How Jeff Bezos Decides When to Give Up on an Idea

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, who usually doesn’t give a lot of interviews, gave one at this year’s CodeConference. The whole interview can be found here, and if you can find 80 minutes to see it, I highly recommend it.

The part of Bezos’ interview that stood out for me the most was when he talked about how he decides when to give up on idea. You can view that specific part of the interview by clicking on this link. Paraphrasing loosely, he said:
The most important things we’ve ever done have always seemed dumb to industry experts at the beginning. You can’t listen to people in the beginning when they say it won’t work, but you have to be stubborn on the vision, and flexible on the details. Now at some point, you may have to give up on the vision. How do you know when that is? I think it is when the last high judgement champion folds his or her cards.

I learned two things from Bezos’ insight which I believe I can apply in my personal and professional life:

  1. I need to intentionally schedule time to evaluate my goals. Just like in the world of business, a time may come when I may need to give up on some of my existing goals in order to move on to new things. The only way to arrive at that decision is by stepping back and evaluating things. Now it’s important to mention that one doesn’t evaluate too frequently, as that may become a distraction in and off itself. Instead, evaluations should be adequately spaced to enable the proper exploration of goals and opportunities.
  2. I need to have high judgement champions in my life; people interested in my growth and development whom I respect and admire, and whose judgement I trust. When things because unclear to me, or when I’m trying to decide if I should persevere or give up on a significant life goal, I can lean on these people for insight and advice. Some people also refer to this as having a personal board of directors.

Any other thoughts or ideas on how to decide when to persevere and when to quit?

 

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On Work-Life Balance, and Setting Down Glass Balls…

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A few days ago, I heard a work-life balance tip from Peggy Johnson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of business development, that resonated strongly with me. My loosely paraphrased version of the tip goes like this:

When we think about the tension between performing well on the job, and catering to the relationships and commitments we have outside of work, it can sometimes feel like we’re juggling a bunch of glass balls. From maintaining a healthy lifestyle to taking care of a sick parent, there’s all these things that we feel we really need to take care of as screwing them up could have potentially devastating consequences.

While it is important to identify the glass balls in our lives, it is also important to realize that we are not slaves to our priorities. Life always happens, and when it does, it’s totally fine to set down some of these glass balls so we can pick them up later. Failure to do so will keep us in a perpetual state of stress, which may lead to us dropping – and shattering – a few glass balls.

What does this idea look like in real life? When I put in long hours on a high profile project, and am invisible to friends and family for a few weeks, that’s okay! When I take off during crunch time at work in order to attend a friend’s wedding on the other side of the globe, that’s okay too! Our work-life balance will constantly change as we move through different phases of life. The challenge is to ensure that our balance goals are created not by our friends, family members, colleagues or the media. Rather, what work-life balance means to us at every phase of our lives, should be decided by us.

Peggy suggested that we set a glass ball on our work desk as a way to keep this idea fresh. I’m yet to get mine… 🙂

Walk Breaks Are The New Smoke Break

Smoke breaks used to be cool. Workers could recharge themselves multiple times during the day, all the cool kids did it, and important relationships were forged in the smokers’ den. Still not sold? Alright then, let’s ask Rachel 🙂

Fast forward to today though, and smoking is no longer cool. First, there’s all this talk about lung cancer, which leads to companies and governments asking smokers to move at least 15 feet away from their buildings before enjoying a cigarette. In addition to the lung cancer ‘scare’, non-smokers sometimes complain about the additional time off enjoyed by their colleagues who smoke. This CNBC article estimates that the average smoker takes 4 smoke breaks a day, with each break lasting about 10 minutes. This adds up to smokers getting a month’s worth of additional time off each year!

Now what? Instead of complaining about the lost productivity, I’m proposing a new type of break for non-smokers: the walk break. How it works is simple. At least once a day, get out of your building and take a 15 minute walk. The benefits of the walk break are huge. Just like the smoke break, walking helps to break the monotony and/or stressors of your work day; giving you some much needed time to regroup and recharge. In addition, walk breaks – unlike smoke breaks – actually improve your health by increasing your activity levels and getting you closer to those magical 10,000 steps (a 15 minute walk gives me about 2000 steps on average).

So what are you waiting for? Get active and stay productive. Take a walk break! 😀

Guess Who’s Back?

Hello hello! I’m back! … and really sorry for “abandoning my blog” as a friend of mine put it a few weeks ago. While I really can’t say I had any good reasons for doing so, a few things happened in my life between the months of June and September that required my attention:

  1. I graduated from Kellogg on June 19: This was an unreal, bitter-sweet experience. I got to meet my friends’ families and to share in their pride and joy. There was also a decent amount of partying and some emotional goodbyes, or should I say ’till we meet agains’.
  2. I got married on July 18: I usually don’t blog about my personal life (who wants to read such boring stuff anyways…) but on July 18, in Lagos Nigeria, I did marry my friend of 10 years, and girlfriend of 3. The ceremonies were colorful and fun filled, and I was truly overwhelmed by the generosity of both our families as they supported us throughout the festivities.
  3. I moved to Aberdeen, Scotland on July 31: My wife used to work here so after the wedding we both went to Scotland. She notified her employer of her intention to move with me to Seattle, and I spent a decent amount of time living the life of a ‘kept husband’ i.e. living in her apartment, eating her food, and shopping with her credit cards. In my defense, I was really broke so it couldn’t be helped.
  4. I relocated to Seattle, Washington on September 14: A long trip for sure, but as always good to be back to the USA. Better yet, with my wife here with me, I no longer have to spend so much time on FaceTime and Skype. I honestly can’t remember the last time I used those apps…
  5. I resumed full time @ Microsoft on September 21: Definitely excited to be back full time, and still taking time to ramp up and get plugged in, but my impression over the past few weeks is that I’m really going to like it here.

