Ron Palmeri Practiced This One Strategic Exercise That Helped Him Be More Effective In Conversations
Manage episode 260081366 series 2661367
Ron Palmeri, serial entrepreneur who turned to venture investing with a special twist, scored some lucky wins early on at Minor Ventures. The fund would incubate and build the businesses itself while Ron was actively involved from a strategy perspective. Included in some of the companies they launched was OpenDNS which was acquired by Cisco for $635 Million and Google Voice (previously Grand Central), which was acquired by Google. Shifting from the venture strategy side, Ron took his luck as an operator when he launched Layer, which was originally announced at TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 and took home the winning prize. Through his experience as a venture investor and operator, Ron candidly shares key insights he learned on how mastering his own personality helped him move passed his leadership limitations and identifies an exercise he found particularly helpful to be more effective in conversations.
In this episode you will learn about:
- Building a company
- Managing and scaling a team
- Raising capital
- Effective Communication
About Ron Palmeri:
As an early stage product and markets guy, and in partnership with some world class entrepreneurs, Ron helped launch innovative products and companies, including Grand Central/Google Voice, OpenDNS, Scout Labs, Prism and Layer.
Currently, Ron is focused on the future of living in all facets, from richly diverse communities and technologies in Urban Village settings – to new models for long term physical and mental health.
Connect with Ron Palmeri:
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Ron: We really believed that there should be certain companies, more products that should exist that didn’t.
Tanya: That’s Ron Palmeri, a seasoned entrepreneur, venture investor based in Silicon Valley with unique investing philosophy.
Ron: So rather than more of a traditional early-stage venture, VC-type thing, we actually ended up starting companies. So we started a company with Craig Walker, who had run a company called Dialpad that he sold to Yahoo, and we had a pretty strong point of view about how the internet and telecommunications could come together. Craig originally wanted to call the company something else and we couldn’t get the URL, so we ended up taking the Grand Central domain that we had acquired basically in the shutdown and gave it to the company. So that’s how the company Grand Central got named. In the end, after only about 18 months, the company was sold to Google and became Google Voice. That was a pretty good, right out of the gate thing.
Craig is a phenomenal entrepreneur. He’s now really dedicated his career to the future of communications. He’s now running a company called Dialpad again. He actually bought the domain back from Yahoo and last I saw, the company was worth about half a billion dollars, so Craig’s really done a phenomenal job. That was a company that we started with Craig, and then we actually started another company around the same time, end of 2005, called OpenDNS, and there another phenomenal entrepreneur, David Ulevitch, took OpenDNS to a sizable exit. It was north of $600 million exit to Cisco, and now David is a GP at Andreessen.
We were incredibly fortunate that the model that we had, which was to help start companies from scratch was – couldn’t have been with two better leaders. If you want to talk about leadership, both of them are phenomenal leaders and have proven that over the course of really long careers. David was 23 years old when we started working with him, and so we were really fortunate to work with him very early in his career. Craig had already had some great wins under his belt. It was just really interesting to see the difference between a more experienced CEO and entrepreneur in Craig and then working with David really finding his legs initially and really having a great career from there.
Tanya: That’s really amazing. You said that they are both really incredible leaders. What have you seen both or either of them do that is unique and you think has been at the source of their success?
Ron: Yeah, well, so it’s interesting because this maps, to a certain extent, to my own path having done this stuff I was doing within Minor Ventures, helping start these companies. Then in the last few years, having tried to run one myself and realized that I think probably the way I’ve really now come to think of it is what I always enjoyed doing was looking into markets and imaging products and companies and being able to see what I generally now think of as the treasure map exercise.
There’s the X on the map, and then there’s the dotted lines that get there, and I’d say ten years ago, I thought that exercise was really the substantial exercise. What should be built; what markets are worth going after; having the insight that others don’t see about what’s potentially there, and then it was a simple matter of execution to follow the dots on the path and dig up the gold.
