December 13, 2019

Grit

I was honored this week to be in a small group “fireside chat” with Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and to meet her and ask a question during an internal presentation at LRN. The session was also webcast, and you can look at the recording here. It’s long, but if you’re in the topic, it’s worth seeing. I want to hit on one theme here from the book and dialog, but I’ll start by sharing a 2×2 matrix (remember, I’m an ex-consultant, I think in frameworks) that we’ve used at home with our kids periodically. For the most part, we use it to talk to them about why they should work harder on math homework, but it’s had other use cases as well. Hopefully it makes sense on the face of it… …but essentially the framework teaches that if you are talented AND work hard at something, you can achieve great things. If you have talent and slack off, you can get by perfectly fine. If you have no talent but work your butt off, you can get there…but it’s hard. And if there’s an area of life where you have no […]


December 5, 2019

What Job is Your Customer Hiring You to Do?

My friend George, one of our co-founders at Return Path (according to him, the best looking of the three), has a wonderful and simple framing question for thinking about product strategy:  what job is your customer hiring you to do?  I am increasingly turning to that question as I work with our team on developing a new strategy for my new company, LRN. Even though LRN is in a different space, solving different problems for different buyers, I am finding George’s wisdom as relevant as ever, maybe even more so since I am still learning the new context. Why is […]


November 14, 2019

The Same, But Different

I’ve been to India once before, when Mariquita and I came here on holiday in 2006. We did a lot of the main tourist things – the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, a tiger safari, Goa. And we spent a little bit of time with our expat friends Anuja and Bobby in Bangalore. At Return Path, we never had any business in India, though, so this week’s trip to see LRN’s Mumbai office was my first ever work trip to India. It has been a great week getting to meet my new colleagues in our largest office on the other side of […]


October 31, 2019

Book Short – You’re in Charge – Now What?

Thanks to my friend and long-time former Board member Jeff Epstein, I recently downed a new book, You’re in Charge – Now What?, by Thomas Neff and James Citrin.  I’m glad I read it.  But it was one of those business books that probably should have just been a Harvard Business Review article.  It’s best skimmed, with helpful short summaries at the end of every chapter that you could blow through quickly instead of hanging on every word.  The authors’ 8-step plan is laid out as: Prepare yourself during the countdown Align expectations Shape your management team Craft your strategic […]


October 24, 2019

Renewal

I posted years ago about the value of refreshing yourself every once in a while, comparable to the value of buying new running shoes even if you don’t think you need them Now that I’m three weeks into my new role as CEO of LRN, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.  It’s still true that down time between jobs helped me “sharpen the saw,” to quote Stephen Covey.  It’s also still true that spending time on outside interests like coaching baseball, playing guitar, and even a new activity of taking sculpture lessons all also help me sharpen the saw.  […]


October 17, 2019

The Nachos Don’t Have Enough Beef in Them!

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 23 of Startup CEO, “Collecting Data,” in which I write about the importance of observing and learning from customers and friends of the firm, as well as employees.) Here’s a story for you that happened 10+ years ago. I’m sitting at the bar of Sam Snead’s Tavern in Port St. Lucie, Florida, having dinner solo while I wait for my friend Karl to arrive. I ask the bartender where he’s from, since he has an accent. Nice conversation about how life is rough in Belfast and thank goodness for the American dream. I ask […]


October 11, 2019

Necessity is the Mother of Leadership Innovation

About 8 years ago, I wrote a blog post that talked about the story from my MovieFone days when I went from managing 1 person to 20 overnight and had to completely rejigger my Operating System to the new environment. It was a case of required revolution over evolution for me. Trial by fire. I feel like I am living in an analogous world now. After 7 days on the job as CEO of LRN (announcement) (first days post) I am realizing that going from leading a company that I founded and led for two decades to leading a 25-year […]


October 3, 2019

First Days

As I mentioned last week, I just started a new chapter of my career journey as CEO of LRN, a SaaS company based in New York City that provides ethics and compliance education software while advising companies on shaping values-based leadership, cultures and governance as sources of competitive advantage. That’s all good and well, but Tuesday morning, I was also a new employee walking into his office on the first day of a new job. The last time I’d done that was when I started at MovieFone in 1995 (the first day of starting one’s own company doesn’t count!). During […]


September 26, 2019

Second Lap Around the Track

Second Lap Around the Track As people who have read my blog for some or all of the last 15 years know, the theme of the blog, which is called OnlyOnce, is that “You’re only a first time CEO once” inspired by my friend, long-time board member and mentor Fred Wilson.  I always give the advice to people in business or in life that “the second lap around the track is a lot easier,” whether it’s referring to the second year of a new job, the second new job out of college, or even a second marriage.  And now I’m […]


May 1, 2019

OnlyOnce, Part XX

I realize I haven’t posted much lately.  As you may know, the title of this blog, OnlyOnce, comes from a blog post written by my friend and board member Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures entitled You Are Only a First-Time CEO Once, which he wrote back in 2003 or 2004.  That inspired me to create a blog for entrepreneurs and leaders.  I’ve written close to 1,000 posts over the years, and the book became the impetus for a book that another friend and board member Brad Feld from Foundry Group encouraged me to write and helped me get published […]


July 26, 2018

Sometimes a Good Loss is Better than a Bad Win

I just said this to a fellow little league coach, and it’s certainly true for baseball.  I’ve coached games with sloppy and/or blowout wins in the past.  You take the W and move on, but it’s hard to say “good game” at the end of it and feel like you played a good game.  And I’ve coached games where we played our hearts out and made amazing plays on offense and defense…and just came up short by a run.  You are sad about the L, but at least you left it all out on the field. Is that statement true […]