You have to do the hard things…

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I recently came across this:

You have to do the hard things:
* You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
* You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
* You have to give more than you get in return right away.
* You have to care more about others than they care about you.
* You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
* You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
* You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
* You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
* You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
* You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
* You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
* You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts.”
* You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
* You have to try and fail and try again.
* You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
* You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
* You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
* You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
* You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.

So I’m not going to comment on this, other than to say I hope it’s made some sense to you, or helps you think about the things you’re doing in a different way. As for me, I have my own hard things to do and the day is still young… ;-)

Overextending leads to self discovery

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Seth wrote a really good blog post about Underextending, which got me thinking.

Last year I took some very big financial, personal, emotional and reputational risks, in two countries. I completely overextended myself. It hurt like hell. There were times when I thought I’d never get through it all. There were many times when I thought I was going to lose everything. And I mean everything. I got to the end of last year, and I was broken from overextending myself. I won’t go into the tactical stuff and what I did to get through it just yet, mainly ‘cos it’s still too close.

What I think is important in the context of Seth’s blog post, is that the overextending from last year has led to so many great things that are happening now, and it’s just the beginning.

I didn’t see or predict it last year, I just knew they had to be done. If I had have known then what I’ve seen now, I would definitely have spent less time worrying.

Too often we back away from apparent pain, in fear of the risks involved, not looking at the benefits that may come afterwards. If anything, the last 18 months has taught me that well timed, well executed overextension is actually what creates the lifechanging progress we all crave.

An open letter to African technologists

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PASSION = BRAIN FUEL.
DUMB BRAIN FULL OF GAS ALWAYS BEAT SMART BRAIN WITH EMPTY TANK.
SMART BRAIN WITH FULL TANK BEAT EVERYONE.

Dear African technologist, hacker, developer, geek, product guy, dreamer, thinker, tinkerer, manager, CEO, multi-national-organisation-in-Africa,

We’re at the beginning of a shift in technology usage, where mobile adoption and usage is quickly going to become more prevalent and ubiquitous than the PC. Bandwidth is getting faster and cheaper for both PC and mobile, despite the monopolies that have held everyone back for years. Infrastructure is now massively cheap and easy to scale. There are toolkits, API’s, platforms, frameworks, services and stacks for almost every technology need you may have. It’s easier now to create something, and innovate, than it ever has been. Not moving forward means you’re being left behind.

The traditional approaches we’ve been using for years are dying. People are looking for authenticity, value, engagement, real’ness for want of a better word.

Dream. Find something that provides value. Help people to get some of that value. Make it great. Remove the crappy stuff.

Stop banging the same drums. Stop thinking you’ve got it all figured out. Approach problems differently. Give your people space to think and tinker. Innovate.

Get massively hyped about your product or service. Tell everyone you know. Let go of any conservativeness you may have, because if you can’t get excited about what you do, then no-one else will. If you’re working for a crap company, leave it. There are better things to do with your precious time.

We can learn a lot from places like Silicon Valley, New York, Berlin, Israel, London, Austin, Chile, Singapore, Ireland and India. We can learn even more from the people who live in those places, how they work, what they do with their time, and ultimately the success they create. We can also learn from the people we live among, by asking them about the problems they face.

There is no shortage of investors or money, only shortages of good people, scalable and executable opportunities. Be the person who can execute and scale, and do it with a product that people will use, and the money won’t be a problem. But don’t use a perceived lack of investors, internal or external, as an excuse.

There are no accidents, only trying, failure, and then ultimately succeeding. As a technologist, today, your greatest asset is the time and technical gifts you have. Use them wisely.

There are many problems people face in emerging markets, and they all need elegant solutions. Find the value. Supply the demand for that value, by doing something that makes you get up in the morning with a spring in your step and a whistle in your tune.

In short, there are no excuses or reasons not to do something awesome, other than the ones we limit ourselves with. Africa has the potential to be one of the largest mobile markets on the planet.

What are you doing about it?

What are your values?

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This week we sat down as a company to talk about what we valued the most, what we’d like to get across in each and every customer interactions, and what we wanted to live by. This is what we came up with, after 3 or 4 sessions:

  1. Love what you do.
  2. Be interesting, not perfect.
  3. Focus on simplicity.
  4. Be the ‘go-to’ people.
  5. Make yourself at home.

The idea is that in every decision, interaction, argument, direction, we take, the above values are our guide. We think the above take all of the little things we want to live by, and wraps them up into something which is easy to understand and talk about.

The proof it works for us, was that this week we had an experience which tested the above values, and we felt good about the outcome. We talked about how our values applied in this situation, what our conduct should look like to make us feel congruent with them, and then we acted. What’s funny is that my own default response was somewhat cynical (this happens after being in the trenches for so long – you get jaded and less and less patient), and much more sarcastic. But it was the team which brought us back to our values and what was the right thing to do.

No discussions, no debate, no arguments. Just alignment. And then happiness knowing we’d tried, and done the right thing.

We’re going to put the values on the wall, and we’re going to use them for all the important decisions. Feels good.

How about you? What’s your guide?

Execution is everything

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Some quick thoughts on execution, and speed:

Sometimes the temptation to be perfect is overwhelming.

We work towards perfection because we’re told that it’s worth aspiring and achieving. The problem for you and me is that perfection for some is rubbish for others, especially when your product reaches beyond the early adopter pool of people.

There are so many cliches around this thinking, some of which are below:
Release early, release often
Minimum Viable Product
Lean Startup Thinking
Ship it!
etc etc

What they all say is that getting out the door with something working is favorable to pretty much everything else.
Just get your shit out there for people to use.

It’s something I have to remind myself of every day, because the temptation is to labour over every pixel, every word, every line of code, so that it’s perfect. But perfect doesn’t pay the bills.

To me, that is execution.

* I guess one caveat to this is not to build up so much technical debt, or otherwise, that you can’t recover.

Do you want it enough?

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I’ve come across many people who talk a good game, who want the acclaim, who want to be the rockstar. Very few are prepared to do the work to get there. Even fewer are prepared to keep doing it when success isn’t immediate.

So when you look at what you’re doing in your life, do you want it enough, to go the distance, to complete the race, to finish it, or are you just a hobbyist?

If you can’t answer yes to the question above, then what do you get out of bed in the morning for? What fires you up? What makes you do what’s necessary?

The world is full of people on the same treadmill, following the same herd. Which direction are you moving in?

Food for thought.

Making progress, skimming the molasses

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Yesterday was a good day.

As an aspiring social entrepreneur and increasingly part time geek, I’ve had my theories on why technical / programmer / geek / web type people stick to certain kinds of focus areas when trying to make a living for themselves, and yesterday an intuition I’ve had for some time now was reinforced.

Things I realised:

  1. Most industries have been working just fine without the internet for much longer than I’d given them credit for, so start operating on different levels
  2. Competition is everywhere, learn how to deal with it and be better than it
  3. The only limits to what I thought was possible were in my own head
  4. Business is like an onion, you have to unravel it

So the take home is that after figuring out one or two things, I’m starting to move faster and not feel like I’m walking through molasses = progress.
;-)