Be the Wolf

What’s the long term goal for a wolf? To eat regularly and to be comfortable.

 

Not every wolf is smart enough to realize their true long term goal. Most can’t see past their short term needs of eating their next meal and surviving the day.

Survival of the fittest. What does that mean exactly? For the average wolf, it means being the biggest, strongest, fiercest wolf. Because being this alpha wolf means you will accomplish your immediate needs and have a meal today. If you see a human, it becomes your next meal.
When in fact the smartest wolf realized that instead of killing and eating that human today, if they befriended and obeyed the human, in the long term big picture, the wolf would be happy, healthy, and eat regularly.
In order to do that, the wolf had to look internally and understand two things, first what their long term goal truly was. And second, what was the quickest path to that goal. At some point in history, there was one wolf who realized that a mutually beneficial relationship with a human was the quickest path to its long term goal of being happy, healthy, and eating regularly.
Does this mean the wolf became weak by not eating the human? No. This means the wolf adapted itself in order to survive for the long term. This is the very definition of “survival of the fittest”.  All it took was one wolf to see past their immediate needs in order to see the bigger picture clearly.

This wolf sacrificed their short term need of attacking humans for a meal today, in exchange for the long term goal of comfort, safety, and a full stomach. They became a domesticated dog. Man’s best friend. That was the big picture. True long term success for a wolf.

This one wolf catapulted the entire wolf species forward in the evolutionary cycle. Give up short term thinking in order to see the path to your long term goals clearly. Be the wolf that was smart enough to become a dog.

Fear

If you asked the 10 year old me what the scariest moment in my life was, I would tell you it was being the starting pitcher in a championship baseball game. That pressure and fear was something I had never felt before until that day.

 

If you asked me when I was 12 years old, I would tell you it was my dad losing his job and not being able to find a new job for almost a year. Since I knew my family lived paycheck to paycheck, I was scared we would end up homeless, living in our car.

 

If you asked me when I was 21 years old what the scariest moment in my life I was, I would tell you it was getting married at 21 years old. I was about to commit my life to someone and be responsible for a sustainable relationship with another person for the rest of my life.

 

If you asked me when I was 22 years old, I would tell you it’s when I found out I was going to be a dad. I was young, in debt, and working as a janitor. I could barely take care of myself. How was I going to take care of a child?

 

If you asked me when I was 28 years old, I would tell you it’s the day I signed the closing documents on a piece of property. I had invested every penny we had into real estate, in a recession. I was taking a huge risk with my family’s future. This was now the scariest moment of my life.

 

If you asked me right now, I would tell you it was just a few months ago. Seeing my 89 year old Grandpa on life support and knowing there was nothing I could do to help him.

 

Life is a series of moments. And some of those moments are scary. They’re either too much for us to handle or deep down we know we simply aren’t equipped to handle them because we’ve never experienced anything like it before.

 

To all of us waiting for that next scary moment in our lives, whether it be personal or professional, it’s coming for all of us. That’s a given. Don’t run away. Don’t even pretend to be brave. Accept the fact that you’re scared. But face it, charge it, and conquer it. Then get yourself ready for the next one.

Stories from Customer Success Summit

I wrote this blog a few months ago after attending a work related conference and wanted to share in case any of my readers are in the tech space…

 

I arrived at the Palace hotel in San Francisco around 8AM for the customer success summit 2018. After a quick check-in at the registration booth, I headed upstairs for the breakfast and networking planned especially for the early-birds, like me. The summit kicked off with a 9AM presentation, held downstairs on the main stage of the grand ballroom. This presentation was given by Guy Nirpaz, CEO of Totango (they sponsored the summit). Guy is the author of “Farm Don’t Hunt The Definitive Guide To Customer success,” which I purchased after the summit and have already begun reading.

The underlying metaphor seems apparent enough: rather than seek out and acquire customers as rapidly as possible and without any regard to their churn, customer success must cultivate a customers growth beyond the seed that the initial product purchase planted.

Remember that an economy dependent on recurring revenue relies on their customer’s recurring happiness with its product.

The Golden Rule of Customer Success

The last presentation of the morning also happened to be my personal favorite. The speaker was very articulate, engaging, and put the concept of customer success into practical terms.

