Thursday, December 31, 2020



Back in 2005, Noah Kagan (employee #30 at Facebook) was concerned that FB wasn't making enough money & wanted to share his ideas with Mark Zuckerberg. Mark heard him but pushed back. On a whiteboard he wrote the word, “GROWTH.” He proclaimed he would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of “users.”

Mark's response helped Noah channelize his thinking around one metric that mattered the most- 'User growth'

It reinforces that focus is singular, a philosophy that is popularly endorsed by Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal). Thiel's 'One Thing' philosophy built a culture that led employees to think about not 3 or 4 but just '1 most important priority'.

It was based on the premise that if you allow yourself to have more than one focus, you’ve already blinked. You’ve determined that mediocrity is an acceptable outcome.(

'One-thing' thinking becomes even more important in today's times when we are spoilt for choices, where we have become content consumption machines (blame social media or our habits) which gives us fair share of ideas but also comes at a cost of distraction.

What strategies do you use to focus on your highest priorities ?

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Sunday, December 27, 2020


 One of the most endearing images for me in IPL 2020 was that of the veteran spinner Imran Tahir giving lesson on spin bowling to young Riyan Parag after CSK vs RR match (here- Riyan is probably half the age of Imran and both belong to opposite teams. This not only tells us about the magic that boundarylessness creates but also about the power of pure mentorship.

Another story that i am fascinated by is that of Julius Yego. Julius Yego is a Kenyan track and field athlete who competes in the Javelin throw. He won World Championships gold medal in 2015. He also won silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics. But Yego’s claim to uniqueness isn’t just that. He is also nick-named as “Mr. YouTube” because he learned how to throw by watching YouTube videos. He reached the highest level by being insanely driven and learning on his own but at the later stages in his evolution he took to formal mentor and coaches.

Even if you are a rookie in your field or a successful pro, having the right mentor at right time adds immense value. The moot question becomes "How to find a mentor". I quite liked simple ideas shared in this tweet on finding a mentor which i loved to sketch.

How have you leveraged mentorship in your career ?

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 Here's a story of Abhinav Bindra and his efforts to become India’s only individual Olympic Gold medallist

In Athens 2004, he came a disappointing 7th in the Olympics final after shooting what he thought was a perfect game. Only much later did he find out that the lane position he was allotted had a loose tile underfoot, which reverberated every time he shot. In a game of micrometers, it mattered a lot. Months later, he had 2 obvious choices- one, quit the sport, or two, carry on & accept the incident as ‘bad luck’. He rather chose the 3rd option. He chose the quest for adaptability- to try & be perfect on an imperfect day. He started training under deliberately imperfect conditions, even installing a lose tile in his home range & practicing regularly while standing on it. He trained under low lights & bright lights, adjusted bulbs & added shadows, painted the walls the same colours as the relevant Olympic ranges.

Rather than accepting his fate & blaming luck, he chose the path of most resistance & simulated the unlikeliest of match situations in his quest for perfection.

"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done"
(source: Thanks Rohit Kaila for an inspirational share)

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 I recently got a chance to go through Abhijit Bhaduri's Dreamers and Unicorns podcast with Ravi Venkatesan. During my executive management graduation time, i had a great opportunity to be face-to-face with Ravi as he taught us a subject based on his book- 'Conquering the Chaos' .

I valued the thoughts shared in this podcast for the clarity, depth and relevance of the conversation. Sharing the summary of what i could capture below (and via the #sketchnote)

Evolution of Jobs:
- In my father's generation, you entered a tunnel and emerged 35 years later in to retirement. Then, you have to probably navigate around 3 tunnels.
- In today's times, you have to navigate a maze. The game has changed profoundly.

The Beginner's mindset:
- Love the idea of Zen mind or a beginners mind. Always nurture your childlike mind.
- At any given time, take one area where you are a complete beginner. That keeps your mind active and alive.Repeatedly put yourself out of comfort zone by taking on fresh challenges.
- Focus on your skills and the reputation capital.

About Dreams:
- Too many people park their dream, they don't pursue it.
- Life is uncertain, you shouldn't postpone your dream.

Which of the thoughts resonated the most with you ?

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I was recently reading the book "Super Thinking: Upgrade Your Reasoning and Make Better Decisions with Mental Models" and it does a wonderful job of introducing various mental models that can help positively shape our thinking.

A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. Mental models are how we understand the world and uncomplexify it.

As the author, Shane Parrish says- "The quality of our thinking is proportional to the models in our head and their usefulness in the situation at hand. The more models you have—the bigger your toolbox—the more likely you are to have the right models to see reality."

In this context, sharing this twitter thread ( that beautifully summarizes (check #sketchnote) some of the mental models used by Tobi Lutke, the CEO of Shopify e.g.

Kasparov had a "SYSTEMS MINDSET" for analyzing his chess mistakes, e.g. Pawn to E4 lost the game
Outcome mindset = "Don't do Pawn to E4 again".
Systems mindset = "What was the mental routines that occurred before I made that decision? Don't do them again"

More here:
- Be a student of first principles
- Embrace transfer learning
- Talent stack led by curiosity > MBA

What are some of the mental models that have helped you in your life's journey ?

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Every game in life is actually played on a 6-inch ground, the space between your two ears


Martina Navratilova, the tennis legend, was once asked by a journalist,

“How do you maintain your focus, physique and sharp game even at the age of 43?”

She gave a humble reply,

“The ball does not know how old I am.” and she further says:

"You need to stop yourself from stopping yourself. Every game in life is actually played on a 6-inch ground, the space between your two ears. We don’t live in bungalows, duplexes or flats. We live in our mind which is an unlimited area. We keep on talking and thinking thoughts that are negative that affects our entire lives. Just like a bee that keeps on buzzing the whole day, we too keep on buzzing unwanted thoughts in our heads 24×7. Life is great when things are sorted out and uncluttered there."

The way you talk to yourself creates your reality.
Of course, we all know the fundamental lesson here but in the spirit of restating the good stuff, sharing this post.

Ending this post with a quote from Venus Williams, another Tennis legend:

"Tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there."

Have a great week ahead.

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