Willingness to fall

If you’ve ever attempted ice skating, roller blading or skiing, you learn quickly that it is impossible to get good if you aren’t willing to fall.

In fact, learning to fall safely and get up quickly is a key part of any first lesson. Since you are expected to fall, you might as well learn to do it well. And, if you want to learn quickly, you better be willing to experiment and fall often.

As part of this process, you learn that willingness to fall is very different from willingness to fail. Failure, it turns out, is not the falling down. It is the staying down.

There’s a life analogy here somewhere…

No outbound marketing, promotion or hype

On his new podcast, Seth shared a story from a conference 20 years ago. They were going around a circle and introducing themselves. One of them was the co-founder of a then lesser known search engine.

He said – “My name is Sergey and I have this little search engine called Google. We don’t do any outbound marketing, promotion or hype. We figure that, one day, everyone will use Google. We also know that Google gets better every day. And, since it gets better every day, we are in no hurry for people to try us the first time.”

It is a profound way to think about your product.

However, I think it has just as much applicability in our lives. We can sometimes find ourselves in a hurry to meet that next important person (“network”) to get access to new opportunities.

But, if we acted on getting better every day, maybe there’d be no reason to hurry at all?

 

Co-authors

Every book has co-authors. These co-authors are spouses, kids, parents, editors, friends, heroes, and even other authors of the same genre – all of whom play pivotal roles in creating the final reading experience. Every author stands on the shoulder of giants. And, as is often the case, the most important shoulder tends to be that of the spouse.

Of course, the book is just a metaphor for life and every project we have the privilege to work on.

It is easy to forget this and get caught up in the “self made” myth. It is also easy to over estimate our capabilities and the roles we play on the journey.

This is a thank you to the many co-authors of this blog – with a special nod to that most important shoulder. I am more grateful than I can possibly express.

I hope you find time to send your co-authors a thank you this weekend as well.

Living in the present – in moderation

At the end of his book on timing – “When,” Dan Pink shared a recommendation on living in the present. He points out that living in the present may not the best strategy at all times – despite the advice of spiritual gurus.

Instead, he suggests that we’re better off integrating the past, the present and the future as we live our lives.

I thought that was a profound insight. And, it is one I am beginning to stumble upon myself as part of my journey to engage with engagement/mindfulness. There is undoubtedly a place for living in the present. But, spending time reflecting on what happened is a source of great learning. And, identifying with our future selves helps us move forward with purpose.

I read once that zen masters believe that the essence of zen is doing one thing at a time. That’s increasingly where I find myself ending up. There’s a place for some reflection, some day dreaming about the future and getting things done in our lives. They co-exist and, in moderation, balance each other out.

The key, I find, is to make peace with the process of balancing and to be fully engaged with it – one thing at a time.

Who sends you email?

My Gmail account gets two kinds of emails – emails from brands and cold emails from people I don’t know.

This wasn’t the case when I first set up my Gmail account 12 years ago. A key part of the value proposition back then was to hear from friends and family without having to worry about storage. Now, that happens almost entirely on Whatsapp.

As a user, I can feel a difference in my connection with my gmail account. This is especially the case because I can contrast it to my [at] rohanrajiv.com email account – the default “reply to” email account for this blog. I look forward to every email on that account and it fills me with nostalgia about what email used to be. It is a dying breed.

Of my two remaining use cases (brands, cold emails), I suspect brands is the dominant use cases for most people.

That, then, brings forth a few interesting questions – would email, the product, be different if it was designed for communication with brands? For example, is there value in the “promotions” tab? Is there a better way to display sequenced offers? Could subscriptions (the more personal version of emails from brands) be given a separate, more personal area? Could ads be redesigned to better suit this new medium?

Email still remains one of my favorite mediums for communication. But, the design of most personal email clients seems to reflect use cases from a decade ago. It may be time for a rethink.

How much of your job is sales?

How much of your job involves –

  1. Persuading executives to fund your projects?
  2. Inspiring cross functional team members (who don’t report to you) to help you achieve your goals?
  3. Evangelizing your projects and teams across the organization?
  4. Attracting external talent to come work on your projects?
  5. Gathering support for key priorities from other teams?

Of course, this list doesn’t even count time spent trying to get actual customers pay for your work.

In workplaces with lesser hierarchy and more network based work, more of us spend more of our time in sales than we realize. (This isn’t the aggressive “always be closing” type of selling we picture. It is a softer, subtler version built on attunement, buoyancy and clarity. More on that another day.)

And, yet, it is likely we don’t spend much time strengthening our selling muscle. Nor do we realize how strong this muscle actually needs to be.

The first step, then, is for us to appreciate the importance of selling to our success.

With this acceptance will come change..

User feedback and sophistication

“The least sophisticated users tell you what you need to simplify and clarify while the most sophisticated users tell you what features you need to add.” | Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters 

Most things we build for other people – whether it is a business or presentation or product – will have consumers at both ends of the sophistication spectrum. The first step in synthesizing user feedback is to be clear who you are building it for – eliminate feedback that isn’t from your target audience.

Second, assuming you’ll still have users on both sides of the sophistication spectrum, building products that enable both novice and power users is key. And, an important step toward making that happen is to listen carefully to feedback from both ends of the spectrum. Expect your novice users to push you to simplify and expect your power users to do the opposite.

Then, it is on you to strike a balance.

That’s, of course, how we get made.