As a business leader in this economy it's critical to be connected, to understand who the decision makers in the community are, and to demonstrate to your customers that you use their dollars in a sustainable way to help the community. Experience Austin is ideal for entrepreneurs, small business owners or anyone who values networking and a deep understanding of their community as critical for success. Participants leave with a greater love for Austin and local connections that will enrich both their personal and professional lives.
The program is presented as a five session survey of Austin, including behind the scenes tours and introductions to leaders in the local government, economic, education, healthcare, arts and entertainment communities. The final session features Bootstrap founder Bijoy Goswami and Experience Sub-group co-lead Heather McKissick as keynote speakers on the Austin Equation.
"When you leave an "experience" with a new-found sense of empowerment, you know you've found something special and life-changing. Experience Austin is all of that and more."
Nathan Guitrau, National Instruments, spring 2009 participant
Join us for drink specials, networking and a chance meet past program participants who will share their experiences and why this program is a can't miss. Appetizers will be provided. A $50 discount will be applied to all registrations received on site.
When: Tuesday, September 2 (5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.)
Members of local entrepreneur organization Bootstrap Austin have made a strong showing in panel submissions for next spring's South by Southwest Interactive Conference.
Support these local entrepreneurs by clicking on the links to vote for their panels. Public support is 30% of the weight given when panels are chosen, and this year's competition is fierce, with over 3,000 panels submitted, and only room for 300 sessions. Panel voting ends September 4th.
Following are the panels that have been submitted by Bootstrap Austin members, alphabetically by Bootstrapper/presenter last name.
Pat Scherer, The Detail Person: Slacker Website Triage: Addressing Purpose, Usability and Conversion (with Brian Massey & Theresa Neil) - http://budurl.com/sxswslacker
Jan Triplett, Business Success Center: Successful Networking for Introverts, Rebels and Misfits (with Julie Gomoli) - http://bit.ly/4AK8L
Maura Thomas is an early member of Bootstrap Austin and founder of two Austin bootstrapped companies: RegainYourTime.com and Avail Assistants. In Maura's 15 years in the productivity training industry, she developed a process for peak effectiveness called the Empowered Productivity System. She has been invited to speak and train all over Texas and nationally. Maura is very active in the local small business community, and sits on several non-profit boards and committees, including being selected by The Climate Project and personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore to deliver his message on climate change.
Last March, Bijoy Goswami and I sat down for a fascinating (and lengthy) conversation about mental models and bootstrapping at Progress Coffee on Austin's East Side. The interview was recorded and transcribed, and we've broken it up into a four-part series for the blog.
While preparing it for publication, Bijoy and I both felt it was important to stress that the chief mental model being explained here, that of the Maven-Relater-Evangelist, may or may not be useful to you in understanding your own place in the world. The point is not to take Bijoy's model, or anyone else's, and indiscriminately apply it to your own life. The point is rather to start thinking about how you might create models to better understand your own path.
Bijoy Goswami was born in Bangalore, India on April 15, 1973, to a Catholic mother and a Hindu father. They moved to Taiwan when he was ten, and Hong Kong when he was fourteen. He came to the U.S. in 1991 to attend Stanford, where he studied Computer Science, Economics, History and inter-disciplinary honors in Science, Technology and Society. He moved to Austin in 1995 to join a software startup. In April, 2000 he co-founded a software company with his friend Bruce Krysiak. In 2003 he began his true work as a model-builder and evangelist.
Bijoy, thanks so much for coming to speak with me today.
Absolutely, thank you.
I have a lot of questions for you. I would love to start off just by talking about mental models and what that means. What are mental models?
Mental models are something we do as humans so much, that we don't really realize we do it. The problem is that mental models inform everything we do. If you think about any activity that you might do as a human being, there's a mental model underneath it. Many folks have pointed the importance of mental models: Jean Piaget in education and Peter Senge in business, Darius Mahdjoubi here in town, to name a few. Wikipedia has a nice entry. Whether it's being a parent, or starting a business, or having a relationship, there's a mental model that you have about that issue, or that person, activity or or that entity.
I look at the process by which we come up with mental models: how do we articulate those mental models to each other and communicate them, and then where does it goes wrong. For example, prejudice is basically a grooved-in mental model that has an incorrect view of reality. As humans we're constantly trying to make a model through our brain that mediates everything that we do, of reality. To me, having better models is what we're about, to some extent. But because it's so natural and so ingrained, we don't think about the fact that that's what we're doing. My deal is to get people to build really good mental models for themselves, and to help them expose their own thought processes to themselves.
Give me an example of a mental model that you've created for yourself, and how did it help you?
