Clara Soh on How to Work Smarter and Perform Under Pressure

In Chapter 15 of 20 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, health economist Clara Soh answers "What Does It Mean to Perform Under Pressure in the Work That You Do?" An avid rock climber, Soh approaches challenges mindfully and deliberately. In her health care policy work, she learns to manage pressure by looking for context when making decisions in high stakes situations. Clara Soh is a health economist and Senior Director of Policy and Research at a pharmaceutical trade organization in Washington, DC. Previously, Soh held senior roles at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (KPCHR) and Health Policy Research Northwest (HPRN). Soh earned her Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in Policy Analysis and Healthcare Public Finance from the NYU Wagner School and a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University.

How to Reduce Stress and Improve Nonprofit Fundraising Success

In Chapter 20 of 20 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, social entrepreneur Courtney Spence answers "What Steps are You Taking to Make Fundraising a Less Stressful Part of Your Job?" Fundraising for her nonprofit causes Spence a lot of stress and she looks for ways to reduce that stress in her work. She decides hiring a development director who loves to do fundraising will reduce her stress, allow her to focus on other parts of the business, and boost fundraising success. Social entrepreneur and storyteller Courtney Spence founded 501c3 nonprofit Students of the World (SOW) to shine a light on progress and celebrate the world's problem solvers. She is building a movement of next-generation storytellers and creative activists through the SOW program The Creative Activist Network. Spence is a graduate of Duke University.

Lulu Chen on How Family Relationships Change With Age

In Chapter 2 of 16 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, art director Lulu Chen answers "How Are Your Family Relationships Changing as You Get Older?  Chen learns to appreciate her parents as she gets older.  Now in her 30s, Chen is reminded of her mother's advice to take a moment before making big decisions. 

Lulu Chen is a photo art director working in retail e-commerce in New York City.  Previously, Chen worked as a freelance stylist for leading fashion catalogs and magazines.  She earned a BFA in design and art history from the University of Michigan.


Erik Michielsen: How are your family relationships changing as you get older?

Lulu Chen: I accept them more and I realize all of the little things that they’ve done as parents growing up, they might not have been the perfect parents or the best parents, but they definitely tried. And it took me to become an adult to realize that they did certain things right. Maybe not everything but they did a lot—They tried. You know? And the only thing you can do is be—try your best, you know?

Erik Michielsen: Do you go back and have those conversations with them about “Okay, so thinking back when I was a teenager, when you did this, and I was always fighting you about it, you actually were doing the right thing.”

Lulu Chen: Well, no, it’s more that my tolerance for them has grown and my appreciation for them has grown. And my struggle with my parents were actually more when I was older, you know, not—well, not in the teenager so much because they worked so much, they weren’t even really around. We didn’t really fight. But growing up, just remembering the little nuggets of advice that they used to try and shove down your throat, you know, you didn’t understand it then, you kind of had to make your own mistakes and then now I realize, “Oh, that’s what she meant. Okay.”

Erik Michielsen: What was their advice?

Lulu Chen: I think my mom always tried to tell me to take a moment, you know, I was very headstrong and I would just leap into things, or I would say things, I was very outspoken when I was younger. I guess I still am now but I definitely try and take a moment and think about it before I leap, you know, just to—Yeah, just to be more observant. So, that was a very good one, I think, in general.

How to Stop Being Busy and Better Manage Time Commitments

In Chapter 12 of 15 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, business and personal coach Garren Katz answers "How Are You Learning to Better Manage Your Time and Commitments?"  Katz shares how he has worked to change his behavior over time.  He finds himself in an "always busy" mode focused on minutiae and avoiding what was important.  He learns to clear out the busy work and focus on priorities that provide the greatest benefit for his energy. 

Garren Katz is a business and personal coach based in State College, PA and advises his national client base on small business management, entrepreneurship, relationships, and personal finances.  He is also an active angel investor in several business ventures.  He earned his BA from Western Michigan University. 


Erik Michielsen: How are you learning to better manage your time and commitments? 

