The Essence of Productivity

The Essence of Productivity

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments. – Alfred North Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911

(Hat tip to Sebastian Marshall)

This quote encompasses, IMO, the essence of productivity: 1) automate as much as possible, 2) prioritize remaining and more critical operations of thought, and 3) protect your operations of thought from being misused.

On Traits That Are Actually Skills

On Traits That Are Actually Skills

Many world problems make a little more sense when we consider traits that we believe to be universal or a matter of willpower, as skills instead.

Some examples: empathy, self-esteem, intellectual honesty, discipline, curiosity.

These are not human traits.

These are skills.

The proof is that the level of performance in these skills can vary immensely between different people. We all know people that are more empathetic or curious or egotistical than others.

Because they are skills, we must develop them if we want to be good at them.

More importantly, there has to be an incentive to acquire that skill, because like learning any skill, it requires effort.

So when you see people lacking empathy, self-esteem, intellectual honesty, discipline, curiosity…

Maybe they are not “choosing” to be self-centered, be defensive, be lazy…

Maybe they just never picked up the skill necessary for that situation because the world never gave them a good reason to do so.

Maybe the world would work a bit better if people considered themselves as skill teachers rather than moral judges.

Why Your Network Is Your Newsfeed

Why Your Network Is Your Newsfeed

If you have a Google News feed, a Feedly subscription, or if you’re old school and actually subscribe to a print newspaper, you know the advantages of staying informed.

You wake up every day and learn something new about the world. More importantly, you learn something relevant about what is happening right now.

There’s only one issue with this: Everyone else is learning the same thing.

The articles in your newsfeed are publicly available, which means everyone else with internet access has access to the same information, and therefore advantage, as you.

Your network, on the other hand, is unique to you. When you engage your network, you’re accessing a combination of trust and information that no one else has access to.

You might have a friend whose company is hiring a new CTO and offering a referral fee. If you have another person in your network who you know is looking for work, and would be a great CTO, you can connect them before anyone else knows about the position.

You get the referral fee and the chance to help both of your friends.

If you don’t know that your friend is looking for work, and you only hear about the job opening when it’s been publicly posted and 1,000 people have applied, you’ve lost your advantage and your opportunity.

There are thousands of examples similar to this one. Someone you know maybe be working on a project that connects to your life’s passion, or someone may have developed a technology you can invest in before anyone else.

The most exciting opportunities, and the ones you’re best positioned to take advantage of, are all hiding in your network.

Instead of reading news looking for opportunities, it’s time to learn how to “read” your network (or make them easier to “read” you).

Let Your Network Come To You—By Journaling

One of the best ways to find opportunities in your network is to let your network know what you’re up to. Externalizing your thoughts in a way that other people can consume and connect to—be it by giving speeches, writing a newsletter, or occasionally shouting in public places—lets your network into your mind and makes it easier for them to know how to help you.

This doesn’t mean write a blog post with an optimized headline and try to syndicate it in The New York Times. It means write what’s on your mind and share it with a small group of people you’d like to stay connected to.

If you talk publicly about what you’re interested in right now, what you’re actively pursuing, and what you want to happen in the future, there’s a good chance someone in your network can help you.

By keeping yourself “top of mind” among your connections, and letting them know how they can connect to you, you’re putting yourself in a better position to stumble across unique opportunities.

Pay Attention To Your Connections’ Journeys

Similarly, if anyone in your network has a newsletter for friends and family, a private Facebook page, or a LinkedIn account where they write articles, subscribe to them.

Anywhere where your connections are privately sharing their thoughts, you need to be. The value here isn’t in collecting information, but in getting to really know your connections. You become uniquely positioned to help them, because you see their life in higher resolution than others and can connect dots they can’t see.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve connected over the years just because I knew both parties well enough to draw a connection they couldn’t see. In some cases, these introductions have resulted in long-term partnerships and huge growth for both people.

And of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of this. So many of my steps forward in life have come from other people connecting the dots for me.

Even if there’s no business opportunity in it for you, it’s great to keep tabs on your friends. It’s always nice to be able to reach out and congratulate someone you care about, and it’s especially nice when they return the favor.

(Thanks to Caleb Kaiser, Zach Obront and Tucker Max for helping me express more clearly the ideas on this post.)

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.

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 🙂

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