Every week for the past five months, I’ve been writing something.
Sometimes it’s short. Sometimes not. Sometimes profound. Many times not.
But it’s been fun to consistently put something out to the world and see how people respond.
This Isn’t That
Last week, someone said something to me that struck a weird cord. I was talking with someone about investing in his company, and—as we were about to jump off the call—he shared how much he loved my writing. I told him how grateful I was for the compliment, and then he followed up with this:
“You’ve really done a good job making the GAN brand better.”
When he said that, I didn’t know how to respond. Not because he was wrong. I would agree that our brand has improved over the last year as we’ve intentionally worked to better define what our brand means to us, and hopefully to all of you. And we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from so many of you in response.
But sometimes I worry about what people mean when they comment on “our brand.” I fear people assume that my purpose in writing each week is to build our brand, to get more readers, or to become increasingly known in the industry. And a lot of people write for those reasons. To build a bigger brand. Or make a name for themselves. Or bring attention to what they’re doing, believing that more clicks translate to “success.”
But there is something so much bigger going on for me and for the GAN team.
We Hope It’s So Much More
When we write, or when we do anything at work (or at home, for that matter), we have a choice. That choice can either be about showcasing our brand, our work, or our feelings. It can be all about “us.”
Or, we can make it about the thing bigger than us.
It can be about a collective move toward something better.
Everyone gets to define “better” for themselves. But I’m talking about how we are all adding to a world that’s a bit more healthy, connected, resilient. One that believes in and works toward genuinely fulfilling lives, for everyone.
Better access and opportunity.
So, you’ll—of course—see me and the GAN team talk about things we’re particularly suited to speak on: The accelerator industry and the data we have that gives us unique insights into that world; support that GAN Accelerators, GAN Partners, and GAN Ventures can give to founders at GAN Startups, helping them to thrive; and, how we are big believers in business as a way to drive economic opportunity in cities all over the world—not just in the traditional, massive startup hubs. #WhereverYouCallHome
I want to go beyond that, too. I want GAN to go beyond that. Because I also see the platform this community has as a tool for change—not just a way to move the needle forward for people’s businesses, but in their lives, too.
If you read through some of our content, you’ll see it say things like:
“We believe that people will have healthy, fulfilling lives when they have access to economic opportunity and meaningful social connection,” and, “This is what we believe it means for entrepreneurs and the places they call home to become increasingly whole.”
So, you’ll hear me get a bit more personal, too. And it might sometimes seem disconnected from the startup industry, but I actually don’t see it that way at all. Whole people make great founders. Whole people make great coworkers and great partners and great parents.
Specifically, there are a couple things I’m always thinking about that I believe will help “move the needle” toward my own—and hopefully our collective—”wholeness”:
Changing the Tapes
What we think about drastically affects our work.
What I believe about myself and others—the mental talk track I have every day—deeply impacts how I relate to others. My friends, my coworkers, my wife, and my children. And, if the things I think about myself and those around me are off in some way (feeling down, focus too much on myself, am overly judgmental about myself or someone else, get stuck in a rut, or I’m not able to let go of hurts—large or small), my relationships are affected. I don’t work as well, I’m not the kind of husband or father I want to be, and I can make a pretty terrible boss or coworker.
So, I try to share honestly about things like anxiety, anger, founder wellness, self-sabotage, or building solid relationships. I try to let you into my own experiences and tips I’ve developed to work through struggle and challenge. Mental health is a topic with so much stigma, and being a CEO or co-founder can often feel like you’re even less able to openly share about times of struggle. So I put this stuff out there, sincerely hoping it helps people not only feel less alone in their challenges but so that you’ll let me in on some of your lessons, as well.
Company Culture & The Future of Work
Work makes up a significant portion of our lives. Most of us show up in our offices for at least eight hours a day, five or more days a week. So if we’re going to be happy, healthy, whole people, the work we do and how we feel about our work is pretty important. And, as I mentioned above, how our businesses thrive has a lot to do with how we thrive personally.
We’ve all heard ways to make work more fun and interesting (e.g., ping pong tables and beer kegs).
But this isn’t about that.
If startups that have been around for five years or less are the only ones creating net new jobs, it means they’re the only ones contributing new jobs to the economy. And if those startups are going to stay around, continuing to bolster our economies, we need CEOs that aren’t burned out. And we need their teams to thrive so that they also stay around.
Which is why I’ll often talk about how to interact well with your colleagues, or how to be a great co-founder or partner, or how to create a company culture that encourages people to be fully human and fully themselves.
All so that your company runs well. And stays around. And makes an impact.
As we go forward, I’d love your take on all of this. What resonates and what doesn’t? How are you helping us all collectively move toward something better? You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what you’re struggling with and ways we can help. Because we need you—and you’re not alone.