What are the best ways to stay motivated?

This is a timely question.

As an entrepreneur who’s spent a lot of time in media production, where we are often fast and furious at churning out a product; it’s almost as horrible to watch a product fall short of its goals as it is to simply never even get the product made.

By the same token, in startup world, failure hides around every corner and your job is to either outsmart it, or outlast it.

In my experience, both outsmarting and outlasting come down to my ability to get out of my own head, take a breath, and look around me.  It’s at these moments when the following things make all the difference:

  1. Remember there are many others who’ve been down this path before; and you are not alone in being afraid.  There is comfort and strength just in knowing you’re not the only one living in what seems like constant fear of failure.
  2. Look to those who have succeeded and shared how they faced difficult times. How did they react?
  3. Ask myself if I’m ready to give up, with a clear understanding of what “giving up” means.Sometimes it just means some personal hardship.  Other times, it could mean the loss of other people’s money.  In the former, I can always endure, in the latter, my sense of honoring their commitment has to be remembered and respected; all the way “to the mat” as they say.
  4. Remember *why* you’re doing the hard things you’re doing that you think might be easier to give up on.If you think it’s for fame and fortune, find a new reason, I don’t personally think that can be a wholly sustaining motivation.

    If you think it’s because you can make something that might have some small positive impact on the world, then hold on tight to that reason.  Coddle it. Smell it. Recognize its importance in its own right, and keep on keeping on.

    If it’s because travelling this path is the best way you know to provide for your family; then spend a few extra minutes with them each day and enjoy their company.  Let their existence in your life lift you over the things that stand between you and success.

That’s about all I can think of for now, but somewhere in there maybe you’ll find your own reasons to keep going, or find peace with saying “it’s time to stop.”

For me, I usually lean on all four of these and thank my lucky stars for a fantastic wife, beautiful daughter, and great friends.  Taking a minute to be grateful for them usually helps mellow out that fear of failure quite a bit.

Good luck:)

See Questions On Quora

Rock Stars (not) Wanted

This post is a little premature in that we are not yet hiring at my company, but that doesn’t stop me from operating in recruiting mode much of the time when I’m at industry or entrepreneurial events.  There are a lot of conversations going on at these events, and online around recruiting & hiring, and one of the clearest trends is one that for me, and our company is totally lame is the recurring obsession with hiring “rock stars.”

There’s a lot of blowback against the term in many ways, not the least of which is because it runs the risk of alienating other mission-critical team members in your organizational structure who aren’t the popular “rock star” types, but whom are valuable enough at what they do that they don’t deserve to be marginalized within the social society of our business.

But let’s step a bit further back for a moment and think about this “rock star” thing.  Rock stars as a social construct are *not* about being the best performers; they never have been.  They have been about being the most popular; and mainly about getting attention, and even worse, “passes” for bad behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable under any other circumstances but for some modicum of talent.  But perhaps the most egregious trait that “rock star” implies, is that it removes focus from the team, and places it on an individual.

For a company that has its sights set on being a high-performing company, a culture that places a few key individuals as the stars of the company both belittles the organization as a whole and can have profound negative influence on the relationships between team members.

My wife actually really brought this home to be about a week ago, when she asked a very simple question of me; when I was talking about how I’d met this amazing person I really wanted to to work with.  If I can paraphrase, her comment was along the lines of “how is that all these people you meet are ‘amazing this, or amazing that’ and then you come home and talk about all that, it kind of makes me and Sophia (my daughter) feel a little left out.  Can we be ‘amazing’ too sometimes?”

Oof.  She was COMPLETELY right.  By focusing so much attention on individual high-performers, I was neglecting our team as a whole (and yes, that includes my family – because if they’re not with me on building the company, everything is going to be 100x harder, and 10x less satisfying – after all, much of the work we’re doing building Yottio is to provide for them…).

As I thought more about it, I was reminded of the way Pete Carroll has been coaching the Seattle Seahawks and his focus on keeping the team humble headed into the biggest media event in professional football.  “Stay humble.”  The first level of his “Win Forever” Pyramid is about setting a belief system, and three rules:

  1. Always protect the team;
  2. No whining, no complaining, no excuses;
  3. Be early.

Style: Great effort, great enthusiasm, great toughness, play smart

Beliefs: It’s all about the ball. … Everything counts. … Respect everyone.

Philosophy: Do things better than they have ever been done before.

