Should we Learn from Success Stories?

Success-with-KaynijoMost people are always looking for the “success formula”. They enjoy being inspired by huge success stories, and then try to emulate them. However, in general these success stories are often non-reproducible. They are the result of a combination of very unique factors.

It makes much more sense to learn from the mistakes of others. It is easier to observe their failures and then try to avoid the most frequent errors of people who have failed. By doing that we will directly increase our chances of success.

As a metaphor: are you able to cook? In general the first step to becoming a good cooker is to learn to avoid the simple mistakes that spoil your food…

But it is not so easy to learn from the mistakes of others. We always think: of course I would never make such obvious mistakes!

Taking Risks

Most actions have a chance to succeed and have a chance to fail, so it is OK to take risks. But there are obviously some things that have no chance to be successful.

I believe that many entrepreneurs have what they think is a clear “growth strategy” but they don’t have any “survival strategy”, so if they don’t succeed at first they simply can’t recover later.

In my opinion, the main reason that people try to do things that have no chance to succeed is because they do not understand the prerequisites. So, for example, they may say: “I can run a Marathon”. But they may fail to understand that several months of preparation are required before you try to run a Marathon.

In the same way an entrepreneur can always try to raise funds for a startup. But most startups need lots of work before they really become “fundable”.

So perhaps what we need to learn from the mistakes of others is exactly that: what are the prerequisites to be successful? Or at least: what are the prerequisites to have a chance to be successful?

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Public Speaking: My Secret To Defeat The Fear To Face An Audience

170px-Jerry_Seinfeld_(1997)Are you afraid to speak in public? You are not alone…

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfeld

Worse than Death

The fear of public speaking has been the topic of serious scientific investigation. One example is the article “Is Public Speaking Really More Feared Than Death?” by the researchers Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They say:

“This study found that public speaking was selected more often as a common fear than any other fear, including death.”

But why people are so afraid of public speaking? A possible explanation is given by dr. Glenn Croston in his article “The Thing We Fear More Than Death“:

“When faced with standing up in front of a group, we break into a sweat because we are afraid of rejection. And at a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized and left to defend ourselves all on our own. We fear ostracism still so much today it seems, fearing it more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.”

Everybody Wants to be a Great Speaker

Talk Like TEDIf people in general are so afraid of public speaking, it is a paradox that so many people would like to be public speakers. Many books try to help people to become better speakers, and some of them are real best-sellers, such as “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by author Carmine Gallo. This is how the book is presented at Amazon:

“In his book, Carmine Gallo has broken down hundreds of TED talks and interviewed the most popular TED presenters, as well as the top researchers in the fields of psychology, communications, and neuroscience to reveal the nine secrets of all successful TED presentations. Gallo’s step-by-step method makes it possible for anyone to deliver a presentation that is engaging, persuasive, and memorable.”

Very nice. But does it really need to be so complicated? Do we really need to understand “psychology, communications and neuroscience” to become better speakers?

My Secret

So, what is the secret to become a good speaker? How can you defeat your fear to face an audience?

My approach is very simple: I try to speak in public as much as possible. Actually in general I seize most opportunities I’m given to speak in public. As a result, after several years speaking in public frequently, in general I’m not afraid anymore.

In 3 words: Practice Makes Perfect!

Below some pictures of audiences I faced this month: South Korean students visiting the Technion and Brazilian students participating in the Taglit project. I did not fear talking to them. Actually it was lots of fun!

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KashKlik Pitch at InVent DemoDay

This month I was invited to present KashKlik at InVent’s DemoDay. The audience was very engaged and asked lots of interesting questions. It was a great experience.

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InVent is a startup hub for entrepreneurs that are in the process of building up a product, and it is located at Haifa. Most entrepreneurs participating in the hub are in the early stages of product development. InVent’s services include business mentoring, lawyers, and professional advisers. In addition, InVent offers a variety of meetups, workshops and lectures by leading professionals from the industry.

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Inside and Outside the Comfort Zone

I really like this picture, because it makes me think about the meaning of leaving our Comfort Zone. I’m not sure that we always feel fear when we step outside our Comfort Zone. Very often I experience excitement when I have new challenges, and a lack of challenges causes boredom.

