Irfan Salam

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Category Archives: Refreshments

How to Get Everything You Want. Seriously

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Getting what you want in your career and in life isn’t as difficult as it may seem. I mean it.

I’ve been very fortunate, both professionally and personally, and along the way learned seven key ways to help make it happen. In essence, I work to put others first, and to be more likeable, to end up with what I want in everything I do. I’ll be writing about this in far more detail in my third book next year.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at how you can be successful in everything you do, too:

Listen First and Never Stop Listening
Listening is the single-most important skill in professional and personal relationships. Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” It’s sad, but true: Most people have their own agenda and are too busy talking (or waiting to talk) to listen to you. So here’s the paradox: If you, unlike most people, can truly listen with empathy, then people will like you–and eventually help you get what you want.

Help Others
It’s perhaps another paradox, but it works: When you want something from someone, instead of asking for it, help that person get what he or she wants. If you don’t know what he or she wants, then simply ask, “How can I help you?” Since so many people are out to only help themselves, when you genuinely seek to help others succeed in their goals and dreams, you’ll stand out. And those people you genuinely help will in turn fight to help you succeed and give you everything you want. Help others first, without expecting anything–and the returns will be enormous.

Be Yourself: Authentic, Transparent, and Vulnerable
Oprah Winfrey stated, “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” Professionals, especially of an older generation, tend to have a tough time with authenticity and transparency in the workplace. People, especially men, tend to have a tough time being vulnerable, especially with people they don’t know well. Many also aren’t sure how much to reveal online, or at work, or to people they’ve just met. But, hard as these choices may be, authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability all breed trust. And when people trust you, they’ll do anything for you. Open up to people, and take a chance, and you’ll be rewarded.

Tell, Don’t Sell
As important as it is to listen and help others, in order to get what you want, eventually you’ve got to tell people what that is. But nobody wants to be sold to. So whether it’s a product, service, idea, or yourself that you’re trying to sell–give up on “selling.” Instead, focus on telling a great story–captivating your audience, bringing to life what the future will bring, and painting a great picture of what will happen if you get what you want. When you get good at storytelling, people want to be part of that story–and they want to help others become part of that story too.

Inject Passion Into Every Interaction
Passion is contagious, but so is lack of passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re talking about, why should someone else care? If you want something, you must be more excited and dedicated to it than anyone else. If you’re not passionate about it, maybe it’s not really that important to you. Not everyone is super high-energy and extraverted, though these qualities can help convey passion in many cases. Passion and energy alone put me through college with my first job. But ultimately, you don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to convince someone of something. You just need to reveal your true passion, in the way that’s genuine for you.

Surprise and Delight Others
You know how when you walk into a casino, there’s always a slot machine going off somewhere in the background, telling the world that another person just hit a jackpot? This is what social psychologists call variable rewards. You don’t know when you’re going to win; you just have enough positive experiences that you feel excited, even when you’re not winning. When you surprise and delight others, not only do you make them happy–you remind them that you’re the type of person who might surprise and delight them soon again. Some classic examples: bringing home flowers to your wife for “no reason”; telling a customer his order will arrive next week but then overnighting it; and now, tweeting to a random prospect that she’s won a free prize. If you go out of your way to make an experience with you special, especially when people least expect it, you will get huge results over time.

Use The Four Most Important Words in Business and Life
Say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake and “thank you” as much as you can. These words are so simple, yet so often people overlook the importance of saying them. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone knows that. It’s not when you make a mistake that’s a problem; it’s when you make a mistake and are too proud or embarrassed to be vulnerable, fess up, and apologize. Just say “I’m sorry” and let another person forgive you, so you can move on, and eventually get what you want. Conversely, sincere gratitude to people is a powerful emotion to convey, and opens up many doors. I send three hand-written thank you cards every morning. I send them to staff, customers, vendors, the media, and friends, and not only do I find people love receiving cards, but writing “thank you” puts me in an incredible mindset to start my day. This is not just about sending cards, though. It’s about having a deep appreciation for and wonder about the people and world around you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d love to know what you think of these seven ideas. Let me know in the comments section below.


