More on Personal Growth
11 months ago
Why I quit a $500K job at Amazon to work for myself
I quit my 8-year Amazon job last week. I wasn't motivated to do another year despite promotions, pay, recognition, and praise.
In AWS, I built developer tools. I could have worked in that field forever.
I became an Amazon developer. Within 3.5 years, I was promoted twice to senior engineer and would have been promoted to principal engineer if I stayed. The company said I had great potential.
Over time, I became a reputed expert and leader within the company. I was respected.
First year I made $75K, last year $511K. If I stayed another two years, I could have made $1M.
Despite Amazon's reputation, my work–life balance was good. I no longer needed to prove myself and could do everything in 40 hours a week. My team worked from home once a week, and I rarely opened my laptop nights or weekends.
My coworkers were great. I had three generous, empathetic managers. I’m very grateful to everyone I worked with.
Everything was going well and getting better. My motivation to go to work each morning was declining despite my career and income growth.
Another promotion, pay raise, or big project wouldn't have boosted my motivation. Motivation was also waning. It was my freedom.
My motivation was high in the beginning. I worked with someone on an internal tool with little scrutiny. I had more freedom to choose how and what to work on than in recent years. Me and another person improved it, talked to users, released updates, and tested it. Whatever we wanted, we did. We did our best and were mostly self-directed.
In recent years, things have changed. My department's most important project had many stakeholders and complex goals. What I could do depended on my ability to convince others it was the best way to achieve our goals.
Amazon was always someone else's terms. The terms started out simple (keep fixing it), but became more complex over time (maximize all goals; satisfy all stakeholders). Working in a large organization imposed restrictions on how to do the work, what to do, what goals to set, and what business to pursue. This situation forced me to do things I didn't want to do.
Finding New Motivation
What would I do forever? Not something I did until I reached a milestone (an exit), but something I'd do until I'm 80. What could I do for the next 45 years that would make me excited to wake up and pay my bills? Is that too unambitious? Nope. Because I'm motivated by two things.
One is an external carrot or stick. I'm not forced to file my taxes every April, but I do because I don't want to go to jail. Or I may not like something but do it anyway because I need to pay the bills or want a nice car. Extrinsic motivation
One is internal. When there's no carrot or stick, this motivates me. This fuels hobbies. I wanted a job that was intrinsically motivated.
Is this too low-key? Extrinsic motivation isn't sustainable. Getting promoted felt good for a week, then it was over. When I hit $100K, I admired my W2 for a few days, but then it wore off. Same thing happened at $200K, $300K, $400K, and $500K. Earning $1M or $10M wouldn't change anything. I feel the same about every material reward or possession. Getting them feels good at first, but quickly fades.
Things I've done since I was a kid, when no one forced me to, don't wear off. Coding, selling my creations, charting my own path, and being honest. Why not always use my strengths and motivation? I'm lucky to live in a time when I can work independently in my field without large investments. So that’s what I’m doing.
I'm going all-in on independence and will make a living from scratch. I won't do only what I like, but on my terms. My goal is to cover my family's expenses before my savings run out while doing something I enjoy. What more could I want from my work?
You can now follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey.
This post is a summary. Read full article here
3 months ago
The Three Most Effective Questions for Ongoing Development
The Traffic Light Approach to Reviewing Personal, Team and Project Development
What needs improvement? If you want to improve, you need to practice your sport, musical instrument, habit, or work project. You need to assess your progress.
Continuous improvement is the foundation of focused practice and a growth mentality. Not just individually. High-performing teams pursue improvement. Right? Why is it hard?
As a leadership coach, senior manager, and high-level athlete, I've found three key questions that may unlock high performance in individuals and teams.
Problems with Reviews
Reviewing and improving performance is crucial, however I hate seeing review sessions in my diary. I rarely respond to questionnaire pop-ups or emails. Why?
