The Week in Review # 41: The Importance of Feedback Loops

Failure is part of the human experience. All of us have been in situations where we have made mistakes. A person’s true character is revealed in how they deal with the mistake. The first step requires us to take responsibility. This is easy to do when the stakes are small. Our true character is revealed as the size of mistakes become larger. At this point our ego and sense of self comes into question. Admitting a mistakes takes courage. It requires one to make themselves vulnerable. We do our very best to avoid being in that position. We will re-frame the situaton or come up with excuses that seem very logical.

The problem is our world view is very different from reality. We have blinded ourselves from seeing the real picture due to the absence of a strong feedback system. In the world of enterprise software I see this quite regularly. A senior executive makes a decision to buy a large software, enter a new market or make a very senior hire. Things didn’t go as planned and now the executive needs to defend their position. Due to the executives seniority in the company most people will not challenge their world view. Eventually the mistake will become a thing of the past and everyone will move on. This example repeats itself in many industries as well as our daily lives. The unfortunate part is that no one learns from the mistake.

Imagine going to the driving range and hitting balls in complete darkness. Not knowing where each ball was going. All we know is that we are successfully hitting the ball. Compare that with the situation of being in a well lit range where we can see where each ball is going. With each stroke we can recalibrate and get closer to the target.

Running a business or our lives without a strong feedback system will rarely get us where we want to be. 

Gathering honest feedback is always a challenge. We have to be open to hear things we do not want to. Be willing to make changes and learn from our mistakes. This requires a heightened level of self awareness. All of us have the ability to build these systems around us. It starts from asking the right questions and most importantly acutely listening to the feedback we are given.



Silicon Valley Success Goes to the Fastest, Not the First This article builds upon a class that is currently being conducted at Stanford called Blitzscaling. If you are running a startup or planning on starting one, all the videos are a must watch. This article encapsulates the core of the course and is a great primer to start with.

Resist and Thrive Kickstarter recently converted to a Benefit Corporation. In this detailed post the founder of the company goes into great length why he chose to take this path. The post starts with a primer on current market trends that solely optimize for a certain financial outcome. It eventually ties into the authors decision as to why he is choosing an alternative path. The clarity of vision and the reasoning is inspiring.

Max Levchin: Daily Routines, Startup Advice, and Working with Elon Musk Max Levchin was the founder of Paypal and since has gone on to achieve great things. In this interview with product hunt he goes into detail about his routines and his life so far. Lots of great advice is provided. I personally liked his take on investing in startups where he said “Team, Team, Team, Market Patterns. Nothing else matters. :)”.

How To Launch A Product: 7 Tips To Drive Demand As entrepreneurs we are always in the process of launching new products or features. This presentation provides a great framework for your next launch.

Reed Hastings: Building an Iconic Company (Video) For the video of the week, I really enjoyed this interview with Reed Hastings. He talks about the Netflix and how they got to where they are now.

Have a great week ahead!

The Week in Review # 40: Learning to Improvise

Imagine being asked to play a game where the rules aren’t given to you upfront. The only way to win at the game is to adapt to a stream of new information. Would you want to play this game? While some people thrive on uncertainty, it paralyzes many others. The ability to improvise can dramatically improve our success in such a game. It is a life skill that will greatly benefit us regardless of whether we choose to become an entrepreneur.

Think back to the last time you were presented with a situation you didn’t know how to solve. How did you react? What were the steps you took to solve the problem at hand? Unfortunately many of us respond to such situations with erratic solutions. Constantly jumping from one to another without taking into the bigger picture.

I believe there are four steps to help become better at managing the situation above.

This first step is to understand our own response mechanisms. Through greater self awareness we help break down mental barriers that are holding us back. The goal of improvisation isn’t to come up with the correct answer. Rather it is to understand the situation and start creating an emerging solution with the data available. This is the point that our lizard brain takes over. We become paralyzed by the thought of saying or doing the wrong thing. By choosing to play it safe, we are putting ourselves at an even greater disadvantage.

