There’s a great idea floating around out there that being successful requires you to be right and non-consensus. It’s sort of an obvious point but framing it like this makes it stick in the mind. I think Peter Thiel has publicly talked about this and helped spread the idea but a quick search didn’t turn up a specific post or interview of his. Either way, we all know it and we are all trying to do that thing that no one else is doing or thinking about (non-consensus) but also is very much needed by customers and users (right).
No matter how non-consensus you are to begin with, if you are right - like on the path to a billion dollar business right - then you will become consensus at some point in the near future.
I find most problems can be solved by referring to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle concept.
It’s a relatively basic, but a super powerful, framework. The essence is that before thinking about what you do as a company or how you do it, you need to think about why you do it. His TED talk (embeded below) is pretty awesome.
Within this framework, when you go from being alone and right to having competition you are now not the only one with the same “what”. In this scenario the “how” and “why” become more important than ever. You need to differentiate not just with a new technology, service or product but with better strategies and tactics (how) and with a stronger brand (why).
Being non-consensus and right makes worrying about the inner circles less important at the outset. That all changes when you are no longer non-consensus. To protect from this inevitable outcome, it’s worth starting with why and working your way out no matter how empty, crowded or currently nonexistant your market is. On the plus side, you can be massively successful by being right and consensus. It happens all the time. But the companies that win there have their why and how buttoned up like nobody’s business.Comments
I’ve decided on my first 70.3 triathlon…Mont-Tremblant. Race day is June 22, 2104 so I have plenty of time to get in peak condition. I haven’t yet moved into a training program and I’m currently working on building up a base layer of fitness. The plan is still tentative but I’m hoping to get in a couple olympic distance races in the spring before the half.
I did a great 8 mile run today at an avg pace of 7:19 mpm. Not the fastest I’ve ever run but I’m feeling good and fast these days so I’m planning on ramping up from here nice and slowly.
I didn’t get to swim much this week but the one day I got in was a transformative day in the pool. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t just trying to avoid not drowning. I got into a good rhythm pretty quickly and felt like I could have swam forever. My technique is still pretty terrible but breathing is becoming much more comfortable where I can now focus on improving other elements. This was also the longest swim I’ve done yet at 1000 meters. Still far from half Ironman distance but thankfully I have a ton of time to train.
Still no bike yet. They shipped a new frame from Cervelo but I have no idea when it will get here. I’m so anxious to get back out there and ride. Biking is by far my most favorite leg. I’m slow and can’t last very long but I really enjoying being out there. I can’t wait for the bike to get back to me. Unfortunately I’ll get the bike back just in time for winter so I have a lot of cold rides ahead of me. I’m looking at a few winter riding jackets so I’ll pull the trigger on one soon.
I need to pick up a new pair of running shoes. My Nike Flyknit racers are pretty shot. I’ve had my eye on the New Balance Minimus 10V2 and the Minimus 1010. I’m going to head to the New Balance store this week to check them out. Running shoes these days are pretty dismal. The designs are generally terrible, the selection is weak, and the organization/messaging around differences and characteristics is incomprehensible. The current state of running shoes is so bad it deserves it’s own post to outline all the crappiness.
New Balance Minimus 1010
New Balance Minimus 10V2Comments
I’ve never liked the phrase “work-life balance”. It says we should work only for the purpose of facilitating a life outside of our job. It implies that we’re doing something wrong if we work too much or if we prioritize work over life. It creates a division between work and life.
But work doesn’t have to be separate from life. In an ideal world what you do to make money is also something you love to do. It is something you would do even if you never earned a dime from it. Thankfully I’ve been able to build a career in this way. I don’t see my “work” as separate from my “life”. I do a variety of things every day and it just so happens that what I spend most of my time doing is broadly defined as a job.
As a younger man, I took this fortunate situation to mean that I could, and should, work constantly. That because I loved what I did for a job, and because I made this my life, then I could work constantly from morning to night and still be living a fulfilling life. As I’ve gotten older older though, I’ve rethought this outlook a bit, and I think I was a bit wrong on what makes for a well lived life.
