Taking a Birds-Eye View
Well, this was another nuts week (x2). For this volume, imagine yourself on a cross-country flight, with minimal turbulence, and noise-canceling headphones to drown out all of the sounds around you. Because that’s how I listened to pretty much everything that I’m mentioning below.
If you’re new (welcome!), this is Product/Michael Fit, a series where I share my favorite pieces of content from the past week(ish), along with my own takeaways. Subscribe on Substack to get on the email list, and find me on Twitter @MSilb7.
Taking a Birds-Eye View
- Your Career Story Podcast — This Mistake Will Keep You Stuck and Underpaid in Your Career
- Steve Jobs on Life and Experiences (1982)
- Garry Tan — Billion Dollar Startup Ideas
- The Twenty Minute VC — Accel’s Dan Levine
- Life, Work, and Startups — “Expectations vs. Reality of Being a CEO”
I honestly didn’t expect this to be a topic until I finished pulling together all of my notes. It’s interesting to me how much of our day-to-day is spent with our heads down, working on executing and getting things done, but our longer-term value is in being able to look up, to again, be still. I’m realizing more and more how much of intelligence is really in our ability to comprehend many pieces of information, then make our own connections between them and synthesize them into our own ideas. Building on this, I’m also seeing how much our own internal processes can impact if we’re productive contributors to a greater goal, or just distractors.
On Career and Life
An episode of the Your Career Story Podcast proposes the analogy of thinking of yourself like a Great White Shark, to look from above and see your potential paths and opportunities, so that you can act strategically. It’s easy to get swept up in our day-to-day lives on the ocean floor and limit our view to our immediate surroundings. In a Steve Jobs speech from 1982 (thank you YouTube), he similarly talked about how a form of intelligence is being able to look down at a city from the 80th story of a building. Where, while everyone else is just trying to get from point A to point B, you’re looking from above at how all of the systems work and are able to see what maybe nobody else is able to. That when you can live in this view, and make connections that seem simple to you, but genius to everyone else, then you’re an innovator. And your own unique background, unique experiences, and unique view on the world, provides you with a (you guessed it) unique perspective.
Garry Tan provided tangible examples of people whose unique experience led them to having world-changing ideas. One being Ryan Peterson whose experience selling motorbikes in China while becoming one of the first merchants on Amazon’s marketplace, enabled him to even have a chance at conceptualizing the idea which would become Flexport. I’ve thought that I’d have to be the “smartest” at something to come up with a billion dollar idea, But, trying to be the smartest at something is extremely difficult and unlikely. On the Twenty Minute VC Podcast, Dan Levine of Accel shared that he doesn’t try to time the market on an idea, because any strategy that relies on you being smarter than anyone else is likely a losing strategy. So, having a unique set of experiences and interests is much more feasible, likely way more fun, and may actually be the best way to capture value for yourself.
On Internal Systems
A tactical piece of advice that struck me was Michael Seibel’s (Y Combinator) case of “decision mode” vs “execution mode.” His idea is that all businesses are in one of these two modes, and your job as a leader is to make sure that you know what mode you should be in — and stick to it. When you try to put your team in “decision mode,” when you should be in “execution mode” or visa-versa, you can destroy all productivity and focus.
I took this idea as a personal note to myself. In my day job, I’m an owner of a weekly reporting product across teams, and I was able to put this idea into action. Mon — Wed is our “execution mode,” where we just need to churn out work and meet our Wednesday publish time. So, then Thu — Fri becomes our “decision mode,” where we can decide on our themes and approach for the next week. My gut instinct has always been to share ideas the moment that they pop into my head, but this time, I thought about what mode we were in. Was Monday, with 2 days left to develop a finished product, the right time to propose a long-term idea? Probably not. So I wrote my idea down in a reminder for Thursday, and waited to share my idea until then. I kept myself and our team focused on executing Mon — Wed, and we delivered. Once we got to Thursday, I 1) Had enough time to think on my idea and get to more clarity, and 2) Presented it when it was appropriate to discuss and not entirely distracting.
“Decision mode” vs “execution mode” seems like a simple system, but I genuinely believe that it unlocks so much productivity with how I operate. Go Michael Ss.
Tweets of the Week
My semi-viral tweet: Parks and Rec memes are where I thrive