The Blog of Robin P. Zander

The Future of Work Needs to Invest in Itself

My guest today is Allison Baum Gates, a General Partner at SemperVirens Venture Capital and a lecturer at the Business School at Columbia University and the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

Allison got her start working in finance and investing, but quickly saw that technology was changing everything about her work and our world. So Allison decided to go into technology, and to focus on investing in the technology that would be doing the disrupting in 5 or 10 years.

She spends her days talking to startup founders and cultivating SemperVirens’ ecosystem of forward-thinking startups. Allison is making an incredible impact with the companies in her portfolio, and her passion for people and growth is clearly a guiding force in her work.

It was a real pleasure to hear about how Allison is trying to make the future of work a reality.

You can listen to it on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen!

A Student of Ido Portal and Moshe Feldenkrais: My Movement Practice

In almost 3 decades of maintaining a rigorous movement practice, I have often struggled to define myself as a mover. 

Classical ballet, surfing, Brazillian jiu jitsu, juggling, trapeze, Capoeira, gymnastics – I have done all of these and more, but no term truly fits or encompasses me fully.

At 21, having recently landed on my head on a trampoline, I met a woman named Anat Baniel, who was a student of the world famous movement practitioner, Moshe Feldenkrais. For the next 6 years, I embarked on an extremely rigorous course of study in a modern variant of the Feldenkrais Method. The principles of this work are simple: move slowly, with attention, and practice variation in movement slightly beyond your usual patterns.

Then in 2017, I met Johnny Sapinoso, who was a mentee of the world famous movement coach, Ido Portal. I immediately became obsessed with Johnny and the movement community he was building, as well as Ido’s teachings. This community provided the intense, physical counterpoint to the softer, more internal work of my Feldenkrais practice. And for the first time, I found a community of practice that brought together techniques from the dozens of different modalities I have studied over the years.

These two practices – The Feldenkrais Method and the teachings and community of Ido Portal, form the basis of my movement practice today.

This is my movement story.

Lessons Learned from the Last 35 Years

I’m turning 35 today and thought I would take a moment to write some of my lessons learned from the last several years.

Move everyday.
I’ve always had a pretty thorough movement practice, but among the most positive changes in my last 5 years is the fact that I now move every single day. I’ve found that one of the biggest, simple changes anyone can make is a routine to get your body in motion. What’s interesting to you? What’s a thread, an exploration, a discipline of study that you’d like to pull on? Go try it! These bodies of ours are meant to move.

Find work that you love. Keep looking until you do.
I enjoyed much of what I did professionally 5 years ago, but that pales by comparison to the amount of delight I get from my work today. As someone who has had more than 40 different jobs in more than 15 different industries, I can tell you that it’s really tempting to settle. You don’t have to settle for good enough! Keep looking.

Work with people you love.
While the work matters, doing it with people that you love matters even more. Among the most positive characteristics of my work today is that I get to spend my working life with people I enjoy. Find those people that you are proud to work alongside, and build your professional life with them.

Fear is a good guide.
I’ve often gone towards fear, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve recognized, specifically, that fear can be a useful guide. It’s natural that we move away from things that we are afraid of. That’s fine: it keeps us safe. But sometimes, it can be useful to go towards the things we are fearful of, instead. There’s a lot to be learned in those shadows.

Everything takes the time that it takes.
As somebody who prides himself on his ability to move quickly, patience with myself is a hard won feat. In the many years that I was dissatisfied with my work, I was constantly pressuring myself to have already found my perfect career path. Over many years of wanting a family member to take better care of himself, I was always wanting him to change more quickly. We don’t get to decide how quickly or how slowly things change.

You don’t get to control people. (And actually, it is none of your business.)
Years ago, my friend, Dana Casperson, told me “you don’t get to control people, and actually, it is none of your damn business!” This has been hard feedback for me to receive, and I’ve repeated that quote to myself many times over the years. I’ve often derived meaning from trying to “help” (control) people whom I love. We don’t get to. Practice letting go of the desire for control.

“You’ve always been a little bit slow.”
Something my Dad said to me on my 30th birthday – jokingly, but with a grain of truth: “Robin, it’s okay. You’ve always been a little bit slow.” I’ve accomplished a lot that I’m proud of in the last 35 years and some are things that most people don’t let themselves even dream of trying. But I also went on my first date at 19, years later than anyone else I knew, and am frequently the last person to recognize something new about myself that’s obvious to everyone else around me. While I have excelled in many areas in my life, I have also moved slowly in areas that my peers are much quicker. That’s fine. Going slow works, too.

Get familiar with grief.
This has been a particularly hard one for me, having gone through two substantial heartbreaks in the last 5 years. I haven’t found that grief gets any easier, but I’ve found that I can develop better toolsets to help deal with it. Endings, deaths, and partings are a natural and inevitable part of our lives. It helps to practice getting familiar with grief.

Relationships get better with time. “Make new friends, but keep the old.”
I was pretty antisocial until 19 and then turned a corner and learned the name of every single person in my entering class in college. I love meeting new people. (And a good thing too, since that’s most of my job today!) But novelty doesn’t hold a candle compared to my most intimate friendships that go back 10+ years. Relationships get better with time. Make room for that.

Leave room for introspection.
I’ve long had the tendency to distract myself by being busy when things get tough. It turns out, at least for me, that when I leave more room for introspection, growth happens more quickly and way more gently! I’m blessed that I have bandwidth in my life today for a lot of quiet introspection. But however you do it, leave room for yourself, too.

