This March Break (mid March 2015), I visited the campuses of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Tesla — as well as touched upon the offices of Pinterest, Uber, Square, Yelp and Airbnb. My family (patient wife + 2 energetic boys — six and two years old) also joined me in my 3G — “Great Geek Getaway”. Here are 10 thoughts and beliefs that I confirmed as I strolled through Cupertino, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Francisco:
- Do what you love with a vengeance: In a job that you hate? Quit. In an industry you like but in the wrong department? Change titles. There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
- Hire superstars: Work with people who get things done, add value, are well-rounded, inspire others, and communicate openly. Remember that you are average of the 5 people you are around the most — choose your company (which includes your boss) wisely.
- Spend 70% on product development; 30% on marketing: Invest time and [compensating] your best people on building a world-class product that your customers want/need. The money will follow. A great product will build it’s own army of evangelists — no expensive Super Bowl ads needed.
- Avoid incremental innovation: Marginal improvements work well for industry incumbents who are concerned with status quo and market share. Decommoditize your product. Instead of getting 1% of a $100 billion market, aim for a 10x performance improvement over the closest substitute.
- Respect everyone: Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Listen. Absorb. Don’t look over someone’s shoulder for a ‘bigger fish’ when talking to someone. Engage in deep, meaningful conversations with other intellect greats. Don’t shoot someone down. Stay clear of slander. Avoid gossip. What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.
- The 45 minute rule: Guard your time ferociously. Avoid time-wasters (both humans and non-humans). Spending 45 minutes on an activity and then moving to something else ensures an optimized schedule (sleeping should take more than 45 minutes, yes) — and a feeling of ‘multiple accomplishments’ in a day. Be it meetings, lunches, bicycle rides, or
bingewatching ‘House of Cards’, give yourself 45 minutes for each activity — and your mind a big positive boost.
- Money is important: Money powers the world, keeps our homes warm. It is important. If you’re on the top of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, congratulations. If you’re not, work towards it. Make the right choices. Increase your disposable income. Eliminate anything ruthlessly that you don’t need. Negotiate for your true worth. Build parallel, ‘automatic’ income generators. When your living expenses are taken care of, you become laser-focused on greatness in your work, not getting by.
- Cadence of decisions: Wrong or right, make a call. The worst that can happen is a Strike One (just don’t go to a Strike Three). Expand your horizon. When faced with an issue — assess, weigh, and evaluate. Then list options. Decide on the best option and socialize with your team/boss/family. Make a decision and never look back. Understand that things — and life — is iterative — pivot when needed.
- Get a mentor: If the world’s best athletes need coaches, why wouldn’t you? A mentor is good because he or she is playing the game at a much higher level than you are. The right mentor-mentee interactions are therapy for the soul and mind. They are your guiding light to definite success and happiness.
- Books and TED: Read inspirational books and watch thought-provoking TED talks. Rework by Jason Fried, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and numerous TED talks are my favourites. Read about your interests, industry, or heroes — and relate, adapt or apply. It will help you build yourself into a Master Storyteller. You will avoid expensive mistakes and leapfrog towards your next milestone.