I read Good to Great a few years ago, but I admittedly never finished it. After hearing this interview though, you'd better believe I'm gonna go back and pour over it.
This interview with Jim Collins was absolutely awe-inspiring. Among the nuggets I took away from this episode:
You should strive to be a "Level 5 Leader", which means you are simultaneously headstrong and humble. You have to put your organization before any personal gain.
Jim organizes his time according to the 50/30/20 rule, which means he spends 50% of his time in a given 365 day period on creative activities, 30% of his time teaching, and 20% of his time on everything else.
On that same vein, Jim has a spreadsheet where he tracks how many hours a day he gets creative pursuits, and in any given 365 day period, he has to have over 1000 total hours. He also tracks what he did on a given day, as well as a rating from +2 to -2 for how he felt on that day. I've been trying to do something similar with tracking the big three things I need to get done each day, and I think I should expand that out a little bit to include these variables.
You should not do what you’re good at, but do what you’re coded for. This really struck a chord with me, because I think I'm pretty good at developing, but I'm pretty sure I'm coded to be a leader.
There was a lot mentioned around the flywheel principle, and I think this is something we're just starting to see happen with our own business pursuits.
There's a ton in this episode, so I'm going to stop writing in order to let you start listening.
We had just gotten back from a weekend in Wisconsin celebrating Shannon's grandpa's 83rd birthday. Charlee was quite a whiner... just like she had been all week long.
Well, the last several weeks, actually. She requires a lot of attention, and she is very bossy in the way she requires it. You have to play with the toy she wants you to play with (usually Goofy but sometimes Mickey or Pete), and you have to act the same way you acted the first time you did this game months ago, and god forbid you try to talk to anyone else (such as your wife) while you do it.
It was 5pm, and the Super Bowl was about to kick off in a half hour, and thanks to the day spent in the car, I still needed around 7,000 steps for the day to continue my 153 day streak of getting 10,000 steps.
I thought I should get a quick walk in while it was still bright out (and so I could enjoy the 70 degree swing in temperature from earlier in the week, when it went from -30 to 40 degrees).
Charlee, who I was playing with while I had that thought, wanted nothing to do with that idea. She insisted I stay and pretend I was Pete and that I needed to help Little Minnie get tucked in for bed.
Since my throat was a little sore, I grew weary of the Pete voice and said, "Charlee, you can either stay here with mom and play, or you can go on a walk with me."
Charlee sobbed and said she wanted to stay home, so I put my jacket on, loaded up a podcast, and started out the door.
I didn't even get 3 houses down the street when I get a call from my wife. Charlee changed her mind and wanted to go on a walk with me.
Annoyed, I turned around and came back home. By the time I got in, mom already helped Charlee into her boots. I helped her into her coat and hat and we set out the door.
Before we got out of the garage, I noticed she had two stuffed animals with her. One, her beloved Bumba. Two, a stuffed lion holding a heart that says "Love" that her mother won from an arcade game earlier that day.
I figured she might drop one of them, and due to the sloshy roads, I didn't want her to risk dropping Bumba, which would've required giving him a "bath." I told my daughter she could only bring one stuffed animal on the walk. She sobbed when I took her best friend out of her hands, but after a few steps down the road, she was just fine.
We started out painfully slowly. Again, I was slightly irritated that my brisk walk devolved into a turtle's pace, but these are the cards you are dealt sometimes as a parent.
We made our way out of our subdivision and towards the fire station.
Now, a few months ago, I took Charlee to an open house at the other fire station in town. She, as with most new experiences, wanted nothing to do with it. I showed her every possible thing you can see in that station, but she just wanted to go home.
In a last ditch effort, I forced her to go up into an empty fire truck. After she wiped the tears from her eyes, she looked around and was mesmerized. She immediately started pretending she was driving to a fire to help someone out. About 10 minutes later, the tears reemerged, but this time, they were caused by not wanting to leave this new experience.
As we strolled by the fire station on our walk, she asked me (as she has every day since the open house) if we could go inside. I told her not until they have an open house.
She then said, "Daddy, I want to be a fighter fighter."
"Do you mean 'fire fighter?' I asked.
"No, a fighter fighter,” she insisted.
Right then and there, my whole mood shifted. I looked down at her with the biggest smile I've ever smiled in my life. The rest of the walk, we had an amazing conversation. We talked about her new stuffed animal (who developed quite a personality). We talked about senses and which body parts help gather those senses. We held hands for the entire walk. We both laughed incredibly hard. She kept insisting that when she grows up, she's going to be a fighter (fire) fighter.
