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A few years ago, I realized that I had run out of namespace in my brain and the only way I could learn a new name was to forget one that I already knew. This notion annoyed me for a little while, then amused me, and then became my reality.
I’ve always been bad at names + faces, but I have a savant like ability to remember stuff that I’ve read, especially numbers. I’m a visual learner, not an auditory learner. Not only can I read much faster, I retain so much more. So it’s not that surprising to me that when someone comes up to me it’s hard for me to associate their name with a face.
This used to not matter much. But in the last decade the number of people who know me, or know of me, overwhelms the number of people I actually know. Part of this is the function of the network vs. the hierarchy where the network is completely dominating in my world.
As I reorient my work patterns to eliminate travel, more aggressively leverage the network, and become one with the machines, I’m less interested in “hi my name is Joe Smith” and much more interested in just interacting with Joe Smith. This can be awkward for some, especially those who really want a physical connection of some sort (e.g. “can we meet for coffee?”) but if you want a magic decoder ring for my life, just start “doing” and remember that my world is a network and a doeracracy.
Please don’t be offended when you come up to me and have to reintroduce yourself. It’s definitely a me problem, not a you problem.
I first heard the word “grinfucker” a decade or so ago from a close friend who was a former investment banker. He said, in response to a meeting we were in with a person who was very polite and charming “he’s such a grinfucker.” I loved the word and, as I found out later, it described the person perfectly.
I had an encounter with someone on Friday that made me think to myself “that person is a grinfucker” and I vaguely remembered a post on the web from someone about grinfuckers. A quick Google search generated a post from Mark Suster titled Don’t be a Grin Fucker. It’s excellent - go read it – this blog post will wait patiently for you to come back.
I was at dinner mid-week with another friend talking about a bunch of stuff. During that dinner we started talking about SOPA/PIPA. He has another friend who is one of the SOPA/PIPA advocates. He told me what the person said about it, which was basically “the tech industry misunderstands what we are trying to do – it’s only about foreign websites – there is nothing bad in the bills.” I responded to my friend that this person was lying. We talked about that for a while. As I reflect on the conversation, it wasn’t simply that the pro-SOPA/PIPA person was lying, he was actually grinfucking our mutual friend. Which, ironically given the specific context, might even be worse than lying.
I try to live my life where I always say 100% what is on my mind. I rarely hold back and, although I try to be polite about it, I’m sure I piss plenty of people off. But I’d rather annoy and piss them off than grinfuck them. And I’d much rather someone be brutally honest with me about whatever they think, especially if they disagree with me or think I’m doing something stupid, since that information is so much more valuable to me than a disingenuous good vibe.
I’ve started doing something new at the end of most of my public talks. I have always ended by giving out my email address and encouraging people to reach out directly if there is anything they want to discuss. But I’ve added on the following:
If I said anything you disagree with, think was confusing, stupid, or just plain wrong, please tell me. I won’t take offense – don’t sugar coat it – just tell me. That’s the best way for me to learn and get smarter.
I suppose I could add “please don’t grinfuck me by saying how wonderful the talk was as you think in the back of your mind ‘wow – Feld is a real moron – he totally missed the point on the blah thing.’”
I encourage everyone to chew on this. Honest, direct, and clear debate is so much more powerful than bullshit. We are living in a very complex era and the information we are trying to process is extremely confusing and contradictory. If you like or respect someone, don’t grinfuck them. And if you don’t like or respect them, don’t grinfuck them – tell them why.
Following is something that happens to me on a regular basis, with a new and exciting twist. I’m telling this story both to vent (maybe I’m grumpy today – I don’t know) as well as for an object lesson on how not to interact with a VC, or at least with me.
First – the normal part. I’ve had an email exchange with an entrepreneur over the past week. We’ve never met, but he started the email thread by asking if I’d be interested in getting together about his company because he’s looking for financing and he’s sure I’ll be interested. I asked for a short description of what he’s doing. He sent me another email telling me all the friends we have in common who will vouch for him. I responded by asking what he was working on. He gave me a vague description and told me I’d love it. I didn’t really understand it, but it didn’t fit in any of our themes and I told him so. He said he’d looked at the themes and thought I’d be really excited about what his doing. I again asked him to be more specific in case I was missing something.
Now – the new and exciting part. I didn’t hear back from him for a few days and then got an email asking me to respond to his previous message. I looked through my email archive and didn’t have a previous message from him. He responded a little later with the following:
“Kindly, thoughts below…pls recognize that this is intellectual property and disclosure of this information in any manner is agreed to be upon mutual consent prohibited.”
I sent him a simple reply. “I haven’t read past the first sentence of this email and I’ve deleted the original from my email archive. I don’t sign NDAs and have no interest in having you unilaterally commit me to a confidentially agreement of any sort.”
Stuff like this just baffles me. I get some version of a strange interaction like this every few days. Last week it was the guy who had “flown to Denver just to meet me because I said that I’d meet with anyone.” After a dozen emails where I kept asking him to tell me what he was working on, he basically told me to go fuck off and I’d regret not meeting with him because he was going to create a great company and I was going to miss out.”
It’s weird. Advice to all of you out there – don’t be that guy. If I tell you I’m not interested, try to respect that. I’m trying to be respectful of you by passing quickly and not wasting your time. It has nothing to do with you – and I’m often wrong. But thrashing around with weirdness to try to get face to face isn’t helpful.
And yes – I’m having a much better day today now that I’m hiding in my room behind my computer.
It’s that time of year again. Everyone that publishes content and is looking for link bait is publishing a top 10 list of 2011. I’m getting asked daily to contribute – I finally decided to create a blog post so I could simply refer to it instead of saying “sorry – I hate top 10 lists, count me out.”
10. They are boring as shit.
9. Extraordinary selection bias prevails.
8. Clever superlatives like splendiferous are often missing.
7. They always have 10 items. Why not squares like 9 or primes like 11?
6. Google has better things to do than index top 10 lists.
5. Time wasted reading top 10 lists takes time away from playing CastleVille.
4. Ever try to read a top 10 list on an iPhone? There needs to be an app for that.
3. If SOPA/PIPA passes, some of the sites republishing the lists might be shut down.
2. Listmakers, like @abatchelor, are food for the matrix.
1. Very few lists of 10 things fit in 140 characters.
Let’s put this in the category of “pet peeves” around things that are obsolete.
One of my goals as a VC is to help create companies that cause obsolescence of existing products, companies, and industries. As a result I think about what’s becoming obsolete all the time. I don’t just think about this in the specific areas that we invest in, but in all aspects of my life. I find that this frame of reference – namely “will we be doing X in 20 years” is a fundamental part of my approach to what I do.
I’m at DIA this morning. I just spent $13.19 at the “Newsstand” on four Clif Bars, a bottle of water, and two packages of gum. I gave the guy at the register my credit card because I hate paying in cash, having to deal with change, and then submitting an expense report for a cash expense of $13.19. By putting it on my credit card, I don’t have to deal with any of this stuff.
A little piece of paper comes out of the register. Then another piece of paper comes out of the register. He gives me the second piece of paper and asks me to sign it. He hands me a grimy ballpoint pen that I don’t really want to tough and I scribble “pooh bear” on the slip. I hand it back to him. And leave.
Why the fuck does he ask me to sign a credit card slip for $13.19. This is so incredibly obsolete. While I don’t know his cash register system, it looked pretty modern (yes – it was a computer) so I doubt he does anything with the slips at the end of the day other than put a rubber band around them and send them to someone somewhere. And I’m quite sure no one will ever notice that I signed the credit card slip “pooh bear.”