I’m an entrepreneur, writer, and podcaster. And I love to learn. My curiosity and desire to constantly improve my life and my skills led me to seek out teachers, principles, and experiences that could help me. Entrepreneurship was a perfect fit for me because it embodies this instinct for learning and solving problems. In business, how fast you learn and how much you learn largely determines whether you succeed or fail. Creating and building businesses has provided me opportunities to build skills, contribute value, and help people.
I believe sharing knowledge and empowering entrepreneurs is the best way to solve problems and improve our quality of life. Learning to write better is the best way I’ve found to improve my thinking so I can share knowledge. Writing forces me to wrestle with my ideas and understand what I think. Writing also exposes gaps in my knowledge while allowing me to see the interactive effects of ideas. My goal is to pursue ideas that can help me better understand myself and the world and share these insights with others.
I started searching for how to live a meaningful life when I spent eight months traveling in India to learn meditation while I was in my late teens. Given the opportunity to experiment with dozens of different meditation techniques, I learned how to witness my thoughts and emotions and not react to them. Surprisingly, this skill is one of the most important I have ever learned, and I use it every day in my interactions with people. I continue to practice meditation every day.
After my time in India, I led 40-day backpacking and climbing expeditions for groups of teenagers in Alaska and the southwestern United States. It was incredibly rewarding to watch kids from New York and Los Angeles who had never slept in a sleeping bag become self-sufficient and able to survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Being ten days from a road in remote Alaska with a bunch of 16-year-olds taught me responsibility, self-reliance, leadership, and how to keep kids from being eaten by grizzly bears.
Leading wilderness trips gave me an appreciation for the natural world and a desire to preserve it. I decided to learn how to build and remodel energy-efficient, solar-powered homes so I went to work for a general contractor doing high-end residential remodeling. That experience taught me how to work hard, learn quickly, manage projects, and communicate to customers with high expectations. Long days crawling under buildings, working in hot attics, and being yelled at by journeymen carpenters taught me perseverance and humility.
While pursuing my interests in sustainability and the built environment, I learned about the huge amount of waste we generate and the rising cost of waste-disposal fees. I decided to start my own company, BioSystem Solutions, to tackle these problems. We designed and manufactured large composting systems for institutions and waste disposal sites. This experience taught me how to start a company, raise funds, operate a business, and be scrappy and resourceful enough to figure things out when I had no idea what I was doing.
Leveraging my start-up and construction background, I became the executive director of a 501c3 nonprofit organization called Build It Green. We were an organization of thought leaders and building industry veterans with a mission to design, build, and renovate houses for a clean energy future. I learned how to write winning proposals, manage diverse stakeholder groups, work effectively with a board of directors, and grow an organization from scratch.
I believe that the private sector is the best vehicle to maximize impact, so I left Build It Green to become CEO of BKi, which offered consulting and software solutions to commercialize new technology and help utilities and government agencies implement community-scale energy programs. We grew BKi’s revenue threefold in seven years, and the company was acquired by Frontier Energy in 2016. I learned to sell and navigate large organizations, win multimillion-dollar contracts, manage a $60 million budget, recruit talent, and manage large teams across multiple offices.
Frustrated by the limitations of working for government agencies and utilities, I decided to start a tech company that could go direct to market. I was co-founder and CEO of UtilityScore, a tech start-up funded by Y Combinator. We built an API (application programming interface) capable of estimating utility costs for more than 100 million homes, helping real estate sites, building industry suppliers, solar companies, and lenders target, engage, and convert more customers. I learned how to test and iterate ideas quickly, build and manage large data sets, motivate my team, and cultivate a great company culture.
I use all these important lessons today in my business and personal relationships. After these diverse experiences, I have come to realize that the best way to have a positive impact in the world is to help individuals achieve their potential.
Principles serve to guide our decisions and interactions with other people. I value the process of writing down and thinking about my core principles, which I describe here.
1. Freedom. Build the life you want. Time is your most valuable resource, so make decisions that maximize personal liberty, freedom of expression, and financial independence.
2. Responsibility. Own your strengths, weaknesses, and position in life.
3. Challenges. Take on and endure difficult challenges that push you beyond your comfort zone to grow.
4. Discipline. Know when to sacrifice the present for the future.
5. Inquisitiveness. Ask questions until you strip away all assumptions and get to the foundation of a problem. Then design solutions from the bottom up.
6. Self-awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, behaviors, and motivations. Notice how they relate to the people you are communicating with.
7. Education. Be curious, expose yourself to new ideas, listen more, speak less, and engage with people who have diverse viewpoints.
8. Generosity. Offer to help people and allow people to help you.
Our decisions shape who we are and the reality we live in. Learning to think more clearly and see reality more accurately can help you make better decisions. I’ve found the best way to improve the clarity of my thinking is to learn from what other people have already figured out. That’s why I’m sharing the lessons I’m learning with you. These ideas have had a major positive impact on my life, and I hope they can have a similar effect on yours.
I explore ideas and share insights related to entrepreneurship and personal development. Topics include high-performance teams, decision-making, habits, mental models, learning, technology, meditation, inspiration, exercise, productivity, motivation, and ways to live a meaningful life.
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