Saturday, February 23, 2019

What is your least popular but deeply held opinion on personal productivity?

One of the recent trends in twitter conversations that i am impressed about is that influencers on the platform starting meaningful threads and the followers sharing their perspectives and experiences.

One such thread that i was fascinated about was the one started by Andrew Chen, a16z partner. Andrew asked a question on twitter: 
What is your least popular but deeply held opinion on personal productivity?

I found this thread relevant and hence sharing some of the responses to this thread that i found useful.

Should i be organized all the time ?
- Being super organized is a bad thing. Means there's no room for serendipity, deep thought, can make you overly passive on other peoples' use of your time, as opposed to being focused on outbound. (Sorry to all my super Type A friends) (Andrew Chen)

Procrastinate or not ?
- The ideas on which I make my most money were the result of procrastinating and being interrupted. (James Bach)

Should i manage energy or time ?
- The secret to productivity is managing energy not time. You can get more done in less time using the mental equivalent of high-intensity interval training: alternating between eustress sprints (hyperfocus, high arousal) and recovery (inward focus, low arousal) to prevent burnout. (Dr. Cameron Sepah)- gave me the idea: "print out your calendar every week, highlight everything that gives you energy in green and everything that takes away energy in red. trim the red" can be tough, but leads massive improvement in productivity & general happiness (Jordan Gonen)

How should i speak in meetings ?
- In meetings: I try to hold off on saying something as long as possible. Speaking up only when something *needs* to be said increases productive communication by 10x.
By speaking *every time* I have a thought, I reduce my impact when I finally have something important to say. (Ben Erez)

Pen/Paper or Digital To do list ?
- TODO list apps never work better as much as a pen and a paper (doesn't matter how bad the handwriting is 😆) (Sethu Venai)- 1. Intensity over volume.
2. Journal as you work. Feels like extra work, but 10x your mindfulness.
3. No notifications. Everything on your own time.
4. One thing that matters > Ten things that just feel urgent (Coach Tony)

Information nutritionist- i like this term:

- Everyone should hire an information nutritionist. We spend more than 30% of our lives browsing the Internet now and a lot of it is consuming junk info. (Cameron Sadler)

Never defer call from family:
- If an immediate family member or a loved one calls
- No matter how important the task you are accomplishing is on your list (presentation, board meeting, pitch on stage) step out, pick up the phone, or respond back. Make sure to let them know you are there for them. (Montasir Adams)

Exercise helps you clear your mind like no other tonic does:
- Taking time off to work out. Whenever I’m stuck on a problem or project and I have no time to go to the gym, I can just feel my efficiency slipping through my fingers. (Paige Sandhu)

mentioned in parenthesis against each point

#productivity #twitter #ideas

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ageless wisdom from Novak Djokovic's victory speech

This week Novak Djokovic won the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year. He made a stunning comeback in 2018 by winning 3 out of 4 grand slam events. His 2017 rankings had plummeted to 12, which is not bad by any standards but below par for a man who has been ranked in top 3 in world tennis since 2007.

He gave a remarkable speech after winning the award. His ~4:30 minute speech can be found here.

I found the speech quite relatable, authentic and without any airs. Novak appeared completely vulnerable yet grace personified. In other words, Novak appeared entirely human almost distinct from his super-human image of a person who has a machine-like consistency and is almost unbeatable on tennis court.

Reflection #1:
Novak said, I live by philosophy: "Expect Nothing"

Steven Covey shared these ageless lines 'Begin with the end in mind'. Most of us humans- in pursuit of something big, are always driven by an end-goal in mind. There is nothing wrong in having an
end-goal, infact we all should have one. But the problem happens if we let our minds get dominated and bogged-down by the distracting thoughts about what will happen if we achieve the end-goal.
'Expect Nothing' philosophy releases the unnecessary pressure that we put ourselves in pursuit of extravagant outcomes. It also prepares us well for the eventuality in case the outcome is not achieved. Detaching oneself with the fruits of the outcome can help our minds focus sharply. Eventually, its a choice: a mind loaded under the weight of our own expectations works much less efficiently than a free mind that expects nothing but excellence in what is being done at that moment.