Garren Katz: That’s making the assumption that I am learning to manage my time and commitments better. I would say I used to make myself extremely busy, which I never realized what I was, in essence, doing, was doing a fantastic job of avoiding, avoiding what truly is important, or what I deem is important, the priority that I’ve made it. When you clear out the busy-ness and it’s amazing when you actually look at how you spend your time or when I would look—speaking specifically for myself, how I would spend my time, a great deal of my time was spent working on things that really weren’t significant, just busy work, you know, the difference between, you know, being in action and being active. I’m more focused now on what my priorities are and that’s made making time commitments actually much easier because I’m taking on less. 

Erik Michielsen: And what were those priorities before and what are those priorities now?

Garren Katz: The priorities before were, you know, the squeaky hinge, whatever happened to be in front of me, that’s what I would take on, or whatever popped into my head. Now, taking a moment and pausing, and really thinking: what is the benefit of this action? Is this necessary? Could my time be better spent dedicated to something else? Whether it’s a 5-minute project or a week-long activity, where would I benefit the most—where would my partner and I benefit the most? Where should my energy go? That’s how—that’s the decision making process I go through now— not always, of course, but that’s what I go through now whereas before it was whatever the flavor of the week was, whatever the flavor of the moment was, chasing as opposed to really having a focus.

Simon Sinek on What Gets Easier and What Gets Harder

In Chapter 10 of 16 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers "What is Getting Easier and What is Getting Harder in Your Life?"  Simon notes it is getting easier to spot things he should avoid and then work around the obstacles while maintaining pursuit toward his end destination or goal.  As his life becomes more public, Sinek notes how it is harder to know who to trust and shares how he is working through this situation in his life.  Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people.  His goal is to "inspire people to do the things that inspire them" and help others find fulfillment in their work.  Sinek is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action".  He works regularly with the United States Military, United States Congress, and many organizations, agencies and entrepreneurs.  Sinek is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and an adjunct staff member at the think tank RAND Corporation.  Sinek earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen:  What is getting easier and what is getting harder in your life?

Simon Sinek:  It’s getting easier to spot things that I should avoid. So for example, let’s imagine that we’re standing in the corner of a large room, and I give you a simple instruction, I want you to walk in a straight line to the other corner. Off you go. And without telling you, I put a chair in front of you. Well, you just walk around the chair on your way to that destination, right? And even though you just disobeyed my order, which is to walk in a straight line to that side. The point is the destination was more important than the route you took, right? Now if we reset and I give you the same situation, again, where we start in the corner of the room, and I say to you, I want you to walk in a straight line anywhere, you know, somewhere in this room, and you’re gonna look at me you go, well, where do you want me to go? I’m like, I don’t know, you’re smart, pick a direction. And you’ll pick a direction, you’ll walk in straight line. And without telling you I put a quick chair in front of you, quickly put a chair in front of you, and you come to a grinding halt. And I—you’ll turn to me and say, well, how can I—now where do you want me to go? You blocked it. In other words, when you know the destination, it’s very easy to make adjustments, right? And when you don’t know the destination, every obstacle, even though it’s the same obstacle, brings you to a grinding halt, or forces you to just make sudden corrections which, again, there’s no sense of direction. And so the thing that I’ve gotten much better at, is because I have a clear set, a sense of where I’m going, is I find it much easier to go around obstacles as they appear. Where you know a few years ago, they would have stopped me in my tracks.

Erik Michielsen:  What’s getting harder?

Simon Sinek:  What’s getting harder is—and I think this is for everybody as we grow older, it’s knowing who to trust. You know, we meet lots of people, and especially if you have a little bit of success in the world, it’s hard to know who to trust. Because I’ve had instances where people called me their friend, treated me like their friend, you know, they called me on weekends to see how I was doing, you know, and then when it came close—when we, you know, decided to do some work together and we look at a contract, and I made some, you know, we made some comments on the terms that we didn’t like and they went: Clearly we can’t work together.  And I never heard from them again. I was like, wait, I thought you’re my friend. You know? So it makes you cynical unfortunately, a couple of bad experiences makes you a little cynical. The hard part is, you know, you wanna trust everybody, you know? And so it’s—I’m learning. I’m learning that. That, I haven’t figured that one out completely, but I’m learning.


How Startup Raises First Venture Capital Round - Slava Rubin

In Chapter 5 of 13 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, crowdfunding entrepreneur and IndieGoGo CEO Slava Rubin answers "How Did Your Team Go About Raising Venture Capital?"  Rubin notes the importance of mission alignment and how this plays into goals, milestones, and responsibilities.  He details the transition from being a bootstrap financed startup to taking on convertible debt to deciding on venture financing to build out the team and user experience. 

