Management

How to suck at anything

Twitter is full of threads with “universal solutions on how to succeed in anything”. Well, let me share some reverse advice looking at this question from the other side.

  1. Give a shit what others think of you. Their opinion is all you have to care about when starting a new project.
  2. Multitask whenever possible. Do as many projects as you can at the same time. Time is limited, so try to increase your impact by doing more things.
  3. Scroll your social feed at least two hours a day to stay tuned to the useless shit unknown people brought to you.
  4. Check your inbox every five minutes. It’s important to be in touch ASAP. Don’t miss a thing!
  5. Focus on the outcome rather than the process. Everyone knows that results matter the most in life!
  6. Stay up late for extra work. Nights are the best time for creativity, all geniuses sacrificed their sleep for success.
  7. Eat as much as you want and at any time of the day. The food is just a fuel for the body, so stop worrying about junk food and all that. We’re all gonna die anyway.

If you know more ways to fuck up your life, share the wisdom in the comments.

Know your focus ★

For the past three years I’ve worked with and for various product and SaaS teams. They were from different industries. But all of them had one common problem—bad focus.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen small teams and products initially aimed at a certain audience transformed in the minds of their founders into humongous, rigid structures. Simply because founders lost their focus.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard these words: “We need to get attention of everyone on our product. Our product should be universal. Our goal is to corner the market and beat those big guys!”

Really? I believe your starting plan was to create a better user experience for a certain segment of the market, rather than corner it. But appetite comes with eating. This rising appetite blinds people and makes them lose the way.

Knowing your focus and saying no to other things is the most important lesson I’ve ever learned.

The lack of focus erodes ability to flex and accomplish your initial goals. In 99% of the cases the focus shifts to money, and here’s why.

Startups are hungry and it’s a good thing. Business should stay hungry. Hunger keeps the mind clear and the focus precise. However, you have to control your hunger and not let it become a starvation. Have a bite once in a while. Starving businesses lose their focus easily.

It’s not long before their start eating anything that comes their way, just to beat this sick feeling at the pit of a stomach. Side projects, little opportunities to make some money on the side, new feature that your customers want to see, a darn dark theme, or a mobile app. That’s how it always starts. The end is never that fun though.

You probably wouldn’t like the idea of feeding your body with crap like chips and coke. To stay healthy, efficient and strong you have to eat proteins, slow carbons, greens, and drink a lot of water, not soda. The same goes for business. You should be cautious about what you’re feeding your product with. The businesses feed with ideas, hypothesis and guesses you take. Take one and go with it. Don’t squander.

Control your hunger and know your focus. Otherwise you’ll end up creating a product that has no market, no demand, and no unfair advantage. All of that is simply because of a bad focus.

Most meetings are pointless

Before making an appointment, I ask myself a few questions. Is it possible to do what I’m going to do without a meeting? Is it possible to solve this without another Zoom call? How else can I accomplish this task?

In half of the cases, I figure out that a meeting can be replaced with a letter, a scheduled message, a screencast, a voice message, or an old-fashioned phone call.

Situations when meetings are not necessary:

  • to get an unambiguous “yes” or “no” answer
  • to update the status of ongoing tasks
  • to request information
  • to ask for or give feedback on a design layout
  • to make edits and suggestions to a draft
  • to make onboarding for a new admin panel of a website

✅ Situations when meetings are necessary:

  • to hold the initial meeting of the project
  • to present a logo, a website, or other deliverables from the contract
  • to resolve a personal conflict among parties of the project
  • to share knowledge and experience: one-on-one meetings, team training
  • to discuss issues that require a lot of clarification: briefing, cost estimate, agreement

This principle helps to understand whether a meeting is needed or not. If my email does more harm than good, a meeting will be a better option. For example, if there is increasing friction in the project, you should not dispute via email. Discuss disagreements face to face, this way it will be much easier for you to calm the interlocutor and resolve the conflict.

Though if the text allows you to solve the problem without putting the project and the relationship with a client at risk, you may cancel a meeting and find another way to get the job done. For example, it is more productive to comment on a new design layout in Figma and then hold a call on demand to discuss the feedback you gave rather than stare at the layout you’ve never seen before.