There are very, very few feats in human history of any significance that were the work of one man or one woman alone.  So if you’re setting out to do things better than they have ever been done before, you’re going to need a team/be a part of team – and that team counts.  Everyone counts.  Not just the Marshawn Lynch’s; not just the Russell Wilson’s of the team.  So does smart play, protecting the *whole* team, and banishing complaints and excuses. You want it better? You help make it better.

Of course we want to find, hire, and retain uniquely talented individuals; but we want them to be a part of our team not because they’re expected to carry it to victory, but because together we create the kind of environment (coaching) that allows each one of us on the team to perform to our highest capacity.  More than that, “highest capacity” has to be measured along more axis that hours spent at work, or LOC shipped.  In the end, it’ll be measured in how good our products are, and how well they connect with our users and customers. Along the way to that goal, and for each individual in the team, there are different ways to measure impact on the key performance indicators we choose as most important.  I hope that we’re able to build a team that recognizes the diversity of thought, personality, and talent, and helps Yottio become a great place to work, and a truly high-performance organization. Hire greatness within, not greatness without.

It’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that resting your “team” on the shoulders of a few “rock stars” is a dangerous and ultimately counter-productive strategy in growing a company to greatness – only time will tell if that’s a valid conclusion or not.   I’d love to hear thoughts from others in the comments on this.

Failure is a Battle, and Defeat is the War.

Just something on my mind this evening.

There’s a lot of mantras these days about failure.

That’s it’s “OK” to fail.

Or that one should “fail fast.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about those, not because we’re failing at my current endeavor, we’re actually gaining velocity.  But here’s the interesting thing about velocity. As some things start moving, other things start looking more like failures.

Perhaps I failed at convincing someone that they should back us.  Maybe I failed at earning a particular customer today.

In the past, I’ve failed at getting business traction fast enough that we could make a product work in the marketplace.

The point is, there’s a LOT of failure in there.  It happens all the time; and I don’t think I should EVER be “ok” with it, or hope that it “happens fast.”

Failure is only useful as a tool to show you the boundaries of what you are willing and not willing to accept as “a satisfactory result.”  I will *never* be satisfied with failure.

The only purpose it serves to DARE YOU to try again.

Failure is only a battle.  A skirmish.  It’s taking a hill.  And as human beings, entrepreneurs, husbands, fathers, friends, if we’re satisfied in failing, then we’re doing it wrong.  Failure must be used as a catalyst to DO BETTER.

The real enemy is defeat. Defeat is when failure is an outcome that you accept as satisfactory.

Defeat, is when you surrender.  When you give up.

Failure is a battle, Defeat is the war.

The good news is, losing the war can only happen when you surrender.

Never surrender.

Role models in tech when you’re a father.

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I would apologize if not blogging made me a worse person, but frankly, it doesn’t.  It means I’ve been busy taking care of my family and my business.

However, as I learned tonight, it does reduce my generosity and empathy output to the ‘net writ large.  For that, I will apologize.

Now that we’re here in Seattle growing a business and I’ve been engaging  more in the startup communities here, it’s really amazing to see the variety and quality of entrepreneurs and people here in the PNW.  I don’t want to flame any wars between here and somewhere else, but I will say; the people here are freakin’ awesome.

In one month, I’ve met more engaged, thoughtful, grounded entrepreneurs than I have in the last 3 years in Los Angeles.  These people want to change the world, but they don’t pretend they already know it all.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I am now a father of an almost 5 (already going on 12) year-old girl.  I have lived my life inside a workplace and work-world that has always been male-dominated, and frankly, haven’t really had any female leaders to look up to as role models.  Those who approached role-model status, were the women who acted like men.  Arrogant. Dominant. Single-master visionaries.

This is not what I want my daughter to learn.

Tonight, I saw for the first time, another path.  I got to watch an entrepreneur who built a business from 4, to nearing 140 employees pitch and recruit new talent to her company; by talking about all the cool shit they were doing, but doing so in context of the values that she collaboratively built within the company.  That company is called Moz. They building internet marketing tools. They seem to be pretty good at it.

I plan to go learn as much as possible from their CEO, Sarah Bird.  Seriously, even go look at their team page. Do you notice anything different about it?  It’s alphabetized. It doesn’t lead with positions and titles and work it’s way down the hierarchy.  It’s by first name.  That tell’s me they value who their people are, over what title they hold; while still acknowledging that not every company works in a flat architecture . I don’t think I could even work in a totally flat architecture, but that’s a me problem, not an organizational problem unless I make it one.

