Leadership is Lonely

Colin Powell, former general and Secretary of State, has a famous list of 18 leadership lessons. In it, the final lesson is as follows: Command is Lonely. And I, for one, agree.

One thing to know about me, is that my personality only amplifies the issue. Contrary to what you may think about me, I’m actually an introvert that acts like an extrovert when necessary. I’m outgoing, outspoken, make friends very well, but that’s not my nature, it’s my nuture. When I was growing up, I moved around a lot. I had 4 different elementary schools across 3 states, including 3 separate 1st grade classes, across 2 states. I attended 2 different high schools, 600 miles apart. With a lifestyle like that, if you’re not outgoing, you don’t make friends, and you probably end up highly depressed. So culturally, I was an outgoing and popular person. But naturally and at home, I was an introvert. I wanted to sit alone and read or write. Constantly. Don’t bother me, don’t talk to me, just leave me alone with my books and pen.

And nothing since then has changed. I still prefer independence. Even unhealthily at times. I sit in the bathtub alone, reading, for hours on end when possible. I enjoy being alone, thinking, reading, and writing. Yet others often see me as an outgoing, outspoken guy. And I’m not faking it, I’m just both at different times.

What I’m leading to is this: my introverted nature prefers disconnection from people. And my role as a leader only increases that in reality. When you’re a leader, you often are so busy leading people from the front that you look beside you..and it’s just you. No one is beside you, just behind you, following your example. And this is both healthy and unhealthy.

So while being a leader is great, and allows for progress to made in whatever sphere you’re in, just be prepared for the loneliness. It’s greater than you think.

Disclaimer: This is not a cry for help’ or complaint that I have no friends. This is simply a warning for other modern leaders to be aware of the loneliness that comes with leadership.

April 27, 2023 leadership

Black Pen. Red Pen.

There are a few productivity tools I keep within arms reach at all times.

They’re on my desks at work and at home, in my backpack, in my car’s console.

Pink sticky notes. Field Notes notebooks. An Action Method project book.

And Pilot G2-10 pens.

Two colors: a black pen and a red pen.

The black pen brings new ideas into the world.

The red pen strikes things out of existence.

Addition. Subtraction.

Creation. Deletion.

Black pen. Red pen.

In startups and in building products, you need both.

A black pen brings the ability to experiment and the courage to try new things.

Black pens are for adding new material to your workbench; fastening new features to a product or platform and delivering new value to users.

I sketch, notate, and dream on paper with the black pen.

New ideas, scratchpad notes, and wireframes come out of the black pen’s tip.

A red pen, on the other hand, allows you to exercise restraint, removing things that don’t work.

I print out Figma files and mark them up in red. I strike through ideas and wireframes in red.

Red pens are for the discipline of deletion, whittling away all that’s not useful. Use data and feedback to remove the things that simply don’t work.

Like the proverbial shoulder angel and devil, the black pen and the red pen are constantly at odds with each other, vying for prominence and influence.

And in this balance, there’s value to be found.

Creativity and constraint.

Black pen. Red pen.

November 18, 2022 startups leadership product development productivity

Digital Ownership

For a recap on what web3 is, check out this link.

As I’ve written before, crypto at its core is not financial. It’s economic. It allows for the transfer of value.

The most valuable things in the world are not financial.

Time. Attention. Relationship. Identity. Culture.

Cryptographic technologies and web3 allow for these things to be owned, traded, earned, and allocated.

The primary way that these things (and financial assets as well, for what it’s worth) are owned, traded, earned, and allocated are via smart contracts: programs and applications that are executed on blockchains like Ethereum that have a computing layer (in this case, the EVM or Ethereum Virtual Machine).

NFTs, tokens, and DAOs are all smart contracts that can encode not only digital ownership and belonging, but also rights and royalties.

Smart contracts allow for true digital ownership of any arbitrary data to be encoded for public consumption.

Smart contracts essentially embody Lawrence Lessin’s code is law” assertion in 2000 - they are not only the legislation” of the digital sphere, but they also are self-enforcing. There is no authoritarian regime or agency responsible for making sure that digital laws are followed.

So how does getting paid for ownership work (namely royalties)?

ERC-2981 is the Ethereum standard for encoding NFT royalties into Ethereum-based smart contracts.

And it seems to work: Ethereum is responsible for over $1.8 billion in NFT royalties to date.

But there’s a secret in the industry…by and large, royalties are not enforced at the smart contract layer.

Sure, there’s a minor problem with ERC-2981 as a standard”: it’s an opt-in standard, as it must be in a decentralized, cooperation-based environment like blockchain development.

But namely, the issue here is the incentive structure for marketplaces: they need to attract sellers, and sellers will prefer zero-to-low royalties.

And the marketplaces have to enforce royalty payouts according to the published standard.

But they largely don’t. They implement their own.

This means that there are multiple standards” for royalty payments in NFT contracts.


To date, the power rests with the marketplaces, not the creators or even contract developers.

Marketplaces have to agree to, adhere to, and enforce the standards…but the incentives aren’t there.

