Sixty Percent Complete

I’ve been here in Providence and am again confronted by the mysteries of perception when it comes to time. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I walked into New Dorm. But the days themselves have been incredibly long, jam-packed with as much information as the staff could possibly throw at us. Three weeks have gone by, but they have been intense. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did more in these three weeks than many of us had ever done during three months of school. Luckily, I’m still experiencing that feeling of restless excitement you get when you wake up in the morning and are excited about what the day is going to bring.

Perhaps this a strange point to be thinking about giving thanks, but I think there are three distinct groups of people who simply have to be acknowledged.

First, and foremost, the VFA staff. Andrew, Eileen, Mike, Eddie, Megan, and Lynne have all done an amazing job to create this opportunity for me and my fellow Fellows. Running a start-up non-profit is hard enough, but doing it while juggling 40 20 somethings, partner companies and cities, supporters, and new recruits is a high-wire juggling act. From turning an idea into a reality to finding opportunities for us to creating a training regimen unlike anything that has ever been created to doing all the things behind the things that make everything run smoothly. Without a doubt, there’s no way I could be here now or know that I’ll be changing Las Vegas with the Downtown Project soon without all of their hard work.

Secondly, to all the amazing trainers we have had so far, thank you. These are people who have come and are coming here without being compensated and sharing their knowledge, experiences, resources, and stories. Why are people like IDEO, David Tisch, and David Rose coming to talk to us? Because they are genuinely excited about VFA’s mission, and by extension, us. To a person, every single one of them has talked about how they are envious of circumstances that all the current Fellows are in now. Which is flattering, humbling, and overwhelming all at once.

Lastly, but certainly not least(-ly), thanks to all of my fellow Fellows. The most constant feedback that I’ve gotten from my friends a few years older than me is that it is hard to make friends. In the span of three weeks, I’ve already got 39 new friends that I know I can call any time. I don’t know if there has been a day go by where I haven’t been surprised by one of my friends here, and it has always been for the better. First impressions have been shattered, conversations have gone on into wee hours of the morning, and so many inside jokes and “You remember when” stories have been made. Here’s to hoping that all of that continues, not just for the next few years, but the rest of our lives.

This post wasn’t supposed to end up like a massive thank you note, but I guess that’s what happens when you start writing. Tomorrow might bring some more reflecting on what was learned, but I guess it is never the wrong time to say thank you. But to get the thinkers thinking, here are some quote highlights from the week:

The purpose of leadership is to disappoint people. You’re never authorized to execute leadership because it takes away from someone else.

Conflict is the mother of all innovation.

If you’re not getting any push-back, you’re not doing anything important.

The most useful intervention is to interrupt a non-productive path.

Anytime you are in a system, the system is already perfectly aligned to get the current outputs of the system.

The people with the problem are both the problem and the solution.

The greatest threat that people face is a lack of curiosity about how things work

Leadership is an activity where you act outside of your own scope of authority to intervene and interrupt a non-productive path or process. It is when you mobilize people to lessen the gap between their aspirations and their current reality. Leadership should never be done alone.

If you say yes to everybody, you can’t be in a good relationship with anybody.

In order to succeed, we need to become diagnostic experimentation machines while remaining ruthlessly optimistic and relentlessly skeptical about the world.

Entrepreneurs are by definition crazy. They see things that other people don’t.

It doesn’t take a big difference to move the world.


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