The Quick No

I once had a meeting at a prestigious London address. 

You probably know the kind of place – an immaculate 4 storey Georgian townhouse where even the flowers outside are imposing.

After waiting 10 minutes or so in the reception area, I went in for my meeting.

It was one of those meetings that come about from time to time. A slightly tenuous 2nd or 3rd degree referral, possible scope for interesting collaboration, often doubtful but usually worth a look. [1]

On my way home, I got a message flash up on my phone. 

“How did it go?”. 

I replied, “In and out in 12 minutes”.

10 seconds later; “Oh well”

They must have been right – 12 minutes can’t be good, surely?


Everyone says rejection sucks. Being told “No” is the worst. We also read about people who found enormous success after they were told No 1476 times in a row.

But the worst thing isn’t rejection. 

The worst is silence. Indifference, ambivalence, tumbleweed.

I’d rather have the Quick No.

And I knew it was exactly 12 minutes as on arrival I took my watch off and put it on the table in front of me. 

There wasn’t any point in wasting anyone’s time.

[1] Derek Sivers’ ‘Hell Yes or No’ post hadn’t entered my life at this point, but I do still believe that there are interesting things that can happen just outside Hell Yes…at the Adjacent Possible of meetings if you will.

Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

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Open Source: My reading list

This tweet on book lists by Stevan Popovic piqued my interest.

My reading list has always been a mix of random notes and a somewhat unwieldy Trello list.

Stevan’s version is built in Airtable, a product I’ve poked around with a fair bit (although haven’t found that really compelling use case for, as yet at least)

I thought it’d be worth borrowing/stealing his idea (thanks Stevan!) and moving my list into a similar format.

Grab it here >>>

Steven has added a couple of interesting ideas;

1. The people who recommended a book to him, and how many of them recommended it. I’ve left that out for now, mainly as I can’t remember how I discovered most of my book list.

2: Whether the book is ‘Tree’, ‘Branch’ or ‘Narrative’. Explainer on that here

Most of the books in my list are non fiction – I probably read 15-20% fiction vs non fiction but this list seems to be probably be more useful for non fiction discoveries. Let’s see though.

I hope this is a useful little resource and there are some books on here that may be up your street. I’m happy to offer my opinion on any of the ones I’ve read before you go diving in.

I’ll keep updating the list every week or two with new finds – just let me know if you’d like to know when a new one is added and I’ll set up an email notification for you.

How to create your own personal investment thesis

The term ‘investment thesis’ is a now a fairly common sight on the internet, particularly in the world of venture capital.

These investment theses tend to update every few years, often at a similar cadence to companies undertaking a rebrand (after all, a new investment thesis is itself a rebrand of sorts). [1]

Previously, a firm’s investment thesis tended to be held more privately.

But as the internet continues to open up all kinds of industries, and differentiation for all sorts of companies (including investors) is both harder and more important than ever, the open source investment thesis is far more common.

Besides, as many investors themselves will tell you: ideas are worth nothing; execution is everything.

VCs deploy financial capital  into their investment (and increasingly human capital too – this article on a16z is a good example), and the investments are largely in keeping with the thesis they’ve set out.

That’s the point of a thesis; it’s a premise to be proved [2].

What’s less common though is a personal investment thesis – a summary of where an individual is looking to investment their time, energy and resources over a period of time (perhaps 2-3 years)

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The Player-Manager’s dilemma

Sunday League (image: The18)

Each weekend thousands of teams play on pitches like this.

There are many different reasons to play, but some common ground too: a sense of camaraderie; the opportunity to escape the stresses and strains of every day life.

Whilst abilities and commitment levels vary, the core of the park football team setup is simple.

The players go out and play, each taking up their position.

The substitutes wait their turn, eager to show what they’ve got.

The manager is on the sidelines: overseeing, directing, strategising, motivating.

The referee takes on their inevitably thankless task.

Everyone knows what they are there for. Roles are clear.

But the player-manager is different.

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Untangling Time & Energy

Somewhere along the way you’ve probably been asked a question along the lines of ‘where are you spending your time & energy right now?’

You may have asked it yourself.

Time and energy are often paired together.

The answer to this question may contain a few elements, or it may contain one.

If we take a moment to think this question through, there are almost definitely multiple answers.

Time and energy may be connected, but knowing where the differences are is important.

And even if on face value the answer is the same, splitting these apart allows something else to appear that we may not expect.

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From Code School to Podcast School

Think back a decade or so.

How many kids did you see coding computers or hardware devices for fun?

Maybe you happened to be around a passionate engineering community, or instilled this curiosity in your own children at a young age, but chances are it was a pretty rare sight.

There were IT classes at school of course, but a lot of the focus was on learning how to use Microsoft Office, or perhaps writing some Perl or PHP script.

For the majority of young people, this was mandatory stuff to be done in their early teens. Something to tick off on the list of subjects to be studied and the grade to be acquired. Miles away from Final Fantasy and Football Manager.

And the barriers to owning your own computer were still pretty high.

Now it’s different.

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The rise of Edutainment

Education as business development (and beyond), teachers becoming more than just the new DJs, and the foundations of a big shift that’s here to stay.

 

At the start of 2018 I drafted an article entitled ‘Education is the new business development’.

It sat in my draft posts folder for way too long (this post explains why).

Here’s a taster of what I put together:

 

Media publishers can no longer rely on display ads, and a brand are less interested in just the media buy.

As a B2B sales software startup you can spend months trying to explain the benefits of your offering succinctly, let alone closing a deal.

If you’re tasked with heading up innovative ideas in a large company, a significant part of your workload is putting together information for internal teams to understand just what you’re up to and why they should care.

It’s tiring.

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Shipping, Unshipping and the Creative Handbrake

It’s now happened more times than I care to remember.

That feeling.

The shame. Frustration. Even self-loathing.

The impotence of not shipping it.

Not publishing, saving as draft, ignoring, deleting.

Holding it back, adding something else, flip-flopping.

The voice of the inner critic who’s seen all those other majestic experts effortless put their fluid, pithy or sophisticated work into the world.

The creative handbrake.

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Mind the Gap: A primer on Biases and Mental Models (slide deck)

Here’s an annotated and somewhat abbreviated version of a talk I did back in May for Hyper Island’s Learning Lab in New York City, focused on biases, decision making and mental models.

It wasn’t my initial intention to do this as a talk; I’d just collected a few snippets around the topic for my own learning purposes and had begun adding a few metaphors and examples to help build my understanding.

The area of biases and mental models is something I’ve long understood, but only to a very rudimentary level. Up until recently I’d never thought properly about what a confirmation bias actually is (or what it means), how Occam’s Razor can be used to help make a decision, or why we overly focus on the victors in business, sports, arts and life.

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