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!

 

The Week in Review #31: Playing to Win

We live in a society where conformity and staying within the lines is the norm. Anyone who ventures outside that circle is deemed a pariah; someone who has lost their way. The world does it’s best to bring you back within the fold. Family and friends will strongly urge you to take the tried and tested path. They will tell you it is for your own benefit. I can’t fault them, they are using their past as an indicator of what lies ahead. However, this is where the fork in the road comes into play. In life we have two options, we either play not lose or we play to win. Many of us do our best to hedge both sides of this coin. Unfortunately this third strategy almost guarantees us the worst outcome.

Playing to win doesn’t need us to do wild and crazy things as one would imagine. Everything starts with identifying what you want. That goal decides the tactics we need to use to win. Whether that be running a successful business or travelling the world. The important thing to remember is to pursue that goal aggressively. We will be required to make many difficult sacrifices. This is where most people hit a wall. The thought of giving up something in the present is painful. Losing feels far worse than winning. We do our best to hang on to everything as our ship is sinking.

The only way to get what you want, is to play to win. Embrace all the setbacks as lessons and keep moving closer. The worse thing you can do is lose sight of the goal. At times when we do win, we may have lost. This is when we chose to pursue the wrong goal. However that is life and the game we play. It is better to have played and won or lost, than never played at all.

The Prioritization Paradox This article gels well with this week’s theme. Prioritizing what you need to do on a daily basis is of critical importance. Getting it right can greatly accelerate the rate at which you reach your goals.

23 super-successful people share the best advice they ever received I always enjoy reading posts like these. The major themes are listening better, surrounding yourself with the right people and focusing on what you want to win at.

Wasting Time With The Joneses This is a great essay on the fundamentals of raising capital. It talks about when to raise it and what sort of businesses are the most suited for it.

Uber’s Secret Weapon This article talks about the road Ryan Graves took to become an early employee of Uber. It is a story about hustling, knowing what you want and going for it.

Don’t Ask For Permission. Ask For Forgiveness Great article by James Altucher. I enjoy reading his posts and his style of writing. My favorite line from the post is “Our life worth is not our net worth but the impact we have on others.”

Shark Tank Investment Data I am a big Shark Tank fan. It is an entertaining watch and educational at the same time. The program gives us insight into how to pitch and what investors are looking for in a business. This is a spreadsheet which contains all the deals that have been done in the tank. If you are looking for new business ideas this is a great spreadsheet to study.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #30: Death to the Performance Review

Nearly 5 years ago I started my business IDENTIFI. The goal was to build software that helped companies attract, recruit and retain their best people. In the earlier part of our journey we focused on the top end of the funnel, dealing with recruitment and employer branding. This is a space with lots of competition. Within the first year we started focusing more on helping employers retain their key employees. At a time when loyalty to employers is at record lows, every company is figuring out ways to keep their best people. One of our solutions that caught on with many employers was assistance with their performance review process. We would help them conduct these annual or bi-annual reviews and build development plans for their staff. We managed to close very large clients and do this day still provide this service to employers all across APAC.

However the winds are changing. With the influx of Gen Y and more importantly millenials into the workforce, the age old performance review process doesn’t work. Employees want feedback immediately and  a need for immediate recognition. Most of our large customers are now debating how to change a process that has been embedded in their culture for a very long time. Large companies are the ones that are struggling with this change the most. Many of them have built compensation, development and growth opportunities into their review processes.

For us as a company this requires us to also fundamentally change the service we provide to our customers. The one constant that remains is the need for feedback and building of development plans for your staff. The variable that changes is how this process is conducted moving forward. Several of our forward thinking customers have moved away from the annual review to quarterly and some with monthly check-in’s with their staff. This requires a new set of software that is light weight, mobile friendly with a low cognitive overhead.

I am excited to start this next phase of our growth as a business and look forward to sharing in greater detail how we are going to be solving for this change.

Accenture To Nix Performance Reviews And Rankings For All 330,000 Employees The featured article of the week is how Accenture is abandoning its review process. Microsoft and several other companies have followed similar suit. This helps other companies who are hesitant about the switch to take the leap of faith.

What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work This is a great read about how Hollywood is staffing studios and sets. Structuring work around temp employees and short term projects. We are already seeing this proliferate into many other sectors. Making me very bullish on marketplaces like Upwork and Workmarket.

Lessons learned building & managing a remote team Building on the previous article, this essay talks about how to get started building a remote team. Several costly mistakes can be overcome as there is a learning curve involved in both building and more importantly managing a remote team.

First Round – The 10 Year Project First Round Capital is a top tier seed stage venture firm. They have invested in some of the most successful enterprises including Uber, Square and Warby Parker. This is a round up of the 10 major lessons they have learned in the 10 years they have been investing. Several interesting lessons and some that will most definitely surprise you.

A Slide by Slide Guide to a Killer Investor Pitch Pitching to investors is a key part about being an entrepreneur. This article walks through the core components of the deck. One thing that I would like to see added to this would be the story behind why are you doing what you do. This is critical, especially for early stage startups. The key thing that investors are looking for is whether the founder(s) have the perseverance and passion to see things through to the end.

How to Prepare Yourself to Be a Great CEO Starting a company is easy, becoming a great CEO is a completely different ball game. Jason Lemkin is a very successful startup founder and in this article he shares the 5 things that you need to do to improve your abilities as a CEO.