So now that the whirlwind is (kind of) over, what’s going to happen to my blog? I’m not gonna lie; deciding to come back to blogging was hard. There’s so many new priorities in my life (spouse and job come to mind) pulling in many different directions that it’ll honestly be easier to just wrap this up and free up my time for other things. What convinced me to go on was me taking the time to click around on this blog and go through the pieces of content that I’d created over the past 3 years. While I haven’t blogged as frequently I’d have liked, it’s definitely been an amazing ride, and even I was able to learn something from re-reading some of my earlier posts (I’ll be resharing on social media pretty soon). With that in mind, the plan is to continue blogging; mostly about management, leadership and inspirational topics, but with a little technology thrown in here and there. Thanks for the support so far, and please stay tuned. 🙂

Work Ends!… For now ;)

Okay this is embarrassingly late.

I actually had it all thought out and typed for a while now, but I’ve been back home in Nigeria with less-than-desirable internet, and so I was unable to post anything. I really will become more consistent at posting. Promise!

My Cube

So there it is! My last day at my beloved cube. I’ve had some good memories here, including the first few months on the job when I thought someone was going to walk up to me and say “Hey this isn’t working out. We think we made a mistake hiring you.” 😛

The most important thing that I’m taking away from working at National Instruments (or NI) is a strong technical foundation which I believe will serve me well in my next job. What I’ll miss most is the random conversations I had with my team members on topics that had absolutely nothing to do with work. The last one I can remember was about grocery shopping. 🙂 As mundane as it sounds, conversations like this really helped me know my team members on a personal level.

The things at NI that I hope to find at my next job include:

1. A group of really smart people who are down-to-earth and willing to help out whenever possible.

2. A work environment where it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”

3. A CEO that is trusted by most employees to always do the right thing.

That’s it! My time at National Instruments is done, and I’m excited about my next adventure! 😀

On Rejection

About 2 years ago I did a post on dealing with rejection. While the ideas on that post are still relevant, I decided to revisit the concept of rejection again. My reasoning was that this is a time of the year when people are still in the process of experimenting on their goals. They are still trying to figure out if they should make that career jump, go to grad school, or take on some other form of high-risk/high-reward initiative. For those in these situations, there is no escaping the constantly gnawing fear of rejection.

Whatever life and career options we choose, there will always be opportunities for  failure and rejection. When I encounter these friends of the ambitious and successful, some of the ideas I call to mind include:

1. Take a Chance: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

2. Persevere:  Successful people don’t like rejection either, but they take a chance knowing that the journey to the mountain of success is usually through the valley of failure.

3. It’s not Personal: A lot of times when our application for a job or admission into a school gets rejected, we take it personal; we feel that we have been rejected. This conclusion is mostly false. It was our application – our attempt – which got rejected and nothing else. Sometimes this may mean that the attempt wasn’t good enough and a second attempt might actually suffice.  Other times it might mean that another candidate proved to be a better ‘fit’. Fit in this sense is something that is out of our control as it could be anything decided by the employer or admissions committee. When this happens to you, pick yourself up and get ready for the next battle. Remember, no one is out to get you; people just want great candidates for their institutions. So your rejection is not personal,  it’s strictly business.

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Why Managers Should Encourage On-The-Job Failure

On-the-job FailureThe saying that goes “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die” is quite applicable to how we  manage our careers. Few if any of us go to work everyday thinking about the best way to mess things up, or give the barest possible minimum. No way! We want to do our best; we want to innovate; we want to contribute and make a difference in our respective organizations. What holds us back? The fear of failure. If you commit to that ambitious target with your manager, it’ll come back to bite you in your performance review. If you volunteer to help turnaround an ugly situation and you fail, that might mean the end of your career. Because of this fear, we ‘play it safe’ and miss out on opportunities to create tremendous value for our employers, and rapid career growth for ourselves.

How do we move forward? One of the key things I learnt from the book The Startup Of You is that both entrepreneurs and professionals need to learn to take calculated risks. This way, they would be able to deliver the quantum leaps in value that comes from calculated risk taking.

What about the managers? What can they do? They can throw their weight behind – and celebrate – people who volunteer to tackle serious challenges within the company. This is not just my idea. Jamie Dimon, the current CEO of JP Morgan Chase, had some thoughts about innovation and failure while addressing the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2009:

The full excerpt of his presentation can be found here.

Jeff Immelt is another global business leader that seems to agree with this idea of encouraging on-the-job failure. During his presentation to MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he attributes his current position as CEO of GE to an opportunity he was given to fail:

The full excerpt of Jeff Immelt’s speech can be found here.

How else can we encourage on-the-job failure?

Please be sociable and share!