Slava Rubin returns to CYF for his Year 3 interview.  As CEO and Co-Founder, Rubin has helped transform cause and project fundraising by establishing his company IndieGoGo as a global leader in crowdfunding.  He is also active in philanthropy, starting the Music Against Myeloma annual charity event to fight cancer.  He graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Erik Michielsen: How does your team go about raising venture capital?

Slava Rubin: I think it’s really important that the core team be aligned on knowing what we’re trying to accomplish. What size of a company are we looking to build? How many employees do we wanna have? What kind of revenue are we looking to accomplish? Where do we wanna sit in the competitive landscape and what are we trying to accomplish as a vision? All those things need to be agreed to. Where you’re singing the same song and after that it’s making sure that you know who’s playing what role. You typically don’t wanna have too many people in the process of actually try to raise the money because that can be confusing in terms of coordination and managing the process. So, with us specifically I'm leading up the fundraising process with significant help from the core team.

Erik Michielsen: Was this your first time raising venture capital?

Slava Rubin: Yes. So, we launched in January 2008 and the three founders Eric Shell, Danae Ringelman and myself we boot strapped through 2008. We planned on raising money in the fall of 2008 but then the crash of 2008-2009 happened, which really slowed things down for us. We then raised a small convertible note and followed that with a venture capital round of 1.5 million in March of 2011.

Erik Michielsen: And you used that to build out the team and now are looking at next steps to scale further?

Slava Rubin: Exactly. So, we went from a team of 5 to now a team of 19 and we’re continuing to grow and always looking on how to improve the customer experience.


How to Be Less Judgmental and More Accepting

In Chapter 13 of 17 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, leadership philosopher Bijoy Goswami answers "How Do You Create Hope and Dispel Fear When Introducing New Concepts and Ideas?"  Goswami stresses the importance of meeting someone where they are and not judging them for being wrong for where they are.  It is not a right versus wrong discussion.  Rather it is about acceptance and how to introduce new concepts into the conversation.  Bijoy Goswami is a writer, teacher, and community leader based in Austin, Texas.  He develops learning models, including MRE, youPlusU, and Bootstrap, to help others live more meaningfully.  Previously, he co-founded Aviri Software after working at Trilogy Software.  Goswami graduated from Stanford University, where he studied Computer Science, Economics, and History. 


Erik Michielsen:  How do you create hope and dispel fear when introducing new concepts and ideas?

Bijoy Goswami:  You have to go back and meet someone where they are and if you meet someone where they are then they’re not wrong for being where they are, right?

So, one of my things is we’re all on this journey, we’re all on this journey of evolution and we’re some place and I was 12 at one point and I knew what I knew, now I'm 38 and be something. So, to me it’s if I can meet someone where they are, then there’s nothing wrong, they’re not wrong for being who they are. They’re not wrong for being where they are. They’re not wrong for holding the beliefs they do or whatever. Once that acceptance not just posing as it I actually do understand that then I can say okay. Well, what’s a concept or how can I then stimulate a new concept or how can I, you know, intervene in the system but if you meet someone where they are there’s no question of fear or its – Because the other piece of it is that even when you introduce something new you’re actually, you’re gonna co-create that with them, right?

Like this dialogue here, we’re creating a dialogue here. We’re both creating it together. Same thing there, so immediately they go, Oh, wow. It’s a give and take, it’s a 1 + 1, we’re going back and forth, alright? So, when I think about new concepts or any ideas I'm always listening for where are they gonna inform what I'm doing because I'm actually trying to advance it, it’s not a static thing. It’s an evolving thing. How are they gonna advance it from me, so how they can meet where I am, right?

Once it’s in a dialogue in that sense, a dialogue in which you’ve really met where they are in their path, I don’t think you have that sense of fear. You don’t have that sense of loathing or foreboding, it’s oh that’s great and we all know there’s something next. Whenever I’m in a moment, there’s a new moment. That’s just the way, that’s just the way things are.

What Gets Easier and What Gets Harder - Mike Germano

In Chapter 1 of 19 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, social media ad agency CEO Mike Germano answers "What is Getting Easier and What is Getting Harder in Your Life?"  Germano shares why it is getting easier to deal with the hard things.  He finds it progressively challenging managing past and present relationships as your career and company grow, in particular those early relationships that helped get the business off the ground. 

