Inspiration For Mind Program – Why Are You Doing This Crazy Thing?

A lot of people are curious about “how, why, and where” I got the inspiration for the Mind workshops we did this year. Here is my latest version of that story.

Inspiration – MPPGA Mind 2018

I met with Moura Quayle, UBC Public Policy Director,  in June 2018 to discuss how my new experiment with Meditation, Mindfulness, and Career Exploration was going.  I’d had similar discussions with her about “Experiential Entrepreneurship” and “Design Thinking” in the past.  We talked about the journey from the fall of 2017 to now.  The idea in the fall of 2017, the prototype at Quest University in February 2018, and the full workshop in June 2018 at UBC. At the end of that meeting she asked, “… I know you’re busy … and can you do this for our students?”

Where This All Started – The Fall of 2017 – and earlier.

Here is the story that I told.  The inspiration for this workshop comes from Engineering Physics (Fizz) students request for support in “Mental Health”. At the 2017 Fizz Board of Studies meeting student representatives asked for Mental Health support. I read the minutes and said to myself, “I should do something about that. I’ll book a meeting with Andre (Engineering Physics Director) right now.”

I’ve been mentoring entrepreneurs at UBC for over a decade and through that activity I’ve had many of these “Mental Health” requests. I find that students want to learn about ways to support their mental health and achieve high performance in their work. I have experience in this area honed from my journey with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 2001 and my intense startup journeys with PMC-Sierra and Packet Engines.

My first experience with mindfulness and meditation was via the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs developed by Dr John Kabatt Zin. I found these practices worked for me. I have explored many of the sources and inspirations of Kabat-Zinn’s scientific work to provide a scientific basis for mindfulness and meditation. Being a “Fizzer” I wanted to get to “first principles” and that is how I met a “lay monk/nun” named Bonni Ross.  That said, I’m not going get into theory of meditation and mindfulness.  We’re just going to try it out, like a laboratory course, we are going to “Sit, Circle, and Explore”.

A Special Thank You To Chade-Meng Tan For His Inspiration

When talking about inspiration I have to mention Chade-Meng Tan. I’ve never met him and yet when I read his blog, and later books, I felt like he’s been in the “cube” next to me forever.  He’s a crazy and silly engineer like the rest of us. He’s different because he’s an early-Google-guy and wants us all to meditate.

I’d like to “Thank” Chade-Meng Tan for his audaciousness in developing the “Search Inside Yourself”  class at Google in the 2000s and publishing his book in 2012. Without his coming forward and destigmatizing Mindfulness and Meditation in the engineering community, I couldn’t have done this.  Here is his “Life Story: Three Easy Steps to World Peace from his old-blog  Mengstupiditis.  Yes, he is a crazy, silly, super-smart guy.

“Three Easy Steps to World Peace” by Chade-Meng Tan
1. Start with me, be the change I want to see in the world.
2. Make meditation a field of science, just like medicine.
3. Align meditation with real life, make it useful and relevant for real people.

Why Me?

You may ask why I’m offering a meditation workshop for Engineering Physics (Fizz) students.

My answer is that I have lived this topic for over a decade and I’m in the Fizz and UBC tribe.  I can get this conversation started.

I started meditating in the early 2000’s for health reasons.  In 2005, I had the good fortune of meeting meditation genius Bonni Ross and began a deep study of meditation.  She got me started in all the components of this program.  Thank You Bonni.

I came across Chade-Meng Tan’s blog in the late-2000s and became more open about my journey with meditation and mindfulness.

Also, I’ve spent a lot of time rationalizing my meditation experience with psychology.  A big Thank You to Dr Holly Stepaniuk and Dr Lesley Joy for helping me decode the meditative experience.

Also, I’ve a long history with UBC.  I’m a Fizz ’89, just like program director Dr Andre Marziali.  I’m on the Fizz Board of Studies.  I’m part of the donor team that created the PMC-Sierra Professorship in Fizz.  I taught entrepreneurship in the UBC Sauder MBA program 2008-2012.  A big Thank You to John Ries for getting that going. I taught the first two Lean Launch Pads (LLPs) with e@UBC in 2012 and 2013. A big Thank You to Carol Leacy and Anuj Singhal for that.  I volunteered in a few of UBC Sauder’s “Design Thinking” classes. Thank You Moura Quayle for that.  I taught LLPs in the Genomics Entrepreneurship program.  A big Thank You to Andrea Lloyd for that.  In 2014 I went to Kenya with UBC Sauder Social Entrepreneurship.  A big Thank You to Frances Chandler for that.  Since 2015 I’ve been a Entrepreneurship Advisor at UBC Sauder.  A big Thank You to Paul Cubbon for that.

This essay on workplace burnout “I Forget What Eight Was For” provides my motivation for developing the skills in this workshop.

Finally, this Pecha Kucha video is a good introduction to me in the role of Entrepreneurship Advisor and Explorer.

Wow! We Found A Hummingbird Nest

Bodi and I found new friends in Hay Park this year.

Over the course of a few weeks, I photographed a hummingbird and then it’s babies. 

