Tag Archives: relationships

“Every Wall Has An Opening” – A reflection on questions, context, and building intimacy

For years I’ve been quietly practicing the art of getting to know people, often quite quickly. To put it in different words, I learned how to build intimacy.

The road there has been a combination of a few things. Some of it is my background in acting, some of it is my love for journalism and storytelling, and a bit of it is just generally learning to ask questions that help people open up about what they like to do and where their passions lie.

It’s a more difficult skill than most people think, and I’d like to share both a little bit about how I approach it, and also some specific examples. One small disclaimer: this is something I’ve learned to do over time, and it’s not a recipe to manipulate people or get things that you want, although those are both possibilities. The risk, if you do go that route, is closing people off and making the walls higher and more solid, and of course along with that building a reputation for being selfish and advancing your own needs and wants completely at the cost of other people. I think that’s probably reason enough in itself to avoid using this framework in a negative way, but it’s important to remember that there is value and usefulness in learning from other people, and also sharing things with them.

I was home-schooled until high school and only occasionally had access to TV. As a result, a lot of my early experiences were, to be honest, mostly in books. And while my parents made sure I got some social interaction, high school and college were kind of a shocking experience for me. I had to learn to navigate environments that were completely new (there are some pros and cons to that, as you might imagine).

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How scale actually works, becoming more human, and the power of (re)negotiation

Some of the most important things I’ve learned in life were absorbed outside of a classroom or traditional setting.

Most entrepreneur types I’ve met have said the same thing – while other people were following rules, they were making their own.

Of course, I’m more into building models than making absolute statements (“books are dead!” “social media is making us zombies!” “Instagram is making all food taste [better] [worse]”) so you won’t catch me raining fire and brimstone down on anyone.

But I do believe that curiosity, inspiration, and looking for less obvious connections can give us great value.

Here are three things that no one taught me directly, but that I’ve picked up in my travels and that have been immensely useful.

It’s all about scale, but not necessarily scaling up.

In the startup world one of the questions constantly in play is: “will it scale?”

Simplified, this just means that you always want to know if something you are doing now will work when you are much bigger.

It’s a great question, and it’s part of a bigger picture concept that is often overlooked:

To build a company (or life) of consequence you need to understand ecosystem connections, big and small.

This doesn’t mean that you’re stuck on a one-way street when it comes to scale…some things are meant to be small. And even if they aren’t, the building blocks are always worth knowing about.

In science, the relationship between neutrons, protons and electrons is just as important as the relationship between stars and galaxies. Brilliant minds like Einstein, Michio Kaku, and Richard Feynman all understood the importance of this, and in a more modern example you can see it at work in companies like Google, too.

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How to have a good divorce

I have a couple of friends in the midst of a difficult divorce, and while I can’t say I’m an expert I think I managed to handle it fairly gracefully by keeping the following things in mind:

Decide what’s important to you and leave the rest behind

While it’s possible the dispute really is about who gets to keep the giant cat, more often it’s about ego and hurt. In my case I made decisions about what physical things and emotional baggage I was going to take with me. For example, I compromised on furniture but I also compromised on how we both understood who’s responsibility it was that things didn’t work out. Frankly, I found the division of possessions much easier.

Make decisions….then stick to them

No one likes ending a relationship, and ending a marriage is even more painful. If it’s truly time to move on (made changes already, tried counseling, etc…) than an absolute must is to make decisions and not back down. Once you’ve worked out what’s important to you then it’s time to make decisions, and no matter what you have to stick to them. When I decided to move on from my marriage one of the things I figured out was that I was not going to get into a knockdown drag out fight over whose fault it was. I had some good reasons (she probably has her own list too) but I talked it out in my head and realized I would have to let my ego absorb those for the sake of moving on. It was not easy because my ex and I did not see eye to eye on some things, which is obviously a part of any divorce. But because I had already decided what was important, and then made decisions I could stick to it made the situation much easier…..albeit still very painful, and truthfully when we divorced I still loved her even though I knew it was the right decision.

And while we’re talking about ego…

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