Goal crushing attitude.

Gratitude.

Lifetime learner.

These are the three core values at thinkspace. These values resinate with me deeply, both professionally and personally; this compatibility is one of the reasons I love working at thinkspace. There is no project turned down afraid I won’t be able to crush it, we start every morning as a team sharing wins we’ve had, and shouting out gratitude for someone on the team that supported us. This is how companies can live their core values: by practicing them daily. Being a lifetime learner, our final core value is something I think often about. We have the opportunity to learn everyday from our colleagues, members here at thinkspace, and mentors in our life. Whether it’s learning new vocabulary, services a member provides, practicing skills needed to have difficult conversations, discovering a hack that will provide simplicity in an everyday task, or learning a language to help us on an upcoming trip, there’s always something to expand our minds on.

In business, “to stay relevant, hungry and motivated, it’s important to make a lifelong commitment to education and growth,” states Timothy Sykes, VIP Contributor to Entrepreneur.com. Benefits of lifelong learning isn’t limited to personal fulfillment, like when I learned how to set up a tent to go backpacking for the first time. Lifelong learning also isn’t maintained to the four walls of a classroom; no one is suggesting that you must collect master’s degrees in order to prove it. You learn from others, from reading, from traveling, and experiences. You learn from successes and learn from failures and all of it is meaningful.

For both personal and professional reasons, being a lifetime learner is going to reap benefits. I love this “quick guide that proves why we’re never too old or experienced to pick up new business tricks but here are some of the highlights provided.” Don’t be shy- we’d also love to hear some of your go-to’s when learning something new.

  1. To keep generating new ideas.  If you really want to invite inspiration to strike, make a commitment to learning something new every single day by reading books, following podcasts, staying updated with the news or pursuing any number of resources that can expose you to new ideas and concepts.
  2. To maintain your passion. Go ahead, become obsessed with your industry. Read books by relevant leaders, follow podcasts in your field and follow movers and shakers on social media. You’ll become inspired by the cool things going on within it and tap into the inner passion for what you do.
  3. To make better conversation. When you have a wider field of interests and knowledge, you’re able to connect more deeply with a wider variety of people, which can lead to opportunities and collaborations that can further your career.
  4. To banish boredom. Fascination with a particular topic can be engaging and exciting, give you a greater sense of purpose and excitement in both your career and in your everyday life.
  5. For better work-life balance. When you take a break from monotonous working to focus on expanding your mind, it’s like a break for your brain from its regularly scheduled programming. 
  6. For your health. For instance? While using your brain won’t necessarily prevent Alzheimer’s, frequently learning new things can delay symptoms, which can improve your quality of life.

If you’re living in Seattle you already know how great of a city it is. We’re close to water in every which way, it’s an easy drive into the mountains for any kind of hike you’re looking for, and our tech scene is impressive–that means jobs. Even more impressive is that Seattle now ranks third in the list of best US cities for startups. As a company that supports those startups, we loved hearing that. Commercial Cafe, a commercial real estate blog, went to review the 50 most populous urban centers to find the top 20. Sitting at No. 3 means Seattle has a lot going for it, but most noteworthy is that it attracts the most millennials. According to the data, 32% of the population here is in this age cohort and it makes up a significant portion of the workforce. We come in second place for Tech Education, and one of the many other factors used in rankings that thinkspace was feeling good about was coworking costs.

As a somewhat new Seattleite, I can share that the tech scene was one of the biggest reasons my family moved out West. Though ranking third is excellent, one category noted was that Seattle has room for growth in the creation of new business; it simply isn’t on pace with with the amount of talent coming in. Additionally, while there is a great sum of funding covering startup businesses in the region, the article cites that more than 50% is coming from VC outside of it.

We see startups everyday at thinkspace; some of whom we’ve been able to celebrate as they move from full-time coworkers to moving into window offices, and sometimes they even grow beyond our walls. It’s great to see their successes. We also have the opportunity to celebrate with them as they secure funding and grow to do the amazing work they’ve put in years of hard work for, and that’s really exciting.

At thinkspace we also have many relationships with organizations, groups, and individuals who support the growth of startups. It’s a great opportunity to share these partners to help connect you when you are in need. Check out our list and reach out for an introduction. Seattle is quite the populous city but can be made much smaller when you have community that wants to support you. Let’s create more reasons to be in Seattle.

Some of our Partners to Check Out!

