Guest post by Catherine Compitello
Conversation is the best kind of foreplay. Since leaving my job on Wall St. to start a rooftop farming business I’ve had lots of conversations with my mentors about what it means to be an entrepreneur and the challenges of running a successful business. My network is one of my most valuable assets. Senses are heightened as an entrepreneur. I find myself thinking through everything. As my plan develops, conversations with my mentors and colleagues help me keep a clear head, be open and flexible, take risks, and navigate challenges
Jane Miller’s Sleep Your Way To The Top is like a good friend you reach out to for advice. Or when you need a good laugh about a ridiculous situation at work. At some point we all get caught in weird situations or put our foot in our mouth. We all decide it’s time to take risks, to take on new challenges, to learn new skills. How do you play it? How do other people play it? How does Jane play it?
Jane, CEO and founder of JaneKnows, has become the highest-ranking woman at every company she’s worked for, including: Pepsi Co, Heinz, and Rudi’s Organic Bakery. Sleep Your Way To The Top is her first book and an entertaining how-to for others wanting to make it to their top. Jane asks questions as you navigate your way up, wherever up may be for you: “What’s important to you in your career? What does success mean to you? What is your top and how in the world do you get there?” Sleep Your Way To The Top is good for any reader but especially suited for those in the early stages of their career that need to ask themselves these very questions.
Step 1? Buy a journal. Then use it as your “What Obviously Works” journal to “build your confidence and be in control.” Get to know what you want and what your strengths are by writing them down. And continue to do this throughout your career. Get to know your weaknesses too. Knowing your weaknesses means you can get them to work with you and not against. It can give you the strength to know when to say “this isn’t the path for me,” as Jane did when she walked away from a career that was the wrong fit for her when she talks about the Myth: You can have it all. This, by the way, happens to be the only myth Jane doesn’t discredit. And I agree: it’s unfalsifiable. Instead she invites the debate to begin. Or continue, really. Also known as the myth of the work-life balance, this one is hotly debated. And one I’d love to hear more of Jane’s thoughts on. Is this myth a mislabeled (as a gender issue) problem with social and economic policy? Do we agree on what it means to lead a successful life? Are we asking ourselves if we are living the kind of life we want to lead? How do you define that?
Keeping a journal is something Jane recommends you adopt early on in your career, so it naturally comes at the beginning of the book. But you can read through the myths in any order you please. And a lot of myths are covered: Networking Is Sucking Up; Leaders Are Born Leaders; Only Extroverts Win In The Corporate World.
As we all know, some of the most unpleasant lessons in life are learned hard and quick. When discussing one of the shorter myths in the book: “TMI is appropriate in an interview,” Jane tells an embarrassingly funny story that’s quick to the punch. Her writing pulls on her years of success in guiding businesses to deliver a light and funny read with a smart and clear voice.
*Catherine Compitello is an alternative investment marketing specialist turned entrepreneur. She founded The Farm Above, a sustainable rooftop farming business. She recently moved to Boulder, CO from Wall St., she is excited to collaborate with other entrepreneurs in the community.
Cynthia Morris did a fantastic short video review of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. It’s an awesome way to get a quick feel for what we were trying to do with the book.
Mark Suster, a partner at GRP who writes the well-known and excellent blog Both Sides of the Table put up a detailed and excellent review of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur yesterday.
His wife, Tania Suster, weighed in with an excellent comment about her hints for surviving being the spouse of an incredibly busy startup person. Tania’s tips follow.
- Get electronic access to his calendar
- Don’t call when you see he is in a board meeting or meeting an important investor
- Use the calendar for scheduling so you don’t have to bug him about when he is free
- Respect and develop a positive working relationship with his assistant/team
- Don’t email him unless you have to, he is barraged with literally hundreds of emails a day. I text his iPhone if it is important and then I know he sees it
- Get a babysitter once a week for date night whether or not you have plans, you need couple time. If money is tight, you can trade babysitting with friends. Its worth the hassle. Even when you are tired and don’t feel like going out, once you are out you breathe deeply and realize its a good idea.
