146. Think Fast; Talk Smart: 4 Effective Speaking Tips In Spontaneous Situations

20 takeaways from this video:

00:00:53 How many “F”s are in this sentence?


Most people, even the most intelligent, find 3 or even 4 “F”s. This is because most people overlook the “F” in the word “of.” There are in fact 6 “F”s in the above sentence.

00:02:35 Spontaneous, unplanned public speaking is when you are asked to speak about, or give your opinion on, a subject without prior preparation. Spontaneous presentations actually occur more often than planned speaking engagements.

Examples include giving:

  • Introductions (for yourself, your company, or somebody you know)
  • Feedback (during a meeting or after a presentation)
  • Surprise toasts at a wedding or on a special day
  • Responding to answers during a Q&A session

Your first job as a communicator is to make your audience feel comfortable because uncomfortable people won’t receive your message. You do this by managing your own anxiety.

00:04:20 Regardless of whether your speech is planned or off the cuff, your anxiety must be under control. You don’t want to overcome anxiety, but to manage it. Because anxiety is actually good for us, helping us focus and give us a sense of importance.

85% of people admit they struggle with speaking in public.

00:05:47 When asked, most people who are watching a nervous speaker feel uncomfortable and awkward as well, and so either politely nod and smile at the speaker or disengage and ignore the speaker.

00:06:53 When you begin feeling anxious before speaking, acknowledging and greeting your anxiety as a normal and natural process allows you to take control over it before it has a chance to get out of control.

00:08:24 Reframing how you see your speaking situation also helps you control your anxiety. When you perform, there is a right and a wrong way to do it: missing a musical note, forgetting a line, saying the wrong line at the wrong time, etc. You’ve made a mistake and everyone else around you and dependant upon you to get it right has now been thrown off track.

Therefore don’t look at a public presentation as “performing,” reframe your presentation instead as a conversation with your audience. You can do this by:

  1. Starting by asking your audience questions (by a show-of-hand poll or rhetorical), thus getting your audience involved
  2. Structuring your presentation notes as questions you will answer rather than bullet points you will cover.
  3. Using inclusive conversational rather than using cold, distancing professional-type language which creates a rift between you the speaker from your audience. For example: “Hello, I am really excited to be here with you this evening” and “Today we’re going to cover step 1, step 2, and step 3” are sentences which distance yourself from your audience. Creating an inclusive conversational style presentation is as easy as using pronouns: words which substitute nouns. I, you, that, me, something, he, them, it, who are examples of pronouns.
  4. Managing your orientation to time. Focus on yourself and your objectives in the present moment rather than worrying about the future consequences of failing to meet your objectives helps you control anxiety. Get yourself in the moment by concentrating on a song, doing pushups, or repeating tongue-twisters.
  5. Warm up your voice. You wouldn’t go running without first warming up your muscles. Take a few moments to warm up your voice instead of retreating inwards and thinking all these bad thoughts about yourself.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on how to overcome anxiety and make your audience feel comfortable as quickly as possible, watch the lecture How to Introduce Yourself So People Want to Invest In Your Brand.]

00:16:40 When it comes to public speaking, your quest for perfection and immortality of having devised the perfect presentation are usually the first things that get in your own way.

00:18:30 Stockpiling is, as soon as you know what is expected of you, you immediately start planning what you are going to say and do in advance, so that you will have everything under control. If you analyze your ‘planned responses’ you are stockpiling, you’ll notice that your brain follows certain safe, predictable patterns it has come to trust and rely on over the course of your life in the responses it comes up with. This is useful in planned problem-solving such as having to give a speech with time to prepare and perfect it.

But in a situation where you must give a spontaneous speech, you will not be able to rely on stockpiling.

Your second job as a communicator is to reframe your spontaneous speech as an opportunity rather than a threat.

00:25:00 People become defensive and shut down when they feel attacked. Therefore in a Q&A session, it’s imperative that you not view it as a you versus the audience member putting you on the spot with a question. The Q&A session is an opportunity for you to:

  • Clarify any points you made that perhaps weren’t clear
  • Understand what your audience is thinking
  • Reiterate a point you made and want to make sure the audience doesn’t forget
  • Read your audience and understand what is important to them and how you can thus convince them
  • Correct the weaknesses in your presentation so future speeches will be more comprehensive

00:33:12 A fundamental element to the art of improvisation is not to say “Yes and…” and to never say “No but…” “Yes and…” opens up a tremendous opportunities, while “No but…” closes opportunities and shuts down imagination.