The main secret to making more time is to reduce the number of meetings. Half of the meetings people have are fucking pointless and unnecessary.

Always be the last to speak

Good leaders are always the last to speak on a meeting. They let the other team members share ideas and feel appreciated for their opinions, and only then they make a decision.

Bad leaders never care for a another opinion. They’re too busy enjoying their power of a leadership. Team members with this type of leaders simply become indifferent to the decisions their leader makes. They end up feeling burned out and useless.

For leaders it’s important to see the whole picture, not just fragments of it. If a leader speaks first he or she doesn’t let team members have their say. Such a leader will never learn what real picture looks like!

Therefore, always be the last to speak.

Failures are our best teachers ★

Yesterday I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. Trying to fall asleep again, I caught myself ruminating the following words in my head: “Failures are our best teachers”. Suddenly the whole story started to unfold in my mind, so I jumped up, took my laptop and started typing it until I lost my train of thought.

Half an hour later, I had a draft about the benefits that failures and mistakes bring us. Thus was born this post and Twitter thread for Timestripe.

Failures are the best teachers. Here are eight reasons why:

  1. Mistakes increase importance of wins. Failures teach us so much more than any success could ever teach. If it weren’t for our failures we wouldn’t value our wins and achievements, because there wouldn’t be anything to measure or compare them by.
  2. Continuous success blinds us with illusions. Successful projects and positive outcomes are necessary, but they don’t teach us much. Instead, they make us get along with the idea that if it worked this time it will always work in the future. But it won’t. That’s a cognitive bias we get trapped into. Failures, on the other hand, teach us that if something didn’t work it didn’t work only here and now in this very conditions, in this context, on this project. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible or it won’t work some other time in some other place.
  3. Failures teach us patience. Having failed doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Failing at something teaches us to be patient and persistent about our approach. We learn to make projects and achieve results with a small steps strategy, not by making one perfect decision.
  4. Failing shows it’s OK to be wrong. It’s not the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the great minds did. Why should we be perfect? There’s no need for that, no one expects that from us. We’re only expected to fulfill the commitments we’ve made. Nothing else.
  5. Mistakes encourage us to enhance our process. Failures help us discover the hidden power of limitations: time, money, and our physical capabilities. Any project has a limited amount of money and a deadline. Nor can we be productive six-eight hours in a row. Limitations help us find a solution within our available sources.
  6. Failures teach us to value the way, not the goals. Failures and limitations teach us to be flexible and not to put all our money and time on one great idea that will do all the work. Instead, we become more committed to consistency and methodicality rather than an occasional success. They matter more in the long run.
  7. Having failed doesn’t equal being bad at something. In the end, failures don’t define us as bad workers and contractors, or as being bad at our craft. They only mean that we chose the wrong way to solve the problem, and now we’re going to find another one until we find the right solution.
  8. To learn and improve you should be ready to fail. Writing this thread I recalled a good dialogue from “Game of thrones” that happened between Jon Snow and sir Davos Seaworth after Jon’s resurrection:

Jon: I did what I thought was right. And I got murdered for it. And now I’m back. Why?

Sir Davos: I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know. What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can. You clean up as much of the shit as you can.

Jon: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.

Sir Davos: Good. Now go fail again.

If you’ve failed recently, don’t panic. Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop moving forward. Just go fail again.


This post was initially published as a thread on Twitter and in Timestripe Journal. Subscribe to Timestripe to receive new posts right into your inbox.

The most important step in your life ★

We tend to plan everything, foresee all possible options, calculate all risks, to think about ways to retreat in advance. Most often in vain. This strategy is ineffective, 'cause most of our fears never come true. But there will always be something we couldn’t anticipate.

Our brain constantly wants certainty, otherwise, it begins to think we are in danger. But visualizing the future in detail is too costly for the brain. And when our expectations don’t match reality, it’s also painful for the psyche. Instead of trying to predict our future, we should focus on the next step. It’s a gentler approach, with no pressure and stress.

The most important step in your life is the next step. Not the one from five years ago, not the one you’ll take a year from now. Just the next step of yours.

If you have a big goal or task in front of you and you have no idea where to start, or how to approach it, try not to think of it as a big goal. Instead, think of what your next step might be and take it. This little trick will help you overcome the numbness and begin to act.