#179: Advice 2021

Hello, and welcome to the Bigger Than Us podcast for the last episode of 2021. And as we prepare for 2022, we thought we’d reflect on the advice given by our most popular guests. We hope that after listening to the episode, you feel as inspired and motivated as we are for the new year.

Bigger Than Us #179

This transcript has been lightly edited.

#131 Sarah Shanley Hope

Sarah Shanley Hope 01:06

I think the biggest advice that I would have is increase your comfort with being uncomfortable, with not having certainty or control. But showing up anyway. And listening and learning in real time. I think that the more each of us can lean in to the transformations that are underway whether whether we like them or not, the better. So, yes, lean into discomfort, let go of control. Be okay with uncertainty.

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Host Raj Daniels 01:47

I love the idea of being okay with uncertainty. Have you heard of VUCA, volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous?

Sarah Shanley Hope 01:55

That is the mantra. That is the framework.

#132 Brad Hunstable

Brad Hunstable 02:06

Well, if you’re an entrepreneur listening, and you want to start a company, my biggest piece of advice is going with eyes wide open, that it’s a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle choice. You will be have moments from when people are going out and you’re not, you’ll be working weekends, it’s a full-time gig. If you only do it for the money, you’re not really passionate about what you’re doing, then it’s not going to be fun. And you won’t succeed, more likely than not. And you’re just not gonna be happy. 

And so if you have something that’s really important, and you’re passionate about it, and you’re willing to take a chance and, and work through tough times and not quit, and many times when you’re about to quit, but you just drive through it, and know that it’s a lifestyle, then you’ve got the chance to success. And that’s usually what I tell people who are thinking about getting out of the corporate world and starting their own company, which which can be very fulfilling. 

Not for everybody, but can be very fulfilling, but also will be be a journey. That journey can have a lot of bumps and backwards and up and down and be crazy. But if it’s meaningful, it’s probably worth it.

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#134 Ralph Chami

Ralph Chami 03:23

It would be tomorrow cannot be like today. Tomorrow, we need a new way of thinking. We need a new way; we need a new paradigm. And that involves a change in our behavior, to go back to the natural world from which we came. Only then we’ll be able to live in a sustainable and prosperous way for all. That means all humans and all creatures big and small.

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#135 Joshua Aviv

Josh Aviv 04:02

It’s never too early or too late to start a startup. But I would say you know, with that in mind, you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. You need to be both feet in 10 toes down committed towards growing your company. I’d say my one piece of advice would be just make sure, if you’re going to start a startup, be dedicated, be passionate, and really be focused on solving a problem and making sure that that problem makes this world a better place.

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#136 H.G. Chissell

H.G. Chissell 04:35

Recently, I think the thing for me has been always taking time to appreciate how limited the time we have is because it’s such a great — I think it’s Viktor Frankl says imminent hanging sharpens a man’s wit, just embracing our impermanence. There’s a lot of freedom in doing that in terms of letting things fall or settle that are distracting you from what you really you’re going to be most proud that you accomplish with this brief gift that you have called life. And if you don’t have a practice for embracing impermanence, it’s so easy to forget that and think that this goes on, and you get the call the shots of when it ends. 

And I think that, to me, always helps center me, when I really get in touch with with impermanence and the gift of life.

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#137 Jason Jacobs

Jason Jacobs 05:29

Yeah. People come to me for advice a lot, not because I’m super smart in these areas, but because I’ve found a way to have impact and hopefully the beginnings of what will be a livelihood in the area that I wasn’t an expert in. I came in without much foundational knowledge or connections. 

And so people feeling that way, what do they want? They want to talk to someone who recently made that transition successfully. And you can’t call my transition a success. But it’s at least trying to corner into something that could grow into a success over time. And I think, you know, they say, Should I get a job? Or should I read a book? Or should I go to an event? Or? And the answer is that it matters much less, where you start, it matters much more that you just start. 

