Louis Bidou

documenting my journey

Brian Balfour explains he has come very close to a few very big wins in his career, but never turned them into “home runs” because of focus – or the lack of thereof.

Focus isn’t about being short sighted, nor sticking to the same thing for a really long time. To him, focus is basically zooming out, then in, then out again:

  1. Identifying one longer term meaningful goal
  2. Distilling the most important thing we need to be doing right now to make progress towards that goal
  3. Doing that one thing for a long enough period to get information/data
  4. Editing the longer term goal based on the information we receive

When we focus we move faster, because we spend less time deciding, the decision coming down to: which option contributes to our focus the most? We also learn more, because we can dig to the deeper layers to come up with good insights. As we learn more and are able to iterate quickly, we achieve more. It helps us building confidence reinforcing the cycle of focus which finally makes us more valuable.

Focusing can be uncomfortable because we will always have multiple options, never have perfect information, and never be 100% certain in any of the options. The answer to this fear of missing out is to be lean enough to iterate on our learnings and finally get to the right answer. Sticking on a focus is also challenging because there is always pressures from many directions that try to side track us. Do not under estimate the execution difficulties of those paths and maintain our focus. But remain at ease with changing it if our choice doesn't prove it right.

To conclude, even if we pick the initial wrong focus, the act of focusing produces a higher likelihood that we will pick the right focus next time based on what we learned. So using a repeatable system will help us. Balfour suggests:

  1. Absorb available information and distill it into a leading focus hypothesis
  2. Identify the assumptions in that hypothesis
  3. Identify a way to measure progress against those assumptions
  4. Set a time period to try and make progress against those assumptions
  5. Extract the learnings
  6. Feed the learnings back into the first step

A smart application of the OKR methodology might be an answer.

Source: http://www.coelevate.com/essays/why-focus-wins

If one day you ask Thibault Viort – founder of Wipolo, mentor and investor – how to assess entrepreneurs' motivation, he will come up with this tripod:

  • CHANGE – Changing the world
  • INDEPENDENCE – Having the power to make some impact and be independent
  • MONEY – Making money

I prefer to translate his framework as a tripod instead of a triptych, because it is really a three-legged stand for entrepreneurs to wake up everyday. They are hardly ever 100% driven by one reason. It's always a combination of all, and it evolves depending on their personal situation at any moment of their life. It's actually a good point to discuss with someone you want to partner with on your next project.

Maybe young entrepreneurs will focus early in their careers on guaranteeing themselves some “fuck you money” – I'll come back on this concept in a later post –, while Elon Musk is changing the world and exploring new ones.

How would you weight each leg?

I had the chance to meet Michelle Flasaquier, a 70-years-old entrepreneur, who practiced Holacracy in her company for more than 30 years. I'd like to come back on one of her advice: share success, not equity.

When it comes to welcoming a new employee, the question of sharing a part of capital is often difficult to solve. Even if shares' value may increase, 100% of your company will remain 100%. And there is actually so much to do with it, including raising money and keeping some for you, entrepreneur – at the end of the day, you took the risk, you are responsible for everything if things turn wrong.

After decades hiring and rewarding, Flasaquier learnt that sharing success through bonuses is often more appropriate than distributing stocks to anyone joining the project. Be generous, be fair, share with your employees the success of the organization. But equity is mostly for founders and investors.

Equity is a resource, not a result.

For Tom Blomfield, co-founder of Mondo, people often miss one of the most important factor when they choose to work in a startup: its size and stage. To him, it's sometimes even more important than the industry or the idea itself.

BOOTSTRAPPING Two to four people are working long hours in a bedroom to get a working prototype. There’s no funding and no salary. The product vision is vague and broad, and the team is focused on learning and iterating quickly. Everyone does whatever needs to be done.

SEED-FUNDED The company has a working prototype, a few dozen regular users and £250k of seed funding. You are granted with 3% equity plus whatever basic salary you need to survive. Even if you’re not making the decisions, you hear about them immediately. At this stage, there’s still a good chance that the company fails to find product-market fit.

SERIES A The company has thousands of paying customers, appears in the “ones to watch” articles in tech press, raised £3m from a big-name VC and the team has grown to 10-15 people. You get 0.5% in stock options with a salary that’s 10-30% below market rate. You’ve got your own office, or at least your own area in the coworking space. The company sets out a quarterly product roadmap, and you’re asked what you think should be prioritized.

SERIES B The company is now 2-3 years old, has millions of paying customers in several countries, is regularly featured in the press, and has just raised £10-20m, increasing headcount to 60 people. The founders you met during your interview don’t always remember your name now you work here. Your salary is in line with the market, and you get 0.05% stock options. You have a couple of days’ training, but you still mostly figure it out along the way. At this stage, most people are focussed on “repeatable processes” and scaling up.

SERIES C After 5 years, the company has raised £100m at a £1bn valuation. When you join, you’re granted £50,000 of options, or 0.005% of the company. You are one of these 6 new Sales Associates focussing on a specific vertical in Dublin. The new office feels empty at first, but you’re surprised how quickly it fills up with new staff. You see the CEO on the cover of Forbes, but you’ve never actually met him, and you see consultants in the meeting rooms, but you don’t know what they’re doing. When the company get acquired, HR follows up explaining that some departments will be downsized. You’re told that your stock options are “underwater”; when you Google this, you find out that they’re worthless. You wonder why you ever joined a startup in the first place.