What I like the most is the idea that when we are in the Learning Zone we are actually expanding our Comfort Zone. This is a very powerful concept: if we want to grow, we must learn. Unfortunately many jobs require lots of effort but offer few learning opportunities, so that people work hard but don’t really grow.

comfort_zone

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On Realistic Expectations, Preparation and Adaptability

reality-article-2-640x460People like to list “success factors” and even “habits of successful people”. My personal observation is that it is essential to have realistic expectations. When a person understands the real challenges he is facing, he is able to prepare accordingly. But if someone expects that things will be easier than they really are, he does not prepare well enough.

Thus, very often a failure in execution begins with a failure in preparation. People may underestimate the difficulty of the problems they are facing, or they may be too optimistic, predicting positive scenarios and forgetting to consider the possibility of negative outcomes. Then, when things don’t really happen as they expected, they are completely unprepared.

But of course, it is not possible to be always prepared to every situation. In this case, if we are aware that these unexpected events may happen, we may develop an ability to adapt, or adaptability. This includes keeping some flexibility in our plans, and having extra resources that can be used in an emergency.

Strategic Inflection Points

only_the_paranoid_surviveAndy Grove, founder and former CEO of Intel, wrote the book “Only the Paranoid Survive“, in which he introduces the concept of Strategic Inflection Points. According to Grove:

“A strategic inflection point is when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure, from the old ways of doing business and the old ways of competing, to the new. Before the strategic inflection point, the industry simply was more like the old. After it, it is more like the new. It is a point where the curve has subtly but profoundly changed, never to change back again.”

“When an industry goes through a strategic inflection point, the practitioners of the old art may have trouble. On the other hand, the new landscape provides an opportunity for people, some of whom may not even be participants in the industry in question, to join and become part of the action.”

“When a strategic inflection point sweeps through the industry, the more successful a participant was in the old industry structure, the more threatened it is by change and the more reluctant it is to adapt to it. Second, whereas the cost to enter a given industry in the face of well-entrenched participants can be very high, when the structure breaks, the cost to enter may become trivially small.”

In Summary

When a person (or company) is prepared and able to adapt, the extraordinary events may become new opportunities. But insufficient preparation and lack of adaptability may transform any unexpected event into an irrecoverable failure.

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The Story of a Young Oleh – Taglit 2019

In  the beginning of the year I gave a presentation about my experience as a New Oleh (immigrant) in Israel. The audience was a group of young Brazilian professionals visiting Israel as part of the Taglit project. They were very interested in learning more about the startups ecosystem in Israel. Some of them were considering the possibility of doing Aliyah (immigrating to Israel), combining the Zionist dream with the opportunities to become an entrepreneur.

You can see my slides and video below.

Here is the video of the talk (in Portuguese):

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Data Science: Set Similarity Metrics

In this article I would like to present several metrics to calculate the similarity between sets of items. I’ve been analyzing diverse metrics as part of an investigation I’m doing to improve the targeting of digital advertising campaigns. These set similarity metrics are very useful to address the problem of audience expansion.

The basic idea is: we start with a set of users that have engaged with the ad, for example clickers. Then we try to find other similar sets of users that we can target. We have the expectation that, because of their similarity, the targeted users will also engage positively with the ad. These similar users become our expanded audience.

Jaccard Similarity

The Jaccard Similarity is defined as the size of the intersection divided by the size of the union of the sets.

Given two sets, A and B, the Jaccard Similarity is defined as:

The Jaccard Similarity ranges between zero and one.

Also called: Jaccard index, Intersection over Union

For more information: Jaccard Similarity

Sorensen Coefficient

The Sorensen Coefficient equals twice the number of elements common to both sets divided by the sum of the number of elements in each set.

Given two sets, X and Y, the Sorensen Coefficient is defined as:

The Sorensen Coefficient ranges between zero and one.

Also called: Sorensen–Dice index, Sorensen index, Dice’s coefficient

For more information: Sorensen Coefficient

Tversky Index

For sets X and Y, the Tversky Index is given by:

Note that  are parameters of the Tversky Index.

The Tversky Index ranges between zero and one.

The Tversky Index can be seen as a generalization of the Jaccard Similarity and the Sorensen Coefficient:

  • Setting  produces the Jaccard Similarity.
  • Setting  produces the Sorensen Coefficient.

Tversky measures with  are of special interest.

For more information: Tversky Index

Overlap Coefficient

The Overlap Coefficient is defined as the size of the intersection divided by the size of the smaller of the two sets.

For sets X and Y, the Overlap Coefficient is given by:

If set X is a subset of Y or the converse then the Overlap Coefficient is equal to 1.

Also called: Szymkiewicz–Simpson Coefficient

For more information: Overlap Coefficient

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