Most people in the early-stage tech space have big hearts (at least in my experience in NYC). They want to help. There is a ton of camaraderie. It is all great until you hit a tipping point. This happens when trying to help too many people at the same time. Then it becomes a problem because you become less effective to the people who you want to be helping the most. You also become spread too thin and fall behind on things you need to focus on (like your actual job!).
Many people experience it and change is needed once you feel the onset of TMHPP (too-much-helping-people-problem). I think the best cure for TMHPP is three-fold:
1) Take fewer meetings and push out ones you have for a month or so.
2) Give yourself a few hours one day every two weeks for office hours. I try to do this on a Friday every two weeks or so.
3) And lastly, empower the people needing help to help themselves.
These three are pretty self-explanatory, but I want to talk about the third one for a moment.
There is a Chinese proverb and it goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This applies for people looking for help in this industry. Instead of catching that one fish for them, try to help them understand how to go about catching fish. This could be by pointing them in the direction to the correct readings/thought leaders, events to attend, and people to connect with.
For example, I recommend anyone looking to move into the tech space to read everything written by Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Fred Wilson, and Chris Dixon. Just read it all and then come back (Fred Wilson’s AVC is probably the hardest to read all, but at least read the last two years of posts). These writings will give you insight on the thought process behind some of most prolific players in the startup space. If you aren’t obsessed with startups after this, then you probably shouldn’t be working in the startup place.
I try not to tell them what to think, but rather how to think about things. This will help them in the long run and is a repeatable process to help streamline helping for all.
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