📉 Confusing work with action

📉 Confusing work with action

Hope everyone had a good St. Patricks Day 🍀. I learned quite a bit this past week about my newsletter and I appreciate everyone’s feedback as this continues to grow. There’s a lot of knowledge and experiences to share so I love that these stories and learnings are helping others out there.

✍️ Quote of the week:

“Action is about progress, not movement. A rocking chair moves, but it doesn’t make progress.”

🎶 Song of the week:

Stan Smiths - by Cannon

📖 What I’m reading:

The Unfair Advantage - Still getting through it but had some busy days at work. Will pick it back up this weekend.

🧠 Top 3 learnings:

⏳ Time is a construct - I recently learned about Parkinson’s Law which states that work will fill the time. For instance, if you tell yourself it will take 20 minutes to clean the house it will take you 20 minutes. If you tell yourself it will take you all day, then it will take you all day. When you broaden your scope of time you’ll find unproductive ways to fill them. So tightening your scope gives greater ways to find other opportunities within an allotted time.

The fixed hour days are dying as a result of people finding better work-life balance.

🙌 You have to be the best - In today’s world, people tend to criticize self-promotion. If I were to say I’m the best designer, that would come off pompous and narcissistic but you have to see yourself like that because others won’t do it for you.

When I was a kid I was afraid to ask this girl out. When I told my mom the reason was that “She might say no.” She replied back with “Well let her tell you that, don’t decide for her.”

People like Steve Jobs or Michael Jordan wouldn’t be as revered in today’s society because of how we treat people that are self-obsessed with being the best or setting out to be the best. But if you can hold yourself to a higher tier then we can really attract those around us.

If you got it, flaunt it. If you can’t promote yourself, why should anyone else?

📉 Don’t confuse work with action - When I worked at Amazon I was awarded a badge for my “Bias for action”. This was awarded to people who roll up their sleeves and ran with an idea. You can give them a task and they’ll come back tomorrow with the whole idea baked and ready to go. Coming from a startup, my mentality was centered around every second counts. Every hour wasted is an hour given to your competitors.

So based on the other members of my team I didn’t know why I won when others were working harder than I was. It wasn’t until one day after a long meeting our VP looked at our org and said “Action is about progress, not movement. A rocking chair moves, but it doesn’t make progress.”

Since then I’ve realized that a lot of people tend to scurry around the action. People tend to confuse work with action when it’s really those with high actions that move very little.

🖍 Designer thoughts:

A couple of mistakes I’ve made starting a design org at several past startups:

(might make this a series since there’s a lot more):

  • Hiring too fast - One of the first things you want to try and do is staff your team as quickly as you can but the downside to this is you go through your burn rate too fast. You also have lots of designers on the bench waiting for work which as someone that’s been on the other side can be a nervous feeling to be in. Make sure the product team has a solid roadmap that can be devised into smaller focused roles. For instance, I’m not a great visual designer so I’ll start by hiring a graphic artist to fill the gaps in my weaknesses.
  • Focusing on the wrong things - As designers, we try to get everything perfect. This has us spending too much time on things that not a lot of people will pick up on. Could be an icon set, could be a micro-interaction, or it could just be a graphic on a low traffic page. At Amazon, I was told one single thing that changed my perspective on this. Our VP had said, “Amazon is not a company that launches perfect products, Amazon is a company that makes imperfect products and learns from our customers to make them better.”
  • Engineering gets siloed - Engineering gets busy. The smaller the team the harder it gets to be put on their radar. Try and make the design/engineering cadence as often and as early as possible. That could mean showing unfinished work. It could just mean letting them understand customer feedback. I’ve even had to code something myself using JS just to get my point across (also add. tip: don’t use my code, it’ll end up going live and not work the way it’s supposed to.).

👴 Dad thoughts

I know I talk a lot about kids in this segment but it wouldn’t be this easy if I didn’t have my wife there to help. I tend to get caught up in the activities and chores of my day to day I often forget the things she does that exist outside of my view. That’s how you deal with the overwhelming complexity that is parenthood: you ignore those certain things, while you concentrate minutely on your own private concerns. So things I’m trying to get better at is being more deliberate about noticing and rewarding the things that my wife does.

There’s a quote I heard a while back that’s always stuck with me and I bring it into parenting, work, and my relationships: “If you do too much, people get too dependent on you and you get burnt out. If you do too little, people lose hope in you. But if you do the right amount then people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”.

If life gets easier for you, stop to look around to show that gratitude.

Have a great weekend!

📬 PS: Please do reply to this email if you have anything to add / any questions. I quite enjoy replying to comments/emails as a source of procrastination from revision.

📬 PPS: Please hit the <reply> button and let me know what you thought of this email if you have a spare few seconds. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what was useful about it and what could be changed. Thanks <3