The best part of her speech was when she shared her 3 step golden rule for customer success.

Listen

“80% of B2B customers expects real-time communication with companies.”

Listen to your customer. Identify the key parts of their feedback.

Action

Decide on the most appropriate action, given your customer’s feedback.

Pilot

Test out your actionable response to your customer’s feedback and then listen to their feedback again. Continue the cycle.

This 3 step golden rule is effective because it focuses on listening to feedback, deciding what action to take, and then trying out new methods. It’s a continuous feedback loop.

The topics ranged across the spectrum of customer success setting up internal processes, reducing churn, deciding the best ways to interact with customers, presenting case studies, and so on. Whatever your interest in customer success, chances are there was someone talking about it. I was most interested in the talks regarding overall customer sentiment and real-time health monitoring. It’s most interesting to me because I believe that a truly good customer success team should notice even the smallest change in customer sentiment and act quickly in order to ensure the customers overall experience remains positive.

 

As the customer success leader within my company, I’m always thinking of the bigger picture in regards to our customers journey with us. I’ve lately been thinking about the best way to implement health monitoring systems and making the most of those health systems by integrating feedback loops into them. We often hear the term “customer journey.” But that is a concept that can be broken down into an actual step-by-step process like onboarding, touchpoints, health monitoring, and survey feedback.

 

At some point in the middle of all of the excitement, there was a lunch break. I sat down at an empty table with my lunch and began to eat. Within a few minutes, a woman who introduced herself as the the CEO of a design company in Palo Alto, sat down next to me. She was followed by a procurement agent from Philadelphia and then a VP of Customer Success from Indiana. None of us knew each other but as we all started chatting over lunch about the presentations so far, we all quickly agreed on one main thing: customer success is such a new concept that if you ask the same exact question to 10 different speakers, you’re likely get 10 different answers. None of us actually did that.

 

But a great way to demonstrate this fact is to identify where the Customer Success Department fits into the company’s organization. In some organizations, customer success may fall into sales. In others, it’s in business development, and in others, still, customer success is a standalone and, perhaps, the only team allowed to navigate the organization freely in order to ensure success.

 

The concept of customer success is so new that the industry is still learning what works and what doesn’t work. In fact, this is entirely the basis of customer success. To continually listen to your customer and pilot new ways to help. While yes, of course, there are some standards and norms, customer success is, at its heart, a close relationship between company and customers. So there is no one-size fits all approach.

 

4th Of July

This 4th of July while we are BBQ’ing and and spending time with friends, let’s take a moment to think about all of the the people who fought and died to give us this freedom.

 

No matter what race or religion you are, if you live in this country, you owe them a thank you, a moment of silence, and your respect at the very least.

 

My family has fought in every war this country has ever had, going back to the revolutionary war, so it’s personal to me.

 

America is bigger than one president, one agenda, or a right vs. left spectrum. America means freedom. America means liberty. America means hope.

 

Only in America can someone like me go from being born into a poor family to becoming someone who owns real estate, invests in the stock market, and changed their socio-economic class through grit, mindset, and hard work. That is the American dream.

 

Only in America.

 

Let’s all take a moment today to think about what the spirit of America means to us.

My Mom

Last week I wrote a blog about my Dad so it’s only fair that I also mention something about my Mom. To say she endured hardships in her life would be an understatement. It wasn’t until I was around 12 years old that my parents finally told me about what she had to endure as a child. The details of which, I will spare you.

 

In the late 1960’s when she was 13 years old, she met my Dad and they quickly became high school sweethearts. When my Dad was 18 years old, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy for the Vietnam War. He and my Mom got married before he left, which meant that she was now a military wife.

 

She had signed up to follow him to wherever he was stationed and tried to make that place a home, no matter how long or short they were stationed there. They soon found themselves in Norfolk, Virginia where she gave birth to my brother, in the Navy base hospital when she was only 17 years old.

 

From then on, she always did her best. We were always a blue collar family who never quite held our heads high enough to make it past the poverty line. But damn if she didn’t do the best she could with what she was given. She had dinner cooked every night when my Dad came him from work and on a monthly basis she would even call the utilities companies to ask for extensions on the bills since we usually couldn’t pay.  She also did whatever she could to help us kids in our schoolwork and volunteered to help in our classrooms.