Time constrains. Requests to fill out questionnaires often state they will take 10–15 minutes, but I can think of a million other things to do with that time. Next, review overload. Businesses can easily request comments online. No matter what you buy, someone will ask for your opinion. This bombardment might make feedback seem bad, which is bad.
The problem is that we might feel that way about important things like personal growth and work performance. Managers and team leaders face a greater challenge.
When to Conduct a Review
We must be wise about reviewing things that matter to us. Timing and duration matter. Reviewing the experience as quickly as possible preserves information and sentiments. Time must be brief. The review's importance and size will determine its length. We might only take a few seconds to review our morning coffee, but we might require more time for that six-month work project.
These post-event reviews should be supplemented by periodic reflection. Journaling can help with daily reflections, but I also like to undertake personal reviews every six months on vacation or at a retreat.
As an employee or line manager, you don't want to wait a year for a performance assessment. Little and frequently is best, with a more formal and in-depth assessment (typically with a written report) in 6 and 12 months.
The Easiest Method to Conduct a Review Session
I follow Einstein's review process:
“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”
Thus, it should be brief but deliver the necessary feedback. Quality critique is hard to receive if the process is overly complicated or long.
I have led or participated in many review processes, from strategic overhauls of big organizations to personal goal coaching. Three key questions guide the process at either end:
What ought to stop being done?
What should we do going forward?
What should we do first?
Following the Rule of 3, I compare it to traffic lights. Red, amber, and green lights:
Red What ought should we stop?
Amber What ought to we keep up?
Green Where should we begin?
This approach is easy to understand and self-explanatory, however below are some examples under each area.
Red What ought should we stop?
As a team or individually, we must stop doing things to improve.
Sometimes they're bad. If we want to lose weight, we should avoid sweets. If a team culture is bad, we may need to stop unpleasant behavior like gossiping instead of having difficult conversations.
Not all things we should stop are wrong. Time matters. Since it is finite, we sometimes have to stop nice things to focus on the most important. Good to Great author Jim Collins famously said:
“Don’t let the good be the enemy of the great.”
Prioritizing requires this idea. Thus, decide what to stop to prioritize.
Amber What ought to we keep up?
Should we continue with the amber light? It helps us decide what to keep doing during review. Many items fall into this category, so focus on those that make the most progress.
Which activities have the most impact? Which behaviors create the best culture? Success-building habits?
Use these questions to find positive momentum. These are the fly-wheel motions, according to Jim Collins. The Compound Effect author Darren Hardy says:
“Consistency is the key to achieving and maintaining momentum.”
What can you do consistently to reach your goal?
Green Where should we begin?
Finally, green lights indicate new beginnings. Red/amber difficulties may be involved. Stopping a red issue may give you more time to do something helpful (in the amber).
This green space inspires creativity. Kolbs learning cycle requires active exploration to progress. Thus, it's crucial to think of new approaches, try them out, and fail if required.
This notion underpins lean start-build, up's measure, learn approach and agile's trying, testing, and reviewing. Try new things until you find what works. Thomas Edison, the lighting legend, exclaimed:
“There is a way to do it better — find it!”
Failure is acceptable, but if you want to fail forward, look back on what you've done.
John Maxwell concurred with Edison:
“Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward”
A good review procedure lets us accomplish that. To avoid failure, we must act, experiment, and reflect.
Use the traffic light system to prioritize queries. Ask:
Red What needs to stop?
Amber What should continue to occur?
Green What might be initiated?
Take a moment to reflect on your day. Check your priorities with these three questions. Even if merely to confirm your direction, it's a terrific exercise!
10 months ago
A Day in the Life of Lex Fridman Can Help You Hit 6-Month Goals
The Lex Fridman podcast host has interviewed Elon Musk.
Lex is a minimalist YouTuber. His videos are sloppy. Suits are his trademark.
In a video, he shares a typical day. I've smashed my 6-month goals using its ideas.
Here's his schedule.
Not woo-woo. Lex's mantra reflects his practicality.
"I remember the game's rules," he says.
