Tag Archives: Productivity

Marc Andreessen’s Blog Archives

Summary

  1. A compilation of Marc Andreesen’s blog posts – touching on everything from startups to productivity (PDF can be found here)

Key Takeaways

  1. Favorite articles – Why not to do a startup, guide to personal productivity, The Psychology of Entrepreneurial Misjudgment, Age and the Entrepreneur, Luck and the Entrepreneur
  2. When the VC’s say “no”
    1. Third, retool your plan. This is the hard part—changing the facts of your plan and what you are trying to do, to make your company more fundable. To describe the dimensions that you should consider as you contemplate retooling your plan, let me introduce the onion theory of risk. If you’re an investor, you look at the risk around an investment as if it’s an onion. Just like you peel an onion and remove each layer in turn, risk in a startup investment comes in layers that get peeled away — reduced — one by one. Your challenge as an entrepreneur trying to raise venture capital is to keep peeling layers of risk off of your particular onion until the VCs say “yes” — until the risk in your startup is reduced to the point where investing in your startup doesn’t look terrifying and merely looks risky.
  3. But I Don’t Know Any VCs
    1. VCs work mostly through referrals And of course it’s even better if you walk in with existing “traction” of some form — customers, beta customers, some evidence of adoption by Internet users, whatever is appropriate for your particular startup. With a working product that could be the foundation of a fundable startup, you have a much better chance of getting funded once you do get in the door. Back to my rule of thumb from the last post: when in doubt, work on the product. Failing a working product and ideally customers or users, be sure to have as fIeshed out a presentation as you possibly can— including mockups, screenshots, market analyses, customer research such as interviews with real prospects, and the like. 
    1. Don’t bother with a long detailed written business plan. Most VCs will either fund a startup based on a fleshed out Powerpoint presentation of about 20 slides, or they won’t fund it at all. Corollary: any VC who requires a long detailed written business plan is probably not the right VC to be working with.
    2. Alternately, jump all over Y Combinator. This program, created by entrepreneur Paul Graham and his partners, funds early-stage startups in an organized program in Silicon Valley and Boston and then makes sure the good ones get in front of venture capitalists for follow-on funding. It’s a great idea and a huge opportunity for the people who participate in it.
    3. Read VC blogs — read them all, and read them very very carefully. VCs who blog are doing entrepreneurs a huge service both in conveying highly useful information as well as frequently putting themselves out there to be contacted by entrepreneurs in various ways including email, comments, and even uploaded podcasts. Each VC is different in terms of how she wants to engage with people online, but by all means read as many VC blogs as you can and interact with as many of them as you can in appropriate ways.
    4. So, when such a new thing comes out—like, hint hint, Facebook or Twitter— jump all over it, see which VCs are using it, and interact with them that way — sensibly, of course. More generally, it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs who are looking for funding to blog — about their startup, about interesting things going on, about their point of view.
  4. The Only Thing That Matters
    1. Personally, I’ll take the third position — I’ll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure. Why? In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn’t need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn’t care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product.
    2. In honor of Andy Rachleff, formerly of Benchmark Capital, who crystallized this formulation for me, let me present Rachleff’s Law of Startup Success: The #1 company-killer is lack of market. Andy puts it this way:
      1. When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
      2. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
      3. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.
    3. Let’s introduce Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success: The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit. Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market. You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market Ft when it’s happening
    4. Carried a step further, I believe that the life of any startup can be divided into two parts: before product/market fit (call this “BPMF”) and after product/market fit (“APMF”). When you are BPMF, focus obsessively on getting to product/market fit. Do whatever is required to get to product/market fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required.
  5. The Moby Dick Theory of Big Companies
    1. First, don’t do startups that require deals with big companies to make them successful.
    2. Second, never assume that a deal with a big company is closed
    3. Third, be extremely patient
    4. Fourth, beware bad deals
    5. Fifth, never, ever assume a big company will do the obvious thing.
    6. Sixth, be aware that big companies care a lot more about what other big companies are doing than what any startup is doing.
    7. Seventh, if doing deals with big companies is going to be a key part of your strategy, be sure to hire a real pro who has done it before.
    8. Eighth, don’t get obsessed.
  6. How much funding is too little? too much?
    1. The answer to that question, in my view, is based on my theory that a startup’s life can be divided into two parts — Before Product/ Market Fit, and After Product/Market Fit. Before Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to get to Product/Market Fit. After Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to fully exploit the opportunity in front of it, and then to get to profitability while still fully exploiting that opportunity. I will further argue that the definition of “at least enough money” in each case should include a substantial amount of extra money beyond your default plan, so that you can withstand bad surprises. In other words, insurance. This is particularly true for startups that have not yet achieved Product/ Market Fit, since you have no real idea how long that will take. Raising money is never an accomplishment in and of itself — it just raises the stakes for all the hard work you would have had to do anyway: actually building your business.
    2. Some signs of cultural corrosion caused by raising too much money:
      1. Hiring too many people — slows everything down and makes it much harder for you to react and change. You are almost certainly setting yourself up for layoffs in the future, even if you are successful, because you probably won’t accurately allocate the hiring among functions for what you will really need as your business grows.
      2. Lazy management culture — it is easy for a management culture to get set where the manager’s job is simply to hire people, and then every other aspect of management suffers, with potentially disastrous long-term consequences to morale and effectiveness.
      3. Engineering team bloat — another side effect of hiring too many people; it’s very easy for engineering teams to get too large, and it happens very fast. And then the “Mythical Man Month” effect kicks in and everything slows to a crawl, your best people get frustrated and quit, and you’re in huge trouble.
      4. Lack of focus on product and customers — it’s a lot easier to not be completely obsessed with your product and your customers when you have a lot of money in the bank and don’t have to worry about your doors closing imminently.
