Thursday, May 31, 2012

Forming a Peer Group in Boston

Earlier this year, I was reading a book called the Accidental Creative. The author said that his greatest piece of advice for creatives is to start a small group that keeps you focused and engaged on your work. This compelled me to re-read Who's Got Your Back. Apparently Core Groups have been in existence longer than most people think; Benjamin Franklin belong to a Core Group called Junto. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone belonged to a Mastermind Group.

Now One of my big, short term goals? To form a Peer Group in Boston.

What is a Peer Group?

The idea is simple - a Peer Group (aka Core Group, Mastermind Groups, Personal Board of Directors) is a small, professional group that meets regularly, and in which members offer each other advice and encouragement. The advantages are many:

  1. Accountability: If people hold you accountable, you are more likely to achieve your goals; especially if you need to answer publicly to a group of six of your peers
  2. Encouragement:  Peer Groups are designed to encourage its members to strive towards their goals, to explore things they are passionate about, to stay motivated.
  3. An outside perspective
  4. Motivation: For me, this is the biggest factor. Whenever I have had career discussions with peers or mentors, I have always come out feeling energized
My quest for a Peer Group

I am largely looking at People I already know and respect, though I would be open to others, especially people who are known and respected by people I know and respect. They need to be interested in Technology and Entrepreneurship for us to have at least some common goals. I plan to hold monthly meetings, and more informal get-togethers. Will keep y'all posted on how it goes!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Relentless resourcefulness: the What, Why and How

 Reposted from my new Blog, The Business Co-Founder

The most important quality of an Entrepreneur is relentless resourcefulness; even Paul Graham agrees. In this post, I will cover
1. What is relentless resourcefulness?
2. Why is it important?
3. How do you build it?
So let’s start.

What is relentless resourcefulness?
The dictionary defines resourceful as ‘Able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.’ Relentless resourcefulness is simply resourcefulness + perseverance - or applying resourcefulness continuously, without giving up.

Why is it important for Entrepreneurs?
In startups, you will continuously come across situations that pose novel, difficult problems, for which there is no easy, obvious solution, and which force most people to give up. Only if you are relentlessly resourceful will you overcome these challenges, and not give up. This might take various forms e.g., your funding round did not come through - how do you become creative and bootstrap for another three months? OR your customer development interviews showed that your target market has no need for your product - how and where do you pivot?

How do you build it?
This Life Hacker article gave me the following equation, that makes complete sense
Resourcefulness = Necessity + Creativity + Persistence
So the only way to build resourcefulness is to build each of the constituent qualities.

Though not a quality, necessity signifies that you are most resourceful when you need to. This is why people often tell Entrepreneurs to quit their job; when you have no fallback, you become more resourceful.

You might not consider yourself very creative, but there is a big difference in the different kinds of creativity. As a blog post I wrote a while ago, Conceptual Creativity is what you need to be successful in Business. There are several interesting books you can read on this topic (list below). But here are my favorite tactics:
  • Question everything - try to look at the underlying assumptions and see what happens if you reverse them
  • Look for outliers and anomalies
  • When generating ideas, start with one idea - any idea, no matter how stupid. That gets your mind going
  • Think of ideas alone before and group sessions - group sessions encourage group think
  • Have fun and believe that you are creative
While there are several ways to be persistent (and tons of articles and Quora Answers on persistence/perseverance), I believe in one way more than any other way: Invest in the process, not the Outcome. No matter how much we believe in our qualities, our ability to change the world, the truth of the matter is that several circumstances are outside our control. ‘Luck’ plays a part - a huge part - in the success or failure of any endeavor. Market dynamics change, unforeseen things happen. The idea is the be emotionally tied to the process, and not the outcome. That way, you will not give up when you are faced with obstacles, because you did the best you could, and be truly, persistently, persistence

Further Reading: Creativity
The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity
The Riddle: Where Ideas Come From and How to Have Better Ones
Further Reading: Persistence
Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The woman at the grocery store

There is a Stop and Shop in Arlington where I buy groceries - once a week or so. Most of my interactions with cashiers at the checkout counter are pretty normal - say hello, ask how you are, tell them that I want paper and plastic bags (or use the bags I brought), get groceries packed efficiently and go out of the way.

