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!


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!

The Week in Review #34: I am Legend

At the end of July I introduced you to HearthStone. I was on a quest to reach Legend status which is the reserved for the best players in the game. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hit my goal in July. I came very close, however my game had many flaws. In August I decided to get expert help and had a couple of coaching sessions from professional players. These sessions were helpful in highlighting mistakes that were costing me games.

With that advice and a lot of hard work I finally made it this month.

hearthstone legend

My final rank was #1530 at the end of the season. Out of the millions of players who play this game I am happy with that outcome. While playing the game was fun, the journey to legend helped highlight several relevant lessons that are applicable in life as well as business. Listed below are the top 10 lessons I took away from the process:

1. Learning to Focus: Recurring email notifications, instant messages and Facebook are very distracting. Each of them pulls us away from important tasks at hand. Learning to focus on a singular task and working to towards completing it are critical to your success. This lesson also applies to our inner desire as entrepreneurs to put our fingers in multiple pies. We need to pick a goal and work our way to ensuring we do whatever we can to complete it.

2. Knowledge of the Meta: Markets are constantly changing. Today messaging may be one of the hottest trends and tomorrow it could be virtual reality. If we are not able to keep up with market changes we are most certain to fall behind. During the last week of the month HearthStone released 132 new cards. This caused people to test new strategies and some existing tactics stopped working. If you were not able to adjust to the change it drastically impacted your ability to climb the ladder.

3. Taking part in the Community: Finding your community and actively taking part in it is critical to your success. If we decide to go it alone we are increasing the chances of making mistakes that could be avoided. My final push to legend this month happened because of the great content and advice provided my the professional HearthStone community. When I look back at my entrepreneurship community it has also been critical aspect of my growth. Seek out your tribe and become an active contributing member. This tip alone could make your career.

4. Playing Slowly & Thinking Through Options: All of us have deeply ingrained habits that determine our actions. It could be the way we respond to a competitive threat or an opportunity. I briefly touched about this in cockroach theory. A default reaction is very different from a calculated response. One of the mistakes I used to make while playing the game was going for the obvious play. This is one dimensional thinking and puts you at a severe disadvantage to forward thinking players. Playing your turns slowly and evaluating all options is necessary to play optimally.

5. Rolling with the Punches: It was the final game before I hit legend. My opponent was on the ropes and I was two turns away from victory. It felt good and then….the internet dropped. I lost the game and had to fight through another 3 long games to get back to where I was. The moment that happened I literally blew a fuse. A friend who was watching me play the match told me to take a break. That was great advice at that moment in time. In life we get dealt punches that seem to come out of no where. Our ability to take them and move forward is critical to our success.

6. Adjusting your Mindset: During the third week of the month I felt tired. I was making progress, yet it felt like a grind. I spoke to a friend who was also working towards legend. He told me that was the worst mindset I could have. If you aren’t having fun then I shouldn’t be playing. Looking back at that advice it seems so apt now. How many times in life do we get stuck in rut and complain about hard things are. This is the moment we need to evaluate our current position and our strategy. Have fun, enjoy the work you do and if something feels like a grind; it may be time to take a step back and evaluate where you are.

7. Coaching & Mentorship: As entrepreneurs we dream about the perfect mentor. The person who has already traveled the path we are on. We do our best to seek out these people. Hoping their wisdom will enable us to avoid mistakes and get to our destination faster. Anyone who doesn’t fit our image of who this person needs to be, gets left by the wayside. In our search for this elusive person, we often forget to pay attention to the people around us. The ones who are wanting to help us the most. Often it is the people who we least expect, to have the greatest impact on our lives.

8. Refining your Strategy: When something is clearly not working there will be signs. Customers may not be coming back, our product could be inferior or we may need to look into our marketing strategy. It is very easy to blame external forces for our bad luck. However if we keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result, that is foolish thinking. Constantly evaluate your current strategy. Determine the pieces that are working and those that need tweaking. This is only possible when we are focused and are thinking through our options.

9. Painful Practice: In July I was frustrated. I was playing well but not getting the results I wanted. Looking back at my stats I was not playing enough to get to where I wanted to be. Everyone wants to find success. However it is the people who put in the time and energy to hone their skills that get to where they want to. If you want to be the very best you have to put in the hours needed. Every game I played, I learned something new. I still enjoyed the game as a whole, yet there were days when I wanted to give up. Having a clear goal and the support of my friends and mentors helped me pull through this period.

10. Tracking your Stats: How well is your business doing? What statistics are you using to benchmark it’s growth? Are those the best indicators of your progress? These are difficult questions all of us must answer. When I started playing the game it was just for fun. The day I installed a program to track my game play things changed. Mistakes I was making became apparent. I could review close games and see where I could have chosen a different line of play. If we adopt a similar strategy to our lives and business, I am sure we will see a marked improvement as well.