      5. Too many salespeople too soon — are out selling a product that isn’t quite ready yet, hasn’t yet achieved Product/Market Fit — alienating early adopters and making it much harder to go back when the product does get right.
      6. Product schedule slippage — what’s the urgency? We have all this cash! Creating a golden opportunity for a smaller, scrappier startup to come along and kick your rear. So what should you do if you do raise a lot of money? As my old boss Jim Barksdale used to say, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing —be just as focused on product and customers when you raise a lot of money as you would be if you hadn’t raised a lot of money.
      7. Easy to say, hard to do, but worth it.
    3. Continue to run as lean as you can, bank as much of the money as possible, and save it for a rainy day — or a nuclear winter. Tell everyone inside the company, over and over and over, until they can’t stand it anymore, and then tell them some more, that raising money does not count as an accomplishment and that you haven’t actually done anything yet other than raise the stakes and increase the pressure.
    4. Illustrate that point by staying as scrappy as possible on material items — office space, furniture, etc. The two areas to splurge, in my opinion, are big-screen monitors and ergonomic office chairs. Other than that, it should be Ikea all the way.
  7. Why a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much
    1. A startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much, because it is very hard to determine up front exactly what combination of product and market will result in success. By definition you will be doing something new, in a world that is a very uncertain place. You are simply probably not going to know whether your initial idea will work as a product and a business, or not. And you will probably have to rapidly evolve your plan — possibly every aspect of it — as you go. (The military has a saying that expresses the same concept — “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” In this case, your enemy is the world at large.) It is therefore much more important for a startup to aggressively seek out a big market, and product/market Ft within that market, once the startup is up and running, than it is to try to plan out what you are going to do in great detail ahead of time. The history of successful startups is quite clear on this topic.
  8. Hiring, managing, promoting, and firing executives
    1. Hire an executive only when it’s clear that you need one: when an organization needs to get built; when hiring needs to accelerate; when you need more processes and structure and rigor to how you do things.
    2. Second, hire the best person for the next nine months, not the next three years. 
    3. Third, whenever possible, promote from within.
  9. Retaining great people
    1. Companies that are winning — even really big, old ones — never have a retention problem. Everyone wants to stay, and when someone does leave, it’s really easy to get someone great to take her place. Companies that have a retention problem usually have a winning problem. Or rather, a “not winning” problem. 
    2. And here’s a neat trick that actually works. Go out and re-recruit the best people who already left. Some of them have since discovered that the grass isn’t actually greener at whatever mediocre startup they joined or whatever other big company they jumped to. Give them fat packages against the new mission and get them back.
  10. Where to go and why
    1. When picking an industry to enter, my favorite rule of thumb is this:
      1. Pick an industry where the founders of the industry — the founders of the important companies in the industry — are still alive and actively involved. This is easy to figure out — just look at the CEO, chairman or chairwoman, and board of directors for the major companies in the industry. If the founders of the companies are currently serving as CEO, chairman or chairwoman, or board member of their companies, it’s a good industry to enter. It is probably still young and vital, and there are probably still opportunities to exploit all over the place, either at those companies or at new companies in that industry. Once you have picked an industry, get right to the center of it as fast as you possibly can. Your target is the core of change and opportunity — figure out where the action is and head there, and do not delay your progress for extraneous opportunities, no matter how lucrative they might be. Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being a big fish in a small pond sucks—you will hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly, and nobody will care. Optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find. That is where the great opportunities can be found. Apply this rule when selecting which company to start
      2. In a rapidly changing Held like technology, the best place to get experience when you’re starting out is in younger, highgrowth companies.
  11. The Pmcarca guide to personal productivity
    1. Don’t keep a schedule!
      1. By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day. As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.
      2. When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3″, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.” Or, if it’s important, say, “You know what, let’s meet right now.” Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you’re a CEO, it will be hard to pull off. 
      3. If you have at any point in your life lived a relatively structured existence—probably due to some kind of job with regular office hours, meetings, and the like—you will know that there is nothing more liberating than looking at your calendar and seeing nothing but free time for weeks ahead to work on the most important things in whatever order you want. This also gives you the best odds of maximizing Yow, which is a whole other topic but highly related.
    2. Keep 3 and only 3 lists: a Todo List, a Watch List, and a Later List
      1. The more into lists you are, the more important this is. Into the Todo List goes all the stuff you “must” do — commitments, obligations, things that have to be done. A single list, possibly subcategorized by timeframe (today, this week, next week, next month).
      2. Into the Watch List goes all the stuff going on in your life that you have to follow up on, wait for someone else to get back to you on, remind yourself of in the future, or otherwise remember. Into the Later List goes everything else—everything you might want to do or will do when you have time or wish you could do. If it doesn’t go on one of those three lists, it goes away.
    3. 3×5 Index Cards
      1. Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3×5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day Use the back of the 3×5 card as your anti-todo list. Each time you do something, you get to write it down and you get that little rush of endorphins that the mouse gets every time
      2. he presses the button in his cage and gets a food pellet. Then tear it up and throw it away
    4. Structured procrastination
      1. The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.
      2. As John says, “The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”
    5. Strategic incompetence
      1. Enough said
    6. Do email exactly twice a day
    7. When you do process email, do it like this
      1. First, always finish each of your two daily email sessions with a completely empty inbox.
      2. Second, when doing email, either answer or file every single message until you get to that empty inbox state of grace.
