Attachment to principles versus processes

The biggest benefit of experience is better pattern matching. You’ve seen many of the today’s movies play out before and are equipped to deal with them. The downside is a growing attachment to processes versus principles. This when you say something like – “This worked before. This is how I do this sort of thing” instead of “This is why I do what I do.”

I’ve noticed this creep into my thought process from time to time when it wouldn’t have five years back.

Here’s an example – let’s say a rapid, iterative approach to product creation worked on your team in the last year. The process you could get attached to is “Rapid, iterative product creation is how to build products.” Instead, the principle probably is – “The best process to building products is dependent on the context, the company, and the kind of customer.” If you were attached to the principle, you might decide that slower, more thoughtful product creation process is what the current situation needs. Whatever the outcome, you’d consider the alternative.

The challenge with developing an attachment to a process over a principle is that the principle you implicitly choose is “Refusing to ask why means choosing comfort over growth and inflexibility over seeking the truth.”

That is the polar opposite of one of the most important life principles – change is the only constant. We either change proactively or are forced to do so by circumstance – an experience that is best avoided.

Principles first. Processes second.

Macro patience, micro speed

“Macro patience, micro speed,” “Strategically patient, tactically impatient,” “Impatience with actions, patience with outcomes,” are variants of the same powerful idea expressed in different ways.

They run counter to how organizations and people operate. Most folks, for example, set ambitious 1, 3, or 5 year goals that involve promotions and net worth targets. But, they don’t focus on maximizing their productivity in the here and now. Or, they expect to have a flourishing family in 5 years but don’t take the time to invest in their relationships in the present. Organizations repeat the same pattern with ambitious five year goals but questionable quarterly planning.

Hence, these maxims that are equally applicable to building an organization for the long term (think: Amazon) and our own careers. Take the time to orient around a longer term direction built on principles / things that will not change. Resolve to be very patient over the next 10-20 years as you move toward that direction.

And, then, execute with speed and impatience to maximize your learn rate in the short term. Waste little time, experiment a lot, reflect, and learn fast.

We don’t have much control over our journey in the next 20 years. But, we can choose to be all over the next 7 days.

In the long run, how we approach these weeks is all that matters.

(H/T: Gary Vee, Jeff Bezos)

3 principles of asking for favors

Asking matters. We all do it. We could argue that we all need to do more of it. Here are 3 principles that might help –

i) Optimizing for quality works better than quantity in the long run. It is always tempting to send that mass email or send bulk LinkedIn invites with that generic message. There’s a reason they need to be sent in bulk – they rarely work in the short term. And, sadly, they backfire in the long term. Instead, over-invest in demonstrating your research and thoughtfulness. As Seth  wisely put it – “Don’t personalize, be personal.” While choosing volume may seem less risky, letting quality dip in any interaction is the riskiest thing we do in the long run.

ii) Avoid planting trees the day you need your fruits. “Hi, I don’t know you. Nice to meet you though. And, can you please do me a big favor?” If relationships are like trees, most folks ask seeds for fruits before they touch the ground.

One way to proceed is to think ahead and build the kinds of relationships that you think you might need (some do this artfully). My bias would be to just let curiosity, great intentions and care be your guide. Meet or e-meet folks whose work and voice inspires you. Over time, a few of these will turn into relationships. And, when it comes time to ask for fruits, you’ll have plenty of options.

iii) Get into the habit of granting favors yourself. For every favor you ask, help at least 5 people who seek favors from you. Do it so often that you don’t even think about doing them. Karma. It matters.

As a bonus, you’ll also learn to appreciate great asks and get better at asking yourself. And, that’ll take you right back to principle 1. :-)