[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Start Up Nation - The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle

I just finished reading Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle (click the image below to jump to Amazon if you're interested in buying it). It's is a good read for those trying to become entrepreneurs and/or leaders trying to create an entrepreneurial culture. Beyond that, it's also a fascinating report on the development of the very unique Israeli culture that has emerged in the last twenty years. 

One key, according to the authors, is the informal culture. Subordinates think it normal to challenge their leaders--even asking new managers to their face why you're the one promoted and not me. Military generals are addressed with their first name only and everyone in power is given a nickname. This informality promotes ideas being shared by everyone, whereas more formal cultures restrict input to those who have the most power and experience. And if you think about it, those who built the current system and/or have grown up in it are the people least likely to offer truly disruptive creativity. 

Another key is their mandatory military service. Their young people are handed huge responsibility at a young age--and are empowered to improvise with lives hanging in the balance. Further, they all remain in the reserves, drilling about a month each year. On top of that, the network of relationships that emerges connects people from all walks of life all across the country. Many of their best entrepreneurial teams formed through connections found in their military network.

Finally, surrounded by violent enemies, they truly believe that their survival depends on being the best. For example, ignoring the maxim that small countries buy weapons from larger countries who do all the military R&D, they attempted to create the world's best fighter jet. They actually succeeded, in terms of technological breakthroughs, but couldn't make the finances of production work. But their drive to be the best anyway resulted in dozens of spin off projects based on those developments. (Think how the US space program boosted their economy similarly.)

Questions this book prompts:

How much formality do you ask from those around you? How much do experience and titles matter?

Where are you meeting people unlike you? How do you keep in touch with old friends?

And why should you bother to pursue new or different ways of working? What purpose is with all that effort?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What would you do differently if you were 18 years old again, but knew all you do now?

Last night, I dreamt that I "woke up" and I was 18 years old again, back in the middle of my senior year of high school. But I remembered everything that happened in my life from then until now. It was like I had traveled back in time, but I was in my high school body.

It was an unusually long and vivid dream, full of rich details. I saw clothing styles I'd forgotten about. I saw people I hadn't thought of in years and years. I distinctly remember having a hard time not laughing at the music being played. Everyone thought it was so cool, but it felt pretty cheesy to me, with my future-knowledge of how music would progress.

But though everyone else was the same, I remembered all I'd done and learned in the nearly twenty years since I was in high school. And my mind was racing with all the things I could do differently, that I could do better. I thought of investments I could make that could set me up for life financially. I thought of people I wanted to seek out and befriend, knowing how important they were going to be to me eventually (like my wife). And I thought of projects I could start, like my books and even organizations I could start. I even thought about how I ate back then and how much healthier I could be if I started seriously caring for my body while it was in still in top shape, rather than playing catch up like I am now.

I then actually woke up, in the present day, with my wife and kids still asleep, my heart pounding with excitement and wonder. Such a rich, realistic dream! And in that loaded moment I felt God whisper to my heart, "What if you had lived another twenty years, into your late fifties, and had just woken up now? What lessons would you from your future self wish you could apply today? What would he tell you to do differently?"

Almost immediately, I imagined three things I would do differently:

  • I'd stop making poor late night eating decisions. I tend to be very healthy all day long, and then break down around 9-10pm and have unhealthy desserts. Not every day at all, but far too many days.
  • I'd be more creative on how I engage with my young children. This season of life is going to pass quickly and it's too easy to go with the flow and just bum around the house or yard with them. There are stories and games and projects we could do that would make our time much richer.
  • I'd discipline myself to write more regularly. In the busyness of life, I have taken a bonus, might-not-get-to-it approach. I can't write every day, with my current constraints. But I can write more than I have been.

What do you imagine the wiser you from your future would say to you? What if we took that "advice" and made a huge leap how wisely we lived right now? Why wait twenty years?