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Posted on: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

You Begin By Appreciating Mastery.

Richard Bach and Ernest Hemingway are examples of authors who have managed to build genuine art with really simple words and sentences.

It is easy to read Jonathan Livingston the seagull or Illusions, and go:

"Hey! That sounds like simple English! I could have written that!"

Similarly it is easy to see basecamp or stack exchange and go:

"Hey! That's a simple application. I could build that in a month!"

The reality however, is that the best of experience and mastery sits humbly camouflaged under layers of honest simplicity and no desire to prove anything to anyone.

Just art; devoid of all craving and desperation.

A simplistic answer to a problem, an honest desire to serve, a humble desire to practice a craft or build stuff for the pleasure of building stuff.

The very fact that you cannot see or appreciate that mastery makes you think that you can do that in a month.

Of course you can build a project management tool, a forum or write a short novel, but the day you start seeing silent mastery hidden in everything remarkable around you is the day you will start taking your first tiny steps towards that very same mastery.

It comes. In it's own sweet time. If you are a young individual full of enthusiasm (or are still basking in the glory of your MBA) and if this post doesn't make any sense to you, come back and give it another read in 10 years; it might.

posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 1:22:51 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, October 9, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Must Haves.

Every blog post you do "must have" a picture.

Every build you push "must have" release notes.

Every site you publish "must have" a FAQ.

Every organization out there "must have" a written mission statement.

Most "must have's" are reasons for going with everyone else and doing what everyone else is doing.

A way of seeking acceptance by compliance and avoiding blame.

"We are doing everything we must do! You can't blame us!"

But then, in more cases than one, not having those must haves is often a "must have" for building remarkable products, cultures, organizations and lives.

Let go.

Good luck!

posted on Sunday, October 9, 2011 9:28:07 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [1]
Posted on: Friday, September 30, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Social Acceptance

We are creatures of acceptance. It is why we smile at people on the road. It is why we make friend, connect to our colleagues at work and build stuff.

Like it or not, acceptance is probably one of our fundamental needs. It is as real as food, water, survival and reproduction.

There are two different ways of seeking acceptance though.

Compliance is when a large group (the society, relatives, an organization, a body of professionals, customers) tells you what they need from you. You sacrifice parts of your personality, your gut, your desires, your vision and you give them exactly what they want. In return the group grants you acceptance. Only as long as you continue to comply.

Standing out is another way of seeking acceptance. Standing out is saying, "Sorry! I don't have what you want from me. But look what I've got here!" And then wowing them with your talents, your personality, your gut, your desires, your vision, your way of doing it, your approach to solving a problem or your product.

In the short term, standing out attracts more rejections. Standing out is scary and lonely. In the short term it also seems risky and expensive. But in the long run, the kind of acceptance that you get by standing out is very different from the kind you get by compliance.

Standing out gets you acceptance from people who genuinely respond to your weirdness. Standing out gets you acceptance from people who share your core values. Standing out connects you to people who see your stuff and say "we totally get it! Give us more of just that!".

Standing out brings you in touch with the best of friends, the best of family, the best of colleagues, the best of customers.

Put simply, standing out brings you face to face with, your people

Your initial groups may not be large, but in the long run, the encouragement and the support you get from them makes standing out worth so much more than the price you pay for it.

The returns of course, aren't instant. It takes some time and patience and commitment and work to find genuine acceptance but if that is what you are seeking as an individual or as an organization, there is no reason to settle for less.

posted on Friday, September 30, 2011 7:33:57 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by Rajiv Popat


What are you dissatisfied with?

You can be dissatisfied with "things" you have:

  1. Your salary.
  2. The size of your present home.
  3. The brand of your clothes.
    (The other brand is so much more better!).
  4. The resolution of your television.
    (The one with full HD is so much better!).
  5. The configuration of your laptop.

Or you can be dissatisfied with "experiences" at large:

  1. The kind of movies that are being made now a days.
  2. The kind of books being written.
  3. The kind of customer service your cell phone company gives you when you call.
  4. The kind of management that is being done these days.
  5. The kind of products and the kind of user interfaces being launched these days.
  6. The kind of cultures companies promote.
  7. The kind of ways with which people make new friends online.
  8. The kind of video games being launched.
  9. The kind of fun people have.
  10. The kind of clothes being made now a days and the lack of innovation in clothing industry.

When you are dissatisfied with things you have your knee jerk reaction is to crave other things. Things which are a little better than the things you already have. Life is about more and better things.