So Moz has this core set of values they talk about that’s got the admittedly not-great acronym of “Tagfee.” Though comparatively, it’s not any worse than some legislative acronyms thrown around these days.  Anyway, I digress.

What really impressed me was that there were two values on the list that I have NEVER seen espoused in a company run by a male.  Two values that if you stop to think about, are totally valid, and genuine, and they are values that are clearly making a measured difference.

Those two values are Generosity; and Empathy.  I challenge everyone I know to go find a male-lead business that list those as important values.

Those are things that as males, we are simply not programmed, not raised, not socially encouraged, to include in *anything* we do.  They are (for worse, I would argue) distinctly NOT male traits.

And they come across in the manner in which Sarah and her team conduct themselves.  They are clearly inspiring, and properly aligned with their other values of Transparency, Authenticity and Fun.  After all, how transparent and authentic can you be if underlying those values is a theme of “I don’t care about you” that our typically not-generous, and not-empathetic approach to business we usually take as guys?

Tonight, I was fortunate to have my viewpoints shifted in a way that will help me be a better person, father, and leader in my own company; and it gives me a new touchpoint on how to value and support the natural gifts my daughter has as she finds her way in the world.

Thanks Moz and Sarah, I really appreciate that; the world needs more of *how* you do things.

@sarahbird @moz @stmeetup

Adventures in America – The Great Biker Build Off: The Martin Bros. vs. Matt Hotch

In this post, I’m going to map out the ride I chose for this episode shot in 2004, between Matt Hotch, whose shop at the time was down in Fullerton, CA, and The Martin Brothers, Jason & Joe. Their shop was just outside Houston.

To this day, Matt is still one the best guys I met during the year of working on the show; and we had a blast out in Texas with the Martins as well. In addition to coordinating & ap on this ep, I also took all the show stills.

BBO Ride - At the Grand Canyon
Matt Hotch & Joe Martin, South Rim of Grand Canyon

This is one of my favorite shots from our trip that started in a dump of a motel in Gallup, New Mexico, then went West into Arizona, where we went up into the Navajo Nation, through Window Rock, and past Canyon de Chelly (where we didn’t get to stop, unfortunately).

We went up the 191 and into Utah for a minute, before heading back SouthWest on Highway 163. The rock formations and stark beauty of this area is something that should not be missed if you ever get the chance. When I got near Mexican Hat, I remember thinking about how much the strip mining had really screwed up the hills – until I found out that was how they were, no mining had been done there.

This was also a scout I encountered an honest-to-goodness sandstorm I had to wait out in a service station somewhere North of Monument Valley for a while; and it was also a drive where at one point, I drove 70 miles an hour for nearly 2 hours without ever seeing another car or person. It was amazing.

Scouting this ride was a special treat for me, for a couple of reasons, one of which that I had grown up in the Phoenix area and had never returned after leaving for good in 1992. It was weird to go back there, but growing up we’d had a lot of opportunities to go up on the Rim and to Payson, Flagstaff, Sedona and a few other places up above the Valley floor and I’d always found it beautiful.

This ride was nothing if not that (though apologies that my Google maps path drawing isn’t precisely on the roads…).

Before we got to the Grand Canyon, the best place we could find to stop was a little joint called the San Juan Inn, in Mexican Hat, Utah. Right on the edge (and I do mean the edge) of the river along Highway 163.

In Monument Valley, Arizona
In Monument Valley, Arizona

Another one of my favorite parts was arranging our helicopter shots in Monument Valley. It was nearly impossible to get a permit from the Navajo Nation folks, and literally, the only way I got one was during my scout, to track down the guy responsible and pay a fee in person. After weeks of trying via phone and fax, it all came down to getting on the ground and making it work.

Funny enough, when we came to shoot, and had permit in hand, the Rangers in Monument Valley had their own set of problems with us, and didn’t care about our permit. The good news is, they showed up after we were in the air, and we got the hell out of there before we got in more trouble.

The other good news was, we were at the very edge of the flight range for this helicopter, which was a rescue helicopter from the Grand Canyon. The closest we could get to Monument Valley area at that time, without bringing in a fuel tanker. If I remember right, our budgets for the helicopter portions were literally around $2500. So we had an hour. That’s it.

This guy was an amazing pilot – at one point he was flying sideways down the highway so low that Joe or Matt (I don’t remember which) reached up from his speeding motorcycle to tap the skid of the helicopter with his hand… right before the dust up went crazy. The shots we got on this stretch were so worth it.At Gouldings, Monument Valley

From this point, the journey went South a bit further, then West again to drop into the east end of the Grand Canyon and wind our way along the rim before dropping down to stay the second night at the glorious Holiday Inn Express near the Grand Canyon park entrance.

