Pyrrhic victory

In a once-a-quarter catch up with a friend recently, we shared the latest on what was going in our personal and professional lives.

Over the past year and a half, she’s made a lot of progress on a personal life project that was giving her a hard time. So, as we went through her updates, I shared my joy at hearing an update where the challenges she shared were all professional. She agreed and remarked – “Everything good on the professional front would feel empty if the personal side wasn’t taken care of.”

It was a powerful moment in that conversation as it reflected an understanding of what it meant to live in alignment with an important shared value – family/close relationships.

For many of us, our careers bring us great joy because they provide fuel to the fire lit by our motives – achievement, affiliation, influence/power, autonomy, and purpose. But, chasing these motives without paying enough attention to the things we value only results in a Pyrrhic victory – the kind that was won at too great a cost.

Staring out of the window

One of the keys to managing our energy over the long term is to celebrate time spent staring out of the window just as much as we celebrate time spent producing output that matters.

In the short run, it is tempting to write off down time as wasted time.

However, in the long run, down time turns out to be just as vital as up time.


Ikigai is at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at.

It occurred to me that much of our life experience is about finding a way to consistently experience ikigai.

Oysters and your blogs

There are two ways I’ve gotten to those of you who read this blog over time. The common path is from your email responses to posts. The uncommon path is through blog links that you share.

Every time one of you shares a blog link, I add it to my Feedly. Over time, reading this collection of blogs has become a highlight within my reading list – they tend to be that wonderful mix of pithy, personal, and thoughtful. And, through reading these posts, I develop that special connection with the blogger and am grateful for their generosity while they still find energy to write and share amidst everything else they have going on in their life.

Two recent additions to my list are Stephen and Dan– who’ve both being posting daily blogs. And, Dan’s post from yesterday on the oyster resonated deeply – thanks Dan.

When the parasite enters the oyster, it seeks to survive on, and destroy, its host.

The oyster responds by secreting an enzyme encasing the parasite.

Layer upon layer, the parasite is coated, until what emerges is a small ball made of a material called nacre. Nacre is also known as mother-of-pearl.

Pearls only exist due to the oyster overcoming risk and adversity.

There is a lesson here on how we can respond to the risk, adversity, and eventual rewards in our own lives.

Different ways of saying the same thing

I started writing here because I wanted to find a way to look past failures and stumbles and see learning instead.

I was sharing this motivation from the early days with someone recently and he shared that he associated this motivation with Nassim Taleb’s “Antifragile” concept and Ray Dalio’s equation – “Pain + Reflection = Progress.”

There are, of course, many other great articulations – Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset,” for example, is a famous one. These are all different ways of saying the same thing.

The beauty about powerful and important concepts – continuous learning, being proactive, effective prioritization, leadership – is that there have been many attempts at making them accessible and implementable.

The challenge, then, is to simply pick one that we want to work on, find an articulation that resonates, and then go out and spend the next decade committing (and re-committing) to learning it.

Marketing dog food and happiness

What does marketing dog food have to do with building products, success and happiness? Everything, it turns out.

When Paul Iams launched Iams 999 – a high quality, high protein variety of dog food – he didn’t have a distribution system. So, he needed customers who were willing to go through a lot of trouble to get this shipped over.

It turns out there was just this right group – owners of show dogs. These folks loved what was great about Iams (better health + shiny coats) and didn’t mind, or even liked, what was bad about it (hard to get => competitive advantage).

We are all not different from Paul Iams. When we seek partners, customers, and managers, we strike gold when we find folks who love what’s good about us and don’t mind what’s bad about us.

As these relationships start with appreciation of our strengths, these managers, partners, users, and team members give us the most useful feedback, push us to become better, and also give us air cover and support when we inevitably screw up. We all need that appreciation, push, and support to ship our best work.

And, making the effort to find our segment makes all the difference in the world.