I think having been involved in being mostly right about a product and market but struggling to execute the business, I now completely converted I think 99% of the exercise is literally the day-to-day working with the team, motivating the team, making sure the company’s properly funded, and all that. It’s not about knowing where the gold is; it’s actually the day in, day out getting there. What I’ve observed with both Craig and David in different ways is they were both phenomenal at inspiring the team to deliver really high-quality work. In both cases, they launched initial products that were not just minimum buyable but really very strong functioning products right out of the gate very, very quickly
I still believe that the product is critical in the first year or two because ultimately everything from the brand promise to what you’re trying to do for customers is ultimately contained in the product. No amount of marketing will overcome a crappy product. In both cases, OpenDNS and Grand Central, the initial product was launched very, very quickly, as in under six months, to customers that directly perceived the value and were very – at that point, people weren’t talking about net promoter scores and that type of stuff but in both cases, customers, users, were really the best source of momentum because they really got what the product was trying to do for them and they were very much promoting it within the networks.
Tanya: Yeah, that’s a total game-changer when your product is being brought up at a dinner table by friends that have used it or are suggesting it. It’s the growth of your product takes a totally different life of its own as opposed to really trying to get out there and do customer acquisition in the regular channels.
In thinking about your operational side, what are you doing now?
Ron: The last company I was involved with was a company called Layer. We actually just sold it to another company called Engagio, so Engagio was founded by John Miller, who’s one of the co-founders of Marketo. That completes the journey for Layer. Interestingly, when I started Layer, I wasn’t the CEO and didn’t intend to run it. It was something I fell into as we were raising money and recruiting and I’d say the biggest challenge I had is just shifting my perspective having been in a role where I was working with great entrepreneurs and trying to be helpful versus being the person in the day-to-day seat.
I think what I’ve probably determined at this point is I like the role of support more than the role of day-to-day operations At this point, I’m thinking about a couple of – back to thinking about things I think should exist and don’t see them in the market and that sort of stuff. I’m getting excited about that now.
I took a little bit of a break. I took my wife to Hawaii for a week because I felt like I owed it to her after the years of working many hours, not with the best outcome. That’s been very humbling and has certainly given me a lot of perspective on how I could operate differently going forward.
Tanya: Hindsight is such a gift and unfortunately, I have seen in myself and others that pain is always a cue to learn. Growth is the accumulation of painful experiences to varying degrees, and the most, I think, undervalued exercise is to really take time and explore hindsight. What happened? Where are the lessons that you specifically need to learn from your journey? Have you taken time to do that?
Ron: Yeah, I completely agree. I think it’s helpful to have a little bit of separation. The way I put it as we were trying to work through various outcomes, the way I was thinking is it’s premature to do a postmortem while the patient’s still alive. You need to have a little bit of time, but I’d say it’s incredibly – it’s one of those things where one way to look at it is if one never has any adversity, then they’re not necessarily being challenged, too. What’s been interesting having gone through some challenges, especially trying to make the mental shift from the way I was operating before and where I saw real limitations in how I was thinking about things and interacting with people. Without that adversity, I would not have had some of these realizations and what I actually see as some breakthroughs.
Again, my relationships with those people around me, in the end, were far better having been through these challenges and being forced to really understand my role, frankly, in them, which wouldn’t have happened. I’d say when I was doing this stuff with Minor Ventures and able to work with these great people and have these phenomenal outcomes is very easy to not – everything’s great; why change anything.
Tanya: Why look?
Ron: Yeah, exactly, and so I think that in a way, even though at the time certainly didn’t feel very good, there’s been a lot of benefit to me in my relationships to having been through it.
Tanya: Just so that our listeners know, what was Layer’s purpose?
Ron: It really was an evolution of where I had always assumed Grand Central would’ve gone right. When we started Grand Central, the company was started in 2005. The initial product was launched, as you mentioned, rather quickly. Google bought the company 18 months later. That’s super fast to go from a company being started to being sold. I’m not sure if you ever use the service, but –
Tanya: I do. I did, yes, absolutely.
Ron: It was all about the phone system, and it was all about basically taking the phone number and creating these additional services around it. There were some really interesting things like the ability to screen your calls and even clever things like the voicemail system. You could send a call to voicemail and you could listen in while the person’s leaving the voicemail so if you realize it’s a call you really want to take, you could jump in. It always confuses people incredibly when they’re leaving a voicemail and you’re like, hello, hello! That went away with old-school answering machine 20-plus years ago.
And so there’s some really cool things that it did, but it was all based on the phone number. It was predicated on this idea that everybody had and needed a personal reach number that had certain characteristics. Google ended up really not doing much with it. In a way, it’s surprising as they’ve been killing off services that they haven’t killed it off yet considering they bought it more than a decade ago. I still think, frankly – it’s funny because I have one of the first five Google Grand Central numbers, and I haven’t ported it to my iPhone yet because I still want call screening and I want transcribed – there’s a bunch of stuff that I want still, so to think that there’s still aspects of the service from something that was started in, say, ’05/’06, is nuts.