Next up came the second reason I loved this route. I grew up loving trains. I kind of outgrew them I guess (or just don’t have time anymore?), but the Williams Grand Canyon train folks had been kind enough to work with me to arrange timing a shoot with our riders with the Southbound morning train for some cool shots you see in the finished episode. Though it was raining, and cold, it was still awesome. And the folks at the Grand Canyon Railway were really a pleasure to work with. It made the fact that liked the train part just that much better. If you take this ride, I’d say skip staying by the Grand Canyon, get down into Williams and take some time off your bike to ride the railway.

From Williams, head over towards Flagstaff then South towards Phoenix, but don’t miss the turnoff to drop down into Sedona (also, do NOT take a large trailer this way, the hairpins will do you no favors), before coming back to join the main highway leading into Phoenix. We wrapped this ride up at the world famous Rawhide where we had out vote-out (I won’t spoil the outcome if you haven’t watched the episode).


Last thing to note about this ride – there are some very, very long stretches with no gas or services. Luckily, we had Matt’s Hummer with a full set of tools, some parts, and our lead and chase vehicles with extra gas. If your bikes have smallish gas tanks (Joe Martin’s bike had a tiny tank! We had to fill it by the roadside at least 3 times if I recall correctly and Matt’s at least twice), make sure someone along with you has some extra cans of gas their keeping handy.

Of the three rides I got to put together, this one ranked second only the last ride, which I’m not quite done mapping out, and never actually happened, but is worth sharing all the same. I’ll try to finish and post that in the next few weeks.

View Larger Map

DSLR as a Webcam – something simple, that’s really not. Until now.

For a while I’ve been looking for solutions to quick and easy recording video directly to the computer I’m going to edit on from a DSLR.

In the normal TV production-land, we’ve been doing this for years, we call it live-to-tape (or now, live-to-SAN) and it’s done because it’s the most efficient method of capture>edit.

In the consumer world, this has been pretty much impossible for a long time save for the use of cameras that have live component, HDMI, or HD-SDI output and a capture card that supports the same. Definitely a less-than-ideal situation when there are hundreds if not thousands of models of cameras out there that have quite good sensors, reasonable lenses, but no way to live preview on the computer system or capture the live preview.

For the past several years, there have been clunky workarounds based on screen capturing some of the live previews via software that been available for some Canon cameras. The workarounds worked, in the loosest sense.

However, as I’ve been helping my wife look at doing some vlogging, I wanted t see if there had been any advances in the ability to capture from DSLR live preview, and today, found something called SparkoCam. I was dubious, but thought I’d give it a try.

I’m also not a guy who usually posts reviews of just about anything; in this case, the team (?) behind this software really went above and beyond in their product.

Looking past the goofy “put a mustache on it” composites, the software first of all does what it says.  You can plug in your Canon DSLR via USB, pull up the Live Preview, set your video bitrate and resolution, your audio source bitrate, and record your videos straight off the camera.  I would probably suggest slating your audio/video since you’ll probably have slight sync issues in the audio that doesn’t get fed through the live preview/USB.

Here’s where I ran into a snag – the software had a default path to save recorded videos, and every time I attempted to change the path, the software crashed (running Win 7 Pro).  So I send an email to SparkoCam support with details on the crash, and expect to not hear anything back for a week or so; and then maybe a “sorry, it doesn’t work.”

Instead, I get an email back within 2 hours saying “hey, thanks for the crash report, we’re working on fixing it, and will have a new release up soon you can download that should fix the problem.”  OK, that’s a pretty good response, and I was encouraged by it.  I’d be happy to wait a few weeks or whatever.

Instead, I get another email 3 hours later from their support team, saying “We’ve fixed the problem, and pushed out a new update to our servers, feel free to download the new package, and if you like it, we hope you’ll buy it.”

Three. Hours.

Downloaded, installed, and lo and behold, they had indeed fixed the issue.  It was so fast, it’s probably a problem they’d run into in a prior version and the bug worked it’s way back in.  However, that’s almost besides the point that their response time was so good, and that the response included making the product work right.