<heart> ❤


# The Hummingbird
IMG 5386  mom
# Babies – Two Beaks Together

IMG 5447 to right

# Babies – Two Beaks Apart

IMG 5427 apart

# It’s Tiny — the hummingbird is on a branch a little left of the nest.
(nest is ~2 inches in diameter ) 

IMG 5538

Leadership & Working (by Iain)

This was first posted January 26, 2016

Last week I attended an excellent workshop on “Compassionate Leadership”. The whole point of the workshop was to have a discussion on what “Compassionate Leadership” meant to us. It was very interesting as we started with compassion being all “soft, nice, and comfortable” and finished up with compassion being “a dance between soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Those discussions reminded me of leaderships books I’ve read, and found useful, in the last few years. These books all speak to the dance between “soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Leadership BS (by Jeffrey Pfeffer)

This is a great book because Pfeffer lays out a very realistic description of the workplace. It is not a “pretty” description and this is why it is so useful. There is a lot of discussion around the interest of an individual versus the interest of the group. He notes empirical evidence that modern day leaders always focus on the individual first (i.e. themselves).

I wrote more here —

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (by Ben Horowitz)

This is a book written around Ben Horowitz’s blog. He was an early Netscape employee and is a Silicon Valley legend.

The reason I’ve loved this blog is that Ben talks about really hard things like “Demoting Your Friend”, “Firing An Executive”, “Managing Yourself”, etc. In most cases he describes the problem as — we got to this place because you ( the CEO ) messed up and not the employee.

He talks a lot about why CEOs make mistakes. For example, one of my favourite blog posts from Ben Horowitz notes that if CEOs were tested for CEO skills the average score would be 22%. That is “CEOs suck” and then he goes on to discuss why that is.

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology (Ben Horowitz)

If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.

More here —

So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World ( by Margaret J. Wheatley)

This book describes how we can do our good work with dedication, energy, discipline, and joy by consciously choosing a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit.

It is quite a “dark read” in that Marg Wheatley really digs into the dark corners of our working lives to set the tone for the challenge. Her picture of working is even darker than Jeffrey Pfeffer’s. (Whew) Again she speaks the truth of our working day challenges. That really helps. I’ve found the concept of a “Warrior For The Human Spirit” to be very useful.

The “good-reads” reviews are very good too. –

This book was recommended to me by Bonni. Thank You.


This is a very easy read for “Social Innovation” leaning people and a very hard book to read for “Entrepreneurship” leaning people ( like myself ). I’ve persevered and have come to understand him. I went to a talk by him, read the book, then mind-mapped the book, and took immense pressure from my daughter to understand him.

I really like that he talks about “acting like a group movement”. It is fascinating. I think all of you would like this book.

Here is the first chapter [link]

Important Reading *A Bigger Prize* by Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan’s recent book on the topic of Competition is an important read. Her view of competition will really mess with your current views. Guaranteed. It is worth the effort.

Yes that means that A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition is tough going. The final paragraph of Harvey Schachter’s great review is spot on.

She goes on and on, not just listing the damages she ascribes to competition but also indicating why the alternative, collaboration, is preferred. It’s sobering reading, well researched and illuminating in its examples and scope.
Harvey Schachter – Globe & Mail


*Thank You* Jeffrey Pfeffer –Leadership BS is Awesome!!!

“Thank You” Jeffrey Pfeffer.
I love Leadership BS! I’ve already gifted a few copies. It’s that good.

Yes, it is sad, sobering, and Machiavellian as most of the reviews I’ve read say.

So What! It’s one of the few books that gives advice based on “Reality”. It’s important to note that leaders are not perfect and that bad behavior is more common than we’d like to admit. Pay attention and take care of yourself.

So Many Gems

My favorite is on page 173

“… relying on the good behavior and positive sentiments of work organizations for your career well being is singularly foolish”

Getting A Raise

In Chapter 7 “Take Care of Yourself” Pfeffer gives great advice on asking for a raise. Think “What can you do for the organization in the future?” — the organization does not care what you’ve done in the past. Yes it’s harsh advice. But is true and choosing to ignore this reality is a bad plan. Make sure you firmly put yourself in the organizations future plans, then you are “needed”. Talk about what you’re going to do. Use your past successes to support your story for your future.

Books For Experiential Learning

I’ve found that in teaching experiential workshops, like e@UBC’s Lean LaunchPads, our students are more exposed to “Reality”. Thus we need more books to support what they find in their research. We need more leadership books that have their roots in what people actually do versus what we want them to do. For example, there is a section where Mentorship goes sideways in this book. Priceless.

My Favorite Entrepreneurship Books (2015 Version)

Here is a visual view of my favorite “Entrepreneurship” books.

My 6 super-favorites have bold blue borders.

