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Posts Tagged ‘success’

How to Improve Your Chances for Success in Life

From Stan Hayward on Quora with an answer to “What can I start doing now that will help me a lot in about 5 years?

 

  • Keep a diary
  • Write down the key points of what you did for the day. This may be trivial, but it will show how you spend your day.
  • Write down thoughts you have for doing even simple things like buying something. This will show where your money goes.
  • At the end of every month do a summary of what you have done, and mark out things you have achieved for the month, or failed to achieve. This includes your income, health, buying items, fixing things.
  • Put a value on your time. If you assess your time as being worth $20 an hour then assess everything you do at that rate. So if writing and posting a letter takes half an hour, then it costs $10.
  • Give yourself short term goals. Write down what you hope to achieve in the next month. Then assess how well you did it. If you failed then write down why.
  • You need to plan your personal life like you would plan a company. Put a value on what you do, who you know, how much you pay for anything, and how much your possessions and actions further your goals.
  • Get rid of excess baggage. This covers items you don’t need, habits that are distractions, friends who you will not miss, hobbies that absorb your resources.
  • Mix with people who have similar goals to yourself.
  • Do not assume you will ever have time to do things you can’t do now or soon.
  • Learn the difference between Urgent and Important
  • Don’t rely on others to solve your problems. Try to solve all your own problems even if they can be solved with money or help. Learning how to fix a tap washer may seem needless, but it gives an insight into problem solving.
  • Find out how other people solved their problems or failed to.
  • Take an interest  in people. Success comes from knowing how people work, not how things work.

 

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Uncommon Career Advice

From an anonymous Quora user with an answer to “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” Some of the best career advice I’ve ever come across.

 

  • Small actions compound: Reputation, career trajectory, and how others perceive you in the workplace can come down down to a handful of things/moments that seem inconsequential/small at the time but compound. Random Thought:Redwood trees come from small seeds and time. With every action you’re planting small seeds and these seeds can grow into something bigger (sometimes unimaginably bigger) over time. Don’t let small basic mistakes sabotage your reputation because it only takes a few small snafus for people to lose confidence/trust in your ability to do more important tasks. Trust is a fragile thing and the sooner people can trust you the faster they’ll give you more responsibility. Some Examples: Being on time (always) or early (better); spending an extra 10-15 minutes reviewing your work and catching basic mistakes before your boss does; structuring your work so it’s easy for others to understand and leverage (good structure/footnotes/formatting); taking on unpleasant schleps/tasks (volunteer for them; don’t complain; do it even when there’s no apparent benefit to you)

 

  • Rising tide lifts all boats: Fact: You don’t become CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company in your 30s based purely on ability/talent. Your career is a boat and it is at the mercy of tides. No matter how talented you are it’s a lot harder to break out in a sluggish situation/hierarchy/economy than a go-go environment. Even if you’re a superstar at Sluggish Co., your upside trajectory (more often than not) is fractional to what an average/below average employee achieves at Rocket Ship Co. There’s a reason Eric Schmidt told Sheryl Sandberg to “Get on a Rocket Ship”. I had colleagues accelerate their careers/income/title/responsibility simply because business demand was nose bleed high (go go economy) and they were at the right place at the right time to ride the wave. Contrast that to the 2008 bust where earnings/promotions/careers have been clamped down and people are thankful for having jobs let alone moving up. Yes talent still matters but I think people generally overweight individual talent and underweight economics when evaluating/explaining their career successes. Sheryl Sandberg Quote: When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.

 

  • Seek opportunities where the outcome is success or failure. Nothing in between: You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen. I was once told early in my career that you learn the most in 1) rapidly growing organizations or 2) failing organizations. I’ve been in both kinds of situations and wholeheartedly agree. Repeat. Get on a rocket ship. It’ll either blow up or put you in orbit. Either way you’ll learn a ton in a short amount of time. Put another way, seek jobs where you can get 5-10 years of work experience in 1-2 years.

 

  • Career Tracks & Meritocracies don’t exist: Your career is not a linear, clearly defined trajectory.  It will be messy and will move more like a step function.

 

  • You will probably have champions and detractors on day 1: One interesting byproduct of the recruiting & hiring process of most organizations is it can create champions & detractors before you even start the job. Some folks might not like how you were brought into the organization (they might have even protested your hiring) and gun for you at every turn while others will give you the benefit of the doubt (even when you don’t deserve one) because they stuck their neck out to hire you. We’re all susceptible to these biases and few people truly evaluate/treat folks on a blank slate.

 

  • You’ll only be known for a few things. Make those labels count: People rely on labels as quick filters. Keep this in mind when you pick an industry/company/job role/school because it can serve as an anchor or elevator in the future. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. You should always be aware of what your “labels” are.

 

  • Nurture & protect your network and your network will nurture & protect you: Pay it forward and help people. Your network will be one of the biggest drivers of your success.

 

Stupid Things Smart People Do

From Lee Semel on Quora answering “What are some stupid things that smart people do?

 

  • Ignoring the importance of design and style – When the iPod originally came out, technical people complained about its lack of features and perceived high price (“ooh, who cares about another MP3 player, I can go buy one at Best Buy for $50” http://forums.macrumors.com/show…).  In the meantime, it was so cool and easy to use that normal people went out in droves to buy it.
  • Using terrible tools, and taking pride in their awfulness – Especially common with programmers, who take pride in using programming languages and text editors that have been designed by programmers, not updated since the 1970s, and never touched by anyone with a modicum of design sense. They believe that mastering arcane, overcomplicated commands and processes are a mark of pride, rather than a waste of time.  I will refrain from singling out specific programming languages and tools here, because smart people also like to get caught up in pointless flame wars about this sort of thing.
  • Following the pack – Many smart people often seem to be followers, probably because they grow up spending so much time pleasing others via academic and extracurricular achievement that they never figure out what they really like to work on or try anything unique.  Smart people from top schools tend to flock into the same few elite fields, as they try to keep on achieving what other people think they should achieve, rather than figuring out whatever it is they intrinsically want to do.
  • Failing to develop social skills – Some smart people focus exclusively on their narrow area of interest and never realize that everything important in life is accomplished through other people.  They never try to improve their social skills, learn to network, or self promote, and often denigrate people who excel in these areas. If you are already a good engineer you are going to get 10x the return on time spent improving how you relate to other people compared to learning the next cool tool.
  • Focusing on being right above all else – Many smart people act as if being right trumps all else, and go around bluntly letting people know when they are wrong, as if this will somehow endear others to them.  They also believe that they can change other people’s minds through argument and facts, ignoring how emotional and irrational people actually are when it comes to making decisions or adopting beliefs.
  • Letting success in one area lead to overconfidence in others – Smart people sometimes think that just because they are expert in their field, they are automatically qualified in areas about which they know nothing.  For instance, doctors have a reputation as being bad investors:http://medicaleconomics.modernme….
  • Underrating effort and practice – For smart people, many things come easily without much effort.  They’re constantly praised for “being smart” whenever they do anything well.  The danger is that they become so reliant on feeling smart and having people praise them, that they avoid doing anything that they’re not immediately great at.  They start to believe that if you’re not good at something from the beginning, you’re destined to always be terrible at it, and the thing isn’t worth doing.  These smart people fail to further develop their natural talents and eventually fall behind others who, while less initially talented, weren’t as invested in “being smart” and instead spent more time practicing.  http://nymag.com/news/features/2…
  • Engaging in zero sum competitions with other smart people – Many smart people tend to flock to fields which are already saturated with other smart people.  Only a limited number of people can become a top investment banker, law partner, Fortune 500 CEO, humanities professor, or Jeopardy champion.  Yet smart people let themselves be funneled into these fields and relentlessly compete with each other for limited slots.  They all but ignore other areas where they could be successful, and that are less overrun by super-smart people.   Instead of thinking outside the box, smart people often think well within a box, a very competitive box that has been set up by other people and institutions to further someone else’s interests at the expense of the smart person.
  • Excessively focusing on comparing their achievements with others – Smart people who have been raised in a typical achievement-focused family or school can get anxious about achievement to the point of ridiculousness.  This leads to people earnestly asking questions like: Success: If I haven’t succeeded in my mid 20s, could I be successful in the rest of my life? andAre you a failure if you are not a billionaire by age 30? What about 40?
  • Ignoring diminishing returns on information – Smart people are often voracious readers and can absorb huge quantities of information on any subject.  They get caught up in reading every last bit of information on subjects that interest them, like investing, lifehacking, or tech specs of products they’re planning on buying.   While some information is useful in making a decision, poring through the vast amount of information available online can be a waste of time.  They end up spending a lot of time gathering information without taking action.
  • Elitism – Smart people often use smartness as measure of the entire worth of a person.  They fail to see the value in or even relate with people who are different.  This is illustrated by the Yale professor who doesn’t have the slightest idea what to say to his plumber: http://www.theamericanscholar.or….  And questions like Am I an elitist to think that most people are stupid?

David vs. Goliath: Small vs. Big Agencies at Social Media Week LA

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Earlier this week I attended a panel held at HUGE LA for Social Media Week called “David vs. Goliath: How Do Big Agencies and Small Agencies Stack Up In The New Gig Economy?” Panelists included industry people who have worked on both sides of the fence.

The general consensus seemed to be that larger companies can be riddled with extra layers and bureaucracy that make it difficult for them to react quickly, although bigger agencies do have a greater amount of resources to draw from as well as name recognition.

On the other hand, small agencies were seen as more nimble and tend to adopt a startup mentality (functioning with small teams, giving employees the ability to make autonomous decisions, etc.).

One area where I think we could have probed further was whether or not companies should focus on growing or staying small. I know – it might sound counterintuitive: shouldn’t every company try to get as big as Wal-mart?

Not necessarily. One panelist mentioned “running lean” – an idea repeated a lot in the startup community, where you only hire and add staff when you absolutely need to to satisfy demand for your product or service.

In a recent Fast Company article, 37Signals founder and CEO Jason Fried warned about the growth approach he sees occurring with many tech startups who staff too quickly. Instead, he offered a different set of metrics to evaluate success:

  • Are you profitable?
  • Are you building something great?
  • Are you taking care of your people?
  • Are you treating your customers well?

Yes, of course, there are a lot of other important things to take into consideration, but this is a simplified, focused and long-term approach to running a successful business that I think more and more companies are going to adopt. See the Coudal Partners story as an example of one company who scaled down and found success. At the end of the day, I think the ideal size of a company is as small as possible. This could mean 3 employees or 30,000 as long as being big, in and of itself, isn’t the main objective.

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, I suggest “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big” and “Eating The Big Fish: How Challengers Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders.”

UPDATE: I forgot to add this new post from Paul Graham, “Startup = Growth,” which is absolutely excellent.

Lefsetz on Houdini

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

“Harry Houdini was a tireless self-promoter.  A self-created person who needed to make it, for the fame, the money and the adulation.  Isn’t it interesting that our entertainment heroes always come from the lower classes, when failure is not an option, you put all your effort into succeeding. You invent a past and a future.  Because you’ve got nothing to stand on, and you’re sick of being broke in the ditch by the side of the highway.”

Houdini – Lefsetz Letter

Categories: CAREER Tags:

Will Smith on Success

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Damn – Will Smith channeling his inner Tony Robbins:

Categories: INSPIRATION Tags:
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