Source: http://tomblomfield.com/post/136759441870/when-to-join-a-startup

12 years ago, Guy Kawasaki was already teaching in U.S. top universities the importance of making meaning in your company. To him, this is the core essence of entrepreneurship. He believes a company set up to make money will not make meaning, and will probably not make any money as well. Here are his three ways to make meaning as a company.

Increase the quality of life — That's precisely what he and the Macintosh division at Apple did when they were designing this product.

Right a wrong — Find something in the world that is going wrong and fix it.

Prevent the end of something good — Engage in sustaining wonderful things around you.

Making meaning is a great motivation to help you going through. I'll build on that later on in an essay about making meaning both in your company, and your personal life.

Source: https://youtu.be/lQs6IpJQWXc

Robert Waldinger helped run the longest and deepest study on happiness. He and his colleagues studied for 75 years what keep people happy and healthy. 724 men, Harvard alumni, but also boys from Boston poorest neighborhoods have been tracked, and the research is now extended to their 2,000+ children.

The clearest message that they get out of this study is this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

They have learnt 3 big lessons about relationships: social connections are really good, they keep us happier, healthier and make us live longer, and loneliness kills ; it's all about the quality of our close relationships, people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80 ; good relationships, and feeling we can count on others in times of need, protect not only our body but also our brain.

Those good relationships don't have to be smooth all the time as long as you feel you can count on others. It's a life long commitment. The happiest people in the study were those who worked hard on replacing workmates with new playmates.

Possibilities to foster relationships are endless. As Mark Twain said, “There is only time for loving”. The good life is build with good relationships.

Source: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness

What makes a Google team effective? Who is on a team matters less than how its members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.

Here are the five keys behind a successful Google team.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY Do team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other? It is the most important dynamic, and the four others derive from this one. Are we safe to ask dumb questions on anything, including the goal of our work? The safer we are, the more likely we are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles.

DEPENDABILITY Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?

STRUCTURE AND CLARITY Are the roles, plans and goals of our team clear?

MEANING OF WORK Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?

IMPACT OF WORK Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters and creates change?

Google implemented a 10-minute exercise on the five dynamics. It appeared that the teams who decided, for instance, to kick off their meetings by sharing a risk taken in the previous week, were more effective. So, managers, take some time to evaluate and build psychological safety on your team. Three tips: frame the work as a learning problem, and not an executive problem ; acknowledge your own vulnerability ; and model curiosity, asking a lot of questions.

Sources: https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/five-keys-to-a-successful-google-team/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhoLuui9gX8

Emilie Wapnick had never been able to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up”, because she was interested in so many things. She get to be pretty good at whatever it was, be bored, and let it go. Again and again. And she was scared of being forced, at the end of the day, to stick with something.

But where did you learn to assign the meaning of “wrong” to doing too many things? From the culture, when people ask you “What do you want to be when you grow up”, anytime in your life. This question doesn't lead you to think about all what you could be. The idea of destiny, or one true calling, is important in our society. But what if there are many different subjects you are interested in, and many things you want to do?

There is nothing wrong with you: you're a multipotentialite. Don't take it as a limitation, because here are three superpowers you have: idea synthesis (creating something new at the intersections of several things), rapid learning (well, you've went hard on so many things in the past, be sure you're ready to go out of your comfort zone and learn new things), and adaptability (morphing into whatever you need to be in any given situation).

Do not lose those qualities being pressured to narrow your interests. The world needs people able to handle multidimensional problems. If you're a specialist at heart, specialize. But if you're a multipotentialite, embrace your many passions, follow your curiosity and explore your intersections.

Source: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling

This article shows that building a company employees truly love is 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration, and proves that it is directly linked to how much employees produce.

Bain & Company describes how Maslow's pyramid translates to the workplace:

The higher employees are in the pyramid, the more productive they will be. Engaged employees will be 1.44x more than satisfied ones, and inspired employees up to 2.25x more. In other words, it would take 2.25 satisfied employees to generate the same output as one inspired employee.

Even if anyone can't be inspired, as everyone works for different reasons, try to inspire a few key ones. Many people do seek fulfillment in their jobs, and if you are not trying to inspire them, you are simply leaving real money on the table.

Source: https://hbr.org/2015/12/engaging-your-employees-is-good-but-dont-stop-there

It's fair to believe that the more varied experiences a belief survived, the less likely it would be false. But still, how could we protect ourselves from obsolete beliefs?

First, Paul Graham advice to have an explicit belief in change. Don't even try to predict the future. Stay aggressively open-minded and super sensitive to the winds of change. Admit you have no idea what the right direction is. He thinks this mindset works for evaluating new ideas, but also for having them. If you are expert enough in a field (a year of focused work plus caring a lot is most of the time sufficient), plus if you are reasonably open-minded, any weird idea or apparently irrelevant question will seems worth exploring.

Need an incentive to correct obsolete beliefs? Turn your comments into bets. For example, if you have to share your thoughts on a topic through a blog post, you'll worry much more about getting things right than most people would in a casual conversation.

Second, focus on people rather than ideas. It seems easier to predict what sort of people will make future discoveries, than to predict future discoveries themselves. To Paul Graham, good new ideas come from earnest, energetic, and independent-minded people. Simply surround yourself with these people, the ones who will precisely make your beliefs obsolete, and you will be safe from concluding the world is static. I feel it's no coincidence if highly successful people are very attentive to youngsters.

Source: http://paulgraham.com/ecw.html