When you are dissatisfied with experiences at large and are willing to match that with effort and competence of creating new experiences not just for yourself but for the rest of the world, life is about magical and rewarding moments where you put your best into transforming experiences you don't like into something reamarkable.

Of course neither is easy. Neither is bad or wrong. But the irony here is that people who are usually dissatisfied with experiences at large often bring the best of the experiences and even the best of the things to the rest of human race.

What are you dissatisfied with?

posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 1:56:31 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, September 18, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Incompetent Individuals Or Folks Having A Hard Time.

Every programmer goes through a part of his life when he is at the most enthusiastic phase of his career.

You know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the "Of course we will work weekends even if we don't need to" phase. Typically happens in the first two years of their career for most programmers.

This is the time when they impress their bosses, bag promotions, score hikes and sometimes even develop deeper roots.

Then they invariably tend to get tired of trying to impress their managers.

Or they just realize that they have a life.

Or they go through phases in their personal life which start demanding more attention.

I've seen managers change opinions of individuals when this happens.

"She was amazing when she joined but she has totally lost that spark now. She's never going to be as good as she used to be".

When you say you are working with people who are incompetent what you often mean is you are working with highly competent people having bad days and instead of trying to help them you've given up on them.

When you've seen someone peak their career with your own eyes, you know exactly what they are capable of doing.

When you say they are incapable of reaching that peak again, you are not putting a hard limit on their capabilities. You're putting a hard limit on your leadership style instead.

Just a little something to think about.

posted on Sunday, September 18, 2011 8:48:53 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, September 11, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Including The Best Of You In Stuff You Publish Or Ship

My YouTube videos on Entity Framework have resulted in more heart warming comments than anything that I have ever done online. Even more than this blog.

For me the videos and the response they received were a solid validation about some things that I've always talked about.

  1. Social media (if you must call it that, I hate that term) isn't about broadcasting what you had for lunch or how depressed you are; because at the end of the day nobody cares about you.
  2. Social media is about providing serious service to the best of your ability. Service that has the potential of touching someone's life by helping them with a problem, teaching them something, entertaining them or inspiring them.
  3. Services that add genuine value aren't produced by someone tweeting about how sad they are. Genuine services that add value are built by slogging at something.
  4. Focus on building amazing stuff and stop worrying about your subscribers or audience. If you build it, they will come.

With everyone asking for a part 4 of the video I have gone ahead and uploaded that on you-tube as well.

(The volume on these videos is a little low so you might have to use headphone and crank up your volume to a high level).

Some weeks ago I said that I was going to talk less and ship more. While I continue to strive to do that I wish you just the same. Every tweet, every post, every facebook status update, every you tube video that you publish is your chance to indulge in the act of adding value and ultimately changing the world.

Publish small. Publish consistently. Publish with others in mind. Publish the best of you even when you are publishing for fun. Publish responsibly.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 9:38:34 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, September 4, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Even The Fortune Five Hundreds Need Small Solutions.

Jason Fried describes usage of small yet powerful products built by 37Signals in Fortune 500 companies.

He explains how 37Signals with it's stack is starting to sneak in on the fortune 500 organizations:

We’ve always been about the Fortune 5,000,000 – the small businesses of the world. The mom and pops, the freelancers, the small shops, and the small businesses with fewer than 10 people are our bread and butter.

However, recently we’ve been seeing more emails and signups from people who work at bigger companies and organizations. Lots of governmental agencies are showing up on our customer radar, too.

So about a week ago we dug into the data and discovered some interesting stats:

Basecamp is being used at…

  1. 35 of the Fortune 50
  2. 68 of the Fortune 100
  3. 321 of the Fortune 500

Highrise is being used at…

  1. 23 of the Fortune 50
  2. 41 of the Fortune 100
  3. 127 of the Fortune 500

Remember, we don’t have any salespeople here, so just about all of these signups are self-service/self-discovery or through word of mouth referrals.

We often hear from folks inside these companies. They’re beyond frustrated with the software/solutions they’re supposed to use. So they turn to our products because they just plain work. Sometimes they expense them, but often it seems a team or department head just pays out of their own pocket. The cost is insignificant compared to the productivity they receive in return.

We salute these insurgents!

