How to Find a Mentor

Everyone Should Have At Least One


Last week, I wrote this very well-received article for ExitEvent about how any startup community needs a deep bench of mentors. While that was my main point, I also got into what makes a mentor great and how to go about choosing one.

I made it clear that a great startup mentor doesn't necessarily have to have one or more large exits. They just need to have experience with -- and passion for -- what you're trying to do.

Their main goal is to impart to you what they did to get to where they got.

I got mostly these two questions back:

1. Can you mentor me? (Appreciate the thought, but no, I've got a few right now)

2. How do I go about finding a great mentor for me? (Uhhhh…)

Good question.

Here you go.

Now, I'm not talking about JUST startup mentoring here, I'm talking about success in any discipline. Yes, that mostly follows a startup or small business or career theme, because those are what you most need mentors for.

You want to get in great shape? You need a book (preferably my book) and/or the Internets. You don't need a mentor for that. If you have to have one, they charge about $50 an hour at your local gym. I don't recommend that, but whatever is going to get you off the couch. It's your money.

So this is about finding the right person to advise you on getting your business or your career or your life's passion in order. And for that last one, I'm not talking about your personal life. For that, you need a whole other thing. I like the church, but that's me. I went to Catholic school.

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The Triangle Needs More Great Startup Mentors

Here's How To Make That Happen


A couple weeks ago, I called out the need within the Triangle startup scene for more of our entrepreneurs to step up and lead. I'm not saying we're not doing it, but it's a big job and we can't wait for founders with gargantuan exits to turn the Triangle into the next big startup hub. We've got to work with what we've got. And furthermore, what we've got is more than enough.

One of the ways this theory applies is in mentoring and advising.

I recently took on a formal mentorship role after a long absence in any sort of mentoring or advising. I've been working with the brilliant Jamey Heit from EssayAssay, who is starting to get well-deserved buzz for an amazing technology that uses algorithms to grade papers.

Yes. Algorithms. Writing. Robot Teachers. Right in my wheelhouse.

And that fit is incredibly important, much more so than my resume or the size of my exits. I was lucky enough to have this mentorship opportunity presented to me by John Austin over at Groundwork Labs, where EssayAssay has just wrapped up their program. John knew that the technology fit was right, and he thought we'd get along.

It's been a great ride so far. I feel like I've already helped, and I'm sure Jamey would agree (because I've asked), and we'll more than likely remain friends once he outgrows my capability to mentor and advise. Which, if I do my job, won't be too long from now.

That experience has been enough for me to get back into the mentorship game and take on a couple more informal mentoring roles. And if I can do a few, I know dozens of other entrepreneurs who should be doing at least one. The Triangle, being what it is, needs a deep bench of mentors and advisors, and it doesn't matter if those mentors and advisors are massive successes, moderate successes, or even failures.

What matters most is the experience and the involvement.

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How Anyone Can Dominate a Fantasy Football Draft

The Best System Is No System At All


The thing about fantasy football is that everyone, no matter what they tell you, thinks they're an expert. This is especially true in August, when we're all undefeated and no one remembers who won the championship last season. Or cares. That's the beauty of the game. It's fleeting, exciting as hell, and deceptively easy. Anyone can win.

I get asked for fantasy football advice a lot. That's because I'm one of the guys responsible for those fantasy football draft report cards. Technically, I've graded millions of you. I've probably graded you, and I'm sorry about that D+. But come on. A tight end in the 3rd round? Classic panic move.

Disclaimer #1: I'm not going to give away what goes into coming up with those grades. It's intellectual property and that would be stupid. It's also not a good idea to lead you down that path to begin with. The success of your draft depends a lot on what the other people in your league do, and I can't predict that. If they draft like idiots, and you don't, you're going to get an A+.

Instead, I'm going to get generic and give you what amounts to basic strategy going into your draft. If you're a first timer, this will be really helpful without you having to learn “X-numbers” and “Value Against Replacement.” If you're a veteran, you know those terms are made up anyway, and I'm about to save you a weekend.

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I Can't Stop Laughing About Ashley Madison Being Hacked

So Much Stupid In One Story


As I'm reading a few different news articles about extra-martial affair broker Ashley Madison being hacked and the threat of the names of every member in the database (37 million!) being released unless the site shuts down, I'm chuckling.

Snickering, really.

