The Kaizen Newsletter #29 (01/14/2020): The Grass Is Not Always Greener

Currently in Morocco for the week for some vacay 🙌, so this story is a bit shorter than usual, but also pretty personal, so hope you enjoy!

We suck in product management because we don't have good fundamentals, and we're definitely not going to be able to learn them at GV. We have to go somewhere else.

*Disc scratch*

Yup. That's me having an internal dialogue a few days ago.

Once again, I’m trying to jump ship from my company to a new one and thinking that it will magically fix all of my issues.

But since this situation is already a deja vu, I know exactly how this situation will end. Hint: This is a “me” problem and not the company’s problem and this will continue happening again and again unless I start fixing my own issues.

Let me elaborate a bit more.

Since the start of my professional career, this has already happened twice. The only difference is that I'm always switching companies for a different reason, so on the surface, it looks that I'm evolving, but in reality maybe not.

I finally realized that this always happens when I find the work that I deliver is not up-to-par with what my standard is, and instead of blaming myself, I try to blame it on external factors and convince myself that it's because I'm not in the ideal scenario and at the next company, it's going to be different.

But as my good friend Jermaine said:

Fool me one time, shame on you
Fool me twice, can't put the blame on you
Fool me three times, fuck the peace sign
Load the chopper, let it rain on you - J. Cole

Now that it's happening a third time, it's pretty safe to say that the blame can now be shifted to the real culprit - me.

"But Alex, if you know your work sucks, why don't you just do... better work?"

Honestly, that's a super valid question, but I don't have any answers for that. I definitely know that it's not because I can't provide high-quality work. During my first two years in consulting, I was the most billable employee at my company, but it went downhill from there. For the three next years, I felt that I was never back to where I was.

I mostly think it’s a combination of me knowing that I don’t enjoy working for another someone else (I eventually want to have my own company) and also knowing that I can get away with not giving my all, but still being better than the average worker (yes, 100% the wrong mentality to have).

And the reason why I don’t want to give it my all is that when I do, I start working 60h-80h a week and get consumed with work and eventually burnout.

This leads to the next question: “So why don’t you try and balance your work.”

Well, the real answer is that whenever I do something, I either do it all the way, or not at all, so it’s really hard for me to balance everything equally.

What I do know is that I’m happy that I finally realized why this situation was happening over and over again, and I want to put an end to it. So instead of jumping ship, I want to try and stay at GV and work it out and start providing high-quality work again.

The lesson? Sometimes it’s better to stop looking at your neighbour’s grass and focus on watering your own. If you never learn how to take care of your own grass, then no matter where you move, it will never be as green as you would want it to be.

Now, on to the newsletter.


Weekly Favourites

📃 Articles

  • The Basecamp Guide To Internal Communication - Really interesting read on how Basecamp does internal communication. They prioritize writing memos instead of meetings since it wastes less time and can last forever. Another thing I really like from what they do is that every day and every week, each employee is prompted to write what they worked on or what they're working on (day vs week). It helps to keep yourself accountable and it also allows others to follow what other departments are working on. Here are some of my favourite principles from their guide:

Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.

Writing solidifies, chat dissolves. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it's important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don't chat it down

Whenever possible, communicate directly with those you're addressing rather than passing the message through intermediaries

  • What should you do with your life - Alexey Guzey - Really enjoyed this article, but mostly for bits and pieces of what I read. I agree with the author that if you want to learn about something, one of the best ways to do so is to simply google “how to learn about x Reddit” and then go through the multiple suggestions you would find. Another portion I loved was the quote from Derek Sivers.

But the permanent effect was this: Kimo’s high expectations set a new pace for me. He taught me “the standard pace is for chumps” — that the system is designed so anyone can keep up. If you’re more driven than “just anyone” — you can do so much more than anyone expects. And this applies to all of life — not just school.

📚 Book

  • Vicious - V.E. Schwab - Decided to go with fiction after reading The Ride of a Lifetime (which I've actually been referencing A LOT in the past few weeks). It's definitely not the most life-changing book, but sometimes it's pleasant to read just to read. I can definitely say that I have a very hard time putting my book down to sleep, but I also have to admit that I'm a sucker for any story that contains magical powers. If you want a fun read and like characters with superpowers, then I'm sure you'd enjoy it!

🤔 Thought

I’ve been travelling to many countries in the past few years my favourite moments on any trip I’ve been to have always been when I’m at the dinner table surrounded by friends while eating local food. - AHS

🐦 Tweets

  • I've worked for pretty big corporations in the past, so it's almost become second nature for me to treat email as if I'm writing a letter (yes starting with "Hello X, My name is Alexander (...)" and ending with "Best Regards"), but I'm trying to dial it down for the past few months. I become even more self-conscious when I start DMing people on Twitter using a similar format and they reply with messages without even capitalizing any words and I'm like "okay, I definitely need to dial it down a bit and write more how I talk". This tweet was a good reminder of that.

  • Something I'm starting this year is trying to book weekends (or at least a full Saturday/Sunday) to dive into a topic and learn as much as possible about it. It's especially helpful with my goal to produce 4 different long-form essays before the end of the year.

  • Just learnt that if you have an iPhone, you don't even need to download Shazam, since it's now owned by Apple.

  • Cutest/Funniest video of the year so far (yes I know it's only been 15 days .

🎧 Music

Albums

  • N/A

Songs

🙏 Shoutouts

  • Shoutout to Cheetah, Topa, Cellini and Ems for making this Morocco trip insane so far. By the time you read this newsletter, it's very likely that I'll be in the Sahara Desert by then 👌.


👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

If you enjoyed the Kaizen Newsletter, then it'd be cool if you can share it with your friends. They can sign up here.

Feedback is always appreciated, so let me know what you liked and what I can improve on by replying to this email.

If you see any cool articles, links, tweets, stories or podcasts that you think are interesting, feel free to share as well at alex@alexhughsam.com