Eric Kraus

17 Inspirational Quotes from Unicorn CEOs

Unicorn companies are those that have reached $1B or more in valuation based on fundraising activities. Many popular names make this list, including Uber, Pinterest and Snapchat. Below are a few inspirational quotes from some these unicorn CEOs and founders.

Quotes from Unicorn CEOs

The bigger a company gets, the more people are involved in decisions, the slower decisions get made. Look, the whole theory of startups is that three motivated people can go and do something that every company can’t.

Garrett Camp, Uber

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How to Wake Up Early – Tricks to Getting the Most Out of the Day

For the last year, I’ve been working on a goal of waking up at 5am. I’ve had a great amount of success with this strategy…and, not just because…it really has completely rocked my productivity and quality of life. It was a little bit of a shift at first, but overall not that hard of a transition to make.

Why even do this?

Getting up early can be a great way to get more done and be more productive. There is already a ton of research and content on the web discussing these benefits too.

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What Climbing Mt Rainier Taught Me About Setting Goals

In August, I had the opportunity to step foot on the 5th largest peak in the contiguous United States. How would I describe it? Epic.

Mt. Rainier is not only a difficult & technical climb, it is used as a training mountain for higher peaks of the Himalayas. Those who have reached the summit will tell you, it is both physically and mentally enduring.

So what grand lessons did I learn from this adventure? Lots. But the most analogous were those to my personal life and career, specifically around goal setting.

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Responsive Resolutions 2016

Here’s something new to try for 2016.  Instead of one big “new year’s resolution”, try creating 12 monthly “responsive” resolutions.

The Old Way

The challenge with trying to tackle one big resolution for a whole year is that it gets harder and less beneficial as the year goes on. Resolutions you start at the beginning of the year will rarely be the same goals you would end the year with. Life goes on and we change. So should our goals and commitments.

Responsive Resolutions

Responsive Resolutions seeks to fix the problems with year-long resolutions and the reason why many people start strong, but fade out over the year. With Responsive Resolutions, the focus is on smaller, achievable monthly goals that align to a longer-term vision or lifestyle change.

For example, a common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. However, a better long-term lifestyle change would be to “be healthy”. With that as the “vision”, each month you can create goals like working out, avoiding sweets, etc. It will be much easier to keep these commitments for a month which will keep your motivation up while not boiling the ocean for a whole year.

[tweet_box design=”box_01″ url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow’ -George S Patton #responsiveResolutions”]”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” -George S. Patton [/tweet_box]

3 Steps to Responsive Resolutions

1. Reflect on a long-term “Vision” or aspiration you want to aim for *

Where do you want to be in 1, 3 or 5 years? What does your career look like? Who are you friends with? What kind of physical health are you in? It is critical that you are emotionally connected to this vision in some way. If not, the chances of success are significantly reduced.

2. Reflect on the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Set the first month’s resolution

What do you need to start today? Really…today. Also, what do you need in order to set yourself up for other months down the road? Your first month doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t try to over do it. Start small and focus on commitment. Being successful is more important than being perfect.

Remember the Patton quote.

3. Do not over plan! Get started and adjust as you go

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the current month, choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions/goals ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and use the “agile” methodology to help hone in what you need at that time.

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the past month, you then choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and modify what you need at that time to continue toward your vision.


* Pro Tip: If done well, you will never actually achieve your vision. What?!?  Over time, as you are accomplishing your goals and reflecting more, you should be continually evolving your vision. It will grow as you do.

I gained a lot from doing this activity last year, so I’m excited to share my journey again for 2016. I, and a few others, will be updating Twitter frequently with #responsiveResolutions hashtag.


What do you think of this idea?

Like it? Disagree with it? Share your thoughts below.

Do you know Power BI?

If you’re not up on the latest from Microsoft in the business intelligence space, check out this quick 2 minute video. It’s amazing the amount of innovation that is going into analytics and visualizations. Many people have said Excel is “one of the best, most critical BI tools we have”. Microsoft is now taking BI to the next level.

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Advice for Running Meetings More Effectively

We’re all busy these days but there’s nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting. Here’s some advice for running meetings people on your team actually want to attend.

Advice for Running Meetings More Effectively


1. Types of Meetings: Choose whether the meeting is a “status” meeting or a “decision” meeting

Make sure that everyone invited is aware of the purpose of the meeting. There are basically two types of meetings: “status” meetings and “decision” meetings. A single meeting cannot be both. For both types of meetings, it is still critical to create an agenda, and it’s equally important that you stick to it.

Meeting Agenda Format

If the purpose of the meeting is to update the team on “status”, everyone (or the appropriate people) should give an update. There are several strategies for this: round-robin, etc. The meeting char/organizer’s job is to allow enough time for everyone to provide his or her status. One additional thing to be aware of is people who consistently volunteer to go first and then leave the meeting early. By not having too many “status” meetings, this should help mitigate that challenge.