Startups Are NOT Glamorous – They Run on Fear

By Peter Hinssen

Member Advisory Board – Center for Digital Transformation at UC Irvine The Paul Merage School of Business

Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. Or so it appears. The newest role-model is David Karp, founder of Tumblr, a 26-year-old who just sold his company to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. David never finished high school, started working at the age of 15 and will pocket more than $200 million after the Yahoo acquisition. Not bad at all.

And then, you start all over again. Just like The Stones or U2, who will release a record-selling album just after they’ve finished touring with the last album, you must launch a new venture. Because being an entrepreneur is one thing, being a serial entrepreneur is something else.

And the absolute poster-boy for the rank of the serial entrepreneurs is Elon Musk. Musk, the wonderboy who co-founded Paypal and sold that to eBay for a fortune. And risked it all again. Musk has founded Tesla Motors, and turned this into the biggest buzz in the auto industry since Henry Ford introduced his Model T. And he’s the genius behind SpaceX, the commercial space-venture that can do what NASA can’t do, and he’s absolutely committed to put a man on Mars. Now that’s entrepreneurship.

Inspiring stories. The new generation of Silicon Valley digital entrepreneurs is playing a brilliant new role model for young people. And that is good. That is absolutely amazing. Lord knows it’s much better to have young kids aiming to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, David Karp, or Elon Musk, than hoping to be the next Kim Kardashian. Or Lindsay Lohan.

But the image portrayed with the likes of Tumblr is that it’s “easy”. That somehow it’s all fun and games, and “simple” to build a company into a billion-dollar valuation in a couple of years. And that you would have to be a complete dumb-ass fool to still work at a large corporation from 9 to 5, waiting for that belittling paycheck at the end of the month, instead of being out there with the hip crowd and strike gold in Silicon Valley.

The truth is, it isn’t. It’s damn hard. Today, San Francisco is attracting international aspiring talent by the busloads. All wanting to strike it big in the Valley, all wanting to be on the cover of Forbes magazine as the next David Karp. Just like Los Angeles has been the magnet for acting talent hoping to “make it in Hollywood” – only to employ a great deal of them as busboys, bellhops or waitresses.

Building the next Tumblr isn’t easy at all. The truth is radically different. The Tumblrs, Teslas and Paypals of this world are rare exceptions. In reality, there are more than 19,000 startups in San Francisco trying to compete in an ever more difficult landscape to become the next Google or Facebook. And it’s a tough life. The competition is cut throat.

Startups usually are. I’ve done three technology startups myself. The first startup was a success and was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent. The second was a failure and I had to sell the company for pennies on the dollar to a telecoms company. The third one was a big hit, a cloud-software based company that we managed to IPO in 2006, and sell to our Canadian competitors who were quoted on the NASDAQ.

All three of these startups were intoxicating, exhilarating and fascinating. But every single one was also an enormous risk, a huge effort, and a tremendous fight. None was easy.

When you build a startup, smiling on the cover of Forbes is the end of the line, and only for a very select few.

When you build a startup, you risk everything. Even as a serial entrepreneur, you will often put everything you’ve earned back on the line because you’re willing to take that next big risk, in the hope of the next big reward. I’ve poured everything I’ve earned into my startups, three times in a row. Those are big risks. That isn’t glamorous. It’s nights and nights lying awake thinking about what could go wrong, and what would happen to your life, your family and your reputation if your startup failed.

When you build a startup, it’s not glamorous at all. When you build a startup, you are in constant fear because you are per definition in a fragile situation, in an emerging market, and with very little security trying to do things that have never been done before. Fear is the engine of a startup.

There is the constant fear that your best developer will walk out the door and join the competition. The war for talent is so intense in a startup in Silicon Valley that you know you’re not getting the A-developers. They’re hired by Google and Facebook, or Twitter. You probably won’t even get the B-developers; in the beginning you have to gun for C-talent at best. And even then, you’re never sure when that precious developer is going to walk out the door and say “sayonara”. Fear.

