Finding your discomfort zone

I’ve been down in DC the past couple of weeks, among other things, speaking to lawmakers and regulators about cryptonetworks and cryptocurrencies. Included in that, I have been spending plenty of time with lawyers — especially securities lawyers — getting into depth on issues such as the definition of an”investment contract” and case law such as Howey, Reves and Forman.

Separately, I have spent a whole lot of time over the past 9 months assisting USV portfolio companies getting ready for the EU’s new privacy regulations, the GDPR. As part of that I’ve spent a whole lot of time with technology teams, lawyers and others unpacking not just what the regulations demand in various instances and what it takes for businesses to comply, but trying to think about ways to make data privacy and security compliance easier for small startups, assuming that new regulations in the usa are looming.

This isn’t a post about cryptocurrencies and if all ICOs are securities, or about how we should be thinking about solving privacy and safety problems online. It is about becoming comfortable in that candy (& sour) place in which you know a little (or a lot) less than everybody else in the area about whatever problem you’re trying to solve.

I’m not an attorney, am not a PhD computer scientist,’m not an economist or financial policy specialist, and am not an MBA and do not have a background in finance. Yet every day I find myself in the midst of some set of problems drawing on each these specialties, typically with individuals that are experienced experts in one area or another.

There have been several times throughout my career where I have stood in the crossroads and had an chance to either remain in the comfort zone or wade in the discomfort zone (beginning at USV 6 decades back was one of those minutes ). I’d love to say that I have always led straight to the discomfort zone, but I can not say that that’s true.

One of the terrific things about working at the discomfort zone is the ability to be honest about your limitations — in a room full of lawyers, resulting in”I am not a lawyer and you guys are the experts, so…” could be really freeing.

Some time back, I tried using this heuristic for prioritizing my time: what is the toughest thing I could be working on right now? That has helped me direct myself into the discomfort zone more and more, which I’ll keep doing as much as I can.

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