4 x 6 months

I have a simple 4 x 6 months framework when I think of jobs in product management and other similar roles in technology.

It takes 6 months to get on top of the details and figure out what we want to do.

In months 7-12, we begin notching up our first set of wins and feel “in flow” (assuming some competence :-)).

Months 13-18 is when we’re on top of our game. We notch up some more wins as we reach the top of our learning curve.

In months 19-24, we realize we’ve stopped learning. It is now time to figure out what comes next.

Of course, the specifics of every person’s timeline may be a bit different (e.g., 18 months to 24 months to 30 months). But the arc tends to be consistent.

It’s just helpful to know what to expect.

If it isn’t a hell yeah

One of my favorite posts from Derek Sivers teaches a simple lesson – “If it isn’t a HELL YEAH, it is a no.”

Derek wrote it in context of events and new projects. The more we say no to things that don’t matter, the more space we get for things that do.

It is one of those lessons that applies well beyond new projects and events however. It works fantastically well for smaller everyday decisions.

If it isn’t a hell yeah, just say no.

And don’t say yes when you want to say no.

It shows.

Notification settings

In an age where our phones are ever present, one of the highest leverage things we can do is to take control of our notification settings.

Choose what you want to be notified for, when you want to be notified, and how.

The more intentional and the more granular our choices, the better.

Not choosing is also choosing.

The deeper we dig

We were watching a Disneynature special called “Ghost of the mountains.” It chronicled the arduous challenges a film crew endured in their quest to capture rare footage of a snow leopard family on the Tibetan plateau.

We love watching shows about wildlife and nature. And this special brought to light just how challenging these shows are to produce. People go to great lengths to capture incredible footage. We’re incredibly lucky to be recipients of the end product.

It is just the same when we dig deeper into other pleasures in our lives.

The deeper we dig, the more we realize how lucky we are.

Best shop practice

I am not particularly anxious for the men to remember what someone else has tried to do in the past, for then we might quickly accumulate far too many things that could not be done … Hardly a week passes without some improvement being made somewhere in machine or process, and sometimes this is made in defiance of what is called “the best shop practice.” | Henry Ford

Every once a while, organizational memory can be problematic.

The key lies in not just documenting successes and failures but making the effort to establish causal understanding.

The more we attempt to understand cause and effect, the better our experiments become.

Process, outcomes, goals, systems

I’ve thought about the tension between processes and outcomes a lot over the years. On the one hand, outcomes are lagging indicators while processes are leading indicators. That naturally lends itself to advice along the lines of “focus on the process.”

But while the process is a leading indicator, a focus on the process alone doesn’t guarantee we’re headed in the right direction.

That leaves us with a conclusion that holds for most good things in life – when in doubt, replace the “or” with an “and.”

Combine a focus on process by keeping our eye on an outcome that helps us understand if the process is working.

Combine a focus on creating a good system with a goal that help us understand if we’re making progress.

We dissolve the tension by embracing it.

H/T Melodie for the illustration

Open book

Thanks to our experiences with examinations in school early in our life, we sometimes think of life as a series of closed book tests.

In truth, however, it is more similar to a series of open book tests with fewer and fewer questions. It is less about remembering things and a lot more about knowing where to look and whom to ask.

And, over time, it is developing a child-like curiosity to keep asking questions… and then learning to ask better ones.