Understanding the news and working with data

There’s a learning curve involved with understanding how the news works.

We might begin – as kids at least – with the assumption that the news is the objective list of everything of note that is happening around us/the world. But, we learn over time that a big part of understanding the news is looking beyond what is presented to us and asking 3 questions –

1. How was the information sourced/collected?
2. What have they omitted/chosen to omit?
3. What is the bias in their reporting?

Interestingly, the learning curve around working with data when we make product and business decisions is no different. The early promise of big data was that large amounts of data would solve any problem.

That promise didn’t pan out.

So, asking the above questions when we look at data/analysis and marrying a desire for data with a healthy skepticism for what it is telling us ensures we keep asking the questions that help get us closer to the truth.

As in the case of the news, better to replace “data driven” with “data informed.”

Roy Disney and Bob Iger- Ego and Respect

Bob Iger, in his so far excellent book “The Ride of a Lifetime,” shares a story about he went about diffusing an ongoing public outcry from Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, just after he was appointed CEO.

Roy Disney had been public in his unhappiness with former CEO Michael Eisner and eventually resigned from Disney’s Board in protest. And, he wasn’t happy with Bob Iger’s selection as the latter was COO during the last 5 years of Eisner’s rein.

After a conversation with Roy, Bob Iger shared that he realized there were a lot of pent up emotions behind Roy’s behavior. He felt he had been slighted and disrespected by Eisner and the rest of the board. And, most importantly, he was hurting at parting with the legendary company founded by his uncle.

So, Bob Iger went about making a few small changes – he gave Roy Disney the title of Chairman Emeritus and made arrangements for a small consulting fee and an office at Disney headquarters. Roy, for his part, agreed to call off the lawsuit.

The lesson Bob Iger shares is the recognition that most people just want a bit of respect. And, in difficult situations, it is so important to not let our ego get in the way of that happening.

It resonated.

Intermittent Fasting – week 2

I started intermittent fasting in earnest this new year. Tim Spector’s excellent book – The Diet Myth – reminded me of the reasons most cultures/religions recommend fasting.

After testing it over the holiday/reflection season, I’ve decided to experiment with
the 16/8 diet. This means eating between ~12pm-8pm and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. I haven’t been strict about the 16 hours – I have probably averaged between 15 and 16 hours.

So, why IF and why now?

I know a few friends and family members who swear by it. Nearly everyone I know has done it for weight loss. That wasn’t an interesting reason to me.

Instead, the health rationale for fasting, in general, and intermittent fasting made sense to me intuitively. The evidence for the health benefits have been stacking up over the years as well.

While I can’t attest to the health benefits just as yet, my experience over the past week and a half has been very positive. I knew not to expect any serious hunger pangs as I’d been testing it for most of December. However, the biggest positive has been getting an uninterrupted-by-breakfast stretch of deep work at the start of the day.

Looking forward to seeing how this plays out over the course of the year. For now, this change seems to be a keeper.

PS: I’ve mentioned The Diet Myth a bunch over the past months. It was recommended by James in response to a post on the challenges with diet research. Thanks for the recommendation, James – clearly high impact. :-)


Experience only counts when we consciously understand and internalize the lessons learnt from all the failures and successes along the way.

As “to learn and not to do is not to learn,” a simple test for whether we actually gained experience on a project is to ask ourselves – did that experience change how I operate or make decisions?

The difference between yes and no is the difference between stasis and growth.

And, the conviction in the yes is a good indicator of the steepness of the growth curve.

3 hard learned people lessons

I was mulling 3 hard people lessons that were the equivalent of hard earned (hence “hard learned) at various points this week.

1. Emotional intelligence is ignoring what people say and watching what people do.

2. When you have the privilege and luck of spending time with like-valued and like-minded people, you run into the danger of forgetting that there are a lot of very different kinds of people on the planet – some who choose meanness over kindness by default. And, a small minority who choose hate over every other emotion.

3. Every time we indulge in envying someone’s perceived success or wealth, it is worth reminding ourselves – things are not always what they seem.

Trombone oil

“Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest manufacturer of trombone oil in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of trombone oil a year.”

Dan Burke’s famous note to Bob Iger does two things at once – beautifully.

First, it articulates a simple but powerful point that is relevant to anyone looking to build a company or a product- market size/potential matters.

Second, a note that said “Focus on projects with big market potential” or “Make sure the TAM/Total Addressable Market on your investments are large” would have been both boring and un-memorable.

Even if what we’re saying is incredibly valuable, how we say it can make or break its impact.