Say No to Bullshit: Hustle Lessons from Anthony Bourdain

TL;DR

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Long version:

Anthony Bourdain has a foul mouth, likely a drunk, and stirs controversy. But you cannot deny, the man has legit entrepreneurial game. He’s written best selling books. Hosted some pretty damn good shows, and now a household name.

Maybe I can relate to him more as I’ve worked in the food industry. My very first job was as a waitress in a sushi joint — typical — then moved on to bartending. Working in food is where I picked up a lot of hustling skills that consistently help me in my non-food industry life. In food, it’s about knowing your capabilities and ceasing opportunities. When your salary is minimum wage and you depend on tips, there is no such thing as ‘luck’ — you create your own luck. Not because you want to, but because you have to make the most out of situations in order to make ends meet.

Any business owner, founder, aspiring entrepreneur, and even individuals looking to climb the corporate ladder can learn a thing or two from successful people who have ‘made it’, in an industry as cut throat as food. And Bourdain lays it out best in this Men’s Journal interview.

On actions vs words

“I quickly came to understand that there are two types of people in this world: There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday, and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know.”

Takeaway: When it comes down to it there are those who walk the walk and those who talk the talk. Key is recognizing the difference quickly and cutting out the bullshitters. It saves lots of time, effort, money, and feelings. Yes feelings. Let’s be real. It sucks being let down or disappointed.

On networking

“In a world full of bullshit, when you need something as badly as drugs, your bullshit detector gets pretty acute. Can I trust this guy with money? Is this guy’s package going to be all he says it was?”

Takeaway: Imagine every conversation like a beautiful presentation. If you think about it, 99% of presentations that stick with us have filler slides — you know, the slides that seem to have no purpose except to impress the audience with inspirational quotes in pretty font faces, compelling charts with repetitive factiods or some unrelated slide with cute baby animals or a funny meme photo, etc., etc., — you get the picture right? When stripping away filler slides and concentrate on the objective of the deck, the essence is 1% — if that. On decks, it’s okay. Presentations are supposed to awe the crowd and leave impressions.

I look at conversations with people we meet for the first time like Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentations. People paint the best pictures of themselves. It starts from presentation — attire, mannerisms — to online personas to what they talk about. Ignore 99% of the superficial stuff and listen to what they say.

Bourdain nails it with two questions to ask yourself when meeting new people: is the other person all he says he is? And can I trust this guy with money?

Words that come out of people’s mouths and first impressions can charm and impress. But life is way too short to deal with bullshitters who simply want to look good to other people for whatever reasons they may have. Do you really think people who spend all their energy looking good to others can add value to your life? Sure they may be fun but they most certainly don’t help you make money, and frankly, distract you from reaching your goals. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve wasted a great deal of time being burned by people who seemed this way and that way, promised all kinds of stuff but were just full of shit.

Find your own questions that help identify if someone is really worth your time and can help reach your bottomline.

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Why You Should Care About Unconscious Bias

Nikesh Arora ex-Google exec, now Softbank Internet and Media CEO / vice chairman of the overall company tweeted he is looking for “ivy leaguers with US / Japan experience”. Why did he specify ivy leaguers? Does he realize he is biased?

Or, what about when we see someone in the US, who is using a smartphone other than an iPhone. What are your initial thoughts? It’s okay, be honest. You’re not alone. I’ve heard many girlfriends say things like “I’d never date someone with an Android phone.”

We automatically assume things about people born and raised in certain cities, countries, regions, etc. And judge people by how they look or present themselves to the world. We don’t do it on purpose but we are all guilty of some sort of bias and judgment.

But imagine if you unknowingly carry those thoughts into the workplace. Do you choose to do better work with colleagues you already have an unconscious bias towards? Or what if you are a hiring manager; are you confident your choices aren’t driven by bias?

Ponder that for a second.

I’ve expressed on Twitter how I am thrilled to the toes Megan Smith is America’s new CTO. And it seems most of the tech community is too. General consensus is because she is a female. Or part of the LGBT community. Or both.

I am excited because I have followed her and what she has been doing for Google as an individual (if you’re interested, YouTube her talks from Google I/O or interviews on Google.org and Google [X] to see the many reasons why she is such an excellent leader and technologist — if you love tech from the core like me, it’s really, worth your time.)

One of my favorite clips I’ve seen of her, is about bias — conscious and unconscious bias — which I believe, is important for everyone to be cognizant of. Especially, if you are management level or higher.

This is the video, I’ve been tweeting a lot (with little to zero interest) but now that you’re here, watch:

I wish there were transcripts but some of my favorite soundbites – few are paraphrased:

“You hear venture capitalists talk about pattern matching when they are looking for the next young entrepreneur. But they are also pattern matching for things they have bias in, and not realizing they are doing that. So they might be more likely to fund a White or Asian man vs another (and she gets interrupted).”

“(Unconscious bias) is no one’s fault. It’s not like we are actively doing this. We all have it. It’s inherited. It’s systemic. What we have to do as an industry, is educate ourselves.”

“Diverse teams just make better products. Patents written with men and women on them, for example, are cited more. And the number of times a patent is cited, is a measure to know if a patent is better.”