The state of royalties in the year 2022? Royalties are still fairly centralized in the hands of the marketplaces and the market-builders.

Code is not yet law.

Want to enjoy the ride? Help us build Bunches!

Give us some feedback on our TestFlight.

Disclaimer: as always, this space is moving extraordinarily fast, and the information contained in this post may be rendered outdated within hours of its posting. Definitely do your own research…but also feel free to follow and ping me on Twitter, Farcaster, or LinkedIn. Happy to chat!

November 2, 2022 web3 crypto

What is web3?

Note: On October 4th, Bunches is partnering with a number of other organizations here in the state of Tennessee to kickoff an event series targeted around educating hobbyists and professionals alike on the ins and outs of building in blockchain. I have the honor and pleasure of emceeing the event, and would love to see you out! RSVP here.

Crypto, at its foundation, is not financial.

Crypto’s core nature is economic.

This distinction is nuanced…but important.

Economics is the study of how value is produced, consumed, and moved in the world, primarily via goods and services. Finance is derived from economics, as financial instruments and markets are very efficient ways of moving and storing economic value.

Cryptography, particularly when combined with decentralized blockchains, allows for the digital ownership and transference of value.

Cryptocurrencies are a clear example of this: they allow for the digital transfer of liquid financial value. The DeFi (or decentralized finance) industry is another example within the category of digital financial value”.

Some of the most valuable things in the world aren’t financial in nature: time, attention, relationship, identity.

But these things are still owned, traded, earned, and allocated.

While not financial, these things — time, identity, attention, etc. — are economic in nature.

The systems and technologies that allow these instruments” to be owned, earned, and traded are collectively web3.

These systems and technologies include protocols that provide identity on top of a public key (Lens, ENS, etc.), protocols that provide for community or communication (like Farcaster or XMTP), or apps that combine all of the above (like Bunches).

Cryptocurrencies and DeFi offer benefits like moving and growing wealth without the oversight of centralized institutions like state treasuries or banks, web3 offers benefits like building an audience or communicating with another without the oversight of centralized institutions like Big Tech™’s Meta or Google.

web3 brings a lot of value to our digital world, in ways that we haven’t seen before.

The biggest value-add in my opinion?

Censorship resistance.

This not only guarantees everyone’s voice, but provides job security to digital creators.

No more building an audience over the course of years only to have it yanked from you by the YouTubes, Instagrams, and Twitters of the world.

No more wondering if you’re going to be demonetized for talking about firearms, or Trump, or cannabis, or universal basic income.

No more tiptoeing around the topics you want to discuss, how you want to discuss them.

Now…some people believe that web3 will replace or supplant the existing World Wide Web as the dominant way that people interact with one another digitally.

I disagree.

web3 is complementary to the existing web, adding functionality and optionality that didn’t exist before.

The existing web isn’t going anywhere for a while.

But this new, upgraded web is going to be a lot of fun for quite some time.

Want to enjoy the ride? Help us build Bunches!

Give us some feedback on our TestFlight.

Disclaimer: this is an attempt to define web3, a nefariously nebulous term. As such, this attempt falls short in a couple of ways, but it’s a good starting point for folks trying to understand the difference between crypto”, defi”, and web3”.

September 29, 2022 web3 crypto

Thoughts on Farcaster

My Twitter account is old enough to drive.

Granted, it’s just a learner’s permit, but still.

That’s older than most web3 founders. (I kid, I kid.)

I remember when Twitter users were called Tweeple. And we had Tweetups. And the ecosystem was open. And the API was useful. And builders were aplenty. And Tweetie, TweetBird, and TweetDeck were independent clients that we all loved and used. The value-over-vanity mindset.

And the momentum. The joy. The this-is-special feeling.

And that exact feeling that is now gone from Twitter…I get from the Farcaster community.

I didn’t get it from Clubhouse.

I didn’t get it from Paparazzi.

I don’t get it from BeReal.

It’s obvious to me that they’re proverbial pan flashes.

But I see it in Farcaster…and that’s what worries me.

If we’ve collectively been just looking for a Twitter replacement, why didn’t anyone jump ship to app.net or Mastodon? (answer: tech personalities aren’t on Mastodon), but another question surfaces: what’s to prevent Farcaster-as-Twitter from inheriting the same problems of scale? The spam, the clowns, the trolls, the dilution of signal, the increase of noise.

Of course, these are concerns that have been brought up before, and ones that I know both Dan and Varun are well-aware of as thoughtful builders in the space…but it honestly doesn’t matter.

I’m not worried about Farcaster even if/when the purple app does inherit these problems. Why?

Because the real power of Farcaster isn’t as a decentralized Twitter clone app; the real power is the protocol.

Don’t get me wrong: the purple app is crucial to seeding the network and showing what can be done with it. But the most exciting thing about Farcaster are the apps that haven’t been built yet. With every micro-app launch, we get a closer glimpse of what’s possible.

From @greg’s SearchCaster, to Farcaster News from @kn, to Perl from @ace and @peterkim, it’s cool to see other folks building on top of the content generated by casts.