Keiretsu Forum, a global angel investor network with more than 2500 accredited investor members throughout 47 chapters on 3 continents.

Techstars, a seed accelerator and worldwide network supporting entrepreneurs’ success.

Madrona Venture Labs, a startup studio based in Seattle. We partner with founders to build meaningful companies from scratch.

Startup Haven, educational resources, in-person networking events and leverage to network effects to bring value to growth-oriented startup founders and investors.

CoMotion Labs, part of CoMotion, removes barriers for startups, and provides valuable industry connections in order to help our members take their innovations to impact. They provide a multi-industry labs system hosting startups from inside and outside the UW community ranging from pre-seed to Series A.

I go in phases with my yoga practice. I love a 30-day yoga challenge and sometimes extend it for another 30-60 days. Then I often stop making it a priority because I’d rather go for my morning run or because that extra 30 minutes of sleep is enticing, but it’s not just my flexibility and ability to touch my toes that is effected by this, but my energy and focus at work as well.

Certainly part of my yoga life-goals is about achieving the headstand, or at least mastering crow pose, but part of the reason I get called back to practicing is because of how I feel throughout my day post-session. Don’t let Instagram fool you; yoga has nothing to do with how flexible your body is or what poses you’ve mastered, but about meeting yourself where you are and breathing into your movements. Whether I practice for ten minutes or an hour, the method of breathing in and out in rhythm brings focus to my body as a whole, and I feel more centered during my day and able to center that focus on my tasks, projects, and relationships.

Yoga has a plethora of benefits. Though it unfortunately won’t prevent difficult plights at work, it can certainly help entrepreneurs manage their stress and anxiety. Cash flow problems won’t be resolved by mastering the firefly pose, but what it can help is how to approach these problems with a clear mindset. Most entrepreneurs I know understand the importance of staying physically fit, but not as many commit the same time for their mental health.

Lizzie Brown, highlighted by Forbes, is the co-creator of Yoga Wake Up, an app that teaches busy entrepreneurs how to practice meditation and basic yoga postures. She shares that “yoga is a practice that adapts to whatever challenges are going on in your body and in your life.” The benefits of yoga for you as an entrepreneur are all about managing stress. When your day is inundated with employees asking questions, or you’re working around the clock to secure funding, a mindfulness practice can root you to the ground. This mindfulness and meditation is what yoga is at its core and your consistent practice, whether through an app or in a studio, will aid you in keeping control.

Yoga helps you let go of control, slow down your mind, practice patience, and take a moment away from screens and work to be with yourself. We’ve been fortunate at thinkspace Seattle to practice weekly with Jackie Lea as she leads member yoga each Wednesday. During our session we take extra time to stretch, open up our breathe and work out the kinks from sitting at a computer all day. After each session I’ve left feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to tackle my next project, whether for work or at home. You have so many options to practice yoga, via app, instructor, or online (might I recommend Yoga With Adriene?). You can do yourself and your business a favor – try challenging yourself to 30 days of yoga and be shocked at what more you can do.

Diversity in the workplace looks incredibly different depending on the industry and certainly location of the company, but if you’re paying any attention to some of loudest niche markets out there, and definitely those supporting entrepreneurs, you’ll see that women are getting more noise than ever.

While browsing for information about women and diversity in the workplace I stumbled across State of Startups; I found the results fascinating. Venture-firm First Round Capital produces an “annual survey where hundreds of venture-backed founders speak frankly about what it’s like running a technology startup today.” A Wired article points out some of the biases in the actual survey conducted as it notes that while they certainly asked a lot about diversity, they never gathered data on the ethnic breakdown of their own respondents. What I found most interesting about the results however was that startup founders believe that true progress when it comes to diversity is still well into the future, 10+ years. When you think of the big tech companies and the startup world, words like innovative, ground breaking, and spearheading come to mind. When it comes to diversity though, these founders overwhelmingly predicted that it will take 10+ years until the tech scene is representative of the general population. If tech and startups are where innovative practices are born, think of the missed opportunities and insight from women’s unique perspectives that could be leading this even stronger. How do we accelerate this?

With so much media focus on women and minority entrepreneurs and in tech, it’s curious to see such low optimism for diversity goals being met in the startup world. I think we’re lucky in Seattle. We’re surrounded by some incredible women-led groups with missions to support gender diversity like the Female Founders Alliance, entrepreneurial and programming-rich spaces like The Riveter, and programs like Companion Coding which introduces low-income minority youth to careers in tech by training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities. All of these Seattle-based companies don’t just have visions to support women and minority entrepreneurs, but are creating resources and spreading awareness about it as well.

