Men & Women

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We are standing in the changing room after training. All of us tired. But also lighter and “happier” than before training. Smiles. And our faces look easier. Today we were about 12 or 14 people, all men and myself. And I say that I decided not to lose weight. And Dave says that I should not, that I look great. And I say “Thank you” and explain that I meant for U.S. Open.  That I am exactly in between weights. 135Lbs with the gi. The cuts are 129Lbs and then 141Lbs for women.

I usually train with men, just because there are more men than women at the gym and in this sport. The lightest one is probably around 165Lbs. This means I am so used to work against a heavier fighter. If I opt for losing weight I have to starve myself, and with all the work load and training it weakens me up. Thus, the weigh is fine.

I get into the car. My both kids, who were waiting for me to finish training, are with me. I feel bad that they have to spend all this time in the gym, but they always say they do not mind. I look at them and I feel this deep love in me. Love that translates into care. As I drive home I think about this recent spark of articles about how hard it is for women to work in tech or to get funding in tech or to be tech company founder. And I think that this is true. Or it might be true in many cases.

It is the same way that it is harder for a woman to train in a mostly men team, where all your opponents are at least 30 pounds heavier. In sports I never think of it. I am the one who wants to enter this game and play here. And I do not mind the difference, I do not think I am in a disadvantage. I might be, but I do not care. I am going to train and fight anyway, because this is who I am. And I like it. I like pushing myself till I can feel my muscles giving it all for a few seconds. I like the sweat. I like grabbing the gi and pushing the other person around. I like to sprawl and control his head. I like when I can get out of a bad situation, after thinking that I was done, but not giving up. I like the eyes of my partner right before my head will go into his shoulder. I love the physical concentration of our bodies. You are never sloppy when you fight. I love every detail of fighting. This is why I do it.

The same is true to building a tech startup. I started working on my project two and a half years ago and I fully went into it this July. It is hard. It is mostly a male dominated world where women are welcome but a few stay. Because it gets really tough along the road. Getting a team is hard. Raising money is very hard. Dealing with a lot of men and a few women who will meet with you and reject your project. For different reasons, because they do not see how it is going to monetize, because I do not have a male cofounder (yes, people said that, and then rectified, that they meant a technical cofounder), because I am a mom, because they do not see the product market fit, because they just do not feel it. My male advisors look at my deck and the MVP and say I should not have problems raising funding. And then when I go for it I have all problems I could ever have. I think many just want to see if I stick around long enough working on the project after I have been rejected hundred times. May be men just stick around longer and women quit easier. I do not know.

I believe in what I do. I know that ultimately my product will help hundreds of people get jobs and live better. It is a long road though. And my natural way to deal with it is how I deal with fighting. I am not going to focus on disadvantages. I will fight regularly with a heavier opponent. I will train. I will show up. No matter how hard things are, how sad I am or how sore I am from yesterday. I will fight my way into improving myself. I will become good. I can do this because I know who I am and what I care about.

You have to know who you are. Once you have it you will find the way to achieve it. I think the major disadvantage is not sex or weight, it is not knowing yourself. This is what makes us less resourceful, this is what makes us give up on things we try to achieve. I guess the question is “What do you really care about?”.

Write What You Think

Last week I had a skype call with Kevin about the customer development interviews. Towards the end of the call Kevin said, “I am sorry I did not give you any advice. All I did, was to voice my opinion”.

Opinion vs. advice. Advice is generally directed towards the listener and it is about the speaker. The person giving the advice will try to place himself in your shoes and give you a hypothetical guidelines on what should be done in the situation. The advice is not about the speaker, he has not been there, and it is not about the listener, he is not the one talking. It is somewhere in between and it is about nobody in particular. Advice is entertaining to listen to, it does not lead us to the painful truth and most of the times it is, well, useless. How many great things have been done by following an advice? Probably not too many. Advice lacks personality.

Opinion. Opinion always belongs to the person talking. Thus, it is personal. It is about the one. It does not require speaker to talk about any hypothetical situation. Opinion is real. A lot of times it is vertical (meaning, it does not spread out all over the place). It is sometimes painful. It is always powerful. The listener is not an active subject. Thus, at the receiving end we learn to listen. Period. We learn to listen. I want to make sure we all get this. Listen. Not talk. And we learn to be open to change our point of view based on what we hear. From this change sprouts our growth. Btw, have you noticed, advice often does the contrary, it closes us up?

We value opinions. They propel the change. The good ones are based on thoughts, not on cliches. The best are powered by passion.

Next time, please, write what you really think, your opinion.

Barcelona, February 26th 2013

Leaving the Room

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Two days ago I was walking back home after a team meeting. It was raining and, as it happens sometimes, I was thinking whether or not I should just abandon my crazy startup ideas and get a regular well-paying job.

I was struck by the fact that I am committed to my vision and the startup because seventeen years ago I stood up in front of sixty people and left the room.

It was the first day of my student life, the first day of college, the first day of class. The auditory was filled with nervous students and we all listened to the aged professor who talked in general terms about our future. Thirty minutes in to the speech I stood up and asked the professor, if that was the only topic we were going to talk about for the next two and a half hours. The professor admitted that we were not supposed to talk about anything in particular on the first day of school. Then I said that I had more important things to do and could not lose my time in that way. I picked up my backpack and left the auditory. In front of all sixty something students.

I have to give credit to the professor. He turned out to be an interesting man and we had many insightful discussions on medieval poetry and prose later on. That first day of school he was just doing what he was supposed to do: cater to his auditory. Right now I understand that Spanish students did not expect to learn anything on the first day of class.

Since then I followed my path. I worked for others and I created my own projects. Majority of them failed, some of them survived. All these years my motivation has remained the same, my venues have changed. I work to make people more powerful, to show them the chances that lay in front of them, to encourage them to make their lives better. Our latest project Ticketshuttle (the website will go live in March) is an expression of this vision.

I believe in what we do. Even so, twice a day, I think that I am just messing up with my life and I should get a good job and help within the system. I know am capable of it. I can follow the directions. I run my own company not because I cannot work for others. I do it because I am committed to the vision of a better society and I have the urgency to play my part in *making* it better. And because when I was seventeen years old I stood up in front of sixty people and was able to leave the room as it was boring and not productive to be sitting there.

Barcelona, January 23rd 2013