Mike Germano is co-founder and CEO of DUMBO, Brooklyn based social media advertising agency Carrot Creative.  Previously, Germano ran for and was elected to public office in Connecticut.  He is a graduate of Quinnipiac University. 


Erik Michielsen: What’s getting easier and what’s getting harder in your life?

Mike Germano: What's getting easier and what's getting harder after 7 years in business, I would say that it's getting much easier to deal with the hard things. And knowing that they’re always gonna constantly come up and no matter how much you plan, insanity is always gonna happen, and you can take a deep breath, and you're gonna get through this, and there's gonna be 8 more in the future, so... I always think that that's at least reassuring and something I try share with every fellow entrepreneur. What's getting harder is now making sure I manage relationships correctly and these are -- you know, I'm a very -- I get very connected with people in terms of, one, to see them succeed or having conversations with them and people who’ve helped you succeed, it's now getting harder managing those relationships, and as you grow, and as you -- you know, your company grows, or as your career grows, making sure you're making enough time for the people who helped you get there, but also not spending too much time working on things that might not be beneficial to you and your business, and so it's getting harder managing your time with all the past relationships you've built up.

Erik Michielsen: Yeah, what's an example of that?

Mike Germano: An example of that is, you know, one of the first people that you build -- you know, we did our first project for 7 years ago, you know, you -- we learned a lot and they were there, and, you know, our company has grown in 7 years, and now you're getting phone calls from that person, saying, "Hey, you know, I believed in you, and I now want you to build this huge project. We have no money, you know, and I want you to do all this stuff." And you gotta sit back, and you gotta -- you know, you tip your hat 'cause you pay respect 'cause the person, you know, believes in you, first, or when no one else but yet, you don't want to -- you know, you're on a path where your company is going and it -- if it doesn't fit with it, you know, if it was any other client, you would've never even picked up the phone, or said, "Thank you but, no thank you." But, you know, making sure you manage that to be respectful for people who've gotten you there, but also know how that might impact where you're currently going.

How to Use Company Culture to Recruit Great Teams - Jason Anello

In Chapter 9 of 20 in his 2012 interview, creative director Jason Anello answers "What Has Your Experience Taught Your About Bringing Together Teams to Successfully Complete Projects?" Anellos shares he and his business partners use cultural fit in how they recruit employees and freelance workers.  He notes why he values cultural fit over skillset when recruiting and building high performance teams. 

Jason Anello is a founding partner and creative director at marketing services agency Manifold Partners.  He is also the co-founder of the Forking Tasty Brooklyn supper club.  Previously, Anello held creative leadership roles at Yahoo! and Ogilvy & Mather.  He graduated from the University at Albany. 


Erik Michielsen: What has your experience taught you about bringing together teams to successfully complete projects?

Jason Anello: I'm almost 2 years in at Manifold, and it's been a very interesting 2 years, I've learned a whole lot about having what I would say is a real business, I had a lot of little businesses that were in my mind maybe more businesses than just they were really projects. And this is definitely a full-blown business, with all the things that businesses come along with, particularly finding employees that can execute to the level that me and my 4 partners expect and do. That's a really interesting thing about having a business and who do you -- how do you find the right people that are going to meet and then exceed the expectations, the very high expectations that me and my partners have. And I think one of the keys to finding proper employees that will make a successful team, or freelancers for that matter, or even outside of the context of a working environment in any project that you're trying to get done, is for the culture to be a match. I know people talk about culture in many -- lots of big companies talk about culture and just thinking about who your friends are and how you -- when you hit it off with somebody and you don't hit it off with somebody. I think that skill set is obviously really important but you could have somebody who's really, really good at the thing that needs to get done, and if you don't mesh with them right, and they're -- they don't fit inside of the culture of Manifold, in this example, then the project won't be as successful.

So I would rather have somebody who's less skilled but fits the culture better, because that would make a more successful project. A real world example of that is, if I yell at you, because of the way that Manifold's culture is, I can't really explain what that is right now, is that that's -- it's a high intense sometimes environment because we're hanging things in the middle of Times Square for 24 hours and it's -- there's permits and these things and all sorts of -- it's raining and whatever.

