Your product is either a commodity or hospitality.

Have you ever been to a truly great hotel? You walk in and find yourself thinking:

  • “Oh, this makes sense” when you see an extra pillow
  • “Ok, that’s nice” when you discover a lovely porcelain tea set, with all you need prepared for you,
  • “That’s beautiful” when you open the window.

Everything is just where you want it, whenever you want it, just how you want it before you even realize what it is that you want.

You feel like all your concerns are melting away, and you don’t have to deal with minutiae anymore.

These are the same thoughts I would use to describe my Apple experience. Of course, we can talk about the declining quality of the keyboards, but when interacting with Apple products or great hotels, I don’t mentally tick off the list of benefits. I enjoy the feeling ‘everything being in its rightful place.’

MacBooks and iPhones are expensive – they don’t stack up feature-to-feature or number-to-number to other offerings on the market. My more technically-inclined friends keep reminding me that a different machine has more burro-bytes or zetacycles than a $2000 Macbook.

What I usually tell them is hard to justify, so I started viewing it through a lens of how I would judge a hotel.

Welcome to the Hotel California

Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)

Such a lovely face.

– The Eagles

That hospitality is Apple’s entire business strategy. Playing in the commodity sandbox requires you to play the cutthroat game of racing to the bottom of the lowest margin.

According to Forbes, Apple’s profit share is over four times larger than Samsung, its nearest competitor. 

Despite this success, people rightly point out, that by most of the measurable parameters, devices from Cupertino are falling behind – they have slower processors, smaller pixel density and are more expensive.

And yet, this is not the game Apple plays.

The full vertical integration is the strategy that also works in luxurious resorts. They have thought deeply about every single need of their users and designed an experience to cater to them. There is rarely a need to venture outside.

‘We are programmed to receive.

You can check out any time you like,

But you can never leave!’

– The Eagles

I won’t belabor the Apple point any further, I promise.

Think of the great products you really love. Maybe it is an app for tracking your fishing expeditions or a tool you use at work.

If you feel at home while using this product, then it’s real business is hospitality. A great host knows exactly what his guests want and provides it to them before they realize it themselves.

Focusing on the user’s secret needs, of course, is simple but not easy. Your business has its own budgets and trade-offs, and you will have to make it all work. Both types of businesses have to tackle logistics, value chain, porter’s forces, and labor laws.

But the first question they ask is different.

The hospitality business is about leading with Qualitative Questions, like:

  • “How can we make this experience better.”
  • “What do our guests secretly want?”

Commodity business asks Quantitative Questions first:

  • How can we make this cheaper?
  • How can we have more feature X?

Hospitality is opinionated. To best suit your specific needs, it has to know what is the group of people that it does not want to make happy. In a truly great hotel, the other guests matter. They make you proud to be a part of the group and – in truly exceptional ones – they help you learn a thing about yourself.

There are, of course, hotels that I would consider a commodity and not hospitality. The proliferation of price comparison engines makes it easy to shop around with numbers, commoditizing the whole industry.

When searching for a hotel during my travels, I’ll use Booking.com to find something affordable. But inevitably, after an hour or two, I’ll stumble upon a photo that will make me abandon my price limits.

I’ll know if this hotel is genuinely hospitable if it has a working iPhone charger by the bed instead of some useless desk phone.

The Hospitality vs. Commodity lens helps me better understand the product-market fit for consumer businesses. B2B and enterprise markets have their specifics – like bundles and vendor relationships that make it play by different rules.

But every consumer business can learn a lot from great hotels.

Feel free to attach this post to your expense report, but don’t blame me if it gets rejected.

Still, the stay will be lovely.

The lazy way to being outstanding: go after hard things.

When Peter Diamandis stood under the arch of Saint Louis, with 20 astronauts behind him, he announced a 10-million dollar prize for developing commercial space flight.

15 years later: Musk, Venter, Cameron and Diamandis on X PRIZE Microgravity Flight.

The prize was called X-Prize because he did not have that money, nor did he know where it could come from. X stood for the name of foundation or individual that would finance this.