Your third job as a communicator is to slow down and listen because you cannot respond appropriately until you first understand the situation you are in.

00:34:17 As a communicator you are in service to your audience. And if you aren’t taking the time to thoroughly listen to what your audience is asking before jumping to conclusions about what you think they are saying and then give them that answer, you can’t help your audience and you damage your reputation.

Your fourth job as a communicator is to structure your speech as a story so your audience will remember it.

00:39:11 Never lose your audience.

Humans are roughly 40% better at accurately and reliably remembering information when it is structured versus when it isn’t structured. The two most popular storyline structures are:

  1. Problem or Opportunity>Solution>Benefit
  2. What is it?>Why it’s important?>What do we do now?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in his TED Talk Why You Should Be Suspicious of The Stories You Hear, Tyler Cowen warns of a few dangers that come with relying too heavily on stories are:

  • The stories you tell yourself to make sense of the world are too simple and can be summarized in as little as a sentence, such as a brand’s mission statement or unique selling point. An example of this would be conspiracy theories and ‘good versus evil.’ Nothing is merely either good OR evil, and attempting to categorize everything in such a way is an insult to the intelligence of the storyteller as much so as the person being told the story.
  • The stories can serve multiple objectives and may even be contradictory or conflicting, such as ‘getting tough’ with bankers or political parties. ‘Getting tough’ with the Nazis was a good thing; ‘getting tough’ on a convenient person or group of people without having all the information because we need a ‘face to the evil,’ isn’t.
  • We aren’t always fed the right stories and information, and humans can only fit so many stories and facts into their mind at once. Further, memories are unreliable, malleable, and often deceptive.]

00:46:20 It is ironic, but structure sets you free because you’re free to focus on the content of what you’re going to say.

00:48:23 For more information on this subject, check out:

00:49:32 When you find yourself in a hostile situation where someone challenges your answer, or worse, your intelligence; acknowledge the person’s emotion but don’t name their emotion.

If you say they are angry, and they reply “I’m not angry, I’m frustrated,” now you’re having a ridiculous argument over the person’s mental state instead of the more important issues.

Instead, reframe and explain.

00:52:50 In speaking situations where there is some planned element to it but where you are being interrogated or cross-examined, you won’t be able to memorize set terms and sentence structures which can simply be repeated. Instead, have prepared themes with supporting concrete examples and evidence that you can use to support your responses and put them together as necessary.

00:53:18 In extremely hostile situations, paraphrasing is your best reponse because it allows you to:

  • Reframe the question in a way you can more easily answer
  • Think about how you’re going to answer the paraphrased question
  • Pause and make sure you got it right and understood what was being asked of you

00:54:50 When speaking to international and intercultural audiences, you must take into account their expectations from their time spent with you.

00:56:01 Humor is a great tool for connecting your audience, but it is also very risky. Research shows that the best type of humor is self-deprecating humor: the ability to make jokes about yourself because they are the least risky.

00:57:34 A great way to get a more authentic response from a professional who has had extensive media response training is to:

  • Ask “why” several times to get past the first few layers of training
  • Ask them what advice they have for a person in a particular situation. This question changes the relationship between the media-trained speaker and yourself.

134. How To Start A Startup: Operating Your Business For Growth & Success

11 important lessons from this lecture:

00:00:09 Assuming that you have already:

…now you want to build a company. Building a company is much more difficult than building a product because people tend to be irrational, and you’re trying to take all of these irrational people, put them together in one building, and then live with them up to 12 hours a day while you get them to cooperate.

00:00:52 Building a company is essentially like building an engine.


It’s extremely complex and complicated with a lot of moving parts, yet once you get it drawn on paper it looks pretty, organized and easy to implement. But as you build your engine, the end product usually doesn’t come together quite so gloriously.


Eventually you plan on creating a self-sustaining, high-performance machine that won’t require 24/7 upkeep and constant monitoring

00:02:20 Triaging is “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.” Everyday should feel like there is a new problem, otherwise you’re probably too predictable and not as innovative as you could be.

Some problems look like problems, but are actually nothing more than an irritation that will eventually go away or sort itself out, such as employees annoyed about common everyday interpersonal relationships and moods.

Some problems may present themselves as colds, however if not diagosed properly, may become fatal over time.

Is it a cold or a life threating sickness?

