Spending time on the wrong stuff

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.

Photo by Web Donut on Pexels.com

Zombies in boom town

The next few years will be a time of massive growth for the economies around the world. My lesson after the 2008 recession was to make sure I was in the right company to ride out the boom times. Hard work, persistence and integrity are table stakes. 99% of your success over the next 5 years will depend on the company you choose.

It’s mostly about being in the right place at the right time, but you gotta make your luck and get yourself well positioned to partake.

Some companies will thrive as business travel springs back, tech hubs emerge because of remote work, and new software is built to support changes in the way we work and play.

Geopolitics won’t be the same in 2022 as businesses and consumers shift away from China as a consequence of COVID.

Weaker companies will die as they get eaten up by the faster-growing new competition.

Other companies will limp along like zombies, the equivalent of the walking dead. These zombie companies will trudge and decay over time as all the good people leave to start their own things or get poached. It’s a slow death, and a lot of loyal employees will rot in the carcass.

Choose wisely over the next 6 months. Hitch your wagon to a thriving company that’s attracting smart and motivated people riding the new growth wave.

There will be a massive opportunity cost if you consciously or unconsciously decide to ride out the boom in a zombie company. It’s probably better to be in a business that implodes quickly because it’ll force you to make a move.

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures. 


Starry eyes

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson,

I wonder what Emerson would think today if he could look into our homes at night. He would see televisions on and people sitting on couches with a phone in their hands. They’d be half watching TV and half watching their phone. They’d look kind of comatose. Do we appreciate what we have?

Galactic knowledge is the palm of our hands, and the beauty of nature is all around us. What a radical time to be alive. The challenge is to appreciate and harness the power of technology and channel it into a force for good, while also being grounded and humbled by the awesomeness of the night sky and our remarkable planet.  I think being grounded and humble will help us harness the power of all this innovation that’s happening at light speed right in front of us.

Exercising the flow muscle

Have you found that you can hardly get through a long news article these days? Reading a multipage document or an op-ed probably means skimming through the highlights before you click on a link, switch tabs in the browser or context shifting to another app. Reading a legal document is even more challenging. We’ve started to browse and snack through information versus sitting with it and digesting the message. It’s like fast food vs. a home-cooked meal. The home cooked meal takes longer, is more work and washing up, but it’s better for you and you understand the ingredients. Fast food with a quick bite and probably followed by a sugar high.

Concentrating takes practice. It’s a muscle. Fight the urge to context shift. Notifications on your phone are probably the most significant culprits. How many times have you been deep into something and are yanked out of the flow by a text message or a phone call? Start using Airplane mode and the Do Not Disturb function on your phone.

The stronger the muscle tissue becomes, the longer you can concentrate. This means getting more out of activities you enjoy, but it also means you can spend more time on things that don’t interest you but are essential like a tedious legal contract, safety manuals, assembly instructions.

Carve out the time and get into the flow.

Sunward I’ve climbed

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of …”

– John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight”


Turn off notifications and alerts on your phone and control when you interact with people. This includes all text messages and social media. Take back control your schedule and don’t let other people control your day.

Imagine if people felt it was okay to bang on your door at any time of the day or night with the expectation that you answer and be present with them. That’s not sustainable. Why should it be acceptable on your phone?