The Disease of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has a disease.

It’s very serious. Possibly terminal.

Let me tell you how I discovered it….

I started working with a Chief Business Officer in a rapidly scaling business. She was building a new business unit, was whip smart and had all the resources she needed at her disposal.

She had a year to build the unit, and at the end of the year she had made good progress, but in her industry, “good” just doesn’t cut it.

This business unit had to perform exceptionally in the first year, or else it wasn’t going to continue. She knew this from the start.

Now everything was on the chopping block—her path, her business unit, and possibly even her job.

She was extremely frustrated for many reasons. She didn’t feel like she’d had the support she needed. She didn’t feel like she was given the full runway to make endeavor successful.

But she was also mad at herself—she knew that much of the blame lay on her shoulders.

So I asked her, “If you had it to do over again, what’s the main thing that you would have done differently?”

In a deeply self reflective moment, her reply was, “I would have asked for help.”

This is the core disease in Silicon Valley, and it’s so deep. Everyone wants to be the superstar. The know-it-all. Mrs. or Mr. “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

And those stories exist. Mark Zuckerberg did it.


But here’s the thing, I have inside sources that tell me that a few years ago, Facebook was on the ropes. A big shift was needed in the company, and some tough decisions were called for—and this is when the shift happened.

Zuckerberg was willing to ask for help—and that changed everything.

In my experience, this is a critical juncture in the maturation of a leader. The point where you can admit that you don’t know everything. That you have a bunch of puzzle pieces, but you can’t see the whole picture. That you need others on the team to offer their unique gifts to help you get where you need to go.

So I asked my client why she had been unable to ask for help along the way, and she told me:

“I wanted to be the conquering hero. The one who could go off on a task and not come back until I tackled it—I wanted to slay the beast. Looking back it seems silly. I could have kept everyone in the loop, gotten their feedback, and shared the wins. And also, importantly, shared the challenges that were going to inevitably going to come up. As it stands now, I’m looking at shouldering the entire burden of the state of the business, and it could cost me my job.”


This is the disease of Silicon Valley. I see this dynamic all the time. Employees are afraid to deliver bad news to executives. Executives are unwilling to ask for feedback on their performance, and the blind spots that are holding them back.

I get it. Everyone wants to be the superhero. The invincible one. The one everyone looks up to.

But that’s not possible all the time. Sometimes we hit decision points and aren’t sure where to go. Everyone reaches points in their life and career where things need to shift.

It’s important that when you hit a stumbling block you feel like you can reach out to trusted advisors who can help you accelerate through this shift.

Getting help is not shameful. It doesn’t make you weak.

It’s actually a sign of strength.

When you reach out and ask for help in a critical time of change, you not only fix the problem at hand, but you gain valuable insight into what’s been holding you back at a deeper level.

Being able to see these hidden roadblocks changes everything—what you’re able to accomplish in your business, and overall in your life.

Silicon Valley has a disease.

Being willing to ask for help is the cure.