Sleeping 6–8 hours nightly
1–3 times a day, he checks social media.
Every day, despite pain, he exercises. "I exercise uninjured body parts."
He imagines his day. "Like Sims..."
He says three things he's grateful for and contemplates death.
"Today may be my last"
Then he visualizes his goals. He starts big. Five-year goals.
Short-term goals follow. Lex says they're year-end goals.
Near but out of reach.
He lists his principles. Assertions. His goals.
He acknowledges his cliche beliefs. Compassion, empathy, and strength are key.
Here's my mantra routine:
Four-Hour Deep Work
Lex begins a four-hour deep work session after his mantra routine. Today's toughest.
AI is Lex's specialty. His video doesn't explain what he does.
Clearly, he works hard.
Before starting, he has water, coffee, and a bathroom break.
"During deep work sessions, I minimize breaks."
He's distraction-free. Phoneless. Silence. Nothing. Any loose ideas are typed into a Google doc for later. He wants to work.
"Just get the job done. Don’t think about it too much and feel good once it’s complete." — Lex Fridman
30-Minute Social Media & Music
After his first deep work session, Lex rewards himself.
10 minutes on social media, 20 on music. Upload content and respond to comments in 10 minutes. 20 minutes for guitar or piano.
"In the real world, I’m currently single, but in the music world, I’m in an open relationship with this beautiful guitar. Open relationship because sometimes I cheat on her with the acoustic." — Lex Fridman
Then exercise for two hours.
Daily runs six miles. Then he chooses how far to go. Run time is an hour.
He does bodyweight exercises. Every minute for 15 minutes, do five pull-ups and ten push-ups. It's David Goggins-inspired. He aims for an hour a day.
He's hungry. Before running, he takes a salt pill for electrolytes.
He'll then take a one-minute cold shower while listening to cheesy songs. Afterward, he might eat.
Four-Hour Deep Work
Lex's second work session.
He works 8 hours a day.
Again, zero distractions.
The video's meal doesn't look appetizing, but it's healthy.
It's ground beef with vegetables. Cauliflower is his "ground-floor" veggie. "Carrots are my go-to party food."
Lex's keto diet includes 1800–2000 calories.
He drinks a "nutrient-packed" Atheltic Greens shake and takes tablets. It's:
One daily tablet of sodium.
Magnesium glycinate tablets stopped his keto headaches.
Potassium — "For electrolytes"
Fish oil: healthy joints
“So much of nutrition science is barely a science… I like to listen to my own body and do a one-person, one-subject scientific experiment to feel good.” — Lex Fridman
Four-hour shallow session
This work isn't as mentally taxing.
Lex planned to:
Finish last session's deep work (about an hour)
Adobe Premiere podcasting (about two hours).
Email-check (about an hour). Three times a day max. First, check for emergencies.
If he's sick, he may watch Netflix or YouTube documentaries or visit friends.
“The possibilities of chaos are wide open, so I can do whatever the hell I want.” — Lex Fridman
Two-hour evening reading
Lex ends the day reading academic papers for an hour. "Today I'm skimming two machine learning and neuroscience papers"
This helps him "think beyond the paper."
He reads for an hour.
“When I have a lot of energy, I just chill on the bed and read… When I’m feeling tired, I jump to the desk…” — Lex Fridman
Lex's day-in-the-life video is inspiring.
He has positive energy and works hard every day.
Mantra Routine includes rules, visualizing, goals, and principles.
Deep Work Session #1: Four hours of focus.
10 minutes social media, 20 minutes guitar or piano. "Music brings me joy"
Six-mile run, then bodyweight workout. Two hours total.
Deep Work #2: Four hours with no distractions. Google Docs stores random thoughts.
Lex supplements his keto diet.
This four-hour session is "open to chaos."
Evening reading: academic papers followed by fiction.
"I value some things in life. Work is one. The other is loving others. With those two things, life is great." — Lex Fridman
You might also like
6 months ago
What are NFTs 2.0 and what issues are they meant to address?
