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George Prida is an American born Cuban, who's parents fled the island for a better future back in the late 60s. I've known george since 1978, when we were in the first grade together. In fact, when I didn't quite understand how to add and subtract, he helped me out. He's been a friend ever since.
My recollection of his home was VERY fast Spanish that didn't sound like my grandparents (who were Mexican), and he was always with the black beans, white rice, and I think some pork dish. His mother was sweet although very frowned. She had fled her home under grave conditions, so no wonder. I grew up with no context or real understanding of Cuba's history. It wasn't covered in my school, and no one seemed to ever really talk about it, yet I was always curious...
Many years later, I found myself taking a musical journey through Latin Jazz, which was originally Afro-Cuban Jazz, which originated in Cuba and neighboring islands, namely Puerto Rico. It was in essence polyrhythms from it's African roots combined with jazz influences. New sounds emerged such as the Mambo, Rumba, Cha-Cha, and more, all during a pre-Castro era. I got to poking around the history of it all and noticed an interesting parallel story to the startup world - how companies break thru to the mainstream and disrupt a market.
That pre Castro era of Cuba sounds like one hell of a party. In the 50s it became a haven for American mobsters, who partnered with the Cuban president at the time (Batista), and created a tropical version of Las Vegas. As they created massive wealth for themselves, they created a wide gap between the have's and have nots. After years of rebellion against the corruption, Castro and a small army slowly began taking over the island. He began with newspaper propaganda, and slowly grew a base of passionate soldiers eager to take control, and they did, one small town at a time. His movement had meaning, and touched the have nots enough to give them hope and motivation to see this thru, against the odds.
When news came that Castro's rebels had overtaken nearby towns, Batista conceded and fled Havana. Later that evening (this was new year's eve '59) Castro's army of rebels took the streets of Havana, and namely the hotels and casinos. In one big multiyear movement, not only did Castro push the corrupt president aside, he also pushed the American mob out of town just when they were proving out their model. The people wanted change, and they got it. 50 years later, that rebel government is mainstream and still in control. Grassroots recruiting, muscle, cause and persistence prevailed over corruption.
There's certainly much more to this story, but I thought the analogy of Castro's movement as a startup was interesting.
There's not enough time in the day to do the things most of us want to do. The only way to do it is to reduce noise and focus on what's really important. Everyone has different needs and circumstances, so mileage may vary, but here are 5 things you can do to buy more time in the day.
1. Stop trying to keeping up with Twitter messages. Engage only when there's a purpose, and lurking ain't a purpose.
2. Remove facebook from your to do list each day. (Peek in occasionally when there's an alert you care about).
3. Reduce the number of RSS feeds you put on your plate by 50% (namely blogs). This should be possible unless you can honestly say you're more enlightened by spending so much time scanning feeds.
4. Reduce windshield time. The only time to go somewhere is when you have to be there for something right?... so if you look at it that way, there surely ought to be opportunities for improvement. (I have a temporary commute that seems to be getting worse. I clocked 2 hours 15 minutes getting home the other day. Bullshit. Even when it's an hour and a half each way, that's 3 hours lost on work productivity, family time, exercise time, and my lumbar).
5. Don't solicit or take as many meetings. There should really be a filter for meeting with anybody, especially all the people that aren't quite friends and aren't quite business associates. This includes phone calls. If you just don't have time to get into it with someone by phone, let them leave a voice mail, and then respond with an email. Sooner or later they'll learn that you're a more reliable person when you can be efficient.
Now...the next thing to do is figure out how to save time and make more sense of the gazillion emails in your inbox:)
I remember the pinnacle of the 90s tech boom. I was selling the plumbing for the Internet to Internet providers and phone companies at the time. The first company I worked for did an IPO. The second sold to a major incumbent. The third did an IPO. It was a period of crazy growth that was life changing.
In the late 90s, I was trying to succeed on the merits of my relationships with my customers along with the merits of the products I sold. It became trying when I realized that wasn't how the game was being played necessarily... Some of the competing companies had sales reps that had large expense budgets, and would gamble to lose money if it meant winning deals. No deal was a bad deal. Some tempted customers with private jet flights and superbowl tickets, others with friends and family stock options, and others with nude bars and even cocaine. I remember getting really frustrated with the pace and unfair rules of engagement. (I'm not bitching here, I'm just setting up the story).
In order to chill out some, I started doing this yoga tape (yes it was a tape) by a guy called Bryan Kest. What I loved about it was that it was how normal and everyday the dude seemed to be. He wasn't this eccentric bizarro yogi that couldn't relate to Joe the plumber. This guy was for real. No mumbo jumbo. No BS. Just calling it like it is.
On this influence, I got so into yoga that by late 2001 I opened up a yoga center called The Yoga Company (I've since sold it to my then employees who have continued to nurture it). The purpose was to design something more accessible than the stereotypical yoga center. The goal was to make it feel normal, and good, without judgement. Eventually I hosted Bryan at The Yoga Company for a workshop, and now and he comes back every couple of years, and thankfully that time has come again.
Bryan Kest will be back in the Bay Area this Thursday 1/22 6PM at The Yoga Company. If you're anywhere near the East Bay, and even remotely interested, it will probably change your life. It's called "power" yoga, but the word power is more about you empowering yourself. For folks in the city, Bryan will teach at Yoga Tree this weekend.
Seth Godin says "you're boring". I think he's right.
Use caution on your context, time and place for that guidance though. Unfortunately some of the forces and sources to get startups rolling require some of these boring attributes. Boring sometimes translates to conservative. Some of the "boring" stuff helps get companies financed, say, in a down economic time.
One must choose when to be boring and when to be remarkable, and when and how to position the difference.
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OK, so everyone knows Apple is doing this DRM-Free upgrade thing right? Let's say you have 1000 songs purchased from iTunes already, well they'll do the math on that for you and let you upgrade $.30 per song or 30% of the album price, and what you get for that is unlimited ability to share that song basically. Cool right? Ok, so I'm checking it out today, and voila, I see I can pay $.30 to get my own song DRM-Free! Thing is, I can't deselect songs I don't want DRM-Free, which is lame. Any case, funny that it's presenting 2 of my songs, out of like 60 I have up on iTunes. Goes to show you that, they're going to slow roll the DRM-FREE pitch, because if they presented all your library at once, the sticker shock would take hold.
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My neighbor is an 85 year old Hungarian immigrant by way of Romania, Switzerland and Austria. He speaks broken English, err Germanish, kind of like Spanglish. When his peers back home were sent to war, his academics allowed him to continue studies in his medical field. He met a girl while studying in Zurich, and they wanted to marry. But first, he took the big leap to the U.S. to see if he could establish roots for them, which he did, and eventually sent for her. He became a chief of staff at some San Francisco area hospital, started a family and lived happily ever after. He enjoys talking and reflecting on wartime adventures and the stories of his parents in concentration campts. Now a retired widow, Herr Wachs invited me over for a kirsch last night, and I happily obliged.
His home was decorated by his late wife, eons ago, in the flare of an early 1900s Euro chateau. We sat in his den for a few moments and talked. He told me how the original owner of my home decades ago, had him over for a drink to check out his swimming pool. And Wachs couldn't believe his eyes.... In the pool was an automatic pool sweep! He was at that moment inspired to build a pool for his family, complete with a pool sweep.
What I didn't expect, was his smooth proxy of that discussion to the here and now, as he unveiled to me a bar he had stashed behind what appeared to be a closet door. This was something part James Bond, part Winchester Mystery House, and part fly.
Now of course, I want to put a bar in my closet too!
P.S. Das Kirschwasser war gut!
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