If you’re content fitting into your slot in the Org. Chart, and doing the minimum necessary to meet expectations, then you’ll never accomplish anything meaningful.

The Map is not The Territory, and an Org. Chart is as artificial a map as you’ll ever come by.

"You started a company so you’d never have to work for some asshole. -> We all work for our customers. -> Fire bad customers. -> QED bitches."
Startup L. Jackson, mother fucker.

Justin Menkes explains:

  1. Realistic optimism.
  2. Subservience to purpose.
  3. Finding order in chaos.

However, there’s a fourth trait mentioned just prior to those three:

One core conclusion emerged: the best CEOs had been, and continued to be, distinguished by their ability to manifest the very best from their workforce.

Leaders inspire their teams.

More solid business writing from Amy Hoy, with a excellent quote from General Sherman that neatly summed up the whole piece for me.

I’ve always felt guilty for not swallowing the bullshit at places I work. Even where I am now, if it wasn’t a genuinely rewarding place to work I’d want to vomit every time I go in, like I did at my last job.

Death & Glory is a curious metaphor for startups, though it’s apt. I’m not yet 30 but I’ve already have regrets for spending too much effort on work, and not enough on cultivating the relationships I have in my life, because of the guilt I’ve felt at “not doing enough”. That’s changing, and has been over many, many months.

The truth is that work is but a small subset of what matters in life. It’s essential in the sense that you have to eat somehow, but it’s small in that the mechanical repetition of incremental efforts doesn’t reciprocate directly. I write code, the code works, I get paid. Wait, what? The code didn’t pay me. My boss didn’t even pay me. The people who bought the thing I built pay me, though even they do so indirectly. In business, relationships can become diluted through a plinko-like chain of people and machinations until finally, I get a lump sum automatically deposited into my account. It’s hollow, at best, unless I work hard to have a relationship with as many people along that chain as possible.

I’m fine with the arrangement because I’ve been under the boot heel of the alternative, poverty, and it’s a different sort of soul crushing than even the worst jobs I’ve had. It also turns out to be deeply rewarding helping those relationships mature.

However, working purely for money, for glory, for ego, is insane.

Wil Shipley:

Imagine you’ve just purchased a plot of land. What are you going to do, mine or farm?

If you farm, you’ll have to purchase seed up-front, and work on it for a season before you see any profits. And every season you’ll plow most the profits (literally) back into the land and salaries and your mortgage. You husband the soil to ensure that it’ll keep providing for you for years and years. If you’re lucky, and if you do a good job, you’ll gather a following, sales will increase, and eventually you may make a tidy living. But every season, no matter how rich you get, you’re going to be back out there, breaking your back and working with the soil. When you finally retire, if you’ve done a good job, the soil is as good as when you first got it, and your farm will live on.

Or, you could mine; you’ll need some initial money to lease mining equipment, and to hire some people to work the mine. Then, bam: profit. You’re making money. You tear a giant hole in the ground and eke every last bit of metal out as quickly as possible; there’s nothing to preserve, there’s no soil to keep in condition. You’ll make a big score, then the land will be spent, and you move on, leaving an unusable crater.

This is a metaphor I wholeheartedly agree with.

Me:

If Business is analogous to War, then Product Development is analogous to Agriculture. You need both to survive and prosper as a company.

Sustenance

I’ve always loved the analogy between business and war because it fits many facets of business well — I’ve read that the Art of War is required reading up in Wall Street — but I only just came to realize the agricultural analogy after reading through a handful or @rjs's tweets. They reminded me of the effects of monoculture and the way that farmers will rotate the type of crops they grow in an area to ensure the fullest harvest possible.

Product Development is like that. If you focus your development on only one area of concern (or even a myopic few) then the ROI of the developments invested will atrophy as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. In order to harvest the fullest fruits of your development labors you’ll need to rotate where you invest your resources — you’ll need to rotate what crops you sew.

Instead of iterate, iterate, iterate, it should be iterate, rotate, iterate.

Seasons

Let’s take this analogy a step further. Whether you realize it or not your business is subject to seasons as well. They’re likely not to be the literal four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall, but you are subject to them and they will affect you in real ways. For example, at my work our seasons are Hockey and Baseball (and a lot more honestly, but I hope you get my point). How, what, and when we develop depends entirely upon the weather created by those seasons. A “storm” in one of those seasons, like the awesome Minnesota State Hockey Tournament, can affect our development as much as a Minnesota snow storm affects my commute. If we ignore that reality we are generally met with disappointment as developments get rushed, or not done at all.

Foreknowledge of these seasons enables us to devise an almanac of when, how, and what we can plan. Planning then becomes more than an unrealistic cold calculation of expected time and available resources, it’s far more balanced and down to earth.

Harvest

A farmer harvests fruits and vegetables from plants which then get sold in a market.
A business harvests products and services from people which then get sold in a market.

Therefore, as a business, we don’t grow plants, we grow people. Therefore, this analogous principle of crop rotation applies to both the product being developed and the developers working on the product.

For example, if you have Designer A, who is an excellent Graphic Designer but cannot write HTML or CSS, then he’s going to be far less useful in the long run than Designer B who may not be as good of a Graphic Designer but can go the whole way and implement what he creates. The only way to ensure this happens is to sew a few markup seeds in your Designer’s head and nourish them so that they can eventually be harvested.

Pixar University is what happens when you take this principle to it’s furthest logical conclusion.

Statecraft

If you perceive a business as a microcosmic analogy of a country you’ll see that a country uses both war and agriculture to secure its survival. And by war I don’t mean killing. The true goal of war is to strategically secure resources and opportunities for your people to prosper.

Sun Tzu:

To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill

Otherwise people starve, then defect or mutiny.

"To some degree I have long found fault with certain naïve notions of commerce popular among some members of the design community. I try not to dwell on this stuff since anecdotal cases are just that. Of late, however, the positive buzz about compellingly-misguided commercial theory and experimentation, specifically within the design community, has caused me deep concern about the prospects and wellbeing of my peers."

Design View / Andy Rutledge - Profit, Lies, Theft, and Idiocy

Well worth the read. I hope to one day think, write, and articulate as well as Andy Rutledge.

"The Poop Factor is ever-present: most of what goes into running a real business is very different than what you fantasize about."