That was all about the phone system, and the idea for Layer was really that – the big idea – and again, we started the company in 2013, but I was actually really thinking about it going back to about 2010 because it was three years after Google had acquired Grand Central, and they hadn’t done anything with it, was this idea that really communications should evolve off the phone system. I think of it as the constraints of the phone system. You’ve got a telephone number if you want to call another telephone number that’s in a different country. It’s super expensive. The call quality of a regular telephone call is pretty crappy. It’s an 8-bit compression. We’re on a Skype call right now. The quality of this Skype call is far better than if I called your phone number over the phone system directly.
There’s this idea that if you migrate communications off the phone system over to the internet, over to IP protocol, there would just be a tremendous amount of innovation and value to unlock. The idea for Layer was to give developers the ability to build applications that had IP-based messaging, so asynchronous stuff, as well as voice and video into their applications. When we launched in 2013 at TechCrunch Disrupt, we “won” Disrupt. I always joke if you’ve seen HBO’s Silicon Valley, we were the guys with the cardboard check on stage.
Tanya: That was a big moment. That was huge. That is a huge thing to win, especially at your launch.
Ron: Yeah, totally, and it was great because what it very clearly showed, because we got about 10,000 requests for early access, was that there was really strong demand. People got what we were trying to do, which was really exciting. At that point, Stripe had been in the market for a bit about doing payments, and there was the parallel that was drawn that we were like Stripe but for communications.
It was very clear to me, so I looked at it as the first part of the exercise, which is to look in the market and identify an opportunity. I think we nailed that. The part that was a little bit frustrating, though, was after a year of the company being around, we still didn’t quite have the product that we needed. That was a huge difference between working with Craig and David. Again, my role was still the same. I was there to cheer-lead and help, but I wasn’t doing the day-to-day running. There were all this demand and all this interest and energy, but we just weren’t executing as we needed to on the product side. We also were, after the Disrupt win, able to raise some money, but there was just – basically I felt like I got drawn into a different role that I hadn’t anticipated.
Tanya: How did that happen? How did you get sucked into running this company whereas before, it was really a strategy advisor type of role?
Ron: Yeah, well, it had a lot to do with investors. Previously when we did the Minor Ventures stuff, there were no other investors. It was just basically – we owned a big chunk of both the other companies that we helped start under Minor and under Mark, too, which was the structure I created after [0:17:35] and I stopped working together. I didn’t have the same capacity to write multi-million dollar checks on my own, so we had to bring investors in. Those investors were concerned about just hey, we’ve put some money in and we’re observing the progress here. It really became a function of basically what investors felt they needed to see before they were going to put money in at all or continue to support the company. The main difference was in order to get the company funded –
Tanya: They wanted you.
Ron: Exactly, despite the fact that wasn’t really what – how my success had occurred previously.
Tanya: You got some pretty incredible investors; GreyCroft, Salesforce Ventures, those are big names.
Ron: Absolutely, we were incredibly fortunate. Even as we were executing through, Microsoft came in as an investor through I-12. Jerry Yang’s fund, A&E Cloud, so we were incredibly fortunate, frankly, from that standpoint. I think that’s the other thing that makes this all the more frustrating because it isn’t like we didn’t have the money in time. It’s just how we used it, and so that was the part that was disappointing.
Tanya: You raised $29 million in total, right?
Ron: Yeah, thereabouts.
Tanya: Looking back on it, what are the biggest things that went wrong or that were missed?
Ron: This is to your point about the benefit of hindsight. The way I always think about these things is the initial exercise is really imagining a product in a market. I’d say we did a really good job of that. There’s a whole host of companies that took the core concept and built phenomenal businesses. You could argue Slack is a version of this, communications. When teams use Slack, not only do you get these emails but there’s probably less conference calls and all that kind of stuff. Slack’s an example. Zoom, who did a phenomenal job building a better video conferencing system, is another example. Obviously, Twilio has made a shift off the phone system now more and more towards IP.
I’d say the insight that we had, call it 2013, was correct, but we executed perfectly. By 2014, we would’ve had the world’s best product, and we would’ve been able to continue to build on that core product, the excellence and momentum. In fact, the product that we ended up selling not long ago is a good product, but it’s also a product that was developed with lots and time and money. I think there probably would have been – had we delivered a better product sooner and then built on that foundation, that would’ve at least been part of it.