- Respect his need for down time: If he loves mountain biking or poker night or in Mark’s case obscure foreign films about blind Iranian shepherds, then make sure your over-stressed partner gets to do something that truly relaxes him once a week
- Do the same for yourself, no one likes a Martyr. Plan some fun with your girlfriends regularly, no one is going to do it for you.
- Pick your battle times: Say “we don’t need to discuss this now, but we need to schedule time to discuss X as its really important”
- Remember, when he takes that call during dinner or the weekend, he is working for the success of the family, he is doing it for us, it isn’t fun for him. That only makes it 15% less annoying, but it helps
- Take vacations! It is mandatory. I used to love our unplugged week each year in Sequoia Nat’l park with no WiFi and no cell coverage. Sadly after 5 years they started getting just enough coverage for him to check in, bummer!
- I love the idea of a Digital Sabbath – some time each week where the whole family unplugs. Haven’t gotten this family to sign up, but would like to try.
- Take some weekends without the kids each year, it is really important to reconnect. It is worth the hassle of organizing and the expense. The kids are going to grow up and abandon us. We need to nourish our couplehood. It won’t happen on its own.
Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project just put up an early review of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship With An Entrepreneur. This is that second book in the Startup Revolution series, written by me (Brad Feld) and my wife Amy Batchelor with contributions from 20 other entrepreneurial couples.
An excerpt from Jonathan’s post, titled Drive-By Book Review: Godin, Pink and Feld. Oh My!, follows.
“What is it? I was sent an advance copy of this book and absolutely loved it. Brad is a legendary entrepreneur and venture-capitalist and Amy is his super-cool wife. Together, they’ve weathered a lot of storms grown out to the often warring tension between the desire to build a deep personal relationship with a life partner, while also being fully committed to building a powerful business. Not an easy dance and there’s a ton of mythology about it. Amy and Brad shoot straight and offer great insights, strategies and practices and better enable you to run the life-partner + startup gauntlet with more ease.
What makes it different? A few things. One, it’s real. Amy and Brad are unusually transparent and generous in sharing their experiences over many years and how they’ve evolved. Two, they’ve lived it. They’re not therapists or pundits, what they share comes from actually being in the game, stumbling, fumbling and making it through. Three, they bring in the insights and experiences of other couples who’ve built relationships while also building substantial businesses.
Why do you need it? If you’re trying to start any deeply meaningful venture and simultaneously build a committed, loving personal relationship, most people in the startup space will say it can’t be done. One’s gotta go. Amy and Brad are living proof that all the mythology is just that. It takes a lot of effort, but done right, investing seriously in both the relationship and biz magnifies the power of both. Notice – the book is officially published on Jan 22, but you can pre-order it now.”
Jonathan did a 45 minute interview with me during the summer. We had an awesome time together. If you want to get a sense of both my philosophy of life as well as how my maker summer went, enjoy!
The early reviews of Startup Communities are flowing nicely at this point. My friend Ben Casnocha, co-author with Reid Hoffman of The Start-up of You just put up a nice post on his blog. Ben wrote one of the very early articles about the amazing stuff going on in Boulder for The American in 2008 in an article titled Start-Up Town in 2008 that added to the inspiration for me to write Startup Communities.
He highlights a bunch of topics including The Boulder Thesis, The Importance of Both Leaders and Feeders, Be Inclusive, Complaining About Capital, Startup Weekend, Accelerators are Different than Incubators, The Real Value – Fresh Blood into The System, Self-Aware vs. Not Self-Aware, Be Honest, Lack of Diversity, We Need More Local Venture Capital, and Do or Do Not, There Is No Try. With each one, he highlights a favorite line about the topic.
It’s well worth reading Red’s post at ‘Startup Communities’ by Brad Feld: Do or Do Not, There Is No Try! as he summarizes a great set of topics.