This woman - who's name was Ami - was different. She said hullo to me, and asked where the Mrs. was. Now I did not remember Ami - but she remembered my wife and I. When I told her that the Mrs. was at home, with the baby, she said that oh yes, she remembered that last time she ran into us, my wife Kerri was pregnant. Since Simran has turned 5 months ago, the incident was more than 5 months ago, likely longer. I got home, and asked Kerri if she remembered Ami - she did.

Why am I saying all this? It's simple - Ami tries to remember all her customers, takes interest in their lives, is pleasant. She doesn't do this with an objective in mind - she does not get paid any more for being friendly. She does it out of a choice - it makes her happier, it makes other people happier. And it's the right thing to do.

We often get caught in a vicious cycle - thinking that things will make us happy. A bigger house, a fancy car, a promotion etc. Happiness is a choice. The foremost drive of happiness - our own inner self-talk, and our relationships with others - which are also majorly affected by our own inner self-talk. So start with being happy - and other things will come into your life when they are supposed to.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hustler = bad, hustle = good

A few months ago I sat with my friend Scott Pollack, discussing our common hatred for being called Hustler. We have all heard - Entrepreneurs need to be Hustlers, Business Development folks need to be hustlers. As Scott said in his blog 'an enterprising and often dishonest person, esp. one trying to sell something.'

The book 'The Startup of You' by  Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha does clarify the terms a big. Hustler is bad - you don't want to be known as someone who could be potentially dishonest. But to hustle - To move or act energetically and rapidly - is good. To pursue opportunities aggressively is good. All while maintaining integrity. So hustle, but don't be a hustler.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

5 ways to listen better - Julian Treasure

Here are the 5 ways?

1. Three minutes of silence a day

2. Mixer -  how many channels of sounds can I hear in a noisy place

3. Savoring -  enjoy mundane sounds your dryer, the fan of your computer

4. Listening positions-  You can listen in different ways - active vs. passive, reductive vs. expansive, empathetic vs. critical

5. RASA (i.e., juice in Sanskrit) - Receive (pay attention to the other person), Appreciate (via little sounds), Summarize, Ask

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's Perfect! Or is it?

Ask me what my daughter is like. My response would be - she's perfect. The hair - perfect. Her smile - perfect. Her two little feet - just perfect. Her crying, not sleeping, pooping through clothes - all perfect.

Yet anything I produce is never perfect. The presentation deck that I wrote yesterday - not perfect. The 10,000 line program that I coded at my last company? Not perfect. The Latin Chicken that I made 3 weeks ago - excellent, but not perfect.

Why is that I can look at my daughter as perfect, but no work I do is perfect? Is it because of my love for her? Is it because I cannot really consider anything I make myself  perfect, because that would be vain?

I think there is a strong correlation between seeing things as perfect, and happiness. Imagine a vacation - you are on a beach in Hawaii. The sun is shining, and there is a rainbow in the sky. Would you be happy? Probably. Why? It is because you accepted things as they are. You did not think that the rainbow should be a little to the left, the weather just a little warmer, and the stupid people should get off the beach so that you can enjoy it alone. No. You accepted it as it was, and that is what gave you happiness.

So now that I have rambled on and on, let me come to my main point. Accepting things as they are gives you happiness. It also might drive complacency. Solution? Accept the outcome as it is, but invest in the process. I am not one to quote religious texts, but this one is important - this is from the Bhagvad Gita. Lord Krishna tells Arjun 'Karam Kar Phal Ki Iccha Na Kar' - which translates to work, but don't expect outcomes, and get disappointed when you do not get what you want. So that slide deck? And that speech? Work on it with your heart and soul - that will give you true happiness. The outcome - will pretty much be immaterial.

P.S. Credit to the book "Are you ready to succeed" for most of these lessons