      3. Third, emails relating to topics that are current working projects or pressing issues go into temporary subfolders of a folder called Action.
      4. Fourth, aside from those temporary Action subfolders, only keep three standing email folders: Pending, Review, and Vault
        1. Emails that you know you’re going to have to deal with again — such as emails in which someone is committing something to you and you want to be reminded to follow up on it if the person doesn’t deliver — go in Pending.
        2. Emails with things you want to read in depth when you have more time, go into Review.
        3. Everything else goes into Vault.
    8. Don’t answer the phone
      1. Let it go to voicemail and do them in batches
    9. Hide in an iPod
      1. People are less likely to bother you even if you’re not listening to anything
    10. Sleeping and eating
      1. start the day with a real, sit-down breakfast. This fuels you up and gives you a chance to calmly, peacefully collect your thoughts and prepare mentally and emotionally for the day ahead
    11. Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes
    12. Do something you love
  12. The Psychology of Entrepreneurial Misjudgment
    1. The design of tactical incentives — e.g. bonuses — is a whole topic in and of itself, and is critically important as your company grows. The most significant thing to keep in mind is that how the goals are designed really matters — as Mr. Munger says, people tend to game any system you put in place, and then they tend to rationalize that gaming until they believe they really are doing the right thing. I think it was Andy Grove who said that for every goal you put in front of someone, you should also put in place a counter-goal to restrict gaming of the first goal. 
    2. My favorite way around this problem is the one identified by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma: don’t go after existing customers in a category and try to get them to buy something new; instead, go find the new customers who weren’t able to afford or adopt the incarnation of the status quo.
  13. Age and the Entrepreneur
    1. Just do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. The article he references can be found here
  14. Luck and the entrepreneur
    1. Chance… something fortuitous that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention. 
    2. OK, so what are they?
      1. In Chance I, the good luck that occurs is completely accidental. It is pure blind luck that comes with no effort on our part. 
      2. In Chance II, something else has been added — motion. Unluck runs out if you keep stirring up things so that random elements can combine, by virtue of you and their inherent affinities.
      3. Now, as we move on to Chance III, we see blind luck, but it tiptoes in softly, dressed in camouflage. Chance presents only a faint clue, the potential opportunity exists, but it will be overlooked except by that one person uniquely equipped to observe it, visualize it conceptually, and fully grasp its significance. Chance III involves a special receptivity, discernment, and intuitive grasp of significance unique to one particular recipient. Louis Pasteur characterized it for all time when he said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
      4. [Chance IV] favors the individualized action. This is the fourth element in good luck — an active, but unintentional, subtle individualized prompting of it. Please explain! Chance IV is the kind of luck that develops during a probing action which has a distinctive personal flavor. The English Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, summed up the principle underlying Chance IV when he noted: “We make our fortunes and we call them fate.” Chance IV comes to you, unsought, because of who you are and how you behave. Chance IV is so personal, it is not easily understood by someone else the first time around… here we probe into the subterranean recesses of personal hobbies and behavioral quirks that autobiographers know about, biographers rarely. [In neurological terms], Chance III [is] concerned with personal sensory receptivity; its counterpart, Chance IV, [is] involved with personal motor behavior.
      1. [You] have to look carefully to find Chance IV for three reasons.
        1. The first is that when it operates directly, it unfolds in an elliptical, unorthodox manner.
        2. The second is that it often works indirectly.
        3. The third is that some problems it may help solve are uncommonly difficult to understand because they have gone through a process of selection. We must bear in mind that, by the time Chance IV finally occurs, the easy, more accessible problems will already have been solved earlier by conventional actions, conventional logic, or by the operations of the other forms of chance. What remains late in the game, then, is a tough core of complex, resistant problems. Such problems yield to none but an unusual approach…[Chance IV involves] a kind of discrete behavioral performance focused in a highly specific manner.
      2. Here’s the money quote:
        1. Whereas the lucky connections in Chance II might come to anyone with disposable energy as the happy by-product of any aimless, circular stirring of the pot, the links of Chance IV can be drawn together and fused only by one quixotic rider cantering in on his own homemade hobby horse to intercept the problem at an odd angle.
    3. A recap?
      1. Chance I is completely impersonal; you can’t influence it.
      2. Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.
    1. Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations.
    2. Chance IV favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors. This of course leads to a number of challenges for how we live our lives as entrepreneurs and creators in any field:  How energetic are we? How inclined towards motion are we? 
    3. Those of you who read my first page and the entrepreneur post will recognize that this is a variation on the “optimize for the maximum number of swings of the bat” principle. In a highly uncertain world, a bias to action is key to catalyzing success, and luck, and is often to be preferred to thinking things through more thoroughly.
      1. How curious are we? How determined are we to learn about our chosen field, other fields, and the world around us? In my post on hiring great people, I talked about the value I place on curiosity — and specifically, curiosity over intelligence. This is why. Curious people are more likely to already have in their heads the building blocks for creating a solution for any particular problem they come across, versus the more quote-unquote intelligent, but less curious, person who is trying to get by on logic and pure intellectual effort.
      2. How fIexible and aggressive are we at synthesizing– at linking together multiple, disparate, apparently unrelated experiences on the fly? I think this is a hard skill to consciously improve, but I think it is good to start most creative exercises with the idea that the solution may come from any of our past experiences or knowledge, as opposed to out of a textbook or the mouth of an expert. (And, if you are a manager and you have someone who is particularly good at synthesis, promote her as fast as you possibly can.)
      3. How uniquely are we developing a personal point of view — a personal approach– a personal set of “eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors” that will uniquely prepare us to create? This, in a nutshell, is why I believe that most creative people are better off with more life experience and journeys into seemingly unrelated areas, as opposed to more formal domain-specific education — at least if they want to create. In short, I think there is a roadmap to getting luck on our side, and I think this is it.