The easiest one to start with is Maven, Relater, Evangelist. MRE. Meals ready to eat (laughs). That model, number one, says that we're all different. So it takes the Golden Rule and turns it on its head. Yes, we're all human, but people have different energies and different locations on this triangle of energy: Maven, Relater, Evangelist. And where you're situated on that triangle influences your personality, the way you communicate, the way you relate, and so on and so forth. It's interesting because whenever I present the model to people they say, "But aren't I all three? I want to be all three!" People have a desire or built-in model that they should be all three, they should be good at all things, whatever those things are. The model is saying people have these different energies. We all do these activities. Just because the maven is living in thought space doesn't mean they take no actions. But it's the way that they take action that is important.
So, a model for people could be, "We're all the same," which is the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule pops out of a model that says people are all the same. And then you've got personality models all along the spectrum. If you march up the hill from one: "We're all the same," the most common mental model we use for "We're different" is men and women. We break up into two categories. Men are this way, women are that way. Clearly that's a fairly useful model, but it starts running out of steam pretty quickly, especially if you're trying to talk about our talents, our passions, and what we're doing. MRE is number three, it has three elements to it. Models like DISC have four. Enneagram has nine. And 16, Myers-Briggs, which is kind of the Microsoft, or the Google, of those (as in the 800 pound gorilla).
Again, the starting point is "Wait a second, people are not the same?" And "Oh yeah, I guess I see the world a certain way and I don't think about it." So number one is I've got to know myself. Because knowing yourself means you discover what you're good at and, perhaps more importantly, you discover what you're not good at.
So did creating that model help you to know where you fell in the model? Or did you already know.
I didn't know. And I didn't know the implications of it. Working on the model has helped me work out a number of things within and without myself. So, one of the big implications externally is that you seek out partners. Whatever activity you're doing, you seek out what I call a dance partner. I had been inadvertently finding dance partners in my life, but I hadn't realized the natural implication of this fact. I had inadvertently been developing what I call my Evangelist-Maven. So on this triangle I'm an Evangelist-Maven, I'm dominated by Evangelist energy, but my minor is Maven. And until then I didn't have a vocabulary for it. But it's interesting, back in high school I won the leadership and the academic award...
Uh huh. So there you go.
There you go. It was already there, but no one said "Wow, you're a great evangelist, go work on that." I would take all these leadership roles, I would give lots of talks, do theater, those are all evangelist type of activities. Yet I was very studious. When I compared the two energies, really my Evangelist is my strong one. But not having the awareness that that was going on, or a model, I was just good at a lot of things.
It meant that I essentially spent a lot of time exploring avenues that weren't necessarily useful to explore. And if I knew that, I'd probably be more efficient about the way that I go went about it. So once I had a model for it, I could place myself in the model and realize I'm not supposed to do everything.
You may know "When Worlds Collide" as a 1930's Science Fiction novel and 1950's academy award-winning film. But if you want to see Austin's worlds collide - including the worlds of non-profit and for-profit, hip and square, young and old, arts and technology, just to name a few - you should beam yourself over to the Rude Mechs Sci-fEye Ball benefit this Saturday (8/22/09) at the Off Center. 7 PM to midnight at the Off Center (2211 Hidalgo, Austin, TX 78702). If you'd like to know more about the Rudes, please check out the following URL: http://www.rudemechs.com/about/index.htm
Conjunctured's One Year Anniversary: Congratulations!
Our friends, supporters, and fellow Bootstrappers at Conjunctured Coworking are celebrating their first anniversary Saturday night at 7pm. Bootstrappers are invited to raise a toast or two, and also to be aware of the one week free trial using their coworking facilities. They're at 1309 E. 7th Street.
Every person, every organization, is engaged in asking its unique and very important question. Although people focus on mission statements, values, and goals, the thing to figure out is your question. Because your QUESTion is your quest.
The answer to that question evolves over time. Apple asks: how do we make delightful technology? (I am experiencing the delight with my recent purchase of an iPhone!) This is also the question Steve Jobs, Apple's (bootstrap) founder has asked. Their first answer 33 years ago was a wooden box that looked different than other build-you-own kits. Now it's an iPhone and iTunes. But it is all an answer to the same core question. The Virgin Group asks: how do we make life an adventure? All their companies, from Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic are engaged in discovering the answer. Again, this is the very question Sir Richard Branson, Virgin's (bootstrap) founder, has asked all his life.