So it's sort of like a kitchen environment, sometimes, when we throw a big event. It's like what you see on TV, when Gordon Ramsay is going berserko, screaming at people and people are just doing stuff, that's sort of what it's like when you're doing high-profile events and you're in the shoot, as we say. But the shoot being, you know, a slide of some sort, or the barrel of a gun. But if you can't take that and you think that if you don't fit that culture, if I can't yell at you, you can't brush it off your back, that's not gonna fit with our culture. Because I don't -- I'm not really mad at you, I just need you to do that thing right now. And I'm not saying we're a bunch of these screamers and yellers, but you could be really, really good getting that thing done and if you shut down when I yell at you then that's not gonna make a successful team. 

What Gets Easier and What Gets Harder - Kyung Yoon

In Chapter 1 of 19 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Kyung Yoon answers "What is Getting Easier and What is Getting Harder in Your Life?  In her non-profit leadership role, she finds her work gets easier as her organization brand becomes stronger and better known.  Yoon finds drawing boundaries for non-profit and community initiatives progressively more challenging as she identifies more deserving potential grantees yet remains constrained by fundraising limitations. 

Kyung Yoon is the executive director of the Korean American Community Foundation (KACF) in New York City.  An award-winning journalist and documentary film producer, Yoon earned an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in History and Political Science at Wellesley College.


Erik Michielsen:  What's getting easier and what's getting harder in your life?

Kyung B. Yoon:  I think professionally, being the executive director of a nonprofit organization, community foundation that was essentially a start up.  This is our ninth year.  And, I can see that it is getting easier as the Korean American Community Foundation is becoming known.  We are definitely establishing a brand.  And, especially in the Korean American and Asian American communities, particularly around the New York area, people know what we are about.  And so, I think it's easier to talk about our vision, our mission.  It's never easy to raise funds but it certainly is very different from the early days when I would say, KACF and they'd say, "KFC?  Are you selling chicken?" 

As far as what's getting harder, I think as we, as a community foundation, we are funders in the community, so there's the grant making aspect, working with our grantee partners who are nonprofit organizations that are addressing some of the most pressing needs in the community, really working with some of the most vulnerable populations.  And so, I think it's harder to draw boundaries around what it is.  Because of course, we want to help everyone and yet our resources are limited and we need to stay focused on what is the mission of KACF.  For me personally, I think it's just hard because I'd like to go out to every single one of the benefit dinner galas of our grantee partners, also being in the community.  Also, as a fundraiser in the community, we know we need to constantly be doing work to raise awareness about KACF.  And so, I find that it's kind of never ending.  And, that's challenging but it's also work that is extremely near and dear to my heart and very meaningful.  So, I feel very blessed to be able to do it.


Why to Give Yourself Permission to Make a Change - Audrey Parker

In Chapter 20 of 21 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, entrepreneur Audrey Parker answers "Why is it Important to Give Yourself Permission When Going Through a Change Moment?" She learns to surrender, or relinquish, control and accept it is OK to sometimes do nothing. After co-founding, growing, and selling her company, Parker embraces the restorative idea of taking time off and begins a one-year sabbatical.

Parker co-founded CLEAResult, an energy management consulting firm. In 2010, CLEAResult ranked #144 in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies. In late 2010, CLEAResult was sold to General Catalyst Partners. Parker graduated from Wake Forest University.


Erik Michielsen:  Why is it important to give yourself permission when going through a change moment?

Audrey Parker:  Change is always uncomfortable.  That’s the nature of it.  And allowing and giving myself permission to let the change be whatever it’s gonna be without knowing how it’s gonna go, just surrendering control, surrendering the knowledge – we don’t know what we’re gonna change into.  We don’t know how it’s gonna go.  We don’t know how fast it’s gonna go.  And giving myself permission to just experience it as it comes and just trust that it will be whatever it will be, it’s not comfortable, but trying to control something that really I have no control over doesn’t make much sense.  It’s just amazing how often in my life and a lot of people try to control things like that, that they really, you know, can’t, just putting a lot of energy into something that could be better spent doing other things.  So it’s been nice to just give myself permission to just do nothing sometimes, literally, just do nothing.  And there’s this voice in my head going ‘why are you just doing nothing?  This is crazy.’  You need to be doing something.  You need to – you have to be doing something.  And there is this – the rest of me, it’s just like ‘no, actually, I don’t, I’m just gonna sit here, and I’m gonna do nothing, or I’m just gonna, you know, stare outside out the window, or I’m just gonna daydream.’  And there has been a lot of that just need to come back into balance, and I didn’t plan that.  I didn’t sit and think this is what I’m gonna need or this is what I’m – how it’s gonna go, or, you know, I’m gonna go spend time with that person, or I’m gonna go travel here or there.  I’m just letting it unfold.  And it’s a much more enjoyable process that way.  It’s still uncomfortable but it’s much more enjoyable.

