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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

How Camaraderie is Forged Through Hardship

Reflections on teamwork after reading Tribes by Sebastian Junger

I recently finished reading Sebastian Junger’s excellent new book Tribes: on Homecoming and Belonging. It\’s a slim volume that addresses something really important: how hardship builds group cohesion and solidarity.

In my keynote speech at the PRCA conference, I spoke about I believe is the most critical factor in high performing teams: trust. And I pointed out that groups never work closer together than after a crisis. This applies to acts of terrorism (America’s sense of unity after September 11), natural disasters (the pan-Asian support in response to the 2011 earthquake/tsunami of Japan) and even corporate crises (morale and … Read the rest

What the Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me

The events of the last week have been horrifying, infuriating, and deeply saddening.

Two black men, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile, have been shot dead by police officers. Men who were not resisting arrest, not posing a threat, and who should not be dead. Their final, awful moments, filmed on mobile phones, have been seen millions times. Then, during what was otherwise a peaceful protest in Dallas, five white police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who appears to have been motivated by his frustrations with how black people are treated by the police. My heart goes out … 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

Readership Survey

Who reads this blog and why?

Since it’s been a few years since my last readership survey, I decided to poll members of the Art of Ass-Kicking insider’s list to see who they are and why they read the blog.

Here are some of our findings:

Demographics

While the readership skews male, we actually have a pretty strong spectrum across different generations, from Millennials, to Gen X to Boomers.

Attributes

  • Technology: 63% of folks work in tech. 31% are developers or engineers, 25% are marketers, 22% are product managers, and 19% are designers
  • Entrepreneurship: 31% of readers are active startup founders and another 27% are aspiring
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The Biggest Challenge With Building Products is Uncertainty

I was recently asked to share my views on three questions around product management for the UsabilityTools blog. My answers are now published along with thoughts from 46 other product managers and I thought I’d share my response here as well.

The questions were good ones and were worth thinking about. In general, I’ve found that building new things is all about creating clarity and alignment and dealing with the uncertainty.

What is the most important quality a good product manager should have?

The ability to think across disciplines and both understand and communicate needs + priorities between business, technology, design, research, users and … Read the rest

The 10x Job Application: What You Do When You Really Want the Gig

We talk a lot about the war for talent: the idea that organizations need to fight to recruit, retain, and grow great people. Harvard Business Review recently put it this way:

“Finding and nurturing ambitious, hard-driving, and international-minded managers and technical staff are major challenges for multinationals and will become ever more crucial. HR operations at many companies have traditionally been seen in terms of compliance, record keeping, and support. But as talent shortages grow more acute in idea-intensive industries, human capital management should become a much higher strategic priority.”

— The Future and How to Survive It (HBR October

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Six Blistering Bodyweight Workouts You Can Do in Under 30 Mins

No time? No problem

One of the biggest reasons why people say they don’t exercise is because they don’t have time. Of course, we all have the same amount of time, and there are plenty of really busy people who work out despite having many other things to do. I trained for and ran the SF Marathon while doing Ridejoy, and have written about the benefits of physical activity for entrepreneurs.

But I also understand that the best way to build a new habit is to make something dead simple — so you can put all your mental resources in pushing yourself during … Read the rest

Why Being Real Matters

There’s a great article on TechCrunch by Danny Crichton called Startups and The Big Lie.

Crichton, who is a former colleague back in my days at The Stanford Daily, has a great line about how startups “run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia that is incredibly important to experimentation” and that entrepreneurs essentially have to lie a lot of the time about how things are going.

The Relentless Push to Be Positive

It’s very popular to lament the fact that founders are always saying their startup is “crushing it” and growth is through the roof. But most of … Read the rest