My QUESTion: how do people and organizations live their most fully expressed lives? More ambitiously, how do we understand the universe and make our way in it? This has resulted in many different answers over the years, but most recently, in the creation of various mental models. I use my models to help people and organizations on their path. I was not always aware of my question, but it has always been with me. Recently I had an old 6th grade friend contact me on facebook, and at first I didn't remember him. He reminded me I was the Bijoy that used to give people advice and help friends with all their problems. Universe, I shake my fist at you, my question has been there all along!! (thanks Bruce)
A simple equation has emerged in answer to my question: you + U = ?! You and the Universe in a dance, co-creating your life. The first challenge is to figure out who You are uniquely and what you're here to do by discovering your question. This turns out to be at once more simple and more complex than we might think. (Our July theme at Bootstrap Austin was "know thyself") Einstein discovered his first question in his teens - what's it like to ride a light beam? When he answered this question at the age of 27 (ten long years later!), he realized it was part of his larger life question: how does the universe work? Sometimes it takes a jolt to thrust you into your question. Stephen Hawking was a bright, but unmotivated physics student at Oxford. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with ALS and given a two-year death sentence. This prompted him to get serious about his question: how did the universe begin? He's been pursuing it now for 46 years.
But discovering "You" is not enough. The Universe, or "U" constitutes the second (and much bigger!) part of the equation. While this has traditionally been the domain of philosophers, theologians and scientists, we should not shy away from the task of coming to our own understanding of it. A model I use is embodied by the yinyang - specifically seeing it as a diagram about time. Imagine traveling along the border, exploring two seeming opposites. As they circle around, each is explored to the exclusion of the other. After much iteration something new appears: the integration of the opposites! The universe seems to be doing this at every level. Physicists understand that two huge forces - dark energy and dark matter - are in a cosmic dance since the universe began. Dark energy pulls the universe apart, expanding it into space, while the dark matter holds galaxies together.
Being a part of it, we experience and explore these dualities as well. We might think of them in human terms: love/money, dependence/independence. Or in Einstein's case, he unified light from a particle/wave to photon; with e=mc2, he unified energy and matter. Google unified democratic free search with paid search by creating two search engines in one.
When we understand the universe, we can let it do its thing and engage with it. You wouldn't want to take over gravity - that's the universe's job! All the resources we need to come to our answers - the heavy lifting - are provided by the U. Be patient, something larger is unfolding and waiting to be revealed. It's especially important to keep this in mind when things don't go our way. When Einstein found himself sidelined for a professorship after completing his PhD, he got himself a job as a third-class patent officer. Not only did this give him ample time to ponder his question, but he examined a profusion of patents on clock-synchronization. What was the key insight that led to the theory of relativity? Two clocks cannot be synchronized and time is not absolute.
The starting point for this unfolding process and what is totally in our control is our question. This naturally leads us into the exploration of a duality and its integration.
Returning to business, the entire discussion usually revolves around business models. How do you take the various elements in the world, configure them in such a way that you're providing value to your customers? This is the integration. Most businesses don't know their model when they start. Southwest Airlines didn't know they were building a low-cost, point-to-point, Boeing-737 airline powered on love. It took ten years to figure it out and the same is true of Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. - all unfolding in spacetime.
We can now see that a business model is nothing more than a temporary answer to the core question the company is asking itself. Getting attached to a particular business model is what ensures the quick demise of a business. The challenge for founders and leaders interested in building long-lived businesses that continue after their involvement, is to impart their question to the company.
The model I use for businesses to live their question and discover its manifold answers is bootstrap. But that's for another time. For now, I leave you with (what else!) a question: what is your QUESTion?
Hi, I am restarting the Bootstrap Sustainability group. The next meeting will be held on Aug. 26 at 6:30 PM (location and topic to follow). Please let me know if you have any particular interests or suggestions.
What is sustainability? It is often used as a catch phrase or slogan. In practice, it typically involves making a product or process less unsustainable. The multifaceted crises in our time are aspects of unsustainable concepts that have reached the limits of viability. These concepts are deeply embedded in our view of the world. We are often unaware of their influence. Sustainability involves a paradigm shift that is fundamental to our understanding of business, economics, science, design and society. I look forward to exploring it with you.
What stops me from sharing my unique gift with the world?
How do I remove these barriers?
The journey toward self-knowledge can be immensely rewarding. It can also be challenging work and you may benefit from having a mentor, counselor, or friend who is willing to listen and hold up a mirror. Time spent contemplating these and other important questions can unearth a cache of wisdom. Documenting key insights in a journal will enhance the process of discovery.
What is the point? Why is it important for Bootstrappers to know themselves?
Whether or not you choose to practice self-inquiry, the values, qualities and experiences that shape your life and the life of your business will continue to affect you and those around you. Introspection gives rise to informed choices, authentic relationships, congruent action and increased life satisfaction.
What is your choice? Will you become a cause instead of an effect? Are you ready to make a commitment to live an examined life and give birth to your unique song?