“Everyone does NOT need to share an update”

If the meeting’s purpose is to make a “decision”, the focus should be on doing just that. In this meeting, everyone does NOT need a turn to share an update. Meaning, there is no need to do any type of round-robin or “turn-style” sharing. The meeting chair/organizer’s job is to keep the conversation on track and make sure the decision is made by the end of the meeting.

One more thing to consider…if your team is only having status meetings, are you moving the ball forward?

2. Do the necessary prep work

It’s not respectful or productive to schedule a meeting and not share the agenda. You’ve requested that people take time out of their day to attend, and then not give them the full context of what is going to be discussed will appear as a waste of their time. This also goes hand in hand with #1 and a clear purpose.

In most cases, an agenda or an outcome is mandatory. Also, many times meetings take longer than are actually needed. So if at all possible, send out an agenda or any prep work at least a day or two in advance. As a best practice, I always try to do this at the same time I send out the invite.

3. Start late, end early

Being late is rude. Besides that, you’re holding up the meeting from accomplishing its goal. If your team/company’s culture is notorious for being 5 minutes late, start the meeting at 10 minutes after. You’re better off starting “on-time” with everyone’s attention than working through interruptions.

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

This rule also applies to the meeting’s duration. Parkinson’s law says “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion“. Meetings always seem to expand to the space they have been given. If you schedule an hour meeting, it will always seem to take that full hour. However, the same meeting, with a bit more structure and focus, could many times be accomplished in 50 minutes or even 30 minutes.

Schedule meetings with agendas that can be covered in 20-25 or 50-55 minutes. This will leave an extra 5-10 minutes before and after as a buffer. Don’t assume everyone will be on-time. Also, don’t expect others will want to stay late either. Having an adequate buffer will ensure the meeting runs smoothly and ends appropriately.

4. Stand, walk or otherwise get away from distractions

We’ve all been in conference calls/meetings where someone asks a question and, following a brief pause, we hear the response, “Umm… can you repeat the question?” This is a red flag that the people are disengaged.

It likely means one of two things:

  1. your meeting isn’t important to them (or they don’t understand why it should be)
  2. the person *thinks* they can multi-task


Related: The Worst Advice We’ve Been Given About Productivity


If at all possible, schedule meetings in-person, this will significantly reduce the amount of distractions and “multi-tasking”. If you have remote attendees, try using video or having an active “back channel” (email/IM/social) with everyone in the meeting to keep them engaged.

5. Take excellent notes, follow up with the team

It’s unlikely that everyone on the team will be invited to every meeting. Taking good notes allows others to catch up. However, more importantly, even people who DID attend, likely won’t remember everything that was discussed during the meeting.

Notes give the full team, even those that didn’t attend the meeting, a place to go back and review what was discussed. This is probably most critical for confirming follow up action items. After the meeting, send a copy of the notes out to each person invited and get buy-in that they are being ‘accepted’. Later, you’ll have a consistent process for retrieving historical notes and follow up items, validating that they have been completed.


Do you have any other tips or advice for running meetings?  Please share them below!

Ask Stupid Questions…Please!

The local Microsoft Technology Center has a mantra of “No guessing”…and I love it. All engagements start out with a level-set that in order for the effort to be successful, all assumptions must be validated and no concerns left unaddressed. I have really enjoyed this collaborative ‘mandate’. There is a level of efficiency AND effectiveness that comes with the removal of all the usual barriers.

However, this level productivity maturity only comes when people talk. “No guessing” is a theme that manifests itself through full transparency (and that means everyone). This means people need to speak up when they have doubts and when they disagree. And yes, as you can imagine, great listening skills are still valued, and needed.

I recently read a fascinating quote by Abraham Lincoln via a blog post by Simon Terry:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Unfortunately, many of us belong to a culture that still feels they cannot be seen as vulnerable. I see it every day…and I’m admitting…I fall victim too. We lie, exaggerate and cheat ourselves by making it appear as if we’ve got everything under control and aligned to a solid vision. In reality, we could all use some type of help. And especially when we are part of a team…ego is the antithesis to team.

Those people who ask questions and never let doubts or concerns fester often end up helping the entire team move forward faster toward its goals.

Valuable Things to Do With Your Free Time

Many will probably laugh at this title. Free time? Yes! In reality, we all have some amount of free time. It’s the time that isn’t dedicated to school, job, family, etc. We likely already use this time to catch up on our favorite TV show or go work out.

Using this free time to do something “valuable” can be an important part of staying mentally and physically strong. Often people think the only way to relax is to do “nothing”. But in fact, many people unwind by doing activities that other people would perceive as effort.