While from a 37Signals perspective, the data seems to suggest that they're sneaking into the Fortune 500's, my interpretation of this data is that the fortune 500's are sneaking in on organizations like 37Signals and their products in an attempt to find out more about being effective with less. With companies running out of cash, VC's being super careful about funding, organizations trying to reduce cost and products or projects running out of free money, spending millions of dollars on projects and products is going to continue to get really difficult even for the biggest players out there. If the software industry was a party this far, with the changes in economy, the party is coming to an end. You can see that as a bad thing or a good thing.

Bad because it is going to get increasingly difficult to sell products worth millions. Sales cycles are going to get that much more complex and the fortune 500s are going to be that much more paranoid about spending millions and millions of dollars on your offering.

Good because the tools of guerilla entrepreneurship are out there for anyone who cares to use them. Use them wisely to serve the fortune five million. When these fortune five million flock to you, so will the fortune five hundred.

The take away is simple, build with passion and ethics. Build to serve and add value. Don't worry about the fortune 500 and focus on your craft because if you do it well, they might eventually sneak up on you.

posted on Sunday, September 4, 2011 9:22:08 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Working With Honest Wonderment.

Tribal Leadership By Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright is an insight into some of the best cultures out there and how these cultures are formed over time.

It is also a study of evolution of the mind of a typical tribal leader and the transformation a product or a project into a cause or a calling.

The book breaks any culture into fundamentally five stages:

Stage #1: Undermining: The behavior often seen in street gangs where the members of the team are united by a negative thought (usually, "Life sucks") and are in alienated relationships with everyone outside of the team to an extent where they even see the rest of the world as opposition or competition. Inter team competition for power also exists within the team.

Stage #2: Apathetic Victim: After outgrowing stage one, the team starts seeing that life in general does not suck. The focus in this stage slowly moves from "Life sucks" to "my life sucks" resulting in a realization that things can be improved with time and effort. People in this stage often continue to see their own team and the world as competition.

Stage #3: Usually happens when a person fights the phase of getting bullied by his boss and masters a skill thereby becoming productive. In this stage as the person becomes effective he shifts from "my life sucks" to "I'm great (and they are not)" approach of thinking. If you find yourself taking credit for your teams work or bossing people around, or even "pushing" or bullying them to get more work done out of them you are in this stage. If you find yourself criticizing your team members you are in this stage. You are still competing with people in your team and see them as a threat to your progress and growth.

Stage #4: Is a stage of Tribal Pride and happens when you've played the stage 3 game for a long time, have won and have had a series of epiphanies which have given you the realization that stage three doesn't scale. You've also realized that the unrelenting quest of power and competition is holding you back from making a larger impact or spreading your cause. In this stage your focus slowly shifts from "I'm great" to "we're great". Your teams are self sufficient and information is flowing smoothly within your team. You are no longer competing with your own team and have moved to competing with other organizations.

Stage #5: Is a point of time in your life where you finally get over the concept of competing with others and bump into innocent wonderment. When a medicine company stops competing with other medicine companies and starts competing with diseases. A stage where the entire company is driven by a cause that is larger than life. In this stage your focus slowly shits from "we're great" to "life is great!". You work because you experience the wonderment of a baby.

The division of organizations today more or less looks like this:

What the book does not explicitly state but makes very evident if you read between the lines is that all of your work life is a journey from "life sucks" to "life is great". What is rather tragic if you notice the graph above, is that most organizations and leaders are stuck in the "I'm great" stage. Only about 2% of the organizations and individuals manage to experience true wonderment of a toddler or a baby.

The biggest barrier to reaching wonderment is getting stuck at stage 3 where you are constantly busy portraying how amazing you are. Managers controlling who sends out emails and to whom, leaders hording information because they believe information is power, team leads constantly criticizing their own teams and teams constantly stepping on each others toes for their next promotion.

Stage 3 is important because it makes your stronger, but once you have lived it, your goal should be to grow out of it and move on to stage 4 and eventually to stage 5 where you experience true wonderment in work. A stage where are making a dent in your universe and the universe of people around you.

Which stage of leadership do you stand in?

Before you answer that question however, keep in mind that one of the most prominent features of stage 3 leaders is that they think of themselves as being on stage 4.

Go get the book (or download the free Audio book) and do yourself a favor by reading it. You might find yourself nodding your head in approval. You might even find yourself thinking about the times when you were fighting for growth and power. You might find yourself reflecting on how stupid you were. That or you might have to stand face to face with your deepest insecurities and admit you are a level 3 leader. Either ways, it is time for some serious soul searching if you want to eventually want to live the life of honest wonderment.

posted on Sunday, August 28, 2011 8:42:17 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]