I first heard of Canva from Emily Kirsch of Powerhouse. I think it was back in 2017. I complimented her on the simple and elegant designs of the graphics they were using in Powerhouse’s twitter posts. Emily shared with me that they were creating those graphics with Canva.
And then maybe a year or so later, I heard that one of my favorite VC’s, Bill Tai, had invested in Canva and that he was helping them grow from being a small startup based in Sydney, Australia to become a major player in Silicon Valley.
Canva is a very easy-to-use and powerful graphical design platform that combines elements from traditional graphical and illustration tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, as well as various other platforms which would host stock photos and unique fonts.
Canva’s founder Melanie Perkins started Canva with her boyfriend in her early twenties while working as a graphical designer and an instructor teaching graphical design. She created a solution to her own problem. Her problem was “having have to go to too many different platforms and desktop software tools to create an end-product of design to communicate ideas”.
This video from 4 years ago explains her story in detail.
And it is impressive to see the kinds of problems that the company is now working on now, in this more recent video.
I met Mark Nicolson when I attended his conscious leadership workshop at Esalen Institute in November 2018, titled “Conversations on the Edge: The Leader of the Future”. Since then we became friends and had the opportunity to work together.
I first heard the idea of “being successful in one’s intimate relationship is what is usually required to be a good leader in other areas of life” from Mark.
In his TED talk, Mark talks about how connected moments of vulnerability become critical in seeing the truth. Mark also talks about how good marriage therapy actually helps us to transform our deepest negative feelings like anger into fierceness.
Mark says the best way to transform negative feelings like fear into courage, shame into humility, and grief into compassion, is by turning towards our pain, rather than away from it.
Mark recently shared with me a great book. “You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For” by Dr. Richard Schwartz. In this book, Dr. Schwartz shares the process of therapy that he has developed, called Internal Family Systems.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a therapeutic technique aimed at helping us to recognize various beliefs and the “Parts” associated with us.
Cathyann Simmons, a therapist who utilizes IFS in her work, says:
“When we can lead from Self (also called Core Self, Self Energy, or Spiritual Core Self), we can get some distance from all of the different messages that various Parts carry. Utilizing what IFS refers to as the 8 C’s — Compassion, Curiosity, Calmness, Clarity, Courage, Connectedness, Confidence, Creativity — we can begin to understand and find the answers we need to care for ourselves and experience deeper relationships with those closest to us.”
Since reading Dr. Schwartz’s book, I have been making a deeper effort to utilize these 8 C’s to care for myself and those close to me.
Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman has a well known quote. It goes “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Have a look at Linkedin homepage when they first launched in 2003.
Clearly, Reid did not wait to perfect the product. He had the key elements that defined Linkedin baked into the product, but in the most minimum viable way.
In the past week, I tried something similar with SolarAcademy. I have had a hunch for a long time that companies need to integrate mindfulness and awareness practices not only in their own operating culture, but also into the way they interact with prospects and customers.
We launched an event series called “CONVERSATIONS about POWER” where we integrated mindfulness/awareness practices into a solar energy webinar where we talked about benefits of solar energy for home and property owners.
The fusion of the two separate content areas, mindfulness and solar energy, was a bit confusing for some people. Partly because we did not communicate our premise in the most clear way. People need sustainable energy as well as more awareness and consciousness to lead sustainable and healthy lives.
Many people live blind to the fact that they go through life unaware and unconscious like the mouse depicted in the book “Who moved my cheese?”. And when they stop running in their running wheel, they feel more stressed than before. The COVID crisis is hopefully making these people realize this fact in a faster way.
In summary, I was a bit ashamed of the quality of our version 1.0 of this new event series, but I felt verified on my premise that the world needs both more solar energy and increased human awareness and consciousness.
I humbly predict the following changes in human behavior in the post-Corona world. It will be interesting to look back at this post in a few years.
People will realize that slowing down is actually not so bad. We will realize that a slower life style with less commuting, less consumption, less travel, and more connection with close ones might mean less contribution to GDP, but more to our collective happiness.
There will be a huge surge in the ways we connect with each other over tech platforms that enable video communication. AR/VR might follow soon after that.
This means our 200-year old education system will change quite a bit. Major universities building fancy campuses with expensive buildings and conference rooms might go out of fashion pretty fast and instead unique, efficient, and online forms of teaching might take the stage. The content of these forms of teaching could also be widely shared with the entire world population free of charge equalizing the playing ground for all world citizens. This does not mean teachers will not be needed. We might need even more teachers, counselors, and advisors to help guide students in various paths of education and learning.
The wealthy class might realize that they are not really separate from the rest of the population, no matter how much they separate themselves with their large mansions, gated communities, private planes, and large chunks of land in remote areas.