Once we have better control over our emotions we can move to the next step. This requires us to put together all the information we know about the situation or problem at hand. Who the current stakeholders are? What are the desired outcomes? What resources do we currently have? The goal is to collect as much data as possible. This requires as to keep an open mind. Our lizard brain will be telling us to respond immediately. We need to learn how to quiet it and do our best to create a clear picture of the situation.

Once we have an understanding of the stake holders and environment we need to devise a plan. This is the third step in the process. The plan should be based on our current information on how we can reach our desired destination. Chances are that our initial plan will point us towards the wrong destination. This shouldn’t be a cause of concern. Our map’s purpose is to provide us the ability to take the next step forward. Without action there will be no improvisation.

This leads us to the final step in the process. We have to constantly update our map based on newly discovered information. Through iteration and constant feedback we are going to be able to course correct. The journey is not going to be easy. Many times we will want to give up when we find ourselves lost. At such moments I like to remind myself a specific quote:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

By learning to improvise we become nimble, flexible and confident in our abilities to find a way. This will not only improve our odds as success as an entrepreneur, we will be able to live a richer and fuller life.

All Markets Are Not Created Equal Online marketplaces are the rage these days. This article provides a comprehensive overview of what it takes to succeed in this space. The article includes great advice on starting up as well. Well worth the read.

The 1% of a long-lasting career Paul Jarvis is great author and he recently started his own newsletter. His first release didn’t disappoint. The article provides straight forward and grounded advice on how to get ahead on your chosen career path.

62 Tips From Y Combinator’s Startup Instruction Manual Y-Combinator is the Harvard for startups. Having graduated companies like Dropbox and Airbnb they have proven their model. This post is an amalgamation of quotes from partners at the firm.

The Purpose-Driven Workforce Is 42 Million Strong Finding purpose behind what you do everyday is something I think about a lot. This article is based on a comprehensive report called the Workforce Purpose Index. It is filled with great insights and helps put into context this massive undergoing change.

Cockroach Mode for Startups David Cummings is a very successful entrepreneur and one who blogs very frequently. He publishes short posts regularly and I would recommend following his feed. This post talks all about the persistence needed for a startup founder to make it through the myriad of challenges.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review # 39: The Big Rocks

I dropped the ball with my blog in October. The first half of the month was spent with my cousin who recently got married! The second half was spent travelling and spending time with my family. The month was filled with great memories that will last a lifetime. This month helped put into perspective the important of prioritizing the big rocks in our lives.

As entrepreneurs we spend our time working from one big deal to the next. During this period we often forget the larger priorities in our life. The two big ones that often get overlooked are family and our health. Neglecting these in the short term has a very slight impact on our lives. However, left unattended they tend to snowball out of control. After a while we can easily find ourselves disconnected and lacking any real meaning in our lives. All the success in the world at that point means very little. I realize this advice sounds very cliché. A couple of years ago I would have rolled my eyes over such a post. I was convinced that I would have all the time in the world once I had closed that big deal. That elusive big deal however keeps on moving further and further away.

Eventually we will find ourselves at a crossroads. We can choose to continue neglecting the big rocks in the hope that one day things will miraculously change. On the other hand we can make the decision to bring change into our lives…today. It can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling a loved one. Every journey starts with a single step and re-prioritizing our life works the same way.

Treasure your family, health and your friends. These are the true riches that will give you the strength to keep moving forward. 

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms This article builds upon the theme discussed in this post. The author has pieced together advice from a great number of resources. This post is permanently bookmarked and referenced regularly.

Reconsider This article is very well written. The author runs a very successful online business that has chosen to side step the normal trajectory of raising venture capital. He makes a compelling argument about his choice and how it has impacted his life as a whole.

7 things I did to reboot my life This article is about the author’s journey of correcting his priorities. It provides some great tips for people who wanting to start on this process.

The career secret This advice was shared with me when I was starting out. If you are just getting started with your career or thinking about making a switch, this is great advice!

How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed This was an enjoyable 10 minute Ted Video. The speaker is a neurologist and takes us through the bodies reaction to stress.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

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!