What I got out of it

  1. Some awesome insights. I changed how I batch mail, learned how to see luck from 4 different perspectives, and thought Simonton’s age and outstanding achievement was incredible 

Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth by John Doerr

Summary

  1. OKR stands for “objectives and key results.” They are important in that they help drive good ideas forward by gaining clarity, transparency, and accountability. They are a collaborative goal setting structure for individuals, teams, organizations, or anything else. Objectives are what we want to get done – they must be concrete, actionable, and hopefully inspiring. They are a vaccine for fuzzy thinking and action. The key results are how we determine and measure the progress of getting to an objective. The results must be verifiable and have a number attached to them. Specific hard goals push people and if you have verifiable measures of progress you can hold them accountable. Goals create alignment, engagement, meaning, and fulfillment if done correctly. They’ll align people within a company and clarify what is most important, they break down silos, and help people communicate in the same language. They are meant to help communicate, measure, and achieve lofty goals.

Key Takeaways

  1. OKRs have four superpowers: Focus, Align, Track, and Stretch (FATS)
    1. Focus
      1. Setting objectives gives people a clear path on what to work on and what success looks like. Key results help indicate success and progress since there is a clear benchmark for what ‘success’ means for each objective 
      2. When people help set the objectives they are more likely to follow through
      3. Hand-in-hand with focus is a deep commitment. If you waiver or switch priorities often, you will waste time and confuse your team
      4. Objectives should be one line and clearly understandable. The key results must be objective and measurable
    2. Align
      1. OKRs allow teams to move very quickly as it is clear what the priorities are and ensures everybody is moving in the same direction
      2. Transparency is the key and modern goal setting people allow people to buy in and gives management has a clear idea of what people are working on and why.
      3. Objectives get people to flush out their hesitations or frustrations which helps foster communication and collaboration.  
      4. Alignment is extremely important but hard to come by and is the biggest lever to go from strategy to execution – if people don’t know the business model and what they’re doing to help the company succeed, it is hard for them to go all-in and know what they’re supposed to be working on.
      5. In addition, this transparency allows for the whole company to weigh in on the best objectives. The best objectives tend to come outside the C-suite, coming from the front line employees who have the best access to accurate information and changing trends.
      6. You also get more people thinking about the same problems – flushing out ideas, making connections that otherwise might not have been made, and getting cross-division collaboration
    3. Track
      1. OKRs are living and breathing goals, evolving and adapting with the needs of the company. OKRs are meant to be adaptive guardrails, not strict rules to follow.
      2. The OKRs have to be visible and related to daily, or else they fade into irrelevance. 
      3. Making progress in public goals is one of people’s most motivating factors. You need to write them down and follow up on them often
      4. The constant monitoring and making sure that you’re working on the right thing at the right time is more important than the actual objectives
      5. Expectations are easier to set across groups and fewer surprises can be expected when OKRs are set and tracked accordingly 
      6. Post-mortem: OKRs aren’t done even when completed. You can go through a post-mortem: objective scoring (are the objectives themselves valuable and correct?
      7. Google measures each one in a 0 to 1 scale, with anything above .7 being considered successful, subjective self-assessment, and reflection (what contributed to success, what obstacles did I face)
    4. Stretch
      1. Google adheres to and goes after the 10 X improvement. It requires a new way of thinking and a lot of courage to go for 1000% change vs. a 10% change
      2. A stretch goal cannot seem like a long arch to nowhere and it cannot be imposed from the top down, with no basing in reality. Employee buy-in is essential and leaders have to show that they think the objective is important and obtainable
  2. CFR
    1. Conversation – Feedback – Recognition
    2. OKRs set the direction and give clarity, CFRs provide the fuel to get there. They work hand-in-hand and help boost each other up. Continuous performance management rather than quarterly or annually
    3. A manager’s first job is a personal one – to build a deep and trusting relationship with all of their people. The quarterly feedback which is common and most companies is outdated and eats up a lot of time.
    4. CFR is an updated way to give your people feedback – building trust and pushing them to learn and grow.
    5. They help boost OKRs since people can go all-in, knowing that what they’re working on is important and getting appropriate feedback and recognition for their hard work.
    6. Conversation 
      1. It is important for managers to have one on one meetings with their people – the employee must set the tone and agenda, driving the conversation, but the manager must make themselves open and available to discuss and meet with them. This should help the employee with goal setting and objectives, help them look at their progress and areas where they can improve, enable two-way coaching, future career development, and lightweight performance reviews
    7. Feedback
      1. Feedback must be timely and specific in order to be effective
      2. Without consistent feedback it is very hard to know if you’re moving in the right direction and how you’re progressing
      3. Ask new employees – what they love, what drains them, what their ideal job would look like. Make it clear that the expectation is that they will always tell the truth and do the right thing, and that you’ll do the same
      4. Upward feedback – what are you getting from me that is helpful/harmful? What can I do for you to make you more successful?
      5. Career development – what skills or capabilities would you like to develop? In what areas would you like to develop and how can I help you get there?
    8. Recognition
      1. Continuous recognition is a huge driver of engagement and employee satisfaction. 
      2. Institute peer to peer recognition 
      3. Establish clear criteria – projects finished, values lived out, etc. Replace employee of the month with achievement of the month 
      4. Share recognition stories – blog or newsletter
      5. Recognition should be simple and attainable 
      6. Tie recognition into company goals and strategies – customer satisfaction, product launch…
  3. Other
    1. Ideas are easy execution is hard – OKRs help turn bold and audacious ideas into sustainable, scalable, and repeatable processes
    2. About 3 to 5 OKRs per quarter is about right. 
    3. There should be one sole owner for each OKR or else you dilute ownership and accountability
    4. Don’t confuse your mission with your objectives. Your mission is the direction you want to go and your objectives are the steps you need to take to get there. The mission should be extremely aspirational and the objectives more obtainable. This process allows you to be ambitious yet realistic
    5. Doerr’s favorite quote or definition of entrepreneur is “someone who does more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible”
    6. It is important to have rules from the start. Just like trying to give a teenager rules when there were none as a child, it will be difficult to implement after the fact
    7. The best turnover is internal turnover, where people move to different roles within the company to grow and learn
    8. The adoption period can be difficult and take up to a year, but it is worth it. It has to come from the top and everyone has to buy-in
    9. Culture is the only thing which can’t be commoditized or copied 
    10. Conviction and buy-in from leaders is most important to make this process work
    11. Should establish both ambitious and incremental OKRs

