Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Practically Speaking, What does Giving Up Mean?

I was with another early stage entrepreneur recently, and we were comparing notes on how hard it is building startups.  He said to me “Some days, I think I’m getting ready to just give up.”

I encouraged him to explore that option. What if you do give up? What are you going to do? 

Get a j-o-b? 

Of course you will. And yes, you can get any job you want. You’re experienced, connected, smart, and talented. Any job you want. Do you believe that?

He said: Yes, I do.

Ok then, let’s say you go get this dream job.  How will you really feel about yourself every day when you go home and on the weekends?

Will you be satisfied? 

Will you see that big boat, hear about those big vacations, those super-cars that you love and feel that you are doing your best to get there for yourself?   

Or will you be satisfied knowing that you may be taking your big dreams off the table and working at your j-o-b?

Of course not!

Or let’s look at another option. Maybe you think you should have gone down a different startup path?   Do you really think it would be easier building any other company besides the one you’re building right now?

Remember how easy it looked when you set out to do this? You knew the idea was sound, the market was huge, and you had the skills and team to go after it? I bet any other idea you have looks about the same from the outside, but remember… they’re all hard once you get going.  So don’t fool yourself.

Remember that you chose your current path.  You can change your mind at any time.  But why would you? When you realize this, you take giving up off the table, and you have immense freedom to focus on moving forward. It’s the only option.


Leaders, Manage Meeting Energy

As a leader of a team or company, you will likely be leading meetings of people. One of the valuable areas of training I received in EO is managing energy levels in meetings. Energy in meetings is not static. You won’t have an all high or all low meetings. Meeting energy ebbs and flows and can be managed by an effective moderator.

A good meeting leader will have his finger on the pulse of the energy in the room and be intentional about how it is managed.

Some ideas on energy management in meetings:

Establish rhythm early. One-word opens is my favorite. Each person says one word to describe where their head is right this minute.

Lighting rounds are a great tool for managing energy. Each person must answer a question in a short sentence. If it’s an intense business meeting, the lightning round can be related to the topic at hand like “What is the worst thing that can happen to us if we don’t resolve this soon?”

If it’s a weekly staff meeting, try fun lighting rounds like “What fun toy would you buy if you had $100mm today and why?” or “What is your favorite summer family tradition?”

Don’t always relieve tension. This is a tough one for me, but is especially important in peer-group / forum meetings or tight team meetings when dealing with a challenging situation. When something is uncomfortable or challenging, there will often be long periods of silence. As the meeting leader, use this silence and tension to your advantage. Don’t be the one to break it. Let it go. Let the team deal with it and see what happens.

End intentionally. I try to use One word close. We do a quick re-check of everyone in the room. If anyone uses a word like “Anxious” or “Stressed” and everyone else in the room feels resolved and at ease, then we may need to extend the meeting a little bit and deal with it, or more often step aside for a one-on-one to talk it out.

I’ll admit it, I’ve come to love well run meetings. They are productive, quick, and fun. After a good meeting you feel connected, accomplished, and healthy. If your meetings don’t feel this way, then it’s time to rethink the structure… or add some structure to begin with.

High C’s Aren’t All Cynics

If you know DISC, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Ah, the old C.

The calculating, cautious, careful, smart types. The ones that analyze every situation, want to explore, evaluate, and then evaluate further. You’ve got to love them.

Although the thing is, they are hard to love. If you aren’t a person who thinks about people in terms of their DISC classification, then you may just label some of these people cynics. But don’t worry, they aren’t. They are just wired to question everything. Here are some examples of C behavior that could be seen as cynical:

Walk into restaurant. You say “This place is awesome.”
They say: “Wonder why the ceiling is painted black. Guess the ran out of budget on the furniture. Parking lot is laid out poorly.”

You say: “I love being an entrepreneur.”
They say: “How can you deal with all the land mines out there? Every day, something is just waiting to blow you up! Don’t you think about how risky your situation is? Have you heard about the debt crisis in Shubagostan and that latest BS in Congress!?! It’s going to bring our entire economy down.”

You say: “I want to build an invention that will cure cancer and make me invincible.”
They say: “That’s impossible because of the molecules and the sciencey reasons.”

Before I understood DISC, C’s would bring me down. Debbie downers we’d call them.

But now that I’ve learned to appreciate that this is how they are wired. They aren’t trying to bring us I’s and D’s down, they are just analyzing the world around them in a logical, scientific method kind of way. Just grin and keep moving, knowing it’s not personal.