The other part of it is I think we had a hard time, interestingly – and this is the part that always confused me, frankly. I think we had a hard time communicating what it is, and that was a part that I think was particularly frustrating for me because as I said, I had a very clear sense of what the opportunity was and what the product – what market the product was going after, but it just seemed like it was perceived to be too complicated a story. I feel like in the end, others did a better job of communicating what we were trying to communicate, and I think that was also frustrating. That frustrating came, frankly, much later as I saw companies that started later than we did, in certain cases were initially started as our customers.
Another company that’s done a phenomenal job is a company called Drift. Drift launched their initial product on Layer. I personally spent a lot of time with them with David and Elias communicating a lot of the concepts. We had some really great customers like Nordstrom, who built some really innovative products. They’d acquired a company called Trunkclub that used Layer to totally change the way their stylists – think of them like advisers – worked with their clients. There’s all kinds of crazy metrics, like engagement metrics went from 20% engagement to 90% engagement, and their sales cycle went from two weeks to four hours. It’s all nuts with the impact we had.
We had a very hard time distilling that down in a way that could be on the website or told by our CAT management team. That part was also very frustrating, to know that there was a core that was correct but just was a challenge to communicate. Again, as you look back, there were several things that if the timing were different, if we had the product that we had later sooner or if we were able to message the market in a certain way – we had a company that came out of [YAC] that was a straight-up copycat, frankly. They just lifted everything that Layer did it but did it as a YAC company. They ended up executing far better in the end and raised a bunch of money and seemingly are doing pretty well.
Again, this is the thing. Being first is one thing; I’d say we were definitely first. I think others that came after us clearly executed better than we did because they were then able to take advantage of the opportunity better than we were.
Tanya: What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
Ron: Yeah, great question, actually. There’s really two things, I’d say, in major categories. One is I always prided myself on treating everybody the same. Obviously there’s a lot of focus on this now with diversity in teams and all that. My view was I never cared. I never cared age. I never cared about gender. None of that ever mattered. My focus was always I try to play it straight down the middle and communicate the same way.
A very good friend of mine who’s actually a pretty experienced VC shared with me this program that he was involved with. Basically it’s almost an academic course centered around personality types. The thing that was super interesting is as I ended up – I was having challenges interacting with my CTO, with my VP of sales, with my head of product. What was really frustrating for me was I thought the exercise was so clear. It just made no sense to me why wasn’t everybody fully aligned.
I started this program at a point when things were really particularly hard. Everything seemed hard. The very first thing, this class; you go through it. It’s about a year long. You go through with about 10 or 12 other people. The class meets once a month and then there’s a one-on-one with the instructor Turns out my group, I was lucky enough to be with one of the founders of the program. I think it’s been around about ten years. It’s called [Path Lies]. The first thing you learn is there are all these different personality types. What I really like about this particular program is they don’t sugar-coat anything. It’s like a mini-med school, in a way, if you wanted to become a psychologist You learn that there are different personality types They all sound awful because they’re the clinical version.
Ron: Yeah, well, the only personality type that itself is a disorder is psychopath. Every other one of them, obsessive and compulsive and narcissist and histrionic and schizoid They all sound bad, but what you learn is it’s really a function of how high-functioning the person is. These are referred to as cognitive levels, which map back to human development, so a baby doesn’t even have a sense of self. It’s also been interesting going through this program having an almost five year old and a one year old. You understand at this point, this particular part of the personality’s not even developed yet. That’s also cool to understand.
The first thing you realize is that hey, there’s all these different personality types and how they interact with each other is really different. How one type of personality interacts with another type of personality really determines whether or not there’s a fundamental conflict or whether or not there’s an ability for those two individuals to cooperate and understand each other and all that kind of stuff. That was the very first thing I realized is hey, how I with my personality type is interacting with this other person is at the root of a lot of the conflict and inability to get the outcome.
I’ve always thought of myself as – I’m very outcome-oriented. It’s like hey, if you want to go about doing something a certain way, that’s cool, but it’s the outcome to me that matters. As this began to dawn on me, I took the position like okay, I can’t change anybody else. I only have the ability to change my own behavior, so I’m going to enter into these interactions now with the view that 100% of the responsibility for the dysfunction or the challenge is based on my behavior. I’m going to completely flip it where I’m going to try to understand first starting out understanding the personality type of the person that I’m interacting with and trying very hard to not do things that trigger the defenses, in effect, of the other person.