  • The Startup Owners Manual, by Steve Blank
  • Value Proposition Design, by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • The Design of Business, by Roger Martin
  • Humble Inquiry, by Edgar Schein
  • Linchpin, by Seth Godin
  • Leadership BS, by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Reading Entrepreneurship 2015 10 30

More — The Big List of Entrepreneurship Reading

If you’re looking for the monster reading list. Steve Blank has the best one here

I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship, GREAT Program Showcase (Slides & Script)

Update – Sept 19, 2015 – the live video of this talk is available here.

Here are slides & script for the “I Have A Passion For Entrepreneurship”, Pecha Kucha Presentation, I gave on January 29, 2015 as part of Genomics Entrepreneurship UBCs GREAT Program Showcase.

note: The text for each slide is shown in the notes section of slideshare.

Full Text – 20 seconds per page/point

  • #1. I have a passion for entrepreneurship because it’s about people. And I care about people. It’s people, like you & me, who buy stuff. We, and our wallets, are ultimately the judges of entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurship is about New Ways of serving people. Today and in the future.
  • #2. In Existing Markets, we want to be served with “Better, Faster, and Cheaper” versions of products, and services, we already know. For example, I have an iPhone 4s and I want and need the iPhone 6 because “it’s better, faster, and cheaper.”
  • #3 This is an Existing Market. It’s the place to be, and there is tons of money in Existing Markets. So it sounds like, if you’re an entrepreneur, all you need to do is make the iPhone 7. Super Easy. Right?
  • # 4. Well no. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs rarely succeed in Existing Markets. “Better, Faster and Cheaper” is not what entrepreneurs do. The big companies, like Apple, get to make their own sequels.
  • #5. Entrepreneurs create New Market Segments like Apple did with the original iPhone and iPod. These did not exist before. That means Entrepreneurs build version 1 products with the hope that people will want versions 2, 3, 4, 5, …
  • #6. This sounds very risky. Yes, It is. Most entrepreneurs fail. Even with Apple’s immense success few people bought version 1, or 2, of the iPhone and the earlier iPod. Raise your hands if you bought version 1 of the iPhone. {delay} Yah, I didn’t. It’s my experience that most people bought in with versions 3 or 4 ( like I did).
  • #7. The trouble with Creating New Market Segments isn’t the technology. It’s the people. Very few people buy version 1 of anything. The entrepreneurs real job is finding people who care, developing a relationship with them for versions 2, 3, 4, 5. … and so on. The sequels. That’s where the money is.
  • #8. And now the Sad Part. This is a lot of work and takes time. Most evidence suggests that it takes 3-to–5 years for a New Segment to become a money making Existing Market. That is a long sentence “3-to–5 years” … So … You’ve got to have an noble goal & lots of passion for it to get through that time.
  • #9. Many people will agree that this is realistic, and some of you will disagree. But many of you will ask me, “but Iain why do most of BC’s Billion Dollar successes like Botox, QLT, Westport, MDA, and your PMC-Sierra all take more than 5 years to become part of Existing Markets?”
  • #10. Because, Brand New Markets have a huge “People Problem”. It takes a long time for raw technology to connect with people. For example, people don’t want “transistors”, people want a transistor radio to listen to music and dance.
  • #11. In 1989, I was making chips for data communications at PMC-Sierra. One one hand that was genius. We were building chips for the Internet. On the other hand, the Internet didn’t exist yet. In fact the word Internet didn’t exist yet. (There was no market yet.) We were 5 years to early. What a stupid idea {laughing} We were in for a long journey.
  • #12. It was not straight-forward. The journey had no map, no boat, and no oars. We had to build everything from scratch. We messed up thousands of times. It was fun and many times it was TERRIFYING. But it was worth it, in the end.
  • #13. Yes. Entrepreneurship can be terrifying. There is a lot of anxious self – dialog – Will anyone care about my new idea? When will someone care? No understands what I’m talking about! My parents think I’m crazy to work on this. My friends think I’m crazy to work on this. I’m beginning to think I’m crazy.
  • #14 And then the “Rays of Hope” appear {laughing}. The entrepreneurial “New Segment” becomes an “Existing Market”. That’s when entrepreneurs can finally explain to their friends and family what it is that they really do.
  • #15. One of my favorite conversations was with my mom around 1996, that was about 7 years into PMC-Sierra, because I could finally connect something she that was doing in the real world with the products that our company was making.
  • #16. I got to say, “Mom that e-mail that you love so much. I’m actually a part of that. Your e-mail hits one of my ”chips“ every time you hit send. In fact every person on earth hits my chips when they send an e-mail.”
  • # 17. That was such a great moment. I made a difference for her. An entrepreneur made a difference for a real person in the real world.
  • #18. Our company survived and by 1998 we finally cracked $100M in sales. It took ten years. {wow}
  • #19. That journey started with new technology and a “New Market Segment” called The Internet. It took many years for the world to learn what the Internet was. The more we learned, the bigger the Internet market grew. And today we want it “Better, Faster, and Cheaper”, …. and on a mobile device. Wow. It’s amazing what the Internet has become.
  • #20. So, what’s next? The question for the future entrepreneurs in the room is, “Whose problem are you going to solve?” because that is the first step on your entrepreneurial journey. Thank You. {smile}