Date archives "September 2015"

The Week in Review # 38: Filtering Advice

Giving advice is easy. There is no implicit cost to the giver. They are helping us see the world through their lens. Our job as entrepreneurs is to take the advice and decide if it is applicable to our situation. In the past I have made the mistake of blindly following the advice of people more successful than myself. In some cases it worked and in other situations it caused even more problems. We have to take great care in how we filter the signal from the noise.

A while ago I was stuck in very tricky situation at work. I fielded advice from a host of people and it didn’t help make my decision easier. A close colleague of mine told me that I have to stop solely depending on external advice and take things into my own hand. At the time his advice made no sense. Looking back it at it now I can understand what he meant. The fear of making the wrong decision can paralyse the best of us. In times like this we do our best to take the burden of ourselves and seek external validation. Hoping that someone else will be able to take us out of our pain. Ironically the more advice we seek, the worse our situation becomes.

I am not down playing the importance of invaluable advice. The type that changes our world view and helps us to make better sense of a situation. Our job as entrepreneurs is to seek the right people who can give us that advice. Sometimes this advice will come from the most unlikeliest of places. At the same time we have to be mindful of separating the signal from the noise. In the end regardless of whether we make the right or wrong decision, we have to take responsibility of the final outcome. Blaming external advice for our own shot comings is a sign of weakness.

Seek good advice, make your own decisions and take responsibility for your results.

Advice is worthless, except when it’s not This week’s post was inspired by this article. The central premise revolves around this quote: “My job is to give you lots of advice. Your job is to ignore 95% of it.” The article has a great set of pointers on making the most of the advice you receive.

The Day You Became a Better Writer Scott Adams is the author of the Dilbert cartoon strip and many great books. If you have read any of his material you will find reading them effortless. This post provides advice on how to greatly improve your writing. I have followed his advice and it has made me a better writer.

Give it five minutes This post is about a great entrepreneur getting advice that had a great impact on his life. It is simple advice that I believe anyone can greatly benefit from. Hope it helps to make a difference in your life.

The Life Portfolio: Diversify Your Identity to Maximize Your Life This is a post where an investors advice was detrimental to the entrepreneur. The article talks about her learnings and how she changed her life as a result of the advice she received.

Unit Economics A paragraph from this article great resonated with me. “If you hold yourself to the standard of making a product that is so good people spontaneously recommend it to their friends, and you have an easy-to-understand business model where you make more than you spend on each user, and it gets better not worse as you get bigger, you may not look like some of hottest companies of today, but you’ll look a lot like Google and Facebook.”

My favorite interview question I interview a lot of people every week. This is a question that I have started adding to the mix and it has resulted in great conversations.

Ted Talk of the Week: Falling in love is the easy part This Ted talk is based around an article called The 36 questions that lead to love. The talk answers many questions that readers had about it’s viability. This is an interesting and fun talk to watch.

Hope you have a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #37: Building Things

What do you do? A simple question that is asked of us regularly. Our answer to this question says a lot about who we are. Unfortunately, most answers are boring and have very little thought put into them. I am a programmer, a business owner or a doctor. Most people do not want to talk about their boring day jobs. The thing they solely do to pay the bills. Yet, we clock in day after day not thinking about the choices we are making. We convince ourselves with the excuse of being trapped. Dreaming of the day when we will be truly free to do what we really want to be doing.

Truth be told we do not need to be running the next big startup or creating documentaries in war torn areas to give an interesting answer to the question above. Each of us have things in our lives that we enjoy doing. Our day jobs are just part of what we do. I recently asked an acquaintance this question and he starting talking about the book he was writing. After a while he slipped in the fact that he also works as a marketing consultant at a large bank.

All of us have the ability to create the life that we want ourselves. By pigeon holing ourselves based solely on our day job we create a mental barrier within ourselves. A barrier which limits our ability to take control of our lives and pursue what we enjoy doing.

This week I came across several articles about people who built amazing things in their spare time. They were inspiring to read and showed that each of us have the ability to achieve whatever we want in life. The Ted video linked below provides us with a simple framework of how we can get started on making a positive change in our lives today.

The Craigslist Method: You Can Build Big Things In Your Spare Time This article provides the back story of Craigslist. It was started as a side project that grew into one of the internet’s most visited sites. The author also provides 5 simple steps to get starting on your own side project.

Launching a product, in just 3652 days Launching a side project is easy. Completing it and shipping it to the world is very hard. We procrastinate and give ourselves lots of excuses. This article takes you through a 10 year journey of a side project. The article shows the struggles we are most likely to encounter and how to overcome them.