And yet, without the money, without really means to pull it off, X-Prize has renewed the interest in developing the commercial space flight industry and sparked the imagination of other entrepreneurs.

I urge you do do the same in your organization.

Doing the hard things is both the best thing for the company, for you and counterintuitively – your lifestyle.

Corporate environments and more established companies tend to be risk-averse. Everyone tries to be in the middle – do a little more than enough to be considered a good employee.

But surely in your workplace, there is a couple of things to tackle that are considered too hard, way out there, maybe not now. It is my long-standing career strategy to go after those things with guns blazing.

It’s possible because of Super-Credibility.

Peter Diamandis says his stunt was only possible because he used Super-Credibility. He tackled a venture so outrageous, bold, and out there, that people stopped evaluating it in terms of logic.

This bold claim jumped over the usual evaluation straight to emotion. People wanted it to happen, so they believed it without a proof.

Warning: this is a mechanism that can-and-is used for evil as well. Please don’t be a fake news jerk.

You can use super-credibility at work without rebuilding one of the toughest industries in the world like space transportation.

When you tackle something considered extraordinarily hard at work:

  1. Everybody knows your attempt is outrageous,
  2. People like to see outrageous endeavors succeed,
  3. Focus helps you judge what is essential and what is not,
  4. It’s a bullshit remover. And bullshit is one of the biggest momentum killers out there.

It’s easier than you expect

Imagine you are just joining a team that has a hard problem to solve. When you ask about the Elephant in the room, you usually get:

  • This is just the way things are
  • This part is just too hard.
  • We tried once, and it ended badly.

The original decision to not touch the Elephant may have been not as clear, but as any great story, it grows in myths and legends.

With every new teammate, the story is retold and how it usually is with humans, gets more exciting because:

  1. This is how human memory and tales work. Yes, the fish was thiiiiis big.
  2. The current team has to justify – in front of you and each other – why they didn’t tackle this problem yet. To reduce cognitive dissonance, if they haven’t addressed it – it must have been too hard.

And that is not only the perception – when you are working against or around a particular piece of code or business process, you are introducing cancer growth processes – something that should not be there but is contributing to the state of brokenness.

But the Elephant in the room is much, much smaller than previously thought. His most threatening quality is that he is unknown, fuzzy – a maverick.

Why you are providing massive value

According to Ray Dalio (the most successful hedge-fund manager currently), the simplified way to solve any problem goes as follows:

  • Identify the problems in front of goals
  • Solve /work around problems
  • Repeat

When you have an untouchable problem, people will work on other stuff. The problem is that sometimes the “Elephant” will be a prerequisite to solving other tasks.

In the ideal world, the organization would throw significant resources at this issue, because solving it will unlock tremendous value. But resources are people – often the same people who have repeated for a long while that this cannot be tackled. Doing the thing now will hurt their egos.

Good people get sometimes emotionally invested in issues being unsolved.

So when you actually take the Elephant out of the bottle, you unlock all this fantastic realm of possibility. When a company does that, we call it disruption. The whole industry is changed because bottled-up ideas are now reachable.

Benefits to you

I value my quality of life. The hardest problems are interesting, but I do not want to work crazy hours or sacrifice my happiness on the altar of the company’s bottom line.

And yet, taming elephants has become my go-to strategy for more leeway and a happier work environment.

As previously mentioned, super-credibility is a bullshit remover. You get VIP passes to get around conventional processes – aka “bureaucracy.” ( Sidenote about Bullshit: I recommend “Life is too short” essay by Paul Graham ).

  1. People are used to ignoring the Elephant. It’s quiet near him, no micromanagement, a lot of autonomy and space to work.
  2. When you have a huge, audacious goal in front of you, it’s tough to wander and lose motivation.
    Procrastination is your brain refusing to waste resources on your lack of decision. Without this uncertainty, your productivity is easily 10x.