What I got out of it

  1. Some great, actionable takeaways on how to think about and establish OKRs, and why that’s important. CFRs is another great idea to take to heart and implement. Simple but definitely not easy

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Summary
  1. Most of us are taught from a young age that if you work hard you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. The only problem is that this formula is flawed and we know today that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result
Key Takeaways
  1. The 7 Principles
    1. The Happiness Advantage – because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance
      1. Meditate
      2. Find something to look forward to
      3. Commit conscious acts of kindness
      4. Infuse positivity into your surroundings
      5. Exercise
      6. Spend money on other people and experiences (but not on stuff)
      7. Exercise a signature strength (do what you’re good at)
    2. The Fulcrum and the Lever – how we experience the world, and our ability to succeed within it, constantly changes based on our mindset. This principle teaches us how we can adjust our mindset (fulcrum) in a way that gives us the power (the lever) to be more fulfilled and successful
      1. The trick is to stop thinking of the world as fixed when reality is, in truth, relative.
      2. Have a growth rather than a fixed mindset
    3. The Tetris Effect – when our brains get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress, negativity and failure, we set ourselves up to fail. This principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see – and seize – opportunity wherever we look
      1. When we train our brains to constantly look for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us – happiness, gratitude and optimism
      2. This habit, like any other habit, takes time and hard work to make second nature 
    4. Falling Up – in the midst of defeat, stress and crisis, our brains map different paths to help us cope. This principle is about finding the mental path that not only leads us up out of failure or suffering, but teaches us to be happier and more successful because of it 
      1. There is always a “third path upwards” and your only task is to find it. Success is not about never failing, it is about getting back up, using our downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction. With this skill, you can capitalize on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated and even more successful
    5. The Zorro Circle – when challenges loom and we get overwhelmed, our rational brains can get hijacked by emotions. This principle teaches us how to regain control by focusing first on small, manageable goals, and then gradually expanding our circle to achieve bigger and bigger ones
      1. Small successes can add up to major achievements and they all begin with focusing on one small, manageable circle/goal/task at a time
    6. The 20 Second Rule – sustaining lasting change often feels impossible because our willpower is limited. And when willpower fails, we fall back on our old habits and succumb to the path of least resistance. This principle shows that by making small energy adjustments we can reroute the path of least resistance and replace bad habits with good ones
      1. Willpower is ineffective for sustaining change because it gets worn out as it is a limited resource. Humans are energy saving creatures and will always tend towards the path of least resistance. What you have to do is lower the “activation energy” for habits you want to adopt and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The easier, more visible, more palpable the habit, the more likely you are to follow through
      2. The key to creating good habits is ritual and repeated practice until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry. And the key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as possible. Identify the activation energy – the time, the choices, the mental and physical effort they require – and then reduce them as much as possible
    7. Social Investments – in the midst of challenges and stress, some people choose to hunker down and retreat within themselves. But the most successful people invest in their friends, peers and family members to propel themselves forward. This principle teaches us how to invest more in one of the greatest predictors of success and excellence – our social support network
      1. Spend quality time with a group of people you respect, who push you and who can anchor you during difficult times. These relationships must be fostered even during your most stressful, difficult times
    8. These 7 principles are not only great for you personally but become multiplicative when their ripples influence others to change and adopt happier, healthier habits and lifestyles.
What I got out of it
  1. A good, quick read on some basic principles to achieve happiness. The importance of investing in strong social ties, especially when you’re down and vulnerable and how perception is your reality

Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Summary
  1. “Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently. This is a book about how to become smarter, faster, and better at everything you do.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Productivity is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. It’s a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle. It’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way
  2. One of goals is to reframe problems in order to notice the hidden opportunities and to open our minds to new, creative connections
  3. Motivation
    1. Motivation is a skill which can be learned and honed and the trick is realizing you have authority over your actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves we must feel like we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control
    2. To improve motivation in children, improve their internal locus of control – praise hard work over smarts or outcome
    3. Marines improved motivation of recruits by training them to have a ‘bias for action’ – leads to an internal locus of control. Praise people for doing things that are hard and make the compliment unexpected
    4. Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Doing so gives us a sense of control
    5. Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals
      1. The author motivated himself by writing why it was important to him to finish the task at hand. Understanding the why makes it much easier to start and stay motivated
    6. A single-minded devotion to an idea can spur massive change (but this type of fanatical devotion can also backfire)
    7. Sometimes a misstep is the most important footfall along the path to success
  4. Teams
    1. Manage the how, not the who of teams. Psychological safety emerges when everyone feels like they can speak in roughly equal measure and when teammates show they are sensitive to how each other feel (empathy)
      1. How teams work often matters much more than who is on them. The desire for a superstar is a myth – totally average people with great group dynamics can do things superstars never could
    2. If you are leading a team, think about the message your choices reveal. Are you encouraging equality in speaking, or rewarding the loudest people? Are you showing you are listening by repeating what people say and replying to questions and thoughts? Are you demonstrating sensitivity by reacting when someone seems upset or flustered? Are you showcasing that sensitivity so other people will follow your lead?
    3. Good managers – are good coaches, empower others and do not micromanage, express interest and concern in subordinates’ success and well-being, are results oriented, listen and share information, help with career development, have a clear vision and strategy, have key technical skills
    4. Group norms play a critical role in shaping the emotional experience of participating in a team – freedom to speak up, free to expose vulnerabilities, suggest ideas without fear of retribution, no harsh judgments. All behaviors which create a sense of togetherness while also encouraging people to take a chance  (psychological safety)
      1. Allowing others to fail without repercussions, respecting divergent opinions, feeling free to question others’ choices but also trusting that people aren’t trying to undermine you
    5. Great leaders have the uncanny ability to make people feel like they are the most important people on earth
  5. Focus
    1. We aid our focus by building mental models – telling ourselves stories – about what we expect to see. Having a detailed picture in mind of how the plan is supposed to unfold helps you make choices and direct focus better
      1. The author would sit down Sunday nights and write down what he expected to happen the following day and week
        1. What will happen first? What distractions are likely to occur? How will you handle that distraction? How will you know you’ve succeeded? What is necessary for success? What will you do next?
    2. In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever before (deep work – chunks of time where you focus on one task without interruption)
    3. Cognitive tunneling – mental glitch that sometimes happens when our brains have to quickly transition from relaxed automation to panicked attention. Brain focuses on the most obvious stimuli, even if it’s not the best choice
    4. Our attention span is guided by our intentions
    5. Superstars focus on fewer things at once (typically less than 5) – proactively seeking out new opportunities to work with new colleagues and hone new skills and take the ‘risk’ of joining projects in their infancy stage. They also tended to come up with a large amount of theories to try to explain why things were happening, trying to figure out how information fits together
    6. When we’re overly focused on being productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause
  6. Goal Setting
    1. You need a stretch goal, something to spark big ambitions and you need a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, (reasonable) timeline), to help you form a concrete plan
      1. At the top of to-do lists, write the overarching ambition, what you are working toward in the long-term and underneath describe a subgoal and all its SMART components, forcing self to come up with a plan and be more likely to achieve your goal
      2. Stretch goals are jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking – fine line between a goal which is too big and crushes morale and one which inspires
  7. Managing Others
    1. Employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success
    2. By pushing decision making to whoever is closest to a problem, managers take advantage of everyone’s expertise and unlock innovation – decentralize decision making
    3. People need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them
    4. A commitment culture, one which is totally committed to its employees, customers and other stakeholders outperformed every other type of management style in pretty much every meaningful way. This mindset establishes a sense of trust between workers, managers, customers and other stakeholders. They avoided layoffs. They invest heavily in training with higher levels of teamwork and psychological safety. Valued making employees happy over quick profits. Long-term thinking and decision making
  8. Decision Making
    1. Envision multiple futures and then force yourself to figure out which ones are most likely and why (probabilistic thinking). By anticipating futures, you are much better prepared to make wiser decisions
      1. At the heart of this is the importance of making decisions in a deliberate fashion
    2. Can hone our Bayesian instincts by seeking out different experiences, perspectives and other people’s ideas. By finding information and then letting ourselves sit with it, options become clearer
    3. Think of losses as experiments – experiences to be learned from
    4. Learning how to make better decisions via probabilistic thinking requires our developing a comfort with doubt
    5. Probabilistic thinking is the ability to hold multiple, conflicting outcomes in your mind and estimate their relative likelihoods. The most successful are most comfortable admitting to themselves what they don’t know
    6. Probabilities are the closest thing to fortune-telling but you have to be strong enough to live with what they tell you might occur
    7. One of the biggest secrets to learning to make better decisions is accurate forecasts and this means exposing yourself to as many successes and disappointments as possible
    8. The people who make the best choices are the ones who work the hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are most likely and why?
  9. Innovation
    1. Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways and “innovation brokers” are key. To become a broker yourself and encourage brokerage within your organization:
      1. Be sensitive to your own experiences. Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish cliches from real insights. Study your own emotional reactions
      2. Recognize that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign everything is falling apart. Rather, creative desperation is often critical – anxiety can be what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways
      3. Remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives. By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives, by giving new authority to someone who didn’t have it before, we retain clear eyes
    2. Creativity is simply connecting things – taking old ideas but combining them in ways never thought of before
    3. So much of the creative process relies on achieving distance and not becoming overly attached to your creation
    4. When strong ideas take root, they can sometimes crowd out competing ideas so the best way to spark creativity is by disturbing things just enough to spur new ways of thinking
    5. The creative pain should be embraced. Feeling scared is a good sign and must learn how to trust yourself enough to let the creativity out
    6. Creativity is simply problem solving. Once it is viewed through this lens, people stop seeing it like magic
  10. Absorbing Data
    1. When we encounter new information, we should force ourselves to do something with it. Write yourself a note explaining what you just learned, or figure out a small way to test an idea, or graph a series of data points onto a piece of paper, or force yourself to explain an idea to a friend.
    2. Every choice we make in life is an experiment – the trick is getting ourselves to see the data embedded in those decisions and then to use it somehow so we learn from it
    3. There is a huge difference between finding an answer and understanding what it means
    4. Information blindness – inability to take advantage of data because it is so plentiful
    5. Ability to digest large amounts of information by breaking it into smaller pieces is how our brains turn information into knowledge
    6. Experimenting, although most of it will fail, forces you to think more, become more sensitive to patterns and more likely to pick up on valuable insights
    7. Creating mental, or even physical, “folders” in which to put information in helps people organize and absorb information
    8. Once a frame is established, it is very hard to see the other side and gain fresh vantage points. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to provide a formal decision-making system that denies our brains the easy answers it craves. It forces ourselves to make questions look unfamiliar
    9. By making information more disfluent, we paradoxically make it easier to understand because we force ourselves to truly think about it and understand it. Information easily obtained and read is easily forgotten
What I got out of it
  1. A good read on 8 key pillars to become more productive. By being more deliberate in your choices, in how you approach and think about problems, in how you interact with team members, in how you take notes, over time you can become a better and more productive thinker and decision maker

