Categories
Startups

Day 484 and Steadfast

Someone who I have come to rely on had a set back this week that briefly threw me for a loop. I initially felt a bit upset, selfishly I felt angry about what the setback might mean for me. That feeling passed quickly. I wanted to jump in and help them overcome the issue. I felt an upwelling of loyalty and emotional empathy that I hadn’t completely anticipated.

In truth, I was honored they shared where they were at with me. Their transparency meant a lot to me. If anything it cemented my feelings for how much I wanted to continue working with them.

Loyalty and steadfastness are qualities that are crucial in startups. Feeling like you are safe enough to bring both the good and the bad to your team makes all of the difference. If you do not trust that your people will remain loyal to you even in times of turmoil you don’t have a team. It’s fine to hire mercenaries at established companies. But when something is new and nascent you are better served being surrounded by those that believe in you.

I emphasize psychological safety in my writing and on chaotic.capital’s website because I think it matters more than almost anything else. All things being equal, psychological safety is the differentiator in who survives in a startup. Having the confidence you can share your creative process matters a lot.

Categories
Emotional Work Startups

Day 466 and A Painting Without Shadows

I take therapy really seriously. I’d put being emotionally capable of managing myself at the very top of my life priorities. Honestly it should be number one and if it isn’t I need to stop and ask myself why. Being an adult requires an intimate understand of one’s emotions and the capacity to share them with others.

To further this goal I do a weekly session as well as group work. It’s meaningful to me and I recommend to all my founders that they find a way to get into coaching as well as therapy. Taking care of your own inner child is the only way you are going to be able to lead a team. If you want to build a billion dollar company and manage thousands of people you better be able to manage yourself first.

Where I think people can go wrong is treating this process as if it’s one of optimization. Do I think founders who have taken the time to understand themselves do better? Absolutely. It’s pretty rare that someone’s coping mechanisms help them reach the heights of their talents. A chip on your shoulder is great but eventually you learn to transcend it.

I think this is because if you don’t understand yourself you are a painting without shadows. It’s flat. Boring. Doesn’t read as true or trustworthy. Maybe you are really good at showing emotions to get your way. Lots of people are but if they just off enough from genuine then it reads as the uncanny valley of empathy. People just know when you are hiding something. And hiding your dark side means hiding your shadows. Without them you are a flat human.

A painting without shadows wouldn’t be any good. You without your shadows wouldn’t be who you are. The best of you exists because of the worst of you. I really do hope more people are able to see that truth and love themselves.

Categories
Emotional Work Preparedness

Day 422 and Very Good Care

I’ve been bouncing around a little in the zeitgeist and media frenzy of last few days. I’ve not done a great job of processing the Russian war in Ukraine. I’ve got ambient stresses related to the generally chaotic moment so the acceleration of conflict felt both inevitable and unnerving. And yet we might outrun the apocalypse yet. Doomer optimism has never seemed so apt a term.

I am going to take care of myself during this tumult. This year of self love and affirmation means thriving in the worse situations. Because I take responsibility for myself. I am a victim to no person or circumstance. I control my response to any situation. That is the freedom to live.

But that thriving only occurs when I prioritize myself first. If I can’t parent my inner child through her fears and reactions, than how can anyone else trust that I will come through for them? Mutual trust comes from understanding the motivations in our relationships and what we get from each other. And that starts with being an adult to ourselves.

This idea of emotional responsibility is a simple concept that is surprisingly hard for people. I work on it every week in therapy. Feeling our emotions (often driven by our childhood experiences) gives the capacity to interact with others as an adult. It’s a step beyond professionalism. I’ve found it’s what separates those who are good at the work they do versus being truly great at their profession. The great are present in who they are.

So don’t be afraid to become truly ok. Thrive. Love yourself and your life even when it feels pointless. Even when the world feels crazy. Especially then. You have no need to attack yourself. Remove the self as an attack vector. We do not harm ourselves. The world is hard enough as it is that it needs no help from us. Now is the time to take care good care of yourself.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 405 and Okayness

I wasn’t in my “okayness” this morning. My focus on self love hit a snag on hormones. I woke up with a migraine and menstruation and I wanted to treat myself as an attack surface. So I asked my Twitter feed to tell me how they got to okayness. And it was beautiful.