In his New York Times bestseller Drive, Daniel Pink describes what motivates us:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

Read about Daniel’s ideas on the fantastic fs.blog

All of these three things are immediately given to you once you volunteer to take the Elephant out for a walk.

Accelerated learning

Continuing to support my point with famous New-York-Times bestselling authors, I’ll touch upon Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.

Trying to dissect the story behind success, Gladwell discovers, that the extraordinary people:

  1. Have a certain, but not disproportionate amount of innate ability – aka Talent,
  2. Have put in over 10 000 hours of practice during their ascent to stardom (the famous 10 000 hours rule)
  3. What is very often overlooked, that was deliberate practice. Always on the edge of ability, always challenging themselves.

Most of us have some innate ability that we utilize in our careers. Most of us have access to 10 000 hours to be extraordinary. The hardest piece to arrange is a steady stream of ever-more-challenging problems to solve.

The Beatles honed their craft on the Hamburg club scene, and Bill Gates used (illegally) his school’s computer to get better at programming.

If you can go after the Elephant during your work hours, without breaking the law or going to Hamburg, then you are in a unique position!

Tackling the most challenging issues at your organization will not only result in more leeway but is the most effective way to advance your career.

A trap: The Elephant is hard, not tedious.

The Fantastic Seth Godin has made the essential distinction in regards to succeeding at work:

Long work has a storied history. Farmers, hunters, factory workers… Always there was the long work required to succeed. For generations, there was a huge benefit that came to those with the stamina and fortitude to do long work.
Hard work is frightening. We shy away from hard work because inherent in hard work is a risk. Hard work is hard because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up. You fail at hard work when you don’t make an emotional connection, or when you don’t solve the problem or when you hesitate.

The Fantastic Seth Godin.

The Elephant – the hard work I am urging you to tackle is the task that is unknown, complex, and emotionally challenging. Your Ego can be hurt, you can be ridiculed, and you can fail. That is the hard part.

Copy-pasting spreadsheets or tackling something that should never be done in the first place is safe but tedious and time-consuming. This is dead-end, laborious, and unfulfilling work. Avoid that. Or Automate.

Once you deal with the Elephant, everybody will marvel at your skill, even if you don’t have any extraordinary talents. You have seen my drawing ability and it only goes downhill from there.

Go take that Elephant out for a walk. It’s really friendly, it really needs to pee, and the weather is beautiful out there.

Hey Fellow Hacker News reader!

I think you could also enjoy my piece “Well, we have to measure something.”, And the perils of metrics.

It shows when Quantitative metrics can sometimes not only be beneficial but sometimes turn out harmful, despite popular opinion.

Ramit Sethi – is this guy legit? I took his courses and found these 5 principles.

Everything was going fine in my life, and I was miserable.

Five years ago, I had a ‘fine’ job, but I craved a challenge – something I could be proud of. Slacking off at the office, I was browsing Hacker News (a technology-oriented version of Reddit), marveling at the fantastic things everybody ELSE was doing. I could see my future as a cog in the corporate machine, and it was not inspiring.

Ramit’s advice helped me truly level up. During one of those Hacker-News-Fueled ‘breaks’, I stumbled upon this financial blogger with marketing, business, and job-search advice. Despite the scammy-sounding title of his blog – “I will teach you to be Rich”, I found it very helpful and ended up taking the “Dream Job” course.

Fast forward five years, I work remotely for the best company I could ever dream of, making past me very proud. I travel the world with my wife, who also works remotely – thanks to Ramit’s advice. Our company even flew us to India to present at a conference. We never dreamt of going to India, let alone on the company’s dime. We went to a city known for one of the most luxurious hotels in India – in fact, Ramit went there on his honeymoon!

After taking Dream Job, I have attended Success Triggers, Delegate&Done, Mental Mastery and How to talk to anybody. I recommend each one of these courses. They deliver consistent, exceptional quality and are great lenses to organize your existing knowledge.

To answer the title question: Yes, he is legit. Any course you will choose will be the best one in the category.

