The Week in Review # 46: A Brand New Year

New beginnings are exciting. Possibilities are limited only to our imagination. We can do and achieve whatever we set our minds to. As a result the first couple of weeks of the year are spent crafting goals and resolutions. The fervour lasts a couple of weeks and most of time we revert back to our old habits. I am guilty of making this mistake for most of my adult life. The problem with setting specific goals such as losing a certain amount of weight or making some amount of money is their transactional nature. We temporarily push ourselves to hit a goal that we arbitrarily set ourselves to make us feel better in the short term.

The moment I switched from goals to working on developing keystone habits things changed. Keystone habits such as eating healthy, reading everyday, learning new skills or simply integrating gratitude into our daily routine can be life changing. There are two core benefits we get from developing these sort of habits:

1. They have a positive compounding effect. The longer we continue these habits we will start to see exponential gains in other aspects of our life. Ever since I got into the habit of cooking daily, it has impact several areas of my life. I find myself having more energy everyday, I fall sick very rarely and I feel good about my body. This was a stark contrast before I started this habit and it was definitely holding me back.

2. They help put the bigger picture into perspective. Why do we do the things we do everyday? Each of us wants to see ourselves progress and move forward. This is a journey of discovery and finding out what we really want in life. Far to often short term goals hinder our ability to see the bigger picture. We find ourselves climbing up a ladder that is too often placed against the wrong wall. Keystone habits help us to keep the bigger picture in mind and help us find the right ladder to start climbing.

I hope everyone has a smashing 2016 and gets closer to finding out who they really are and what they want!


What I am reading and watching this week

What Is Going To Happen In 2016 Out of all the prediction posts I have read over the last week this has to be my favorite. The added benefit of this post is the comments section. Fred Wilson’s blog attracts some of the smartest thought leaders in the place and they are always a pleasure to read.

The Great Myth About Getting in Shape (and Every Other Goal) This is a very well written piece about why goals do not work. The line I liked the most from the post was “The goals that become real in the future only work because they make life better today, and every day.”

How to Hire I have a lot of open requisitions to fill in the first quarter of the year. This was a well written post which outlines the authors process. The tip about hiring for trajectory over experience is critical for early stage startups. If you get good at identifying this trait it could transform your company.

Scale-up Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned Over 9 Years as HubSpot’s CEO This post is full of great nuggets for any entrepreneur who is wanting to take their company to the next level. Once you have achieved product market fit a company requires to ruthlessly stream line operations to make themselves a true success.

The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2015 The first round blog has been a source of great learning for me over the last year. This post sums up the best advice provided and is one of my top bookmarks to refer to constantly.

The Week in Review # 45: Thank You for the Support!

I can’t believe 2015 is coming to an end. I clearly remember writing the first issue of this series. This was one of the habits I am glad I was able to stick with this year. I have received many emails from readers telling me how they look forward to receiving this list every week. Aiming to continue writing this series in 2016. Looking back at the year there is so much to be grateful for.

1. I had the opportunity to travel far more than I have in prior years. This resulted spending more time with friends and family which was great. As entrepreneurs we tend to get caught up in our work and forget the big rocks in our life. When we are able to keep things in equilibrium the overall quality of life increases leaps and bounds.

2. I have read 41 books so far this year. This is something I had been missing out on over the last couple of years. It is a very easy to prioritize just about anything over reading. Taking the time out everyday to get 1 – 2 hours of reading has an exponential impact on your learning goals.

3. This year we transitioned to a completely remote team. This was a big step to give up our office space and get everyone to work remotely. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work side by side with some of the best people I have worked with. We have built a very strong foundation and are poised to achieve great things in 2016.

4. 2015 was also the year I stepped up on my cooking skills. This has resulted in eating healthier and overall feeling a lot better about life. While I didn’t take part in a competitive race this year, I was a regular at the gym. This is another habit I hope to continue in 2016. My aim is to get a personal trainer next year and improve step things up a notch.

5. I am extremely grateful to having a great support system in both my family and friends. This year had its share of ups and downs. During each of those moments I am extremely thankful for having people around me who were there to enjoy the good times and help me through the bad ones.

Take the time today to thank someone who has been a pillar of support to you this year. This should be something that you do on a regular basis. With that I would like to thank all of the readers of this series. I wish all of you the very best of luck and success in 2016.


What I am reading and watching this week

Shut up and be patient “A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems. And so it’s despite the turbulence of the rocky waves and twisting tides, I can sometimes stare into the heart of my confusion and the crossed strains of joy and sadness, and smile and be grateful that it’s all there.” Very well written article about life transitions and how to manage them.

Is Now A Good Time To Start A Company? I get this question a lot these days. With everyone wanting to start up these days, the author provides great advice. “The best time to start a company is when you have a unique perspective on a market, you have developed a strong network of people who can form your founding team, and you can convince a few of these friends that the idea is worth pursuing.”