Read more.
Along with my propensity to get busy, I frequently don’t make enough time for reading. It feels like cheating – taking time for myself, selfishly, to learn. But in a world that is filled with distractions, I find so much delight in handling a physical book and diving into someone else’s world. So this advice is mostly just for myself: read more.

Play more.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can be very playful. Not usually childish, but frequently childlike. There’s a lot to take seriously in the world right now. Balance that with play.

There is such a thing as too much caffeine.
5 years ago I would have believed no such thing. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I sleep better at night if I stop drinking aged pu-erh after noon.

The last year and a half has been tumultuous for everybody. Beyond that, in the last 5 years, my personal and professional life have changed more than I could have conceived. These practices have become bedrock in my life. I’m going to spend the next five years deepening these and developing more. I wish you well in finding yours!

Community and Joy – An interview with Robin Zander by Nate Floyd

As part of the updates to this website and across the RPZ brand, I’ve recently sat down for a half dozen interviews with close friends. And instead of the typical “Robin conducts an interview”, I have asked them to interview me.

Today’s interview is with my dear friend, Nate Floyd. Nate and I have known each other for several years as members of SF Movement Practice. Beyond our shared physical practice, Nate is a salesman and a plant medicine guide, and over the years has become a close and valued friend.

In this interview, he asks me a wide variety of questions about life, meaning, and my personal approach to happiness. I hope you enjoy!

Unconventional Advice to Improve Your Relationships

What’s the old joke? “Why do my parents push all my buttons? Because they installed them!”

In 2019, at 33 years old, I spent 4 weeks traveling with my mother in Africa. And as much as I love my mother, she also can drive me crazy.

Whether in our personal relationships or at work, here are some lessons learned for having better relationships with people in our lives.

(Want more? Here’s the fully story about that trip.)

Gayle Karen Young Whyte, former head of People and Culture at Wikimedia, on Immediacy and Resilience

My guest today is Gayle Karen Young Whyte, former head of People and Culture at Wikimedia (the parent company behind Wikipedia). These days Gayle is very politically active and consulting with a select group of executives on organizational and culture change.

I’ve known Gayle since she spoke at the first Responsive Conference in San Francisco in 2016, and have followed her work ever since.

In this conversation, recorded in late 2020, we talk about resilience, inquiry, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we can all do to rise to the challenges of these times. Gayle brings wisdom, simplicity, and kindness to the questions of how to continue learning, growing, and thriving as new opportunities arise in our lives.

Dr. Emily Anhalt, Founder of Coa, on the Mental Health Revolution

My guest today is Dr. Emily Anhalt (@dremilyanhalt), a clinical psychologist and the co-founder of Coa, a startup building virtual and in-person centers to practice and improve mental health and resilience.

Emily spoke at a Responsive Conference event that I hosted on Mental Health in San Francisco in November 2019, and I was so impressed with her presentation on stage that I’ve been wanting to sit down with her ever since to talk about mental health.

Now, more than ever, this conversation is needed and I’m delighted that Emily is leading the way and sharing tools to improve wellbeing. Her research into the psychological components of leadership is fascinating, and I learn a lot every time I listen to Emily.

I hope you enjoy this conversation!

Practical Entrepreneurship: Curiosity, Empathy, and Growth

Empathy is Superpower

I was on set recently with a Zander Media client conducting a dozen interviews, and I was reflecting on the interview process.

Zander Media got its start through my own ability to show up compassionately with people who might or might not be comfortable on camera. We recorded their answers, made sure that what they had to say was precise, accurate, and compelling, and helped them feel at ease. Of course, ZM has come a long way since then…

At the heart of our work is helping people feel comfortable on screen. Curiosity and a lack of defensiveness is very unusual in business. And when you show up with empathy and love – especially at work – the outcomes can be remarkable.

From Boy To Man: Bullying, Sensitivity, and Growth

I visited my middle school last week, which is the location of the darkest moments in my life. There were times in 6th and 7th grade when I did not think I would survive the experience.

I was a sensitive boy growing up. We didn’t have the word “bullying” back then, but that’s what it was. Basketball to the face, getting called “girl” every day, coming home from school every day in tears.

We all have demons. At least, everyone I know has demons! But while they are so big in our mind, they aren’t actually so big in real life. 

Watch this video for some stories about those times, and how those times have made me the man I am today.

Jeremy Liew, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners on Doing the Impossible and Staying Relevant at 50

My guest today is Jeremy Liew (@jeremysliew), a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

Jeremy heads up investments in consumer technology at Lightspeed, a well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and has invested in iconic and culturally relevant companies, including Snap, Giphy, Rothy’s, Affirm, Honest, Cheddar, and many more.

Jeremy is willing to embrace the beginner’s mind and practice things he doesn’t know how to do – even when it is uncomfortable. And as we discuss, that trait has paid dividends throughout his personal and professional life.

I know Jeremy personally through my own physical practice. We are both students of Johnny Sapinoso of San Francisco Movement Practice.

In this interview, Jeremy and I discuss his background and the various transitionary points in his personal life and professional career, how his “geeky youth” set the stage for work within the early Web 1.0 companies like AOL and Netscape, his first experience in sales in his mid-20s, and his discovery of and love for movement in recent years.

As a business operator and first time investor myself, we dive into how Jeremy recognizes consumer trends and the difference between being a business operator versus an investor.

I hope you enjoy this wide ranging conversation about startups, consumer trends, movement, and learning with my friend, Jeremy Liew.