It became super interesting as I went through this because as I began to understand it, I almost started to look at these things as mechanical interactions. As I started to think about okay, with this person, if I do X, they’re going to have this reaction, which is obviously not helpful or whatever. So if I don’t do that, then that drops their defensive reaction and we’re at least dealing with whatever the issue is. That was super interesting. It was amazing to me how that worked. As I said, it was like – you can almost imagine pulleys, and gears, and control arms, and things like that existing between people.
The other part that was really helpful for me is whereas before, I would be triggered or defensive or whatever it was because of something I thought that person was doing to me or whatever. It allowed me to not take it personally, so I didn’t see it as this person has an agenda; why aren’t they cooperative? That actually was also helpful because it allowed me to get to not spend energy on reacting myself. I became very aware of – the terminology I started using in my own mind was I would – something would happen and I would normally get triggered. That would be completely a function of my personality type.
Even when I knew I was triggered, instead of reacting the way I would normally, I would try to sit with it, even if it was super uncomfortable, and not react. What got really interesting, by controlling my own reaction to things, everything de-escalated and a lot of the radiation of all these different personalities got dialed down and it allowed for a completely different level of discussion about the actual stuff itself. I’d say that was something that, again, had I learned this much earlier, it would’ve served me much better in the role that I found myself in. In the past, it wasn’t – before, I was, again, running things day-to-day. I’d say it wasn’t as necessary because I could have a conversation with one of the CEOs of the companies that we were involved with, and especially with David and Craig as an example, those would be challenging conversations, but there was always, at the core of it, a love and respect. With my team as the day-to-day operator, it’s a different thing. It’s not pure interaction, and I think that hierarchy also created issues as well.
Anyway, so that was probably the stuff that was the most painful because it didn’t work particularly well, but it was also one of the most interesting realizations. I’ve now been doing it – I did the first year, and then I actually took a year off because I had my team go through the first year so that we could create some sense of shared understanding and language I did the second year last year, so I’ve only done a couple of years of actually the courses themselves. One of the things I like about this program is they do keep continuity. I’m actually now pretty good friends with the guy who started it, and we meet periodically. I think this is one of those things where it really does require practice. It’s like meditation or yoga.
Tanya: It’s a muscle you need to develop. It’s like going to the gym. People that are committed to health, it’s going to take something and more than that, it has to be built into your daily practice and your lifestyle. It’s interesting. For you, leadership, the biggest challenge was people and getting – yes, this is why I love this topic so much is because it is hard. How many people did you have at Layer?
Ron: At our peak, I think we were, I don’t know, maybe 60 or 65.
Tanya: That’s a decent amount of people to manage. That’s a lot of different personalities, a lot of different agendas. As a leader, it is your job to make sure that everybody is rowing in the right direction and that you are effective. If by effective, it means to really get the results out of your team that you need, and so studying the operating system of human beings, it seems like it got you access to being more effective.
Ron: Yeah, I think in the end, as I said, if I had this perspective at the very beginning, obviously again, you get the benefit of hindsight. You’re like oh, I wouldn’t have made this decision or that decision. That’s always a hard thing. I think the thing, too, as I understood my own personality type, there’s certain traps that my personality type naturally falls into. Even that alone, being aware of the trap beforehand at least lets me acknowledge it. We all walk around and there’s landmines all over the place, and being able to know okay, hey, I’m about to have this kind of conversation and being able to be aware of again these mechanical elements of the interaction, also to do things – one of the challenges with human beings in general is when a person is put on the defensive, they’re not their best self.
A lot of it is about quieting down. I don’t mean volume but I mean just quieting your – it’s all about – it’s funny too because I always joke as I talk about this stuff. I’m from the East Coast. I lived in the East Coast before I moved out here. It’s like, so much of this stuff sounds Californian, but it’s really about being mindful and quieting down all this stuff. Ultimately what becomes really clear is if you’re able to go into these interactions where you’re not radiating energy, negative energy, that causes the other person not to react. The clinical term is transference and counter-transference. I think of it as radiating the elements of one’s personality. The less you can radiate these mechanical elements, the less the other person is going to react and the more you’re actually interacting with the person on a more true level as opposed to them being in reaction mode.