Blank’s Rule – To predict the future 1/3 of you need to be crazy Steve Blank along with Eric Ries brought us the lean startup methodology. In this article he provides us with great examples of how we need to encourage the moon shot and crazy ideas to have a shot at predicting the future.

Everything you need to know about bitcoin and blockchain The entire concept of bitcoin along with block chain is always difficult to get your head around. This presentation provides the reader with a complete break down on both topics. Great primer for anyone who is interested in learning more.

The First 90 Days (Book) This book had been on my list for a long time. Finally got through it this week. We have recently onboarded several new employees. The book was very helpful in tweaking our onboarding process. Would recommend this book if you are hiring or part of fast growing team.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review # 44: Disciplined Personal Growth

The fog thickens. The pilot has no visibility in the cockpit. At this moment the only way he knows the direction of the plane is through his instruments. Now imagine a plane without these instruments. The pilot would most likely become overwhelmed and the story wouldn’t end well. In moments of panic we become immobilized, time compresses and we end up making critical mistakes.

Imagine living your life like that. Where the slightest of hiccups would result in knee jerk reactions. Most of which would make the situation worse. Blaming circumstances or external factors may provide temporary respite. However, we are bound to find ourselves in similar situations if we don’t do something about it. To avoid such missteps we need to incorporate processes and habits into our life. These act like our instruments that help guide us when we get caught in bad situations.

A few instruments that have greatly helped me are:

1. Differentiating high and low value activities

This habit has greatly improved my productivity in 2015. With an ever growing list of distractions, maintaining focus is becoming harder everyday. At the end of each day I record the 3 top tasks I was able to accomplish. I also set 3 core tasks for the following day. This helps bring focus to the major items I need to clear to reach my goals. At the end of the day if I see myself not completing those tasks, it acts as a feedback loop. If I continue to stay misaligned it forces me to do a reset and re-evaluate the goals I am working towards.

On the flip side when you are able to check off those items on a regular basis, results follow. Progress can be seen on a daily basis and you begin to inch closer to your destination.

2. Gathering personal feedback on a regular basis 

I discussed feedback loops a few weeks ago. They are an essential component to ensure you are on the right path. Build processes to enable frequent check ins with the people that matter most to you in life. Both at work and at home.  Ask them how you are doing and give them feedback on their actions. Without building a strong feedback loop, we could be checking off priority items everyday at a very high cost.

Feedback provides us with necessary reality checks when we need them the most. In the short run they will hurt. However in the longer run we will enjoy a stronger and closer relationship with the people who matter to us.

3. Listening to your body for clues

Without our health there is very little we can accomplish. The good news is that our body is very good at leaving clues for us when things are starting to go wrong. If you find yourselves continuously tired and not operating optimally, you may need more sleep. Feeling lethargic all the time? Take a look at your diet and the sort of food you are consuming. Are you putting on too much weight? Fix your diet and get into an exercise routine. Continuously on the edge and stressed out at work and home? Perhaps you should look into meditation and mindfulness.

Our body is leaving clue for us to listen to all the time. If we start paying attention and start making the necessary changes, it will dramatically improve the quality of your life.

The core ingredient making any of these instruments work is discipline. Without it we will struggle to get anything done. 

All of us know the benefits of being more disciplined in our lives. We have been told umpteen times by our family, teachers and anyone who really cares about us. The only person who has the ability to build this muscle is yourself. It requires a daily practice of taking small steps and repeating them everyday. Learning to say no to distractions and focusing on the bigger picture. If we are able to do that we will be surprised by what we can achieve.


What I am reading and watching this week

Full speed, then stop, gracefully This was one of the best things I read last week. Seth Godin is a source of inspiration and his ability to write quality posts everyday is remarkable. This post talks about a very important topic about quitting. It was triggered by a big announcement by Dropbox earlier this week. However it is very relevant to entrepreneurs who are struggling with what they are working on.

Stay Focused on Your Goals Not Your Critics Mark Suster is another favourite author of mine. An entrepreneur turned venture capitalist he has a great blog. This post about focusing on your work and not letting negativity bog you down is great. It is in line with the topic of the post this week. By having the discipline to remain focused we have the ability to achieve great things.

Getting Meaningful Customer Feedback Talk to your customers everyday. Simple advice that most startups often overlook. This post provides great advice on how to get meaningful customer feedback. It includes specific steps and case studies of how these practices were used by the author in prior companies. This post is filled with great insights.

If I can’t build a product, what good am I? I have made the mistake of solely focusing on the product and not distribution. This is a very expensive mistake. In this post the author talks through this mistake and how entrepreneurs should address it.

The Open Startup The open startup movement is awesome to watch. Founders are spending more time talking to their prospective customers and building distribution before the product is built. This post has 10 great takeaways from the movement. If you are planning on starting up in 2016 you should definitely take a look at this post.

If You Really Want to Change the World (Book) Enjoyed reading this book. The authors are very successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Having brought us products like Siri and many others. The book provides a framework that they use when accessing new ventures. It was well written with many examples supporting the framework.