The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

Summary
  1. How to organize your life to spend more time on the rewarding rather than mundane things (externalize as much as possible, set routines, remove the unnecessary)
Key Takeaways
  1. Be adamant about finding ways to externalize your brain as much as possible. This leads you to forget less, be less stressed and gives your brain the space and capacity to focus on truly difficult problems which you enjoy
  2. Brain organization is amazing but not always optimal
  3. Organized mind leads to good, effortless decision-making
  4. Happy people don’t have more, happy people want what they already have
  5. Decision overload leads to being less productive and loss of motivation
  6. Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism
  7. Layers of people let leaders let go and gain a zen like focus since they don’t have to worry about their schedule, etc.
  8. Attentional filter best picks up on change and importance
  9. Switching attention comes with a very high cost. Limit multi-tasking!
  10. Don’t need to limit information, just need consistent and efficient ways to organize it all
  11. We are hardwired to impose structure on the world
  12. Active sorting, what you need to do right now, is vital for organization, efficiency and productivity
  13. Fundamental principle of being organized is to shift to-do list, information, whatever you can into an external source
  14. Consciousness lies on a continuum
  15. Sustained attention relies on noradrenaline and acetylcholine
  16. Develop zen-like focus by giving all your attention to one thing at a time
  17. Memory not just a replaying of a past experience but a rewriting of past experiences
  18. Best remember what is unique, leaves an emotional imprint
  19. Must be able to zoom in and out (detail vs. whole picture, what Elon Musk is incredible at)
  20. Categorize – gross/fine, functional equivalence, things similar in particular situations
  21. Writing things down conserves mental energy by not having to worry about it
  22. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately
  23. Home and work environments are an extension of your brain – make it easy, calm and organized
    1. Have things used often visible, hide otherwise (helps you relax, avoid distributions)
  24. Create a junk drawer for things which cannot be organized
  25. Create different work spaces for different kinds of work
  26. Batch emails, create a special account which only a few people have
  27. Child like sense of wonder leads to very strong memories
  28. New acquaintances – write down why and how you met, their expertise, who introduced you, other context
  29. Can leverage other people’s expertise and use them as your external brain
  30. On average, people are Terrible at detecting lying and if people like us
  31. Being transparent enables social ties and makes it easier for people to forgive us
  32. Indirect speech – quantity, quality, manner and relation
  33. People have a very hard time ignoring information which is later shown to be false
  34. Daydreaming helps recalibrate/restore the brain (multitasking does not)
  35. For any large task, break into small, actionable chunks
  36. Chunking is much more productive and having a clear start/stop time helps you form solid memories
  37. Experts know what to pay attention to and ignore much better than novices
  38. Sleep – unitization, assimilation, abstraction
    1. Memory consolidation occurs within the first two hours of NREM and last 90 minutes of REM (alcohol disturbs both of these cycles)
    2. Jet lag hack – before traveling east, get into sunlight early in the day and before traveling west, avoid sunlight early and expose yourself to bright light in the evening
  39. Must disconnect sense of self-worth from outcome of a task
  40. Successful people paradoxically fail much more than “failures” but their reaction to failure is much different as they consider it a learning experiences
  41. Creativity comes from integration of executive and daydreaming mode
  42. Arrange life for flow moments – reduce change, be comfortable, avoid distractions, easy environment, etc.
  43. If make it big, have assistants take care of everything so you can focus 100% on the task at hand
  44. People typically ignore base rates when making decisions
    1. Bayes rate – take base rate and relevant information into account before making a decision
    2. Decisions must be made with long-term view, use probabilities and expected value over the long-term
    3. Don’t fall for denominator neglect (ignoring the scale, magnitude of safe car rides whenever we hear of a horrendous crash)
  45. Effective leaders
    1. Adaptable, responsible, high in empathy, able to see problems from all side
    2. Have high social intelligence and flexible, deep analytic intelligence
    3. Quickly understands opposing views, how people came to hold them, how to resolve conflicts in ways that are perceived to be mutually satisfying and beneficial
    4. Adept at bringing people together who appear to have conflicting goals
    5. Uses empathy to allow people or organizations to save face in negotiations
    6. Often great storytellers
    7. Build cohesive teams through mutual trust
    8. Create shared understanding
    9. Provide a clear and concise set of expectations and goals
    10. Allow workers at all levels to exercise disciplined initiative
    11. Accept prudent risks
  46. Function best when under constraint but allowed to be creative within this constraint
    1. Internal locus of control vital for self and employees
    2. Employee morale and performance improves when understand how their work fits into the big pictures
  47. Best filing system requires least  searching time, transparent to anyone, easily described, external brain
  48. Tickler files/reminders for deadlines, must know how long the task will take to complete
  49. 10 parameters max for optimal decisions, 5 is optimal though
  50. Take 10 minutes post meeting to summarize, write down action steps, etc.
  51. With information overload, must teach children to be critical, independent, clear and complete thinkers
  52. Not so important to know a fact as to know where to find/how to verify
  53. The more sense/dimensions you can involve, the better your recall will be
  54. In the pursuit of learning, slower is often better
  55. The greatest scientists tend to be artists as well
  56. Appendix – how to create your own 4 fold (Bayesian) decision making table for medical decisions or anything else
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting book. Externalize your brain, get into flow by being 100% on the task at hand, junk drawer, chunk, weave other senses/emotions into whatever you want to better remember