The way I think about things these days is to follow a plan of “work-rest of life imbalance”. For me, work is always going to be how I spend the vast majority of my time. I love what I do and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I believe in what I work on and who I work with. This is always going to be in an imbalance with anything else I do. But it is always important to see the forest for the trees. However important a job or a project or however busy you get with work, there is much more to a well lived life than hours spent at a desk. Time spent with family, pursuing hobbies I love, and achieving other goals need to be incorporated into my every day in order to feel as if I am taking full advantage of my one go-around.
What’s more, occasionally stepping away for rest of life stuff actually helps me be more productive and effective when I work. Time away from things helps clear the mind. It’s in these down moments when insights strike you. Time away from my desk gives more perspectives and experiences from which to draw inspiration.
It’s a cliche, but they say that in the end no one wishes they spent more time working. I think this is a very important bit of information to keep in mind, but only as long as it does’t lead to trying to create some sort of work-life balance. Instead the goal is to integrate all the things you do in this world - including what you do to make money - into one seamless system. For me, I think of this system as my work-rest of life imbalance.Comments
Main lesson from this week…I am not a natural swimmer. I can swim and I’m a relatively strong swimmer. But I muscle through it and that technique will not work for distance swimming. Like anything else, repetition is the key. The pool at the Greenwich Ave Equinox is going to be my home away from home for the next few months.
Weak week. I’m still trying to plan out my race calendar for the next couple years and therefore I’m not yet on a training plan. Without a regimented plan I am the laziest person around. I blame my soccer days - I’m great when told what to do by a coach but when left to my own devices I’ll just play around.
My ride on Tuesday was pretty slow and short but I’m still getting used to aero position. With time I’ll get faster and go farther. Running this week was just for fun. On Sunday I had an amazing run along the country dirt roads by my parents house in New Jersey. With the crip fall weather we’ve been having I felt so alive out there running past the fields and through the woods.
A few weeks ago I picked up a Cervelo P2 tri bike. I’m absolutely in love. I’ve been spending nearly every free moment researching and buying gear and accessories, dialing in the fit, and learning as much as I can about my new sport. The front brake started sticking early this week so I brought it to my LBS - Sid’s on 19th and 7th - to check it all out. As they were going over the bike they noticed two hairline cracks in the carbon frame. They made the call that the bike isn’t fit to be ridden and that they will get me a new bike. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t catch it when I first bought it but I was still blown away by their incredible customer service. The downside is I need to wait a week or so until they get in a new P2 in my size from Cervelo. On the plus side, the few dings and scratches I got on it from my first rides with clipless pedals will be gone. I recommend Sid’s to anyone looking for anything bike related. They are rockstars with tri fit (what I’ve been doing there) but they clearly are an incredible organization that really cares about it’s customers.Comments
I’m going to start posting weekly recaps of my training. The thought is to create some social pressure to not skip workouts and to begin tracking my journey of becoming a triathlete. This is my first of many more weeks of training.
This week was a bit slow. I’m starting to get into triathlon training mode so I’m working on a variety of things (training and gear related) and not yet pushing myself for a particular event. Just getting in some miles and a few gym workouts (when I’m actually not too lazy).
Distance: 9.31 mi
Pace: 7:16 min/mi
Notes: I was planning on heading out for a quick 4 miles with a friend as part of his 10 mile NYC Marathon training run. At my turn around point I was feeling pretty good and decided to not wimp out so I powered through just about the full 10 miles. I was actually a bit shocked I was able to get in 9 miles at that pace since it’s been months since I last ran anything close to that distance.
Distance: 4.01 mi
Pace: 7:28 min/mi
Event: Sleepy Hollow Halloween 10K
Distance: 6.2 mi
Pace: 6:47 min/mi
Notes: Definitely not one of the highest profile events I’ve done but possibly the most fun one I’ve done. Great atmosphere, camaraderie, and not at all serious. Just running for fun.
I’ve been on a tear lately with new gear. I’m like a kid in a candy store. Up until now, my sport of choice has been running and there is only so much gear that goes with it. But for triathlons, there is so much gear. Almost more than I can process. I’ve been deep in bike tweaking these days and I’ll post about the specs of my bike and cycling gear as I get in more rides.