New standards help NFTs reach their full potential.
NFTs lack interoperability and functionality. They have great potential but are mostly speculative. To maximize NFTs, we need flexible smart contracts.
Current requirements are too restrictive.
Most NFTs are based on ERC-721, which makes exchanging them easy. CryptoKitties, a popular online game, used the 2017 standard to demonstrate NFTs' potential.
This simple standard includes a base URI and incremental IDs for tokens. Add the tokenID to the base URI to get the token's metadata.
This let creators collect NFTs. Many NFT projects store metadata on IPFS, a distributed storage network, but others use Google Drive. NFT buyers often don't realize that if the creators delete or move the files, their NFT is just a pointer.
This isn't the standard's biggest issue. There's no way to validate NFT projects.
Creators are one of the most important aspects of art, but nothing is stored on-chain.
ERC-721 contracts only have a name and symbol.
Most of the data on OpenSea's collection pages isn't from the NFT's smart contract. It was added through a platform input field, so it's in the marketplace's database. Other websites may have different NFT information.
In five years, your NFT will be just a name, symbol, and ID.
Your NFT doesn't mention its creators. Although the smart contract has a public key, it doesn't reveal who created it.
The NFT's creators and their reputation are crucial to its value. Think digital fashion and big brands working with well-known designers when more professionals use NFTs. Don't you want them in your NFT?
Would paintings be as valuable if their artists were unknown? Would you believe it's real?
Buying directly from an on-chain artist would reduce scams. Current standards don't allow this data.
Most creator profiles live on centralized marketplaces and could disappear. Current platforms have outpaced underlying standards. The industry's standards are lagging.
For NFTs to grow beyond pointers to a monkey picture file, we may need to use new Web3-based standards.
Introducing NFTs 2.0
Fabian Vogelsteller, creator of ERC-20, developed new web3 standards. He proposed LSP7 Digital Asset and LSP8 Identifiable Digital Asset, also called NFT 2.0.
NFT and token metadata inputs are extendable. Changes to on-chain metadata inputs allow NFTs to evolve. Instead of public keys, the contract can have Universal Profile addresses attached. These profiles show creators' faces and reputations. NFTs can notify asset receivers, automating smart contracts.
LSP7 and LSP8 use ERC725Y. Using a generic data key-value store gives contracts much-needed features:
The asset can be customized and made to stand out more by allowing for unlimited data attachment.
Recognizing changes to the metadata
using a hash reference for metadata rather than a URL reference
This base will allow more metadata customization and upgradeability. These guidelines are:
Genuine and Verifiable Now, the creation of an NFT by a specific Universal Profile can be confirmed by smart contracts.
Dynamic NFTs can update Flexible & Updatable Metadata, allowing certain things to evolve over time.
Protected metadata Now, secure metadata that is readable by smart contracts can be added indefinitely.
Better NFTS prevent the locking of NFTs by only being sent to Universal Profiles or a smart contract that can interact with them.
NFTS standards lack standardization and powering features, limiting the industry.
ERC-721 is the most popular NFT standard, but it only represents incremental tokenIDs without metadata or asset representation. No standard sender-receiver interaction or security measures ensure safe asset transfers.
NFT 2.0 refers to the new LSP7-DigitalAsset and LSP8-IdentifiableDigitalAsset standards.
They have new standards for flexible metadata, secure transfers, asset representation, and interactive transfer.
With NFTs 2.0 and Universal Profiles, creators could build on-chain reputations.
NFTs 2.0 could bring the industry's needed innovation if it wants to move beyond trading profile pictures for speculation.
4 months ago
Is Venture Capital a Good Fit for Your Startup?
5 VC investment criteria
I reviewed 200 startup business concepts last week. Brainache.
The enterprises sold various goods and services. The concepts were achingly similar: give us money, we'll produce a product, then get more to expand. No different from daily plans and pitches.
Most of those 200 plans sounded plausible. But 10% looked venture-worthy. 90% of startups need alternatives to venture finance.