But we’ve yet to see new and interesting ways to generate casts.

Here’s an interesting thought to ponder: to date, we’ve really only seen the purple app broadcast casts to the network. Other broadcast apps will come.

I’m fascinated by the idea that casts !== tweets.

What else can they be? Insta posts? Public community messages? News bulletins?

I believe that Farcaster’s longevity will be defined not by the purple app, but by the community’s ability to utilize the protocol in new, interesting, and valuable ways: both consumption and production.

Twitter has long been a platform looking for a product.

I truly believe that the product whiplash within their API ecosystem has done more damage to their reach than not having an edit button or spam accounts or clear censorship policies.

So why has Twitter not focused on building a platform and instead looking to build a product?

Frankly: they’ve had to. Because Twitter is a Web 2.0 business and needs to make money from productization.

Twitter is a platform without a product.

Farcaster’s different.

Since the protocol is the main thing, Farcaster is a platform as a product, which is very different.

And that’s why I’m not worried about the purple app at scale. Because there will be other apps that use the protocol in new and interesting ways. The blue app. The green app. The yellow app. The orange app.

The pink app.

September 26, 2022 farcaster twitter social media

One of the major mistakes I see in both startups and established companies is moving their talented contributors to management simply because they are talented contributors. The reality is this:

Just because someone is great at doing the work doesn’t mean they’ll be great at leading the workers.

For instance, if you have a software engineer who is phenomenal at building neural networks does not necessarily mean that he or she should be managing other people. So many companies reward fantastic contributors by moving them to management, to the detriment to both the individual and the company.

Whenever your company tries to force people into a role that they don’t have the skills for, it becomes a huge liability. Here are some reasons why that’s a problem:

  1. Effective management requires a different skill set than contributing. Only very extraordinary individuals possess both the talent to implement and the talent to manage. In our software engineer example, how often have you met someone who can handle both neural network architecture and complex political situations between cross-functional partners while equipping the people they manage to do their best work? It’s very rare indeed. The bottom line is that people-management is a skill-set, just as software engineering, salesmanship, and culinary art are skill-sets. Some people have it, some people can learn it, and some people never will excel at it.

  2. You lose a phenomenal contributor while gaining a mediocre manager. When your career ladder only exists of management rungs, your contributors feel capped” in their career, and will therefore leave your company upon realizing that they definitely do not want to manage people. For those willing to give it a shot, they are often doing so only because of lack of options, not because of the presence of passion for managing people. Don’t allow your career ladder to be one of the reasons your organization loses talent.

  3. Other contributors will feel the brunt of your career ladder’s shortcomings. The person promoted to management could possibly feel elated, at least at first. He or she just received a promotion, a title change, and a position of perceived authority. But the failures of your career ladder will eventually feel their direct reports. Not only do they now have a leader who may not be a good manager, but they’ve also lost a valuable colleague alongside them in the trenches”.

  4. It builds a culture of contributors as second-class citizens to management. When your promotional chain only communicates or includes people-management positions, those in contributing positions feel like they aren’t as recognized or rewarded. If there are no senior-level and above contributor positions, your talent will soon leave for a company that recognizes knowledge workers as necessary as people managers.

###Possible Solutions

  1. Lattices, not ladders. Ladders are single-path tools. One way up or down. A lattice, on the hand, has multiple paths, both vertically and horizontally. LinkedIn has done a solid job of this, with a management” career path as well as a technical” career path, each well-defined, and flexing from one career path to another is not only allowed but encouraged when the context calls for it. If I’m an employee at your company, and I want to remain at your company for a decade as a contributor, is there a clear career path for me to follow, or would you at some point talk to me about managing people? In addition to allowing people to enter people management, you should also allow for people to remain a contributor while advancing in their career as well.

  2. Encourage cross-functional career changes. As long as cross-functional career changes (product to engineering, marketing to finance, line cook to front-of-house, etc.) are clearly communicated in advance to all parties involved, they can be very healthy for a company’s culture. It allows for people to find their passion while putting the most skilled person in a position suitable for them. Again, communication is key because you don’t want for territorial feuds to begin across your organization as people try to poach resources, but when done in a healthy manner, cross-functional career changes can be a positive experience for all involved.

  3. Offer opportunities to explore management pre-promotion. So you think you want to manage?” classes, allowing contributors to be mentors, and delegating time-bound projects and teams to contributors allows them to explore what it looks like to manage people in a safe environment with an exit point. These opportunities also allows you to evaluate the person in a leadership role without major consequence if it doesn’t work out.

  4. Create a leadership-development program. Regardless if someone is a contributor or people-manager, they can still utilize leadership skills. In fact, the amount of influence one exhibits as a contributor is often what separates a senior-level contributor from someone more junior. By building a program to develop leaders, you bolster the scalability of your organization with regards to management, because you will eventually find people passionate about managing and leading people while encouraging contributors to exhibit more influence within their role. It’s a win-win.

March 29, 2015 management career leadership