Work-life balance – 2 anecdotal observations

2 anecdotal observations about work-life balance post kids –

1. There isn’t work-life “balance” or “harmony” or whatever other nice-sounding word we choose as a substitute for balance. There are only work-life trade-offs… and those trade-offs are real and best made consciously.

2. When we find folks with young kids who seem to have their stuff together, we can deduce with 30%-40% certainty that they have a thing or two they can teach us about personal productivity. However, we can deduce with 80%-90% certainty that they have either a) an amazing childcare support system, b) an incredibly supportive partner, c) both or d) a great ability to appear as if they have their stuff together. :-)

Kobe, Clay, and kindness

Over the past days, it’s been fascinating to see the internet explode with tributes about Kobe Bryant and, among the more geeky crowd, Clay Christensen.

Folks from all walks of life came together to celebrate two human beings who made a lot of difference in many lives. It was wonderful to see these tributes transcend differences in race, political leaning, and even nationality.

Death is often considered a morbid topic. But, it is in times like this we realize that death is the ultimate leveler and giver of perspective.

More than anything, such experiences remind us that we’re not here for long… so, we might as well be kind along the way.

After all, at the end of the day, all we have is each other.

The 80% experience

A question that has helped point to better product design every time I remember to ask it – what is the experience 80% of the users would want to go through? 

When asked, that question first reminds us that we must let go of all the complexity we are likely to introduce as super-users of our own products.

It then pushes us to simplify our flows to the few things most users care by removing any detailed how-to notes, unnecessary choices/steps, and excessive copy.

And, out of this exercise emerges a principle that applies just as well to product or process design as it does to effective communication – focus on clarity over completeness.

Great customer service and lifetime value

The biggest benefit of investing in great customer service isn’t in its ability to reduce the number of upset customers or prevent bad reviews.

It does that.

But, by transforming bad situations into memorable ones, great customer service inevitably increases the lifetime value of a customer every time they experience it.

(Inspired by a recent experience with Anson Belts)

The Joneses

We were in conversation recently about a situation that involved folks making life decisions in an attempt to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. Around the same time, I was reminded of this note from a Dale Carnegie classic.

“People are not thinking about you and me or caring what is said about us. They are thinking about themselves—before breakfast, after breakfast, and right on until ten minutes past midnight. They would be a thousand times more concerned about a slight headache of their own than they would about the news of your death or mine.”

He exaggerates a bit to make his point. But, it is regardless a powerful point.

Eliminating the “but, what would people think?” question makes most decision making processes better.

Trial and error

Trial and error is a powerful way to learn. The quicker and cheaper our tests and iterations, the steeper our learning curve.

It is all well to desire a culture of experimentation. But, such efforts go sour if we say we encourage experimentation but make a big deal of every (inevitable) misstep.

Therein lies the catch – trial and error come as a package deal.

PS: It is also just as important to make a big deal out of every win. The best way to encourage a culture of continuous learning is to take both in our stride and keep plugging way.