Shirzad Chamine: Pivoting Towards Positivity | Summary and Q&A

March 15, 2017
Stanford eCorner
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Shirzad Chamine: Pivoting Towards Positivity

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In this video, the speaker shares the story of the most humiliating day of his life as an entrepreneur, which led to a series of questions about self-identity, personal growth, and self-sabotage. This experience ultimately led him to develop a body of work on positive intelligence and finding ways to shift our orientation when we experience negative behaviors and tendencies.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the speaker's initial vision for his company?

The speaker's initial vision was to create a self-coaching software that every employee within every company could use to coach their own career through the company. He believed that every company would be interested in having employees be self-guided in their career management with the support of an internal coach.

Q: How did the speaker attract support and funding for his company?

The speaker cold called a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs and managed to get almost a dozen of them interested in his vision. He also attracted a world-class group of people, including one of his buddies from business school who became the company's president. Furthermore, the speaker raised around $20 million in seed financing and Series A financing from major venture capital firms.

Q: What led to the downfall of the speaker and his company?

After the initial success and positive momentum, the speaker started exhibiting negative behaviors such as being controlling, distrustful, micromanaging, and always angry. He became unable to listen to feedback and became disconnected from the people around him. This eventually led to an intervention and a coup staged by his colleagues, pushing him aside as they believed he was destroying his own vision.

Q: How did the speaker feel when he discovered the coup and its implications?

The speaker was heartbroken and devastated when he discovered the coup staged by his colleagues. He had to confront the painful reality of working with people he believed had betrayed him and his trust. It caused immense pain for him to walk into the office space every day, knowing that he had been stripped of his power and the trust of those working with him.

Q: What questions started to arise in the speaker's mind after the betrayal?

The speaker began questioning who the real version of himself was. He wondered if he was the incredible, magnetic visionary who attracted everyone to the company, or the monster that nobody wanted to work with. He also asked himself how he had shifted from one version to the other and whether this shift was permanent. Additionally, he questioned if the people he interacted with were truly betraying him for self-serving purposes or if there was another explanation.

Q: What prevented the speaker from walking away after the betrayal?

The speaker could not walk away because he had brought in the funding, clients, and the team working in the company. Despite being stripped of his power, he felt the responsibility to see the company through and make it thrive. This is a common dilemma for founding members of venture-backed companies who are sometimes pushed aside when they are deemed to be hindering the vision.

Q: How did this experience lead the speaker to personal growth and research?

The speaker's painful experience triggered a series of questions about his own self-identity and the reasons behind his shift from a positive visionary to a negative individual. Unable to answer these questions initially, he embarked on a personal journey of self-improvement and research. Over a period of about 15 years, he made discoveries through both personal experience and research that eventually led to the development of his body of work on positive intelligence.

Q: What were some of the questions the speaker sought to answer through his research?

The speaker aimed to understand how self-sabotage occurs and why people can shift from one mode of themselves to another. He wanted to uncover the ways in which individuals can change their orientation and overcome negative behaviors and tendencies. These questions sparked his research and ultimately informed the work he does today.


The speaker's personal and professional downfall led him to question his own identity and behavior. His experience highlights the importance of self-reflection and the detrimental impact negative behaviors can have on personal relationships and professional success. This journey ultimately inspired him to develop a body of work centered around positive intelligence, helping individuals shift their orientation and overcome self-sabotage.

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