With the success of VC-backed businesses and the growth of venture funds, a common misperception is that investors would fund any decent company idea. Finding investors that believe in the firm and founders is the key to funding.
Incorrect. Venture capital needs investing in certain enterprises. If your startup doesn't match the model, as most early-stage startups don't, you can revise your business plan or locate another source of capital.
Before spending six months pitching angels and VCs, make sure your startup fits these criteria.
Likely to generate $100 million in sales
First, I check the income predictions in a pitch deck. If it doesn't display $100M, don't bother.
The math doesn't work for venture financing in smaller businesses.
Say a fund invests $1 million in a startup valued at $5 million that is later acquired for $20 million. That's a win everyone should celebrate. Most VCs don't care.
Consider a $100M fund. The fund must reach $360M in 7 years with a 20% return. Only 20-30 investments are possible. 90% of the investments will fail, hence the 23 winners must return $100M-$200M apiece. $15M isn't worth the work.
Angel investors and tiny funds use the same ideas as venture funds, but their smaller scale affects the calculations. If a company can support its growth through exit on less than $2M in angel financing, it must have $25M in revenues before large companies will consider acquiring it.
Aiming for Hypergrowth
A startup's size isn't enough. It must expand fast.
Developing a great business takes time. Complex technology must be constructed and tested, a nationwide expansion must be built, or production procedures must go from lab to pilot to factories. These can be enormous, world-changing corporations, but venture investment is difficult.
The normal 10-year venture fund life. Investments are made during first 3–4 years.. 610 years pass between investment and fund dissolution. Funds need their investments to exit within 5 years, 7 at the most, therefore add a safety margin.
Longer exit times reduce ROI. A 2-fold return in a year is excellent. Loss at 2x in 7 years.
Lastly, VCs must prove success to raise their next capital. The 2nd fund is raised from 1st fund portfolio increases. Third fund is raised using 1st fund's cash return. Fund managers must raise new money quickly to keep their jobs.
Branding or technology that is protected
No big firm will buy a startup at a high price if they can produce a competing product for less. Their development teams, consumer base, and sales and marketing channels are large. Who needs you?
Patents, specialist knowledge, or brand name are the only answers. The acquirer buys this, not the thing.
I've heard of several promising startups. It's not a decent investment if there's no exit strategy.
A company that installs EV charging stations in apartments and shopping areas is an example. It's profitable, repeatable, and big. A terrific company. Not a startup.
This building company's operations aren't secret. No technology to protect, no special information competitors can't figure out, no go-to brand name. Despite the immense possibilities, a large construction company would be better off starting their own.
Most venture businesses build products, not services. Services can be profitable but hard to safeguard.
Probable purchase at high multiple
Once a software business proves its value, acquiring it is easy. Pharma and medtech firms have given up on their own research and instead acquire startups after regulatory permission. Many startups, especially in specialized areas, have this weakness.
That doesn't mean any lucrative $25M-plus business won't be acquired. In many businesses, the venture model requires a high exit premium.
A startup invents a new glue. 3M, BASF, Henkel, and others may buy them. Adding more adhesive to their catalogs won't boost commerce. They won't compete to buy the business. They'll only buy a startup at a profitable price. The acquisition price represents a moderate EBITDA multiple.
The company's $100M revenue presumably yields $10m in profits (assuming they’ve reached profitability at all). A $30M-$50M transaction is likely. Not terrible, but not what venture investors want after investing $25M to create a plant and develop the business.
Private equity buys profitable companies for a moderate profit multiple. It's a good exit for entrepreneurs, but not for investors seeking 10x or more what PE firms pay. If a startup offers private equity as an exit, the conversation is over.
Constructed for purchase
The startup wants a high-multiple exit. Unless the company targets $1B in revenue and does an IPO, exit means acquisition.
If they're constructing the business for acquisition or themselves, founders must decide.