 

When my brother went to prison, she had to bear the brunt of the pain. A mother watching her first born son going to prison can’t be easy and I’d hear her praying and crying in her bedroom at night.

 

She would have done anything for her 3 kids, and in most cases did. She always tried to make sure I had at least one new T-shirt or pair of jeans for the new school year, even if we had to get them from the Goodwill store (which we usually did).

 

She showed her love through food. Always in the kitchen cooking something and making the most of what we had in the cupboards. A phrase I heard a lot of when I was growing up was “slim pickens” as in we have slim pickens until payday. Usually on the days just before payday we would eat chipped beef on toast, or “ shit on a shingle”, as my Dad would call it from his Navy days.

 

When I was growing up, I can’t think of a period when times were not tough. When things got really bad, my mom got a job to help out. She worked part time through the church as a counselor for abused women, took care of us kids, kept the house clean, and had dinner ready for my Dad when he got home from work.

 

She had to deal with a lot when I was growing up. Both from the deep pain that stuck with her from her childhood, as well as the added pain and stress that came from trying to raise a family while not having any money, and having her oldest son stuck in the never ending prison system cycle. She never complained.

 

When I am old and gray I know there will be two things I remember most about my Mom. The first  is how she always had a soft spot in her heart for children and how much children always loved her. I think it’s because kids can naturally sense someone with a loving heart.

 

The second is when I was a child, she would always read me the children’s book called Love You Forever, and how deeply her and I are connected with each other through that book.

 

She taught me to always be kind and love everyone, no matter their race, creed, or color and to always try to put myself in other people’s shoes before judging them. One of the greatest gifts I have is my unusually high level of empathy and compassion and I know I got that from her.

 

So for everything, thank you Mom. Love you forever.

 

My Dad

Given that it’s Father’s Day week, I wanted to take the time to mention something about my Dad. I call him my Dad and not my Father because when I was growing up, he taught me that any man can be a Father but it takes a real man to be a Dad.

 

He was drafted into the U.S. Navy when he was 18, during the Vietnam war and has survived multiple helicopter crashes both on land and in the ocean, during his time in the Navy. My Dad is a blue collar guy who always had grease on his hands and hung the American flag in our yard with pride. He’s a God fearing man that would work all day long and then coach high school baseball until the sun went down.

 

If something broke around our house he would buy the part and fix it himself. Growing up, I had never even seen a repairman. He was always in the garage taking something apart or building something. He would help me and my friends fix our cars when we were teenagers. That is when he taught me that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Never cut corners or take the easy way in life.

 

My Dad has always had a quiet calm and steadiness about him. He never acted out of emotion or irrationally. He let me go through all of the usual phases that teenage boys go through, without judgement. He never forced me to do, or not do, anything. He let me figure out those things on my own. When I was old enough to understand, he told me there are two types of people in this world. The type who always do what is right no matter what, and then there’s everyone else. 

 

It wasn’t until I became a Dad myself that I realized how grateful I was for all of the life lessons he taught me. But with my Dad, I learned not from him telling me, but from watching him and how he treated others. Family, respect, and doing the right thing have always been the most important things to him.

 

I remember in the devastating earthquake of 1989, our neighborhood in Mountain View, CA didn’t have electricity for almost an entire month. My Dad used his gas powered generator to not only give electricity to our house but also to our neighbors on both sides of us. Basically, if you had an extension cord long enough to reach from your house to our house, my Dad would give you electricity and expected nothing in return. He’s always been that kind of man.

 

We had an elderly couple, in their mid-eighties living in the house next to us. They didn’t have any children or family that lived in California. They were essentially on their own. Anytime there was a storm, a power outage, the weather was unusually hot or cold, or if he simply hadn’t seen them in a few days, he would always make sure to go over there just to check on them.

 

He probably doesn’t even know that I noticed these things, but I did. These are the types of  life lessons I learned by just simply watching him.

 

He taught me that morals and values will always be more important than money or success because one day we will all have to answer to God. He taught me to always help people in need and always protect people who can’t protect themselves.

 

Still to this day, he is the most honest and humble man I know. I will forever be grateful to him. I hope that one day I can pass these values down to my children. 