As we rounded the corner to complete the loop around our neighborhood, Charlee said "I want to do another one!"
I looked down at my watch. It was now 5:30, and the game was starting. But instead of fighting with a screaming toddler, I thought I should give in and let her keep walking. Besides, we both were stuck in a car for 6 hours, we might as well both burn off some energy.
The conversation continued to be lively and stimulating. Seriously. She might only be 2.5, but she has a lot of interesting thoughts rolling around that head of hers. Our pace began to quicken, even though we were both scared of slipping. We had held hands almost the entire 1.8 miles.
About three quarters of the way through the second loop, my watch buzzed. It was a notification from my buddies making fun of something that happened at the game.
I again thought about myself, missing out on this game. I was quickly brought back to reality when my little girl pulled on my hand and asked to do a third lap.
At that moment, my mind fast forwarded to the future. A future where my daughter was 16 and wanted nothing to do with me or the Super Bowl. A future where she was 28 and she stopped by in the morning to say hello, but ultimately went to go watch the game with her friends. A future where I was 83 and too weak to walk for a mile.
I stopped, pulled out my phone, and took a picture of my little girl. I asked her to look up at me and smile.
As you can see, this is a blurry, ill-composed photograph.
But in that future I imagined, I'm gonna look back at this picture and remember that for one brief, fleeting moment in my life, my little girl just wanted to spend another half hour walking through the sloppy, dark twilight with her daddy and her $1 vending machine lion.
Instead of another lap, we ultimately decided to go inside and take a bath.
But you can bet that in the morning, I know I'll have a walking buddy all set to hit the pavement with me.
I had to laugh out loud when Ryan said, "Oh shoot, I'm giving away my entire playbook here," to which Kurt replied, "Don't worry, nobody listens to this show."
This episode of The Schmidt List (which you aught to subscribe to, by the way) was particularly timely as we are working to hire our first full-time employee at The Jed Mahonis Group that wasn't already a good friend of ours.
Some of the key interview questions I will (shamelessly) borrow and use in our upcoming interviews include:
What gets you excited to go to work every day?
You're looking for something other than "co-workers". Something related to the job itself is ideal.
What do you think of automated testing?
As Kurt put it, this is essentially an updated "tabs vs. spaces" question. The aim is to get the developer to walk you through their reasoning for one thing or the other, and regardless of their answer, the big takeaway is whether they can justify their position.
What are you excited about in tech?
This is in lieu of the classic "what is your current side project" question, which I've never really been a fan of for the reasons they mention in the episode. Instead, this question allows you to see if they are keeping up with the industry and have thoughts on its direction.
In addition to these hiring nuggets of wisdom, the rest of the episode is a fantastic resource for anyone who is going to be moving into a role of managing developers. Two thoughts I took away:
1) Empathy, above all else, is what makes a team flow. A manager needs to be empathetic to the struggles that an employee may be going through (including changing requirements, stresses outside of work, etc.). Equally important is ensuring team members are empathetic to the struggles that their manager may be going through (including changing requirements, stresses outside of work, etc.).
2) Giving negative feedback to reports is important, and it's time to stop being Minnesota Nice about it. Not giving negative feedback is simply narcissistic and selfish.
Jason Fried is always a fascinating and insightful person to listen to, and this interview is no exception. He has a lot to say about how awful work can be (but doesn't have to). I'm definitely going to read his new book as a result of listening to this podcast.
However, what really got me thinking after hearing this podcast was the way that Jason uses his strong, personal convictions to run his software company, willfully eschewing the conventional wisdom that comes out of Silicon Valley.
I've long held the opinion that raising large amounts of money confuses me. I've always thought it was because I didn't truly understand how investing and finance works, or maybe it was because I bootstrapped all of my businesses and wasn't aware of a different way.
But after listening to the way Jason justifies the decisions he makes with his company (not having a bunch of benefits that keep people at work, paying for people to go on vacation, etc.), it made me smile and think about some of the decisions we've made at the JMG, and how the vision of the company I want to run does not need to fit the mold of the typical software company.
When running a company, it's crucial that you listen to your own gut and to skate to where you think the puck will be.
After all, isn't that what entrepreneurship is all about?
My longest friend recommended Sam Harris' podcast to me about a year ago, and I've been hooked ever since. Some episodes are easier to get into than others, but this one is definitely worth a listen.