“Ramit Sethi is very, very legit”

Tim Ferriss

The biggest value I get from these curriculums is what not to focus on at this moment. Ramit claims that he and the team spend the majority of the time on nailing the lesson plan and it really shows. In the world where information is abundant, this curation is the ultimate value.

Ramit is about the “Rich Life”

Yes, he is in the personal finance sphere. But instead of focusing on curbing spending, budgeting, power of compounding in investments – and all the other components of successful financial future, he focuses of the end goal – the Rich Life, whatever that means for you:

  • Getting rid of credit card debt ( in the “I will teach you to be rich” book )
  • Getting a better job ( in Dreamjob )
  • Starting a business (in Earn1K and Zero to launch Courses)
  • Negotiating a raise (in Dreamjob )
  • Reclaiming your time (in “Delegate & Done” course about virtual assistants)

5 principles of Ramit

After reading Ramit’s content for years, I have teased out these underlying messages in all of his teachings:

Disproportionate results

By investing 10% more than others into preparation, research and figuring out the strategy, you can get 10x – 100x better results. This approach is applicable in job search (make connections first), building a business (nail down your target niche first), fitness, dating and other areas of Rich Life.

Strategies, not tactics

The Internet loves gimmicks and listicles like “10 apps to polish your resume, 20 online marketplaces for creators.”. But these are tactics. The important things to internalize are the strategies that help us understand “game being played around us”. Not frantic tactics that will be useless after a year.

Focus on the big wins

You can focus on saving a few hundred bucks a year by cutting back on lattes, or you can get a 30 000 dollar raise. Nuff said. Click here if you want to read one of Ramit’s classic rants on ‘cut back on lattes’.

Psychology is key

The best advice is the one you take and follow-through. Ramit understands that and optimizes his courses, emails, and tips to make help you follow-through. They are not stuffed with every conceivable piece of information on the topic, but meticulously designed to make you succeed. That being said, his courses include “Vaults” that have 10x the amount of tips and tactics as the main material. But as I mentioned, the tactics are never the focus.

Test relentlessly

Do stuff that works. Take a hard look at what doesn’t. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by confusing the two.

Get his advice for free

Ramit frequently claims that 95% of his advice is free. I don’t think this is accurate. I found that he shared 305% of his advice for free. But you still should take his courses, because they put everything in place.

I would recommend the following path to take advantage of this plethora of resources:

Step 1:Check his Instagram.

It’s hilarious. It’s also a good test if Ramit ‘resonates’ with you.

Step 2: Tim Ferriss interview.

Tim is a world-class interviewer and they are friends.

Step 3: Briefcase technique

The technique illustrates all the principles I laid out above and helped me get my job.

Bonus round: Ultimate guides

Following that, I recommend his free “ultimate guides”:

“How much should a man spend on an engagement ring?” is a fascinating example of Ramit diving into an area populated with generic advice and actually providing an exceptional answer. This is my gold standard on what a blog post should look like.

A note about joining Ramit courses.

The only way to join Ramit Courses is to sign up for his email list. There is a public page with all the products he sells, but they are only “open” one at a time.

Sign up to his email list. You don’t have to pay him a dime, but you will get tremendous value out of the emails. They are packed with knowledge.

And I do recommend the courses.

Ramit’s vision of Rich Life has rubbed on me a little bit. Even though he does not sell anything in the space, he convinced me to get a personal trainer, cleaning help for our apartment and I even have a personal VA.

Past me would marvel at a life I built.

And if you want to hear in detail what I learned, and how I adapted Ramit’s advice to suit the Remote work environment – sign up for MY email list. ?

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“Well, we have to measure something.”, And the perils of metrics.

“What gets measured, gets managed,”

Peter Drucker famously said.

The sentiment makes sense. If we are not looking at a compass, how can we know if we are going in the right direction? How can we keep ourselves honest, and how can we course-correct?

Thanks to the culture of metrics, in 2019 Amazon has surpassed Apple as the most valuable company on the face of the planet.
Indeed, what gets measured, gets managed, but at the expense of everything else. Less famously, Drucker said

Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective. This is not capable of being measured by any of the yardsticks for manual work.

