Saturday, September 11, 2004

Under Pressure

The New York Times published a good article on how some people are able to deal with stressful situations, while others are not.

People who are resilient have a couple of characteristics in common. They accept stress and change as a natural part of life, and view themselves as having control. In other words, they take responsibility for their lives rather than bitching and moaning.

While the Times article dealt mostly with architects and corporate America, I wouldn't be surprised if most entrepreneurs fall into the resilient category. Running a startup is a constant exercise in dealing with unpleasant surprises and unexpected twists and turns. If you aren't resilient, you'll go nuts.

I also wouldn't be surprised if former entrepreneurs are more resilient and able to cope with the stresses of the working world than normal workers.

Of course, the least surprising finding of the article was the following:

"In studies, researchers have found that perhaps the only time pessimists thrive is when they become lawyers."

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Republicans and Democrats

I abhor politics. The whole political culture nauseates me, as does the partisan willingness to argue endlessly.

On Thursday night, I spent an hour listening to my aunt and sister argue about the Republican National Convention. What is the point of arguing if everyone's mind is already made up?

However, I did feel the need to respond to Fred Wilson's recent post on "Republican or Democrat?"

Fred and several others had created Cosmo-style quizzes to help people decide if they were Republican or Democrat.

While I agree with Fred's goal--to give his kids a way to make up their own minds--I think that the methodology is flawed.

It seems to me that the choice and weighting of questions is critical here. Rather than a simple quiz, we really need to provide a weighted decision matrix.

For example, the young tend to be more idealistic, especially on social views. In general, the Democratic party's beliefs are more compatible with youthful ideals, especially given the Republican party's conservative social views.

On the other hand, parents tend to view things like school choice and public safety as paramount, since their primary concern is the well-being of their children. In this regard, the Republicans usually have the advantage (though the give some of that back with their opposition to gun control).

Personally, like most people, I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. In practice, that means that I vote Republican, though I oppose the party on every social issue. My wife on the other hand, is in the same position as I, and shares the same beliefs on social issues, but votes Democratic because of the Republicans' stand on abortion, gay rights, and so on. We simply weight different categories in different ways.

There was an excellent article in the New York Times magazine on how Democrats and Republicans actually have different brain types. Democrats tend to respond with greater emotion to violence and suffering. The Republican viewpoint is that this makes the Democrats soft and irrational. The Democratic viewpoint is that this makes the party caring an empathetic.
Both viewpoints are correct, but which is correct for you depends on what you value (and possibly even how your brain is constructed).

Of course, I think the ideal would be for someone to create a party that stood for business sense without being in the pocket of the religious right, or a party that supported people's right to choose without taking away to right to choose a school.
Focus on the big picture

Seth Godin has a terrific set of two posts about how little things like trade shows and the political pundit class reflect the reality of the mass market.

I can't add anything to Seth's analysis, so I'll just quote what I think are the two most important points:

"What's extraordinary is the huge disconnect about what people in the industry care about and what the public cares about."

"Instead of worrying about the finest details of your competiton and our offering and your media buys, what really matters is this: who's going to talk about you? What are they going to say?
Your prospects are just like the undecided voters. They are woefully uninformed, extremely difficult to contact and very prone to quick judgments and first impressions."

Let's face it, positioning statements are less important than the impression that you leave in your customer's mind.