Universal health care and universal basic income might become a thing in the US after many years of debate.
The borders between countries will become more permeable. They will initially retreat inwards. But soon after that they will realize all nations depend on other nations, so they will become more united in the ways they create and execute policies. Travel between countries will be easier for the average world citizen.
As video communication soars, the lines of privacy around proprietary information between companies will become more permeable. Workers will start recording and publishing video communication and we will be swimming in a sea of data.
The real value-add of humans will be their service oriented time and their creativity around how to organize rapid learning and rapid creative solutions. Since being creative is more fun then worrying about protecting various know-how and IP, most people will focus on creating and getting paid a fair wage rather than monopolizing data for profit’s sake and building wealth for wealth’s sake.
There might be a surge in living in nature outside of major metro areas. Eco-living 1-2 hours outside of major cities with contingency systems like independent power (solar + batteries) and vegetable gardens, yet still connected to the world via the electric grid and fast internet, might be the new happy medium to balance rapid technological advances with the health that nature provides.
On March 16th, many people are wondering where does this market dip end?
I don’t know.
In the past century, bear markets lasted as little as 2 months and as long as 34 months. Average bear market lasted 11 months with a 26% dip.
At this point we are less than 1 month into this new bear market and S&P 500 index is down 30% from its peak on Feb 20th. If I were to guess, this one might last longer than a single month. But who knows.
The 1987 Black Monday crash was a 22.6% dip in a single day. And it took 3 months to bottom out. The dot-com crash took more than 2 years to find its bottom. 1929 crash took almost 3 years and a 83% percent drop before it bottomed out.
One thought that I have with conviction is that we will look at this crisis and be thankful one day.
Planet and humanity needed this crash to slow down, become conscious of our unsustainable consumption and behaviors, as well as perceived disconnection from each other.
Most importantly, we needed a crisis like this to realize that we are all on the same boat called the planet and we have to take care of the planet and each other.
Yet, sometimes the best advice comes from those who failed at the subject.
In Tambourine, a one-hour stand-up comedy (available on Netflix), Chris Rock talks candidly about the factors that led to the demise of his marriage as well as what to do and what not to if you want a successful marriage.
From minute 34 to the end, Chris Rock delivers the best marriage advice that I have encountered anywhere.
My single most important take away: When you are married, you are there to Serve. Period. Not to compete, not to satisfy your ego, but to Serve. To serve your spouse and your family. Remember that and you will have a happy marriage.
In Tamborine, Chris Rock talks about many things but the marriage advice section is the best in my opinion.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” said Aristotle.
That must be why many business schools and corporations have their students and employees do the popular Myers-Briggs test during the orientation period. The business school I attended was equally famous at graduating some world class leaders as well as world class villains.
World class leaders get acknowledged for pushing the edge of envelope. They become villains when they lose themselves in the act, when ego takes over the ultimate noble reason of why they are doing what they are doing.
One of my favorite personality tests that analyze where one stands in their personal evolution is the Enneagram. I did an Enneagram workshop few years ago and learned a ton about myself.
According to Wikipedia, The Enneagram of Personality has been widely promoted in both business management and spiritual contexts through seminars, conferences, books, magazines, and DVDs.
In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace dynamics; in spirituality it is more commonly presented as a path to higher states of being, essence, and enlightenment. It has been described as a method for self-understanding and self-development.
There are nine Enneagram types. Everybody has only one dominant type. And all aspects of all other types. Each type has 9 levels. Level 1-3 are healthy levels. Level 4-6 are average. Level 7-9 is considered mental illness.
The 9 types are: 1) The Reformer 2) The Helper 3) The Achiever 4) The Individualist 5) The Investigator 6) The Loyalist 7) The Enthusiast 8) The Challenger 9) The Peacemaker
Types 8-9-1 have the Belly as their instinctive center. Types 2-3-4 have the Heart as their instinctive center. Types 5-6-7 have the Head as their center.
My dominant type is Three – The Achiever.
Understanding my own type and the dominant types of people close to me has been very helpful. Enneagram helps to recognize when one is operating at non-optimum levels. So you know how to react.
There is no good/bad/ideal types or matches between the types. All is good as long as everyone is operating at healthy levels. For example, here is an example of what healthy to unhealthy range looks like in Type 2 and 3 – The Helper and The Achiever.
Type 2 – The Helper:
Type 3 – The Achiever:
A couple years after my Enneagram workshop, I came across this Enneagram book in a quaint bookstore in Santa Monica. I found it equally worthwhile.
I especially liked the totems used to explain the unhealthy versus healthy behavior of each type. Here are what the healthy / unhealthy totems are for some of the types.
