn’t even go to sleep, she just sat still, and something of her clarity and calm really imparted itself to me. I’ve noticed more and more people taking conscious measures these days to try to open up a space inside their lives. Some people go to black-hole resorts where they’ll spend hundreds of dollars a night in order to hand over their cell phone and their laptop to the front desk on arrival. Some people I know, just before they go to sleep, instead of scrolling through their messages or checking out YouTube, just turn out the lights and listen to some music, and notice that they sleep much better and wake up much refreshed. I was once fortunate enough to drive into the high, dark mountains behind Los Angeles, where the great poet and singer and international heartthrob Leonard Cohen was living and working for many years as a full-time monk in the Mount Baldy Zen Center. And I wasn’t entirely surprised when the record that he released at the age of 77, to which he gave the deliberately unsexy title of “Old Ideas,” went to number one in the charts in 17 nations in the world, hit the top five in nine others. Something in us, I think, is crying out for the sense of intimacy and depth that we get from people like that. who take the time and trouble to sit still. And I think many of us have the sensation, I certainly do, that we’re standing about two inches away from a huge screen, and it’s noisy and it’s crowded and it’s changing with every second, and that screen is our lives. And it’s only by stepping back, and then further back, and holding still, that we can begin to see what the canvas means and to catch the larger picture. And a few people do that for us by going nowhere.

So, in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still. So you can go on your next vacation to Paris or Hawaii, or New Orleans; I bet you’ll have a wonderful time. But, if you want to come back home alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world, I think you might want to try considering going nowhere.

Bryan Wilks does what?

I grew up self “diagnosed” as an insecure, skinny, and largely ignored kid. In some degree I still am. It really does stick with us because when we are treated that way we feel invisible sometimes or talked around and at. I started to look at people, which is mostly all I did, and noticed that some people really wanted attention and recognition. There are other people I observed who had a mutuality mindset. In each situation they found a way to talk about us and create that “us” idea.

So the idea is to reimagine the world where we all become greater opportunity-makers with and for others. There’s no greater opportunity or call for action for us now than to become opportunity-makers who use best talents together more often for the greater good and accomplish things we couldn’t have done on our own. Even more than giving is the capacity for us to do something smarter together for the greater good that lifts us both up and that can scale. Each one of you reading this is better than anybody else at something. That disproves that popular notion that if you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room.

So many people ask me “Bryan Wilks what the heck do you do!” They say one minute your doing packaging the next your in Hollywood (or something seemingly random). My answer is I am an opportunity- maker. I recognize that more than wealth or fancy titles or a huge number of contacts is a capacity to connect around each other’s better side and bring it out. I’m not saying this is easy and I have made the wrong connections before but what I want to suggest is this is an opportunity. I started thinking about it way back when I worked in Washington DC in politics. I started developing contacts in different worlds very different than mine and began to see the world from their view. That’s what opportunity-makers do.

Here’s a strange thing: Unlike an increasing number of Americans who are working, living, and playing with people who think exactly like them because we then become more rigid and extreme, opportunity-makers are actively seeking situations with people unlike them. They’re building relationships and because they do that they have trusted relationships where they can bring the right team in and recruit them to solve a problem better and faster and seize more opportunities. They’re not affronted by differences, they’re fascinated by them, and that is a huge shift in mindset. Once you feel it you want it to happen more. This world is calling out for us to have a collective mindset and I believe in doing that. It’s especially important now because things can be devised like drones, drugs, and data collection. They can be devised by more people and cheaper ways for beneficial purposes. As we know from the news every day they can be used for dangerous ones. It calls on us, each of us, to a higher calling.

Here’s the icing on the cake: It’s not just the first opportunity that you do with somebody else that’s probably your greatest as an institution or an individual. It’s after you’ve had that experience and you trust each other. It’s the unexpected things that you devise later on you never could have predicted.

There are three traits of opportunity-makers. Opportunity-makers keep honing their top strength and they become pattern seekers. They get involved in different worlds than their worlds so they’re trusted and they can see those patterns, and they communicate to connect around sweet spots of shared interest.

I truly believe, in my firsthand experience, the world is hungry for us to use our best talents together more often to accomplish greater things together than we could on our own. Just remember you can’t succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork.

Resume Virtues

So I’ve been thinking about the difference between the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you put on your résumé, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace.

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Inbound Goes IPO

In a filing with regulators this morning, HubSpot set expectations for its long-anticipated IPO. The Cambridge, Mass., marketing SaaS company expects its IPO to price between $19 and $21 a share and trade on the NYSE under the ticker, “HUBS.”

If its IPO prices at the midpoint, HubSpot will raise $100 million at a fully diluted market value of $687 million, Renaissance Capital reports. That’s a more than 6X factor over the $100.5 million the company raised in venture capital and growth equity.

The big winners would be General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge. The 27 percent of the company’s shares they owned prior to the offering would be worth $137 million. The next largest shareholder is Matrix Partners, also of Cambridge. Their 17 percent would be worth about $87 million. Co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan hold 4.9 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively. Halligan’s shares would be worth $25 million; Shah’s worth $45 million.

The IPO may come quickly: HubSpot’s cash position isn’t exactly strong, at $7.3 million in their original S-1 filing–as of June 30. That came in on Aug. 25, by the way–here’s our coverage. On the other hand, they wouldn’t be the first company by far to raise large amounts of cash in the weeks leading up to IPO–a category that’s become a hot commodity among institutional investors.

With 30.4 million shares outstanding, a mid-range price would give the software company an initial market cap of $607 million.


School Kills Intelligence

Based on the ideas of creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson who challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

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Williams Complex Explosion Equals Force Majeure

The Williams complex explosion in Geismar, Louisiana has led to an additional Force Majeure on Ethylene. Several other crackers remain offline for maintenance. Despite producers’ third attempt to implement their $.04/lb increase, all signs were pointing towards a contract price decrease in June. However, similar to May, mid month monomer mayhem sent Spot Ethylene prices soaring and resin suppliers pulling well-priced offers off the table awaiting market clarity.

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The Key To Success

By Angela Lee Duckworth- At the University of Pennsylvania she studies intangible concepts such as self-control and grit to determine how they might predict both academic and professional success.

When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching. I went to teach seventh graders math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades.

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