Earlier this year, we promoted one of our younger guys to be a partner in our new fund. He earned it. He joined us as a junior analyst, learned the business, and worked his way up to partner. I’m happy for him. But, I’m also happy for me. Part of being a little older and little more hairless (note: our newly promoted partner has arguably the best hair in our entire firm, but that did not influence his promotion) is mentoring younger people. It’s a role I take seriously and I enjoy. So, it was to my great satisfaction when he told me that I had taught him two of the most important things he’d ever learned in his life. I smiled inwardly and outwardly as I requested that he share what those two areas of mentorship were, so that I would be sure to share them with other young investment professionals.

Pause button. Before I continue and before you continue, you have to read or refresh your memory with my post on germaphobia. The recently promoted partner is the colleague referred to in that post who was freaked out when the ducks stared at his sandwich. Unpause.

OK, so what were these areas of enlightenment that I imparted to my junior colleague? Perhaps it was the way I’m able to weave together the technical side of a business plan with the commercial opportunity. Or, maybe the smooth way I tell 500 entrepreneurs each year that their baby is not, in fact, so beautiful, but let them leave the interaction believing it still is. Nope, neither of those.

The most influential area of my mentorship cited by my new partner was in the critical area of fending off disease, not venture capital. The single most disease-laden object on the planet is the door handle on the business side of the public restroom door. If you touch that with your bare hand you deserve to have flesh eating bacteria consume your entire arm within minutes. Sorry, you’re on your own. 

But, less well known is that the second most germ-infested object in the world is the TV remote control in your hotel room. If I ever doubted this, it was confirmed when I mentioned it to a buddy of mine who is, well, a tad portly. He’s one of those defiant anti-germaphobes; you know, the folks who spend the entire winter with their nose in a box of tissues for having conceded turf to nasty pathogens. He said, “Oh, yeah, when I check into a hotel room, I like to lie on the bed with my shirt off with the remote control resting on my belly.” After I threw up in my mouth, I came up with the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had: putting the hotel TV remote control in the plastic bag from the ice bucket. If you put the bag over your hand, pick up the remote, and invert the bag (think: picking up dog poop), your skin never comes into contact with the multitude of disease-carrying pathogens on the remote. So simple in its genius.

So beautiful in its simplicity. Don't forget to tie the knot!

The second area of my sagely guidance is really only helpful for my male readers (at last count, fully half of my readers are male so this advice will appeal to, let’s see, carry the  one…..OK, one of you). And, maybe only a subset of guys, namely the guys who shave in the shower. If you don’t shave in the shower, I don’t understand why not. You should. Closer shave with fewer nicks and cuts. I was discussing shaving in the shower with my young colleague a few years ago (I know you all wondered what gets discussed behind closed doors in large investment firms; now you know). He said, “Yeah, I shave in the shower at home, but when I travel I can’t because there’s no way I’m going to pack a little shower mirror for every trip.”

Aha! I had insight for him. I told him he didn’t need a mirror. I think my exact words were “Uh, Grasshopper, you don’t need a mirror to shave in the shower.” (Any 70s era David Carradine Kung Fu fans out there?) He was dumbfounded. Of course he needed a mirror. How else would he avoid cutting off those two little lines that come down from your nose to your upper lip (what the hell are they called anyway)? How would he avoid having one sideburn be an inch longer than the other?

About 10 years ago, I was visiting a friend. They put me up in their guest room. When I got up to shave and shower in the morning, I found that they were renovating their guest bathroom and there was no mirror anywhere to be found. I figured, what they hell, if I’m going to shave without a mirror, I may as well do it in the shower. So I did. It turns out that after shaving the exact same face 250-300 times a year (times about 30 years is almost 10,000 shaves) you pretty much know the topography with your eyes closed (same effect as shaving without a mirror). I got a perfect shave that morning. Nary a nick. No missed spots. And, my sideburns were perfectly even. I shared this story with my junior colleague and he came back a week later and said, “Holy crap, I can shave perfectly in the shower without a mirror.”

This is a recent picture of me shaving in the shower. Note that I don't need a mirror.

Thus it is. When he got promoted, he said that I had taught him two of the most important things he’d ever learned: to put the hotel remote in the ice bag and to shave in the shower without a mirror.

My first reaction to learning that my two greatest teachings in life were about watching TV and shaving was one of disappointment. I really had hoped that I might have imparted some brilliant insight into venture capital. But, the more I think about it, I influenced two very important parts of this young man’s life. And, hopefully yours.*


*Ladies, if you feel left out on the shaving advice, feel free to shave your legs with your eyes closed in the shower. I bet you’ll do great!

About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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