00:03:21 There is a difference between editing and writing. The most important tasks of an editor are to:

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify. People cannot keep track of a complex set of initiatives, so you’ve got to be able to distill them down to 1-3 things and use a framework people can recite to anyone at any time.
  2. Clarify. Find and address the ambiguity. This involves asking a lot of questions.
  3. Allocate resources.
  4. Ensure a consistent voice. Top news publications, regardless of the article, time, or author, maintain a consistent voice throughout it’s issues. Everything from your press release to your website and blog posts, social media, packaging design, etc. should feel like it has come from the same person. At first you’ll feel tempted to be that one person and do all the copyediting yourself, however as your business grows this will become impossible.
  5. Delegate. Writers actually do most of the work in the world. Editors aren’t doing the writing. The problem with delegation is that you’re still ultimately responsable for everything you delegate.
  6. Edit the team. You may never recruit a ‘perfect team,’ and even if you were to, eventually somebody will leave and the team will be thrown off balance. Your goal is to maximize the probability for success when you create a team. Hiring more engineers doesn’t automatically mean you get more engineering work done. More designers doesn’t mean more design output.
  7. Insist on focus. People want to be involved in multiple projects and work on varied tasks, however it is through specialisation that a company is more efficient and productive.
  8. Focus on metrics & transparency. Create an intuitive dashboard for your company and then monitor how many employees use it. An effective dashboard should have as close to 100% of your employees using it as possible.
  9. Pay attention to the details. Don’t worry about building a billion dollar business, this is the by-product of something more important. If you get all of the details right, the business will take care of itself. If the details are user-facing, they obviously need to be monitored. The harder part is paying attention to the details that the user may never see or even know exist.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on:

00:09:59 Task-relevant maturity refers to the level of competence a person has in performing a task which is delegated to them (specialization). The more times a person has handled a particular task, the more freedom you’re comfortable giving that person to complete the task. Conversely, the more inexperienced a person is at handling a particular task, the more instruction and constraints you’ll want to give them.

00:10:32 You shouldn’t have one management style. In fact, your management style should be dictated by the employee(s) you are managing.

00: 16:04 There are two basic types of employees: ammunition and barrels.

  1. Ammunition – these employees are good at doing things and getting the job done. These employees are important to the success of your business.
  2. Barrels – these employees are good at focusing and shooting the ammunition. These employees are crucial to the success of your business because they can take an idea from inception to production and because no matter how much ammunition you have, you need the barrel for the ammunition to be useful. Barrels are VERY hard to find, and when you find one of these kinds of employees, make them a priority. Find barrels and then stock them with ammunition.

How to identify the ‘barrels;’ the people to promote in your company:

  1. Watch how they handle simple, stupid, mundane tasks such as having cold, fresh smoothies delivered to a group of hard-working engineers at 9:00 PM every night. Expanding the scope of responsiblity of your employees until they break shows you how much responsibility each person is comfortable with and ensures that that person is being used to their full potential.
  2. Watch which person in your office has the most people approaching his or her desk, particular people that aren’t responsible for. In a working environment, people approach people who they believe can help them. If one employee has more and more people approaching him asking for help or guidance, then that person is perhaps a barrel; promote them and give them more responsibilities.

The next issue is maintaining the correct ratio between ‘barrels’ and ‘ammunition’ in your company. If you have 50 engineers and you’re the only ‘barrel,’ then you might as well only have 10 engineers because you’ll have 40 other engineers fighting for your time, demanding signatures and approvals, and in the meantime they won’t be getting anything done.

00:31:44 Your office environment and layout are very important to the success of your business. You and your employees are spending +40 hours a week in the office, making decisions, brain storming, hosting clients… An ugly or uninspiring office can do extraordinary damage to your company.

In fact, investors may even decide whether or not they’re going to invest in your company just by the layout of your office because they can extrapolate how hard employees are working, how productive they are, how inspired they are…

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the talk How To Introduce Your Pitch So Others Want to Invest in Your Brand that the first few seconds of your introduction are the most crucial when convincing investors to put money into your startup. This also applies to your office space.]

Questions & Answers

00:35:32 In Youtube’s humble beginnings, it wasn’t sure whether or not it would be successful. Roelof Botha at Sequoia predicted Youtube’s success because he observed that everytime he would go to one of his portfolio companies, half of the office would be sitting at their desks during lunch watching Youtube videos.