It is very human to want a put significant round number, so we can judge it’s value. We like explicit situations, and a moral gray area is always unwelcome. Your score is 73rd percentile, and eating meat on a Friday is a sin. At least that is clear.

But life is more complicated and nuanced. It is somehow tough to measure the desired outcome accurately. So we defer to measuring the closest thing that is easy to gauge. Can’t hurt, right? At least we’re in the ballpark.

Well, it can.

In 1956 V. F. Ridgway has pioneered an area called “Dysfunctional Consequences of Performance Measurements.” In the first study of such kind (and the one that gave the name to the whole genre), a systematic analysis of the quantitative measurements in the governmental sector and found multiple examples of it going terribly wrong.

(Quantitative is a fancy term for something that has a number.)

“Indiscriminate use ( of quantitative measures) may result in side effects and reactions outweighing the benefits.”

It boils down to the fact that unlike scientifical phenomena, organizations, markets, and people are really complex. By creating simplistic representations, we leave uncomfortable stuff out, ending up with a perfect model for a world that does not exist. We develop synthetic metrics to gauge “the best we can” and start to measure the progress against that number.

As phrased in “Goodhart’s law“, once you make that artificial number your target, it stops being a useful metric. Everybody in the organization will now realign their priorities in order to “bump” the number. With no regard to how that translates into the bottom line.

  • As pictured by sketchplanations above, as a nail-making company, you want to make a lot of customers happy with your nails (a noble cause indeed). But if you are sloppy with your metric-choosing, you can get the opposite effect,
  • Let’s imagine you are trying to measure the output of support employees. If you make them answer the most support tickets, they will try to hit that number at the expense of actually helping the customer, or even worse – making the customer come back a few times with the same problem.
  • If you’re a private doctor trying to avoid lawsuits (like in the USA), you will order unnecessary expensive tests to ensure legal defense. Conversely, when incentivized to curb spending (like in Poland), you will try to guess the diagnosis to avoid costly tests.

Jerry Muller, the author of “The Tyranny of Metrics,” coined the term Metrics Fixation, which is where you replace judgment with numeric indicators.

The most characteristic feature of metric fixation is the aspiration to replace judgment based on experience with standardized measurement.

Jerry Muller

In a frantic search for performance metrics, we often grab the number that is easiest to gauge, ignoring that “Not everything that matters is measurable and not everything that’s measurable matters” (Jerry Muller).

Metrics fixation not only punishes the organization by delivering unexpected outcomes and lower performance. I would argue that it is one of the most significant risks the modern world faces today.

Broad societal problems with metrics.

1. The educational system.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Public Education is, of course, a lofty goal and a massive achievement of our civilization. It is intended to teach young people a habit of life-long learning, open their minds, and realize their full potential. But the education system has a metric: grades.

The entire school experience is designed to be measurable, controlled, and spoon-fed. You cannot take a long time getting to know algebra because it would be unfair to your fellow test-takers. You cannot skip ahead because the class is not moving at your pace. And in effect, children learn one lesson the most: Learning is not fun.

When students cheat on exams, it’s because our school system values grades more than Students value learning.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

2. Economy and finance.

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash

Shockingly, economists and investors are not judged by the performance of their models in real markets! They are not eager to wait decades to validate a model, so they pick metrics easier to measure – testing the hypothesis on synthetic data, ending up with a perfect model for an ideal world.

If you are a passenger on a plane and the pilot tells you he has a faulty map, you get off the plane; you don’t stay and say “well, there is nothing better.” But in economics, particularly finance, they keep teaching these models on grounds that “there is nothing better,” causing harmful risk-taking. Why? Because the professors don’t bear the harm of the models.

Colorful Nassim Taleb, best-selling author of Incerto, on Economy.

3. Artificial intelligence

Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

Unintended consequences of metrics is the core reason why Elon Musk thinks artificial intelligence is the biggest threat to the human race.

