Everyone Thinks They’re Above Average

Stack Overflow recently released its 2019 Survey Results.

The results are a treasure trove of insights about the the developer community, but I was particularly amused by this:

We asked respondents to evaluate their own competence, for the specific work they do and years of experience they have, and almost 70% of respondents say they are above average…

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We’ve Always Done It This Way

In startups, resistance to change is one of the worst possible character flaws.

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The First Hundred Users

The startup world gives so much attention to the first million users, that we often forget about the first hundred.

The first hundred users are important. Arguably far more important than the next 999,900.

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Hubris & Humility

In its infancy, a startup is a delicate thing.

People won’t rush to your door or shower you with praise. In fact, most won’t even take the time to shower you with criticism, even when your product sorely deserves it.

VCs, founders, and startup luminaries all seem to agree that before Product-Market fit, startups take grit to keep going.

But what is grit?

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Quick & Easy

Projects that seem quick and easy rarely are.

This is because we forget all kinds of things when we estimate:

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Averages Aren’t Benchmarks

Averages make very poor benchmarks.

I get it. You want to know what typical acquisition, activation, and referral rates look like. You want this information as a signpost to evaluate your own product’s performance.

But there are two huge problems with comparing your product to the average:

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Experts

Speaking of the pitfalls of outsourcing important work, have you ever noticed how many so-called experts there are who’ve succeeded at virtually nothing?

Today I got an email from the CEO of a prominent local design agency, announcing yet another book. This guy drives me crazy.

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Agencies

In my experience, startups over rely on agencies.

Don’t get me wrong—agencies can be fantastic for one-off, timeboxed work. Projects like designing the company logo or building a one-off tool are great fits for agencies. They’re discrete pieces of work with a clear start and end. While they may be important, they probably won’t make or break the company.

But too often startups rely on agencies for their most important work.

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Failures of Circumstance

James Clear has an excellent article on what he calls the 3 Stages of Failure.

In it, he differentiates between tactical failures, strategic failures, and failures of vision:

Stage 1 is a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.

Stage 2 is a Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen.

Stage 3 is a Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.

Highlighting this nuance is incredibly insightful. Knowing what’s holding you back is the first step to moving forward.

But I think Clear is missing a stage of failure here: Failures of Circumstance.

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We’ll Make It Right

There’s more power in these words than you might imagine.

Most customers understand, and even expect, some mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. What frustrates people isn’t the mistake, it’s the justification, the refusal to acknowledge the error, or the compounding of the error.

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