The vulnerability deficit


I don’t write here much anymore. It’s not for a lack of wanting. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of time. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of creative energy when everything is poured into work. Perhaps it’s mostly a lack of habit. One thing’s for sure is that the longer it goes without documenting the journey via the written word – the harder it is to get back into it. When you stop expressing your raw thoughts and feelings in a public forum, you go a long time between syncs. Then there’s almost so much to say, so much that’s missed, that it’s easier to say nothing at all. I’m calling this an accrued ‘vulnerability deficit’.

My vulnerability deficit ramped up when I became a true CEO. CEO in that you’re an executive of a corporation, have stakeholder expectations to manage, employee salaries to make happen, customers to satisfy, ongoing goals to achieve, and so forth. You become so careful and mindful of what you say, what you do, and how you do it that it’s better to delay your vulnerability. One day I’ll share more things in a book, I say. One day…

So, you end up focusing on communicating the wins. On curating digestible leadership qualities like being strong and cordial. You don’t want an investor to think you’re weak (heck, especially when you’re a female founder), and you don’t want your team to stop believing in you. You basically want to be a good, consistent, likable robot. But all the time, you’re just accruing more vulnerability deficit.

Melbourne-based Richenda Vermeulen, a founder of a digital agency, discuses this phenomenon in her recent post: ‘Why I’m-not scared anymore‘.

… I stopped writing publicly about personal things.

It’s was easy to talk about my passion for digital, my love for our team and the pride in our work. It was always true. It’s also safe. It’s freaking terrifying to share my heart, my intimate thoughts, my beliefs. Especially when I know that what I share can affect our income.

She was especially scared people would find out she was a Christian and that her personal opinions would affect her professional reputation.

It became easier to just stay silent, to limit my opinions to private, off-the-record conversations over coffee when it was safe to share.

As a manager, however, it’s sometimes hard to know what experiences you can and can’t talk about.

At the start of this year, I read Ian Bicking’s post on ‘Being A Manager Is Lonely‘. In it, Ian writes about his transition from programming to management, and how somewhere along the way the ability for him to talk freely about what he did diminished.

“This is a long digression, but I am nostalgic for how I grew into my profession. Nostalgic because now I cannot have this. I cannot discuss my job. I cannot debate the details. I cannot tell anecdotes to elucidate a point. I cannot discuss the policies I am asked to implement – the institutional instructions applied to me and through me. I can only attempt to process my experiences in isolation.”

As someone who loves to write and who’s also an entrepreneur, I want to find this balance and close the vulnerability gap. We’re in a time where hearing what people really think is refreshing and needed. The explosion in personalities like Elon Musk, Amy Schumer, and Donald Trump, is a testament to appreciating honesty regardless of whether you agree with what’s said or not.

So, here’s hoping for lots more content here in the coming months. :)

Image credit: Picasso

How to keep believing in yourself

Simon Pemberton

I stood there catching my breath. A gush of thoughts were racing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”

It’s funny how as soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. A metaphorical mirror – a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.

This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.

Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down. Paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me?

Some people think they’re awesome. They even outwardly share the sentiment. From a young age, parents coo to them how special they are. Unfortunately, I’ve battled with feeling the opposite for most of my life. Couple this with an energetic drive and you have a delicate tension to balance.

The thing about entrepreneurship is that you’re forever operating outside a box – or known boundaries. That’s why some of the greatest innovators are ignorant to begin with.

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” ~Bertrand Russell

This freedom can be crippling. Your confidence can be built to egocentric levels one day and smashed down to nothing the next. You contemplate how taking a job would feel like a sweet retirement. You are drowning in advice and critical feedback from everyone, and forget what it was like when you were in that position. You look around at everyone’s social media showreels and wonder if they are going through the same.

“Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness.”

It’s only now that publications like Inc. are uncovering tales from founders with articles such as The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. While one of the most-loved conferences by web geeks, Brooklyn Beta, created the space to host and share these conversations at this year’s event. Leading startup incubator Y Combinator also recently funded 7 Cups of Tea – a mental health platform that connects you with qualified listeners.

We’re only just beginning to rejoice in what sharing in this area can be like.