There is the constant fear that some of the best people in your team will quit and start your biggest competitor, across the street. Ideas are not scarce in Silicon Valley. Everyone has an idea. Ideas percolate, circulate and gravitate. Everyone in your company wants to build their own company one day, and everyone in your startup wants to have their own startup. You live in constant fear of your company falling apart, by the very dynamic that made you start your own company. Fear.

There is the constant fear of running out of money. True, it’s cheaper to create a startup today than say 10 years ago, because you don’t have to buy hardware, invest in data-centers, or even software. You can use everything in the cloud. But people are expensive, offices are incredibly expensive, and marketing is bloody expensive. You’re in constant fear of lack of funding. You’re always looking for the next financing round, even when you’ve just closed one. Funding never rests, and the fear of money drying up is always on your mind. Fear.

There is the constant fear about your customers. When you’re out there pitching your product to the very first customer, you’re terrified they will find out that you have no references, and that you’d be willing to do anything just to sign them. When you’re out there with your first set of customers, you’re afraid they won’t like the product, will decide to take their business elsewhere. You know you’re doomed when you can’t show a growth curve to your investors. Fear.

And even when you’ve gotten your serious round of funding, with a couple of millions of dollars on the bank to finance the growth of your company, and some ace VCs on your board, you’re terrified that you won’t be able to live up to expectations. You live in fear that the business model you pitched to them won’t pan out. That the hockey-stick curve won’t bend in time, and that the customer and revenue growth that you’re projecting won’t materialize. Fear.

Building a startup isn’t glamorous at all. It’s bloody hard work, requires tremendous investments of time, energy and commitment. It consumes all of your emotional energy, and all of your attention. Building a startup means hardly having time for family, no time for a real social life, no time to take holidays, and every single minute of your waking life is devoted to thinking about your startup.

That’s the story that is hardly told. The missed birthdays of your children, or siblings, the family reunions where you’re constantly on the phone trying to close that deal, the romantic diner with your lover that is interrupted by investors who need an update, or by your CTO who is going through an emotional crisis.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Fear is not a bad thing. It’s what keeps you focused in a startup. I’ve always thrived on fear, because it can bring out the best in you. “Only the paranoid survive” was the motto of Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel who built his company into the world’s largest chipmaker. And I think he was absolutely right, and it applies 100% to startups as well. Paranoia is just another word for fear.

So if you can’t live with fear, don’t ever go into the startup business. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Just be content to read all those glamorous stories of the billionaire startups in Forbes magazine.

After the three startups I created myself, I decided to focus on coaching young entrepreneurs, instead of being one myself. Probably because age and fear don’t mix all that well. That’s why I would recommend creating a startup when you’re young. When you have no kids, no mortgage, no significant other, and when you can concentrate fully on your startup. The fear is probably a little easier to bear when you’re young.

After three startups, I decided it was time put that scene behind me. But let me tell you. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t fantasize about going back to the startup world. As Anthony Bourdain puts it, “It’s like a heroin addiction, where even after being clean for years, you can still long for that shot, even when you know it might kill you.” Same for startups. Once in your blood, it will never let you go.

It’s the most intoxicating experience in the world to be part of an adventure, to think you and your team are going to conquer the world, that you have a shot at greatness. I would highly recommend it. It’s a better business education than any business school would ever be able to provide you. It’s a better school of life than any other experience in the world. But don’t think for a minute that it’s glamorous. It’s not.

Everything is a Remix – Last Part

The Crazy Ones | Apple | Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs narration of the first Think different commercial “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Everything is a Remix – How innovations truly happen

Watch this 3rd episode of 4 part video series in which the producers explore the elements of creativity. It’s an amazing video based on historic references explaining the point that Creativity isn’t Magic!

This 11 minute video worth a watch to understand the proposed three elements of creativity Copy, Transform and Combine.

Here is a lesson noteworthy, don’t discourage Copycats as copying is the first element of creativity! 😉

The first two parts of the series are on Songs and Movies. Waiting for the fourth and final part,  in which they claim to summarize the whole theory.

Ittefaq mein barkat hai – Zia reads Ibn-e-Insha

Zia Mohiuddin: Confusing Relations

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