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Weekly Reflection: Week Forty-Two

Today marks the end of my forty-second week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week forty-two:

  • Schedule – I thought about my schedule in 2020. There were some things I liked about my schedule but others I didn’t. I’ve adjusted it a bit and am blocking off bigger chunks of time. I’ll see how this works and finalize something at the end of the month.
  • Community – I’ve been thinking about community and talking to people about it more. It’s top of mind for people personally and professionally. It’s a real problem—that is, lack of community in this pandemic age is a problem—that people are actively trying to solve in a safe way.  
  • Founders – I enjoyed my conversations with founders this week. Their energy and passion was refreshing.

Week forty-two was a steady week. Looking forward to celebrating (virtually) the MLK holiday on Monday.  

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Great Entrepreneurs Are Fast Learners

The journey of an entrepreneur is one of constant experimentation. Some experiments will succeed and some will fail. Regardless of the outcome, entrepreneurs will have many learning opportunities along the way. When I think about it, what propelled my founder friends to success was learning. Not the ability to learn, but the speed at which they learned from experiments and applied those learnings going forward.

A close friend had a marketing business focused on small businesses in a particular niche. He worked closely with his clients to learn their challenges in acquiring customers. Soon, he realized that one of their specific problems was shared by tons of other small and medium-sized businesses. He experimented with solutions until he found one his customers valued. The rest is history. Today that company is valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Everyone can learn, but great founders learn quickly and apply their new knowledge quickly. The next time you wrap up a project (whether the outcome was good or bad), make it a point to look for takeaways and think about how you can apply them in the future. If you do this regularly, you’ll learn rapidly and increase your chances of success.

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Weekly Reflection: Week Forty-One

Today marks the end of my forty-first week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week forty-one:

  • Weekly reflection – These weekly posts were originally intended to document my experience of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve done that and more. They’re now a way for me to reflect on the week, which I really enjoy. I’m renaming them to reflect this evolution.  
  • 2021 – This year is off to a crazy start. I was mentally exhausted from all the extremes in 2020. I hope these first five business days aren’t an indication of what we can expect for the rest of the year.
  • More deals – This week Salesloft raised $100M at a $1.1B valuation. Another great Atlanta company doing a huge deal! I expect we’ll see more deals in the first quarter.
  • Slow start – I had almost two weeks off and it was hard to get back into the swing of things this week for a variety of reasons.

Week forty-one was a crazy busy week. I’m hopeful that it will turn out to be the exception rather than the norm.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Recharged after a Year of Change

Today is the last day of my holiday vacation. This is the first time since I became an adult that I haven’t traveled for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Compelled to stay home by the pandemic, I spent time recharging. I’m not happy about not seeing my family, but this quiet holiday was a much-needed break after a hectic 2020. The year was full of so many extreme changes that I think I was mentally worn out. The unusual holiday gave me a chance to recover from 2020.

Change is good and I embrace it, but 2020 has taught me to be aware of the magnitude and number of changes and the time frames they occur in. I’m sure 2021 will be another year of change, but I’m hopeful that it will be more moderate.

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Goodbye 2020

Today I spent time reflecting on 2020. I read old writings, emails, and text messages. I looked at pictures and news articles. I wanted to digest everything that’s happened this year personally and at a macro level. There was so much to absorb that it was bit overwhelming. I had lots of plans that I scrapped. I wasn’t too thrilled about that but didn’t have much choice. On the flip side, some great things happened that were complete surprises. After all this, I had one big takeaway: Life is iterative and plans go awry. Adjust as necessary.

This was a challenging year, but I feel like it was a year of growth for me. I’m happy to close out 2020 and looking forward to 2021!

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New Year’s Eve Plan: Pandemic Style

Tomorrow’s the last day of 2020, and what a year it’s been. I can’t celebrate New Year’s Eve like I normally do, so I’m thinking about how I want to spend the day. This will likely end up being one of the most eventful years of my life, so I think I’m going to spend time tomorrow reflecting on it. So much has happened that I want to go through and digest it all before I close the chapter. I’ve had a lot of highs and lows this year, so I’m curious how the exercise will turn out.

How do you plan on closing out 2020?


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Working from Home: Week Forty

Today marks the end of my fortieth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week forty:

  • Countdown – With vaccinations beginning this week, I think there’s a mental shift happening. I had a lot of conversations with people who mentioned counting down. People see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Reshuffling – I’ve noticed that some days or weeks are heavy with commitments. This week was one of them. It was unintentional. When I noticed it, I made some adjustments to avoid overextending myself. Too often, I’ve pushed through these periods and felt drained when they were over.
  • More deals – This week it was announced that CallRail raised another $56 million. Atlanta tech companies are still seeing lots of activity. The holidays are here, but I expect more deals to be announced over the next few weeks.
  • Holiday – Christmas is next week, and I’m looking forward to the holiday and the extra downtime.