With some space, it’s been almost comical to personally reflect on my progress. How our company can be profiled in a national newspaper one day, an incredible co-founder join me the next and our growth be up 50% month/month in November – and still feel this way. Which brings me to:

“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”

It’s natural we want to keep pushing, but it’s important to recall the wins so you can curb any self doubt. One helpful tool is iDoneThis, which will show you what you did rather than your to-do list. The Minimalists discuss in the Costs and Benefits of Awareness how:

“Our standards change whenever we are infected with a new awareness. We scrutinize ourselves more. The more we scrutinize, the more the spotlight brightens, and the more our imperfections stand out.”

In How to Believe in Yourself in the Face of Overwhelming Self-Doubt on Tiny Buddha, Melissa Ng recommends to be careful with who you surround yourself with. When you are rebuilding your belief, keep away from toxic people who will tell you “No” or “You can’t”. I often divide people into two groups – your ‘critics’ and your ‘cheerleaders’. Your critics are crucial for providing awareness that helps you grow, but in times of self-criticism and doubt, devote time to your cheerleaders who will egg you on and boost you up.

Ng also says: “Self-doubt never disappears. Over time, you just get better at dealing with it. It will greet you every time you fall out of your comfort zone and whenever you strive to do something great. But know that it’s not something you have to fear or resent. Your doubts are only thoughts, not your future.”

Now excuse me while I go remember and appreciate I might actually know stuff. :)

Image credit: Simon Pemberton

Now you can pick my brain anytime


Hey fine people… on a bit on a blog post roll this week so for those who’ve not already checked out for the holiday season, there might be a few update notifications coming your way.

I recently learnt about a super-useful new service called Clarity founded by Dan Martell, where you can book time with global entrepreneurs, domain experts and generally those who can assist you in your next step but are hard-to-reach.

While I would love to give more if not all of my time to helping others achieve their dreams and goals, it’s hard to prioritise or give attention to it when there’s much to attend to with my ‘work work’. I used to be able to respond to queries directly but my inbox exploded, blanket LinkedIn requests kept coming, I blinked and missed @replies and I discovered a whole host of FB messages I didn’t realise I had. Therefore these ‘pick my brain’ call-outs and ‘coffee catchups’ have often resulted in an archive message or put in the rainy-day basket. BUT I’m excited I’ve now discovered Clarity as it seems like a great way to streamline these, and give my full attention to someone who’s thought about a specific need they have.

If you’re interested, head over to to check it out. If you then want to book a time, send me some background before the call and I’ll prep up before we chat. I’ve listed the areas of content, community, marketing and connections as stuff I can help out with.

And, of course, I encourage you to sign up to be an advisor as well. I’m planning a few calls to get feedback and guidance on The Fetch myself.

There’s also the option to donate the proceeds of a call to a cause or charity – I’m considering this for female entrepreneurship related ones.

The effect of success on ego

I tend to notice a general trend among upcomers and successful people. It seems the more successful or career accomplished one is (and yes, that in itself is subjective), the more adept they are at being aware of motivations and surroundings, and in turn humbled. To me, ego feels strongest in those building the confidence and emotional armour needed to execute on a vision. Finally, perhaps it’s impossible to return ego to previous levels once achievements amount.

Startup Abroad and the coliving, cohacking, coworking quest

So next month, I’m heading to Startup Abroad for two weeks of ‘destination coworking’ outside Ubud, Bali alongside 10 other entrepreneurs. Yes, I know… what a tough decision it’s been. ;) I’m actually viewing it as a time and space where I can do a bit of a ‘sprint‘ with my work and health. Get some fresh scenery from my fresh scenery. OK, I’ll stop making meta location independent jokes… It’s also going to be a very good research opportunity for The Fetch considering we need to be at the forefront of what’s happening in the future of work and living. We’ve seen great expansion in coworking over the past few years and the next evolution is to explore coliving – getting people together in one place and seeing what can be created from this.

Check out the Shareable piece published today by the host and organiser, Chelsea Rustrum. The group has been selected with not only the team dynamics and context in mind but also a few mental filters such as:

  • Purposeful entrepreneur: Want to have a positive impact on the world
  • Community minded: Understand, value and welcome collaboration and contribution
  • Good hearted: Open and able to listen, respond, and give back to others
  • Highly skilled: Legendary skills and interests that will help the group

Chelsea’s also said:

The group will also be challenged to think about and discuss how we want to design the future of work. When more homes are swapped or shared, possessions carry less meaning and the majority of Americans [although there are a few Australians attending too] can work from anywhere. What does that scenario look like and how do we build a community for that?

