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Notes to a 20 year old me, from a 30 year old me who survived the last decade with my determination intact. I am a lonely survivor!

Be careful with giving your buffers (capital buffers, energy buffers, credibility buffers) away.

This is critical leverage that you need in many situations and almost all VCs refuse to give you any credit for whatever you have already given of yourself.

Sweat equity has minimal redeemable value outside of a success, in the eyes of sharks.

It is a dangerous game to play, especially with sharks.

I always recommend founders aim to contribute to the mission more personally than any other executive, and get paid at the maximum salary within the organization. Then, you should aim at fairness inside the organization, which is a very hard bar to reach, but is the correct response. What the market pays is immaterial, it's about what you value and how much you want to invest in your employees lives.

Generosity is one thing, but some people waste the money. Try not to give them large budgets. If a single mom is doing an amazing job on a tiny salary for her many kids, consider giving her more budgetary responsibility -- and training her by regular conversations. Etc.

A big mistake is giving "top talent" the money they were used to in big companies and racing teams. The assumption is always that with billionaires behind us and tech and talent this good, we could find the money.

But, in our case, after our largest corporate sponsor was killed tragically in a plane crash, and the price of oil dropped 3x (and has stayed low...), it was very hard to raise money for clean tech. Very few companies were funded, and almost none were funded by new investors -- mainly existing investors supported the companies that they had already invested in.

In many places the "top talent" could not adapt, and just went to places like Google X, where they have much more money but have much less independence and creative freedom than as a startup. Then, over time, almost all companies failed (though not us...)

But the truly dedicated people are still working on solving the problems. The people who are still trying found they could develop new capabilities. Those who've fought through the lean times are now a new elite, with value and respect beyond any pedigree from outside, within the group of those who've struggled through this Silicon Valley Forge.

To get in with us, people start with a baseline level of high respect and then strive to prove our faith in them correct through their actions, and strive to show the whole company what they can do. It is a wonderful thing to earn recognition of their capabilities through clever, elegant, and hard work, creativity, and play, but even better to work with a collection of people with unusual abilities harmoniously.

Being part of an outstanding team, so long as you are paid enough to live well (which is dependent on needs, particularly with family, education, and health on the mind), is worth far more than the money that we could possibly pay at this point.

If we are successful the work may be worth billions and might just make the future way better. We obviously cannot pay billions now. But we have a shot at making a difference. For those who believe it is possible, that can be enough, if you take care of their needs.

Many of the people who've worked for us say that it was the most exciting and productive and creative learning environment of their lives. There's something in that that cannot be put into a value in terms of dollars. You have to work with people who value that, or it will not sustain itself as a creative working environment. It's not about what you get out of work, it's about what you put into it, and how it grows.

The big problem with the modern world is that nobody plans for success. Everybody assumes that once they get to the next step, and solve their current money problem, then they can relax and things will be better. Everyone dismisses the possibility of success, and says "these are good problems to have." Actually, problems are problems, and the more successful you are, the more problems you have.

Make the success worth fighting for, and plan on it, and win.

That should be enough, for the right kind of person. The challenge of making that win come true, and having you and your team really believe in yourselves and your shared vision despite the odds being so far against you, that's really the trick. Rarely does anyone pull it off.

And then, rarely does a vision survive its first successes. Protect these fragile hopes and dreams. Plant them in the most fertile soil of your soul, and nurture them with your care and your love and your actions. The soul breathes choices.

Remember, you hope for so much more than the world is giving anyone right now. So don't settle for the trappings of success.

Make the world we live in your art, weave positive visions together from a zillion hearts, minds and souls, help friend realize their visions in our shared world, and then awaken to a universe alive beyond any one mind's wildest imaginations.




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