At thinkspace we get to see women in tech thrive in their businesses. We see startup co-founders like Cassie Wallender of Invio and software engineers like Erin Fitzhenry of ToSomeone, and we host the Women in Tech Regatta, which gathers to connect wo(men) in tech to mentors, peers, and resources. In talking to Erin Fitzhenry about diversity in tech jobs and startups, she shared an interesting perspective about her experience as a woman in technology–she isn’t a fan of the term. Though she acknowledges her strength in her abilities, her interests lie in tech as a tool for solving problems rather than in the technology itself. That is sometimes in contrast with her male counterparts, especially ones who grew up gaming and got interested in the industry because of it. Erin noted that if schools, clubs, and parents focused on using technology as a tool to solve meaningful problems in the world, this might attract more girls to this concept at a younger age, helping fill the pipeline in the future.

Certainly we’re seeing more women and minorities as CEOs and in tech, but the growth rate according to this data points to the pipeline being underrepresented and unconscious biases during hiring. Entrepreneurs and companies always have room to do more to be inclusive but finding the resources to support that is crucial. Thinkspace partner New Tech NW has an incredible resource guide Diversity and Minorities in Tech which I highly recommend taking a look at if you’re interested in gaining resources or getting involved.

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. If you’re interested in checking out our previous “How I Work” interviews they get compiled here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Michael Elliott from RocketDog. Rocketdog originally launched in 1999 and Michael dove in full time in 2000. Not only is he an active member at thinkspace, he’s also heavily involved in the tech community. This year he was co-lead for Seattle Startup Week and sits on panel discussions often. It’s important for entrepreneurs to make time for themselves and Michael does that by going on hikes with his bulldog Chuck. You can visit Michael, and Chuck sometimes too, in the Seattle office.

Name:  Michael Elliott

Current Gig: Owner of RocketDog

One word that best describes how you work: Hustle

Current mobile device:iPhone

Favorite verb: Get

Grit Score: (You can learn your Grit Score here) 3.75

How do you recharge or take a break from work? Great food and drinks with friends.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? NFL Football and or Superhero

Sunrise or sunset: Sunrise. It’s such an amazing sense of renewal, though I have to admit I see way more sunsets.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I’m somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur. I enjoy, and sometime dread, controlling my own destiny, but it is the path I have chosen and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Number of unread emails right now? 0

First thing you do when you come into work? Review my plan/projects for the day, then meditate for 10 minutes.

What is your email management strategy? Not as good as I’d like.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  Meditation.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’ll let you know when I find it.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? My notebook. I write down all of my tasks/projects that I need accomplish for that day with two items on the top of each page: “What’s the one thing that I can do to dramatically change my world” and “What’s the most important thing I can do today to achieve that goal?”

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Adobe Suite

Last thing you do before leaving work? Review my tasks and what I need to finish before end of day.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it?The hunt. Though I love it, it never ends.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I’m a big fan of Culture Code, Power of Habit, and The Power of Moments.

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) has been a fantastic experience over the last decade. It’s like have a built-in brain trust of several hundred of people, that I can reach out to anytime.

Describe your workspace? Awesome!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? When I was graduating high school, I was gifted some money as a graduation present and when my best friend’s dad handed it to me, he said “I gave you more than any of the other boys because I know you will do something with it and I look forward to seeing how your journey turns out.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? I love giving back, and I encourage those around me to find ways to give back in a meaningful way.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!

If you’re anything like me, your nostalgia for the past will never cease. This means you’re well aware that The Backstreet Boys have reunited and are back on tour, that you were torn when Toys “R” Us announced their bankruptcy in 2017, and have been equally shocked to see in the recent news that Payless Shoes will be shutting down all of their 2,000+ US and Puerto Rican stores.

Payless Shoe Source has been a staple since it’s opening in 1956, when cousins set up the model for self-service. In the late 2010’s self-service is still a thing of course, but online shopping is booming and shopping malls are vanishing. Consumers simply aren’t going out to brick and mortar shops as frequently as retail stores would hope, forcing many of them to deal with their multitude of debt.

Market disruptions have always existed, but within the last decade it seems more like an explosion. The entertainment industry for example was blown away by Netflix and other streaming services- you certainly haven’t seen a Blockbuster store anytime recent. I’m also fairly certain you haven’t opened the door for an encyclopedia salesmen anytime within the last 20+ years, and I feel fairly comfortable betting that Gen Z might not even understand that reference, because wikipedia was the disrupter in that.

Your company might be working to cause the disruption in a frustrating market, or perhaps you’re trying to prepare next steps in case of one. Either way, seeing news like Payless closing up doors is a good reason to consider how you’re doing business and embrace that change is bound to occur. I found it shocking that in a recent report from Accenture it quoted “while 93 percent of executives … say they know their industry will be disrupted at some point in the next five years, only 20 percent feel they’re highly prepared to address that threat.” Noteworthy is that this is occurring to both large companies and startups so embracing for change is inescapable.

Darwin’s theory is survival of the fittest. How do you do this in business? Mimicking advice from Accenture: don’t wait, be brave, turn your vulnerabilities into advantages.

By now you’ve probably at least heard the name Marie Kondo, the Japanese decluttering expert who’s been trending all over social media. People are binging episodes of “Tidying Up,” her Netflix Original series and if you haven’t been able to follow along, you should definitely watch this clip of her with Colbert on the Late Show, surely to give you some insight. Dubbed the KonMari method, Marie reveals that the root of decluttering is in finding joy, not just in the items you own, but within your heart.

Marie begins each episode greeting and thanking the home, a silent moment of gratitude, before she helps her new clients prepare for the journey ahead of them. She takes a simplistic approach when it comes to spreading awareness of organization: “the KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

In addition to tidying (and teaching Americans how to fold their clothes so that their dresser drawers look incredible) Marie also speaks to productivity: the art of being organized doesn’t just lie within the walls of you home or your workspace, but within your mind. In one of her blog posts Marie explains to maximize productivity and be most efficient, she sets up routines that spark joy and align with her goals, currently of which include being able to spend more time with her children. From a macro perspective on long term goals, she begins with how to spend her time in years then progressively works toward quarters, months, and weeks- and finally works through daily routines. If you don’t have time to read through her whole blogpost here are her five tips that keep her productive while balancing work and family/personal life.

  1. Start Your Morning With Good Energy- Examples include opening the windows for fresh air and getting dressed in something that makes you feel confident.
  2. Make a Daily To-Do List- Include everything on your list, from folding the laundry to answering emails. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel incredibly accomplished after seeing all the checkmarks next to each completed task.
  3. Coordinate With Your Partner- If you have a roommate or significant other, discussing a household to-do list is a helpful habit. Not only is it a way to share what you’ve already accomplished so it doesn’t get repeated, but it also allows you to express gratitude towards each other. Though a spreadsheet might be useful in the beginning, establishing your rhythm can be helpful to figure out which tasks are best suited for each person.
  4. Clear Your Mind- When I have too many thoughts I’m trying to focus on, I like to write down everything, creating a place to hold all the information and free up the space in my head. Other activities to clear your mind might include exercising or cleaning.
  5. Create a Nighttime Routine- Bedtime isn’t just for kids. Creating a routine for winding down in the evening has many benefits, your health included. When everything has a designated home (laundry bin, papers in folders, etc) you get to head to bed knowing everything is where it’s supposed to be. Marie even suggests thanking them for their hard work. Your evening routine can also involve reading, diffusing oils, or writing in a journal.

In her conclusion: “Prioritizing what sparks joy is at the heart of all the tips I shared above. Keeping this philosophy at the center of everything I do helps me focus on what I value. If you are struggling to figure out what sparks joy for you, my first piece of advice is to tidy your home. Once you are done tidying up, you will find it easier to keep your home – and mental space – clear and focused. By being surrounded only by the things that spark joy, your life naturally begins to achieve clarity.”

If you’re interested in reading other things about KonMari, I really enjoyed this article as well. We’d love to hear your thoughts about how finding joy has been influencing your day. Drop us a comment!

A while back we hosted the Madrona Open Pitch event with special guest Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group, moderated by Shauna Causey and Mike Fridgen with Madrona Venture Labs. Before the event, Spencer, Shauna, Mike and I had a conversation and got on the topic of our children. It was kind of amusing to notice that the common thing among each of us was how we introduce and expose our children to entrepreneurship in some form.

Spencer shared that one month ago he started a podcast with his 10 year old son Luke. The podcast is called “Dad, I have a question!” In their podcast, Luke asks questions and then they proceed to have a conversation about it. Some of the topics are: Taxes, Savings, What is Blockchain, and the current topic is What are Unions (but not specifically State of the Union)…

If you want to listen to this podcast you can find “Dad I have a question” podcast on things like Anchor and Spotify!

We also talked a little bit about how as our children grow older we want to have different things that allow us to stay connected to them. I know that is so important to me. I would love to be able to explore different fun adventurous ways to connect with them. Some of the ideas that come to mind are doing a joint podcast, helping them create a YouTube Channel, or build a Amazon or Shopify Storefront and sell LEGO collectibles on it. All these things would be insanely fun me and with the intention of them really enjoying it too!

If you would like to see/hear the talk from “How I built my Seattle Startup” there’s a podcast by Shauna Causey and Mike Fridgen taking with Spencer Rascoff!

I was walking with a coworker during our weekly 1:1 (I highly recommend doing this btw), and the subject of imposter syndrome came up. We were recalling times being in new roles and having this unfounded “what if I don’t know what I’m doing” thought looming in the background. I’ve spoken with friends and clients for years about this concept and have come to the conclusion it’s happened to many us do, and often.

Imposter syndrome, also known by imposterism (and a slew of other similar names), is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. According to this article I found in Psychology Today, it’s not an actual disorder, “but the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”

This great post shares an interpretation of imposter syndrome in that it has multiple faces. In the article it describes how expert Dr. Valerie Young has categorized imposter syndrome into subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert and I challenge you to find yourself in the descriptions. Whether you are the CEO, web developer, wedding photographer, or entrepreneur inventor, the potential that you will be afflicted with imposter syndrome is high. Maya Angelou, Howard Schultz, and Sheryl Sandberg have even admitted to struggling with this phenomenon. As your resident health coach I’m happy to share that there are ways to get relief and build up the muscles to overcome it though. Take the time to remember that everyone feels imposterism and to combat it, practice positive self talk to remind yourself of your badass accomplishments and skills. Everyone is good at a lot of things and you are quite likely really good at the work to do. Your accomplishments didn’t happen due to chance, seduction, or some other external factor so don’t let imposter syndrome deceive you.

Check out this short Ted Talk video about imposter syndrome that I really enjoyed and if you have any advice or comments I’d love to see them below.

On December 10, 2018 Geekwire published an article about Microsoft seating first in Forbes ‘Just 100’ list of most responsible companies. To learn this, Forbes partnered with Just Capital and asked 81,000 Americans what they want to see most from America’s largest companies. Among the top answers were fair pay, treating customers well (while keeping their information private), environmental friendliness, and commitment to diversity. Of 890 of the largest publicly-traded companies, Microsoft ranked #1 which shows that while taking public interest to heart, it continues to grow economically and in public consciousness.

Categories where Microsoft did exceedingly well:

  • Environment – minimize pollution, reduce waste, and protect the planet
  • Worker Treatment – keeping worker pay and treatment at the heart of just business practices
  • Customers – maintaining fair treatment, privacy, and honest sales terms
  • Leadership – prioritizing ethical leadership and value creation 
  • Communities – providing community support at home and abroad

Though Microsoft like any other company has room to grow, the most noteworthy category I found was where they ranked lowest: products.

  • Products and services should be high quality, fairly priced, and beneficial to society.

Entrepreneurs create companies because they have a passion for an idea or product; success often follows if they can solve a problem facing their target market. Having been involved in the software industry for decades, Microsoft’s strong brand awareness and reputation for great products have kept them in competitive business all these years. Because of this it’s rather shocking to see that they ranked so low in the product category. If not for their product, why are their customers so loyal and their brand first-rate?

In an interview that came long the rankings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Forbes in an interview “People are finally coming around to saying, ‘it’s not just the surplus you’ve created for yourself. What’s the state of the world around you?’ That’s where I feel like we’re at our best.”  With this is mind it seems ever more relevant to ask what your company is doing to support the state of the world around you? Having a product or service that solves a problem or that people enjoy is what put you into business, but how do you take it to the next level in how you give back to your employees, customers, and the environment. We’re curious at thinkspace what you’re doing and where you think you rank in these categories. Leave a comment below and let’s start a discussion on why your product isn’t always the sole driver of your company’s success.