The Kaizen Newsletter #39 (31/03/2020) - Becoming a Maker

Lots of movement happened this week on my end which is why I skipped last week's newsletter.

I don't want to deep-dive into all the details, but the gist of it was that my role as a product manager got diminished. And I get it. Business is business and when your team doesn't meet certain expectations, then people get affected. In this case, I was one of those people.

What do I want to talk about is the feeling of helplessness when someone takes away something that you really enjoy doing. That's what I felt when that happened and trust me when I say that it's one of the worst feelings to have, especially when you can't do anything about it, but just watch it happen.

I took it hard the first few days but realized afterwards that the best way to move forward is to look at where I can improve to avoid this from ever happening again.

It's definitely easier said than done, and in my case it's even harder because it's not like I could "practice" product management at home when I don't have a product I can manage.

And that's when it hit me 💡.

Well, if the issue is that I don't have a product outside of work, maybe that's what I should fix.

I should build products so that even though I can't do it full-time at my job, I can still improve my product skills at home.

But that's when all the excuses came rushing in.

"Oh, but I suck at coding."

"How do I know which ideas are good and which ones are bad?"

"And I don't even have ANY ideas."

"And even if I do, it'll take way too long to actually build something."

So I did what I usually do - I reached out to Twitter friends for some guidance.

I reached out to KP, who recently build (a platform where you can grab virtual coffee with people from Twitter), and self-identifies as a "maker".

I asked him a really simple and somewhat stupid question: "How do you become a maker?"

And his answer, which was equally as simple as the following:

It's 90% mindset and habits. 10% external factors like your projects taking off successfully.

This is my interpretation of what he told me.

It's 90% mindset and habits

My first reaction was "wut? mindset?".

And it comes back to what James Clear explains in Atomic Habits.

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. - James Clear

Start with who you want to be.

The example James gives in the book is if you want to quit smoking, don't tell yourself that you want to "stop smoking". Instead, identify yourself as a "non-smoker". And then you will start acting as a "non-smoker". Whenever you would have the thought of a cigarette, you would tell yourself "Wait, why do I want a cigarette if I'm not a smoker?"

And this principle works the same way for becoming a maker. If you identify as "maker" then you have to act as a maker as well. And what does a maker do? Well, a maker ships. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

This means you should take 30min to an hour each and every day to make/ship something.

And this when all my excuses came rushing through again.

"But KP, I don't know what to ship. I don't have any ideas".

If you don't have any ideas, then take a few weeks and start collecting ideas. Good ones, bad ones. I don't care. If you can't ship right now, then every day start writing down at least 3 ideas that come to mind. ANYTHING. The goal here is to just write things down.

For example, yesterday, these were the ideas I came up with:

  1. "'Scratchpad for JIRA"

    • As a product manager, I hate going to JIRA all the time since it's slow and messy.

    • Whenever I go into JIRA, I only want to be able to see certain views and do certain actions.

  2. A way to easily manage your email newsletters (a bit like Instapaper but for email newsletters)

  3. Build a platform where local brands (restaurants, coffee shops, microbreweries) are all able to post their things so Montrealers are able to buy online and can get it delivered to their house

Then after a few weeks (let's say 2-3), you should have around 40-60 ideas written down somewhere.

Now, instead of going directly to this BIG CRAZY 1 BILLION DOLLAR IDEA, do the simplest to build and ship.

"But how will I become a billionaire?"

Calm down young padawan.

To use a sports analogy, working on this 1 billion dollar idea is like if you wanted to shoot the game-winning 3-pointer in game 7 of the NBA finals without ever shooting a 3-pointer in your life. You have to practice, practice and practice again until you get so comfortable that shooting a game-winning 3-pointer in game 7 of the NBA finals is the same thing as shooting a 3-pointer during practice with nobody blocking you.

That's the same mentality you want to develop in making. Just start shipping so that when you actually have the opportunity to ship this BIG CRAZY 1 BILLION DOLLAR IDEA, then you're already prepared for it.

To give you an example, the first thing KP shipped was this micro-website It's not even an app and I don't believe he made any $$$ from this. But once again, you just want to focus on developing that shipping muscle.

Once you start shipping, there are a few other things that KP suggested that would help you push to really become a prolific maker.

Surround yourself with other makers. The best way to do this is to not just follow them, but be interested in their ideas and encourage them as well. Help them as much as possible, and they will eventually return the favour.

Don't worry about being perfect. Just focus on being consistent. At this time, don't care about how good the project is.

Give yourself time. I think this is the best advice for me since I'm very impatient. I want things RIGHT AWAY, but tell yourself that this is a process and that it will take easily 6 months before you start getting the hang of it.

And finally, similarly as start acting like a maker, start thinking like a maker as well. I think this can be done at a later stage (once again, concentrate more on shipping), but as you advance, you should start thinking about things like how to make better decisions, what should I prioritize and focusing even on smaller details like your copy.

There's a long journey ahead of me on becoming a maker, but I just have to remember that it's a process, and as long as I work on it, eventually I'll get there. Right now, I'm just going to focus on thinking on ideas.

Now, on to the newsletter.

Weekly Favourites

🤔 Thought / Quote

  • The reason why I love this quote is that I sometimes don't follow my own advice and it's a reminder to myself that I shouldn't write about things that I don't do myself. Which is why I made an effort in my main story to include three of my daily ideas.

[...] a man who does not take his own advice is a charlatan. - Ryan Kulp

🎙 Podcast

  • Rahul Vohra and Todd Goldberg on Venture Stories - What was really interesting was the part where they discuss what does "Superhuman for x" means. For Rahul, this breaks down to having a laser-focus in the prosumers users and there are 4-key components 1) Speed as the main value-proposition (mostly through fast performance and command-line or keyboard shortcuts) 2) Design as a first-class principle 3) Focus on power over learnability (since you're dealing with power users and not targeting EVERYBODY) 4) Charging a premium because prosumer users want the best products they can buy and will pay more $$$ to get it. Some helpful questions to think about when evaluating a prosumer saas company: "How does speed matter for this workflow", "how frequently" "how many hours per day" "what's the willingness of this market to pay for a premium alternative".

🐦 Tweets

  • When your partner embarrasses you on your zoom call

  • A really cool tweet I saw about what sets Elon Musk apart from everybody else.

  • Some advice on how to transition from a designer to product management, but I feel this is valuable advice for anyone that is in product management already.

  • Bought into the Animal Crossing hype. One thing that I've really enjoyed is all the small things in the game that make the experience so much more enjoyable. Things like all the sounds, the overall design, the UI, etc. Here are some examples.

  • A fun video of some indoor parkour in response to the coronavirus.

🎧 Music



🙏 Shoutouts

  • Shoutout to KP for giving me guidance on becoming a maker. Really appreciated the time he took on helping me and reminded me that no matter where you are in life, you should always continue giving back to others.

👋 End Note

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

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