Erik Michielsen:  When did you decide to give yourself permission when thinking about change?

Audrey Parker:  I gave myself permission when I exited CLEAResult.  I set a clear intention that, you know, this has been so much my identity, it has been so much my life, it has been so much my focus, I’ve been so determined and committed, and I have no idea what’s on the other side of this.  And I just allowed myself to have time and space and just whatever I need basically.  I set it up that way.  And that’s why I decided I – some people were saying ‘oh I’m sure you can’t take a full year off; I’m sure you’ll be bored after just a couple of months or a few weeks or something.’  And I just knew I need a year.  I need a year.  And I just need to give myself whatever time and space I need, really. So it was nice to give myself that permission because it’s just – it’s allowing things to just unfold, and, like I said, I like it that way.

Why Soft Skills Matter in Executive Law Jobs - James McCormick

In Chapter 11 of 12 in his 2010 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, legal career advisor James McCormick highlights the importance of soft skills - communication, relationship development, etc. - over time building a law career. Initially McCormick focuses on the importance of these skills leaving a firm culture for an in-house culture. He highlights how softer skills translate into more effective management and sound business practice.

James McCormick is a Vice President at Empire Search Partners in New York City. Before transitioning into legal career advisory services, McCormick practiced law as an employee benefits and executive compensation attorney for both Proskauer Rose and Jones Day. He holds a JD from Tulane University Law School and a BA in History from the University of Michigan.


Erik Michielsen:  Why is understanding company cultural fit so critical when weighing a decision to transition from a law firm to an in-house position? 

James McCormick: In many respects you will see a - sort of a shrinking of the environment.  It is going to be a lot smaller, there are going to be fewer people doing what it is you do than in a big law firm setting.  So, at that stage, you are going to know fairly quickly on whether or not substantively you have a match, whether someone really can perform in the way a particular company is looking for a lawyer to perform. Now, maybe more importantly is the question of whether or not longer term that context, that environment is one that will be personally satisfying.  That comes from the idea of can you develop, maintain, really extend deep personal relationships and ones that will benefit individuals from a mentoring, from a substantive, from a personal perspective.

Erik Michielsen:  What about the softer skills such as engaging with boards of directors and company executives as well as potential clients?

James McCormick:  I think that law firms can certainly assist younger lawyers in putting them in those scenarios, helping them experience that type of context, putting them in boardrooms, having them attend executive meetings, really enabling them to develop that part of their professional existence.  However, at the end of the day, there are people that just excel at it and those that don’t.   

Those that do excel at it really do find themselves at the forefront of whether it be law firm practices, many respects general counsels in large companies have an extremely difficult, sophisticated role that requires them to manage a lot of different personalities, handle difficult situations and to be able to do so in a manner that basically keeps everybody as happy as possible. 

How Reporter Balances Ethics With Incomplete Information Constraints - Yoav Gonen

Yoav Gonen returns to Capture Your Flag to build upon his 2009 interview with a 2010 conversation with host Erik Michielsen. In Chapter 3 of 17, Gonen, a New York Post education reporter, shares one of the great challenges in journalism, handling incomplete information. Gonen notes it is rare to have complete information, so going to press with a story requires sound judgment that balances need for ethical reporting with need to participate in a competitive news marketplace. He shares one challenge, a high school principal accused of having a drinking problem, and how he went through the decision to research, write and publish the story.

Yoav Gonen earned his BA in English from the University of Michigan and his Masters in Journalism from New York University.


Erik Michielsen:  As a newspaper reporter, how do you maintain an ethical approach when you may not necessarily have complete information in developing a story?