The biggest problem with AI is not that it will become wary of us giving it orders and decides to wipe us out on a whim. This is exemplified in the canonical thought experiment called the paperclip maximizer. Nick Bostrom shows us that artificial general intelligence, presented by a single metric ( number of paper clips produced ), designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity.

OK, I GET IT! But what else can we do? Should we fly blind?

Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash

Of course not!

Measuring is still the best way to keep you honest and on track. If you measure against real, tangible goals like revenue – it will help you achieve them.

But it’s hard to find those goals in other areas. If your goal is to “be healthy,” should you aim for lower weight? Body Fat percentage? VO2Max (the amount of oxygen you can consume in the unit of time)? Your maximum bench press weight?

Every single one of those numbers represents an opinionated model, and those models are in odds with each other. If you go to 10 different doctors, you will probably get 11 different answers. And each one will not be focused on you but their pet model of the world.

But you know what a great model of reality is? Real-world. It is not entirely measurable, it’s not an exact number, but it’s real. If you want to feel great, then you can use what “Qualitative” measuring is – your answer to the question “do I feel great”

  • If your goal is to learn a foreign language, then ask yourself the question, “did I just have a meaningful conversation in a foreign language.”
  • If you want to hire a great employee, don’t judge them by the diploma. Give them a trial project and see how they work, interact with colleagues, and further the real goals of your organization.

People have a natural drive to do a good job and demonstrate autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It has been proven over and over again that intrinsic is the only motivation that makes sense long-term It has also been proved, that when you introduce extrinsic one (this one big metric, higher salary, more pocket money for doing house chores), the intrinsic motivation will vanish, and your employees will stop trying to further your agenda under the singular guidance of the all-important metric.

The more a quantitative metric is visible and used to make crucial decisions, the more it will be gamed—which will distort and corrupt the exact processes it was meant to monitor.

An adaption of Campbell’s Law

Instead of putting a round number on the wall, create an organization where you can trust your people to do the right thing. At least until the advent of Artificial Intelligence.

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Busy is a choice

This post has been previously published on Maria’s blog

When I lived in Korea, it shocked me how everyone perceived ‘busy‘ as a badge of honor. It meant you’re a productive member of your group and people can rely on your sacrifice. It meant you’re working hard and should be praised for it. I remember how I told my colleague once that everyone was so busy, and she said “Don’t worry, Maria. You are busy too!”.

I found it funny back then, but she was right.

I’m addicted to busy in a lot of ways. I often feel that I can’t take a break, or I’ll never be able to catch up with all the things on my neverending todo list. I feel like everything will fall apart if I step away, and everyone will find out what sort of fraud I am. I feel like if I don’t take care of some things, no one will, and disaster will ensue.

I told my team lead recently how the workload in a project I lead overwhelms me. These days it’s enough for one person to get sick, and we’re barely catching up. He listened to it all very gently, then said I should consider stepping away from the lead role, cause I’m on collision course with planet burnout.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but he was right too.

The way I dealt with this challenge was very unhealthy. It was like running around with an empty wheelbarrow, too busy to actually load it. I felt I was doing everyone a favour by working overtime and feeling personally responsible for every single problem. In fact, I became less capable of deep troubleshooting, supporting my fellow team members, or making strategic decisions that would solve the crisis at its core. Because of my desire to do more, I was actually doing less, but felt more tired in result.

What he said to me was a much needed wakeup call. I realised the things that I did weren’t working, and that I can’t repeat the same steps again and expect a different outcome. So I did the scariest thing I could do.

I took a break.

I’ve let the raging fires burn on their own, and spent an entire day catching up with all the important-but-not-that-urgent stuff. The kind of things that never openly ask for your time, but can leverage your efforts elsewhere if you let them.

I felt like I was letting my teammates down by leaving them alone in trenches. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. I finally had a chance to analyse why exactly we’re lagging behind, understand what we need to get back on track, and lay out a plan how to get there. I could chat with a mentor and ask her for advice. I could kick off the training of another colleague, which I’ve been putting off for a week. You thought the empty wheelbarrow was a hyperbole?