I’ll wrap up the post by saying that the software is *pretty good* – it records only to WMV format, which isn’t ideal for source quality; but it IS good enough and it takes far lower CPU usage to capture and process than traditional AVI recording.  I was also able to record in 1280×720 WMV and drop those WMV’s right into the timeline in CS6 Premiere to start editing right away.  The only way this could be any better is if it recorded straight into Adobe Premiere:) (*cough* plug-in? *cough*;) – oh, and on a Mac would be nice too – but c’mon, even if you’re Mac, if you’re doing a lot of video work, you’re dual booting these days anyway, right?

Huge kudos to the people behind this product – they should be proud of it, and if you’re looking for something that enables a far better and faster live video recording workflow, definitely check out SparkoCam.

It’s Not About the Money

It’s been said a million times the web over, that it’s not about the money; and yet somehow there’s always someone new popping up for whom it IS about the money.

At the same time, I’ve been learning a lot about Lean methodologies, and how they apply to startup and product life.  So I wondered if it might be useful to look at the lack of money as a problem, and apply the famous Five Why’s to solving for the root of the problem and see what results could be.  We’ll start with the classic phrasing of the macro-problem:

  1. I need more money.
  2. Because I need to buy “x” or “y” or “z”
  3. Because I need to have food, shelter, clothing, a Bentley, jewelry, etc
  4. Because I need
    • food, shelter, clothing to survive,
    • _______ goods, Bentley, jewelry, etc, to
      • feel better about myself
      • demonstrate my worth or superiority to others
      •  because it’s something I’m entitled to
    • to increase value for others (entrepreneur?)
  5. Because it will make me happy

I hope I’m not doing this wrong, but it feels to me like #5 right there gets to the heart of non-survival, or non-professional related quests for money.

Because it will make me happy.

I think the one most depressing and freeing thing I learned early-on in Hollywood, that some of the richest people I met, were the most unhappy.  It was really a revelation.  In some ways, I think knowing that put up a roadblock to me learning that I could derive satisfaction from a financial return until later in life.  Once I met some people who were wealthy AND well-adjusted, it because a lot more clear that money really, honestly, has little to do with being happy.

So the next time you catch yourself being All About the Benjamins, run a quick “five why’s” and then put the results to use. I suspect that in most applications, it’ll speed your way towards really being happy.

A New Audience


How you doin’?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.

I’ve been busy finding a new audience to connect with.

And Hollywood? I’m sorry, but I have to tell you, I’ve found someone else.  It’s not your fault, really; it’s mine.

I just couldn’t stand to be in a business with such an adversarial stance against it’s audience.

I always came at making media from two vantage points.  The first was that I wanted to make things that made it easier both for me to understand my fellow man, and for my fellow man to understand me (or whatever the theme was that attracted me to the media I was making).  The second was in delivering a given product to a distributor on time, on budget and with satisfying creative process, which was an elusive thrill.

It actually happened once or twice; but it’s rarity was frustrating and wrought with way too much time away from my family, way too many consecutive hours awake, and far too little opportunity to connect with my audience.

Oh, and Hollywood, I hate to tell you, but the other love I’ve found? It lives right next door, so you’ll probably be seeing me come and go, but we’ll try not to pay too much mind to each other, ok?

Because now I get to work on fashioning one more of the online video nails in your traditional media coffin.

We’re building a new kind of distribution network that actually helps content creators connect with their audiences and gives them new way of acknowledging and rewarding those who engage with their media.  We’re starting with videogame enthusiasts and their live video streams – and we think it’s going to be good.

I’m excited about giving those who share media with others a way to build an active feedback loop with their viewers, it’s a term we’re going to start calling User Generated Loyalty.

One of the other exciting things that comes with building a service for others to use?  I actually get to get out of the office and *go talk* with the community we wish to serve and ask them questions about what they want.  I get to see them get excited when we talk about what we’re doing.  It’s audience feedback at it’s finest and closest.  And even better is that we can adapt along the way.  We get to be Agile.

In film & tv – once it was done, it was done.  No continual tweaking.  No trying out of new things (unless you start a whole new project).  Traditional media is Waterfall Development at it’s absolute most wasteful.

If any of our mutual friends want to follow what I’m up to from here on out – feel free to check out our startup blog over at GxStream.  I’ll also be up to the occasional guest post over at Techdirt this year, so feel free to find me there too.

MPGStudios.com will live on – I’ll be happy to keep fielding the once-in-a-while request for mentoring or guidance in traditional media (even though most of my guidance consists of “run away as fast as you can.”), and Hollywood, maybe you and I will meet again one day, but just as friends.