Tanya: One of the things that I think is just so interesting about human beings is us reacting to things in the workplace, just in people’s behaviors. It’s usually not personal to the other person. It’s triggering something within yourself that happened a long time ago that is similar to this situation that you’ve dealt with now, and it’s almost like you’re on an automatic pilot where that trigger happens; you got signals sending in your brain; and boom, you have a reaction. For you to be aware that that is even happening is a huge step. Then to slowly be able to control that is where I think incredible things can happen.
One of the things that I thought was fascinating was from a neuroscience perspective, 80% of the time, we don’t see things as they are. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you pass through a gas station or you pass through a mall or you’re driving. You see these physical things, but you also think of them as you’re seeing them from a conceptual standpoint. You’re not looking at that gas station in front of you. You’re looking at the thousands of gas stations that you’ve seen in your lifetime, and you categorize what you’re seeing in that light.
What happens is you actually, running on autopilot like that, prevent you from actually seeing what is in front of you and you miss a lot of things. That, I think, is what happens in the interactions that we have.
Ron: I totally agree. I mean, this whole concept of autopilot is actually a big part of this in that what you realize is everyone has a personality. It gets set anywhere between age 6 and 12, so it’s not like something that happened two weeks ago. It’s very, very rooted in the development of everyone. Ultimately, in the end, everyone is one of these basic personality types. Everybody’s walking around on autopilot where the personality is basically driving things. It’s how they – and defenses are part of the personality construct. There are also personas; somebody can be one way but then they can have little elements – it actually takes a fair amount of self-discovery to figure out what your personality type is. In this Year 1 class, they don’t even get to personality types until Month 5 because so many of the personality types have popular perceptions. Somebody that’s obsessive-compulsive has a disorder, or somebody that’s histrionic runs around with their hair on fire all the time. These are common ways that people think about different personality types.
What’s really interesting is, again, everybody is completely unaware and for the most part, being unconscious to these things. Their personality is steering the ship all the time. It gets really interesting because as you become more conscious and you understand these things and you become more present to the feelings, you start to get more tuned into how do you feel. When you’re interacting with somebody – usually when you’re talking with somebody, interacting with somebody, and you’re getting a certain feeling, what you’re really doing is you’re tuning into the transference of that person’s personality.
This is what gets really, really interesting Now in order for one to be tuned into that, you actually have to be, again, more present; you have to be – you can’t be emitting your – otherwise, it’s like this – you can just imagine everybody just radiating all this stuff and it just creates this ricocheting garbage. That whole idea of autopilot is a big part of it. It’s like, how do you get yourself out of autopilot? How are you tuned into these underlying things. It’s also cool, too. I had some particularly challenging interactions and as I understood what was going on, it actually allowed me to depersonalize it, say okay, I see now. I now understand what that person is trying to do based on your personality, and so it immediately allowed me to be like okay, this is not that person doing something against me. It is that person interacting in a way that is consistent with the unaware aspects of their personality and allowed me to, again, depersonalize it in a sense. Okay, I’m not going to react based on my defenses.
It’s hard though because even as you become aware of it, it’s very easy to still get triggered and find yourself in this state. Part of it is the discomfort of realizing you’re in this state but not going to your natural defenses. One of my reactions often is what I call going to guns, which is bad. It’s like okay, something happened. Great, alright, let’s now have it out kind of thing. Obviously, that’s not a good reaction; it’s not a helpful reaction. Being able to sit there with that discomfort and not react then allows everyone involved to move past purely the defensive reaction hopefully to a better outcome.
Tanya: What’s your cue to realize that you’re on autopilot?
Ron: Again, for me, it’s mainly about the reaction that I have because autopilot for me is the – how do I put it – the baser reactions of my personality type, the non-helpful ones. Autopilot is not walking around in a fog. Autopilot for me is something happens and I react. Now when something happens, I feel the trigger, if you will. I feel the reaction viscerally. You feel it in your gut or whatever Now what I do is when I feel that, I just pause and say okay, my normal reaction would be that, but obviously that’s not going to be helpful. When I get triggered or I feel that reaction, literally saying there it is. I’m literally going to hold it even if it feels really shitty. I’m going to hold it and take a beat and then allow it to dissipate. It’s me holding in what I would’ve radiated out. By holding it in, the other person is not reacting and getting defensive to my reaction because again, this stuff ricochets back.