If you want an indefinitely-running business, I applaud you. We need more long-term founders. Most successful organizations are founded around consumer demands, not venture capital's urge to grow fast and exit. Not venture funding.
if you don't match the venture model, what to do
VC funds moonshots. The 10% that succeed are extraordinary. Not every firm is a rocketship, and launching the wrong startup into space, even with money, will explode.
But just because your startup won't make $100M in 5 years doesn't mean it's a bad business. Most successful companies don't follow this model. It's not venture capital-friendly.
Although venture capital gets the most attention due to a few spectacular triumphs (and disasters), it's not the only or even most typical option to fund a firm.
Other ways to support your startup:
Personal and family resources, such as credit cards, second mortgages, and lines of credit
bootstrapping off of sales
government funding and honors
Private equity & project financing
collaborating with a big business
Including a business partner
Before pitching angels and VCs, be sure your startup qualifies. If so, include them in your pitch.
6 months ago
The Last To-Do List Template I'll Ever Need, Years in the Making
The holy grail of plain text task management is finally within reach
Plain text task management? Are you serious?? Dedicated task managers exist for a reason, you know. Sheesh.
—Oh, I know. Believe me, I know! But hear me out.
I've managed projects and tasks in plain text for more than four years. Since reorganizing my to-do list, plain text task management is within reach.
Data completely yours? One billion percent. Beef it up with coding? Be my guest.
Enter: The List
The answer? A list. That’s it!
Write down tasks. Obsidian, Notenik, Drafts, or iA Writer are good plain text note-taking apps.
List too long? Of course, it is! A large list tells you what to do. Feel the itch and friction. Then fix it.
But I want to be able to distinguish between work and personal life! List two things.
However, I need to know what should be completed first. Put those items at the top.
However, some things keep coming up, and I need to be reminded of them! Put those in your calendar and make an alarm for them.
But since individual X hasn't completed task Y, I can't proceed with this. Create a Waiting section on your list by dividing it.
But I must know what I'm supposed to be doing right now! Read your list(s). Check your calendar. Think critically.
Before I begin a new one, I remind myself that "Listory Never Repeats."
There’s no such thing as too many lists if all are needed. There is such a thing as too many lists if you make them before they’re needed. Before they complain that their previous room was small or too crowded or needed a new light.
A list that feels too long has a voice; it’s telling you what to do next.
I use one Master List. It's a control panel that tells me what to focus on short-term. If something doesn't need semi-immediate attention, it goes on my Backlog list.
Todd Lewandowski's DWTS (Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon) performance deserves praise. His DWTS to-do list structure has transformed my plain-text task management. I didn't realize it was upside down.
This is my take on it:
D = Done
Move finished items here. If they pile up, clear them out every week or month. I have a Done Archive folder.
W = Waiting
Things seething in the background, awaiting action. Stir them occasionally so they don't burn.
T = Top 3
Three priorities. Personal comes first, then work. There will always be a top 3 (no more than 5) in every category. Projects, not chores, usually.
S = Soon
This part is action-oriented. It's for anything you can accomplish to finish one of the Top 3. This collection includes thoughts and project lists. The sole requirement is that they should be short-term goals.
Some of you have probably concluded this isn't for you. Please read Todd's piece before throwing out the baby. Often. You shouldn't miss a newborn.
As much as Dancing With The Stars helps me recall this method, I may try switching their order. TSWD; Drilling Tunnel Seismic? Serenity After Task?
Master List Showcase
My Master List lives alone in its own file, but sometimes appears in other places. It's included in my Weekly List template. Here's a (soon-to-be-updated) demo vault of my Obsidian planning setup to download for free.
Here's the code behind my weekly screenshot:
## [[Master List - 2022|✓]] TO DO ![[Master List - 2022]]
FYI, I use the Minimal Theme in Obsidian, with a few tweaks.
You may note I'm utilizing a checkmark as a link. For me, that's easier than locating the proper spot to click on the embed.
Blue headings for Done and Waiting are links. Done links to the Done Archive page and Waiting to a general waiting page.