I am often struck by how if you share your vulnerability with people they will open up with their own. The joy I get from connecting with you in the fullness of being ourselves gives my entire life meaning.

What seems even wilder to me is that this kind of connection happens on Twitter. It’s crazy that out in some virtual world, the metaverse if you will, the most human needs are met. We can see each other on a phone application. It’s enough to take your breathe away.

I’d encourage you to browse the thread as it’s filled with insight. People take long Lindy walks and do their nails. They lower their standards and raise their spirits. They integrate shadow elements into their identity. They take little risks and embarrass themselves. They imagine the tweet they would send at the end of the day with their accomplishments. But most of all people make things. That even when being a human being seems like an impossible challenge our capacity to build gives solace.

Categories
Emotional Work Startups

Day 402 and The Most Me

I am coming slowly into 2022 in its fullness. Perhaps I am living in seasonal time this year. I am feeling the wholeness of what the moment brings and January is about becoming. So it wasn’t surprisingly that clarity of purpose has been sharpening for me. I am ready to commit to self acceptance as the theme of my year.

I felt somehow today that the only thing that really mattered for my success in the world was radically altering any perception I had of myself as negative. That I was here to love even the parts of myself that cause me shame and fear. The only thing that will take me where I want to go is loving myself. That self love was actually the key to all troubles personal and professional.

“You know, loving awareness—even if you haven’t heard the phrase before, you know what it is. Those moments of spacious, calm, thorough, tranquil connection with whatever portion of existence you’re currently exposed to, where nothing is being challenged or conceptualized, but rather is just allowed to appear, in radiant suchness, without resistance or fear.

How I Attained Persistent Self Love

I’ve discussed the emotional work I do on the blog at length. The Family Systems Therapy and it’s exploration of the inner child. The shadow work and integrating of the whole of oneself. But I do often reject the crucial step of feeling like I am fundamentally alright. I am ok. I am enough.

I’ve committed to “a bit” where I lavish myself with self improvement and luxuriate in needing to make every measurement better. I’m obsessed with finding metrics to improve. And so I give myself little problems to fix. Maybe I’ll eat poorly so I can feel bad about my body composition. When instead I could just eat what I like and accept that maybe I’ve made other priorities than my figure. I don’t need to agonize over trivial shit.

But equally I don’t need to agonize over big shit. So I’m not a perfectly credentialed super star. I’m more of an eccentric. I don’t live like other people so I see other things. My existence is the selling point. If what I bring to the table is what you want then I am the right partner for you. If am I not then well tautologically I’m not for you. Partnerships are accepting what everyone brings.

So through the end of this year I am going to bring self love and acceptance to my writing here. In letting myself be seen I can more fully bring myself to my partners. Being a startup investor that means I must be present for my founders, their teams, and my own LPs and stakeholders. I’m bringing the full depth of my being because that’s also going to bring the best returns. Because being ok. Accepting the moment and it’s inhabitants? That brings us the creative potential to solve whatever is in front of us without judgement.

Categories
Aesthetics Finance Startups

Day 390 and Pitches

So I think pitching is bullshit. My husband has a great analogy. He thinks an hour long pitch to an investor is like a white board coding interview. Have any of you ever done developer work that didn’t have access to StackOverflow and Google? Yeah didn’t think so. It’s a completely artificial environment. Real work is collaborative and input driven and not at all tied to your capacity to memorize and perform on the spot.

I think this is pretty revealing. We force intuitive input driven thinkers, our founders, into a situation where they have little to no feedback. They can’t get anything from us as investors for like twenty minutes. They lead an investor by the nose through a narrative but what if it’s a narrative the VC doesn’t care about. Then what you lose the deal? Fuck no.