A lot of it comes down to you and what’s going to feel most natural to you, where you are most intellectually interested. What feels less forced in terms of your ability to stick with it and experiment? Try different things, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. And if you’re the kind of person that feels like you would be more fulfilled, to get a job and get some experience, and then build from there, then do that if you feel like you’re the kind of person that wants to just get a lay of the land and keep your job, and nights and weekends, just educate yourself and start to have some discussions so you can be more informed about where to anchor before you pull the trigger on your employment, then do that. 

So it I think it comes down much more to the individual. And I do think it’s important that people are honest with themselves about identifying what is the most natural path for them, but they should also just kind of give themselves permission to not have to have all the answers.

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#138 Dr. Graciela Chichilinsky

Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky 07:18

That you have to believe in yourself. Whatever you want to do. If you believe in yourself, and you have a clear idea, go and do it. That’s what I think.

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#139 Skye D’Almeida

Skye d’Almeida 07:40

It’s not my advice. It’s advice. It’s a piece of advice that’s been rattling around in my head lately. And it’s something that — I don’t know if you’re familiar with Peter Diamandis, Raj. He’s an entrepreneur. Do you know him?

Host Raj Daniels 07:55

I am. I’ve read his books.

Skye d’Almeida 07:56

Yes. Okay. So, you know, he talks a lot about taking moonshots. And I guess for the benefit of your listeners who don’t know Peter, it’s probably fair to say he’s a techno-optimist. And maybe he’s a little too optimistic for some people, but I think we could always use a little bit of optimism right now. And I really like the way he approaches disruptive thinking. He knows, on a personal level and in a business capacity, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Richard Branson. 

And he spent a lot of time looking at what all four of them having common. What are the common traits? And one of the things he concluded was that all four took plenty of what he termed “moonshots,” meaning that when their peers were thinking about incremental growth and incremental improvement, these four were shooting for the moon and disrupting entire industries. So they were, you know, they were the ones pursuing the so-called crazy ideas. And Peter has a nice quote that “the day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.” 

So I think the advice that he gives really distills down to, instead of thinking about 10% bigger or 10% better, think 10 times bigger or better. So he says that 1,000% is 100 times greater than 10%. But it’s generally not 100 times harder to achieve. And, you know, it’s really these 1,000% improvements that have impact. And that’s the scale of impact that we need to address climate change. So I’ve really started challenging myself to think bigger in terms of impact. And that’s the piece of advice that I’m focusing on at the moment.

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#140 Catherine Von Burg

Catherine Von Burg 09:46

I have been asked this question, actually in Germany by some young women who were looking at me as if I had answers, perhaps because of my age, perhaps because of the position I have with the company. But what I said in that moment has stuck with me and has really changed the way I look at how I process information. And really, it’s to quite simply trust your gut. There is so much information that we take in that is not conscious. 

And I think there’s sometimes an underestimation of the power of one’s sense of things, and the ability to trust, kind of on an intuitive level. And what I have found through the years, when I have completely dismissed what I knew on a visceral level, because I allowed my heady arguments to come in, very often, it was not the right decision. And I have seen over and over again, when people really trust their gut and what they know, on a visceral level, because again, of having that information without consciously processing it. And that certainly played out in business decisions with the company.

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#141 Juan Verde

Juan Verde 11:22

I’ve worked with a number of wonderful, wonderful, very prominent individuals from President Obama to Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Senator John Kerry. And I’ve always seen certain traits in all of them. That would be the advice to people listening to us. To me, they are men and women I greatly admire because they all share three things in common. They are people that feel passion for what they do. 

My mom used to say that if you are lucky enough to find a job you can be passionate about, you’ll never have to work another day in your life time. And I completely agree with that. It’s something that I always saw in each and every one of the people I just mentioned, they were so passionate about what they did, but they also — and that would be the second piece of advice. We talked about pride. That is very, very important. But they are also people that were willing to take risk, and were not afraid of failure. And that, to me, is also something that I greatly admire, people that are trying to be successful in their endeavors and do well. 

And lastly, I would say that every single one of the people I’ve mentioned today, are all people that always found a way, always went out of their ways, I should say, to give back. To give back to their country, to help others. They felt an obligation and a responsibility to do that because they believe that individual success does not exist. We make it when we make it, always on the shoulders of many others that paved the way for us. And so that would be it. Those would be the three ideas I would share with.