Reflection #2:
Journey is the destination

Novak said, 'In Roland Garros 2016, when i achieved the ultimate goal in tennis to hold all 4 slams at the same time- I felt a huge relief. I did not feel the fulfillment to be honest. I tried to understand why. I think it was because i didn't leave the process, the journey as much as i needed and wanted that destination. When i reached the goal, i realized that the goal would be nothing without that journey. Then i understood the concept and philosophy of life of being present and being in the now  because that's where the power lies.'

It recall a phrase from Geet Sethi's  book 'Success vs Joy' where he says, concentration is simply remaining in the present. Probably one of the most effective definitions of concentration and focus that i found. Novak's realization after winning all 4 slams really makes us wonder about one of the most underrated, yet most effective but most difficult to master human trait 'Staying in the present'.

I am also reminded of story (i think from Steve Waugh's biography). Before 1999 World cup, Australian Cricket captain Steve Waugh's address to his team said that no matter what the outcome of this world cup would be, i would like you to take this as 'No regrets' tour.
What he was alluding to was that irrespective of the outcome of the tour, none of the team members should have a iota of regret that they could have delivered better efforts, could have shown-up more.
In summary, he was hinting to his team to enjoy the journey, stick to the processes that made them successful thus far and expect just the high quality effort but not the shiny world-cup as an outcome.

Since they managed to stay in this zone day-in and day-out, Australia were able to lift not only 1999 world cup, but also 2003 and 2007. They were virtually unbeaten in world cup for more than a decade before being beaten by India in 2011 world cup quarter-finals.
This is what 'Expect nothing' and 'Journey is the destination' does to you!

(update on 25th-Feb)
A couple of days back Saurabh Chaudhary, a 16 year old shooter from India created history by winning senior world cup gold in 10m air pistol. Saurabh not just won the gold medal but completely dominated the field with a huge lead of 5.7 points and bettered the world record by more than 1 point. Such margins are unheard of in a sport of shooting.

Saurabh comments post this victory-
'There was a little pressure of playing in the senior's final, but I did what my coach had asked me to do. He said 'shoot as you do in practice' and I did that. I never thought about the record or quota place. I didn't even look at the monitor to check my competitor's scores during the final.' 

What Saurabh achieved is remarkable and it won it Olympics quota. If we dissect his comments, there is a clear indication that he detached himself from the eventual outcome. It is evident when he says he never thought about record or did he check his competitor's scores. All he did was achieving self-mastery and remained firmly rooted in the moment, on the ground. In short, he expected nothing, just nothing. But this thinking helped him achieved all that was on platter- the gold medal, a world record and Olympic quota place.

Image source:

#expectnothing #noregrets #journeyisthedestination #focus #concentration

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Three reflections from David Heinemeier's recent interview

I went through this interview article with David Heinemeier yesterday with much interest and anticipation. Before i get to the reason around my interest, here's an answer to 'Who is David Heinemeier?', just in case you didn't know:

David Heinemeier Hansson is the co-founder of Basecamp and NYT bestselling coauthor of Rework and Remote. He’s also the creator of the software toolkit Ruby on Rails, which has been used to launch and power Twitter, Shopify, GitHub, Airbnb, Square, and over a million other web applications.

Reflection #1:

What caught my attention in this article was the below paragraph, which I also tweeted about:

'I’ve realized that the hard part about most books is not reading them but recalling their knowledge or insight when you need it the most.'
This is very succinctly put up sentence. When I took up reading big time almost a decade back, I

was driven by this quote from Prakash Iyer's article:

"If you read for just half an hour everyday, you could finish a 250 page book in just two weeks' time. That's twenty six books a year. A hundred books in next four years. Just think, what difference would that make to the quality of your mind, your career, your life ? Just thirty minutes a day can do the trick, so stop giving excuses about not having the time to read."
I almost found unparalleled joy is reading as much as possible. During productive years, i might have read close to 70-75 books (a year).

The reading habit helped me in groove and helped me utilize my time well, gain unique perspectives that i leveraged in my work time, personal time, in my writings. But I have to also admit that i sometimes felt overwhelmed with continuous reading. This feeling stemmed from the fact that i had filled most of my white-spaces with reading. I had a book with me all the time so even while waiting in queues, in flight, while driving (audio books)- i was trying to extract something from the books. Gaining knowledge helped but not leaving some white-spaces free didn't.

In my quest to find solutions, i found this piece from Tanmay Vora quite relevant. In this post, Tanmay argues that unidimensionally consuming content without focusing on creating stuff, creates an imbalance in learning. One got to focus on applying what's learned than merely applying all the energies on learning just for the sake of learning.

