Job seeking – staying in touch regardless of the outcome

An underused job seeking practice – when someone you don’t know well helps/refers/puts in a word for you, stay in close touch with them regardless of the outcome.

This isn’t a note about this being the “decent thing” to do. I’ve heard that argument and think it is unfair – job seeking is hard/long/exhausting. It is easy to forget and, besides, the feelings associated with rejection in particular aren’t pleasant and can cause hesitation.

However, it is worth moving past the hesitation because things often come back full circle before you know it. The same people often end up working with us or moving to places we want to move to.

And, when that happens, it helps to be the rare person who followed up, closed the loop, and maybe even stayed in touch.

The best part about this practice is that it converts job searching into a great opportunity to connect with helpful people and to even build that occasional long term relationship when the chemistry is right.

(On a personal note, this practice is how I ended up finding my way to LinkedIn after being rejected the first time a year prior. It can work well. :))

3 books that might change your mind – 2019 edition

Here are 3 books I read this year that changed how I view the world –

1. Alchemy by Rory Sutherland (my review, Amazon): This was the book of the year. It’s impact on me was as follows – every time I hear someone say “that makes sense and should work” or something similar, I stop in my tracks and remind myself that things that the idea that things that make sense should work is a falsehood.

Rory Sutherland’s work has pushed me to be more curious and more accepting of ideas that aren’t logical. After all, logical solutions work better for logical problems vs. psycho-logical problems. Thus, Alchemy has put in a reminder as strong as any that things that work don’t need to make sense and that a dash of alchemy is often what we need to solve problems.

In that sense, its impact on me was profound.

2. The Diet Myth by Tim Spector (my review, Amazon): Tim Spector’s work drilled in a simple lesson – there is no such thing as the perfect diet because it is an interaction between the person’s gut microbes and the food. Everyone reacts to different things differently.

His advice as a result was simple – focus on natural, plant based, foods, Milk and food with living bacteria (yoghurt, cheeses), etc., are recommended. You won’t go wrong with diet that worked for your grandmother. Everything works great in moderation.

There were many other notes in the book that were eye-opening – e.g. his notes on junk food and the research on antibiotics.

Nutrition research is hard to do and books on nutrition are generally riddled with flawed science and incredibly loose correlations (I browsed a book the other day that estimated that eating xg of Beef increased life span by y years based on 2 bar charts). Tim Spector’s book does a great job rising above the pseudoscience with a thoughtful take on the research. It is a great buy and a must read.

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (my review, Amazon): Ready Player One was fascinating because it took me from being a virtual reality non-believer to plausibly consider a future where we might just live in a virtual reality simulation.

It also had a different sort of impact. As of this writing, I’ve reviewed 252 books on my book review blog. The number of science fiction books I read until I read Ready Player One in the beginning of 2019 was 0. And, despite the fact that this was a quiet year in terms of books for me (hence the 3 books recommended versus the usual 5), I read 4 works of science fiction and enjoyed reading all of them.

Thank you, Ernest Cline.

More resources:

Past editions of “5 books that might change your mind” – 2018, 201720162015201420122011

Categorized book recommendations of all 230+ books (mostly non-fiction) I’ve read in the past decade –

The challenge with how we measure our life

One of the biggest challenges with designing a good life for ourselves is that the stuff we measure our days, weeks, and even months with is not how we measure our life as a whole.

The stuff we measure our life with – living with integrity or building a few deep relationships with people we care about for example – come with no awards, no vanity metrics, no promotions, and no recognition. And, just in case that wasn’t hard enough, there are often minimal signs of progress for long periods of time.

On the flip side, most of the stuff that seems to loom large and feature so prominently in the near future (e.g. work/career milestones or fun side projects) seem to matter for the longest time… until they don’t.

It is the classic urgency vs. importance prioritization problem. And, as is the case with most things, it is much easier to talk about thinking long term/balancing the short and long term than it is to actually do it.

PS: This is much like building good products. The foreseeable future seems more important than it is.

Just one thing this time

I was mulling a new weekend project today. For a change, I shut it down before the thought germinated.

As unexciting as that might sound, it marked an important moment in my learning journey.

Over the past months, I’ve been working hard to simplify my life so I can focus on the two things that I expect will move the needle on my long term happiness – learning and contributing at work and being as good a partner and dad as I possibly can.

There are a list of things I’d like to do more. For instance, I’d like to find time to play more soccer. I’d also like to write more long form posts. But, in reality, for the first time in a decade, I’ve barely played soccer in the past months. And, I haven’t done any long form writing on tech and product management either. So, before I get excited about a new weekend project, it helps to remind myself that there’s an existing backlog for when I have more time.

Of course, I’d like to do more than just focus on working and being there for the family. But, I haven’t found a way to do that without sleeping less and messing with my health – that, in turn, would mean doing a sub par job on the two things that matter at the moment. So, we’re back to square one.

It took a bit of reflection after having our second child last year to arrive at this conclusion. I care deeply about being an engaged member of the family. And, after ~7 years of career finding, I’m finally 2+ years into a role that is a great fit and intend to make the most of the steep learning curve that lies ahead. I’ve come to accept that there’s little time left after embracing these constraints.

It is lovely to experience this sort of focus for the first time. I don’t spend any time on weekdays or weekends wondering when I can squeeze a bit of time to do this or that. I can just be – assured in the knowledge that there’s nothing else more important.

For many years, I gave lip service to the idea of fewer things done better. I’ve written plenty about prioritization over the years and did a passable job at it. My answer in the past was always to find some way to fit as much as I could in. But, as I realized in the second half of 2018, that approach doesn’t work with hard constraints.

One of my favorite ideas in the realm of prioritization is that saying no to things that don’t matter enables us to say yes to things that do. I’ve shared this many times over as a wishful note to self.

It is only now that I am beginning to draw clear boundaries, embrace trade-offs, and say yes to things that matter.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to make more progress down that road in the coming months – both at home and at work.

Getting good at things you don’t want to do

I came across a thought provoking tweet recently – “Be careful about getting good at things you don’t want to do.”

As obvious as that sounds, it is fairly easy to fall into that trap if we are solving for extrinsic measures of success – more money, prestigious roles, better titles, etc. And, extrinsic measures tend to be a natural outcome if all we solve for is “what should I do next?”

A better approach tends to be to to invest in solving who we want to be instead of what we want to do.

It is more upfront investment to understand our motives and values. But, once we do the legwork, solving what we want to do in a way that actually helps us get good at things we want to do turns out to be surprisingly tractable.

Attention and Appreciation

I was watching kids interact with their parents at a play zone recently. If their basic needs (not hurt or hungry) were met, I realized that two words summed up most of what they asked for – attention and appreciation.

Just as I was about to file that away as a reflection on kids, it got me thinking about the root causes of issues adults I know face at home or at the workplace.

It turns out that attention and appreciation are just as important in dealing with adults as they are with kids.

The best partners, friends, managers, and leaders make it a point to never forget that.

Be the only

There’s a quote about The Grateful Dead attributed to legendary rock promoter Bill Graham – “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

In retrospect, I realize that we grow up with a lot of emphasis on becoming the best at what we do. There’s not enough emphasis on becoming the “only.”

And, typically, the route to that is to become very good at (and, hopefully, enjoy practicing) three or four skills that combine and complement each other.