What I’ve Learned from Chris Sacca: Value, Empathy, and People
TL;DR: Life is all about relationships. A reflection on how Chris Sacca’s notions of value and relationships have shaped my views on business and people.
I was debating whether or not to write this a post under the Minimum Viable Network banner, but in the end it seemed that it was better as a stand-alone thought process. Frankly, I was going to save the whole reflection for another time, but sometimes when you have to write it out, nothing else suffices.
No doubt that most of the tech and VC world is talking about Chris Sacca’s retirement from VC today. And while I won’t pretend I saw it coming, I also can’t say that I’m 100% surprised by it. Growing up, working, and socializing among artists and creative individuals, one thing I’ve come to accept as true is that truly innovative minds become restless and constantly seek new adventures and challenges.
In my time identifying as a writer, poet, journalist, painter, artist, founder, I’ve heard people who don’t quite understand the pull describe it as “lack of focus” or “a desire for obstacles over happiness.” But that cheapens the real feeling that we contend with; it’s not about lacking focus or not wanting to be happy. Just the opposite — it’s about finding happiness and meaning in new adventures and letting those new teachings sharpen our focus and perspective on life.
I’ve had the unique opportunity of speaking to Sacca just once, and in that short exchange, I saw in him what I’ve described above. And it made me want to get to know him even more.
There’s a myth popularized by artist biopics that truly creative people prize art/winning/results above all else, especially relationships with others. Sacca proves that to be dead wrong. In so many ways, the greatest creators and innovators were great because of the relationships they cultivated, most times with oft forgotten people in the background. Van Gogh had his brother Theo to support him and keep him (mostly) sane, Jim Morrison had his long-time companion Pamela Courson, and in many ways Steve Jobs had Wozniak (certainly not forgotten) to keep him balanced for a time.
Relationships don’t distract from incredible achievements; they are what make those achievements possible.
Relationships Define People
So what does any of this have to do with Sacca? Everything.
My first thought reading Sacca’s retirement post wasn’t “oh no, but I wanted Lowercase to fund my next company,” or “but why walk away, you’re winning.”
It’s simply: “Money or no money, I still want to know Sacca because of the things he’s espoused over the last few years which have shaped my perspective in tech and business, as well as life.”
I’m more grateful to Erik Torenberg and Product Hunt than I could even say for facilitating the aforementioned encounter. In life, sometimes the most transformative experiences can come from the most serendipitous opportunities, and that was certainly true here. (A full reflection on this experience for the Minimum Viable Network is forthcoming when the time is right.)
So why has listening to Sacca and reading his posts been “so transformative?” Because his notion of creating value for others before asking for yourself, prizing empathy, and networking through conviction have become central tenets to how I think.
In creating the idea of the Minimum Viable Network, so much is centered around the concept of creating value for others, cultivating deep relationships through empathy, acting as a support network when your friends and allies need you, and projecting magnetic positivity and opportunity. When I talk to artists, I tell them to go out and project a powerful, positive persona — that’s what attracts people. In helping a good friend of mine prepare for a lecture on ethics at Syracuse University (happening tonight!), I told him to emphasize empathy, and that power will come from a conviction for honest networking.
To other founders who now tweet me and ask how to get into tech and startups (why they tweet me is still a mystery haha), I say simply: Go and create ridiculous amounts of value for other people; don’t worry about “getting your’s” right now.
Karma comes around when the time is right. Focus on making yourself so magnetic to others that they can’t not know you.
I’m Richer for Seeing Life Through Relationships with People
I’m in so many ways richer for shaping my perspective on life around these core ideas. I’ve had the good fortune of building an incredible network of friends and allies, seemingly through just running my mouth and doing things for other people. The irony? It was never a “strategy” I was employing — creating value for others to create value for myself. It was — and is — simply doing things for others because I can, and because I want to. But like I said, karma has a funny way of keeping track.
So at the end of all of this, where am I?
Still positive, still excited, and still looking forward to my first coffee with Sacca, whenever that might be. In tech as in music, everyone seems to know everyone, and reputation is everything. So I have total faith that people who endeavor to help others will see their paths cross at some point. Until then, I’ll keep learning, keep building, keep creating value, and keep empathizing with others.
Life is relationships. And relationships happen at the most serendipitous of times.