We first need to explore what “valuable” means to you. Are you the type of person that is a perpetual learner? Or, are you the type that is always overly stressed out? Based on the type of person you are, you will value an activity in your free time differently. The first personal would likely pick up a book to read, while the second person would rather have a massage to relax. Once you know what energizes you, you can use that to choose things that are rewarding for your body and mind.

Let’s look at some types of activities and examples in each.


Do something for your self. In this category, you should do things that are beneficial to both your mental and physical well-being. Examples of activities can be meditation, reading a new book, journaling, going for a walk, working out, etc. etc. The key is that you are doing it because it’s good for you (even though you may not necessarily enjoy it every time).


Learn something new. Don’t worry, this includes more than just reading. For example, you could watch a documentary/movie about something interesting. You could even search the internet for the latest fashion trends. Or maybe learn to knit. Of course, you can read too. The key is to learn something different (new) each time.


Do something for others. This could be stocking food at the local food shelf or even helping out at the humane society walking dogs. There are TONS of opportunities to help out around your community. If you are looking for some suggestions, take a look at VolunteerMatch.


Do something fun! Go for a bike ride. Paint a picture. It’s important to do something that you like and that is fun. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “good” for you, but it shouldn’t be harmful either. It must be enjoyable. If you’re stuck on ideas, check out some of these resources:


Do something for more money. If you are motivated by having some extra cash to spend, using your free time to work a second job can definitely be categorized as valuable. You don’t necessarily need to get a second full-time job either. There are lots of ways to make money from home (part-time). Check out a few of these inexpensive books which have a wealth of ideas to make some side-money at home.


Just by putting in a little thought, you’re likely already on the right track to making valuable use your time.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Any athlete will tell you, practicing more won’t necessarily make you any better. Just the same, working more hours won’t necessarily improve your quality: “Work smarter, not harder”, they say. Real quality comes from analyzing process, learning from and improving mistakes and rehearsing good behaviors. This is why athletes have a coach…and we need one in our personal lives too.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”

If there’s one single thing I retained from my high school years, it would be a quote from my band instructor, Mr. Robinson. He would drill into our heads a mantra that still has so much applicability today. Every day during practice he would tell us, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

a lesson from golf

A golf swing is a great analogy for life. We all have personal flaws. For those who don’t hit the ball perfectly each time, you’re just like me. I have a very predictable, yet frustrating, slice off of the tee-box. Some tell me to just “play the slice”, but that’s really just reinforcing my handicap. Every spring, I am determined that I’ll fix the slice. So, I head to the driving range as soon as the snow thaws and buy 2 or 3 buckets of balls. I take a couple swings and see where I’m at. If not good, I change something (grip, stance, backswing, etc) and take a few more swings. After hundreds of balls and some of the goofiest grips, stances, etc, I still have the same slice. “Ah, better luck next year”, I say.

The reason why I can’t improve is pretty simple. Despite all my crazy adjustments, I am practicing bad form.

don’t practice bad habits

If you have bad habits, or habits that prevent you from achieving your goals, stop them as fast as you can. Every day that you practice those rituals, you further cement them into your routine. Introducing a new habit (e.g. working out) is hard, but stopping an existing habit (e.g. smoking) can be even harder. Even harder than making these changes is sometimes realizing what needs to be changed. This is why you need a coach.

get a coach

Before starting a self-improvement regimen, get a coach. All professional athletes have a coach. Why not have one for your personal life? An athlete may be excellent at what he/she does, but a coach offers a third-party perspective that cannot be seen by an athlete themselves. Sometimes being too close to the problem IS ‘the problem’. This is my golf swing problem. As much as I read about what I should do, I am too close to the problem. I need a coach.

For your personal life, a mentor or even a community of like-minded people can offer observations and help continually evolve your swing. Once you have a coach, you can start to experiment with guidance you receive.

experiment. but with guidance

There is no right way to improve your personal life. There is no single process, advice or phone app that can help every person. It’s very important to try a number of things and record how they work or don’t work. If you’re giving journaling a shot, this is an excellent writing prompt. Give each experiment at least 3-4 weeks to work. Don’t experiment with more than 1 or 2 things at a time. It will be hard to determine what is/isn’t working with too much going on. Report your learns back to your coach and repeat the feedback loop.

Perfect is not a reality that should be feasible

If you are investing in improving your life, you should already be the type of person that realizes it will never be “perfect”. And that’s ok.

What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

Self-improvement is a continuous cycle of goal setting, hard work, reflection and refined goal setting. “What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.” So getting as much feedback and self-reflection on the what part will pay dividends as you get started.

And, next year, I WILL fix that slice. I promise.