You should anchor a conversation based on expressing interest and seeing together where the biggest vision might lay. I’ve legitimately talked to founders who can see their way into imploding corporate legal apparatus or building clean energy through on chain gaming. That is some science fiction level shit. But could they tell me that in a 12 page deck? Fuck no they would look insane. But I want to see you for who you are.

So if you want to pitch me just hop on over to a Telegram chat or my Twitter DMs. Let’s talk and learn and share and then I can really see your passion and vision and we can both avoid canned performative shit.

You want an investor that sees you for you. I want a founder that is building with such a keen passion it’s all I can do to stop from wiring the money that day. Our incentives can align from first contact. So pitch me however you like to communicate. Plus, don’t we all die inside a little every time someone sends a Calendly link?

Categories
Emotional Work Startups

Day 383 and Good at What I Am

Startups are a privilege. You meet people who are exceptional at what they do. Brilliant qualified people who are so capable you could spend your whole life working and only achieve 10% of their innate capacity by natural talent. But the real differentiator is never the talent. It’s the acceptance of who you are. You can’t just be good at what you do. You have to be good at being yourself.

Be good at what you do. Then be good at what you are. Startups require both.

I struggle with this and watch many others who struggle as well. I am brilliant at connecting and amplification but terrible at details and logistics. I used to hate this about myself. I’d beat myself up when I’d get performance reviews that said I wasn’t detail oriented. I thought it was a moral failing. But guess what? It’s just a regular failing. I doubt I’d be great at my actual natural talents if I also had to be good at my failures. Accepting your light means accepting what cast shadows equally.

It’s hard to do. Our coping mechanisms praise us for our good traits and claim full responsibility for achieving them on our own merits. Equally we disown and assume divine intervention or forces outside our control drive our vices. We cannot be responsible for our failures. We only like to take responsibility for our wins.

And I get it. Accepting your shadows is hard. Our parents and our social circles show us who we are supposed to be. Show us what to strive for in the good life. If we are loud we are told to shush. If we are shy we are urged to socialize. Acceptance oh who we are isn’t encouraged. And for good reason. We must push to grow. To become an adult requires effort and work. But we must always remember the ultimate goal in becoming an adult is to become who you are. If you never accept yourself you will never be truly great. And the road is long so start getting good at being who you are.

Categories
Background

Day 363 and Best Of 21

One of the unexpected benefits of writing every single day has been the accumulation of reference material. I can send folks a synopsis rather than retyping a topic that I get asked about a lot. So if you want to know how I get healthy, or how I invest, or even how I think about aesthetics this page will serve as a reference for year 1.

Health & Wellness

Biohacking 101 Guide

Supplements for Beginners

Self Care & Pacing and Recovery Protocols

How To Communicate with Me

Why I Prefer Asynchronous Communication

Why I Dislike Phone Calls (Or DM Me First)

Getting To Know Me for Founders Seeking Investment

Investment Thesis Thoughts

Empathy Investing

Chaotic Labor Markets

Chaotic Families

Request for Founders

Psychological Safety

Mental Flexibility

Bias Towards Fuckaround

What Don’t I Know?

Why I Don’t Like to Invest In Retail Anymore

Aesthetics

Fashion Week Back in The Aughts

The Thursday Styles Problem

Swag (Or My Facebook Hoodie)

A General Theory of Shitposting

Cultural Hegemony and Internet Citizenship

A Short Guide to Becoming an Edgelord

Advice for Startups

Above All Else Fun

Inertia

Rooting For You

Stress, Luck & Startup Families

The Emotion of A Big Exit (or Stack Overflow Sold)

Show Me Anything

Just Make Stuff

Optimizing For The Right Outcome

How To Work With A Startup

Emotional Growth

3 People Inside You

Punishment

Forgiveness and Failure

Easy for You (Not For Everyone)

Superpowers

My Addiction to Work

Categories
Startups

Day 360 and Have Fun

I’ve got a friend who is a world class talent in their field. I admire what they do. But their ability is fairly is specific to what they do at a startup and doesn’t transfer easily to different stages. They recently took a job at a different stage and I’m a little afraid for them. What if it breaks them? What if they get burnout? I am projecting a lot onto this friend at the moment as I am also a fairly specific kind of talent. I’m an early stage person.