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#142 Marc Conte

Marc Conte 13:23

I think our access to — I was gonna say information, although I’m not sure that term is accurate — but our access to content online, and the ability for people to get immediate support, although there’s also immediate blowback, over the past few years. I think it’s been been critical in bringing to light several issues that have plagued society in the US but also globally, in terms of racism, and sexism, and misogyny, and all of these things that have really come to the fore in the past few years, and the importance of maintaining respect for ideas in our interactions and not dispelling things off the bat. 

I think the balance that we have to strike when trying to address these problems, is our willingness to be careful and to really think deeply about issues. And also think deeply about other people’s experiences. Because some of the some advice you give to someone, whether it’s in our research context, or in any other context, may come from a good place, but may not really resonate with them. And so what I think, as we’re trying to come up with solutions to make life on this planet as pleasant for all organisms living on it as possible, is to really be mindful about the value of different perspectives, but also to distinguish perspectives that are based on sound and meaningful ideas, versus those that may not come from a great place. 

So really, this is a long winded way of saying, I think we want to be evidence-driven in our decisions. And that relates to data and policy, but also relates to interactions. And it requires people to relax some assumptions that they have about other types of people, and be more informed by their interactions with people, and relaxing the natural tendency to kind of go back to these preconceived notions.

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#143 Steve Schmida

Steve Schmida 15:51

I think I am an optimist. And I think thinking about the world as, yes, we have a lot of problems we’re facing, and they’re serious ones, but always keeping in mind that we do have the opportunity, and we’re empowered in so many ways to solve them. 

And I think along those lines, you know, I think it’s important for young professionals in particular to be very, very intentional as they’re picking their career paths. Because if you want to be if you want a better world, you have to position yourself. You don’t have to go out and be an activist, although that’s a great thing to do. I’m not degrading being an activist. But there are so many ways with whatever skill set you have, that you can be part of the solution. And I think thinking of yourself as having a role in the solution to some of these challenges, I think, is really important because then that gives you the energy to drive forward and gives you a more optimistic and positive outlook. So I think those are some initial thoughts.

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#144 Azzedine Downes

Azzedine Downes 17:12

On a personal level, I would say — and I know, it’s more difficult to do than just saying it — but try not to become overwhelmed. Try not to become overwhelmed, particularly for younger people who look at all of the bad news that comes out every single day. 

And then translate that into this is not a world I want to see my children live in, I don’t want to have children, I don’t want to bring anyone into this world. It’s a very, very dark vision of the world. And it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. And, you know, people will often ask, “Well, what is it that I can do?” And I think that making a connection, however small it is to nature, whether it’s planting a small garden, or thinking about what the birds need, or what the butterflies need, or even the rabbits when they eat the tulips, which drives me out of my mind, but there are things that you can do. There’s decisions that you can make, thinking about what you buy, and things like that, and the impact that it has. 

If you live in a place that that has civil society, think about what it is that you want for the world, and don’t view it through an economic lens; which, we’re also often forced to do that. But you know, when you think about the Sustainable Development Goals, for example. I think about this a lot. And I think it would be better if we set sustainable health goals. You can have development, you can have all of those things and still lose your health and the planet’s health. But what is it that you’re doing when you when you use your voice, to support policies and politicians and regulations? 

If you have the ability to do that — and not everyone around the world does. But if you live in a society with us with a civil society that allows your voice to be heard, think about your health, and the health of the planet, before you think whether or not it has any economic value. And I think that if we all did that, we would have both and you can start small, and don’t become overwhelmed. 

Don’t become overwhelmed by the bad news every day. There’s there’s all sorts of analogies of throwing the pebble in the pond and the ripples and things like that. But when you read about the bees or the loss of the butterflies or pollination, things like that, plant a flower. Plant a flower that butterflies love. Plant a flower that that bees love. Make that small step; and that, you can do anywhere you are.

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#147 Kelly Herring

Kelly Herring 20:09

I think what I would say is that we need all the help we can get in solving the climate problem. And what I’ve heard a lot recently from people is asking me how they get into climate. “How do I get into climate tech? How do I switch industries?” And I feel like there’s this barrier that just really shouldn’t be there. And I’m not sure what exactly is causing it, if it’s just natural for people to feel like switching industries is hard. But the climate industry is growing. And it’s like just starting out. 