Applying to Startup Jobs The days of sending your resume with a cover letter are over. This strategy doesn’t work very well for large companies and fails completely at startups. The primary goal is to be able to stand out among the sea of applicants. This is a comprehensive guide to greatly improve your chances of getting hired not only by a startup but most other companies as well.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #29: HearthStone & Gamification

Late last year a team mate of mine saw me killing some time playing Clash of Clans on my iPad. It was something I would occasionally do when I had a couple of minutes to kill or just needed a break. He suggested that I test out this new game called HearthStone. It was a competitive card trading game that you play against other opponents. It took a week and I was hooked. The game looks deceptively simple when you first start playing it. However to become a top ranked player takes a lot of work and understanding of the games fundamentals. This month I am playing to enter the highest ranks available. This is the top 2500 players out of the millions of people who play the game. I haven’t quite got there yet and thus the delay in this post.

As entrepreneurs there are several things that we can take away from how these gaming companies operate. First off it would be beneficial for most business owners to understand game mechanics. Several of these concepts can be used within your own companies for processes like recruiting and marketing. Over the last couple of years the word gamification has been greatly publicized to take advantage of these mechanics. The other factor that greatly stands out is how these gaming companies build communities. There are a plethora of websites that are dedicated to these players and Blizzard (game developer) invests heavily in promoting all of these destinations.

Professional players such as Kripparian averages 200,000 views of his youtube videos discussing the game hours after it has been released. The other major destination that I have discovered is Twitch. A business which was started to help professional players stream themselves playing the games. When you first hear about the concept, it doesn’t make too much sense. However once you see a single player being watched by tens of thousands of people at a single moment, it starts to make a lot of sense. The website was purchased by Amazon for a billion dollars late last  year.

Listed below are several links which provide insight into this industry and to get a better understanding of some of the dynamics that you can take leverage yourself.

Single Player Game This is a long read. However if you want to understand the psychology of the most hardcore game players this would be a great start. This essay provides a history of the development of games and how far they have come.

What is Gamification This post provides an in-depth summary of what is gamification. The post includes several very relevant examples of how these concepts have been implemented.

Why gamification is serious business This article by analyst at Accenture provides a broader overview of the implications of gamification. The paper includes analysis of how these mechanics are impacting Gen Y and the millennial generations.

You’d be surprised just how big ‘e-sports’ is getting People are usually shocked when they learn about the prize pools available in e-sport competitions. With millions of dollars on the line an entire industry is beginning to take shape with coaches, professional teams and major league tournaments.

Inside the life of a pro gamer Sitting in front of your computer and playing computer games sounds like a good job. However there is a much more than meets the eye if you want to go pro. This article provides an in depth look into the life of a pro gamer. There is additional context provider on just how large this space is becoming.

I may do a dedicated post on my learnings from Hearthstone soon. That would also work as a primer for anyone who wants to start playing the game.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #28: Everything is temporary

The next goal seems within grasp. Our focus sharpens and the trivialities of our day to day fade into the background. This is the moment we have been waiting for. The day arrives and everything goes just as planned. We experience a deep sense of accomplishment. All the hard work has paid off and life is great…..for a while. It doesn’t take long for us to develop a new set of goals as there is always a next step to take.

Life is something that happens between these goal posts. The scary thing is that it happens all too fast. Standing still actually becomes frightening. Our electronic devices provide us with the much needed refuge from the silence. The day dissipates into the night and repeats itself endlessly. In the hope for an imagined future we have sacrificed the present.

It is only when we begin to realize that everything is temporary, can we truly understand the value of today.

What Calvin and Hobbes taught me about mindfulness I have always been a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes. This article highlight’s two deeply profound strips. They provided me with a much needed reality check. I hope they make a similar difference to your day, today.

Warren Buffett’s “20 Slot” Rule Following up on the theme above, this article is all about focus. It is based on a rule that Warren Buffet has followed strictly. Spreading ourselves thin over multiple projects is a recipe for disaster. We have to look at all the opportunities that are presented to us very carefully. As Derek Siver’s says, if it isn’t a “Hell Yes!” then it should be a no.

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Sam Altman Sam Altman runs Y-Combinator. One of the world’s leading startup accelerators which has produced companies like Dropbox, Airbnb and Stripe. Before running the institute he was an entrepreneur himself and went through the program. Having sat on both sides of the table, he brings together a set of unique insights that are relevant to both entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Recruiting for Cultural Fit Finding strong talent is hard. Getting them to join your team is even harder. The best people want to work with people who share the same values as they do. Most companies use a laundry list of skills to fill open positions. This greatly limits your ability to attract people who will be a ‘fit’ for your company. They may have the skills you need but retaining and integrating them into your team will be a challenge. This article provides a set of questions that you can help circumvent this problem.

The 10x rule for great startup ideas New startups and sprouting at a frightening pace. Every where you turn someone is starting something new. It is ‘cool’ to be an entrepreneur these days. However, starting just another company is easy. Thinking of an business that will be 10x the current competition, that is challenging. This is not something that you can figure out along the way. This article provides a slew of relevant examples and insights on the subject.

Short Investing Philosophies This article is full of advice which is 10 words or less on investing. There are some fantastic quotes mentioned. My favorite one is:  “Less is more. Process over outcomes. Behavior is the key.”

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!