It's not that I'm delighting in other people's misery, even if it's a clear-cut case of bad things happening to horrible people.

OK, maybe a little.

But even on top of that, this was coming for a long time and I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner. Ashley Madison being hacked is the karma of cheating at massive scale — when everything is all springtime, roses, and rainbows until that painfully inevitable moment when the consequences come crashing down like a ton a bricks.

So yeah, that sound you just heard was 37 million people crapping their pants at once. Like the Death Star blowing up a Dantooine full of assholes.

I know that was over the top. I can't help myself.

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Why You Should (Probably) Follow Bloom County 2015

It's About Four Frames and a Punchline


First of all, I need to explain the impact that Bloom County had on my writing. Yeah, I'm admitting to you that a cartoon strip from the 1980s is a major influence on my art. Hope I didn't lose you there.

But if I did, you'll forgive me if that doesn't bother me. Bloom County taught me to stay true to what I'm doing despite how it doesn't fit into either mainstream cultural acceptance or the very machine that defines what a particular type of art should look like.

Here's how.

I had no interest in writing as a kid. Zero. By the time I was 16 I was already in a band, was well on my may to moderate regional rock stardom, and I was serious about it. Dead serious. My idea of art was verse-chorus-verse and coming up with as many ways of rhyming “self” and “shelf” that I could shoehorn into vague critiques of relationships gone wrong and people generally being mean to other people.

I discovered Bloom County late into its run. One summer in college I bought one of the books, then another, and another, until I had read everything that was out there to read. Then, as fate would have it, our college newspaper posted a flyer looking for new cartoonists for the fall semester.

Dude. Was I really going to be a cartoonist?

Hell yes. I was going to be the next Berke Breathed.

Except I couldn't draw.

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Why You Need to Keep It Short

A Little Writing 101


In a universe of unrelenting noise and rapidly decreasing attention spans, if you want to get your message across, you've got to use the right words and as few of them as possible.

I'm not talking about kthxbye. I mean the tenets of formal communication, whether that's a meeting request, a job application, a blog post, or whatever.

You need to stick to a single point. It should be the only thing you hit the reader with. Anything else is follow up.

You must structure -- meaning you need to expose your topic, justify your stand, explain your reasoning, and call to action. Anything else is filler.

You need to choose the right words. Write like you speak. Go back and change or cut long-winded turns of phrase. Then make sure it flows.

You need to be brief. Cut anything you don't need to drive home that singular point.

If you do this, people will read what you write. And what's more, they'll be grateful for your brevity and more likely to take you seriously.

Oh, if you're like me, and God knows I am, a tossed-off joke as a closer doesn't hurt.

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How Negative Are You?

TV Science Taught Me My Outlook Might Not Be So Sunny, And That's a Good Thing


Last night I caught the "Positive Thinking" episode of Brain Games, a really smart series that I watch with the kids before their bed time.

Like all the episodes before it, this one was filled with a dozen-or-so neat parlor-style tricks buffeted by scientific fact about how we operate. And like all episodes before it, I was about half-in on the practical application part of the science. Sure, positive thinking is great. It can make you a happier person. I'm a big fan.

Then two things happened that changed my outlook.

The first was a game where they lined up random people to take free throws. They set a baseline, X out of 10 made, and then they changed the environment. They brought in a crowd and blindfolded the shooter and had them take a couple more shots. For poor shooters, including a woman who missed all 10 on her baseline (and continued to miss blindfolded), the crowd cheered as if she had made the shot every time she shot with the blindfold.

The blindfold was removed, she was told she went 2 for 2, and then she was given another 10 shots with the same crowd now cheering her on. She went on to make 4 out of 10. And without fail, each poor shooter increased their makes once the crowd was brought in.

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Are You Ready to Lead the Next Decade of Triangle Startup Growth?

Raleigh-Durham needs fresh blood in the next generation of startup


Imagine, if you will, the Raleigh-Durham entrepreneurial ecosystem some 10-or-so years down the road. What does it look like?

First off, there should be at least a dozen monster exits between now and then. I, for one, would like to see Automated Insights go public. That'd be awesome. Maybe WedPics becomes the Google for weddings, or tacos, or both. Heivly, Neal and Hazeltine from The Startup Factory are lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills on stage at the ExitEvent MegaSocial, which is like Disrupt but isn't all corporate and has free beer. And the yeti from SnapYeti hits the road to promote the second sequel in the movie trilogy, having taken the place of Spongebob in the hearts of children around the globe.