Over the last couple of years, we’ve really been building it. And of course, there’s the physical and the important implementation of actually finding a company that you can use your skills. But I don’t want that concept of going into a new industry to be a barrier for anyone and for anyone to feel like their background or their experience has somehow led them from led them or stopped them from being a part of the climate solution. And so I encourage you to think deep into what experiences and it doesn’t have to be like a perfect engineering experience or a perfect background in marketing or communications that is going to get you there. It’s really like how can you utilize your background and provide value in this effort to solve this giant problem that we have? And to not be held back by the concept of starting a new industry, or maybe your background wasn’t exactly perfect, or how you’ve always dreamed it would be because it’s all important. It all serves you in some way, shape or form. 

Just keep at it and keep searching for what your part of the solution is.

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#151 Chante Harris

Chante Harris 21:58

It makes me think of a quote — I know, it’s a probably widely shared quote, but it was said to me by someone I just truly adore and respect. And what was said to me was, you know, I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of, “Sometimes other people’s ceilings are your floor. And that’s okay.” 

And I think that’s, for me, been really important. Because a lot of times, I feel that as a young African-American woman, I’ve found myself in places and rooms that are doing really big things, where I have decision making power, and I’m able to move the needle on such important conversations and topics, and recognizing that I’m both grateful and excited. And that me wanting to dream bigger, or do bigger things, are okay as well. 

So there’s a duality of being able to say, I’m grateful for what I have now, and the opportunities that have been presented for me. And I have this desire to have an even bigger impact, or do bigger things because I see bigger solutions and opportunities. And that’s been really important to me, because one quote that — I believe it was, my grandmother, if I’m not mistaken — introduced me at an early age, it was just, “Don’t dim your light for other people.” Don’t make yourself small for other people, if you ever start feeling small, where you’re at, that it just means that it’s time for you to find a place that’s bigger for you. But not feeling like you have to be smaller, for the sake of making others comfortable. 

And so that would be advice I give people. I’ve ended up in amazing places and opportunities. And I think staying humble is really important. But also recognizing your gifts and leaning into them, and wanting more when you feel like you’ve maybe outgrown your current situation is, is fine. It’s okay. And I think it’s also it means that we’re doing something right. So yeah.

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#154 Catherine McLean

Catherine McLean 24:09

I think it sort of goes back to the very beginning of the conversation before you started recording, which you said, “What can I do to help you?” And I think that would be my words of advice. I think we all have a tendency to think about ourselves first, which is natural, but I think it’s about thinking about others first, and how you can help others. 

I think that’s really been the game changer for my career; by trying to help other people, I’ve always had people really go out of their way to help me, as though it’s karma. Just having good karma.

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#155 Jon Friedman

Jon Friedman 24:49

Well, I would say, one thing that I’ve really held with me since I entered the workforce, as a smaller, younger person, is that usually the person on the ground knows the most. They might not be the most refined, they might not know the language, or they might not know the vernacular that you know, but the person doing the work is probably the person that you should take notes from. And we try to we try to live that ethos. 

But I see a lot of businesses losing sight that the person who’s actually doing the work is probably more important than the person on top, the person who’s running the company. And I think that’s something that — it’s just a mindset shift that is happening more and more. People realize that, maybe you don’t need all that. You don’t need five managers on top of this one person who’s the talent. And so I would suggest that anybody who is in the investor world or startup world or at any level of business, don’t lose sight on the actual work.

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#159 Venkatesh Kini

Venkatesh Kini 26:02

My advice to anyone listening in is to figure out what your purpose or calling in life is. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job, and suddenly go out on a mission. But a true calling is one where you can combine your passion, which is what you love doing with your skill, what you’re good at, with a bigger purpose in life. And that could be anything, it doesn’t have to be that you want to solve world hunger. 

But it could be something like you want to spread art, you want to make a difference in the lives of children, or you want to do something in your neighborhood, it doesn’t matter. But whatever it is, have a bigger purpose in life than your own self or family needs. And combine that with a profitable model where someone’s willing to pay you for doing that. 