That shifted paradigm a bit for me and helped me focus not just on reading but with the intention of applying the thoughts through the mediums such as applying in work situations (which was happening earlier too, but sub consciously), writing about it, teaching to someone etc.

That's why when i saw David's quote, it made me reinforce that:
"Unless learning is retrievable at this time you need it, it's not of much use."

Reflection #2:

David also said during the interview:
"You can get really good at most things, even if you start “late”, if you know how to learn."

This resonated well with me as i consider myself being a sort of a late starter in some sense. I started running quite late in age and ran my first full marathon (FM) at an age when people are so content with their body type and routines and eventually ended up doing 17 FMs till date. I started sketch noting just last year and managed to get good reviews of my sketchnotes. I tend to pick up a new hobby every year and have ventured into doing magic, handwriting analysis to name a few things.

I do believe that age has hardly anything to do with your creative pursuits. On the contrary, i feel its our obligation to learn more, learn new stuff as we age, just for our own sake.

Reflection #3

In responding to the question- What is your proudest achievement?, David responded:
Being able to live an authentic life where I feel neither too good or too intimidated to share my raw impressions of the world or the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I feel like I’ve found this magical sweet spot where on the one hand I’m insulated from worries about what a boss might say (or fire me for saying), and on the other hand living in enough obscurity that I don’t have to worry much about what others might think.
I don't think i have achieved
equanimity to the extent David has but i do fully resonate with what he
says here and try to follow here.

One of my idols, the cricketer Rahul Dravid is supposed to have said this while describing Virat Kohli, current India cricket captain:

"While Dravid admitted to cringing at some "outrageous" things Kohli says on occasions, he also defended him by saying that so long as he was true to himself, and it helped get the best out of him it shouldn't matter. I think the game is still about performance. So let's not take that way from someone like Kohli," Dravid said at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday. "That's his personality. People have asked me, 'Why didn't you behave like that?' But that's not what got the best out of me. I would have been inauthentic to myself if I had tried to put tattoos and behave like Virat."

Dravid rightly argues that authentic to self is very, very important. This is especially true in today's world where we try to 'fit-in' other's expectations while grossly compromising who we are.

Rahul Dravid's Image Source:

#learning #unlearning #retrieving #authenticity #agenobar

Monday, February 18, 2019

Why is User Productivity a Better Metric than User Commitment ?

I was recently reading the book- Stories at Work: Unlock the Secret to business Storytelling and came across the term 'Anti Story'. What are anti-stories? Anti-stories are stories that listeners in the audience have in their heads about why a proposed lesson will not work.

I had my anti-story moment just now. In my last blog, i made an argument that user acquisition ensures that users get on to the platform, but user commitment (how much time users spend on platform) is actually a bigger determinant of a platform success as it ensures that a user finds something of value that leads her to repeatedly leverage the platform.

When i wrote this, it made a perfect logical sense till i came up with this piece on the driving philosophies of WeChat, China's number 1 communication app having close to 1 billion active users.

As per Wikipedia, WeChat was launched in 2011, primarily as a messaging app and eventually evolved and grew its use cases to social media, mobile app payment and many more features. In 2017, WeChat announced Mini Programs. Simply put, WeChat Mini Programs are the apps within the apps or as they say 'Sub-applications' within WeChat ecosystem. 'Business owners can create mini apps in the WeChat system, implemented using Javascript plus a proprietary API. Users may install these inside the WeChat app. In January 2018, WeChat announced a record of 580,000 mini-programs.

Allen Zhang (Zhang Xiaolong), the CEO of WeChat, in a rare public appearance in a conference (in 2017) is supposed to have remarked:
"the WeChat team do not see the amount of time the average user spends on the app as a measure for success."
On the contrary, he defined the success of WeChat as having users spend as less time as possible. He further says:

“A good tool is something that you visit and leaves instantly. It should allow you to achieve your goal efficiently, without any time wasted on finding features or being distracted by irrelevant information. The measure of success is how much users get done, not how much time they spend."Zhang brings forward a very different way of measuring success of WeChat, which he incidentally calls as a tool and not a platform. This distinction between tool and a platform is quite profound, as Zhang says:

“I think WeChat is a tool, and I don’t think tools should be undervalued. Making a good tool is a very difficult and ambitious project. It was the ability to make tools that allowed humans to evolve from its primitive state to the modern state. If WeChat was a platform, I would have no idea what to do with it,”
The distinction between tool and platform really forms the basis of success metric that he chose. A tool is designed to make a user efficient, by virtue of this, a user should be spending as less time as possible on it. Most platforms, on the contrary, aim for stickiness as a core measure. They want users to 'live' within their platform as much as possible.