Something crazy like that

Now ask yourself this: Are you leading this third decade of the startup revolution in this region?

Because you should be.

If you go back 10 years from today, the leaders of the nascent startup scene in the Triangle weren't the same people who have their foot on the gas pedal today. Very few of the companies we think about when we think about startup here had been formed or were even ideas prior to 2010.

Hell, a bunch of the players didn't even live here in 2005. A couple hadn't graduated from high school yet.

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Introducing Nonsense: A Fun Quick-Hit eBook Series

This Is Gonna Be Awesome, But I Need Your Help


I'm writing a lot these days. No shocker. But you might be surprised by who I'm writing for.

No one. Or, rather, me. Or, more importantly, you.

Today marks the release of Nonsense, an eBook compilation from my blog. Nonsense: Volume 1, available today on Amazon, is 10 columns, all with added commentary, and it's promotionally priced at just 99 cents. Less than a buck, delivered to the device of your choosing.

The blog and the books tackle a different side of the chase of success, happiness, growth, and achievement that I wrote about when I wrote about entrepreneurism and startups.

The topics cover an arsenal of knowledge and wisdom I've developed along the way, including personal lifestyle, self-help, parenting, self-improvement, business, career, entrepreneurism, music, writing, pop-culture, and physical, mental, and spiritual health.

So far.

But it is, strictly speaking, none of those. I'm not interested in being a self-help guy or a business/career guy and I already covered the entrepreneur/startup thing to death with ExitEvent and in other bylines.

What I've found though, having written publicly for 20-some-odd years, is that I write 500-1000 word chunks that people enjoy reading, and most of the time it makes them laugh or think, and almost all of the time it helps in some way.

So think of Nonsense as a nice way to support what I'm doing without me having to resort to a donate button.

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Why the US Women's World Cup Win Is a Bigger Story Than You Think


I'm not one to call a revolution a revolution. I'd rather remain pragmatic, let the story play out until the revolution is in full swing, and then tell everyone that I called it after the fact. Less chance of error that way.

But in all seriousness, the US Women's National Team did something more than win the World Cup a few days ago. They captured the attention of the entire nation for a little over 90 minutes, which is 90 minutes more than soccer has ever seriously held the attention of anyone in the US.

Sure, there are Americans who love the game, those who take soccer (football) very seriously. This is their bandwagon, I guess. But to be frank, once you get past, I don't know, 14 years old, it stops being a bandwagon and starts being a reason to argue with everybody about which sport is the most popular sport in the world.

Spoiler Alert: It's Cricket.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm one of those soccer (football) guys. I've been watching the World Cup, men's and women's, since 1994. And after every result, win or loss, met expectations or blown, the soccer revolution gets called by those very same soccer (football) enthusiasts.

And then, like clockwork, everyone in America forgets about soccer for another four years. It's just the way it is.

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How To Use Fear To Your Advantage: Part 1

Developing Tools To Get Past Clinical Fear


Fear is real. Fear is easy to talk about when you're not experiencing it, but it can be crippling when you're facing it. We all have to deal with it, and if you want to succeed at anything worth doing, you can't ignore it. You have to beat it. Then you have to use it.

There are a lot of different types of fear, but I'm going to bunch them all into two categories: Clinical and Fear of Risk. In this post I'll talk about Clinical, and I'll discuss Fear of Risk in a Part 2.

Clinical = Phobia

I like to think of myself as afraid of a very small number of things, clinically. The big one is flight. I've been afraid of flying for about 15 years, although I've flown about 200 times, and the first 100 or so were without the slightest pang of terror.

There was never any direct trigger. It just started one day and got progressively worse. It took forever for me to realize, only in this past year, that my fear of flying is actually claustrophobia, exacerbated by turbulence.

Again, no great discovery or methodology. I figured it out myself one day, on a hunch.

It doesn't make the mid-air tremors any easier to ignore. I still freak out on the inside during really bumpy flights. But now that I know exactly what it is I'm afraid of, I can get on a plane without dreading it for days or even weeks before the flight.

