When Palantir was a company of less than 300 people, I was asked to build a list of possible advisors. The company had in fact leveraged a future board seat to FoundersFund if they did not manage to add at least one person from each of the following, a rather obscure list:
a long standing senator;
a Fortune 100 CEO;
a globally recognized talent agent;
a founder of three public companies;
the mastermind of the Bin Laden raid.
It was a joke of a list that nobody took seriously. I think it was basically forgotten.
Thirty days before the end of the year of the deadline, leadership woke up to this milestone and I was called. In the month of December, I had five seats to fill. We called this project Titans.
As a starting point we dropped 100 Fed-Ex envelopes in the mail to the Fortune 100. We thought nobody would reply to an old fashioned letter. Palantir was an unknown and secretive start-up in Palo Alto, but somehow in the surge of holiday mail, sixty-seven chairmen of the world’s largest companies replied.
There’s the ice, then there’s the iceberg.
Conversations with Titans
Here I will weave the distilled notes from conversations with titans, as well as founders, authors, pilots and monks together with my own migration, between mountain and sea, in a small plane.
[early investor in Alibaba]
Connection sells. Offer a product or service that provides connection and you are tapping into a neuro-biological need that runs directly to our amygdala. Its location so deep in our brains is an indication of its importance. It also says a lot about how primates' brains evolved. Just as rejection from the clan was death, today we are bombarded by constant triggers to be liked, seen or connected with in a way that not having them leads to depression and isolation. A kind of modern day death.
Find a way to offer and foster connection and you build empires.
Connections versus Connection
[owner of the Houston Astros]
Connections exist in the world of form. When offered, they smell suspect. And that’s because they are: all forms eventually fail. Offering connections over connection is the first sign we are contracting. Contracting into the known, the comfortable, the safe.
The truth is that we are devastatingly complex. Not only are we complex, but so too is the process of understanding one another. In a world of form, where everything is known (all the more with our devices) we have become uncomfortable with not knowing. The cost is wonder, and the cost is also of not being with hard things. Sometimes the simplest thing is the hardest thing. Has anybody ever just sat with you? Truly been there for you?
“Daring, I am here for you. Always.”
― Thich Naht Hahn