What I Learned Talking To Interesting People This Weekend — LYCEUM Miami Recap
I hosted a conference this weekend at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event featured guests from across industries and I sat on stage for nearly 9 hours to interview as many interesting people as possible. Given that many of you were unable to make the Miami-based event, I wanted to share a few of the lessons that I took away from LYCEUM Miami.
First, Cathie Wood of ARK Invest kicked off the day with a fireside chat on innovation, venture capital, and exponential growth in disruptive technologies. She continues to pioneer fund structures within the asset management industry — first with her active management strategy in an ETF wrapper and now with a publicly-traded venture capital fund.
One of the main lessons that Cathie shared was the importance of transparency for her team. They publish almost all of their research. They publish an increasing amount of their financial models for various investments. And they even invite anyone to join their idea brainstorms once-a-week. This level of transparency allows for an open-sourcing of ideas, along with a more efficient path to gather critiques. Cathie mentioned that the team has made changes to models or research based on feedback, and they continue to realize the power of the crowd.
Another key lesson that Cathie shared was her focus on the adult and gaming industries. She explained that many disruptive technologies are first used in those two sectors, so she always wants to understand what the early adopters are using to stay ahead of the game. These are the tools, techniques, and products that will be used by the mainstream in 5-10 years.
The next guest was Chris Williamson, who shared 10 principles for thriving in a chaotic world. One that stuck with me was “in life we must choose our regrets.” The idea is that people inaccurately believe they could live their life with zero regrets, but that is impossible. Instead, you should make decisions with your eyes wide open on what your regrets will be. You can’t do everything, be everywhere, and accomplish it all. Make decisions with a regret minimization framework and you’ll end up happier.
Chris’ second idea is “the key to confidence starts with action.” There is something empowering about taking the first step. You won’t always get things right. You will probably be really, really bad at some new activity. But, by acting, you start to gain confidence as you improve. You begin to feel more comfortable. You’ve been here before. You’ve done this thing before. Confidence comes from action.
Another guest was Mike Solana, the founder of Pirate Wires. Mike elaborated on why sanity and truth is so difficult to come by in an insane world. It feels like social media continues to pull our society apart, but Mike is using those same digital tools to show people that common sense can win. It takes one person to stand up for what they believe in and then many others will follow. This could be related to specific topics, or it could be relevant to an individual’s opinion on a topic. Either way, citizen journalists have even the playing field with powerful institutions by simply having an internet connection.
Next, we were joined by Vivek Ramaswamy, who previously built a multi-billion dollar biotech company and is now running for president in 2024. His message was simple — we need to bring back the national identity. People should be proud to say they are American. This concept is understood by immigrants and their children, but it needs to be shared publicly by leaders to ensure that a large majority of Americans also feel the same way. It is possible to be proud to be American, while still having critiques of the country or our society. But don’t be afraid. America is the best country in the world. There are millions of people trying relentlessly to become American citizens. A strong national identity is a sign of a strong nation.
Codie Sanchez joined us after Vivek. She shared the idea of Financial Fridays. Codie sits down every Friday and goes over each of the 24 businesses that she owns. This includes a high-level “on-track,” “slightly behind,” or “in trouble” categorization, but it can become as specific as evaluating line-item after line-item in a financial model. You can’t move the metrics you don’t measure. You can’t address problems you are unaware of. Codie told the story of a mentor who once asked her what her net worth was — when she said she didn’t know, he told her that she would never be rich because she wasn’t measuring the metrics. Interesting to think about.
Next, we had a panel of four of the highest-earning adult film stars in history. Each of these individuals have built companies or investment portfolios that would be the envy of financial market participants. We discussed how creativity was an essential component of any business, along with the desire to have faster feedback loops across their various businesses so they could iterate their products to better serve customers. I was blown away by the intelligence and success of each of these individuals and many people told me after the conference that this was their favorite session of the day.
Varda co-founder and Founders Fund investor Delian Asparouhov joined us next. He said one thing that really stuck out to me — most companies have their destiny determined once they hire the first 10 employees. The logic is that the team you build is the company you build. Team culture is set in stone once you have the first 10 hires. Additionally, you will have a hard time increasing the bar of excellence and the quality of the team once you hit the first 10 people inside the organization. If you’re building a company, take your time and make sure you hire the absolute best people or you may be setting yourself up for failure.
Hidden Genius author Polina Marinova Pompliano (and my wife!) joined me on stage for a few minutes to talk about a number of insights from her new book. One of the most interesting takeaways is the use of alter-egos by successful people. David Goggins claims “Goggins” accomplished everything, not David. Kobe Bryant became “Black Mamba” when he stepped onto the court. If you can separate yourself from your work, it allows you weather criticism and do things you think are impossible.
Pulte Capital’s Bill Pulte was next and he shared the idea of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Bill was specifically referring to Elon Musk and Tesla potentially building a home heating device. Bill owns a number of companies in the HVAC/home services sector, so he thinks that Tesla product could be a big threat to his business. Rather than complain though, Bill shared his plan to simply buy more Tesla stock if it happens. If you can’t beat them, join them. Simple idea but very hard to execute in the heat of the moment.
Lastly, we had a panel of business leaders in the Miami area to close out the day. Chris Adamo/Melissa Medina/Steven Galanis/David Blumberg all explained why they had moved to Miami or what they thought of the recent explosion of tech companies and founders. Steven shared that none of his founder friends have moved back to the city they came from and Chris mentioned the importance of Ken Griffin moving to Miami. We have to remember that Ken is not moving by himself, but he is going to move thousands of his high-earning employees as well. There was consensus, albeit from bias Miami residents, that Miami’s best days are ahead of it.
It is hard to summarize the entire day into a few paragraphs, but this was a ton of fun. We will definitely do more conferences in the future. Anytime that I can get smart, interesting people into a room to talk to me, it is a good day. All of the talks will be posted on our YouTube channel or podcast feed in the next couple of days. Make sure you are subscribed to each to be notified when they go live.
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Hope each of you has a great day. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
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