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How to Stay Fit After 30

A Brief Outline Of a Forthcoming Book


Yesterday, someone had to tell me what a "Dad Bod" was and why it was a thing. I think that's awesome. I'm a big fan of being happy with who you are and how you look.

I'm also a big fan of health. I like to be fit. I want to keep up with my kids. I don't need a beach body. A dad body is fine as long as it can walk up three flights of stairs without making me feel like I want to puke.

If you want to be in shape at any age after God's gift of youthful invulnerability dries up, or for that matter, even if you're young but exercise and dieting has never been your thing, you don't need a program, you have to reprogram. You don't need a coach, you need to find that thing inside you that gets you out there each day.

It's going to come from you. I can give you the basics and help you make the choices that are right for you. In the book, I'll detail all these concepts and more, but for now, this should be enough to get you started.

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The Summer Of Do For Yourself

Want To Be More Self-Reliant? Get Out Of Your Own Way


A lot of my schemes are planned well in advance. Most of them involve revenge in one form or another over some perceived slight and when I stop being all jilted I realize that I actually have something worthy to work on.

I've written songs, articles, and books this way. I also once created an entire company because some a-hole didn't show for a meeting and didn't apologize until a couple days later. By that time I had written enough code to create a viable, if not superior, competitor to his business.

Anger is a great motivator.

Anyhow, this particular scheme, the Summer Of Do For Yourself, didn't start out that way. Rather, it sprang up organically over the first few weeks of this summer and has morphed into a theme that I think might be worth sharing.

Here's how it works. Every time one of our kids asks us for something, we tell them to do it themselves. It sounds simple, but if you're a parent you understand that this takes some getting used to.

“Mom, where are my clothes?”

They're in your dresser, try to pick out something that won't make the other kids laugh at you.

“Daddy, will you cut my pizza?”

Nope. Knives are next to the forks. Mind you don't cut yourself, Mordecai.

“What's a Mordecai?”


“I'm eight.”

Fair enough. Just be careful.

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Why I'm Banning the News


That's it. I'm done. No more news.

I'm sure I'll regret missing out on the continuing Caitlyn Jenner saga, the run-up to the new Star Wars movie, and the downfall of civilization, but I'm about ten days into this new policy and dammit if I don't feel a whole lot better about myself and the world.

Let me clarify.

I'm banning televised, radio, and print news from reaching my eyeballs and earholes until further notice. I'll stay on top of current events the way the kids do, via Twitter and Facebook.

This builds on another little secret policy I enacted years ago. If one of my Facebook/Twitter friends posts something overtly political that I know to be a falsification, exaggeration, or blatantly-logic-free talking point, they're done too. Gone. Wiped. A ghost. I don't have time for other people's misguided anger. I've got shit to take care of.

And that speaks to the crux of my ban. What we call news today is driven either by political agenda or the almighty dollar. They're not doing their jobs, and they're not even trying to mask it anymore.

The goal is to keep the spin cycle of anger, envy, and schadenfreude going. Pull back the curtain and you'll see that the ones who are keeping us down are the ones telling us about how everyone is keeping us down.

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Why My Kids Don't (And Won't) Have a Mobile Phone


My kids, all approaching their tweens at a rapid pace, don't have a mobile phone, and they're not going to have a mobile phone any time soon. I don't know when they'll have a mobile phone, but it isn't now and it won't be in the foreseeable future. I'm heading this one off before it becomes an issue.

But this isn't a dad decision, it's a technical decision.

I know this to be true because of the reasoning. My kids don't have a mobile phone for the same reason they don't have a car, a chainsaw, or a wet bar in the playroom. I can't think of a single good reason for them to have it. At the same time, I can think of a gigantic, enumerated, and well-documented list of reasons why they shouldn't.

This isn't a new argument for a new age.

It's the same argument I went through when I wanted a phone in my bedroom at the same age. EVERYONE I knew had one, or at least had access to a phone in a relatively quiet and peaceful part of their home. I grew up in a loud, large, New York Italian family. There was no such thing as quiet and peaceful in our home.

But finally my parents capitulated because, and here's where I out my age and my nerd cred, I needed a phone to get online. This was an amazing stroke of luck for 12-year-old me.

Within three months, I had a predator make a pass at me in a chat room. The phone part of the phone brought me nothing but drama, heartache, and long distance charges with a girlfriend who moved to Connecticut. It took me six months to pay my parents back.

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