Why I Write

I have always been a very private person. But after giving it a lot of thought, I realized that my life, my journey, my story was better shared openly than kept inside. So last year, I made the decision to be open and share my story with the world.

 

There’s nothing special about where I am in my life but there is something special about the unconventional path that lead me here. That is the essence of what I always try to share with everyone through my writing.

 

When I made the decision to be public about my story, I really didn’t know how people would react. I was nervous about making my life an open book. I went back and forth in my mind if I should even start my blog. But when I wrote Benefits Of Childhood Hardships (here), I was amazed by the reactions and at how many people contacted me. I knew I had touched on something powerful that many people could relate to but just didn’t know how to put into words.

 

So why do I write? There’s two reasons. One is that since I have always been such a private person, it was almost therapeutic for me to be open with the world about my story and it allowed me to relive those moments and experiences in my life that I tried so hard to bury and keep hidden. Writing allows me (or forces me) to revisit those feelings and view them in a different light.

 

The second reason is my hope that there is someone out there who can got some sense of inspiration from my words. To feel like there’s hope. To see that not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, but that the light can actually be reached. That is why I write and that is why I will continue to write.

Life Is Short

On a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I received a frantic phone call from my Aunt. She told me that my 90 year old Grandfather was in the hospital and he was on life support. The doctor said he might only have a few hours left. That call hit me like a ton of bricks. It took a moment to register what I was actually hearing.

 

I called my parents and my sister to give them the news and then I rushed to the hospital. I went up to the 4th floor and opened the double doors to see my family all sitting together in the waiting area.

 

They got me up to speed on the details and severity of the situation. He had several things ailing him. I will spare you the details of exactly what they were. If it were only one or two things, his body could fight it but he had several things all at once and being almost 90 years old, he just couldn’t fight all of them.

 

The current status was that he was no longer able to breath on his own and had to be put on life support. The doctor had advised my Aunt and my Dad to prepare themselves to make the decision as to whether or not to pull the plug. As a family, we all knew my Grandfather very well. He was a tough as nails Korean war vet. He would want us to just pull the plug and not think twice about it.

 

However, when you are actually in that situation it’s always different. It’s never a clear choice. The answer to that question easily gets clouded by emotions. They allowed me to go into the room and see him. He was just laying there in the fetal position with his eyes closed and breathing tubes. It was difficult for me to see him like that. It broke my heart.

 

He grew up in the great depression and he joined the U.S. Navy as a teenager. He was on the USS Dixie stationed in Tsingtao and was the last US ship to leave Chinese waters when the Americans left the Chinese mainland. He was also on the USS Pasadena which was in the Tokyo Bay in 1945 when Japan surrendered in WWII.

 

I loved hearing his stories about his time in the Navy, The Korean War, the Chosin reservoir, and patrolling the Pacific. I could probably write an entire book about the things he’s seen and done in his life. I just kept thinking to myself that everything in his entire life that lead him to this point, almost 90 years of experiences were all right there in that hospital room and on the verge of being blown out like a candle.

 

We lost my Grandmother a few years ago, his wife of over 60 years. His “hunny-bunny” as he used to call her. Even when she was on her deathbed, he would hold her hand and call her his little hunny-bunny. After she passed away, I made it a point to go visit him every Sunday because now he was living on his own.

 

He took her death hard. After she passed away, I would even catch him talking out loud to her as if she was still in the room. Part of me wondered if he was finally ready to go too, just so he can be with her again.

 

I know it’s cliche to say this but life really is short. The days go by slow but the years go by so fast. We only get one shot at this, so live everyday like it’s your last because one day it actually will be.

There Are Good People Everywhere

I’ve only been to Mexico once. When I was 18 years old, some friends and I went for a 1 week trip after our high school graduation. On the 4th night, we’d been drinking at a bar. I wasn’t feeling well so I decided to walk back to our hotel alone.

 

After 4 days of not eating any good meals or drinking enough water, I was very dehydrated. I thought the bar was close enough to the hotel that I could make that walk alone without any problems. Unfortunately, the bar was much farther away from the hotel than I thought.


