I was sitting down with a guy yesterday being interviewed for an ambitious project he's embarked upon as he meets with Millennial entrepreneurs around the country.
We got to talking about my upbringing, my entrepreneurial education and the various businesses I've been a part of over the years, and I felt a kinship with this gentleman because he seemed to clearly understand my ambitions and saw the thread connecting the things I've pursued over the years.
Maybe it's a Millennial thing, but that's not true because this guy isn't a Millennial.
Maybe it's an entrepreneurial thing, but that's not the case either because this guy wasn't the founder of any businesses either.
I think what it was was a listening thing. This guy actually listened.
Too often people want to gloss over things I've said and written about my journey and skip to the supposed highlights like Sneak Attack or Style X or Bazaarvoice.
Case in point, I was speaking to MBA students at UT last spring and a few of the students seemed to believe that it was taking the job as director of operations at Bazaarvoice before their 2012 IPO that truly set me on my entrepreneurial journey. They completely glossed over the fact that I started my first business at 11, my second business at 12, or my first investor-backed business at 26 or Style X at 27.
I felt a kinship with this guy because he actually listened, and only because he listened, did he actually understand my pursuits. All this in a 45 minute interview at a coffee shop where we met for the first time.
He saw how these dots of my life - from growing up without a father to wanting to work at 11 and 12 years old to pay for my own school field trips to going to DC after college to build a professional network to advising companies like FedEx and X Games - and how it all connected.
It's not that hard if people simply listen and pay attention. But too many people choose not to do that.
I have been blessed with some amazing friends and mentors throughout my life. People who've taken the time to get to know me without trying to take shortcuts. I am now trying to give back to the cycle by being a good friend to some, lending helpful advice to many and mentoring a few other young, aspiring, budding entrepreneurs.
The number one role of a mentor is to listen. Friendship could probably do well to start there, too. The only way you'll truly understand someone and truly be able to lend any meaningful advice or dialogue is by starting there.
Listening wasn't my strong suit growing up. I was too focused on the outcome and getting to it as quickly as I could. More recently, I have even realized how failure is often the result of not listening to your own internal voice.
In my 30s, I've learned just how important listening is to all things as my ambitions have scaled with my ability to execute on them.
Yesterday's conversation was a reminder of just how good it feels to be heard.
I don't measure my life in likes or follows or anything like that despite being so active on social media for business and life, but I do know the most important community I'm a part of is the one in which listening is the currency.
10 Thoughts/Observations from ACL Festival:
1. I'm 32 and have been going to festivals for a decade now. Yes, that makes me feel old. What really makes me feel old is showing up at 5/6pm each day and still having sore feet the next day. Can't believe I used to be the guy getting there at noon, and I camped at Coachella twice! Never again.
2. Festivals are all about the experience, and the experience I like the most isn't actually backstage or side stage anymore. I prefer to be with the people. Listen to the kids, bro.
3. ACL Festival continues to be one of the best run, least-chaotic festivals in the business. What they lack in lineup effects (though not much this year) they more than make up for in the caliber of food they offer, the urban scenery (though not quite Lollapalooza level) and the all-ages atmosphere.
4. I write "all ages" but then I think about the nature of the lyrics by artists like Drake, A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd and I realize that family friendly in 2015 is a helluva lot different than family friendly in 1995 when I was a more impressionable young person.
5. My music highlight was Disclosure bringing out soulful singer Brendan Reilly to perform "Moving Mountains". A lot of people don't seem to be as into Disclosure's new album Caracal as they were into Settle, but I think that's a product of two things I'll touch on momentarily.
6. It's still all about the hits. People were walking away during both Disclosure and The Weeknd's performances, until massive hits "Latch" and "Can't Feel My Face" came on, then droves of teens and college kids started running up as if the show was about to begin.
7. You may not buy albums, but you should. Sure, you've been snake-bitten in the past when an album didn't live up to your expectations or you feel you shouldn't feel bad for downloading albums from a friend's personal catalog, but when a drone replaces your job or when art museums go the way of drive-in movie theatres, you'll have yourself to blame. Here's my recommendation: Make a list of your favorite 5 to 10 artists today and pledge to buy their next album and find one (just one) new artist each year to add to this list. My list of artists I buy everything they record includes: Local Natives, Disclosure, Kanye, Tame Impala, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, Jill Scott, Radiohead and Q-Tip. (plus all the Austin artists I support, e.g. Emily Wolfe, Letting Up, Keeper, etc.)
