Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Confessions of a Reckless Blogger

So I have to confess, in case you didn’t figure it out yet (cough, cough) that I’ve been pretty careless with the “publish” button on this bad boy.

Thanks to the notes from those not-so-few of you who don’t hesitate to offer your direct and “so-called funny” feedback, I realize that the last post was not exactly the first post that was what the blogging world calls “premature pubulation.”   (Ok, they don’t call it that. I just made it up, and I hope I get credit for the term.)

The feature of WordPress I have both enjoyed and abused the most is the “Publish _{when}_” feature, where you can scheduled your posts to hit the blog in advance.  However, I’m still getting into the habit of setting the date to publish the post before I hit that big pretty blue button that tempts me with the word “PUBLISH,” which instantly blasts my mid-thought-stream, unfinished, with-no-make-up-on, not-dressed-up post to the masses.  (I know right now you are thinking: “these posts are wearing makeup?? yikes!”)   With these hard lessons learned (aka embarrassing e-mails), I promise to my followers to improve at NOT publishing posts at mid-sentence.

My apologies in advance for both my crude humor in this apology post and the otherwise ridiculous blog etiquette I have demonstrated thus far.  Kevin O’Keefe would be ashamed.

Commence the rotten tomatos squad below.








Where do you find the time?


The response to this blog has been amazing so far. I’m so humbled by how many have reached out to me with words of encouragement and positive feedback.   I have to say I also consider it a compliment from those who know me when they ask “Where do you find the TIME to do all that you do?”

Well that’s a funny thing to ask, because many days I don’t feel like I have half the time I need to do what I could be doing!   But I figure I’ll take a stab at sharing some of the ways I use my time. Maybe you will pick up a nugget that is useful for you own time management.

  1. Prioritize. I use my core values to make sure that I am spending my time the way I want my life to look.
  2. Organize. Each week I start Monday morning with a weekly goals sheet. I have a grid box for each area of my life, each major project or venture to be sure that everything takes a step forward that week – or if it doesn’t then it’s intentional.
  3. Weekends are sacred.  Some of the balls I’m juggling are made of glass – and the kids and family are the main one. For this reason, I make the weekends sacred. Other than getting up early for my reading and writing, I try to not spend much “screen time.”
  4. I follow this advice the best I can on managing my inbox.
  5. I use my iPhone religiously to stay on top of e-mail… not just monitoring but archiving, responding, or deleting.
  6. I batch process. You may notice it’s hard to get me on the phone. That’s on purpose, and one of the many productive tips I picked up from Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Work Week. Incoming phone calls break productive thought, and are much better handled by taking voice mails and then using scheduled time in the day to return calls. (By the way, I totally disagree with the title of his book, but it’s great for picking up tips on being more efficient!)

I could go on and on, but wanted to get this first batch of the most useful tips for me.

What other tips and tricks can you share?


Your Core Values


I’ve mentioned before that last summer I did an exercise that required me to set core values for myself. It was a phenomenal process, and the output has provided me with 7 core values that I rely on multiple times throughout the day to make both big and small decisions.

Here is a simplified version of the process we used to create these, and if you are lucky enough to have a group of colleagues, friends, or a forum, I advise you to find a way to go through this. (By the way, it’s much better with a group or friend than on your own, because presenting it outloud really helps it stick.)

  1. First you create your “dream board” of advisors.  Include personal heros, public figures, historical figures, family members, friends. Who would you want on your personal board of directors?  Take some time with this.
  2. Second, write down a summary beside each of them as to why they are on your board. What impresses you about them? What accomplishments do you want to share with them? Think about whether they are balanced as a group of advisors, or if you need to adjust your board to achieve the balance you want in your life.
  3. Once you’ve tweaked the make-up, start putting traits of the dream board out beside them that you admire. Try to list 5-7 words/traits beside each person.
  4. Next comes the magic… spend some time with this and go all “Beautiful Mind” on the words … see which of those traits you also share, and circle them. You will begin to form a list of the values that you find most important. For me, it was obvious and amazing. In that couple of hours I came up with a list that will probably last me for many years.


And since I’m sure you are curious, here are my 7 Core values. Other than the #1 value, the rest are equal and not in any order.

  1. Self-aware and at Peace
  2. Engaged with family and friends
  3. Resourceful and applied smarts
  4. Financially enabled freedom
  5. Laughter is air
  6. Open and direct as much as possible
  7. Intensity in everything

These have kept me going and keep me focused on the person I want to be.

I hope you’ll consider your own Core Values. Do you have any other resources for the community on creating, understanding, or leveraging core values? Please share.



More Freedom from More Structure: Say WHAT?!