I hope to build upon this list in the coming weeks. In the meanwhile I wish everyone all the best and hope you have a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #33: The Daily Routine

Entrepreneurs thrive on diversity. We have the ability to wear multiple hats and work on multiple interesting problems at the same time. I always believed that we chose this path to avoid the daily routine. At the end of 2014 I heard a podcast episode with Hal ElRod which changed my perspectives. He authored the book called Morning Miracle, which I promptly purchased after the episode. The book is a quick read and goes through 6 steps he recommends. They are; Meditation, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading, Writing. Incorporating all of these into your morning routine is challenging. It took me a couple of months to get into the flow. However once I did, it had a dramatic impact on both my energy levels as well as my work.

The internet is filled with resources about perfecting your morning routine. While these help, the real challenge is the one from within. All of us want to eat, sleep and work better. However when that alarm goes off at 530am, it is tempting to hit the snooze button for 5 more minutes. Every time we hit that button we lose a critical internal battle. If we hit the button enough, the chances of us changing become even slimmer. Two strategies that I would recommend to reducing the chances of pressing the button are:

1. Write down the first thing you want to get done before heading off to bed. Start with just a single item first. Eventually you can start building your entire to-do list for the next day.

2. Setup early morning meetings, conference calls or gym sessions. Optimally you would want to prioritize exercising. Calls and meetings should ideally be scheduled for later in the morning or afternoon. However in the beginning we need a forcing function. Once we get into the habit of getting up early you can switch up the sequence of events.

Why Creating a Meaningful Morning Routine Will Make You More Successful This weeks post was inspired by this great article. It goes into detail about morning routines and the benefits of each step. Would highly recommend reading through this and setting up your own routine.

Nightly Routines and How To Sleep Hack your way to a Productive Morning This is a good follow up on the article above. It goes through night routines in detail. This includes a very helpful section on how to improve your quality of sleep.

16 Startup Metrics Every business has 2 – 3 core metrics that define their business. Determining what those metrics are is critical to ensuring our success. This post provides a great list of metrics to pick from. I would recommend going through all of them and seeing which 2 or 3 are key to your business.

The Advanced Guide to Startup PR Getting publicity for your startup is important. Many founders go about getting press incorrectly. They either hire a PR firm prematurely or do not think through their strategy completely. This post provides a great primer on getting your strategy right from the beginning.

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Charlie Munger about Making Rational Decisions This was a strong contender for my top article of the week. The post is full of insights and is a great read. One of my favorite lines from the post is “Checklists are a foundational part of systems that can help people identify dysfunctional thinking and bias.”

The Post-YC Slump YC is the top startup incubator in the world. This post talks about the downward spiral of doing fake work once startups graduate from the program. I believe these lessons are apt for all startups. Doing fake work and appearing to be busy is ensuring a slow and painful death.

How Two Non-Technical Cofounders Grew & Sold Their Startup for Millions These days everyone seems to be looking for a technical cofounder. This story shows that in most cases it isn’t necessary. Being able to get stuff done and execute can easily tip the odds in your favor. The story includes the 5 lessons the founders learned in their process from incorporating to sale.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #32: The Cockroach Theory

It takes a minute to have our world turned upside down. Often, this will happen when we least expect it. Our ability or inability to deal with such events has a massive impact on our life. The easy way out would be blame the world for all our problems. We can put our head in the sand and hope for things to become better. Following this path will most likely result in making the situation worse. The better play will be to pro-actively respond to the new circumstances. This will require us to avoid knee jerk reactions and evaluate the best course of action. Easier said than done. Most of us are programmed to react rather than respond.

Responding requires us to maintain composure. Collect our thoughts and analyze our emotions. At this moment that will be the very last thing on your mind. Our lizard brain is going to be pushing us towards the fight or flight response. We will be afraid. Every worse case scenario will be playing out in our head. We will want to blame the world and our bad luck for all our problems. I know the feeling; having been in the same spot many times.

What I have learned over the years is that my response to these problems determines the final outcome. Fighting default reactions is difficult but not impossible. Each one of us has within us the ability to take control of our lives. Embracing failure and setbacks as roadblocks we all have to face. Some of us will have it rougher than other and that is just the way the dice rolls. Keeping your chin up, thinking clearly through your options and responding with the best course of action is the only way out.

Cockroach Theory This weeks featured article is a speech by the new CEO of Google. It uses a great example to help us visualize how a reaction is different from a response.

How I Learned to Get a Lot Done Without Being Busy As entrepreneurs it isn’t uncommon to being busy all the time. There is always something on our to do list. This article talks through the steps you can take to take control of your life back. There are several great pointers included. The one I liked the most was about being honest with yourself.

The future legends of esports Every week I read some piece of news regarding the growing e-sports industry. In prior issues we talked about professional teams and plays. This article talks about the growth of the industry as a whole and what we can expect as it matures even further.

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from David Einhorn About Investing This was my favorite read of the week. The highlighted investor in this post is someone whom I admire. He started his fund with $900k in 1996 and has generated a 20% annalized return for investors since. This post highlights key insights into his investing thesis and process.

Marc Andreessen on Big Breakthrough Ideas and Courageous Entrepreneurs Marc Andreessen is one of the top technology investors in the world. In this video he talks about his investment thesis and the type of entrepreneurs he looks to back.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!