I thought I was too busy to do all of that. I was wrong.

Whenever I’m feeling too busy to take a break, it is precisely when I most need one.

Whenever I’m too busy to exercise, or meditate, or go for a walk, it’s the surest sign that I should just do it.

Whenever I feel that everything will fall apart if I step away, I should let it fall apart. If the only thing that holds the entire structure together is my enormous effort, it’s probably not a structure worth preserving.

Whenever I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, I should take a step back, look around, and see if there’s a door nearby, even if my first instinct is to keep smashing harder.

The feeling of busyness can be quite overwhelming. But ultimately, busy is a choice.

Book: Hard Thing about Hard Things

“Do you know the best thing about startups?” Ben: “What?” Marc: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”

the-hard-thing

Some people call this book the most important book about startups.

Shane Parish from Farnam Street Blog has been singing praises about this book as well. If you are interested in comprehensive opinion/summary, you should definitely check his out.

Amazon link

 

My key takeaways

  • Struggle is core to being a CEO
  • The biggest problem is the one that blindsides you – when everybody is reporting great success, but problem is brewing
  • Be honest – sharing bad news is good
  • Fire people fast, let them know you are firing them and let the keep respect
  • Company is a completely different place at different size levels
  • Most incompetent person holding a title defines the value of the title
  • Peacetime CEO is different than wartime CEO

 

