The returned bag

I lost a bag at a National Park a couple weeks ago. Some good Samaritan found it and returned it to lost and found.

It made its way back to us a few days ago. It had my spare glasses and a pair of binoculars – so it was a relief to get it back.

I have no idea who it is and thought I’d send a thank you to the ether with today’s post.

Good humans never fail to remind us that there is a lot to be grateful for.

Kevin Kelly’s 103 bits of advice

Author Kevin Kelly turned 70 and shared 103 bits of advice. I love reading his lists and thought I’d share a few that resonated.

• Don’t ever work for someone you don’t want to become.

• Cultivate 12 people who love you, because they are worth more than 12 million people who like you.

• When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

• When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.

• It is the duty of a student to get everything out of a teacher, and the duty of a teacher to get everything out of a student.

• Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.

• Speak confidently as if you are right, but listen carefully as if you are wrong.

• The consistency of your endeavors (exercise, companionship, work) is more important than the quantity. Nothing beats small things done every day, which is way more important than what you do occasionally.

• You’ll get 10x better results by elevating good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, especially in children and animals.

• Spend as much time crafting the subject line of an email as the message itself because the subject line is often the only thing people read.

• What you do on your bad days matters more than what you do on your good days.

• Take the stairs.

• Getting cheated occasionally is the small price for trusting the best of everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they generally treat you best.

• Actual great opportunities do not have “Great Opportunities” in the subject line.

• Your group can achieve great things way beyond your means simply by showing people that they are appreciated.

• When negotiating, don’t aim for a bigger piece of the pie; aim to create a bigger pie.

• Rather than steering your life to avoid surprises, aim directly for them.

• Don’t purchase extra insurance if you are renting a car with a credit card.

A reminder to change up the energy

Every couple of weeks, I experience a low energy day. There are many causes for such days – some within my control and some outside. But as I tend to be very aware of my energy and actively try to keep it buoyant, I can feel it when this happens.

On such days, I feel extra grateful for this habit of attempting to share a learning every day.

I don’t always have something insightful to share (let’s face it – some days just suck :-)). But the reminder helps me take stock, realize I’m just dealing with problems many would be blessed to have, and nudges me to get some rest and change up the energy the following day.

Such reminders can’t come often enough on low energy days. So it helps to count on this guaranteed reminder.

Humility and looking

“Watching the man, hard-of-hearing, hard-of-speech Patty learns that real joy consists of knowing that human wisdom counts less than the shimmer of beeches in a breeze. As certain as weather coming from the west, the things people know for sure will change. There is no knowing for a fact. The only dependable things are humility and looking.” | Richard Powers, The Overstory

“The only dependable things are humility and looking.”


When there is doubt, there is no doubt

Years ago, I used to hesitate and wait situations out, often trying to fix underperforming people or products instead of pulling the plug. Back then I was seen as a much more reasonable and thoughtful leader — but that didn’t mean I was right. As I got more experience, I realized that I was often just wasting everybody’s time. If we knew that something or someone wasn’t working, why wait? As the saying goes, when there is doubt, there is no doubt.” | Frank Slootman, Amp It Up

“When there is doubt, there is no doubt” resonated deeply.

The security check response

I had arrived later than I expected at the airport for a flight recently. As I entered the security check queue, I asked the lady guiding folks if she knew how long the queue would take. I asked her this in the off chance I’d need to request folks to move ahead of the line.

Her response – “Sir, this is why we say you need to get in earlier for your flight next time. Please get into this line”

I racked up a fair bit of airport experience in my past life as a management consultant. So her cryptic response didn’t create any feelings of anxiety. But it easily could have in other situations.

It turned out that the security queue moved quick and I made it to the gate with time to spare. But her response stuck with me as it got me thinking about times when I might have made the same mistake.

For starters, there were at least 3 alternative responses to that question. Examples –

(1) [Neutral] I don’t know how long but I would suggest getting into the line immediately so we can get you past security as soon as possible.
(2) [Helpful] Don’t worry – you can always ask folks ahead of you to help you if you are late.
(3) [Very helpful] It’ll only take 10 minutes. Don’t worry – you’ll make it with time to spare.

Instead, she took the moment to give me unhelpful advice.

I wonder how many times I’ve done this to others – choosing to give them unhelpful “I told you so” advice instead of finding a constructive path to progress. The number is definitely not zero.

When people are worried about something in the moment, find ways to help them deal with the worry. There’ll come a time when you’ll be able to reflect on the situation and help prevent worry in the future.

But that’s for later.

Be constructive first, be right/wise/insightful later.

5 lessons – a synthesis of the Product Management series so far

I’ve been writing a newsletter on product management since Oct 2018. With 32 editions, I think we’re about the ~75% of the way there on this journey about IC/individual contributor product management. I have a few remaining topics* I’m hoping to cover in the next months – e.g., Career Conversations, Data, Leadership, Types of PM roles, Writing, IC and Management paths, Onboarding, Interviews. But we are definitely closer to the end than the beginning. After that, we’ll likely switch to managing PMs (a tentative plan :-)).

So it was nice to get an opportunity last week to share a synthesis of this newsletter to a group of graduate school students. The presentation was titled “5 lessons I’ve learnt from my time as a Product Manager at LinkedIn.” As with any synthesis, it is missing a lot of the detail that (hopefully) makes these articles useful – but it does instead help to tell the story at the highest level. 

I hope you find it useful. (click here for the slides)

As I shared in the presentation, putting this together filled me with a lot of gratitude – for the folks who’d given me a shot at learning and growing as a product manager and to those who had consciously and subconsciously taught me these lessons over the years.

And finally, thank you to all of you for giving me the opportunity to share these notes with you and for all your encouragement and feedback.

With gratitude


*PS: If there’s a topic that’s top of mind for you that you don’t see, please just share in the comments/send me a note on rohan at Below is what we’ve covered so far. We’ll back to regular programming next edition.

Think complexly, talk simply

A teacher I know well shared this pithy note – “Think complexly, talk simply.”

She calls on her (graduate school) students to think deeply about and wrestle with complex issues. Every topic of importance has nuance. And understanding that nuance requires us to wrestle with complexity.

But she also challenges them to talk simply by synthesizing and communicating with clarity.

It resonated.

Taste the success once

Sport has seen many miraculous moments over the years that has seen teams come together and defy seemingly insurmountable odds. Ice Hockey fans might remember “The Miracle” game. Soccer fans might remember Leicester City winning the Premier League or Manchester United or Liverpool winning the Champions League with stunning comebacks.

For Indian cricket fans, the first such miraculous moment was when the Indian cricket team beat the mighty West Indian team in the 1983 World Cup finals. I relived these moments in a well-made movie titled “83.”

One of my favorite memories from the movie was around a quote that the team rallied around. It came from the legendary captain Kapil Dev who barely knew how to speak English. He said – “Like people says, taste the success once… tongue want more.”

The quote is the subject of some hilarious and then emotional moments (1:57 in this clip) in the movie.

Story aside though, it is a good quote. Notching up wins early in our time on any team lifts everyone’s game.

“Taste the success once” indeed.