Creating a High Output

In 2017, while at Amazon, I was thinking about starting another company, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that I no longer had “it,” that special thing that made normal people into Founders.

I decided to grab a flight to Boulder, CO, and meet up with friends and mentors to ask one simple question, “Do you think I still have it in me to be a founder?”

I reached out to David Cohen, who I met in 2007 right after selling a company. He had launched Techstars and asked me to help mentor the startups going through the program.

Brad Feld was my next reach out. I met Brad around 2001 when I was early at ServiceMagic, a company later acquired by IAC, that he had invested in.

On a whim, I also reached out to Jerry Colonna, a former VC, who was now a leadership coach and one of the best. An investor of mine had asked him to speak to their portfolio, and his words rang in my brain almost daily.

When I sat down with Jerry, he listened to me talk about wanting to start a new company, and as I stopped, he paused.

“You are meant to be a coach, Micah.” He said.

My first thought was “but I am a Founder!” followed quickly by a sense of anxiety about how bad a coach I might be.

I smiled and told him I would think about it.

Both Brad and David listened to me talk about starting a company and each said the same thing, “If you have the passion to put in, go for it, but your superpower is working with founders.”

Life intervened and I didn’t know that rather than start a company, I would begin a spiral into a horrible state of mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I began to go to doctors, psychologists, therapists, naturopaths, and pretty much anyone that had an opinion as to why I was in such a bad place. I joined AA, after spending years trying to be sober on my own, I thought maybe that was the problem. I left Amazon, and later Madrona Venture Group, thinking they were the problem.

And in the middle of it all, I spent more time mentoring leaders. I trained to be a coach. I felt that while my life was falling apart, the least I could do was be there for others that were in the middle of a difficult journey.

Slowly, my health improved. I found that I have Lyme disease and coupled with the mental health issues I’ve dealt with since I was 12, life was particularly difficult to navigate. I went to the right doctors. I got the right medicine. I rebuilt my life and routines.

And the voices that lived rent free in my head were David, Brad, and Jerry’s.

“You are meant to be a coach. Your superpower is working with founders.”

Why would they say that? Why did they have such confidence in my ability to help others, when I was unsure of that ability in myself?

And it dawned on me. I had a unique set of experiences. I had built big businesses, and I had failed. I had personal struggles with sobriety and mental health, and I had figured out how to follow a path of recovery and happiness. I know business, but I really understand people.

I am a coach. I am someone whose parts and life experiences have made for an interesting set of filters to help others.

I started to think about taking coaching seriously. Building a practice. Partnering with leaders to help them see around corners and make decisions that benefited their teams and companies. The first person I reached out to was my friend Steve Schlafman, who had left VC a year or so ago to be a coach full-time.

This brings us to today.

I am joining Steve’s practice, High Output as a Coach-in-Residence.

While the immediate goal is finding leaders that I could help navigate the growth of their companies by mixing my life experiences (good and bad), work experiences (good and bad), and experience with mental health, the longer goal is working with Steve to build High Output into an unrivaled resource for leaders.

How are we going to do that? Like founders, we will figure it out. Like coaches, we will learn from one another and from others. Like humans, we will do it heart-led but head-focused.

How can you help? Reach out if you are interested in exploring working together, or point anyone you know that may in our direction. I’d love to hear from you.

Executive Coach @highoutput. Angel Investor. Founded or early at 6 startups (4 exits). @amazon @madronaventures alum. Loves dogs, cats & donuts.