Type 2 – The Helper:
Type 3 – The Achiever:
Type 4 – The Individualist:
Type 5 – The Investigator:
You can take the Enneagram test here for $12 (~30 mins) to get your detailed report.
In the West, we value ambition, accomplishment, progress, competition, productivity, civilization, order, and innovation. These are noble values.
In our quest for achievements along these values, we frequently, or should say I frequently, find myself overwhelmed by the activities, decisions, and options that I have to consider and choose from.
In those moments, I find it helpful to slow down, breathe, and choose to do less rather than more.
In this TED talk, a farmer from Northern Thailand talks about how “Life is actually Easy” and how he simplified his hectic life by making a few big changes that resulted in doing less and getting more out of life.
While we do not want to be slothful, I think in today’s rapidly evolving high-paced life, it helps to remember what the ultimate goal is of our busy and hectic lives, and that in many areas of our lives, Less can be More.
Brings to my mind this quote:
The Master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The ordinary man is always doing things, yet many more are left to be done. – Tao Te Ching
Many people like to think of the world in black and white. “I am this therefore can’t be that.”
Best example of that for me was growing up. I was born in Turkey. So I was born a Turk. The prevalent way of thinking around me was – you are Turk, therefore you are to live and die in Turkey.
That is how most people live. They don’t change cities, countries, nationalities, or god forbid even religions. Sadly, they don’t change their ways of thinking that come from older generations.
Albert Einsten has a good quote on this way of thinking.
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” – Albert Einstein
But then there are some people who think out of the box. They see the shades of grey in every situation. They know nothing is absolute and nothing is permanent. There is a nuance to almost everything. And everything changes and shifts.
There is a great quote for that as well.
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…” – Maya Angelou
I believe one has to be able to see the shades of grey to be truly free. The more shades one sees, the freer they will feel.
Almost everyone likes whistle blowers, unless the whistle blower is ratting out a system that benefits them.
What I like better is when powerful insiders talk transparently about how a broken system is benefiting them more than it should. In this talk, entrepreneur/investor, Nick Hanauer is doing exactly that.
Some people find this act hypocritical and populist. I don’t. I think what makes us human is our ability to think critically and to display acts and instincts of compassion and self-control.
I especially like the garden vs. jungle analogy that Nick Hanauer makes at minute 12:30. What make us human is that we can tend to our world like a garden, instead of seeing it as a jungle.
“Relationships” and “Time” are two of the most important things we have in life.
Most of my life, I was quite efficient with how I managed and protected my time, but I had relationship challenges with the people closest to me. With about 50% of marriages ending in divorce in the west, and many people having issues with close family relations, I know I am not alone.
I have read, watched, consumed a ton of content on the topic of relationships in the recent years. This video is one of my favorites.
In this talk, the late Mariah Fenton Gladis, an amazing woman with whom I had the privilege to work with, explains how it all starts with relationship with one’s self.
Are you aware of how your mind talks to your body everyday? Is he/she nice? Or is he/she repeating some old thoughts and statements you grew up around that are not healthy or even true anymore?
When you neutralize that negative speak, you will truly love yourself. When you truly love yourself, everything becomes better.
I did some reading up on fractals and fractal geometry today. Fascinating subject.
Fractal is defined as a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.
What if everything in universe was explainable with a single mathematical formula?
Most of my life, I struggled with the question of how to balance Power with Love.
How to be powerful yet kind, without giving away one’s power?
And then, one day I came across this great quote by MLK which helped frame the issue for me.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
And recently, I was at a workshop with some very accomplished business leaders. One of them summarized the answer to the dilemma best for me.
“Love is my best friend and protector. Whenever I am in my heart, I will be OK.”
I recently came across this graphic which summarizes the mindset shifts that are necessary to compete in today’s business environment.
I would add to this list one more shift:
Competing > to > Creating
In the west, we are conditioned to compete. Just compete on the tracks that are presented to us. Many of us don’t question the rules and just become cogs in the wheel of life, supposedly competing, without challenging the whole.
We compete like rats and feel despair. Meanwhile, there is so much abundance and opportunity on the paths less traveled.
The strongest emotion that drives this blindness is almost always fear. We fear that we won’t belong, we fear that we won’t be secure, we fear that we won’t be liked. So we end up competing like horses with blinders on.
Unfortunately, this is not only the reality for most individuals (whether they work for corporations, the government, or non-profits) but also the reality for most corporations, governments and non-profits.
Competition is great to build discipline. Yet, best results happen when discipline is coupled with creativity. For that to happen, one needs to take the blinders off. And that means, overcoming your fear and getting off the common track.