Why you should choose an ambitious startup idea While most side projects start small, we should always be thinking big. Google was started as a product called backrub to search through scholarly articles, ebay to sell pez dispensers and Craigslist to keep track of events going on in town.

Don’t Build That Killer App JUST Yet With the rapid rise of mobile phones everyone seems to have an idea of the next big mobile application. This article provides a framework to evaluate your idea before you start building it.

A Path for Entrepreneurs, When a Start-Up Is Not the Goal Most of us believe that becoming an entrepreneur requires us to start a business. However, another viable path is to purchase an existing business and grow it. This was an insightful read on an alternative that is often overlooked by many people looking to become an entrepreneur.

Ted Talk of the Week: How to find work you love This is an 18 minute motivational talk about pursuing the life that you want for yourself. The speaker talks about his own journey and the framework he used to think through his decisions.

Hope you have a great week ahead!


Are you Antifragile?

Comfort…security…certainty. As humans we gravitate towards these states. It is a comfortable place to be. There are no surprises and we remain enveloped in the warm embrace of knowing what our day, month and year is going to look like. We go about our days thinking about where we are going to brunch on the weekend and our next fabulous getaway. We dangerously make the assumption that we have it all figured out. As Naseem Taleb would put it we are extremely fragile at this moment. No matter how high we stack the walls that protect us, deep down we know they can come crumbling down. We refuse to think about that possibility. It scares us. We keep telling ourselves that it won’t…can’t happen to me.

Then one day the walls come crumbling down. The ironic part is sometimes we bring them down ourselves. Everything we had worked so hard to protect gone in an instant. All these years we focused on the external and forgot about building up ourselves. It was all about what the world wanted and cared about. We didn’t ask the difficult question as to who we are? What do we want? Most importantly how do we want to contribute meaningfully to the world around us?

Focusing on these questions is what makes us antifragile.

This path offers far less security…comfort and certainty. The chances of finding ourselves lost at multiple junctures of our life is to be expected. These moments will signify that we have the courage to lose ourselves to find out who we really are. What remains to be seen is whether we have it within ourselves to start asking ourselves these difficult questions. Being able to put ourselves in positions where we don’t have the answers.

The decision is the same one Neo had to make in the Matrix. To decide between the blue or the red pill. The only difference is that each of us have the ability to make that decision every morning when we get out of bed. So which pill is it going to be?

The Week in Review #36: Goals with Systems

I have always thought of goals as being integral parts of our lives. They act as a compass, pointing us towards paths we believe will bring us happiness and contentment. Yet, when I look back at my past achievements they didn’t create the enduring sense of joy that I hoped they would. What they did provide was the confidence and drive that I can achieve bigger and more ambitious goals. This begs the question as to where are we really wanting to go. If we blindly pursue one large goal after another, we will find ourselves stuck in an infinite loop. Perhaps, it is easier to leave the bigger questions unanswered and keep climbing this boundless ladder.

Last year I set myself the goal of completing a duathalon. The bigger objective was to get myself into shape. During the training period I developed a healthy diet, regular exercising routine and fixed my sleep cycles. It has been a year since I successfully completed the race. While I am very proud of my achievement, what has really impacted my life were the habits I developed while training for the race. This accidental discovery led me to re-evaluate some of my other goals and the systems I have in place to achieve them.

The goals we set ourselves do matter. However the methods we choose to achieve them are far more significant than the goal itself. Quotes such as “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” make a lot more sense when you look at them through this lens. In an era of instant gratification this quote seems out of place. Society today is geared to supercharge our output, loading oneself on caffeine and getting to where we need to as quickly as possible. In our quest of constant achievement have we forgotten what we are searching for in the first place?

All of us have goals and aspirations that we hope to achieve. What I strongly urge us to do is to re-evaluate the methods we are using to achieve them. Blindly checking off items on a to-do list may be an effective short term strategy. However, what you are looking for is system which will have a larger impact on your life. For instance one of my longer term goals is to write a book. When I first started out with this goal I outlined the book and made a checklist of all the sections. There were weeks when I managed to check items of the list and other’s when I didn’t have the will power to do so. Earlier this year I made two changes to my method. The first was committing to write everyday, even if it is a single sentence. The second was to commit reading a book for 30 minutes everyday. Both of those changes have dramatically improved my writing as well as the quality of my life.