So essentially, combine your passion, with a purpose, with a profit, and with prowess, which is your talent or your skill. So the four P’s of passion, purpose, profit and prowess. At the intersection of that is where you will find your calling. And it may take a year for you to figure it out, or you may already know what it is, and then start moving on that journey. And you’ll find that it will give you a new sense of renewed energy and focus and a reason to wake up in the morning and do something every day.

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#161 Zecca Lehn

Zecca Lehn 27:35

Well, I mean, it may seem perfectly, you know, obvious and non-interesting. But I would just say doing the right thing is usually not that hard to really figure out if you’re asking yourself the right questions. And if the right thing is in front of you, and it takes a little bit more effort, I’d say it’s probably worth doing. So I always just try to encourage people to find their right thing and kind of lean into that. And it’s worth it. That’s the positive encouragement I’d like to give.

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#166 Katie Worth

Katie Worth 28:23

What I’ve would say is, the idea of climate change, and what people need to know about climate change has been reduced to these 10 words, basically: it’s real, it’s us, it’s bad. Scientists agree about it, and there’s hope. And so like those five points: there’s a scientific consensus, it’s happening, we are responsible for it, it’s bad, and then that there’s hope that we can make progress against this. 

If a kid can walk out of school with that information, then they’re set up to understand, more deeply, how it will affect their life, how it will affect their politics, how it will affect their job prospects. And so I think that the way that you teach kids that is not just once in science class, but talking to them about it, and social studies, civics history, English. New Jersey just adopted some new academic standards that has it even in math and in physical education. It’s in computer science, so little bits of it throughout an education at a developmentally appropriate pace — not, you know, teaching second graders about carbon dioxide parts per million — but getting them prepared to understand the world as it functions. It’s possible. It will be so relevant to their life. And it’s such a useful tool to understand the world. 

So I think that’s one piece of advice. And then the other piece of advice is something that Frank Niepold told me — I think I was telling you this offline earlier. But right now, climate education is 99% problem and 1% solution. And young people want 20% problem and 80% solution. So you don’t need to beat kids over the head with how bad things are. But you do need to get their brains and imaginations involved in finding ways that we can survive and thrive, despite the crisis.

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#167 Sharina Perry

Sharina Perry 30:54

You got to always keep in focus what your goal is, and be open to not being so narrowly focused that you’re not paying attention to the broader opportunity, but also not be so broad, that you’re not seeing where you might be being guided or directed. And that you have to be paying attention to changes, pay attention. 

If I’m going to give advice from the business world, people that were stuck and didn’t weren’t paying attention to the market that they were in or the industry shifts, things like COVID and lack of resources in their supply chain, creates challenges for them, and their business not knowing how to pivot. Avoid doing that by constantly paying attention to information in the market segment that you’re in, or the industry that you’re in. Also, this is the best time, I believe, for young people, for minorities, people who had felt disadvantaged, this is the perfect stream of time and place in time to be able to make an impact. 

And I encourage you to tap into what’s inside of you and not believe that there are these barriers that will prevent you, but use the free information that’s given — we have an access to a lot of information through the internet. Now through social platforms, I encourage you to tap into those things to create the tomorrow that you want.

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#168 Corey Glickman

Corey Glickman 32:47

Painful lessons learned, so often, when I when I talk to people about things that I’ve learned. So I think one of the most valuable skills that a leader or manager can have in a leader should be at all levels is the ability to make decisions. And this is not an original concept or thought, but it’s something I thoroughly believe in. So the best thing that you can do is make the right decision, the second best thing you can do is make the wrong decision. And the third thing that you can do is not make a decision at all, that’s worse than making the wrong decision. 

And so often I think about that, we go through there. I also constantly think about how how to reinvent yourself every three years, whether that means you have to move to another company or just reinventing yourself within that company. I know that we have a tendency to say “Well, what’s my career path?” And we work to certain KPIs and goals across there. But I’ve never in my career, ever worried about what my next role is going to be, I always have been able to create my roles, and I found other individuals can do that too. You can make yourself be very valuable to a group of people or to companies. And also align it to things that you want to be doing, things that you think are important through there. 

