Be a lion

Be a lion,

just don’t tell a soul.

Take your turn with quiet,

be unsure.

Swallow your roar,

take small, grateful steps,

understand,

You don’t understand,

the men you see.

Wear your oldest coat,

in proudest company,

accept the defeats you’ve been given,

love them as gifts,

think with unworthy simplicity,

for a great mind like yours.

Ignore every aspect of your hunger,

look past it,

to the days when your place has been taken,

and thank God for those days too.

Bathed in danger,

exposed to shame,

but,

never threatened,

never scared.

Be a lion,

just don’t tell a soul.

I know some friends

I know some friends,

(not more than a few),

that shine so damn bright.

Who I want you to know that I know.

Their beauty is lucky for everyone.

It gives with innocence.

They’re talented,

but they’re more than that.

All their details matter.

They put permanent stamps on forgotten weekdays,

which is why,

I can’t quite understand,

or relate to,

folks who believe,

That those lights ever stop shining.

The Convent Across The Street

*Written in 2012*

Fourth floor walk up.

No outlet in the bathroom.

I walk around naked,

to the kitchen,

to blow dry my armpits, dick, and balls.

Claire says it will dry out my skin.

Full length mirror,

don’t mind what I see.

The Girl who used to live here walked around naked too,

subject came up when I toured the apartment with the broker, Sandra.

Said she shouldn’t have because there is a Convent across the street.

She was nice and funny,

but I throw away her mail when it comes here.

This will be a sad poem

This will be a sad poem.

The tale of a phantom chased.

You read she didn’t exist,

But you saw her everywhere.

And so you believed.

That led to the negotiation.

Competing in a game you’d rather not win.

Yet you can’t stop playing.

You need the phantom,

you want the phantom.

Catch her and you’re guaranteed a sunny Tuesday.

She’ll give you fleeting momentum.

A currency with the others, a tit for tat with their rat race glories.

But the truth…

it sticks,

and you can’t quite forget,

that you spent all of your progress,

On a “need,”

driven by a peg,

many rungs beneath,

your blue square Boyne Highlands days,

of early youth.

I knew she’d give me a poem

I knew she’d give me a poem.

When she talked so much, for so long, I thought I might hate her…

when she told stories of longing for successful men who could one day support her…

when we sat by the fire.

Even after I heard how her Daddy didn’t love her.

I knew she’d give me a poem.

So I stumbled around,

in her company,

til’ the clock struck twelve.

And I’d gotten what I didn’t know I ‘d come for.

My Allies

I back off from a full boil around all but my allies.

I’m a little less.

A little quieter.

Perhaps a little shorter.

You, you needn’t know the heights I may or may not have seen.

But with my allies I can burn, and I can shine.

Roar,

I’m my Mother’s son,

in full bloom as I’ve been seen by the women who’ve loved me.

Here’s to my allies.

They remove the obligation…

To abbreviate.

Listen to customers, not investors

If you’re going to start or sustain a business, you’ll need customers. You won’t need investor feedback. In fact, listening to too many investors has the potential to kill the energy that surrounds a promising new venture.

So don’t listen to investors.

Listen to customers.

It’s the marketplace that will determine whether you have something. If customers are interested, if they’re giving good feedback, if they’re willing to pay for your product or service, the investors will follow.

The startup community places too much emphasis on the investor, on the demands created by the image of his or her fund, and the returns he or she expects.

Don’t let the rules imposed by the self image of another business cast a dark cloud over yours. Your business exists to serve customers.

Lots of startups wait around for an investor to bless their idea, thinking that’s the path to success. But here’s the problem.

Investors are almost always wrong.

The vast majority of their ventures fail. Most don’t have anything approaching a crystal ball. No matter what they may say, it’s not just about great entrepreneurs and great ideas, it’s about hitting the next grand slam, and all the accolades that go along with that. It’s about ego, and investor ego has nothing to do with creating an amazing experience for your customers.

Funds don’t want great business ideas, they want startups that can double the size of the fund with GIANT returns. But here’s the problem. The potential return on investment way, way down the line is unknowable (again, see most investors fail). All the emphasis at the outset on “MAKE SOMETHING REALLY BIG THAT WILL EAT THE WORLD,  AHHHHHH!!! DISRUPT, BLAHHHHH” actually gets in the way of entrepreneurs making useful things for customers.

The “10X” sales pitch VC uses to raise money for their funds, doesnt have much to do with what will make a solid, profitable, business. Unfortunately, there is a whole class of startups out there whose goal is more VC, not profit, not self sufficiency.

Famous VC Fred Wilson said it well:

Investors have their own agenda. They want to invest in “bigger ideas” and “larger outcomes”. When they tell you that your idea is too small, they may be talking to themselves, not you. Do not make their problems your problems. This is your business, not theirs.”

If you’re raising capital for a startup, customer feedback, especially feedback that comes up again and again, is gospel.

Casual investor “advice” is not.

Back to Fred:

You have spent way more time and energy thinking about your business than someone who takes a 30 minute meeting with you, having never thought about it for one iota, and then gives you a ton of advice that you are doing everything wrong. You have to learn to hear that feedback but not react to it.

If you have a business idea you’re proud of,  one you believe in, talk to lots and lots of customers. Learn what their issues are, and how you can help them. Get the customer to bless the idea.

Then go talk to some investors.

If you must.

Startup prosperity

Many people are waiting for prosperity. It cannot come in the future.

Eckhart Tolle

Both startup founders and investors are often hyper-focused on the “exit,” that time in the future where all the hard work of building a business will pay off.

There’s nothing wrong with being compensated for hard work, but hopes of “cashing out” shouldn’t be the primary motivator for creating or investing. The exit doesn’t yet exist, it may never exist. Chasing it is the best way to build something really shitty. When that time does eventually come, the excitement is over. You’ll then need to go find more.

The real prosperity of a startup is in the uncertainty. It happens during the times when the business may fail, when investors doubt the idea. Taking on risk and pursuing dreams others won’t, that’s a form of prosperity all in itself.

The opportunity to get up in the morning and work on something you created. That’s a blessing regardless of the ultimate “success or failure” of the business.

The opportunity just to do the work.

Your own work. 

Therein lies the prosperity.