Thinking over it, the platforms whose primary source of revenue is via ads would value stickiness far more than the ones that follow alternate business models. Based on this, i would go ahead and argue that most of the enterprise focused platforms (or wannabe platforms) should think of themselves as tools and not proverbial platforms. The users in enterprise space would be more motivated to get their stuff done without worrying too much about how long they need to stay at it.

Does this make sense to you ?

Article below for quotes used in this article and for introduction of concept of tools vs platform

#platform #userproductivity #productivity #wechat #stickiness #toolvsplatform

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Understanding the Difference Between User Acquisition and User Commitment

As was hypothesized in the case of PayPal, a frictionless user experience is a must to pull the users towards the platform. But is it enough to drive long-term success of the platform ?
The answer is probably Yes and No both. To think of it, an effortless induction of user into a platform is the right first step. It ensures that the user discovers enough value to be drawn towards the platform. But what ensures a long-term success is not just the user acquisition but user commitment.

I am reminded of an all hands conversation when one of the senior engineering leaders in my organization was asked what is the key metric that worries him the most ? Without losing a beat, he responded "Daily Active Use" of our products and services. Aptly, the prominence of user commitment is not just limited to consumer products but is equally applicable for enterprise products.

This discussion also takes me to one of the articles i wrote 4-5 years back when i called out Google's Tooth-Brush test for acquiring new companies.
Before Google decides to make an acquisition, its seemingly novel way to evaluate the decision is the toothbrush test. The toothbrush test asks the question: "Is the product the target company makes something people will use at least once a day, and that makes their lives better?"

The real value for tooth brush companies is not when user buys the toothbrush, but it really when a user repeatedly uses it.

Coming back to PayPal example (as narrated in the book: Platform Revolution – How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy–and How to Make Them Work for You), PayPal applied novel methods to drive user commitment. Because of its frictionless user interface, it was not difficult for users to get attracted towards PayPal as a payment platform of choice. It removes entry barriers for users. But to make sure that users are using the service, it leveraged pull marketing techniques like offering users $ incentives to recommend their friends and acquaintances to the platform. Due to these strategies, it had a viral growth in its initial days and it created a positive feedback loop that prompted the sellers to offer PayPal as a payment option of choice.

As i delve deeper into this subject, there are apparently more layers to peel to get to the depth of user acquisition and user commitment discussion. More on it in the coming blogs.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

How PayPal Started and Two Lessons it Teaches Us

I came across this story while reading the book- Platform Revolution – How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy–and How to Make Them Work for You

1. The year was 1998. One of the key events happening during this time, was the explosion of internet. Many new businesses emerged.
2. In this tumultuous atmosphere, entrepreneurs named Peter Thiel (31 years,German, philosophy/law graduate at Stanford, one of US's top ranked Chess player) and Max Levchin (23

years, Ukrainian, Studied computer science at University of Illinois, had a passion for cryptography).

3. They opened a start-up named 'Confinity' with the vision of enabling money transfers on Palm Pilot and Personal Digital Assistants, the popular mobile devices of that time. Confinity gathered around 10000 users in 2 years but eventually had to be shut down due to the lack of momentum.
4. During their Confinity stint, one of their engineers built a prototype for receiving and send

payments over email.

5. Thiel and Levchin immediately sensed an opportunity as this method was much simpler than sending payments by linking the accounts.
6. Armed with this insight and innovation started a company which they called 'PayPal'.

7. PayPal started building the community of users (who wanted easy to use payment service) and the sellers (who would leverage PayPal as the default payment interface).
8. They overcame dotcom bust to emerge as winners in their chosen category.

9. Due to it's ease of use, more and more users from marketplaces like eBay started demanding support from the sellers. The positive feedback loops resulted in sellers supporting PayPal.
10. The growing popularity of PayPal caused eBay to launch a competitive payment method (Billpoint). But it failed to achieve traction.
11. Eventually, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.4 billion in stocks.

