Sunday, January 13, 2019

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth was a really good book, with some of the key ideas from the various sections and chapters noted below...

Part One - What Grit is and why it matters

Showing up: Grit is caring about something, and sticking with it.

Distracted by talent: People become enamored with talent, but it's grit that matters more.

Effort counts twice: Duckworth's theory of achievement is that (A) talent x effort = skill and (B) skill x effort = achievement. The treadmill test, how long people stay on one when it cranked up, is an important measure of future success, and the more refined measure of grit would be who came back the next day to try a treadmill test again.

How gritty are you? Grit has two components, passion and perseverance... so consistency over time is very important. Goals can be structured into low-level, mid-level, and top-level... with effort towards the achievement of one level of goal feeding to the next level. If a goal not in the hierarchy, then it likely can be discarded as not important as too many unrelated goals can be a bad thing.

Grit grows: Grit develops through: (A) interest - enjoyment in something, (B) practice - trying to improve at it,, (C) purpose - believing that it matters, and (D) hope - believing you can go on.

Part Two - Growing grit from the inside out

Interest: People perform better at something when it interests them, and the goal isn't to simply look for a passion, but to foster one. Someone should try out different things and develop the one that seems most promising... like pulling on a string. Passion for work is: (A) a little bit of discovery, (B) a lot of development, and (C) a lifetime of deepening.

Practice: The 10,000 hour rule as written of by Gladwell is very relevant towards developing mastery, but it's also important that time in practice be executed deliberately, with specific goals around improving, including focusing on sub-skills, asking for feedback, and pushing through pain. Deliberate practice is for preparation, leading to flow for performance. Deliberate practice should be made a habit.

Purpose: True purpose is often doing something that pays dividends for other people, with the intention to contribute to the well being of others and this desire to do for others is often going to be correlated with grit. Callings aren't simply found, they have to be developed and deepened.

Hope: Grit rests on the expectation that our efforts will improve the future in some way. It isn't suffering that leads to hopelessness, it's suffering that someone thinks they can't control and optimists assume that problems and bad situations are temporary, pessimists assume they're permanent. A growth mindset leads to optimistic self-talk, which leads to perseverance over adversity.

Part Three - Growing grit from the outside in

Parenting for grit: What's signed up for has to be seen through. Also, it's important to model that things should be seen through as kids may not listen, but they will imitate. Supportive and demanding is the way to go and many gritty people have talked about how their parents are gritty role models.

The playing fields of grit: Kids who do extracurricular activities fare better on almost all metrics,  continuously being involved with something and improving at it... signing up, signing up again, making progress over multiple years. Following through on something both requires grit and builds it as especially in youth, industriousness can be learned. Duckworth's family has a hard thing rule: first is everyone has to have a hard thing they do (whether sports, music, arts, writing, or something else), second is they get to pick it, third is they have to follow it to it's completion and not quit.

A culture of grit: If someone wants to be grittier, they should find a gritty culture and join in as the way to be great at something is to be part of a great team. If someone a leader and wants people in their organization to be grittier, they should create a gritty culture, one that fosters development rather than attrition. Also, the language used by a leader is important, as they should say exactly what they want to communicate.

Conclusion: Genius is working towards excellence, ceaselessly, with every element of your being.

It was an excellent book, right up there with some of the best of this type that I've read.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Disrupted by Dan Lyons

Disrupted by Dan Lyons was centered around his time at HubSpot, a venture capital-backed marketing startup in Boston and the book both entertaining in the depiction of the company and Lyons trying to assimilate to it and sobering with how he describes startups as a whole and his view of how the industry works.

Lyons was previously the Technology Editor for Newsweek and hired in April 2014 at HubSpot, with the company making software used primarily by small businesses in their marketing efforts, either through outbound marketing via an automated email program, or inbound marketing with customers publishing blogs, websites, and videos so people come to them. Lyons was hired with the somewhat nebulous title of Marketing Fellow and from his conversations with the two company leaders at HubSpot, he felt he would be working on fairly high-level marketing. What he wound up being tasked with by his immediate management was writing blog posts, with the intent of getting people to express interest in learning more and generating a lead. The book covers how it's possible that Lyons was hired as a sort of PR move with them bringing in an established journalist, but also possible that the founders who hired him genuinely liked his skills, but then were distracted by other things.

Regardless of what led to his role at HubSpot, Lyons writes a rollicking story of what the company like. When he was hired, HubSpot had around 500 employees, the majority of them young, and marketed itself as a fun and exciting environment that was all about culture, teamwork, and making a difference. What Lyons described finding, however, was a strange and hard-partying environment primarily for those right out of college, and one that many people would with little warning get thrown out of, or as the company said "graduated" from. In a way, the stories from Lyons bring to mind the idea that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

There's definitely funny tales in the book about HubSpot, but on a broader scale, Lyons also writes of how a startup doesn’t need to have great technology or even turn a profit, it just needs venture capital to fund it and investors to want to buy shares in it, with the founders and venture capital firms the ones who reap the majority of the wealth. Lyons describes how HubSpot fit perfectly with the model of what investors wanted, a focus on revenue growth predominately via the engine of fairly low-paid employees providing sales and marketing staffing, with one phrase of his from the book about the company as "a financial instrument, a vehicle by which money can be moved from one set of hands to another." Additionally, Lyons wrote about companies continuing this same model after going public and the book concludes with Lyons leaving in December 2014 and then his manager as well as the CMO being forced out of the company due to their "attempts to procure the manuscript to a book about HubSpot," with one fired and one resigning. The company at the time the book came out in 2016 was a public one with a market value of nearly $2B and had never turned a profit, losing over $100M.