Five Questions For … Geekdom Fund Co-Founder Michael Girdley
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up being untrue to who you really are. The decision to stay as long as I did in big company-America [was a mistake]. I learned a lot but at the same time, I say, why didn’t I do the thing that I knew was right? Why didn’t I have the courage? We all fight that courage challenge all the time. That decision to stay in for longer than I should have … I wish I could go back and tell me, “Hey, be true to who you are.”
Some lessons take longer to learn than others. After the 30th time you feel a little regret for not acting sooner. Also, getting older just helps. It’s easier to have perspective on things when you’ve in been in business 20 years rather than five.
X: What leadership lessons did you get from your parents?
MG: I think my parents really impacted upon me that harmony is super important. I think I invest a lot of effort in having great relationships with people, sometimes to an extreme, because I saw how hard they worked both in business and their personal lives to make that happen. I hate drama. I make it a priority on doing a little bit extra to make sure people are happy and feeling fulfilled in what they’re doing.
I have a very 21st century career. I don’t have a specific office. I have multiple titles and I can work where my laptop is. I deal with people as a partner, customer, mentor, mentee, those are all relationships where that philosophy extends. In practice you spend a lot of time trying to be a great listener, not to what they say but what they don’t say. Ask direct questions, “How are you feeling? How can I make things better for you?” Just trying to be a giving type person rather than a taking type person.
X: Where do you think your drive comes from?
MG: I don’t know! I think I’m highly motivated to accomplish things. I haven’t really sat down and asked myself, “Why am I motivated to do this stuff?” I’ve just accepted me for who I am, and I feel like going to do things. It’s never been something I’ve thought about. Why did I feel compelled to do that? I got up early to go the gym. Did it feel good to do it? Yes. I got to see my friends, hang out, and worked out—it makes me happy. I’m not going to worry about why. I worry about things that don’t work and the things that make me feel bad. Accomplishing things makes me feel good, so I keep doing it.
X: How do you define success?
MG: I see my life’s mission as maximizing my personal joy and other people’s joy. Are there KPIs for that? Not really. But in your gut you know if you’re leaving the world a better place than you started with it, if you’re helping other people achieve their goals, if you see people smiling more than they’re frowning because they’re near you, that’s important.