What learnings can one draw from this fascinating story ?

1. Diversity amplifies Innovation :

Recently, on the flight back to India I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie that wonderfully captures the extraordinary journey of the legendary band named Queen, their music and their iconic lead singer Freddie Mercury.

There's a scene early in the movie when the band gets its first offer with an agent. The agent asks the band why should he consider singing them up. One of the band members responds saying that we are not same, we are all different people. And Freddie adds- (yet) We’re family. We believe in each other. Later on in the movie, he also remarks 'We're four misfits who don't belong together, we're playing for other misfits.'

There's another scene that i am reminded of later in the movie. After achieving super-stardom, Freddie decides to leave the band and go solo. A series of events makes him realize his mistake of leaving the band and he makes honest efforts to meet the other band members. Upon meeting them, he makes an emotional pitch to them by conveying that during his solo stint, he hired few people to assist him and he did all that he said them to do without asking any question. Freddie then tells the band that he missed their feedback, their nagging, their questioning of his decisions that eventually made him and the band better.

The band was really a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, different temperaments, different choices, different personalities and yet united by music. This diversity led them to be each other's best critiques but also led them to be each other's trusted and respected advisors. It is no wonder Queen produced outstanding music with great consistency.

The case of PayPal just proves the connection of diversity and innovation beautifully. Peter Thiel and Max Levchin were from different age groups, different nationalities, different educational backgrounds, different interests yet they got together and built a lasting legacy with PayPal.

2. Frictionless user experience:

My professional career started in an era when the reach of software was primarily the enterprises. There were hardly any consumer centric software. In that era, organizations could get away easily with user experience issues as long as the software functioned.

We now live in an era when consumers are primary audience for software. With proliferation of mobile devices and mobile apps, applications dominate our lives. This has given altogether a new meaning for user experience and design. If users cant figure out an app in first few seconds, we have probably lost them to competitors forever. This consumer focus has eventually made it to enterprises and we often hear the terms such as 'consumerization of technology' being used often.

One of the reasons, users got hooked on to PayPal was that it reduced the friction involved in accepting online payments. User just needed email address and a credit card. Previous systems were complex due to many verification phases involved that made user acquisition difficult.

Image source:

#userexperience #diversity #innovation #paypal

Thursday, February 14, 2019

#podcastdiaries: Learnings from Avnish Bajaj and Deepak Jayaraman

I have been an avid consumer of podcasts and always in search of the good ones. Like books, good podcasts helps in shaping one's opinions and perspectives. Unlike books, podcasts often spread knowledge in a conversation mode between two or more achievers. A few years back, I got hooked on to podcasts as a source of learning driven by urge to use my commute time. Bangalore is notorious for it's pace of traffic and the commute times tends to be longer. But podcasts and audio books are the perfect allies in longer lonely commutes. I often wonder why there's hasn't been many business models to help people do high value activities during commute. Well, let's keep that discussion for a different day.

One of the podcast series that I am hooked on to, of late, is called "Play to Potential" by Deepak Jayaraman. A part of his intro from the podcast page reads -
'Deepak is a certified CEO Coach and is an alumnus of IIT Madras, IIM Ahmedabad and London Business School. His detailed profile can be found at'

The recent podcast that I listened to while on a recent flight was Deepak's conversation with Avnish Bajaj. Avnish is the co-founder and Managing Director at Matrix Partners – a Venture Investing firm, a firm that he set up around 11 years back. He did this at the back of a successful exit from when he sold it to eBay for USD 55 Million.

Here are a few of my learnings:

Definition of Passion:

What would you do with your time if you have all the money you need in the bank?

Education vs Learning:

- The pace of growth mostly depends on how fast you learn what is not taught.
- Most of the things can't be taught, they have to be learned.
- Self awareness and ruthless desire to learn and get better and stay at it is the key to long-term success.

Importance of time and commitment:

- Best founder's don't waste time. If the original market moves away, they create a new market.
- Best people meet or beat their commitment every time. Is the founder doing what he committed he will do?
- Book recommendation: Super forecasting. Anticipating events and taking action.

Evolve your judgement muscle:

- Book recommendation: Defining Moments.
- In early years, entrepreneurs makes 'right vs wrong' decisions. In later years, it is more about 'right vs right', that's where the muscle of judgment comes in.
- Jack Welch book. Hiring run rate. Make a note of who said what during hiring and check the outcomes say a 6 months back. Tells a lot about leaders judgment. Establishes a self learning loops.