“If you are applying for a role, a woman would only apply if they have 7 of the 10 characteristics required. Men would apply if they only have 3 of the 10. So as a manager, you just need to be conscious of that, look at all the candidates, and do a little more active work to make sure you’ve got the best pool.”

Google’s Diversity website also has a nice summary of what unconscious bias is:

The science of inclusion

Research shows that when we are more aware of our unconscious bias, we can make more objective decisions. In 2013, more than 20,000 Googlers (nearly half of our Googlers) engaged in workshops that focus on the science of how the brain works. This created a company-wide dialogue around how unconscious bias can affect perceptions of others, interactions with coworkers and clients, and the business overall. We hope our focus on making the unconscious conscious will not only foster a more inclusive workplace, but also make us a better company. Watch this video to find out more.

You can learn more about unconscious bias here, here, or here — or Google yourself.

We can do better. Let us be better.

Leadership Starts from the Top

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Our cafeteria has very strict rules so there are pictorials plastered on walls to reminds us. Our cafeteria, is also separated into two sides I nicknamed: protein side and carby side.

I tend to lean towards the protein side as the food is generally healthier. I also don’t want to be in food coma status, after gorging on curry rice or ramen or pasta or udon or soba topped with fish or deep fried stuff or massive chunks of meat at lunch. Lately, the carby side has been offering lighter options, so I’m now eating on the carby side vs the protein side.

The protein side’s manager nicknamed “Chief”, is this sour-puss man who stands with his arms crossed, overseeing the operations and ensuring company employees do not break cafeteria rules. I’ve had colleagues whose trays were confiscated for taking two desserts or more tomatoes than we are allowed. The only time I ever see him leave his post, is when he sees someone breaking the rules. He then briskly walk over to the said person breaking a rule, and informs them of their offense. I wish I could say he runs a tight ship, but why sugar coat it? The man micromanages.

The carby side’s manager is this teeny old man with bushy eyebrows. Always smiling, always greeting company employees. Just seeing his face makes me smile so much. He’s always running around, helping out where he can lend a hand.

The cafeteria ladies on the protein side are curt, rarely smiling and don’t even greet people. They are always quick to scold when we break rules — even if I accidentally pick-up three tomatoes with the tong instead of the allowed two.

The cafeteria ladies on the carby side are friendly, laughing, smiley and always greet us. Today, my tongs grabbed three tomatoes and the cafeteria lady just smiled, winked and said “enjoy”.

Two different managers. Two very different employee attitudes.
No matter the trade or organization, it goes to show how everything really does, start from the top and trickles down.

Leadership 101 :)

If you’re interested, I upload photos of my tasty free lunch here.

Bonus: check out this creepy photo to let employees know “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING”

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Why Inbox 0 is a Determining Success Factor

Recently, I noticed almost every successful manager, C-level exec and CEO I’ve met* had an overlooked common characteristic: clean inboxes. Whether they were high level decision makers in Fortune 50s or start-ups, their emails were always organized. So I started aiming for constant Inbox 0, as I’m one of those crazies who emulates behavioral patterns of people I respect.

Well, whaddya know? I think it worked. I started noticing fundamental thinking patterns changing.
My brain now naturally:

organizes — most email programs have filters, folders, labels and other misc. tools to assist with organization. Since I constantly think of ways to keep my inboxes organized, I trained my brain to framework problems with the end goal in mind. i.e., how do I manage massive email loads (work-flow) for constant and consistent tidy inboxes (end-goal).

prioritizes efficiently — everyone has different prioritization methods when it comes to email. I’ve found that when I do not reply right when I read the mail, the probability of not responding is almost 99.9999999999991%.

So I figured out a system. If the email needs a response, I reply right away. If the email is a task, I label it as a To-Do (with a fire engine red label so the email is right in. my. face.) and keep it in my inbox. All emails I do not respond to, are immediately deleted/archived.

Sounds like a lot of effort, but as soon as this work-flow became routine, I do the above every time new mail comes in while working on other things. If something urgent comes up or I am interrupted, the current task at hand is in my inbox as an incomplete To-Do. Multi-tasking at its finest? Naaaah. It’s simply habit that came to be, as the end goal (tidy inbox) is always in the back of my mind. It also helps my email programs are off the hook: Gmail, Sparrow and the number one email client used the most: iPhone.

Now, my brain automatically prioritizes most efficient ways to achieve goals even outside of email.

and
focuses on what I will do vs. what I won’t do — we all strive to be efficient, responsible, responsive and reliable. My daily goal of inbox zero forces prioritization in order to be efficient, responsible, responsive and reliable. The one thing I found through many many (and I mean A LOT) of mistakes, failures and OOPSIES is: honesty is a must. The countless number of trials and errors of:
– taking on too much
– inability to delegate
– not knowing what I will realistically accomplish and what I can not
have taught me the importance of knowing myself, realistic time/workload management and how to be and stay the best I can always be.

The above may sound a bit hokey, but it just so happens to mirror characteristics HBR and best selling biz management books says are success factors. And look! Those skills also resemble Bill Gates’ fundamental framework – who, you know, is kinda sorta successful.