00:36:59 When it comes to promoting internally, if you promote ‘the best’ graphic designer, or engineer, or salesman in the department, people are more ready to respect him or her as  the boss because they can learn from him or her. Management skills can be learned later.

If, however, the general manager is there not because s/he knows how to do the job, but because s/he knows how to manage the people who do the job, this changes the context of the manager’s authority.

00:44:10 Write down your list if priorities: prospection, recruitment, R&D, raising money, etc., short- and long-term, and then look at your business calendar to see if your meetings and where you spend your time match your priorities. Often times, you’ll find that what you’re spending your time on doesn’t line up with your priorities.

130. Human Behavioral Biology: Intersexual Competition & Male/Female Hierarchies

10 lessons from this lecture:

00:04:17 The same optimization building blocks discussed at length on the previous lecture on the collision of game theory and evolution about genetics can also be applied to behavior:

  1. Do whatever is possible to pass as many copies of your own genes into the next generation as possible.
  2. Help your relatives pass their genes into the next generation; this can sometimes be the best way for you to ensure that your genes are passed on into the next generation.
  3. Reciprical altruism: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours which allows un-related and dissimilar animals to peacefully coexist.

00:13:11 Babies, regardless of the animal, are always adorably cute and you want to take care of it and protect it. Their eyes dilate as soon as you’re around them and field biologists believed up until about the 1970s that:

  1. Everything about a baby’s characteristics are to demonstrate reduced aggression. 
  2. Humans were the only animals that killed for pleasure

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the mini-documentary Sex & Love: Interpreting Body Language & Non-Verbal Cues as well as in their book The Definitive Book of Body Language, Allan & Barbara Pease explain that the ‘eye pop’ is effective because closing the eyes dilates the pupils. Dilated pupils are synomomous with attraction and need for protection. Babies’ pupils are typically dilated in an evolutionary attempt to demonstrate to its caregivers that it should be protected and cared for.

In advertising, female and baby model’s eyes are almost always photoshopped so that they are dilated. Doing this naturally draws the potential consumer’s attention to the model, and then to the product being sold. For more advertising tricks, browse through my interviews with advertising professionals.

Conversely, Allan & Barbara Pease explain, the opposite of dilated eyes are ‘beady, snake-like eyes’ which give the impression that you are shady, untrustworthy, and dangerous.]

Field biologists have since proved that infanticide exists in many animals.

00:14:14 The first response to reportings of infanticide was denial – arguing that there must be some sort of abnormal pathological behavior going on.

However upon further investigation behavioral patterns emerge explaining the role of infanticide in the species:

  1. It tends to be the adult males who kill the infants.
  2. It tends to  be adult males who kill the babies of other males – competitive strategies for reducing another male’s reproductive success.
  3. It tends to be more common in competitive species where the average inter-birth interval among females is longer than the average tenure of a high ranking male. Meaning if you’re not the alpha-male, then your best chance at becoming the alpha-male is to kill the alpha-male’s babies and then have your own babies, thus decreasing that male’s potential for reproductive success, and because the female will begin ovulating shortly thereafter.

This behavior is a blatant violation of the idea of behaving for the good of the species.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on pathological behavior, browse through the lectures and interviews under the How To Shape Human Behavior: criminal profiling category.]

00:18:49 An alpha-male challenger would be less inclined, however, to kill all of the alpha-male’s babies in situations where the alpha-male is the challenger’s brother or relative. In some species, such as in rodents and horses, the presence of a new male causes pregnant females to release certain stress hormones which disrupt uterine maturation which leads to miscarriage.

This has developed through evolution because the female, in an attempt ot pass as many copies of her genes into the next generation, is faced with one of three options, the third of which is the most evolutionarily efficient: 

  1. Continue on having the baby, only for it to be killed by the alpha-male challenger after the baby’s birth, or 
  2. Have a miscarriage and become a potential partner for the new alpha-male, or
  3. Go into pseudo-estrus, in which the pregnant female demonstrates signs that she is ovulating when in fact she isn’t, the male is tricked into believing she isn’t pregnant, and thus the new male doesn’t kill the baby after it’s birth believing the baby is his.

This entire process is obviously male-bias, with the female making the best out of her situation. Following the principle of passing your genes into the next generation, it’s observed that older female mothers will be more protective of their children because their ability to turn around and have another child diminishes with age, whereas younger mothers have more time and opportunity to have more children.