In my last venture, we had a US Army Veteran join our executive team. He brought perspective (and volume!) to our discussions unlike any I have experienced since.  Never dull and usually controversial… his ideas almost  always brought huge value… if you could uncover it, see through his intentionally vague language, and really grasp the ideas.

One of his concepts that took me a long time to understand was the idea that our team would feel more freedom and independence if we can give them more structure, cleaner job definition, clearer expectations, better defined results that mean success.    WHAT in the world did he mean!?   It made no sense to me until we really dug in.

Here was the simplistic example he gave that finally clicked for me. He said when he was in the Army, his dress code was pretty well defined.   He knew exactly what he could, should, and should not wear any day.    He said this:

When I opened by closet in the morning, and I knew that my choices were A, B, or C… I had total freedom to choose between A, B, or C. It was liberating to know the parameters in which I operated!

He went on to say with a chuckle:

Since I’ve been out of the Army, it takes me 30 damn minutes to decide what to wear every morning! I want that freedom of structure back!

At the time, we were applying this to the positions at our company. We needed better processes, better communication of what success means in each role of the company, and better expectation management at every level. With more structure would come more freedom, and with more freedom would come more creativity and energy.

Since then, I’ve also found that I can apply this idea to my own life. Last summer I did a day long goal-setting exercise with a group of CEOs. The first half of the day was designed to help you define your personal Core Values.  If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend you do it soon!   What came from that for me is a set of 7 personal core values (and I will even share them in my next post) that give me incredible structure to my life. I now have the freedom  within these core values to be creative and  make decisions faster and more effectively.

Have you ever experienced more freedom through more structure? Does this sound crazy to you?



Exploit Your Moments of Inspiration


Hopefully you have regular moments in life when you are inspired to extreme levels. (If not, you are a robot and should do everything on this page.)   Maybe it’s when you watch the final scene of Rudy, or when you see your own children hug and make up after a fight, or when you take some time to watch a sunset and you think about all the blessings in your life, or… finally, one of my favorite – hearing just the right song on a run, in your car, or in church at just the right time when you really know there is more to life than we  understand.

Those moments are awesome and can’t be planned or expected… but in my experience, they can be exploited. ;)

Those moments of intense inspiration can create more positive energy and clear thinking than anything else. I’ve found that when I do have these moments of “inner fire” … I capitalize on it, and find something to do.   Whether it’s putting a blog post to paper, or starting a new group in the community, or creating a new product idea.  The goal is to see a big end goal with ultimate clarity, and DO SOMETHING to take the first step towards that end goal. Maybe it’s simply seeing where you want to be in 3 years personally or professionally and writing it down as a painted picture exercise, or maybe it’s coming up with an outline of how you are going to get there.

My challenge to you is to look for moments of extreme inspiration, and capitalize on them to better yourself.

Where do you find inspiration? How do you leverage it?


Are You a Leader that Inspires?

I was participating in a group exercise once and the question for each person was: “Name someone you respect and admire.”   The group was made of entrepreneurs, so the usual suspects came out: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc… but then one CEO surprised me with his answer. He said he admires “any leader who is able to create an organization that thrives by inspiring people around them.”

That really caught me off guard and has stayed with me. I’ve started noticing that some CEO’s drive and manage their team through discipline and rigid structure, some by having fun as a peer, some through fear (and those are usually the most insecure leaders, by the way)… but I now agree with my friend that the most impressive leaders are those who realize it is their primary duty to inspire their team to greatness. They have a vision, a singular direction, and they are able to share that vision and get their team fired up to chase the vision as if it were their own.

Here are some of the things I’ve noticed about leaders who inspire, and maybe this will help you take a look at yourself as a leader.

  •  When you visit an office and a team where there is an inspirational leader, you will have the feeling that nothing points to them.   I don’t mean physically in the office as much as I mean when you talk to  the team. Do they have to run everything by ‘the big guy?’ Do they refer back to the big guy’s plans? or do they talk about the organization’s plans as their own? Does the team own their projects? or are they simply delegates for an individual dude?
  • Does the leader inspire by knowledge of the details?   Many times a team can be really demotivated when they feel their leader doesn’t understand what their day is like.  Can the leader pull up a screen in their software or web site and already know with incredible detail what is going on and how to function?    (By the way, I’ve met several inspiration leaders who can even write a little code, here and there… and they tend to connect with their team exceptionally well.)
  •  Does the leader know their job is to inspire? Do they make obvious and intentional efforts to lead with mature, level-headedness? Do they keep their pulse on their surroundings and practice awareness to the level of positive/negative energy on the team?


Believe it or not, I’ve even heard of some leaders who disagree with this point. They believe that their job is not to inspire, but to manage and create discipline and rhythm. Maybe there is a valid point there, but I know what kind of leader I want to be, and I know what kind of leaders motivate me.

What do you think?