Passion, Skill, Opportunity framework for careers:

- Japanese concept Ikigai: Passion, Skills, What the world needs, what the world is willing to pay for. 3rd and 4th combined can be thought of as opportunity.
- Book recommendation: Ikigai (Japanese) Where to play is at the intersection of passion, skills and opportunity.
- Money is the bridge between the needs and the wants. Interestingly, the wants often start disguising them as needs.

A tip if you are changing careers:

- Before changing the role or the profession, do consider talking to someone who has done that very job. Specifically ask- what is a day in the life of, what are the causes of stress.

On managing relationships:

- Focus on the right level of relationship, at right depth with right kind of people.

More book recommendations:

- Mindset, by Carol Dweck
- Give and Take, by Adam Grant

Some more of my inferences from this podcast:
I found the definition of passion such a profound way to discover what we are born to do. If we choose to cut the crap, the life truly is short enough to not do what we love to do.

I have seen people often consider completing formal education as a sort of end. Whereas the reality is that education is a journey and we should look to learn from every situation, people we meet, and commit to learn every day. Our tutors and mentors also cannot teach us everything under the sun. Our power to receive from every situation eventually defines how far we go in the game of business and life.

Source of the podcast:

Monday, February 11, 2019

How Airbnb Started and Two Lessons it Teaches Us

I came across this story while reading the book- Platform Revolution – How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy–and How to Make Them Work for You

Here is the summary:
1. In October 2007, there were two gentlemen named: Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. They were finding it difficult to pay their lofts rent. After much deliberation, they came up.with a novel idea.

2. There was a design conference happening in San Francisco. These guys put up an ad in the conference newsletter about the availability of a rented space at their loft. They positioned the ad as a unique opportunity to network with conference participants in a casual setting.

3. The ad fetched them 3 guests and 1000 USD, they were all set till next month. The first taste of success made them wonder if they can routinely offer such facility to other conferences. By not just lending their space but by also enabling others in the community who wished to lend their space.

4. Soon they had a website to help facilitate this interaction. And not so later they realized that the demand for such space isn't restricted to conferences but for general purpose stay. It was then they onboarded a new partner (Nathan Blecharczyk) to take care of business aspects.
Thus, the idea of Airbnb was born.

What learnings can one draw from this fascinating story ?

Hiring is the single biggest determinant of success of an enterprise:

One part of this story that struck with me was the hiring of Nathan Blecharczyk. Let me get to why in a moment and share a couple of stories from my recent interactions and work.

I recently met my previous boss and now a dear friend. He started his entrepreneurial stint not so long ago. We were discussing the challenges he was facing and he told me that he has already fired an employee from a key position. He admitted it was a hiring error. Good thing that this error got caught in the early days, bad thing that this error happened in first place.

One of the roles that I play in my organization is that of an innovation champion. One of the things that we teach the teams engaged in innovation projects is the team formation. Each team is expected to have a hacker (programmer), hipster (designer) and hustler(customer facing).In years of running these programs, I can safely conclude that the teams that get the right people in the right role early, emerge as having the most impact. The teams that get role formation wrong struggle to make fast enough progress.

Citing these examples and what Airbnb did with getting Nathan Blecharczyk on the team early, I can safely convey that hiring is the single most important decision that an organization can take. No idea remains the same as it was at the time of conception. All it takes is the right people with laser sharp focus to drive pivot and give idea a shape.

Vitamin vs Painkiller:

Was the solution that Airbnb chose to unveil- a vitamin or a painkiller?
The startups that find a customer pain point and attempt to solve them (aka painkiller) are often well-recognized than the startups that are solving for problems users don't know it exists (aka vitamins).

The case of Airbnb in that context is interesting because it solved founder's own problem. With some iterations and experiments, the founding team were able to extrapolate and figure out that the problem of affordable accommodation is somehow associated with most of the travelers. This was something traditional hotels with huge operations cost didn't even dare to solve.

