Last week, I went on vacation to Boston with my family. While I really enjoyed visiting the city, some of the best parts were meeting up with two people. One is Jack (whom I'll dedicate a whole post to how he helped us solve a big tech problem last year), and the other is Brian Vizarreta. I'd like to share the Three Lessons Brian taught us.
I had never met Brian in person. In fact, a few months back, he cold emailed us asking about our startup experience in the construction space. Brian is the Innovation Manager at Consigli Construction in Boston, and he is the founder of Cata-List, his own construction startup. What's awesome about Brian is his eagerness to learn. He wanted to hear our complete startup story: the highs and especially the lows, our mistakes, our approach to the industry, etc. Anyway, we kept in touch every few months.
Anyhow, I asked Brian if he wanted to meet up, and he immediately said yes. When we were making plans, he asked if I wanted to be in a video interview. Whoa! I didn't expect this since I thought we were meeting informally. BUT there are lessons here.
Lesson 1: "Document. Don't Create"
When Brian was setting up the video shoot, I told him I was a bit nervous since I'm pretty scripted on camera (see my own video blogs to laugh?). I also told him I didn't really do video or written blogs anymore because it was so time consuming. Then he dropped a quote that I can't forget: "Document. Don't Create".
Brian explained that he learnt this from Gary Vaynerchuk. He said it was really hard to create content from scratch all the time, and sooner or later, you're going to run out of things to say. Instead, he suggested to document our journey, especially if we're aiming to do interesting and innovative stuff. It's the insights and challenges overcome that people want to hear about, not the shiny, airbrushed, final product. Then, Brian encouraged us to do the same.
Wow. Mind blown.
In all the years that I fought myself to do content marketing, my tunnel vision never brought me this insight. We were trying to find a solution for so long do this as cheaply and simple as possible, but gave up.
Lesson 2: Be Authentic"
Brian then taught us that if you "document" your journey, it ends up being authentic anyways if we don't try to polish it to hide the mistakes. He said that the reason he liked to speak to us was because we didn't hide Shapetrace's failures when we chatted. (Brian didn't realize that we probably shared more than we usually do as he caught us during our period of turmoil. We're somewhat image conscious, but talking it out is therapeutic.) Internally at Shapetrace, our culture and leadership style is to not hide your moments of weakness as a leader and for everyone to understand that "silence is compliance" if you don't speak up on something you disagree with, no matter your position (read The Hard Things about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg). It never occurred to us that this could be applied publicly too to an extent.
Lesson 3: I don't have a third lesson. Mind blown already.
The human mind loves to work in "threes", but my mind is already blown because of the first lesson. So I'm going to document, not create a third lesson.
Anyhow, this new mindset is going to take some practice to get into routine, and we need to learn how to optimize this for SEO and stuff. BUT we need to start somewhere.
Thanks, Brian for teaching us and pointing us down this path. Brian's channels are here: