It’s Silicon Valley 101
Just the name evokes vivid imagery synonymous with startup culture; endless sunshine, intellectual collaboration, and prosperity galore. Renowned for housing high-tech powerhouses, this region in the San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed for technological innovation. Infusing a potent concoction of resources, talent, and capital. A consolidated stream of brilliant concepts reinforced by brilliant minds. I’ll admit, the location has zest.
From the outside looking in, Silicon Valley can appear intimidating, larger than life. We read about the affluent tech tycoons and industry titans occupying Northern California that are shaping the very world we live in.
But as eloquently put by Daniel Gross
Everyone who seems formidable…started out putting on their pants the same way you do in the morning.
Silicon Valley is more than a location.
It’s an attitude.
The startup seed has been blossoming nationwide, emulating Silicon Valley’s ambience and pipeline of savvy creators. But they don’t have nearly the identity, influence, or cultural draw that Silicon Valley has just yet.
Essential characteristics that define Silicon Valley cannot be confined to a singular location anymore. The DNA embedded within this technological hub has become nomadic.
For over a year I have worked as a Marketing Specialist at a small tech company (less than 50 employees) in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. After extensive research on the topic, mostly because I was interested in learning more about newcomer Silicon Valley startups, I began to realize that many of the components attributed to Silicon Valley show up in my daily work. It became apparent that startup success is less about a place and more about the passionate people and developing culture that are established.
Here are a few ways you can adopt the Silicon Valley mindset to enhance your life.
Apple established that tech was cool. Facebook forever changed our communication habits. Google is Google. These companies are disruptors; not the watered down term we have adapted to more recently. They actually disrupted entire industries.
When Steve Jobs took control of Apple’s creative department in 1997, he was faced with a monumental task; rebuild a company on the brink of disaster. In 1998, he introduced the iMac.
You don’t need to discover the next unicorn to make a ripple in an ocean of innovators, influencers, and social media stars. First, let imagination and a collective scope of thought fuel a general curiosity. Don’t set out to be a disruptor. Build a radical idea that challenges the traditional way of thinking about a product or process.
Take Airbnb, a brand I have mentioned in previous articles, and their offbeat approach to lodging. Airbnb provides a relativity safe marketplace for people interested in renting out their homes short-term, and offers a competitive alternative to staying in a hotel. They have forever changed the way we travel.
Part of the beauty of Silicon Valley is that people generally encourage you to think crazy. It’s the hypothesis that there’s nothing sacred that can’t be changed.
Far too often our society encourages comfort and complacency. Be willing to go out on a limb and put aside insecurities about an idea or concept. Having confidence in yourself will rub off on others.
Think Like A Visionary
We are a race starving for updates, with dwindling attention spans ignited by the emergence of new applications and technologies to stimulate our senses. When kids became bored with texting, a previously exciting concept, they moved to Snapchat; an application where conversations disappear and being non-responsive is an accepted practice.
Ask yourself “Has this been done before”? And if it has, determine a way to inject life into something that is becoming dull. In the realm of our modern world, new ideas move very fast. We are still less than a decade removed from the smartphone craze that has become so integral to daily life.
Seattle, WA. A small garage operation starts selling books online in anticipation of the 1990’s e-commerce boom. Fast forward to 2018, and Amazon is now one of the worlds largest and most dynamic retailers.
We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.
Jeff Bezos foresaw the oncoming internet trailblaze that was about to explode. So he quit his job and made a ‘top 20’ products list that he could potentially sell on the internet, ultimately picking books because of their low cost and universal demand.
To truly adopt the Silicon Valley mindset, it is important to understand that success is often very gradual. Amazon did not build its empire overnight. Many setbacks almost drove the company out of business as it initially lived on the edge of bankruptcy.
Elon Musk likened starting a company to “chewing glass” and staring into the abyss of death. For a period of time, Musk proposed many initiatives that were turned down by investors.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
Many of these monumental pioneers started from humble beginnings. Often, they are running on economic fumes for long stretches of time, granted a small loan from a parent or family member. The knowledge that a full fledged collapse is lurking around the corner fuels the desire for stability. And if they stop pushing forward it will catch them.
If there has been one constant theme from reading dozens of memoirs, hundreds of quotes, and many more interviews from the leaders of Silicon Valley, it is the undeniable attachment to failure.
We are constantly surrounded by immense distractions and feel emotionally attached to Instagram likes, friend requests, and other forms of faux flattery. Instead, demonstrate an ability to be present, mindful, and respectful. Seek out collaboration and brainstorming to keep the creative juices from becoming stagnant. I often find that my best ideas come up during moments of engaging conversation.
Take the time to ask your peers and co-workers questions, and soak up the valuable feedback they provide. Sometimes the missing piece of a project can be swallowed by the pride of its creator, but obvious to another set of eyes.
Think Like A Visionary
The flow of energy and creativity taking place throughout Silicon Valley can be applied to any individual willing to accept the inevitable obstacles that will appear along the journey. Creators often see beauty in a problem that seldom reveals itself to anyone else. Stop focusing on the zip code and start creating a movement.
Thanks for reading. If you found this article interesting, please feel free to clap, leave a comment, or follow me for future posts. I am a newcomer to the Medium platform and your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Jonah Malin is a Marketing and Advertising specialist in tech. I aspire to create content that is relevant and beneficial with an infusion of thoughtful insights and my own experiences as a recent college grad. Send me a message on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter (@JonahMalin95) to connect, and reference this story.
How To Apply The Startup Mindset To Your Life was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.