My highlights

  • Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at
  • Former secretary of state Colin Powell says that leadership is the ability to get someone to follow you even if only out of curiosity.
  • The simple existence of an alternate, plausible scenario is often all that’s needed to keep hope alive among a worried workforce.
  • My father turned to me and said, “Son, do you know what’s cheap?” Since I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I replied, “No, what?” “Flowers. Flowers are really cheap. But do you know what’s expensive?” he asked. Again, I replied, “No, what?” He said, “Divorce.”
  • Marc: “Do you know the best thing about startups?” Ben: “What?” Marc: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”
  • You need someone who will actually be more excited for you than he would be if it had happened to him. The second kind of friend is somebody you can call when things go horribly wrong—when your life is on the line and you only have one phone call. Who is it going to be?
  • If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble.”
  • what I’d like you to do. First, reach up to your face and take off your rose-colored glasses. Then get a Q-tip and clean the wax out of your ears.
  • “What Are We Not Doing?”
  • If a warrior keeps death in mind at all times and lives as though each day might be his last, he will conduct himself properly in all his actions.
  • The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.
  • My single biggest personal improvement as CEO occurred on the day when I stopped being too positive.
  • A much better idea would have been to give the problem to the people who could not only fix it, but who would also be personally excited and motivated to do so.
  • In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust.
  • individuals should not be “This is great, we are cleaning up performance.” The message must be “The company failed and in order to move forward, we will have to lose some excellent people.”
  • “Ben, you cannot let him keep his job, but you absolutely can let him keep his respect.”
  • 1. People who quit 2. People who got fired 3. People who quit, but it’s okay because the company didn’t want them anyway
  • Fascinatingly, as companies begin to struggle, the third category always seems to grow much faster than the
  • The customers were buying; they just weren’t buying our product. This was not a time to pivot. So I said the same thing to every one of them: “There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets.”
  • The customers were buying; they just weren’t buying our product. This was not a time to pivot. So I said the same thing to every one of them: “There are no silver bullets for this, only lead bullets.” They did not want to hear that, but it made things clear: We had to build a better product. There
  • “Bill, nobody cares, just coach your team.”
  • All the mental energy you use to elaborate your misery would be far better used trying to find the one seemingly impossible way out of your current mess. Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do. Because in the end, nobody cares; just run your company.
  • “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.”
  • In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling.
  • “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager
  • which I used to train the team on my basic expectations. I was shocked by what happened next. The performance of my team instantly improved. Product managers whom I had almost written off as hopeless became effective.
  • What will you do in your first month on the job?
  • How will your new job differ from your current
  • Write down the strengths you want and the weaknesses that you are willing to tolerate.
  • Early on at Loudcloud, many people would do crazy things backed up by “Ben said.” Often I didn’t say any of it, but I definitely didn’t say it in the way they used it. The management principles I share here are connected to many of those experiences.
  • In all three cases, managers got what we asked for, but not what we wanted. How did this happen? Let’s take a look.
  • Sun Tzu, in his classic work The Art of War, warns that giving the team a task that it cannot possibly perform is called crippling the army.
  • Unfortunately, the metrics that I set did not capture those priorities. At a basic level, metrics are incentives. By measuring quality, features, and schedule and discussing them at every staff meeting, my people focused intensely on those metrics to the exclusion of other goals. The metrics did not describe the real goals and I distracted the team as a result.
  • Some things that you want to encourage will be quantifiable, and some will not. If you report on the quantitative goals and ignore the qualitative ones, you won’t get the qualitative goals, which may be the most important ones.
  • Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers—it’s strictly for amateurs.
  • Was customer satisfaction rising or falling?
  • What did our own engineers think of the products?
  • Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues.
  • Sometimes an organization doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarity.
  • In all my years in business, I have yet to hear someone say, “I love corporate politics.”
  • What do I mean by politics? I mean people advancing their careers or agendas by means other than merit and contribution.
  • At a macro level, a company will be most successful if the senior managers optimize for the company’s success (think of this as a global optimization) as opposed to their own personal success (local optimization).
  • No matter how well the CEO designs the personal incentive programs, they will never be perfect.
  • Dr. Seuss’s management masterpiece Yertle the Turtle.
  • What’s not fun about working here?
  • If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
  •   What’s the number-one problem with our organization? Why?   What’s not fun about working here?   Who is really kicking ass in the company? Whom do you admire?   If you were me, what changes would you make?   What don’t you like about the product?   What’s the biggest opportunity that we’re missing out on?   What are we not doing that we
  • should be doing?   Are you happy working here?
  • The primary thing that any technology startup must do is build a product that’s at least ten times better at doing something than the current prevailing way of doing that thing.
  • In his bestselling book Built to Last, Jim Collins wrote that one of the things that long-lasting companies he studied have in common is a “cult-like culture.”
  • them. These door desks are not great ergonomically, nor do they fit with Amazon.com’s $150 billion–plus market capitalization, but when a shocked new employee asks why she must work on a makeshift desk constructed out of random Home Depot parts, the answer comes back with withering consistency: “We look for every opportunity to save money so that we can deliver the best products for the lowest cost.”
  • The first rule of organizational design is that all organizational designs are bad. With any design, you will optimize communication among some parts of the organization at the expense of other parts.
  • Figure out what needs to be communicated.
  • Figure out what needs to be decided. Consider
  • Prioritize the most important communication and decision paths.
  • Decide who’s going to run each group.
  • Identify the paths that you did not optimize.
  • Build a plan for mitigating the issues identified in step five.
  • By far the most difficult skill I learned as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology.
  • Ideally, the CEO will be urgent yet not insane.
  • Tip to aspiring entrepreneurs: If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic, don’t become CEO.
  • Be aware that management books tend to be written by management consultants who study successful companies during their times of peace. As a result, the resulting books describe the methods of peacetime CEOs. In fact, other than the books written by Andy Grove, I don’t know of any management books that teach you how to manage in wartime
  • If you really want someone to succeed, then make her feel it. Make her feel you. If she feels you and you are in her corner, then she will listen to you.
  • The very next day I informed the head of Sales Engineering and the head of Customer Support that they would be switching jobs.
  • There are two kinds of cultures in this world: cultures where what you do matters and cultures where all that matters is who you are. You can be the former or you can suck.
  • The answer is that your loyalty must go to your employees—the people who report to your executives. Your engineers, marketing people, salespeople, and finance and HR people who are doing the work. You owe them a world-class management team. That’s the priority.