I’ve worked at small, fast-growing companies, large, slowly dying companies, and monolithic ones so big that no one person knows anything.
At dying companies, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out why something ISN’T working.
Why is the revenue going down
Why are customers complaining
Why are employees leaving for other jobs
Why aren’t we growing
You run experiment after experiment, and nothing moves the needle. Then you spend the next four weeks optimizing the same failed experiment. Small, insignificant wins are celebrated and then, two weeks later, forgotten. Instead of working on new things, most of the time is spent protecting the status quo. All this busy work is like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.
At fast growing companies, the bulk of your “data analysis” is spent trying to figure out why new features worked SO WELL.
Why did customer numbers double again
Why is revenue up again
Why are all the metrics up this month when it was flat this time last year
Why did we beat the budget again
At fast growing companies customers are your secret sales team as they refer your product to their friends. Happy customers also offer up great product ideas and they use your product in ways you never intended. It’s fun, exciting and fluid.
Take a breath, and ask yourself. Where are you spending your time at work? Is it busy work or are you holding on for dear life as the product grows.
Trust me; it doesn’t have to be that hard. I’ve seen a lot of brilliant people grind themselves down in slow-growth companies , while mediocre folks have found a winning growth company, buckled up, and been successful.
Tinker, build, fiddle, and experiment. Get your head out of the theory and into the practical.
Have a bias towards action. You will quickly learn if you like something or not.
Are you thinking of moving to a new neighborhood or town? Get an Airbnb and stay the weekend and walk through the main street.
Are you thinking about buying a new car? See if you can rent one for the weekend and give it a proper test drive.
Are you thinking about starting a new hobby like cycling, surfing, kiteboarding, fishing, or golf? Rent some equipment and give it a spin.
Once you’ve scratched the itch, you’ll get some authentic feedback, and you’ll know if you want to commit more time and money. The trick is starting small with a low commitment. It’s less intimidating, and it gets you going and saves you time if it’s not for you.
Success is a combination of luck and good choices.
Hard work and long hours don’t automatically result in success. A lot of people work hard. I’ve gotten off a train in Delhi, and seen taxi drivers sleeping in their cars at 5 am waiting for a fare. After I have knocked on their car window and woken them up, they wiped their face with a damp cloth and started the car. The back seat was still warm from where they were sleeping. People around the world work freaking hard. The Americans and the Chinese think they have a monopoly on long hours, my advice to them would be to travel a little and see the world. Travel will humble anyone.
I’ve seen people born on third base blow everything away including money, friends, and reputation because of poor choices. They had the luck of being born to the right parents but screwed up anyway. Being born lucky with a security blanket makes it way less likely thst someone will blow up their life, but a few bad choices will get the ball rolling. That’s why the mega-wealthy people set up trust funds with rules and conditions. The wealthy have learned to build safety valves that protect their offspring from dumb and ego driven decisions.
But it’s not just about luck. Opportunity favors the prepared mind. We are faced with choices every day. Where do you spend your time? Who do you associate with? When someone takes a chance on you, do you accept or do you demure? Who do you marry? Do you marry?
Saying it’s all about luck is a story we tell ourselves to justify our own situation. It’s hard to admit that the right decisions at the right time were involved as well. The trick is to acknowledge the luck, stay humble and choose wisely when they the big decisions are on deck.
These lines in the NYT Michael Bloomberg interview resonated with me. It covers what I think is important. Persistence, compassion and hard work.
Who Gets the Job
What disturbs me is you talk to kids applying today and they invariably say, “I cured cancer, I brought peace to the Mideast.” Spare me. How about, “My father never existed, my mother is a convicted drug dealer. I worked three shifts at McDonald’s.” That’s the kind of kid I want — with an ethic of taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others. Some of us don’t have much prenatal intelligence, but nevertheless go out and try and have a decent chance of surviving. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but nobody’s going to outwork me.