2 lessons I learned that were critical in my career

Key lesson #1:
One of the most powerful things you can do for the people around you is provide clarity. Clarity empowers people, improves execution and allows for greater accountability. I always try to keep in mind the quote by Lewis Carroll “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. 
 
Key lesson #2:
We all need help along the way and my success can not be attributed to my efforts alone. I have succeeded because others helped when I needed it, sometimes without my knowledge. So having been a beneficiary of many investments of help throughout my career, I have an obligation to repay those investments by helping others when they need it. 

 

Some Travel Highlights

I have been fortunate enough to travel a bit, so I though I would share some highlights to date.

Traveling through the Swiss Alps one fine Saturday in early June.

Looking out at the Alps

Looking over the Edge at Dun Aengus on the Aran Island in Ireland

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via Ingo Mehling

Watching the Fog Roll in on San Francisco

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via runner310

Experiencing the power of Niagara Falls up close

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Looking out over Chamonix from atop the Aiguille du Midi

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The Amazing views of the London Skyline

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Quotes for the week

Jeff Bezos in the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune Magazine

Your margin is my opportunity.

Amazon’s willingness to operate on lean margins, with a customer focus, and a long term perspective creates a powerful competitive advantage. Mr. Bezos and Amazon may be drinking your milkshake next.

Matt Honan in January 2013 issue of Wired Magazine

Even the sharpest 4K set, with the thinnest of bezels and darkest of blacks, isn’t going to help you track down that episode of Breaking Bad you missed.

Even with great design and technology, a product still must solve the right problems.

Data Trumps Everything

When Apple released its mapping application for iOS it confirmed what many big data evangalists had been preaching, Data Trumps Everything.(eventually)

Best design, worthless without data.

Sophisticated Software, worthless without data.

While Apple won the first round in the mobile platform wars using world class design and excellent user experience, they have shown the gap in their strategy, their Achilles heal. The rapidly  approaching next generations of personal computing will be built on a foundation Hardware and software differentiated with DATA.

This reality was made even more visible at the Gartner  Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit, during a Keynote interview of Michael Abbott,  a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Abbott expressed concern about the walled gardens of data (read Google, twitter, Facebook)  becoming significant barriers to competition and innovation.

Michael Abbot is exactly right. The next innovations, as we move to a cognitive economy, will require access to data, massive amounts of data. Scale and access will become huge advantages and barriers. Start-up organizations will be hard pressed to innovate without having access to these sources of data.  While some innovative companies will be able to create ways to collect and build their own reservoirs of data, others will have to partner to gain access.  But the bottom line is excellent hardware and software are table stakes in the cognitive economy, but data will be the coin of the realm.

In the case of Apple Maps, it is hard to believe Apple would ever catch Google. Google has long held an advantage with search and it’s velocity of innovation and improvement are difficult to match. Apple would have to exceed the rate at which Google is innovating and collecting data. With the ever increasing population of google powered devices it doesn’t look good for Apple.

Never Give up the Tools

My Father, was a carpenter by trade, He once told me “Tom, never give up the tools. Anyone can make lists and give orders, but only a small number of people can make something out of nothing. Someone will always be willing to pay you to make something out of nothing or pay you for something you have made.” Being a 20 year old, his point was lost on me, I didn’t know any better.

Now 20 years on and seeing and mentoring others, I understand the points my Father was trying to make. So this is what I think he was trying to say:

  • You lose more than you think when giving up a skill so choose wisely.
  • Money and power won’t satisfy your need to create and see things completed.
  • People value what you can do more that what you say.
  • There is no substitute for hard skilled work.
  • Always have something to fall back on. (Or as Reid Hoffman in the The Start-Up of You called it a plan z,a backstop)

What do you think about giving up the tools?

Do you have Professional Courage

Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics:

Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.

And for a great example how it applies to our professional lives watch Ben Horowitz explain the importance of courage in his interview with Kevin Rose. His explanation starts at 17:50 but I recommend watching the entire interview. Ben Horowitz is brilliant and if you don’t believe me try reading his blog.

Within companies there is always talk of openness, honesty, integrity and many more virtues. How often do you hear courage being discussed. I wrote about the Steve Yegge’s approach to presenting to Jeff bezos. Steve describes his source of courage, he writes:

I worked hard and had fun, but every day I honestly worried they might fire me in the morning. Sure, it was a kind of paranoia. But it was sort of healthy in a way. I kept my resume up to date, and I kept my skills up to date, and I never worried about saying something stupid and ruining my career. Because hey, they were most likely going to fire me in the morning.

His courage came from believing he had nothing to lose. He could suffer a fate no worse then being fired.

Bill Treasurer of Giant Leap Consulting and former member of the U.S. High Diving Team has a good article on courage , he writes:

courage is the lifeblood of such important business concepts as leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. Indeed, in the absence of courage, these concepts don’t exist!

It is not often you see or hear of courage in a professional setting. No one has an annual objective to demonstrate courage, but in the end we all must possess it and demonstrate it. Without courage, we would be full of honesty, openness and integrity but with no willingness to act.

Courage first and then everything else.

Steve Yegge on Presenting to Jeff Bezos

Steve Yegge over in his Google+ feed has a post I just found about his experience presenting to Jeff Bezos. His description of the experience and his approach was great. The entire post is interesting but my favorite part is the second to last paragraph.

You have to understand: most people were scared around Bezos because they were waaaay too worried about trying to keep their jobs. People in high-level positions sometimes have a little too much personal self-esteem invested in their success. Can you imagine how annoying it must be for him to be around timid people all day long? But me — well, I thought I was going to get fired every single day. So fuck timid. Might as well aim high and go out in a ball of flame.

We all have seen the timid presentation, that’s why I like the last lines so very much (my emphasis added).  Read the whole post you will enjoy it.

The Evolution of Advertising in 5 Minutes

Kevin Rose interviews Chris Sacca of lower case capital and Chris gives a great interview. I recommend you watch the whole thing. But, to hear the best explanation of how advertising has evolved and why services like Twitter, Foursquare and Square are so valuable. The explanation starts at 34 Min.

If you like this interview you might also like Chris Sacca on This Week in Start-ups

Enjoy!