00:27:35 It has also been observed in some species of monkeys that when two monkeys are about to fight, the smaller, weaker monkey may grab a child and hold it against it’s chest. But the smaller monkey isn’t just grabbing any enfant monkey, it’s ‘kidnapping’ children likely to be the offspring of the stronger, high-ranking monkey.

00:32:22 In a competitive tournament species where 5% of the male population actually have children, having a male is a big gamble that he will not pass his genes into the next generation. Having a female, who will grow up to have from 1-5 children, is a much greater advantage and ability to pass her genes into the next generation.

It follows that it would be more advantageous for females who are in higher-ranking families to give birth to males, whereas it would be more advantageous for females who are from lower-ranking families to give birth to females.

00:33:40 With the human species, typically the human sex ratio is approximately 1:1. However in certain parts of the world, and during periods of famine and ecological duress, the percentage of females being born should increase because female fetuses require less caloric intake and strain to the mother’s body than male fetuses, which also makes the mother more vulnerable.

00:37:39 Polyandry is the practice of one woman having multiple husbands at the same time. In nature, for example among lions, it may be two brothers sharing the same wife, thus ensuring that the genes are passed from one generation to the next. This is known as adelphic polyandry, or fraternal polyandry.

Adelphic polyandry is even evidenced in humans, for example in traditional, rural Tibetan society where in agriculturally impoverished areas where a family with land inheritance has several sons, dividing the land among the sons would put each son below subsistence level. So rather than dividing up the land, they create a family which is one reproductive unit where one woman is married to all the sons.

01:00:42 The controversial notion of group selection which has creeped back into biology is when one small group of a species becomes somehow isolated from one another, and continue on mating and reproducing independently. Eventually, the smaller isolated group becomes more inbred simply because there is a smaller, less diverse gene pool, thus making family ties among the group more intricate.

Kin selection states then that cooperation among the members of the smaller, more closely-related group will be much higher than cooperation among the larger groups because of the higher  degree of relatedness.

If the smaller, more cooperative group of the species then somehow reenters into the larger group, the more cooperative group will begin outcompeting the rest of the group, which will slowly conform to the smaller group. This is referred to as the Founder effect.

In the financial world, an example of this could be when one small, cooperative group offers each other flexible, low interest loans, which increases the financial success of that small group. Slowly, other non-group members will begin joining the smaller group and benefiting from the advantages of their cooperation and trust model.

It follows then that although A>B, BB>AA. 

Meaning: if “B” is making flexible, low interest loans to just anybody, he will be dominated by “A,” who makes inflexible, high interest loans. However if “BB” are making flexible, low interest loans to members of their own community, they will dominate “AA,” the group who makes inflexible, high interest loans.

01:34:22 There are many arguments against this theory, however the most controversial is perhaps the socio-political implications which lead to questions like:

  • “Are there species of humans which are genetically inferior to others?”
  • “Is rape a human psychopathology or a competitive strategy?”
  • “Is the fact that children are more likely to be killed by step-fathers than by biological fathers a form of infanticide as individual selection?” Noting above that it tends to  be adult males who kill the babies of other males – competitive strategies for reducing another male’s reproductive success.

126. How To Start A Startup: A Checklist of Skillsets for Great Founders

15 important lessons from this lecture:

00:00:19 How do you think about yourself, and your skillset, as a founder? How do you get ready? How do you know when are you aready?…

Entprepreneurs need skillsets, charisma, and a personality that give him or her a competitive edge, however people incorrectly perceive founders to be Superwoman, or Superman who are capable of doing everything.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In his talk Managing your professional & private life at The Family, a startup incubator in Paris, France, Oussama Ammar also points out this perception.

Also, in his lecture A Checklist Of Counter-Intuitive Startup Rules, and his interview How Angel Investors Judge Startup Founders, Paul Graham of Y-Combinator makes a list of other personality traits and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, noting specificially that he looks for entrepreneurs who already have a few successful ventures on their entrepreneural CV.]

So what actually makes a great founder? Here’s a checklist of the most important:

1.) Your founding team is important

00:03:53 It’s usually best to have 2-3 people on a team who compliment and trust each other rather than a solo-founder because each team member can compensate his or her strengths with the other co-founder’s weaknesses. This balance is especially important when pitching to investors:

  • Do they collaborate well?
  • Do they help each other get to the truth; do they reason rather than argue with each other?
  • Do they learn collectively?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Again, in his interview How angel investors judge startup founders, Paul Graham explains that the founder is more important than the idea. “When people come to me with an idea I always begin by asking about the co-founders. I care MUCH less about the actual idea than I do the idea’s foundings – what kind of people they are. A bad idea might be a bad reflection on the entrepreneur.

