Why Curbing Your Fear of Being Alone Leads to Better Thinking

thinker

Apparently hell is not other people but your own mind.

It seems that everybody always has to be engaged and entertained, from the divertissements of Netflix and swiping time away with your phone to a fevered expectation to keep doing stuff — be productive and social and busy! — as if all that defined a full life.

The idea that doing something trumps doing nothing is no new phenomenon that’s just been ushered in by the age of smartphones and Twitter and keeping up with various Kardashians. In 1670, French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Pascal was right. The aversion to tuning into yourself and hanging out in your own head has deep, human consequences for how we think, create, learn, lead, and are even ourselves.

Continue Reading

This Startup Pays You to Learn How to Code

Jeff Vincent Wistia

Learning the new literacy of the 21st century doesn’t come cheap.

Hack Reactor, a code school in San Francisco, costs a breathtaking $17,780 in tuition for 12 weeks of instruction. A semester at Cornell Engineering costs $23,525.

But if you learn to code, the rewards are great. Hack Reactor boasts a 99% graduate hiring rate at an average annual salary of $105,000. A fresh, 22-year-old recent graduate of the computer science from Cornell can expect a salary around $95,670. In short, learning to code is one of the most valuable skills you can develop.

Companies like Wistia are offering a brilliant way around the expensive world of software engineering education. Wistia actively looks to hire non-technical people who want to learn how to code, pays them to work in customer support, and trains them on how to become a software developer. In time, the skills they develop rival what they’d learn in school, the employees are in a position to become professional developers, and they’re well-compensated to learn and grow in a supportive, practical setting.

Continue Reading

The Extreme Productivity Philosophy that Created Facebook and PayPal

mark zuckerberg growth

Back in 2005, long before they began approaching $10 billion in annual revenue, everyone thought that Facebook was a cool app, but no one thought that it would ever make any money.  Observers laughed at the idea that Facebook could be a real business.

With that backdrop of doubters and detractors, Noah Kagan, employee #30 at Facebook, pitched Mark Zuckerberg with what he thought was a genius idea: prove the Facebook skeptics wrong and show them that the fledgling startup could make real money.

As Kagan recounts the story, Mark listened to the pitch and then wrote out one word on a whiteboard: “GROWTH.” Then he “proclaimed he would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of ‘users.’”

To Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley luminaries like PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel, the secret to productivity is this: focus is singular. You don’t get three or four or five. You only get one.

Continue Reading

How to Tell When A Manager Is Really Productive

what do managers do all day

What do managers do all day?

This is one of the great, constant mysteries of worklife. According to management expert Peter Drucker, what a manager does all day is set objectives, organize, motivate and communicate, measure, and develop people. The problem is, these tasks are so fuzzy that doing them makes it look like you’re not doing anything.

Your role is to help your team make meaningful progress, which means that your primary concern isn’t about you but the people you manage and how they’re doing. As Michael Lopp, veteran engineering manager, puts it: “Their productivity is your productivity.

A manager’s job is mystifying because it’s so hard to understand what this transitive type of productivity looks like. You have to redefine what it means to get stuff done and how to measure your manager productivity.

Continue Reading

What You Don’t Know About Internal Motivation May Harm Your Career

winning

So you want to build a billion-dollar company, and it’s because you want to make people’s lives better by solving a problem while hitting it big, rich, and famous. Sounds like a winning combo of incentives to drive you to achieve startup success.

It’s not like both motives can’t coexist. Humans, complex beings that we are, walk around with a jumble of intentions, impulses, and aspirations in our heads — instead of one clearcut reason for why we do things.

The thing is, you would think that having multiple motives would result in, well, more motivational power. When you can hit two goals with one activity, don’t you just have more incentive to do the activity? If you want that promotion because you get to expand your skillset and increase your prestige, doesn’t that help drive you even harder to go for it?

There’s one problem. There’s a tricky truth about motivation that might be preventing your best performance.

Continue Reading

The 60% Rule: The Humbling Reason Why It’s Vital that You Encourage Autonomy at Work

product visionaries

Breakthrough products are created out of thin air by a singular product visionary — your Steve Jobsian figure in a black turtleneck and a ponderous look. He yells at people and tells them what to do, until it’s perfect and done.

To Chris Savage, co-founder and CEO of Wistia, one of the biggest video hosting sites on the web for businesses, that’s a widespread misconception that can harm the way you run your business.

Chris has a rule of thumb on making product decisions that’s both incredibly humbling to all you Jobs disciples out there and imperative to grasp. The rule is this: the very best of us only get product decisions right 60% of the time. The rest of the time, we’re wrong.

Continue Reading

Managers Are Blind to How the Sausage Gets Made, Literally

SUCCESS

When Toy Story broke box office records and Pixar was the biggest IPO of 1995, it seemed that company co-founder and president, Ed Catmull, had finally made it. He not only met his twenty-year-long goal of making the first computer graphics movie, he also created a successful company. “As a manager, I felt a troubling lack of purpose. Now what?” he wondered. Would he “merely” run a company? What was special about that?

His outlook changed upon learning he’d been completely oblivious to something that had put Pixar at risk, throwing his beliefs about success into a new light. Managing in a successful company is in fact a demanding, evolving, and rewarding job. The special challenge is to cultivate and maintain conditions, context, and culture that you can’t always see.

Just because you think you can see how the sausage is made doesn’t mean you really know what’s going on in your team and company. In fact, success and great qualities can even obscure problems, creating a peculiar blindness for diligent managers on their toes. Even when you have what seems like a winning combination of talented leaders, rising fortunes, and good intentions, you can still miss something vital.

Continue Reading

Why You Shouldn’t Build a Billion-Dollar Startup

billion (3)

Entrepreneurs dream about building the next big billion-dollar company. But the Apple, Google, and Facebook-shaped stars in their eyes end up clouding their vision. It’s easy to get caught up imagining your company going viral and getting to millions of users — all before your business has made a single dollar.

All the hopes and visions in the world won’t get you any closer to your billion-dollar exit. In fact, setting out to build a billion-dollar startup is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Gary Chou, an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, teaches his students how to launch a startup by taking a completely divergent approach. His course in Entrepreneurial Design has an unexpected syllabus for a business class: forget about creating a business plan or making a pitch deck for a fictitious billion-dollar unicorn company. Instead, get out there and do it — create a real $1,000-dollar company.

Chou’s assignment is to create a business that will produce $1,000 in monthly profit in a way that’s repeatable and sustainable. What has emerged from this exercise includes real profitable, ongoing businesses and funded Kickstarter projects. But beyond the money that’s been made and the companies created, what’s most important is the experience and knowledge you take away — for if you take on the challenge of building a $1,000 startup, you’ll learn three invaluable lessons.

Continue Reading

This Company Made Millions Because There Was Nothing Going On

harvest

Harvest is a multimillion-dollar, fantastically profitable, growing business that boasts thousands of customers from freelancers to Fortune 500 companies. The company has grown to over 30 employees and boasts one of the most beautiful tech offices in New York City.

But it’s how they did it that’s most impressive — over the course of 10 years, without a dime of outside investment, 100% bootstrapped, and in the city of New York.

In an age of tech celebrity, high-profile fundraises, and billion-dollar acquisitions, it’s how Harvest founders Shawn Liu and Danny Wen’s achieved success that you’ll find incredible. What Shawn told me was their secret ingredient is something you’ll never guess.

Continue Reading

3 Psychological Traps that Keep Your Startup in the Trough of Sorrow

startup-curve

You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow. No matter what you do, nothing in your company is improving.

You look around you, and everyone you know is crushing it. Their companies are getting acquired, they’re raising huge funding rounds, and they’re announcing new product features that people love.

But not you. You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow, and it feels like you’ll never get out. It’s emotionally trying and tough to handle psychologically, and you’ll want to quit. That’s why famed startup investor Paul Graham has said that the number one underlying cause of startup death is that “the [founders] become demoralized.”

How you handle those plateaus, psychologically, will determine whether you remain stalled there forever and your company ends up in the startup graveyard. You’ll face these three psychological traps — avoid them, and you’ll have a chance of making it out alive on the other side.

Continue Reading