So I think that’s really important. I think it’s also important not to freeze in time. So if you get very successful at something, you need to always look for a new challenge. And that’s part of that reinvention part. Often we’re victims of our own success, we tend to do things very well, get continued work in that same direction because we’re known for doing those things well, and then that’s what you end up doing. 

So how do you not freeze in time, which means you should step aside sometimes and let others take over the lead. Even if you might think you know how to do it better. That’s never really the case. We think about when we’re most productive. I know I kind of hit my stride somewhere between the ages of 27 and 35. That was many years ago, where I could say I was having an impact and getting enough control that I felt I could take credit or work with teams to do so. 

And I think sometimes we forget as we have longer careers now in society, that there’s a whole generation of individuals that are coming out that have to be given leadership roles. 

And you don’t have to wait till you’re 45 or 50, to say, “I can lead a group or division.” So it’s important not to freeze in time. And it’s important to, I’d say, manage up and manage down, make sure the people that are working for you have incredible opportunities that you’ve had. And then how do you manage upwards, to constantly push management up above you thrown in line somewhere, to continue to change as needs to go across there. Another lesson is, just because you’re capable of doing something doesn’t mean you should always do it. Right. 

There’s lessons there that I won’t go into. Sometimes we’re a company that feels we can build everything and anything, and I think we can, but doesn’t always make the sense to do so. So I think that’s important to understand ecosystems. I think also, nothing is ever perfect, it never will be perfect. Often, when I’m asking groups to solve in hackathons, you’re teaching with students and grad students, we’ll give them a problem set to solve in three or four days. That’ll be very complex. 

And I’ll say, first thing is to make sure your technology actually works, which is kind of against what you think designers would say, but if the technology is not working, then everything else won’t work, because you can’t trust the data or anything that’s happening across there. The second one is that realize that once you start solving for a problem set, you’re never going to have enough resources or time that you thought you were going to have. So you’re going to have to think your way through that. And if you do it, you’re gonna end up with a better design anyway, right? Because you’re forced to constraints. 

And then the third is to make sure that your ideas are big enough and bold enough that they’re going to survive, you know, all the challenges along the way. And that’s what’s going to keep it going across there. So understand that nothing is ever perfect. And those are the realities of life, I think you’ll do pretty well, most things that try to do. Just one more: diversity and inclusion. I know those are hot words right now because of sustainability and what we’re looking at from the ESG perspective. I made a conscious decision after working for some of the world’s largest corporations to join a company that wasn’t Western-based or Western European-based. And I intentionally joined a company that had a very different culture, because I felt that it was time for me to look at the world differently. 

And I would recommend that to everybody that you should constantly looking to challenge yourself and see through other people’s eyes of what’s going on to there, and be very open to it. And I think you’ll grow better for it. So those would be the lessons that I’ve learned.

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#174 Nneka Kibuule

Nneka Kibuule 37:42

Yes, the first advice I have for founders is not particularly exciting or unique. But I would say just to know your product, know your market, understand why someone would use you, rather than the status quo. I think it was Sun Tzu that says, “Know your enemy, win the battle; know yourself, win the war.” 

The markets that we’re in are constantly changing. And therefore, unfortunately, on top of running your business and leading operations, you also need to understand exactly where you fit in the value stack. And make sure that you’re creating a revenue model that’s going to make money for you long term, and not just at the very beginning, and find ways that you can partner with people. So you don’t have to do everything by yourself. So by the time you talk to myself or another investor like me that you’re ready, you know yourself, and then the parts that you don’t know we can work on together, we can strategize for the future. 

I think the founders that I’ve met, who are so passionate and know their business in and out, it’s infectious and you want them to succeed, even if their product doesn’t fit what your investment firm does. It’s like this person is passionate. This person’s done the research, they know their business, there’s a product market fit. Who can I call to pass along this deal to to support them? I give that advice to anyone on any type of business. And then especially in climate tech, there’s so much more funding, non-dilutive funding, grant funding, governmental funding that’s out there. 