There are some people who just get what they want in the world, and if you’re going to try and start a startup you have to be one of those people.”]

2.) Your startup’s location is important

00:05:42 While the Silicon Valley is super strong at aggregating a lot of super-talent from around the world, not ALL of the great software people actually move here.  Great founders are good at finding the location which contains the network which will be essential their obligations and tasks they need and the problem they want to solve. Silicon valley, for all of its strengths, may not be the best place for your startup.

In my (Ried Hoffman’s) opinion, I don’t think Groupon could ever have been founded in Silicon Valley because in its early days it grew because of its massive sales forces. Renting a 25 story building, whereby 24 of the stories would be sales people, would not have gained a ton of interest in Silicon Valley. Therefore, Groupon set up in Chicago, which is more open and adapted to this kind of business model.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In his lecture Human Resources Management: Local to Global HR Department Models, Armin Trost explains that every organization has a headquarters based somewhere in the world, and there are historical, logisitical, branding, etc. reasons why companies choose to have their companies headquartered in a specific city, and that typically, a company starts out as an idea in a garage somewhere… and then grows: locally, regionally, nationally… Once you have one single, tiny customer in another country, at what point do you identify yourself as ‘international?’]

When starting a business, move to where the network is.

3.) Are you, or are you not contrarian is important

00:10:01 It’s easy to be contrarian. It’s hard to be contrarian and right. So your idea is ‘contrarian,’ how does a smart person disagree with you from a position of intelligence? If they present some serious flaws and holes in your idea, then perhaps your idea isn’t as contrarian and right as you’d like it to be.

Contrarian is also relative to the audience. The general population, that you’ll need to grow, may not like your contrarian idea, so it’s important to ask yourself ‘What do I know that the general population doesn’t know?’

There are many different ways to be contrarian.

4.) Knowing when to do the work and when to delegate is important

5.) Knowing when to be flexible or persistent is important

00:14:12 Entrepreneurs are vigorously told to have a vision, stay on track and stick through the difficult times. Conversely, entrepreneurs are also vigorously told to listen to data and customers, pivot, and be flexible.

As the entrepreneur, you must decide when you should be flexible and when you should be persistent.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In his talk How to win clients without pitching, Blair Enns warns entrepreneurs that when it comes to pivoting, look at where you and your company are today because it’s almost certain that you can look back and see the series of switches behind you that lead to where you are. Those switches are things that you said “yes” to instead of sitting down, mapping out a vision of what you want your company to look like and the type of expertise you want to build and the kind of clients you want to represent, and then saying “yes” or “no” according to that vision. Essentially, it was the market that shaped your firm, not you.

Also, again in his talk Managing your professional and private life, Oussama Ammar argues that there are plenty of startups that exist, and are successful, that shouldn’t be. For example, many people have found themselves in a romantic relationship where one thing about the person is great, but then many other things are horrible. If you, as an entrepreneur, find yourself running a business that is making ‘enough’ money to keep running it, but you are miserable and not capable of pursuing other, better projects you enjoy, then you’re going to have to make the difficult choice of choosing between the money you’re making or walking away from that business.]

6.) Knowing when to be confident or cautious is important

7.) Knowing when to focus internally or externally is important

00:16:00 Should you ignore the world, or should you draw from the world; this depends on the current problem you’re trying to solve.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information and advice on conducting consumer research and focusing externally, read my interview with Peter Spear. Also check out the books: Buy*ology by Martin Lindstrom and Consumer.ology by Philip Graves.]

8.) Knowing when to work by vision or by data is important

00:17:31 Do customers and people really know what they want? Are they really telling you what they would buy? Data and vision aren’t always opposites, nor are they always hand-in-hand. Data might globally support your vision, but point out a few minor modifications that should be addressed.

9.) Knowing when to take risks and when to minimize risks is important

00:19:18 The only contrarian, disruptive, and potentially lucrative business ideas are the ones that also have risk associated with them. The aim is to distinguish risk-taking from intelligent risk-taking. A lot of this boils down to your critical thinking skills.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Referring yet again to Oussama Ammar’s talk on managing your private and professional life, he reasons that when it comes to calculating risk, one of the best ways of keeping your storyline realistic, measurable, and positive is to maintain an entrepreneural CV (resume).