Master of None (Video) Aziz Ansari has out done himself in this intelligent and witty comedy. I finally got through the whole season and it is worth watching. I liked the fact that each episode revolved around key issues. His book Modern Romance is also on my reading list.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review # 43: Operating on the Edge

Your heart starts to beat faster. A flurry of emotions begin to take over. It is a strange sensation where you are excited and scared at the same time. Something inside you pushes you forward, breaking past boundaries once thought to be unsurpassable. Unsure how things are going to play out. This is unexplored territory. We are far removed from the safe enclave of our comfort zones. It is in these moments when we realize who we really are. We have a choice at this juncture. Break out of the homogeneous moulds society wants us to adhere to or play it safe and stay within those boundaries.

The risks of playing it safe are never apparent in the short run. We work hard to collect all the badges the world expects of us. Getting married, getting a secure job, buying a house and taking the occasional holidays. In our quest to check all the boxes we have taken the greatest risk of all. We have given up on our dreams and failed to grow into the person we had always wanted to be.

Each and everyone has the ability to make a difference in this world. The choice is ours whether we choose to pursue that path or not. The journey requires us to work harder and take more risks than most. It is only when we are operating on the edge of uncertainty are we are able to grow into our true potential. When we are able to push ourselves to achieve what was one thought impossible.

Always remember it is never too late to get started on this path.


What I am reading and watching this week

Founders often ask how they should split equity with their co-founder One of the most read posts of this blog my take on splitting founder equity. This post provides additional insights on how that split should take place. This is a very important decision for your startup. It should be given the importance and thought it deserves!

Macro perspective: The startup party is far from over! The author is one of the entrepreneurs I respect greatly. He has built a massive company in the online classifieds space and now is an active investor. While it is in his interest to perpetuate the frothy climate for startups, it was refreshing to hear the other side of the coin.

How to save yourself from a bad startup idea that looks good I interact with entrepreneurs all the time. As a result I get pitched a lot of ideas while they are in their early and formative stages. Defining what makes one idea good and another one bad can be tricky in some situations. This is an extensive post on breaking down this problem. Saving yourself from pursuing a bad idea could save you years!

Why Smart People Act So Stupid “A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” If you answered that question relatively quickly you will want to read the entire article!

A behavioral approach to product design Designing and building a new product is hard. This post breaks down the process into four easy to understand components. The article discusses each component with the help of easy to understand examples which makes it very simple to understand the underlying framework.

The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance (Book) Employee recognition is something that I am thinking about a lot these days. This is one of the better books I have read on the topic. It has a lot of great case studies and is based on an extensive research project. If you are leading a growing team I would recommend this book.

Chef’s Table – Season 1 (Video) This week’s post by inspired by some of the episodes in this documentary. It all about the top chef’s of the world and their process. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about following their passion and achieving excellence.

The Week in Review # 42: Being Grateful

I can feel time slipping by. Days turn into months at an alarming rate. I keep thinking to myself about everything that needs to be done. With my thoughts constantly racing at blistering speeds, losing track of time is normal.

Pausing to catch my breath is a rare event. When I do, emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I am under the false pretence of having the ability to juggle multiple balls in the air. When in reality there are a myriad of people and circumstances who have enabled me to do what I do.

When we are constantly looking into the future, the present and past are often overlooked. The problem is that the goal post keeps on changing with time. We find ourselves on a treadmill where we deceive ourselves into thinking we are nearly where we want to be.

It is almost like being trapped in a sound proof bubble. Where the world around you is cheering you on and all we can hear are the voices in the our head. Don’t get me wrong, focus is critical if we want achieve any meaningful success in life.

However we shouldn’t forget that moments of true happiness only come to life when you are able to share it with people who you love.

Take the time today to thank the people who help you do what you do. Make it a habit and do it regularly. The quality of your life and most importantly those around you will be exponentially better.


What I am reading and watching this week

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier My post was inspired after reading this article. It is a very thoughtful piece which talks about gratitude from multiple angles. One of my favourite quotes is included in the article which is “A man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”

How Gratitude Has Made Me a Better Founder Even though I read this post over a year ago, it is worth to repost it today. Fits into the theme of this post and provides entrepreneurs with great advice. The founder talks about everything he is grateful for and how it has impacted him.

The Surprising Benefits of Gratitude This post references some Harvard Health research on gratitude. I enjoyed the evidence grounded research and helps put the benefits of being grateful into better perspective.

What I Learned by Keeping a Gratitude Journal for a Month This is a habit I started at the beginning of 2015. It has had a huge impact on my outlook and life. If I could give you one recommendation for a new years resolution, it would be to start keeping a gratitude journal.

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success (Book) To learn about success we need to break down why we fail. This book was a great read and had me entertained from the beginning to the very end. It is filled with great stories which helps to de construct why some people succeed and other’s do not.

Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume (Video) This was an interesting Ted Talk. The talk is about how struggle at an early age can have large impacts on career trajectories. She uses herself as an example and walks us through how she got to where she is. Goes to show there isn’t just one path to success.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

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!