Week forty was busy, a big push before Christmas. Next week should be much slower—a good time to wrap things up before the end of the year.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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The Economy Is Changing. Training Is Critical.

Amazon announced an initiative to offer free cloud computing training. Its goal is to help 29 million people globally grow their skills in cloud computing by 2025. I got really excited when I read about this. Cloud computing is exploding. I believe it will continue growing for the foreseeable future. Amazon will provide knowledge and training (free of charge) and help many people excel in this emerging industry rather than watch it from the sidelines.

I recently talked with a close friend about declining industries and their impact on my hometown and similar communities. When a dominant industry declines, its workers often have trouble finding employment because many players in that space are downsized at the same time. They may not have the necessary skills for roles in other industries with comparable pay. They end up taking jobs that pay less, which has a ripple effect on the local community. Over time, this has a negative impact on all aspects of the community and is hard to reverse. Communities once dominated by the steel industry but now struggling are an example.

Our economy is changing faster than ever. We’ve seen revenue redistribution and other factors accelerate growth in some sectors and bring others to their knees. The pace of change highlights the need to help our workforce adapt. That’s why I got excited when I read about Amazon’s initiative. I like its approach and hope that others replicate it. It will help many people if more growing industries have the foresight to invest in skills training early. I also hope that we provide more support and resources to aspiring entrepreneurs to accelerate new business creation. These two things will provide the foundation local communities need to continue thriving and adapting to our changing economy.

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Working from Home: Week Thirty-Nine

Today marks the end of my thirty-ninth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week thirty-nine:

  • Community – I miss seeing people in the Atlanta tech community. I’m looking forward to the day when we can interact in person safely. Community will be top of mind for me and many others in 2021. If working from home and other habits become the norm, people will be seeking community more than ever. I view 2021 as a time that offers a unique opportunity to create and rethink community across in many sectors, not just tech.
  • Working smarter – I spent time this week thinking about what I want to improve. I thought about what was and wasn’t working but realized I do better when I begin by defining the end goal. After I did that, it was easier to see what activities were misaligned and start figuring out what changes to make. I’ll keep doing more of this over the next few weeks.  
  • More deals – Last week Microsoft announced the acquisition of Slack. This week was busy for IPOs. Doordash debuted Wednesday and Airbnb debuted Thursday. Investors are bullish on tech companies and are paying high premiums for high growth. I expect this trend to continue with more large deals announced before year’s end and maybe into Q1 too.
  • Weather – Last week I shared how the cold weather negatively affected me. It warmed up this week and we had more sunshine. My productivity and mood were noticeably better. I know there’s lots written on this, but I’m still amazed to observe it in myself.
  • Chapter 2021 – 2020 will end in two-and-a-half weeks. It’s been a wild year, and I’m looking forward to turning the page.

Week thirty-nine was a reflective week. Next week is the last full workweek before Christmas. I’m looking forward to it being both productive and reflective.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Time and Space to Think

Yesterday, I shared what I learned from Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates. I don’t watch much TV, but this was an insightful series. Today I’ve been thinking about Bill’s “think weeks.” He regularly spends a week alone in a cabin reading and thinking. The quietude and stillness give him an optimal environment for his best thinking, allowing him to distill things and solve complex problems.

Bill’s intelligence and ability to rapidly comprehend things have been remarkable all his life. (His siblings, coworkers, and wife all confirmed this.) And they’re at their highest level when he reduces his activity level and just thinks.

I started to wonder what environment allows me to do my best thinking. I usually need to get in the zone to think about complex things. Big blocks of time let me do that, and then I can concentrate and make significant progress on a problem. Once I see progress, I get excited and want to keep going. Interruptions or lots of activity around me are disruptive, so I try to be somewhere quiet and still when I need to get in the zone. I’ve also learned that writing helps me make connections and solve complex problems. It forces me to organize and communicate my scattered thoughts in a way others can understand.

This year has been challenging, to say the least. Like everyone, I’m ready for it to be over. In tough situations, I try to look for the silver lining. I believe life is about perspective and there’s always something positive; you just have to look for it. This year is no exception. Less activity and a slower-paced life because of the pandemic have given me more time to think than I’ve ever had. I’ve accomplished things I’ve been putting off for years (like blogging) and worked through some tough problems. Bill Gates does think weeks. I’ve sort of done a think year.

Bill Gates is a brilliant person who made an impact on society through entrepreneurship and is doing it again through philanthropy. I love learning from the experiences of people smarter than me, like Bill. There’s a lot to be said for his practice of taking week-long blocks of time to think. (If someone of his stature continues to prioritize this, there must be something to it!) I don’t have the luxury of doing think weeks, but I’ll work toward being more intentional about taking time to read and think in the right environment.  

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