Evernote: Unleashed by Jason Bracht

Summary
  1. Good read on Evernote and how to use most effectively
Key Takeaways
  1. Organize Reading Notes: if you use an e-reader which allows you to highlight quotes or add notes as you read, you can easily copy those highlighted sections and notes to an Evernote note (saved in a notebook for your reading notes) so that you can keep track of all that information all within one fully synced app. This is especially useful if you are doing research of any kind and want to consolidate all the different sources of notes you have taken (whether you wrote them in the text itself or on a separate document).  
  2. Make the ultimate to do list: instead of keeping a bunch of disorganized piles of to do lists everywhere, create a to do list notebook in Evernote and then have a separate to do list for each of your roles. That is, have a to do list for work, a to do list for home, a to do list for you hobbies, and so on. This will keep your life much more organized and allow you to easily switch between the different aspects of your life so that you can focus on what you need to do at the moment.  
  3. Make a distraction list: the internet is a vast and magical space. In the middle of working, you might decide that you need to look up some totally unrelated fact because suddenly, you want to know what the average life span of a great white shark is.  
  4. Here are a few tips for using the tag feature effectively:  
    1. Think in keywords: your tag should not be a whole sentence.  
    2. Your tag should represent the main idea of the note. 
    3. Establish a system so that you are consistent with your tags.  
    4. Leave no note untagged!  
  5. A “Pixelator” tool that blurs parts of the web clipping that contain sensitive information and should be kept anonymous (i.e. – faces, credit card information, addresses, and other personally identifiable information). 
  6. The note will automatically be stored with the same title as the subject line of the Email but you can modify it if you wish and remove any unnecessary information from the email so that it’s stripped down to only the information you want to keep.  
  7. Beef up Security: with Evernote, you have the option to enable a two-step verification process  
  8. For example, link it with your gmail account so that starred messages will automatically be sent to Evernote.  
What I got out of it
  1. Some small gems about Evernote to help increase productivity 

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Summary

 
  1. Atul Gawande provides clear evidence that checklists can be tremendously beneficial in order to successfully handle complex situations

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

 

  Key Takeaways  

  1. Discusses how checklists have helped pilots, surgeons and many others to help navigate complex situations
  2. The mundane tasks are the ones that are the most forgotten and therefore the most important to include
  3. Must get over ego and accept that a checklist, no matter how seemingly simple or naive, can help
  4. The checklist must be brief, practical and usable

  What I got out of it  

  1. Checklists must be brief, practical and usable and this framework can be applied to nearly anything in your life. I think it is extremely important to get over your ego and buy into this concept because the vast majority of our errors stem from simple, everyday tasks that can be easily avoided if using one of these checklists
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What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast by Rhonda Byrne

Summary
  1. A practical guide into how you can tame your mornings and set yourself up for a productive day, all without losing your sanity
Key Takeaways
  1. In order to get the most out of your mornings:
    1. Track your time
    2. Picture/create the perfect morning
      1. Exercise, painting, good breakfast, meditation, prayer, sketching, practice a skill you want to acquire, work on a project that’s always being pushed back, playing with kids, studying, etc.
        1. Think of things you will literally want to jump out of bed for
    3. Think through the logistics
      1. Where can you save time, outsource, partner up, etc.
      2. Pretend you had all the money and time in the world, how would it look
    4. Build the habit
      1. First steps require the most willpower, once you turn it into a habit though you won’t even have to think about it
      2. Choose one habit at a time to incorporate
      3. Chart your progress
      4. Do things that put you in a good frame of mind – what you’re grateful for, appreciation e-mail, etc.
    5. Tune up as necessary
What I got out of it
  1. A very quick and good read. Vanderkam details how and why to make mornings the most productive part of your day.

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