I recommend everyone please, please, please take a look at this and see what resources you can get a handle on as you’re building your business. So that by the time you’re coming for diluted funding, or looking at debt or talking to investors, you’ve kind of gotten a hold on how large can I grow this entity on my own and potentially get to a level of revenue where you don’t have to dilute yourself as a founder as much as people potentially did in the past, and then figuring out where you can lean into specialty programs that give you preferential status in terms of procurement. So we know that there are a number of municipalities that have been looking at carbon sequestered concrete first, before they look at any other concrete, when they’re building out municipal projects. 

So understanding what the ecosystem looks like, on the regulatory or municipal basis for your technology as well, is a good way to get your foot into doors that would normally be harder to enter into.

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#175 Sunny Sanwar

Sunny Sanwar 40:51

For entrepreneurs, the one thing I would want people to take away is that the 30 under 30 stuff or overall, youth-level stuff, don’t let that create this urgency of, you have to pick what you want to do for the next 10 years before the end of the month. That creates an external pressure that I don’t feel like needs to be there. Take your time really understanding what you’re good at, obviously, and what you want to do, but what value do you take pride in doing? In the company, you do a lot of things. 

There are certain things I enjoy, there’s certain things I don’t enjoy. But then there are certain things that I look back and I value. Figure out what that aspect is. It could be thematic, it could be good at product dev, it could be kind of a functional area, it could be industry space: “Hey, I’m pretty good at buying low, selling high. I don’t know if that’s helpful, but that’s what I’m good at; it’s what I enjoy.” 

So going through that process early on, either as an entrepreneur or as a professional overall, take your time in understanding that. And don’t let arbitrary requirements, stress you out that you’re not where you want to be. And don’t think that it is that one thing that you’re good at, and you’re gonna ignore everything else. Sometimes you’re good at two, three things that have nothing to do each other. But if early on, you say no to path two and three, you kind of kind of miss out the future, that could have been if you kept those other things that you enjoy as part of your toolkit. 

And the last thing I think, maybe not so popular is, I think everyone wants to be good at a lot of things. And I think that’s kind of almost the human psychology that I want to be good at four or five different skill sets, because they’re all equally good. And I think that makes sense. And there’s some merit, but find what you’re really, really good at and be even better at that one thing. Because, you know, at the end of the day, mathematically, you have two choices: you could be a generalist at a few things, or a specialist at one thing. So what it might seem antithetical to what I said earlier, picking two three things that you’re really good at, you know, it, you believe it, you’ve tested yourself out, in very high stress situations, highly dynamic environments, and try to hone in skills for those specific things. 

That is the contribution that others in society need. People need somebody who could really do a couple of things really well, than hundreds of people that could do 100 things sort of well, because there’s no differentiation between 100 people trying to do this 100 thing. So for professional and for entrepreneur, kind of being honest about what role you play, what you really like to play, and what role has the most value. Take your time and really understanding how those things come together. And don’t be under a time crunch or some sort of arbitrary requirement to just pick one and then commit to 10 years of of doing that, because oftentimes, you don’t have all the information yet to make that kind of long term stance on something.

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#178 Julia Armstrong D’Agnese

Julia Armstrong D’Agnese 44:22

I think the biggest lesson is what I was talking about is that in the face of innovation, and in order to really bring big changes in the world, innovation is built into that process. For people to remember that there always will be others who can’t embrace those changes for whatever reasons, and to make sure that those naysayers aren’t given power, but the ones that support that vision and can help with the practical steps of making take that dream and making it a reality, that those are the ones that are listened to, that are embraced at some level, that are incorporated into that innovator’s life and company and process. 

We do need each other and we do need that support. But I think that’s really important. Our world kind of drives itself. You know, the media often focuses on what’s negative, what’s going wrong, what to worry about, fear-based news in many ways. So it’s easy for our brains to focus on something that is a negative piece of feedback far more than its is easy to focus on the positive feedback. So I think watering the seeds of the positive feedback, nourishing and nurturing that is just really critical in being able to sustain our own vision of how we can make a difference in the world, and just stay with that through thick and thin, through hard times and good times. To really be able to stay with that.

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Raj Daniels

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