Customer Review: Julien Smith’s Breather

Flatiron_2

I’ve been watching Julien Smith’s new startup, Breather, with interest ever since it launched in June of 2013. If you’re unfamiliar with Breather, it’s basically rentable quiet space for business. Some people have called it room-sharing (similar to ridesharing) or other slightly clumsy comparisons. I had a chance to use the Flatiron 2 space in New York City recently to host a business luncheon and webinar for SHIFT Communications.

Breather is elementary to use. You log into the website, find a suitable location that fits what you’re looking for (based on room capacity), and then rent it by the hour. To make use of the actual spaces, you show up with your smartphone and the Breather app. You touch your phone to start your time, get a unique PIN code for the door, and you’re in the space.

What can you use Breather for? Ostensibly, it’s for the traveling businessperson who needs a breather, who needs a quiet place to work with some seating, high speed Internet access, and none of the distractions that come with places like coffee shops (and the associated noise). The facilities are intentionally spartan – whiteboards and chairs, couches, Wi-Fi and power, and restrooms. Not much more is included.

That’s not what I used Breather for. SHIFT has an office in downtown Manhattan – a very nice one, to boot, but with it being fully staffed and the team there keeping super-busy, the conference rooms in the office are almost always booked, all the time. Breather has everything I need to hold a simple meeting or webinar while hosting people in a professional, clean environment that isn’t a hotel room or hotel conference room. I had to bring in my own large-screen monitor for participants in the room to see the webinar (as well as lunch) but beyond that, the space was perfect. The space would be just as appropriate for smaller meetings, for media briefings and off-site desksides, etc.

Oh, and the price? $25/hour for the Breather space I used. Let that sink in for a moment. $25/hour for a space that comfortably holds 10+ people in Lower Manhattan. That’s an outlandish steal, when regular executive suite rentals and conference room rentals run $150-$200/hour easily. Hotel conference rooms are even more expensive. If you’re doing business in any city that Breather has a location in, you owe it to your bottom line to see if Breather is available and practical for your business needs. I know I’ll be going back.

Disclosure: I received no compensation, direct or indirect, from Breather for writing this review.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


Losing for the win

At the dojo

Last night at the Boston Martial Arts Center I had an interesting experience while coaching one of the green belt students on some avoidance techniques. The drill was simple: I swung at the student with a foam-padded bopper and after avoiding a relatively slow swing, they had to hit a padded target. It’s a drill of avoidance and footwork on one hand, and accuracy on the other. The drill encourages not only good technique, but presence of mind – you can’t just wildly avoid or you’ll be out of position for the target hitting.

What was interesting to me wasn’t the drill itself but two insights I had. The first insight was that I had to strongly resist my own urge to “win”, to hit the student with the foam stick. That wasn’t the point of the drill, and initially, my own ego and desire to “win” by the conventional definition (hit them with the bopper) was quite strong. It took me a good minute or two before we started to put myself in the right frame of mind, that I was there to help the student first and foremost, and to appropriately move at a speed that insured more success than failure, while not eliminating the chance for failure.

The second insight, which was part of that reframing, was that “winning” in this case wasn’t hitting the student with the bopper. Winning was actually “losing” the majority of the time for my role as the attacker. If I was not able to hit them the majority of the time, if I was able to have them succeed first and foremost, that was the true win, the win in the bigger picture. They’d walk away with more skill, more insight of their own, and more happiness rather than walk away demoralized or ashamed of their performance. In this case a narrow-minded personal “win” would have been a failure on my part as a coach and a failure on the part of the student.

When I look over my career, this is a pattern writ large. Those times that have been the most fruitful and the most successful were when I put a bigger picture win ahead of a narrow-minded personal win. When you help create success in others, they root for your success and actively look for ways to help you achieve it. Those times that have been the most stressful and unpleasant were because I created selfish success at the expense of others. In a world where you are the platform, creating situations where people don’t want to see you succeed is tantamount to career suicide, while creating situations where people are actively and eagerly supporting you is a rocketship to the top.

The challenge I continue to face is whether my ego is willing to lose small for the big win.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


What Warcraft teaches us about group vs. individual performance

358260.jpg (752×567)

I finally got to and through the first wing of Throne of Thunder on my Worgen hunter recently, the newest raid in World of Warcraft. One of the most challenging parts of this particular set of raids is that the responsibility for the health of your character and her continued survival isn’t left solely to the healers. On many of the fights (Horridon comes to mind), there’s simply too much going on for a team of healers to keep pace and keep everyone topped off, so you have to make tactical decisions on the fly about dealing damage at peak performance and risking being killed, or spending some of your time, attention, and resources to keep yourself alive at the cost of individual performance.

Though the answer might seem obvious (you do zero damage on the boss when you’re dead), a significant number of players inevitably end up very dead because they are unwilling to make the tradeoff between individual and group performance. For some, it’s a matter of ego: they need to try to be at the top of the damage scoreboard to satisfy their need for recognition. For others, it’s a shirking of responsibility or an opportunity to assign blame: healing is the job of the healers only, and if their character dies, it’s the fault of the healers. Blizzard’s design of the raid intentionally forces you to either accept some responsibility for yourself or perish. If you don’t, and if enough people don’t, you wipe and the giant dinosaur gets to dance on your corpses.

This is the trade that Blizzard forces you to realize: at the end of the fight, either the boss is down or you are. It doesn’t matter what the damage meter says if you wipe: everyone gets a repair bill, and no one gets loot. If you take responsibility for yourself, if you help out your healers, if you put the collective goal of a dead boss first, then your individual numbers will be lower but the healers will be able to keep the entire raid operational long enough to outlast the boss, and you get to dance on its corpse and take its shiny loot. The group wins.

There is, of course, a balance as well. If you spend too much time mitigating damage and focusing on overall utility rather than dealing damage, at some point the boss enrages and eats everyone. Everyone has to hit minimum damage dealing numbers in order to kill the boss before time runs out.

The corporate world is surprisingly similar: you have to, at times, switch up what you’re doing for the benefit of the entire team, even if it temporarily reduces your individual performance. For example, in my work at SHIFT Communications, a significant minority of my time is spent teaching, training, and sharing knowledge internally. Doing so reduces my individual productivity, but increases the overall capability of the organization. At the end of the day, my individual performance matters less if the organization as a whole suffers; I’ve worked at companies in the past where star performers led the company right off a cliff.

Once you hit the numbers you need to hit in order to meet the goals and performance expected of you, what do you do next? Do you strive for ever greater personal performance? Do you look to overall team performance? How do you find your own balance between individual and team performance?


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!