With seed funding, for example, many entrepreneurs optimize their company to obtain as much seed funding and Series A investment money as possible, and many entrepreneurs would rather gamble and turn down bad or mediocre offers in the hopes of a better offer. But now consider this from the perspective of the entrepreneural CV: that actually raising the funds and selling their company is an accomplishment that VERY, VERY few entrepreneurs can actually put on their CV; that the great majority of startups fail.

If the entrepreneur were to strategically accept a mediocre investment offer, then that entrepreneur has set himself/herself apart from all those other entrepreneurs, and this accomplishment will be a permanent fixture on his or her CV.

If, however, the entrepreneur holds out for a better offer, and that better offer never comes, then that entrepreneur will have nothing to put on his or her CV other than a failed business.

As an example, Aaron Levie, CEO and Co-founder of Box has only 3% of his own company he created; a very low percentage in terms of the industry. Yet in accepting this he has joined the exclusive club of only a handful of entrepreneurs to create a billion dollar company.]

10.) Knowing whether or not to focus on the short term or the long term

00:22:55 You should always have a long term vision in mind, just in case you accidentally lose your direction, but if you’re not focused on solving the problem that’s immediately in front of you, you’re in trouble.

00:23:30 Product distribution, not product idea, is fundamentally more important idea to deal with because no matter how good your product is, if you can’t get it to consumers, you’re ruined. Even below product distribution is financing for your product, because even if you have a really good idea, if you run out of financing and can’t get your product to consumers, you’re ruined. Therefore your current fundraising projects should also be setting you up for your next fundraising project which should be helping you solve other, different problems.

Q&A Session

00:27:12 Today there are 1,000s of other similar products and services consumers can choose between, so you really have to be able to communicate the unique selling point that you offer that nobody else does/can.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For a professional branding perspective on identifying your unique selling point, read my interviews with Art Director Julien Hérrison.]

00:29:14 The great majority of the time investors only agree to meet with you if you, as a founder, come through a reference, and this is mainly about time management. An opening sentence like Sam Altman of Ycombinator, a mutual acquaintance of ours, sent me to you” means more to a potential investor than an entire pitch of useful and convincing evidence, data, and accomplishments.

00:30:15 Since its conception, Linkedin has always been labeled as a second, little tiny one next to the giants friendster, then myspace, then facebook… ultimately, I started Linkedin believing people wanted public, professional profiles, and that the world would be much better off with this, and further, Linkedin is getting closer to this than every other option out there.

Granted, it took Linkedin longer than I hoped it would to get there, and often times Linkedin was only covered by public relations as the “Friendster for professionals,” or the “mysapce for professionals…” but the internet eventually turned in our favor and we succeeded.

00:38:11 With software, speed to market is key. With hardware, accuracy is the most important because if you build and ship the wrong thing, you’re ruined.

00:42:14 Entrepreneurs and founders never have a balanced lifestyle, because having a balanced lifestyle means that he or she probably won’t invest what is needed in turning this idea into a business.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For the final time in this lecture, I will refer to Oussama Ammar’s talk Managing your private and professional life, where he argues that the beginning of a startup is difficult because the kinetic energy that must be created at the beginning is incredible. This phase tends to be extremely taxing on both your mental and physical health, and leaves you with plenty of obsessive behaviors and social handicaps. This is because during this phase you are obsessively committed to one single goal: getting your startup up and running. During this phase, winning or losing one additional client can mean the difference between failure and success. But once your business is up and running, winning or losing one client probably won’t make that much of a difference.

One of the best ways to avoid burnout during this phase is to understand that this phase is temporary, and to create a contract with yourself, committing yourself to focus on your start for a pre-determined amount of time and where you expect the project to be by that time. Then respect that contract. If you haven’t achieved your results within the amount of time you set aside for it, let it go and move on to another project.

Another way to avoid burnout is to understand that life consists of five fundamental elements:

  1. Work
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Hobbies
  5. Everything else

Now choose only two. If you’re launching a startup, then you must choose only one more and forget the rest. You’re launching a startup and have a family (wife and kids)? Then forget your friends, hobbies and everything else. Once your startup gets moving on its own, then you can replace ‘work’ with another fundamental element, such friends or hobbies.]

123. Human Behavioral Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide

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