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?

 

Resilience By Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, gave a commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley a few weeks ago which I believe is worth sharing. There are two parts of the speech that I find absolutely outstanding: the medium and the message.

When I say the medium, I mean that the speaker was outstanding. I must confess that I’ve never really been a fan of Sheryl Sandberg. All that “Lean In” stuff really put me on edge and made me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I needed to hear it. 🙂 Anyways, what blew me away was how vulnerable she allowed herself to be during the speech, irrespective of the fact that she’s one of the most powerful business leaders in our world today. I was really inspired by her example, and challenged to become even more vulnerable with my co-workers, friends and family.

Now to the message. Sheryl Sandberg shocked her audience by stating that instead of sharing life lessons, she’ll share the lessons she learned from the unexpected loss of her husband. A key insight she shared is that when we experience a negative event, we process it through one of the following ways:

  • Personalization, which refers to thinking that we are to blame for everything that’s wrong in our lives,
  • Pervasiveness, which means that one bad event will affect all areas of our lives, and
  • Permanence, where we project our current feelings out indefinitely.

However, once we can sidestep these emotional land mines, and realize that:

  • We are not responsible for every bad thing that happens in our lives,
  • Being bad at one thing doesn’t mean you’re bad at everything, and
  • Our current emotions, whatever they are, won’t last forever,

We can go beyond our adversity, and instead choose joy and meaning. I’m really inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, and if you watch her speech, you just might be too. 🙂

Imabe by news18.com

Cool Videos of 2015

I thought it’ll be a good idea to end the year by sharing some pretty impactful videos regarding leadership and personal development that I’d come across this year. I’ve always preferred videos to books because they’re easier to consume. Also, there’s something to be said about a speaker’s charisma which may not be captured in a book. These videos had at least one message that resonated strongly with me and I hope they do the same for you too:

1. Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability: This is a very popular TED video which most people might have already seen. Interestingly enough, I had to see it a few times before I really really got the gist of it.

Big Idea: This video has so many good ideas that revolve around how we need to be vulnerable if we want to live a full and meaningful life. One key message that stood out for me is that if we want to connect with those around us (spouses, siblings and colleagues), we need to let ourselves be really seen. This means that we need to be authentic. Another idea that I really liked was that we need to move away from thinking that we’re not smart, rich or interesting enough in certain situations to believing that we ARE enough.

2. Jim Collins – Drucker Day Keynote: I stumbled upon this one on YouTube and really loved it. If you don’t know Jim Collins, he’s a Stanford Business School grad and professor who wrote two business classics: Good to Great and Built to Last. This was his keynote address at a celebration of another management guru: Peter Drucker. If the management stuff bores you, I’ll skip right to the 47th minute to get the personal leadership ideas that he shared for consideration by younger folks.

Big Idea: The ten ideas that he shared towards the end of the talk are pretty awesome. The one that resonated with me the most was this: the fact that an opportunity before you is a once in a lifetime opportunity is a fact, but not a reason for you dive in. Carefully unplug from the opportunities that distract you.

3. Clayton Christensen – How Will You Measure Your Life: I saw this video for the first time in 2012, and blogged about it then. I decided to add it to this list because it is that profound.

Big Idea: Most of us don’t plan to be broke, ill or have poor relationships with the people we care most about. Instead we unknowingly prioritize our lives using a short term focus that sets us on this self destructive path.

As always, I’d love to thank you all for visiting my blog and checking out what’s going on in my head. Here’s to a fulfilling and growth-oriented 2016!

Final Quarter (Spring) Courses

Oh Spring quarter! The final lap of the bschool experience. When you realize it’s all coming to an abrupt end, you can do one of two things: have your final course binge in order to maximize the value of your tuition and/or complete the requirements of your desired major, or take things really easy with respect to academics so you can take the rest of the experience in. Guess what I did? I chilled!

I decided to take a few classes for two main reasons. The first was that I wanted to have time to connect with my classmates before we scattered to different parts of the globe, and to plan my wedding (yes I did do some of the planning 🙂 ). The second was that I wanted to have a lot of time to dive deep into my finance classes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn’t enjoy Fin D because I didn’t have enough time to work through the cases in depth, and I didn’t want to feel that way with the final finance classes I was taking at Kellogg. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m glad I took 3 credits in my final quarter. The classes that I took are as follows:

1. Entrepreneurial Finance & Venture Capital: I really enjoyed this course. It focused on the venture capital industry, an industry that I continue to be fascinated by. Through this course I was able to understand key industry terminologies like pre-money, post-money, and the various types of investment vehicles available to early stage investors. I was also able to debate with my classmates about the future prospects and possible valuations of a wide variety of businesses from biotech to enterprise software. These conversations were the best part of the class. We also had a few visiting entrepreneurs and VC speakers which was cool.

2. Financial Modeling For Leveraged Buyout Transactions (LBOs): I took this 5-week class because of the professor. Chirag Saraiya is a professor at Kellogg and a partner at Training The Street, a training outfit that teaches financial modeling and Excel skills to some of the most reputable banks and consulting firms in the world. I encountered Chirag and his amazing teaching style during one of his weekend workshops at Kellogg focused on financial modeling, and decided to take his class, even though I knew I wouldn’t be doing any LBO transactions anytime soon. What I really liked about his class is that he uses a lot of real-world examples, and tells us how finance-related stuff (like calculating WACC) plays out in the real world. I’ll definitely recommend this class for anyone interested in real-world corporate finance, or kick-ass Excel modeling skills.