Some days I do wonder if we’ll look back on this time in years to come and think of it as the digital hippies slash pioneers era!

One of things that’ll be useful about the experience is the accountability we’ll have throughout. We’ll have to report on our goals and progress throughout the program.

Stay tuned for some updates from the ground next month…

Five more Australian startups to watch

Following on from the first post titled ‘Five Australian startups to watch‘, I’ve now researched some more startups that’ve piqued my interest coming into the New Year. Part of this series is to highlight great stuff happening in our community and to bring awareness through link love to those innovating and creating in Oz. As per my last write-up, I’d like to stress this list is independent – I’ve only met two founders below and pick startups based on a loose-‘watchability’ criteria. So without ado…

1. Kaggle

You know you’re off to a good start when a company has a CrunchBase profile! Here’s Kaggle’s. Last month, the now-SF-based startup raised $11 million in Series A from Index And Khosla Ventures – a promising and hefty amount for an Australian startup. Founded in 2010, this site hosts competitions to find analytical/statistical and predictive modelling solutions. Not dissimilar in concept from the multiplying logo-contest sites, Kaggle rewards big data scientists with thousands of dollars in exchange for the IP they provide on the challenges. Unless you’re a PhD from a quantitive field or in need of access to the collective Kaggle community brain, it’s unlikely you’ll ever use or take notice of this startup on a consumer level. Brands like Nasa and Microsoft will and do though.

Founder(s): @antgoldbloom
Funding: Series A of $11M

2. Pygg

Pygg is a recently-launched app based out of Pollenizer in Sydney that allows you to pay someone in a fun and social way. It’s quite simple – after you’ve registered with Pygg and integrated with PayPal, you can pay another user via Twitter and email. The service currently charges $2.50 (inc. GST) when you fill up your account, which is just a little more than the PayPal fees – it’ll be interesting to see how the business model evolves over time.

Founder(s): @pollenizer
Funding: Though Pollenizer’s fund

3. Open Shed

Following in the collaborative consumption style mainstreamed by the likes of Airbnb, Open Shed is a peer-to-peer marketplace allowing people to rent stuff off each other. The wheels were set in motion a year ago today after one of the founders saw #collcons leader Rachel Botsman give a talk at TEDxSydney and referenced such sites in the US and UK. Seeing the opportunity for a local equivalent, Open Shed launched a few months ago and has since won $10K from Nokia’s In Hindsight competition. It’ll be interesting to see how the concept goes since we’ve seen rental sites before in Oz through Rentoid and one of Angel Cube Melb’s startups has moved from renting to tasks.

Founder(s): @_lisafox & Duncan Stewart
Funding: Bootstrapped

4. SneakingDuck

Recently launched by the founders of Shoes of Prey, Sneaking Duck follows a similar online retail trajectory – this time as a glasses and eyewear version. I know what you’re thinking, who buys glasses without trying them on first and making sure the prescription’s right?! Well, the ex-Googler team have successfully done it before with hard-to-fit shoes and seem to have most things covered in their FAQs. These guys also know how to bootstrap, check out this informative post on funding as well as some of the other golden tidbits on their blog. Oh, and as the popularity of non (plano) lenses is proving, you don’t even need imperfect vision to get a pair!

Founder(s): @mikeee, @jodiefox, @mmmichaelfox & @ausmark
Funding: Self-funded/bootstrapped

5. Barkles (edit 2012 – site has shut down)

When I was in Berlin this year, I met up with the Ashton- and Madonna-backed app Amen, which touts itself as the best and worst of everything. So when I first saw the Melbourne-based Barkles, I thought it might be similar in the way that a user posts something other users agree or disagree with. However Barkles is predominantly web-based and allows for lengthier discussion on each statement. While some of the more accessible ‘dogfights’ like ‘Is Glee shit?’ or ‘Is Christmas a horrific, commercialized excuse of a celebration?‘ get your attention, in-depth and highly-engaged debate could make this site a long-term player. Add a bit of Quora’s tone to it and you’ll have something really powerful in this space.

Founder(s): @diesellaws & @jaydwhiting
Funding: Bootstrapped

Working on something you’d like to share? Email me.



P.S. Please feel free to rejuice this post when people are back at their desks mid-January.