Quit or Stick it Out

Book Notes on Seth Godin’s The Dip

I love Seth Godin’s books and his blog. I think he’s just incredibly good at articulating distinctly memorable ideas backed by both data and stories in a way that we could all learn from.

Godin, more than just about anyone, understands both the power of technology (he’s founded several technology companies, including an early direct marketing co that he sold to Yahoo) and how technology has shaped markets and human opportunity.

I took these notes back in 2008 and rediscovered them recently. A lot has been paraphrased but there are some direct quotes as well. Bolding is mine.

The Read the rest

Adaptability is No Joke

Both startups and improv are about making shit up on the fly

I recently participated in an “Improv for Entrepreneurs” workshop run by Mary Lemmer, a founder-turned-VC who now teaches improv to companies and professionals. I’ve done a couple of these types of workshops over my career and seen a few improv shows — they’re really fun. Improv is like freestyle rap or live jazz: it might not be as polished as a studio album track, but it’s impressive and enjoyable to watch someone make stuff up on the fly.

If you like comedy but haven’t seen any improv before, I’d highly recommend it. Try taking a class or a workshop … Read the rest

Recharging is for batteries, not people

Why working less isn’t the answer to burnout at work

Last year, journalist Anne Helen Petersen wrote a widely shared piece in Buzzfeed naming millennials the “Burnout Generation”. According to Petersen, we’re overworked, underpaid, and often paralyzed by the systemic dysfunction of our increasingly volatile world. As a result, many of us struggle with even the most basic tasks of “adulting,” like paying bills or registering to vote.

One year later, things seem worse than ever. Wages have continued to stall, the U.S. is on the brink of war with Iran, and raging wildfires have killed more than a billion animals in Australia. Fifty-seven percent of tech workers … Read the rest

What We Should Learn from the Away Scandal

A debate about tech workplace culture in the era of Slack, #metoo, and self-care

The spectacular fallout from a recent investigation into Away, which portrayed the beloved luggage company as a toxic workplace, has revealed two schools of thought on how to treat startup employees.

The first says that staff should be cherished, because harnessing the passion and brilliance of “A players” is key to success. Think catered lunches, beautiful offices, and “Best Places to Work” lists. The second says that making a dent in the universe is hard, and employees should expect to work tirelessly under the directives of visionary and sometimes mercurial founders. Think “hustle culture,” Class B voting shares, and Steve … Read the rest

Why Generalists Beat Hyper Specialists

Book notes on “Range” by David Epstein

I’ve always seen myself as someone with a ton of interests, with a lot of useful skills and knowledge but not a world class expert in anything. And while that’s served me really well, I sometimes wonder if it puts me at a disadvantage.

Fortunately for me, I recently finished Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, a thoughtful and comprehensive read by David Epstein. It made the rounds on VC Twitter this summer, which makes sense because venture capitalists, especially early stage ones, are very much generalists who look across a broad set of industries.

I recommend … Read the rest

Techstars Alexa

Midgame joins Amazon’s voice-focused startup accelerator

Midgame was accepted into The Alexa Accelerator, a program co-run by the Techstars startup accelerator and the Alexa Fund, a $200M fund for Amazon to invest in voice tech companies. We’re two weeks in and over the next few months, we’ll build and launch a voice assistant for gamers, alongside nine other companies who are also part of the program.

The announcement went live on VentureBeat last week as well as the Amazon Day One corporate blog.

The other companies in the program include include an AI-powered service that helps students learn, a health product that checks up on … Read the rest

Lessons on Persistence from Dean Karnazes

What ultramarathon running can teach us about persistence at work

Photo by Alex Gorham on Unsplash

In college, I came across a book about long-distance running called Ultramarathon Man. The author, Dean Karnazes, was a runner throughout his childhood and into his teens, before taking a long break from the sport. More than a decade later, Dean found himself with an urge to run after work and covered 30 miles before calling his wife from a 7-Eleven for a ride home. For 25 years, he’s been a leading ultramarathoner, having won a 135-mile race in Death Valley and once running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

In

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32

Reflections on turning 32

I turned 32 a month ago and long-time readers know I try to use birthdays as opportunities to reflect and learn. The past couple years are here: 313029282726.

The past 13 months have seen a lot of change — I was part of a mass lay off, worked as a freelance product manager, got engaged, gave a TED talk, started a new company, raised capital, and helped people find exciting new job opportunities. As such, I have a new set of thoughts, sometimes a re-statement of … Read the rest

Introducing Headlight

A Performance Hiring Platform

Editor’s note: Headlight was acquired by Woven in March of 2019.

In late 2017, I started a company called Headlight with my friend and former coworker Wayne Gerard. We’re building a performance hiring platform that helps employers screen candidates for their ability, not their pedigree.

What is Performance Hiring?

We believe that the best way to understand someone’s fit for a role is to study how they respond to scenarios related to the job. This is not a new concept — athletes try out for teams and teachers do mock lessons when interviewing for a new school — and yet in … Read the rest

Beyond the 10,000 Hour Rule

What Anders Ericsson has to say about developing mastery

We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2010 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell makes the argument that 10,000 hours of practice is a critical number that separates the great from the truly extraordinary. One of the bodies of work Gladwell relied on to support his thesis were from research by Florida State University Psychology Professor K. Anders Ericsson, the granddaddy of research on how people developing expertise.

Ericsson studied violinists from the West Berlin Music Academy: the highest performing students did not differ significantly from average … Read the rest