3. Healthcare Information Technology: I decided to take some ‘random’ classes during my final quarter at Kellogg. By random I mean classes that had nothing to do with my primary interests: marketing, finance and technology. This turned out to be one of those classes, and I can’t say it went very well. It was a 5-week class so it wasn’t too bad. While we were talking about healthcare IT which is a hot topic, we ended up spending too much time on healthcare and not enough time on technology. With the right balance of both, it could be a pretty cool class.

4. Healthcare Quality: This was the other random 5-week class I took, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe it was too far from my comfort zone. We talked a lot about how hospitals measure quality and other similar but overall it was just a bad fit for me. Wouldn’t recommend.

5. Entrepreneurship: Building Innovation, Teams and Cultures: This one was good; really good. Think entrepreneurship meets technology meets organizational behavior. The professor, Mark Achler is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly accomplished and yet so humble, and he has this vast network of entrepreneurs that he willingly shared with us. This was also a 5-week class, and every week the professor brought in a past or current CEO to chat with us about topics around corporate culture, bootstrapping a business, and other inspiring topics. The best speaker in my mind was the former CEO of Redbox. He had an incredible life story that left some of my classmates in tears. Definitely recommend!

Overall, a great quarter, and a good end to my academic experience at business school. Unless I have some sort of mid-life crisis (which is a distinct possibility), this is the end of formal classroom learning for me! 😀

Afropreneurship with Sim Shagaya

I recently came across this video interview of Sim Shagaya. Sim is the CEO of Konga.com, a fast growing ecommerce startup in Nigeria. The first thing I observed about this guy was his top-notch academic and professional credentials. Sim bagged degrees from George Washington University, Dartmouth College and Havard Business School, then did stints in investment banking (Rand Merchant Bank) and technology (Google) before pursuing his dreams of entrepreneurship within Africa. What I like about the video is that it provides a pretty good insight into the choices he has made so far with respect to starting and growing a technology startup in a developing country like Nigeria. Enjoy!

Living an Extraordinary Life: Hakeem Bello-Osagie

For those of you who know Hakeem Bello-Osagie, nothing more needs to be said about him. For those of you who don’t, words don’t really suffice. Let’s just say that he is the kind of guy that makes your average ‘high-flyer’ uncomfortable. With degrees from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard Business School, and a distinguished career spanning across the energy, financial services and telecommunications industries, Keem (as he is called by friends) is a very very impressive guy.

This is Keem’s second speech on my blog. The first one (also worth watching) addressed the dilemma of citizens of developing countries studying in developed countries like the US. After graduating, should they stay back or go home?

This speech is awesome for a number of reasons. The first is that Keem shares his career story in a very candid way, which I think is quite inspiring. Another reason why I really enjoyed this speech is that I found Keem’s thoughts on living an extraordinary life to be quite profound. What he said is that if you want to live an extraordinary life, you have to be willing to try a lot of things that seem impossible. By definition, if you are trying a lot of things that seem impossible, you will probably fail a lot. However, once in a while, you’d surprise even yourself. Let me stop typing. Enjoy the video. 🙂

First Year Musings

The first year of my Kellogg MBA is done! It ended on June 11th. At least that’s when I had my last exam. The next thing on my plate is my summer internship at Microsoft! I think it’ll be a pretty good time in Seattle.

A very common line that I heard from MBA grads when I told them I was going to business school was “business school was the best 2 years of my life!”. That certainly wasn’t the case for me though. I’m pretty sure that the past year doesn’t count as one of the best of my life. A better way to describe my first year at Kellogg would be transformative. I’ve learned a lot and improved my business acumen, and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some really smart and talented people. Most importantly, I have been fortunate enough to create some true friendships with remarkable individuals that I believe will support and challenge me for the rest of my life. I know it sounds cliche, but it turned out to be true in my experience.

This year the outgoing Kellogg class of 2014 did something interesting. Each student took a personal portrait while holding a message that they’d like to send to themselves ten years from now. It was really interesting to see the insightful, inspiring and sometimes funny messages that these portraits contained. Stealing a page from their play book, I asked myself what I would tell myself a year ago as I was about to start my MBA at Kellogg. I came up with four things:

1.  Figure out what’s important to you outside Kellogg, and create the boundaries necessary to protect it. Not doing this might lead to unpleasant consequences for you.

2. Networking is important, but play to your strengths. If you come alive in large gatherings, then by all means go for it. If you are more comfortable with smaller, personal conversations, then go ahead and do that. What’s important is that you’re making meaningful connections that matter to you.

3. While the first year is fast paced and filled with interesting activities, you still need to make out time to reflect on your experience and make sure you remember – and are daily moving towards – your true North.

4. Seek out and spend time building relationships with the 2nd years. They really are an amazing bunch, and they’ll be gone sooner than you think! 🙂