Entrepreneurs, Luck, and Silicon Valley

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Two articles from June of 2003, the month I decided to start SKMurphy, Inc. First up is “Life in the Bust Belt” by Po Bronson in Wired with the following observations that reflected much of the conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley at the time:

As a regional economy, Silicon Valley will steam ahead splendidly; as an icon, however, it’s over.

Perhaps most telling is a newfound and poignant reluctance when it comes to startups. Says one San Francisco entrepreneur who founded three companies, “I never want to start another company again. I saw an ugliness in human character that destroyed my faith in the common man.”

I doubt startups will ever become commonplace again. Most new products will be funded and developed through intrapreneur programs at well-established companies. Venture-funded startups will be reserved for only the rare great ideas. They’ll be highly watched anomalies, a spectator sport for the average Highway 101 commuter.

Silicon Valley 3.0 needs people who are good at working a single problem for several years. The kind of people who don’t find themselves saying, after only six months, “Enterprise server software has gotten old.” People who don’t mind that it takes two years to be promoted from Web engineer to bottom-rung manager

As my uncle John used to say “It’s generally accepted, so generally accepted it may not be true at all.” So far at least Mr. Bronson has proven to be too darkly pessimistic. Two month earlier, in April of 2003, Roger McNamee wrote “The New Normal” for Wired (that later became the book, “The New Normal“)

In the New Normal, the trick is to get real about the new set of challenges we face and what it takes to win in an environment where there are no shortcuts. “You have two choices,” says McNamee. “You can say, ‘I’m out. I’m never going to do this again.’ Or, if you’re a lifer, you say, ‘Okay, what lessons have I learned? Because I have to do it again, whatever the circumstances in the marketplace. I’m just going to be a lot smarter this time.’ If you’re willing to do some homework, and if you’re willing to be a little different from everyone else, there are countless opportunities worth pursuing. That’s what the New Normal is all about.”

Which brings me to the second article “How To Make Your Own Luck” by Daniel Pink in Fast Company.

It’s really a summary of Richard Wiseman‘s “The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles.”

  1. Maximize Chance Opportunities: Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing, and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, which include building and maintaining a strong network, adopting a relaxed attitude to life, and being open to new experiences.
  2. Listen to Your Lucky Hunches Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. They also take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities — for example, by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.
  3. Expect Good Fortune Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people.
  4. Turn Bad Luck Into Good Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don’t dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.

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