I recall a fascinating conversation with ruchi sometime back. She asked – who is a true friend? Someone who is sad at your loss or happy for your success.
My instant reaction was the former. All our lives we have been trained to believe a friend in need is a friend indeed.
She offered a different perspective. A true friend is one who is happy for your success because the hardest thing for a human is to be happy at someone else’s success. And this means genuine well meaning happiness.
It makes sense to me now.
But here is the deal with finding a true friend. It applies to your own self too.
Do me a favor.
Celebrate your success more than you mourn your failure.
“The first time” is a wonderful thing.
It’s exciting. It’s appealing. No one expects wonders. Everyone is forgiving. You can fail and people call it learning. And there is always a second chance.
What if there wasn’t?
What if, the first time you are doing something, will be the last thing you will ever do?
Will you do it differently?
Then do it differently everytime.
There is no first time!
There is only a time when you did it like you were starting.
And a time when you did it as if it would be the only thing you would be remembered for!
A middle class hard working guy owned a horse. One day, while he was passing through the forest on his horse, he was stopped by an ailing poor man. The poor man wanted a ride.
Moved by his condition, the horse owner stopped, climbed down and with great effort placed the ailing man on top of the horse.
At that very instant, the ailing man threw his cloak away to show that he was indeed a robber. Just as he prepared to run away with the horse, the owner stopped him and said
Do me a favor. Don’t ever share this story with anyone.
Because then no one will ever stop to help a poor man again.
There are a lot of human traits that I cannot stand. Cynicism is one of them.
I have lied
I have cheated
I have broken rules
I have been unfair
I have been judgmental
Buy I rarely will be accused of being cynical. Because it’s so fundamentally against my worldview that to win you have got to trust others.
The story above is from school. I don’t even remember which class, perhaps 4th or 5th. But it’s somehow stayed with me so far.
It’s a fascinating reflection of how we operate in our lives, choosing to not trust people because of our experiences or worse still that of others.
The opposite of being cynical is not being gullible! It’s trust. The belief that the basic instinct of every human is to mean no harm.
Innocent until proven guilty
Try it once
Everyone around you tells you to work hard. You know it yourself too. This seems to be the magical key to success.
But what is working hard?
Most people surprisingly don’t know the answer. They don’t even bother. The simplest approach for most is to start clocking the hours. Strangely not knowing what for!
But here is the deal about working hard. It means making yourself uncomfortable. It means doing something that you always knew you had to, but didn’t thus far.
Public speaking for the shy
Working out for the unhealthy
Quick decisions for the cautious
Intuition for the calculative
EQ for the IQ
Because each time you chose not to do so, there is someone out there who is working hard at it.
Maybe your Idol!
Work so hard that your Idol becomes your rival
On my way to the gym there is a corner which always have a bunch of college students trying to hitch a ride.
I stop mostly. And have a nice morning chat before dropping them in front of the gates, which incidentally little more than a km away.
For the past few mornings I didn’t.
And I noticed that further along the road are some kids walking this path. At times trying to hitch, uncomfortably. But clearly ahead of the herd that stopped for someone to pick them up.
I gave a ride to one of them this morning. And it was a conversation that was the most fascinating ever. About his favorite subject in college.
That set me thinking. We humans are suckers for the herd. We gave undue importance to a mass gathering. Thinking that’s where the action is.
While there may be someone ahead of this mass. Not looking for help. Just walking their way through. At times charting their own path.
It’s usually the usual that attracts instantly.
It’s usually the unusual that delivers the most.
At times, let’s try and give the mass a miss.
Data, massive amounts, hits us everyday as we live our lives. Most of which we ignore. Some of which we process. And some of which we never expected.
Over the years, this data makes us smarter. We know how to respond to data that we have seen before. And “unexpected” data occurs much lesser, though still does.
The world calls this data gathering process as experience.
I call it passive learning!
No one starts their day telling themselves “today I am going to learn how to fire someone” or “today I am going to know how to react to predatory pricing by my competition” or “today I am going to learn how to handle losing your cofounder”.
It seems that our experience is not a process rather a matter of chance.
What if it wasn’t?
What if we sought out experiences, either by listening to others, or by forcing ourselves in situation where we experienced them ourselves.
What if we became active learners, even if the experience is secondary.
“For sure” Secondary experiences > “Maybe” Primary experiences
Something I read several years ago has always stated with me
I have never regretted firing someone. I have only regretted how late I did it.
And so the question stems – how long before you fire someone.
I would start at the selection itself.
Groupon has this test we give every candidate before the interview. It’s a simple test comprising questions on general awareness, quantitative ability, verbal reasons and psychometric profiling.
Here is the deal. We have made every existing grouponer take that test. And now have average scores for each function.
So every new hire needs to be above the average score of the function they are being interviewed for.
There have been 5 instances where we made a hire despite the scores being lower. Each of those exited the system within 3-6 months. I regret making the call to hire them.
And then I would take a call after their first month.
It’s the most important month. At the end of 30 days I send a note to everyone, checking how the month went. Are they having fun. Are they enjoying their work. Are their managers and team members treating them well.
91% of those that didn’t reply to these emails left us or were asked to leave, within 3 months of their joining.
Sometimes, all you need to take a decision is just a signal.
Archive (doesn’t warrant reaction or decision)
Reply (take a decision)
Compose (create a new task or seek help)
And here is what most people do wrong
I wrote to Indra Nooyi yesterday.
One of her interviews inspired me to write a personal letter to the families of our top performers. Acknowledging them for the invisible support they extend in the growth of the organization.
She hasn’t replied.
She perhaps never will.
But it feels comforting that I have left a timestamp of acknowledgment. Just as she so did through her interview.
So many people to learn from
So many things to learn
So many timestamps to read
And to leave
The two are not equal.
A productive day is when you glance into the future and take decisions to reach there from where you are today. Let’s call this a workshop.
A busy day is when you glance into the past to see how you landed in the present. Let’s call this a review.
Here is the thing about review. They rarely move you forward. Because they end up being just that – a review. Shifting a review into a workshop is an art.
And a necessity!
The markets are bad
The product isn’t there as yet
The systems failed
The team size was small
The long weekend impacted sales
The traffic was bad
The hours are long and I don’t have time
The money isn’t enough
The excuses I have for not delivering on my promise are unlimited
The helpless story equates excuses to output
Unfortunately, it isn’t
Instead, try the ownership story
I will make time
I will find a workaround
I will solve this
I will get it done
And if I don’t, I will not shield behind an excuse.
We have an awesome culture
We have the smartest people
We have free lunch
We have low attrition
We have great compensation figures
We have an open door policy
We are awesome!
Here is what we have done
Here is what we want to do
Here is why it’s not a trivial problem to solve
Here is why we need the smartest people to work on this
Here is why we think you are perfect for the role
Here is what you will get to do
Here is the team you will get to work with
Here is why you will make us awesome!
Pitch 2: 1
Pitch 1: 0
Output: Here is what I was supposed to do and I have done it
Outcome: Here is what my output was supposed to achieve. And I have achieved it.
Own the outcome. Not the output.
Don’t convert yourself into a checklist.
I have been extremely lucky in life to be part of tribes that I wasn’t deserving of, in the first place.
ISB – got through with less than 2 years of experience.
Kearney – got through despite not being a top ranker.
Entrepreneur – became one completely by accident
Rocket – got through after a 15 min meeting
Groupon – was asked to lead with no such prior experience or exposure
Fortune – can count 100 more people who could be part of the list instead of me
I am the wild card entry in all these. The guy on the fence. The not so obvious choice.
Here is the deal with wild card entries
No one expects you to win.
No one knows about you either.
No one expects you to contribute.
And the only direction you can go is up!
The only thing you can do is to observe the obvious entrants and learn
And perhaps someday you won’t be wild card anymore
Reading people is an art
Reading them right is a blessing
Misrreading people is lack of practice
Misreading people to suit your bias is a habit
The key to read them is not to classify them as adjectives. Rather to figure their probable reactions to situations.
Everyone has a good side and a dark side. Capable of loving and hurting. Capable of being loyal and back-stabbing. Capable of being thoughtful and selfish.
Question is: when do they behave which way?
Being comfortable with just yourself is a blessing.
The first 1.5 days of Beijing – I communicated with the world only through my lens and pictures on my phone. Didn’t speak a word. Simply walked the streets in the bitter yet sunny cold. Capturing faces, structures and culture. Occassionally singing to myself. Not missing where I came from because I know I could always go back to it when I wanted. While this new world will only last for 3 days.
It would be amazing if we started each day as if it were in a new city. You don’t know anyone or anything. And you only have yourself. Would you live it differently?
Fascinating conversation with an industry colleague, this morning.
Key take away
Companies don’t need to scale up in numbers, to scale up
They need to scale up in mindset!