Yoav Gonen:  Often times, that presents a big problem because there are times when you might be getting conflicting information from different sources, and you can sometimes have an article saying, well this person said this and this person said that.  Sometimes what they say is… might be negative toward someone, and you want to be careful just putting stuff out there because somebody said it.  The constraint you have is that your competitors are probably out there working on the same story and they might be getting stronger information or different information.  There was recently a principal who was removed from a school and there were rumors going around that it had to do… it had something to do that he had a drinking problem.  So, I was hearing this at various levels and at some point it came from reliable enough sources that I felt comfortable putting it in there, but the truth is you can’t know for a100% - I mean these are accusations. 

So, you do hesitate to put this information out there because everyone that picks up a paper is going to read about this guy and read that people are accusing him of having a drinking problem and that is a big deal. You want to cross your T’s and dot your I’s as much as you can.  You reach out to as many people, you make sure you turn over every stone and then at the end of the day you have to decide, “Okay, I’m I comfortable enough with the people that have told me this that I believe them or am I not?”  And then you just got to make the decision.


How to Assess Kenya Mobile Health Care Project Viability - Michael Olsen


In Chapter 14 of 16 in his 2010 Cature Your Flag interview, social entrepreneur and technology consultant Michael Olsen walks through the Kilifi Kids non-profit decision making process for its mobile health (mhealth) project. First, Olsen and his team confirm there is community-based support within Kilifi to provide project resources. Two, his team identifies senior public health support, specifically at the Kenya Ministry of Health (MOH). Third, Olsen reviews at technology capability, ease of use, cost, and scalability and confirms technology, developed by organizations such as UNICEF, available and ready. Lastly, Olsen then confirms there is a story and an investment pitch that will resonate with project funders. Only after working through these decision inputs does Olsen green light and initiate the mobile health project.

How to Leave a Startup Job on Your Own Terms - Marc Ferrentino

In Chapter 14 of 17 of his 2010 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, engineer and Chief Technology Architect Marc Ferrentino reflects on why it is more difficult to walk away from a startup on one's own terms than it is to stay. Comparing the band of brothers experience to pledging a fraternity, emotional attachment happens easily, especially given how startups nearly always have world changing ambitions. Ferrentino compares the trap many fall into acknowledging losses with stock portfolios, namely a stock is not an official loss until you sell it. In the same way, a startup often is not perceived as a failure until you leave it.

Ferrentino holds a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.  After leaving Goldman Sachs, he worked for several years in New York City based startups before joining  


Erik Michielsen: Why is walking away from a start-up so difficult and what’s your own experience here?

Marc Ferrentino: So I’ve walked away from a couple of start-ups. It is very difficult. Start-ups are amazing, its one of the best experience you can possibly have, it’s the most fun you can possibly have. It really is. It is, it’s kind of like, it’s a little like pledging in that respect when you go through the process where you’re, you’re very band of brothers, its you against the world. You’re, you’re there till god knows what time of night you’re eating horribly, you’re you know but its amazing and its exciting.

So I think because of that you wind up getting, you, you can’t help yourself getting emotionally attached to the start up, to the idea, to the people around you and to the vision really that you have and some that’s vision of the product the vision of changing the world, which is typically what you’ll see when you, at a lot of start ups its that idea that you can somehow change the world and of course the vision of grandeur vision of greatness of some kind of exit that will put you on easy street. It becomes very hard to walk away, you’re, you’re basically saying goodbye to a dream you’re acknowledging, you’re also acknowledging a little bit failure, which is not easy to do.

It’s that idea that if I don’t stop, I don’t quit, I didn’t fail yet… its like, like you make a bad stock trade, you know, you didn’t, you didn’t really… until I sell it I haven’t really lost money yet. You know? And that’s kind of, that’s a, that’s a bit of it, a big piece of it and what winds up happening is you wind up staying there too long, you wind up dragging on your time there and then you become resentful in a lot of cases and it takes, its very hard for most people to walk away to say ‘Ok, you know what? I don’t think this is going to happen, I’m going to walk away’ cause it, it gets masked as ‘you’re quitting’ or ‘you’re a traitor’ or you’re something else, you know, you’re, you’re not you’re not a believer anymore and that makes you, you know, you’re a bad person because of it and a that’s just not a lot of case, a lot of times the case. So it’s a very, very difficult to do and it takes, you have to be a stronger to walk away from it than to stay.