Summary of learnings:

1. Hiring is single most important decision that any organization can undertake. Don't make mistake of treating hiring as just another activity.
2. To be successful at building a start-up, find a real customer pain. Make your solution outside-in (pain discovery first, solution later) and not inside-out (solution first, pain discovery later)

Image source:

#hiring #customerpain #rightpeople #rightproblem #airbnb #turningpaintoopportunity

Monday, February 4, 2019

One Minute Blog: Runs End, Running Doesn't

completed Singapore full Marathon on 9th-December. This was my 17th-full marathon+ distance overall. It was a great run, unforgiving weather (hot and humid) till it rained a bit at fag end around 41 km mark.
It is often said that:
"Runs end, Running doesn't".
Each marathon teaches you something and reaching finish line tends to make you better than when one started the run.

Following are usually the phases one goes through while going through the full marathon-

0 km: I know I can do it.
14 km: It's getting painful. Did I make the right choice choosing to do it?
30 km: Why the hell did I start? Is it really worth it?
35 km: I am close to giving up.
40 km: I think I can push a little.
42.195 km: Never experienced a high like this.

Does this cycle sounds familiar with anything insurmountable that was ever attempted?

Oprah Winfrey was bang on target when she said-
"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."

Sunday, February 3, 2019

What I learned from the book 'How to Talk to Anyone'

When I started reading actively years back, I developed a fascination for the self-help books. One of the early ones that I remember to have read was Dale Carnegie's classic- 'How to win friends and influence people', Norman Vincent Peale's 'The power of positive thinking" and many such. These books were classics of their time but their reach and charm really spanned across generations.

Over the years, my liking for the "How to' type books really diminished as I developed interest in other areas. Self-help books also tended to be more preachy in nature. Being preachy is not always uninteresting but without a strong corresponding stories and only messages, reading such stuff tends to be boring.

Fast forward to yesterday, on a long journey to the US (that brutally takes 24 plus hours, if you count the hours as soon as you step out of home for airport), my choice of book was intriguing given the background that I shared above. My book companion in this journey was Leil Lowndes's: 'How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships'

You might wonder why again an 'How to' book as I had declared my eventual dislike for it. Honestly, I picked it up because I found the theme of the book interesting. Talking to people is such a fundamental aspect of being a human but yet only a few manage to master it. 
I found another reason why I should read this book in the initial few pages of this book. With due respect to Dale Carnegie, the author raised an important point where she says most of the Dale's work and a few that succeeded him focused on 'What' needs to be done when driving a change in behavior, but it rarely focused on 'How' to achieve what needs to be done. People may be aware of what they lack bit usually where they falter is in figuring out how to change the behavior. The book, she says addresses the say-do gap or more precisely, the know-do gap in some ways.

In my long flight I managed to go through almost half of the book and my attempt in this blog is to put down what I remember the first time what I read. Here are a few points (in no particular order):

1. A near-ideal body language, posture is: a head-up look, a confident smile and a direct gaze.

2. According to a study, our body gives close to 10000 signals a second on how our mind is functioning. Your body is a 24 hour broadcasting station revealing how you precisely feel in a given situation.

3. When meeting someone new, don't display a quick smile. A delayed smile, after almost a second of meeting, has more impact. Don't flash an immediate smile when you great someone.

4. Don't break eye contact with a person after he/she has finished speaking. An extra two seconds of eye contact can give an impression of you being more sensitive and caring.

5. When meeting someone new, think of them as a long lost friend. Will help ease the nerves, build more authenticity and remove barriers.

6. Whenever your conversation really counts, do not fidget. Let your nose itch, or your foot prickle. Unnecessary hand motions can give a feeling of being not 100% in the moment.

7. Visualize conversation success. Visualization works best when you feel totally relaxed, with a calm state of mind.

8. More often 'How' you say something matters more than 'What' you say. Show passion.

9. Never, ever, give just one sentence response to the question 'Where are you from'. Give some additional engaging detail that can help the asker take the conversation forward.

10. When asked 'What do you do', don't just say your designation or your broader profession name. Say some delicious facts about your role that can engage the people.

11. Be a word detective. Pick up interesting words that your conversation partner might throw and ask to elaborate. A good way to show interest in others and that you are totally in the moment.

12. Don't leave home without knowing the latest news about the area you are in. This knowledge acts as a communication feeder.

13. How did you find out what someone does for a living. Don't ask 'What do you do'. Rather ask- 'How do you spend most of your time?'

14. Only fifty words makes the difference between a rich, creative vocabulary and an average middle of the road one. Think of a few tired, overworked words you use everyday like smart, nice, pretty, good etc. Substitute a words a day for two months and you can be verbally elite.

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