Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Water Cooler Wednesday #6 - Moving Fast - Part 2

Last week we begin a three-part series about how we move fast. Part 1 was about environment.

Part 2 - Mentality

Moving quickly demands the proper mentality to maintain focus, handle failures, and be decisive.


Without focus you have no product; with it you can conquer the world. Here are a few of the lessons we have learned about focusing:
  • It takes a certain amount of ramp up time to settle into programming. Turn off your phone, close your email, damn the torpedoes, and full steam ahead.
  • Never lose sight of where the product is going. Define a clear direction for the product and make sure all efforts move the product forward in that direction. You may occasionally change the product's direction (pivot), but if you do be sure to reassess everything you're doing to make sure it fits the new vision. This doesn't mean that everyone needs to know the full details of the plan, just that they know the final destination and what role they play in getting there.
  • Refuse to be distracted for more than a short amount of time. This is best illustrated by the character Doug in the movie UP. Occasionally he sees a squirrel and gets distracted for a moment, but he always comes back to what he was focusing on before. These squirrel moments can be one of your greatest sources of new ideas, but beware of losing focus on your endgame.


Any product which has a small amount of complexity will not work 100% right from the start. It takes persistence to get it right.
  • Go home at the end of the day. It takes a lot of energy to come to work and produce crazy new stuff. You can only continue producing if you turn off production and rest. Working more than 40 hours a week should not be a common occurrence, and weekend emergencies should be even more rare (see post here).
  • Enjoy what you are doing. Working is much easier when you love what you do. If you don't, I recommend you take a careful look at where you are in life. It is important to find fulfillment somewhere in your life. If not at work, then at home or in a hobby. It almost doesn't matter where you find it, as long as you do.
  • Make it a habit to keep on trying. I'm getting all meta here, but be persistent about being persistent. It takes a lot of practice, and you will fail. A lot. Trust me. I've failed way more times than I've succeeded, but I've learned to not do some things. Don't take failure to hard, but if you must be angry, use that anger to stoke your determination to try again. And if it is impossible, just let it go.
As Dory said, just keep swimming. That simple fact is so powerful that it bears repeating. Just keep swimming.


Many decisions require time for investigation so that the different options can be accurately weighed. It is easy to spend inordinate amounts of time researching because there's no easy way to know when you know enough. Here are some for spending the right amount of time making decisions:  
  • How important is this decision, really? Is it a chocolate vs vanilla ice cream decision (assuming no allergies involved), or is it a who to marry decision? Make sure you work on developing the skills to see the difference. We usually think a given decision is more important than it really is. Here is a small truth: most decisions don't really matter. Objects in the mirror are smaller than they appear. Hindsight will let you see things for what they really are if you are honest with yourself.
  • Learn when to cut bait. You can continue to sink time into so many things, and that time is the most precious of your resources. Learn when to let go.
  • Just make the decision. Take a few seconds, collect yourself, then make it. The decision may change, it may be preliminary, it may be wrong, but at least you made a decision and can now move forward. Most decisions can be changed if you learn later that it was actually wrong.

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