Here we go again, Inner Game for Geeks. Tonight, I coach seven start-up execs. Its the usual Psychological Strength stuff, detailed below. I’ve re-arranged the six step order, added some snarkiness, and polished the prose. Also, note the hyperlinks to added content. Also, note that the Tech Accelerator I’m working with chose the title. All start-ups aim for a billion dollars, I guess. I’ll support that goal as long as I get free rides on their Gulfstream when one of them makes it. Of course I believe the best way to attain wealth is to be your (best) self then ignore wealth assuming wealth will find you. But that’s for a different post.
Greetings, Geeks. My name is RG3 and I want you to be rich and happy and successful. The three rarely go together, so listen up.
Biz is a game. But before you even get on the field, you got to take care of your Star Player – Yourself. We call that Inner Game. Its all about boosting your Psychological Strength. That’s what we are talking about today (below). Once your Star Player steps on the field, we get into Outer Game – Social Dynamics. Those ideas will have to wait for another day. A quick preview of Outer Game: Frame Control, Attraction/Connection/Respect, Calibration, etc. Lastly, there’s a few other elements of Inner Game you can explore at your liesure, like Healthy Masculinity, Functional Psychopathy, Congruency, and Nice Guy vs Good Guy.
/comment Normally at this point, I’d launch into the 4 types of Players, Which Type Are You discussion (Naturals, Wannabes, Noobs, and Numbs) but these are start-up Geeks, a special breed. Those categories apply more to large organizations. Noobs and Numbs don’t last ten mins in the Start-Up Game. /comment
So, Geeks, we are about to get philosophical and literary and whatnot, to help you level up. But real quick, I need to you pop this Red Pill for me, and embrace Paradox. For instance, I’m about to tell you that you will more easily and successfully achieve your goals if you quit caring about your goals. That makes no sense. Paradox.
Alright. Let’s huddle up and get started. Dominate on 3.
INNER GAME – THE SOUL OF THE BILLION DOLLAR DEAL
“The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” Andrew Carnegie
Inner Game – A person’s organization of self. A composition of their values, state of being, human energy, self-perception and -awareness, life philosophy, value set, consciousness, totality of desires, and personal presence. The ideal inner game state removes negative energy, enhances relationships, and leads to clarity of thought and speedy, effective judgment. Problems begin to solve themselves, people are drawn to your presence. Your calmness, positivity, and self-confidence will lead to a huge status increase. You and your team will have an aura of difference about you. Investors always value team first. This “aura of difference” can lead directly to more investors meetings, smoother engagements, and potentially higher funding levels. This can be especially true for video game start-ups where management teams are notorious for being passionate but immature.
“Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport.” Henry David Thoreau
Step 1 – Quiet Down- Stoicism – Nervous energy sucks. Neuroticism sucks. The ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers figured out how to hack their brains. Consider Seneca, Emperor Nero’s right hand man (before he went crazy), who got rich, ran the Unholy Roman Empire, partied like a rock star, and got banished twice for seducing imperial princesses. All while keeping his swag on full with tranquility and joy. Stoicism is a school of Greek philosophy that holds that poor decision-making results from the presence of destructive emotions. Makes you immune to emotional manipulation and “shiny object” syndrome. Dave McClure, self-professed High Priest of Start-Ups, posits that VC’s screen for management teams with “balls of steel.” Stoicism gets you pretty close:
“And if you come across a man who is never alarmed by dangers, never affected by cravings, happy in adversity, calm in the midst of storm, viewing mankind from a higher level and the gods from their own, is it not likely that a feeling will find its way into you of veneration for him?” Seneca
– Balance – Von Clausewitz – “The ability to keep one’s head at times of exceptional stress and violence…balance the strong feelings in one’s characters without destroying them…strong character is one that will not be unbalanced by the most powerful emotions.”
– Melville – “The invulnerable jollity of indifference”
– Differentiation of Self – one’s own value not tied to another’s mood or judgment. Take responsibility for your own emotions and manage them without placing blame. No one can “make you feel” any way other than how you choose to feel.
– Neuroscience – The forebrain has been scientifically proven to be capable of overriding hindbrain reactionary instincts and limbic emotional reactions (similar to explaining the physics of flight to yourself so you aren’t scared on a 747 flight). Do so, often.
“The man who looks for the morrow without worrying over it knows a peaceful independence and a happiness beyond all others.” Seneca
Step 2 – Quit Try-Harding – Outcome Independence
“You got to know when to hold em/know when to fold em/know when to walk away/and know when to run.
You never count your money/when you’re sittin at the table.” The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
By wanting anything, like a business goal, you give that thing power over you. Screw that. You are free– give nothing power of you. Live like Janis Joplin: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” This advice works really well with seducing the ladies (in an HR-approved manner of course) as well as baddassing your way to the top. Isolate process from outcome = power. In other words, Buddhism for business. Remove all desires from yourself. A mindset that does not focus on a specific results in the moment while still maintaining a sound longer term strategy and goals.
– Strong Defense – You become immune to manipulation, high pressure deal tactics, etc.
– Peacefulness – Removes yourself from the immediate chaos by disconnecting your ultimate goals from the activity in the moment. Makes you more effective in the moment.
– Separates your identity and self-esteem from immediate outcomes. Helps you own the frame.
– Shields you from disappointment of momentary failures and setbacks, giving you consistently higher energy levels and psychological strength.
