Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, June 27, 2022
by Neil Senturia
Sometimes you just have to give it up and steal from the absolute best in the business. I give credit to David Brooks, New York Times columnist, who recently posted some of “life’s hacks” from one of the most famous technology journalists, Kevin Kelly.
I cannot improve on them, so I am simply going to share some of them. Kelly recently turned 70, and for his birthday he published “103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known.” Brooks picked a few that he liked, and I have picked a few myself.
As a software CEO, I will share the first one and a favorite of mine.
“When you have finished 90 percent of a project, the last 10 percent will take another 90 percent of time (and money).”
Here are some others that may pique your interest.
“About 99 percent of the time, the right time is right now.”
“Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept with thanks.”
This is a tough one for yours truly. I do not do well with compliments. Truth is, I don’t get that many, so maybe with practice, I could get better.
“Anything you say before the word ‘but’ does not count.”
“Don’t keep making the same mistakes; try to make new ones.”
“When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.”
I have a corollary to that which I preach to my business partners and employees:
Assume positive intent.
I work with all kinds of people, and often the default starting position is one of distrust. Where is the fishhook, how are you going to mess with me? The very nature of a startup demands that the team accept that there are going to be pivots and the boat might jibe with very little warning, and we need to assume that the team at the wheel is always trying to do the right thing.
(Wearing a life preserver is not a bad idea.)
“When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.”
This one is critical for ego-maniacal CEOs who get confused by their job title. It strikes me that a leader should always be trying to replace himself and not be trying to make himself indispensable.
“Ask funders for money, and they will give you advice; but ask for advice and they’ll give you money.”
That one assumes that the person will even return your call.
“There is no such thing as being ‘on time.’ You are either late or early, your choice.”
Vince Lombardi expected all of his football players and coaching staff to be in the room 15 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin. He had 105 wins in the NFL, along with two Super Bowl victories. I’m just saying.
“Lucky breaks happen on a detour from the main goal. So embrace detours. Life is not a straight line.”
“Half the skill of being educated is learning what you can ignore.”
“Aim to die broke. Give to your beneficiaries before you die. Your last check should be to the funeral home and it should bounce.”
There is a subtle nuance on that one, but I am sure you all understand.
And finally, let me give credit to Mr. Brooks, who penned a few of his own.
“If you are not sure you can carry it all, take two trips.”
“If you are disturbed or confused by something somebody did, always pick up the phone.”
I like this one a lot. My own corollary is “Don’t leave messes.” I never hesitate to call and apologize (even sometimes when it is not necessary). This way, I get a chance to listen, and on occasion, I get an apology in return.
“Marriage is a 50-year conversation. Marry someone you want to talk with for the rest of your life.”
Many of you know my wife, Barbara Bry. My corollary is to find someone who will listen to you for 50 years. What can I say, I just got lucky.
Advice — you can find it almost everywhere. Taking it, well that is a whole ‘nother conversation.
Finally, a life hack from Warren Buffett.
“You can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow.”
Rule No. 719: