A Lesson In Sunk Costs (or How I Left a Company In Very Good Terms After Only Two Months)

A Lesson In Sunk Costs (or How I Left a Company In Very Good Terms After Only Two Months)

After only two months working with Book In A Box, I’m leaving the company and in very good terms. You can read why I joined in the first place here.

When I told my family and friends that I was leaving, they assumed that something went horribly wrong. Well, it didn’t seem that way to me, and I’m confident that management agrees that we ended this short partnership in very good terms.

I realize now that when people think of a job, there’s all kinds of preconceived notions of how long it must last and that an end must always mean a loss. This mental model of a what a job must look like is an unnecessary constraint for most people; it prevents them from discovering and testing many collaboration opportunities if only they could be more flexible with their idea of work.

I’m a big believer in the “tour of duty” framework: a job should be seen as an experiment that must be validated often. It’s an ongoing co-learning experience for everyone involved, and when it stops working, it’s only healthy and advisable to end the relationship. Book In A Box believes this too; one of their principles is “the glass is already broken”.

Here’s a summary of why I joined, and how we realized we should stop the experiment:

  • Book In A Box developed a hypothesis of what the businesses needed to do to grow, and what kind of person could do that job.
  • My friend and founder of the company told me about their search and what that experience would look like, in terms of responsibilities and benefits. I decided the experiment was worth pursuing, and after going through the interview process, I joined the company.
  • After the first month, we learned that the hypothesis behind the role’s whole raison d’être was flawed, so we looked for new possibilities to bring results to the company while still leveraging my skillset and providing the experiences and opportunities I expected when joining the company.
  • After another month of painful lessons in bad match-making we agreed that it was time to cut our losses.

A case could be made that we should have stopped after the first month, because at that point many of the reasons for working together were gone, but I’m still glad we tried a few more experiments.

The main takeaway for anyone reading this is how to deal with sunk cost in relationships. I think most companies and people would have kept trying to make this work, despite the lack of evidence to justify the effort. Kudos to Book In A Box for doing their part in making this “breakup” a healthy one. I leave with many great lessons (some of which I’ll share in a future post), very smart new friends, and a renewed clarity of what I need to be doing with my time.

A clarity that I validated precisely thanks to experimenting yet again.

I’m Joining “Book In A Box”

I’m Joining “Book In A Box”

Big news: I joined Book In A Box as Head of Ambassador Relations.

I have not had a regular job for the past 8 years. Why now, and why Book In A Box?

1. Concept

Book In A Box helps people get their ideas out of their head and into a book, without having to go through the pain of sitting down and writing it. It’s a much more conversation based process, with a lot of assistance in what to say, to whom and how to say it, so the final product can help the authors with their goals.

This concept of acting as “interpreters” between people with something valuable to say or offer, and those that need to hear it, is an idea I predict will change how we do most things in a world where everyone is fighting for attention.

For those that know me very, very well, know that I’ve been working and experimenting with this same concept myself for the past couple of years, and the option of joining a ship that’s already successful with it sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about it.

2. People and Culture

Zach Obront is one of my closest friends (and my new boss), and we were roommates when he and Tucker Max were starting Book In A Box. For the past two years, Zach and I talked about the company, the focus the put in getting the culture right, the lessons he was learning in his leader role, and more. They took culture so seriously that they created an open document with all the culture values and principles that I recommend anyone to read.

Side note: it’s been incredible to watch Zach’s growth since we met in 2013. I’m proud to work with him and learn from him every day.

The idea of working with Zach every day was fun and challenging by itself, but I also knew that the team I was going to join was also going to be exceptional. In the past few days I got to know some of my new colleagues, and every one of them have been IMPRESSIVE. We’re talking serious ass-kicking talents, and I’m excited to rise to the challenge of kicking ass like they do.

3. Role

There aren’t many positions out there where I can tap into my entrepreneurial mindset, my passion for understanding how people leverage their networks, my experience in sales and communication, and my logistics/system thinking process, all at the same time.

But this position is exactly that.

Ambassadors have been the main source of authors coming to Book In A Box, and my responsibility is to make it easier than ever for Ambassadors to leverage their networks and discover new potential authors. It’s truly the perfect fit.

Not much else to say… You can now find me either in Austin or Buenos Aires, working hard to help people unleash their ideas into the world.

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PS: For the Latam people that are reading this and are wondering what will happen to “Escuela de Nuevos Aliados”, the answer is: great things. More people are going to be joining Juan Chadarevian and me to keep growing and improving the community. I will double my investment in the company, and I will focus my efforts on the strategy and key deliverables to our members. We will become the most productive network of professional allies of Latin America 🙂

You Can’t Get Rewarded If You Don’t Get Noticed…

You Can’t Get Rewarded If You Don’t Get Noticed…

An old friend and reader of this blog sent me the following email with some strategy and communication lessons he’s picked up trying to climb the ladder in his current company:

It’s been a year since I joined the company and in tech a year is a long time. Now the company is scaling up, new management, chaotic transition time, and I’m feeling a bit left out. I believe I made the mistake of not communicating about my work enough and showing the value I have added. Its a terrible feeling. I managed to swing enough references and objective proof of my contribution for my next job interview – and obviously during the interview I’m confident my learnings will show. Here are a few things I feel I should have done:

  1. Clarify the management structure. This was a small company (100 people) but even then the guy I worked with every day was not the guy I reported to. Make sure you know who is responsible for your paycheck/promotions/evaluations.
  2. Weekly reports. If you’re very new you might get time during work hours or have to sit back later, but write a half a page with bullet points covering the important work you’ve done. Try to be quantitative, if you’ve learnt something quickly, or helped speed up something 1.5x, etc. Pay special attention to cross-team initiatives that you volunteered to lead.
  3. Every month, go through your daily report and write up a long form summary for yourself. This will also help clarify your own understanding, given some distance from the issue, and serve as a launchpad for new ideas.
  4. During evaluation time, or when you need to ask for a raise or a move to more interesting assignments, bring up the top three contributions you’ve made. Focus on bottomline, and stick to numbers where possible. Avoid general words like “facilitated.”

As I begin my job hunt, I hope not to repeat these mistakes. I made them because I worked for a professional large company in the past, which had experienced managers who scheduled check ins and kept an eye on their reports. If you are in a young rapidly growing company you have to do this yourself.

“A Filled Schedule is Not a Proxy of Your Seriousness”

“A Filled Schedule is Not a Proxy of Your Seriousness”

Warren Buffett, 3rd wealthiest man in the world, has a pretty empty schedule and works hard to keep it that way. Here’s Bill Gates, 1st wealthiest man in the world, on one of the earliest lessons he picked up from becoming friends with Buffett:

“Sitting and thinking may be of much higher priority than a normal CEO with all these demands to see all these people. It’s not a proxy of your seriousness that you fill every minute in your schedule.”

Check out the video below (watch from 2:17 to 4:14):

What I’ve Been Reading – January 2017

What I’ve Been Reading – January 2017

I spent January in the cold winter of Tallinn and Berlin, which provided the ideal environment to cozy up with my Kindle and catch up on some reading. Here are five good books I read this month:

1. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle. Filled with examples of how robotics and social networks are (already) making us unhappier, Alone Together points at the pains that will spread across humanity if we see more technology as a constant positive. I’m placing Turkle up there with Jaron Lanier in the pantheon of technologists that can understand the perspective of techno-idealists like Ray Kurzweil and Martine Rothblatt, and still remain pessimistic about technology creeping into certain parts of life and work. Turkle, like Lanier, warns us: let’s not lower our standards of what humanity is and does so we can trick ourselves into believing that technology is smarter or more competent than it actually is.

An excerpt:

The idea of an attentive machine provides the fantasy that we may escape from each other. When we say we look forward to computer judges, counselors, teachers, and pastors, we comment on our disappointments with people who have not cared or who have treated us with bias or even abuse. These disappointments begin to make a machine’s performance of caring seem like caring enough. We are willing to put aside a program’s lack of understanding and, indeed, to work to make it seem to understand more than it does—all to create the fantasy that there is an alternative to people.


2. Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin by Nathaniel Popper. I’ve had dozens of people try to get me excited about Bitcoin, and fail. Enter Popper. Captivating story about the beginning, turbulent rise, and uncertain future of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology. This story has everything: a mysterious beginning, illegal substances, murder, and even the key role of my beloved Argentina in the expansion of Bitcoin. A good example that great journalism still is possible, and still matters for spreading important ideas.

An excerpt:

“When people entrust money to financial institutions, they generally don’t have the expertise or time to make sure the institution is doing its job. In most cases, it is much more efficient for people to band together and pool resources to ensure that their banks and exchanges are on the straight and narrow. […] Many libertarians and anarchists argued that the good in humans, or in the market, could do the job of regulators, ensuring that bad companies did not survive. But the Bitcoin experience suggested that the penalties meted out by the market are often imposed only after the bad deeds were done and do not serve as a deterrent. When it came down to it, in each case of big theft, Bitcoin users eventually went to government authorities to seek redress—the same authorities that Bitcoin had been designed, at least partly, to obviate.


3. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. I had heard a lot about Watts from my Eastern philosophy loving friends (many from California, where Watts lived most of his life). This was a great introduction to his ideas, and it served as an ever-needed reminder of that abstract but popular key to happiness: be present. While very philosophical, still very enjoyable, which is not always easy to do.

An excerpt:

“How long have the planets been circling the sun? Are they getting anywhere, and do they go faster and faster in order to arrive? How often has the spring returned to the earth? Does it come faster and fancier every year, to be sure to be better than last spring, and to hurry on its way to the spring that shall out-spring all springs? The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance. Like music, also, it is fulfilled in each moment of its course. You do not play a sonata in order to reach the final chord, and if the meanings of things were simply in ends, composers would write nothing but finales.


4. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. A must read for anyone trying to understand the current geopolitical trends. How did Trump win? Why are nationalism and the extreme right growing in Europe? Why do we fail to see those that have different political opinions as anything but dumb or selfish? Haidt has very compelling answers to all these questions, answers that he hopes will get the reader to pause and reflect before judging political supporters or religions he or she doesn’t believe in. Through his “elephant rider” metaphor and his six foundations of morality, Haidt gives us tools to influence those who think differently in both a civil and effective way.

An excerpt:

“Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects. If you want to understand another group, follow the sacredness.


5. A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary by Alain de Botton. Anyone that knows me, knows of my love for Alain de Botton’s writing. And just like when we make an effort to satisfy our significant other, it was my love for this author that got me to finally read A Week at the Airport, the last book I had still to read from all his work. Written in a matter of weeks while de Botton lived at Heathrow’s airport (sponsored by Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd.), this one just falls short of what the author usually delivers. Alain still manages to get his elegant prose across, but the book feels a little short and a little forced. If you travel a lot and/or if you’re a ADB fan, then check it out. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with choosing other works of his instead…

An excerpt:

“Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justify itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir the soul. It seemed as unfair to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement as to judge a poet by her royalty statements. The stock market could never put an accurate price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under an airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the adrenalin-thrill of take-off.”

 

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