Here is a simple exercise you can do today. Take one goal that you believe will have the most significant impact on your life. Next ask yourself “what are 1 – 3 things that you should be doing repeatedly to move yourself closer to the goal?”. This one question could help you get unstuck and enable you to achieve things you previously couldn’t imagine!

Ben Horowitz’s Best Startup Advice This was the best post I read this week. It is a summary of a live chat that happened on Product Hunt. Ben is a partner at a16z and previously was at Loudcloud and Netscape. His book on his startup journey is also a must read for every entrepreneur.

Ideas are Easy, Words are Cheap This is a very short read with an important lesson. It is much easier to be a bystander and give ideas or suggestions. Getting your hands dirty and putting yourself is what makes a difference.

eSports Market Ecosystem Map My excitement about the eSports maket continues to grow. Every week I come across more data points on how it is growing rapidly. For anyone who is interested in knowing the main players in this space, this post is a gerat read.

How I went from underemployed waitress to the top 1% of millennials in 3 months This post follows the theme of the week. It is all about setting a goal and building systems to enable you to reach it. For anyone who is stuck in their career and wants to break out this will be a very helpful read.

What if… Tinder was your Appraisal tool? The world of performance management fascinates me. While this post does push the envelope, it does bring some important questions to the forefront. Businesses such as Knowyourcompany are building models quite similar to what is being discussed in the article. It is an exciting space which I am looking forward to seeing evolve.

Ted Talk of the Week: What really matters at the end of life This is a very emotional and heavy talk. I would recommend taking atleast 45 minutes out of your day to both watch the talk and reflect on it’s content. The author talks extensively about death and our journey towards it. This is a topic that is usually skipped over and not talked about enough.

Hope you have a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #35: Excuses Don’t Construct Monuments

Life is a battle. Everyday we face a new set of challenges. There will be days when we will be triumphant and other days when we will be down on our luck. Sometimes the wounds of defeat will be severe. We won’t have the energy to get back up and will find solace in our excuses. This will begin a slippery slope where the invisible scripts in our head will begin to take over. Food will lose it’s flavour and sleep will be our only refuge to run away from the ever increasing amount of challenges.

The only way out is to take action. To have the courage to face our fears and stand back onto our feet. We have to shred our excuses and the invisible scripts that haunt us.

This will require us to have belief; both in ourselves and our ability to get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. All of us have the ability to get back up. Everyday we have the opportunity to right the wrong’s of the past and start afresh. It is never too late and all we have to do is just take a single step forward. With each subsequent day we will regain all our lost energy and start making progress. The wounds of the past will be reminders of how far we have come.

Excuses don’t construct monuments. Action does. ~ Robin Sharma

The Methods for Super Human Productivity This week’s featured post is by Robin Sharma. A renowned coach and advisor to some of the top performers in the world. He shares 4 tips to boost your productivity and make substantial progress towards your goals. This is a must read and the tactics shared within the post have already had a huge impact on my life.

Work Hard, Live Well A couple of weeks ago the New York times wrote a piece on the culture of Amazon. It talked about the cut throat environment and how hard the employees had to work. This article is in response to that piece by the co-founder of Facebook and now the founder of Asana. The post goes into detail about the rise of the 40 hour week and the reasoning behind it. There is a lot of discussion around the benefits of balance.

Marc Benioff’s 7 lessons from his mentor turned nemesis Both Oracle and Salesforce are two organizations that I look up to. They are aggressive enterprise software companies that have achieved remarkable success. Each company is led by strong visionary leaders that have taken their companies from the garage to a category leader. This post shares the 7 lessons that Marc Benioff learned from Larry Ellison during his time at Oracle.

Ambition vs. Meaningful Goals This post talks ambition, success and meaningful goals. At times all three of these terms are grouped as one. While the differences between each of the terms may appear small they are not. The author defines each term and comes to his conclusion on how we should pursue our aspirations.

How to make things people want The author of this post is the founder of a company called I have watched this company grow from it’s early days in an accelerator to becoming a great company. The founder has a great sense of product design and building products that people want. In this in-depth post he shares his thoughts in great detail with a multitude of examples.

The Sad Story Of Onboarding Gone Wrong Onboarding is one of the most overlooked components of the recruitment process. Most companies believe that once the candidate has signed the employment contract they can move onto the next candidate in line. This results in increasing attrition and the probability of losing your best employees. This post talks in detail about onboarding and tips on improving your process.

Wishing everyone a great weekend ahead!