How to Prioritize Goals and Avoid Distractions by Saying No - Louise Davis

In Chapter 14 of 20 in her 2009 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit Peer Health Exchange (PHE) co-founder Louise Davis addresses why turning down requests - deciding to say no - not central to the PHE primary mission constant challenges her and her team. Davis and her team prioritize discipline to avoid distraction from the PHE purpose providing health education to high school students. To do this, PHE aligns efforts with its clearly stated primary mission and continuously evaluates decisions based on the principles.


Erik Michielsen:  What has been the most difficult part of your journey to date?

Louise Davis:  I think the most difficult part of my personal journey is deciding where to say no to the things that are always pulling on your work and impact.  Which is just to say, I think when you are committed to a cause like we are, to health education, you end up opening yourself up to a lot of different demands on that cause.  I think many if not all of them are really legitimate.  But to do one thing really well you have to just do one thing or do as close to that one thing as possible.  For us and for me, it has been a challenge to just be really clear, focused, and disciplined about that one goal and not get too distracted by the many other things that are totally legitimate that demand our time and energy, my time and energy.   Right now we are at that point where we can start to imagine doing more than we have done in the past and it is a really exciting moment.  I think we have to stay very clear on what it is we are going to do and what it is we are not going to do.  It is always harder to say no than it is to say yes so I think that is a constant challenge in this work.

Erik Michielsen:  How do you go through setting those priorities and following through with them?

Louise Davis:  We try to just be really clear in our mission and our work what we are trying to achieve and we map every opportunity directly to that mission.  If it does not have a direct map, we don`t do it.  We try to be really clear about that.  

How Incremental Goals Help Filmmaker Complete Projects - Tricia Regan

In Chapter 6 of 17 in her 2009 Capture Your Flag interview, filmmaker Tricia Regan finds expectations-setting critical in breaking a film project into steps and gauging the momentum. Even in uncomfortable places, Regan applies a persistent, incremental, open-minded approach to exercise sound judgment on storytelling potential. Through this approach, Regan positions herself to best understand whether or not project potential blossoms or withers.


Erik Michielsen: How has setting expectations played a role in your career as a filmmaker?

Tricia Regan: Well I’m actually in that process right now. It’s scary starting a film project because I know what I’m in for. It’s going to be a long haul, at some point everyone is going to be angry at me, I know that even if the money comes easily there are going to be financial issues and business issues. I just know what’s coming.

It’s scary. What I do is I get attracted to something and I don’t get invested in it. I take incremental steps even when I’m thinking this is so not going to work. Just go and show up and keep an open mind and let your wheels spin and let all the wheels of all the people spin. And leave it to providence more or less. If the wheels keep spinning and everything gets tightened and turned and it keeps progressing with some volition of its own, then you start to get involved. And once you do at some point you’re going to have to drag that baby along. But it has to have a certain momentum of its own because any film that gets made is a miracle. So if you don’t feel that miracle vibe, that providence involved at some point in the early stages, you can’t expect it to show up at some other point. 

How Reflective Moments Improve Decision Making - Tricia Regan

In Chapter 17 of 17 in her 2009 Capture Your Flag interview, filmmaker Tricia Regan finds reflective moments, such as long walks on the beach, help her compare risks and rewards, await decision-making moments, and remain open to new possibilities. Central to each are patience, thinking through ideas, and a remaining positive that the appropriate path will appear given a balance of focus and time.


Erik Michielsen: What do you get out of solitude? For example while you were making your film you took long walks on the beach to process, to think. How does that contribute to that self-confidence?

Tricia Regan: Yeah. This is where it could get a little trippy. But I think most creative people, most people who are really, really good at what they do, probably have that same sense of mystery about it. I sometimes feel like there’s nothing particularly talented about me. I just have the patient to wait for the solutions and recognize them when they come and to not be afraid to try things that I’m not sure are right with the hope that they lead me to the solution. So those long walks on the beach that I would take everyday, I would take them when I was shooting, I would take them when I was editing, were really just a way of sort of opening up, not thinking about it or thinking about it. Starting the walk or the day or going to bed the night before, this is our problem, which character goes next, this is our problem.

So I feel like that gave from providence. It didn’t come from me having a brilliant idea. I just thought about it for long enough until there it was and there was the solution.