We've got a lot of work to do as a nation to address the implications and aftermath of Russia's use of social media during the 2016 election, but as an app developer, it gives me all the more reason to help steer people towards building software that makes society an objectively better place.
(By "objectively better", I mean taking a look at the pros and cons of social media and ubiquitous internet connectivity and see if its use makes us wealthier/healthier/happier, or if it's only making a handful of people those things.)
I really like how Steli and Hiten challenge the inner dialogue that we all have around asking other people for help. If you do your homework in advance and ask for considered advice or feedback, more often than not, people will be glad to offer it.
I heard on a different podcast a few weeks ago that people love to be asked for their advice and assistance, and in doing so, you're honoring them by making them feel valued and needed.
We can all use help from time to time, and if there's ever anything I can do to help you, dear reader, then please don't hesitate to ask.
Quite a fun episode of my favorite Minnesota beer podcast, especially since they're profiling the brewery my wife works at.
I think it's interesting to see how a brewery like Badger Hill can continue to thrive in a market with such intense competition. However, as they allude to in this episode, there is no industry quite like the craft brewing industry as it relates to sharing resources between competitors.
While it's not quite as open, I think folks inside the app development consultancy space are similarly amicable towards their competitors. I've had many lunches over the past year with folks that I am actively competing again, but we are both willing to share advice and give nudges over difficult barriers.
It goes to show that while many situations are framed in black or white, truth or lie, Sith or Jedi, the world almost always operates on a spectrum between the two.
There were a ton of valuable takeaways from this episode of The Tim Ferriss Show featuring an interview with Seth Godin.
That concept of "be a professional, not authentic" was quite eye opening. I had orthopedic surgery not too long ago, and it truly would've been a bummer if she decided she didn't feel like cutting my knee open that day.
I've had my own existential qualms about selling apps because, at the end of the day, does anyone really need an app? However, much like scope creep, you can find a way to spin it into a positive for everyone involved. It’s okay to sell people something you think they don’t actually need, because they actually do need it. Be empathetic and sell to what people think they need.
You get better by serving your smallest viable audience. If you keep trying to make things work for folks who don't fit that niche, you are just doing a disservice to those who do fit your niche.
If you run a company, this is required listening.
I'm 25 pounds heavier than I was this time last year.
I could blame it on a ton of things, including a lack of motivation to run after the ultramarathon, my knee surgery in June, and work-related stress.
Instead of playing the blame game though, I've decided I'm gonna do something about it.
After reading The 4 Hour Body earlier this year, I took a few big points away that I've been adopting in my life. One of those points is to find small changes you can make to your life that will yield big gains.
I think those of you who know me would say that one of my biggest vices in life are sweets. I'll easily pound a quart of ice cream in a single sitting if I can. At weddings, I'll grab two edge pieces (and hopefully, one of those is a corner piece). My wife's freshly-baked batch of three dozen cookies will not last a full week.
Another trait I know about myself is that I need to set audacious goals for myself, if for no other reason than to prove that I can do it.
With those points in mind, I've decided that November 2018 is going to be "No Sweets November" for me.
What are the rules, you ask? Here goes:
- Sweets includes any food product with a ton of artificial sugar. For me, this would include ice cream, cookies, brownies, cake, candy, muffins, breath mints, and donuts.
- Naturally-occurring sweets will not be eliminated, so I can still do things like apples and grapes.
- From midnight on November 1st until 11:59pm on November 30th, I will not consume any sweet.
Some will say that this month is probably the worst month for doing this. After all, my birthday is on the last day of this challenge, not to mention Thanksgiving and two weddings.
I would argue that those reasons alone make it the perfect month to abstain from sweets. After all, the point of this self-imposed restriction is to lose weight. I'll be much happier with myself if I can end the month 3 pounds lighter than if I were the same weight and ate sweets all month.
I'm already off to a good start. While going for a walk this morning, I found a full sized, unopened bag of M&Ms laying on the sidewalk. I picked it up and thought about tearing right into it, but after remembering the challenge, I handed it to my friend instead.
See you in December!
Steli Efti: I do think that most people maybe haven’t answered the question truthfully and are suffering the consequences from it. That’s my instant and initial response when you say, how do you figure out who you are? My first thoughts are that you have to ask the question again and really make sure that you have answered it correctly versus just being attached and stuck in an answer that you might have picked out when you were really young a really long time ago.
This was exactly the podcast episode I needed this weekend, and I want to store it somewhere that I can come back to it in a few years.
If you're stuck in an endless loop of unhealthy and unproductive patterns, give this short episode a listen.