Tanya: That’s very interesting. Your cue is that gut feeling, when you know here I go again. As a practice, you’ve learned to really stop and sit with it. Through that process, it allows you to then choose to have that reaction if that will be helpful, or not. If it’s not, you can think about what would be.
Ron: Yeah, exactly.
Tanya: That’s powerful.
Ron: Yeah, and actually it took – this is the whole point about it’s like yoga or whatever. It takes practice. It’s actually interesting. It got to the point where something would happen, and I basically – with the individuals that I was working with at the end, they had been going through it as well. I’d be able to say listen, I’m really triggered right now but be able to communicate it as, I’m triggered right now and I’m sitting with it. Then it became a question of what caused the trigger. Just by verbalizing it, it allowed it to then just be something we could put on the table and discuss. Again, me being triggered is my thing, not their thing. That’s the other part of it, too. It’s like saying you’re playing basketball and say oh, man, I just pulled my hamstring It’s something that happened to me based on what was happening on the floor. It wasn’t something that you did.
By flipping the perspective of this is really about something – this is about how I’m reacting to a situation, it allows it to be – then we can deconstruct okay, what are the issues? Is there a misunderstanding? This is all the understanding of personality stuff. The other part, which really I did very late in the process, is just trying to get – I look at this as it’s the physical part. The mental part is really a lot of this stuff and understanding the mechanics. The other part’s the physical part, and that was really where I fell into a bad pattern, and I see this with a lot of friends where work is particularly challenging and so you take less and less care of yourself.
August of last year, I really hit a wall where I felt like crap and things were challenging. Physically, I just didn’t feel very good. I took it upon myself to get control of that, and that was also really helpful as well. I feel like the two things are really important You just can’t be like – I don’t think you can have a really effective mental state if you don’t have a correspondingly healthy physical state. That was the other part, too, which is just saying hey, you could fall into a cycle of work’s really hard; therefore, I’m going to put my physical health on hold trying to get the work part or the mental part. They’re not disconnected, and that’s the other thing, too, I realized. I started getting into fasting and some other things to really try to get my physical health and self in order. The two things together are critical.
Tanya: Do you think that going through an experience like that or really leading, operationally leading a company – do you think that that is often accompanied by depression?
Ron: I think so. I think obviously when things are great, things are great. When things are challenging, it’s easy to fall into certain negative patterns. I personally believe that physical care and health is a real contributor or not to mental health. I think you’ll often see – if I see a friend of mine – here’s an example. Obviously it doesn’t take a genius. If you see a friend of yours putting on weight, it’s like hey, man, how’s everything going? Often times, that’s an indication that there’s some struggle. One can lead the other, so the choice I made back in August was hey, things are challenging and whatnot, but I’m going to try to pull myself into a healthier state by just prioritizing it and then the other lead. There’s a lot of things when you start to get into – I got really interested in blood sugar and all this. Even though I’m not diabetic, I wear a continuous glucose monitor and stuff like that.
It’s really interesting because as you start to understand – I really tried to dig into how the personality stuff worked and whatnot. I think how the body works is really a function of how much insulin is sloshing around your system. I actually think that has a pretty strong role in depression as well. I think a lot can be managed by managing –
Tanya: Taking care of yourself physically.
Ron: Yeah, exactly, and not just running marathons and stuff. I think a lot of it has to do with blood sugar. I started getting really interested in that, and I think it’s been really helpful for me to – I joke it’s like the grand unification theory, the whole thing about the health and wellness thing and the whole thing about how the mind works. I think those two things are – they’re not separate disconnected spheres; they’re pretty tightly connected.
Tanya: Is that your biggest lesson in going through this last six years with the journey with Layer?
Ron: I think that it’s been – the biggest lesson for me is being very open to how I can and should improve. Again, it’s the realization that I can’t change anybody else, but I can change myself. I think that’s probably been the part where that has caused me to be extremely open to what are the ways that I can improve. It’s an unending exercise.
Tanya: A mountain with no top.
Ron: Yeah, and that part’s been good. It’s been really helpful to be aware of that.
Tanya: Ron, thank you so much. This has been an incredible exploration into human beings and what it really takes to be a leader. I so appreciate your authenticity as you share your life experiences.
Ron: I hope it was interesting and helpful. It’s certainly been a journey. If it’s helpful for other people to hear about it, that’s awesome.
Tanya: It is. Thank you so much.