My newest favorite toy is the Garmin Forerunner 910XT. This thing rocks. I’ve used nearly every activity tracking device on the market. Garmins have always been the best quality but they were never inspiring. Something about this thing though made me fall in love.
There are a few particular things I really like. One, On/Off switch. It seems so simple but every other device I used has been always on. You can turn off the GPS to save battery but that’s always a deep setting. By being able to turn off the entire device my battery now lasts forever. Now I don’t have to worry about heading out for run and realizing I forgot to charge the thing. Two, four screens of data. I’m a junky for data about performance. With the 910XT there are four screens that each can display up to four quadrants of data. I’m still tweaking what I should display on each screen but there are enough iterations of possible data and display options that I’m sure I’ll hone in on it soon. Three, more data. As I said, I’m obsessed with data tracking. Not only does the 910XT display all of it while I’m running, etc. but once uploaded to Garmin there are tons of chats and graphs. The display isn’t the slickest and the sharing is a little rough but it covers everything that’s needed to track and analyze performance for any metric.Comments
The best new products and companies arise from an insight of how something should work. Staying true to this original vision of how the world should be is how to build something great.
Problems arise with companies when the word “should” is replaced with the word “could”.
It may seem innocuous enough but “could” is a word that should never be uttered or even thought about in a startup, or in a company of any size for that matter. It’s about adopting the correct mindset and crafting the right culture. You can see startups that build based on what they could do. It’s the tech in search of a solution. It’s the unfocused company that wants to do everything on day one. It’s the pitch that talks about all possible features they can build but doesn’t say why any of them actually make a customer’s life better. You can see the big companies that let “could” cloud their judgement too. They build in response to a competitor. They jam in useless features. They expand beyond their core demographic or capabilities. In any of these cases, “could” leads to poorer quality, lack of focus, and stagnation. Companies that build based on what should be done stand out. They seek out only the best and they have a vision for what they are doing and why they exist.
My favorite example of a company has always operated based on “should” instead of “could” is Patagonia. They only build something if it is the best possible product for their customers. They only do things with a purpose. This culture was started by Yvon Chouinard from the very beginning. Pick up his book Let My People Go Surfing for more about the magic that is Patagonia.
There is no certainty to “could”. There is no urgency to it either. It’s hedging, not deciding. “Could” gives relatively equal weight to all possibilities. But that’s not the point. The point is not to list out options but to do what’s best - the single correct answer to a problem or the ultimate way to take advantage of an opportunity. “Could” is too relative. ”Could” takes into account what other companies are doing - if they are doing it like that, we could do it like this. Ideas and conversations that start with “could” do not produce greatness.
Only “should” leads to something great. “Should” says forget how everyone else is doing it. Forget the other safer, more conservative options. Forget the options that are easier to implement. “Should” is absolute greatness. It puts a flag in the ground as to what’s best. It conveys deliberate vision and action.
Build something that should exist. Not something that just could exist. Add features that should be part of your product. Not just stuff that could be included. Make decisions based on how your company should operate. Not based on what could be done to one up competitors. Do what’s best. Do what’s right. Do what should be done. All else be damned.Comments
I was going through some old stuff in Evernote and came across the postmortem I wrote after shutting down my first company in 2009. In changing blogs and platforms over the years it somehow got dropped off at some point. Figured I’d repost it. It is less relevant now for the lessons learned (I hope I’ve internalized all that by now) and more interesting as a reference point for how much I’ve evolved as an entrepreneur. It’s also funny to see just how much culture/the internet has changed over the past four years. Much of what we thought was so important then, is no longer relevant at all.
In December 2009, I made the incredibly difficult decision to shutdown imercive. Three years, a lot of money, and all my passion had been invested in this company but it ultimately was not going to be the success I had envisioned. Although we failed in the end, along the journey I learned more than I ever could have imagined about startups, entrepreneurship and myself. The purpose of this postmortem is to thoroughly reflect on what went wrong so I, and perhaps others, will not make the same mistakes again.Comments