So unless you’re a journalist or spammer, Inbox 0 is an attainable daily goal.
Try it. I dare you.

Suggested reading: “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” – David Allen (Over drinks, a CEO friend of mine who I respect and adore told me in passing about GTD. I downloaded and read a bit – it’s pretty amazing. Good luck!
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Fail. Iterate. Rinse. Repeat. #startup

First personal post in a while. Excited to share news. As you may or may not know, I recently joined an early stage start-up as a founding team member. I am in my element. I feel alive. I can’t wait to wake up every morning. This infectious energy of creativity and the will to succeed is one I want to bottle up and sell.

In just a few weeks, we have failed. Continuously. Iterated. Continuously. Over and over, still pushing forward relentlessly, until reaching the right price point. Language. Pitch. Tagline. Every day feels like a month’s worth of work. So many thoughts. The lessons are countless. I can write multiple blog posts about my day. All day. Everyday.

Though the biggest take away thus far, is one I’ve heard my VC, entrepreneur and founder friends repeatedly advise. And now I finally see why.  It all begins with the team. I trust, respect and in awe of my CEO and technical co-founder every. single. day. Our relationship, enables us to  fail. Iterate. Rinse. Repeat, on our way towards world domination.

This is the best career decision I have ever made.
I hope each and every one of you are as happy in your careers as I am.

Food for Thought: Taking Social Media to the Next Level.

Recently, I vetted through hundreds of submissions for a ‘Social Media Intern’ role. The resumes all had impressive pedigrees. 98% from Columbia, NYU, even students from BU and neighboring states. They were mostly majors of fancy-buzz word disciplines with almost comedic descriptors. It felt as though I was reading a typical social media expert’s Twitter bio.

The applicants were relentless, following up within a day or two, asking when they could interview. I even had representatives from the respective career development centers contact me and offer recommendations.

Wow. I knew any role in social media was hot, but didn’t realize how hot.

Most of my interviews were 15 minutes max. I’d start with: “So what does your major mean?” or if their major wasn’t media related, “Why are you interested in this role?”

Their well-rehersed answers were synonymous to the typical rhetoric in our industry: “The medium to reach audiences is changing. Companies must utilize new media, such as Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation and create buzz.” – followed by an exhale of relief, relaxing of shoulders and a smile of accomplishment. That proud moment of achievement that they were able to recite the definition without stumbling was endearing. I’ve been there. We all have.

I’d smile an understanding smile. Then prod deeper: “Ok, now explain in plain English, what that really means to you.”

As I listened to hundreds of more carefully crafted, well researched answers, it was unfair to expect compelling thoughts, as we, the professionals in this field, have yet to define what social media really is.

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent piece: ‘How to Interview your Future Employer for the Corporate Social Strategist Position‘ is proof. A social media manager / strategist / [whatever lexicon] is still a role being shaped.

So what is a job in social media? Is it garnering an audience on respective social platforms? Content curation? Measuring growth i.e. results? Is it creating viral campaigns? Outreach? Ability to write headlines with high CTRs? Keeping up with the new hot services? Being deemed an ‘early adopter’? Familiarity of available tools? Does that showcase what social is truly capable of?

Should it be…more?

I’ve defined what social means to me by taking my experience and applying it –which I will soon share.

Have you?
Just something to think about.

A True Measure of a Man


There is nothing worse than seeing a person I like, being nasty to another person for no apparent reason.


I’ve walked out on dates who were rude to staff. A person I’ve admired online, was so grossly foul while ordering coffee, I lost all respect for (s)him when we met in real life.

The way a person treats another is really that serious.


My father taught me that by his actions, not words. He was recruited by M.I.T. from Japan and came to the U.S. speaking only two languages: Japanese and binary. Even after living in the U.S. for 20+ years, he still spoke broken EngRish.

I used to be mortified in public with him. His voice was loud. His English was poor. Yet no matter how atrocious his grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary, he still talked to everyone in a pleasant manner. And I mean e v e r y o n e.

At restaurants he frequented, the entire staff knew my farther. From the valets, wait staff to busboys and the kitchen. The chefs would take my brother and I to the kitchen for special menus. (These were 5 star dining rooms.) When we drove through Half Moon Bay, my father would stop by his favorite farms and greet farmers working the fields. They only spoke Spanish and he spoke zero Spanish but somehow they were able to communicate. At his work, from security and maintenance staff to his assistants, colleagues and C-level execs, people would smile and wave hello as he walked by. He took after my grandmother, who treated every single person the same: like they mattered.

Conversely, my mother was snooty and condescending to people who she thought were beneath her (gardener, cleaning people, store clerks, servers, etc.) I used to apologize for her vile behavior. She’s no longer with us anymore but when I read her journal after she passed, I understood why she was the way she was. (More on that some other time.)

Anyway, this past year or so keeps iterating why I am eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me such an invaluable life lesson. They are the reason I live by these words:

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. – Samuel Johnson

Abide by that single sentence with personal and business relationships. You won’t be sorry.  #tuesdayZen

This post was inspired by this Facebook exchange.