🔱 #8 - Habit forming, modelling luck and more...
Also, the importance of being earnest & being an interesting PM.
Hello Fellow Learners!
April has kicked off - if you had resolutions for the year, it has been 94 days w/ 271 days remaining. That’s around a quarter of the year over. Those of you who’ve fallen off the wagon, you can always restart/reinvigorate your chosen resolution.
Having troubles getting started or finding a rhythm? Follow this science approved 3 step method:
The 3 R’s of Habit Change
Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.
Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)
This framework is called “The 3 R’s of Habit Change”. For example, for me, writing this newsletter has become a habit. My 3 Rs are:
Reminder - Saturday mornings are reserved for writing. If I fail that, I have a reminder on Sunday afternoon (and at 8pm - as a Hail Mary - it’s intelligent enough to figure out if I have not sent out a newsletter) .
Routine - Again, Saturday mornings are for writing. Some weeks I just show up and watch YouTube. Regardless, just by being in that place every week, I know that inspiration will strike me.
Reward - Dopamine hits! The likes, the engagement and the questions. Not to mention, personal clarity in speaking/writing/thinking.
There are many habit management apps out there. Sign up for one or go basic - use your calendar. Do whatever you can to make yourself better than what you were yesterday. You can do it!
Are you on track with your resolutions?
[Focus] The Importance of Being Earnest
This weeks focus topic is on the importance of being earnest in your professional life. Goes without saying that being earnest in personal life is also important, but let’s keep the focus on professional life.
Motivation comes from strange places. Sometimes it’s the words of former colleagues, sometimes it’s the competition. Most times, it’s from within. There is an innate human need to do better — to change the way things are, and move them into a ‘better’ state. It’s what drives us to jump over hurdles and get things done.
And yet, many of our best laid plans fail. They fail — seldom for our faults — mostly because of external factors. Or so we’d like to believe. Either way, the pessimist in us sees it as a sign that failure is imminent, no matter how well we try.
And if that pessimist wins, we lose.
That pessimist can take multiple forms — a colleague dissuading you from trying, a boss telling you to let go or ‘research’ on the internet that states it’s is not possible.
Remember, if that pessimist wins, you lose.
You lose because you’ve added constraints to your endeavors. And although the possibility of you making a world renowned change is slim, the probability you can succeed, relative to others, is high.
I like to read this quote from Stephen Hawking, whenever I’m down:
There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope.
While there is life, there is hope. And hope is what you need to hold on to… even when you think you’ve hit an obstacle.
Re-iterating: the possibility of you making a world renowned change is slim, the probability you can succeed, relative to others, is high.
That’s true because we all start at similar probabilities of making it - 1 in billions. As we go through life, that probability diminishes to a point where you’re picking star dust for luck. You choices eventually take you to a point where others with similar life stories make a choice to stop going forward. If you do like them, you too will be forgotten.
Or you decide to be earnest. You decide to find your motivation to do what you think will make you successful and do it. Every day is a choice to live in earnest or to live in pessimistic acceptance of a life that could have been.
That means that feature, you worked hard to plan out, that got shut down at the last roadmap meeting, need not mean the end to your idea generation. It only means you need to find something bigger, something better.
It is important to wake up every day in earnest. To believe that yesterdays’ history, and tomorrows mystery will be uncovered by todays’ present (Yes, I paraphrased Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda). You can do it — the only thing stopping you is you.
This might have been heavy, but some of us need to hear this from time to time. We’re human after all…
[Tech] Build less software → make more profit?
There is a mad rush to add features. Every corporate product manager knows the HiPPO led demands lead to some obscure development pipelines. Even startup PMs tend to add needless features just to ensure ‘parity’ with competition.
Megan Gleason (VP of product @honeycombio) says Build Less Software:
Of course, when Gleason declares that we should “BUILD LESS SOFTWARE,” she’s not disputing the value of software. Far from it. Instead, she’s pointing out that, “Centering too much on adding new functionality will break your product, your users, and your team. Maybe your business.”
That seems bad. It is bad.
Instead, Gleason argues for more software maintenance instead of software development. “Features are not the sole driver of product value,” she says. Indeed, “Quality almost never comes from new capabilities—usually adding stuff makes things worse for a time.” Where does that software quality come from? “It comes from the quiet work of tending the garden.”
Ultimately, I feel it is the development teams duty to inform about the maintenance cost, and the operating cost of features, but a PM/PO (and that’s another raging debate) responsibility to ask those questions.
[Data] Modelling luck and Talent
Back in 2018, researchers at Univ. of Catania, Italy modelled luck and talent. Here is the link to the paper (and the arxiv page).
Long story short, here is the key takeaway:
In particular, we show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals.
I encourage you to read the introduction, specifically the fourth and fifth paragraph, which states some fallacies surrounding success. The methodology of modeling this ‘randomness’ or luck is detailed in subsequent paragraphs and is a fun read.
For the simulation they ran (agents being people):
…interestingly, the most successful agents turned out to be just average in talent. The most talented agents were rarely the most successful, and that’s despite the fact they were better at exploiting luck. It seems even a great talent becomes useless against the fury of misfortune…
Meaning you can only increase your talent to a certain level after which luck plays a far more significant role. I.E. if you’re talented, and not yet successful, you might just be unlucky! 😛
Bear in mind that models like this tend to be over-simplistic. They don’t take into consideration all the complexities of the world (like privilege and nepotism). But if good luck events are so important, then, from a product/personal perspective, is it a good use of our time to build a strategy around increasing luck? (src)
[PTOTD] Interesting PMs > Smart PMs
And that’s it for this week! Thank you for reading.
Have a lovely week ahead.