8. As a sign of where music is today, the artist who had the most sing-alongs of the festival almost certainly had to be Drake. Drake is standing on the shoulders of Kanye West who stood on the shoulders of Jay-Z who stood on the shoulders of Notorious B.I.G. who stood on the shoulders of Brooklyn so that's pretty damn high up if you think about it.
9. There are so many amazing food options at ACL Fest, but Mighty Cone is still my personal favorite.
10. October has officially become my second favorite month in Austin, after April (my birthday month). The weather is warm but not too hot. The nights are cool. The music around town, not just the festival, is stellar. And OU still sucks.
I don't want to speak to soon, but I must say something. I'm excited, and for good reason. Texas' win over Oklahoma was extremely impressive, especially when you dig in a little more.
Charlie Strong has had all of 1.5 legit recruiting classes. I think it's clear that the recruiting classes that preceded him going back ~5 years were not at all stellar, especially at the skill positions.
So with a team that's experienced an in-season change at Offensive Coordinator, a team led by redshirt freshman (Jerrod Heard) at Quarterback and a true freshman (Malik Jefferson) at Linebacker, we're sitting at 2 wins and 4 losses. Texas could very easily be 4-2 right now, though, as we all know.
We just beat the #10 ranked team in the country in rival Oklahoma on neutral ground and didn't look extremely lucky in doing it while becoming the first team this year to keep the Sooners under 20 (or even 30) points. Going back to 2014, the only teams in the last 2 seasons to keep Oklahoma under 20 or 30 points are Clemson in last year's Citrus Bowl (they won 40-6) and Baylor last November (they won 48-14). Baylor is currently undefeated and ranked #2, the highest for a Big 12 team, and Clemson, also undefeated, is the highest ranked ACC team at #6. OU put up 30 points on both TCU and Oklahoma State the last time they played them, and both of those teams are currently undefeated and ranked in the top 15.
Again, Texas' win over Oklahoma was extremely impressive. Consider that this win was in response to a butt-kicking they received by one of the top 3 teams in the country, the Heisman-hopeful Trevone Boykin-led TCU team that - along with Baylor and A&M - has benefited tremendously in recent years from Texas' obviously lackluster efforts on the recruiting trail in the pre-Strong years.
Before the epic victory in Dallas and before being trounced in Fort Worth, we played three straight games at home at DKR.
We lost 30-27 against Oklahoma State, the final result of a punter blunder and some unfortunate calls by the refs.
We lost 45-44 to a ranked Cal Bears team that is led by Jared Goff, who is becoming the consensus pick as the guy most likely to be the first Quarterback taken in next year's NFL draft. The same Cal team that came within one possession of beating Utah, the last undefeated team in the Pac-12. And Texas missed pushing Cal to overtime on a missed extra point, an extreme rarity in the game. Jerrod Heard may not have outplayed Goff in the game, but he definitely went toe-to-toe and outshined him statistically.
Before that, Texas beat Rice 42-28, in Jerrod Heard's first start and a game in which Rice scored 14 points in the game's final 7 minutes to make it look a bit more respectable after giving up 3 touchdowns to Texas in the 1st and 3rd quarters.
And in the season's opener in an away game, Texas lost 38-3 to a Notre Dame team whose lone loss is a two points defeat (24-22) at Clemson.
To recap, Texas and its young team lost on the road to a very good Notre Dame squad in the season opener, changed Offensive play callers, then played three very solid offensive games at home against Rice, then a ranked Cal team that is a touchdown away from being the best in the Pac-12 Conference and survived in Austin on a missed extra point, then a currently-undefeated Oklahoma State team that got the benefit of some ref calls and a punter blunder, then got beat badly on the road against national title contender TCU, then responded with a win on neutral ground with a solid defensive and offensive showing against an Oklahoma team with aspirations of winning the Big 12.
I don't know about you, but this isn't just progress, this is a major leap forward. Sure, Texas isn't ahead of schedule like the Top 10 teams at Florida or Michigan, but we're right on time with the rebuild if you ask me.
Give Heard, Jefferson and crew more reps this season, more experience winning and finishing games, give our special teams guys some more hugs, and give Strong one more recruiting class and there's no reason Texas can't be right back in the conversation as one of the best teams in the conference (and nation) in another season. Hook 'em!