The reason I’m so sensitive is I’ve been broken by being in the wrong roles or working on the wrong problems. I tried to change myself to fit something I was only a 7 at when I knew I could be working on something where I was a 10. I hurt myself to fit in.

The hardest part about startups is they are genuinely life altering. It’s hard to make something new. Every harder to nurture and grow and sustain it. Creativity is fucking hard. Every time I criticize a project I do it with a hitch in my heart. I know even the shitty failures were the honest best work of people who cared. And often when it’s a success it’s not because any of them were better than anyone else. We are all fighting our hardest battles. Sometimes by the grace of God our work gets lucky.

So in the meantime I think we should all be having fucking fun. I only commit to founders who so clearly want to solve the problems in front of them. That passion cannot be forged. Real interest and focus are such potent forces. You feel it in your bones. Doesn’t have to be a huge world changing problem either. You can just really love your little corner of the universe.

So don’t try to fit yourself into a role for money or status. Pick a startup because it’s going to be a blast with people you love. Make sure as much of the work will be your particular brand of fun. Maybe to someone else it would be hard work. But if you pick right it will be fun even if it takes all of you to do it to the standard of your passion. And if you are very lucky sometimes it works.

Categories
Finance Startups

Day 348 and Empathic Investing

The best investor I know is Cyan Banister. When I was coming up in the web2 world I got to watch how Cyan handled early stage relationships. She brought total empathy to every interaction I witnessed. The kind of candor, kindness and willingness help her founders eventually set the template for how I wanted to work. I wanted to invest with my whole self like Cyan.

While I doubt it was the primary motivation or even expected outcome, Cyan’s angel investments are some of the best returning of the generation. If you subscribe to Alex Danco’s theory of social capital and angel investing this kind of investing is playing an infinite game. It clicked for me then that the real edge you can bring to the earliest stages of startups is an open heart. An open heart gives you an open mind. And everything else is a matter of tactics from there.

Creativity comes from seeing something in a completely new light. A change in metaphor can lead to tangible physical discoveries and complete cultural revolutions. Science fiction gave us the tricoder and the internet. Imagination literally helps forge the future. So it’s important if you want to spot the catalyzing “this changed everything” moments that you be open to seeing the world in an entirely new light.

While I obviously have an investment thesis on the macro level events shaping market demands, it’s not practically nearly as helpful in the day to day of investing as just being human. Creation is volatility. It’s not usual for a founder to bounce between terror and euphoria on the same day. Imagine how exhausting that can be when your entire life is always fight or flight and fear or famine.

My only job is to show up for a founder in that moment and accept them for who they are. They need to trust me enough to tell me if they are scared. Trust me enough to share their biggest wildest dreams. It’s a delicate and intimate thing to be there for someone no matter what. But I firmly believe that is what it takes to build something worthwhile. It’s never ever clear from the outset if it will succeed. The only thing we can truly have confidence in is our ability to solve the problems along the way. Chances we’ve seen the tactical playbook and can help you solve those more easily. Many of us come with baked-in operator skills like acquisition or operations. We can teach you that.

While this may all sound utopian, or if you are a bit cynical, even maudlin I assure you this is the most competitive way you can approach investing. If capital is simply a commodity you must infuse your work with real value to compete. If you have a lot of assets under management maybe you can add a lot of services. Large prestige funds with billions in AUM can offer that. But now you have to have bigger deals and surer outcomes so that impacts what you can invest in. Scale impacts outcome in all kinds of practical ways.

If it’s all about the capital then you can be beaten not just by a better term sheet (which just makes everything you do more expensive) but also by someone who brings intangibles to their place on the cap table. You know whose pro-rata doesn’t get cut? The person who showed up day in and day out before the round got competitive and every is kissing ass to get in. The founder remembers. And so does the empathetic capital. We win twice over because our deals are cheaper and we stay in them longer.

So founders and fellow investors ask yourself who you want in your corner from the start. You may find the smartest capital is actually the nicest capital as well.