On my way back, I couldn’t continue. I needed water. I was dizzy, dehydrated, and in a humid climate that I wasn’t accustomed to. I was feeling weak and things were starting to go black. I knew I was going to pass out. So I sat down right there on the curb. There I was, in a foreign country, in the middle of the night, dehydrated, and about to pass out on the sidewalk.


I knew if I could just get some water in my system, it would buy me enough time to make it back to the hotel where I could recuperate. I finally gathered enough strength to go into the nearest market to buy water. I grabbed a bottle and made my way to the counter. I reached for my wallet but it wasn’t there. I had lost it and now I didn’t know what to do.


Out of nowhere, the man in line behind me saw that I couldn’t pay. I don’t know what he thought. Maybe he thought I was just a stupid, drunk American kid. But he helped me. He put his items on the counter next to my water and paid for everything.


Through his broken English and my even worse Spanish, I offered to mail him money. It was only $2 but since he went out of his way to help a stranger, I wanted to repay him at least $50 when I got back home. He said no. He simply refused to let me pay him back and went on his way.

 

In those real life moments, people aren’t thinking about abstract government politics, policy, or agenda’s. He was just a human helping another human in need. That was 15 years ago and I still think about it sometimes. I am still grateful for the fact that he helped me that night. There are good people everywhere. Those are the ones we need to find and surround ourselves with.

Who Are Your People?

I’ve been working in the Silicon Valley tech industry for nearly 10 years now. I’ve worked inside small startups, large companies, and everything in between. But it all had to start somewhere.

 

We all have that one pivotal moment in our professional lives. That one opportunity, that one job, that one project, or that one promotion. That one event that changed the trajectory of our entire career. What was mine? Mine was 10 years ago. The day I went from being a security guard at a tech company to a software tester at that very same tech company.

 

That pivotal moment often presents itself because there is a person or people who gave us a chance. Who were my people? Well, there were three of them that made their entrance very early on in my career and all three of them played an important part in my unconventional path in the tech industry.

 

I was working as a security guard at Tivo and a woman named Corinne was my boss. She knew I was destined for greater things and she often told me that I could and should be doing so much more than being a security guard. She even encouraged me to explore something inside of Tivo if I could. She told me she would support me one hundred percent even if it meant losing me.

 

Next was Maya, the QA director inside of Tivo who gave me my first job in the tech industry. She was the first person who gave me a chance to enter into the tech industry. It was essentially the lowest position possible but that’s all I needed. If I could get my foot in the door, I would let my work ethic, attitude, and personality speak for itself.

 
To this day, I still remember my interview was at 3:00 pm and I got off my shift as a security guard at exactly 3:00pm. I closed up the security office and walked down the hall to one of the meeting rooms where Maya and another member of her team were waiting for me.

 

I was so nervous and I even apologized to her for the fact that I was still wearing my security guard uniform in the interview. I passed the interview and got the job as an entry level QA software tester, which not only changed the trajectory of my career but it also changed the trajectory of my life.

 
Enter Vallab, a Senior Manager who doesn’t mince words and has extremely high performance standards. His motto was “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.” When I met Vallab, I was a QA tester with only 1-2 years of experience in the tech industry.  

 

I will never forget the day I interviewed for his team. It was my first time ever stepping foot onto the Google campus. I passed the interview with a few of the engineers and the final step was to meet Vallab. I passed the interview with him as well and I got the job. The team later told me that I had competed with, and beat almost 50 other candidates for the one job opening.

 

Over the next few years, I quickly learned that most people didn’t last under his management style because he demands and expects excellence at all times. He has extremely high performance standards and will routinely push you to your breaking point. BUT if you manage to pull through and come out the other end, you’ve learned and grown exponenitally.

 

For one reason or another, a lot of my previous colleagues never came out the other end. After working with him for a year or so, he once said to me “You’ve got something special in your personality and a work ethic that is hard to find. I need more people like you.”
I went on to work for him for nearly 6 years, all inside of Google. He helped me take my career from a QA Tester to QA Engineer, to a Manager, and then to a Senior Manager.

 

Almost 10 years ago these three people changed the trajectory of my entire career. For that, I will forever be grateful. There are people that are put into our lives for a reason. Have you thought about who those people are in your life? Or more importantly, how you can be that person for someone else?