– Makes walking away from uncertain, risky, and negative situations much easier.
Step 3 – Positive Energy Flow
“People remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them.” Maya Angelou
Negativity of any kind depletes your vitality, makes you petty. Noobs failing at the game of business are marked by pettiness, gossip, hate. I know haters gonna hate, but we don’t want to be that. Winning the Game w/in the Game w/in the Game requires pure, unadulterated positivity: Cali surfer style, “it’s all good, no worries, brah!” What the kid’s call “chill,” which is good, versus “intense,” which is bad. Eliminating negative energy from your life has so many benefits in promoting overall physical and emotional health, making you more attractive to other people. It’s a multi-step process: first clear yourself of all sources of negative energy, then develop a daily habit of keeping negativity out. It requires you to fully accept yourself and others around you, to release all bitterness, fear, and judgment, to forgive all those that have wronged you, including yourself and living a non-judgmental life. St Paul has a couple things to say here. First, he encourages us to “forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead.” Second, to “take captive every thought.” To fully release themselves from the past, men need to have made peace with their fathers. Women, to live in full positivity, need to be at harmony in their closest intimate relationships.
“We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think” The Buddha
Step 4 – Know Thyself, Be Thyself – We are not talking about your sucky self, here, rather your best self. Figure out your strengths, forget about your weakness. Your energy level and work/life satisfaction soars, your “lose” button stops working, you get stuck on “win.”
True power comes from humility. The Buddha and The Christ, among many other spiritual leaders teach this. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Humility means realizing the best you you can be is you, the you that encases the unique divine spark imputed in you upon creation. Do not idolize your heroes. You are you; attempts to be them will only meet failure and erode your energy. Steve Jobs is dead; Zuck and Pincus are discredited, 99.9% of the wunderkinds from the last bubble are gone. Emulate their best traits, to the extent they match your strengths, but do not worship them. Also, your venture should be as much about self-discovery as getting rich. In that way, you will emerge wealthier even if you go bankrupt. And always be Congruent with who you are, even as you work through all this material and other leadership philosophy.
– Lead From Your Strengths – Identify your organizational strengths, specialize in those, release yourself from all other responsibilities as soon as possible. Do only what only you can do. Don’t think you can do everything. Specializing in your strengths will release higher energy levels and effectiveness. You don’t have time in a start-up situation to grind out improvements in your areas of weakness (highly highly recommend spending 30 mins working through https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/).
– Lead From Your Values – Become an authentic leader by boldly living out your personal values in the workplace, in a way that drives your team’s success. A far less tricky proposition than you would think. Authentic Leadership inspires immense trust, turning teammates into comrades-in-arms willing to fight and bleed for one another. Bury My Heart in Conference Room B
– Team – Always be open to a team member being better than you at something. Delegate immediately if possible.
– Pride/Ego – Is the root of all sorts of evil (aka suboptimal management and leadership). Let go of yourself. This isn’t about you. it’s about a vision, an adventure, your team, not your own glory.
Step 5 – Stay in the Moment – Noobs are neurotic basket cases, always fearing the future and fretting the past. Not you, slayer of management objectives. You are in the present, with every neuron, cell and drop of blood, sweat, and testosterone (or the female equivalent thereof). People feel more alive in your presence, because you are fully “present.” A concept developed by the stoics, and recently plagiarized by a goofy German philosopher named Eckhart Tolle. The idea is to improve clarity of thought by centering your consciousness in whatever moment you are in (meeting, dream session, hot date, tennis match). Your senses and emotional sensitivity are thus heightened.
“Anxiety is…due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.” Seneca
– “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…to live deliberately.” Thoreau
– Don’t “project,” rather see what is actually there, not what you think, believe, or hope should be there.
– Practice self-awareness and other-awareness – you aren’t in the moment unless you can identify all parties’ subtexts, what the frame is, who has frame control, and what the competing frames are.
– In a meeting, be only in that meeting. Don’t think about last meeting, don’t think about next meeting, don’t think about strategy, or goal setting, or milestones, or budgets. Think only of that meeting’s goals and participants. Forget that time exists.
– Enables deeper, easier connections with people: enhanced networking, team leadership.
– Reduces emotional volatility. Forces you to leave negative emotions at the door.
– Draws meeting participants into your frame.
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Khayyam
Step 6 — Give It Away Now – Abundance Frame
“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” Thoreau
An attitude for engaging people in social/biz situations where you presume you have value to share for all parties, confident that all outcomes where you are involved will provide value increase for everyone. You approach each person eagerly anticipating that you will leave them in a higher energy state than you found them. Network according to the Golden Rule: seek to give, not to get. Assume the “ whole” of business and networking relationships is always more than the “sum of the individuals.”
“A generous man prospers.” Proverbs 11:25
“Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts!” Seneca
– Networking: Your network will grow exponentially faster, and generate much more value for you.
– People will seek you out, you will be included, invited more often.
– Problem Solving: “The universe will provide.” Solutions hunt your problems down.
– Investor Meetings: Eliminates neediness, which comes across as weakness. Enables you to flip the script from prey to prize. Also stimulates intrigue.
Conclusion (errrr, Payoff) – Judgment – Embracing the six principles above frees your instinct and subconscious, which is far wiser than you can imagine, to guide you while leaving your conscious free to stay in the moment and fully engage people making you an inspirational leader worthy of human and financial investment.
“If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, which are certainly true, this is where his road lies.” Thoreau