How Would a Billion Dollars Sit on You?

instagram logo

Mike Krieger, co-Founder of Instagram, shares how their photo-sharing service was scaled to 30million users in under 2 years. The slide is at the bottom of this post too. What caught my eye though was the below quote on TechCrunch:

Considering his company was just bought for $1 billion, it’s a pretty remarkable effort, 185 slides in all.

Then it struck me, Instagram was acquired for a billion dollars less than a week back. And here is a co-founder sharing technical details of how the technical infrastructure was scaled. Not sure if it sank in for you but I spaced out for a few moments!

Imagine, you have many hundred million dollars on you, acquired by the largest social network on the planet, built the current hottest photo-sharing product and you talk technology to a bunch of geeks!

And no, the slide preparation might not have been delegated to a minion, there are only 13 employees!

Gentlemen, this is behavior worth emulating. Much much dollars have barely registered on Mike Krieger. And guess what I have seen people who fall for silly labels, who play power games for a tag worth nothing beyond corporate walls, or see themselves on pedestals for relatively small reasons. To be candid, I have fallen prey to this sometimes too, though I take care to remember where I started and come back to normalcy.

So, now to you. How would a billion dollars sit on you? Where does building things of lasting value sit in your priorities?

And yes, awesome tech details in the presentation, do not miss it.

(My colleague Jeethu brought this to my attention, a big thanks to him!)

Affiliation and Accomplishment

The shoe does not run

Runners run. Shoes dont.

Affiliation and Accomplishment, two entirely different concepts yet easy to confuse one for another.

An affiliation is a label, a marker of sorts. Usually granted to mark an accomplishment but not often as one would want.

The ones seeking shortcuts look for the affiliation first, accomplishment can be done later they think.

The wannabe runner who wears a Nike, does not magically become a runner who endures through physical and mental limits.

The one born into a priestly class, does not automatically become a man of luminous knowledge.

The professional desiring labels(Manager, AVP, VP, ‘anything pompous’), will realize gods of technology or strategy have not taken over his being.

The one who covets the label falls for the dumbest trick, a semantic sleight of hand.

Affiliation is sexy, it flaunts its labels like a super model would.

Accomplishment is work, it is sleepless nights, grease or ink tainted hands, aching wrists and bleary eyes.

Accomplishment is hard. It requires learning, thinking and doing. Over and over again.

Accomplishment is enduring. It survives opinions of lesser men, builds a lasting edifice.

How you are aligned now, whether to accomplishment or affiliation is not permanent either.

One has to choose to stay accomplished. One can choose to become accomplished.

Mere Affiliation is a bad place to be. Once you choose to fall for make believe you will fall for anything.

Photo Credit: lululemon athletica via Compfight

You Are Not A Genius..

Socrates

Socrates

..not at everything anyway.

But guess what, it really does not matter. Average, even below average, skills will do. What matters is if your immediate circle is smarter than you, especially in the areas that you are weak.

Stop whatever you are doing now and think how many people above, around and below you will call a spade a spade, call bullshit when it seems to be so. If that sounds abstract, here are some specific attributes that you could look for.

Objective

Does the person present facts to support their views? Is there a reasonable correlation between views held and the facts presented? Are the facts true? Or at least does it feel intuitively right to you? It takes time to assess if someone is objective or not. But trust me, its worth your time to judge everyone carefully. Of course not everyone remains objective 100% of time, circumstances make it difficult. But it is sufficient to know overall trend, there would be some benchmark to judge what is happening in a given context.

Confident

Objectivity will not be present unless the person around you is confident in their ideas, opinions and especially in themselves. The most useless or obvious feedback from someone is a good sign, you have something at least. Of course, based on their motivations, the feedback might be beneficial or irrelevant, but it is a sign nevertheless that the person is willing to deliver some message to you. From there, you will have to dig in, gain increasing trust to see if the feedback is genuine, not a repetition of what you already know, not being delivered to curry short-term favor with you and so on.

Humble

Humility is that which accepts its shortcoming. Allows better and other possibilities. Nodding to every suggestion or thought is not humility, it is slavery. Humility knows its limits, knows it has not all the answers. It is not contradictory to confidence. At the same time it should not be a politically correct acceptance of another view. The world is crafty enough to pretend when required, so do not fall for immediate praise or blame..always think through the context in which the opinion is coming from. Shades of grey permeate everything, learn to recognize it better.

Does this line of thought make sense? Do you agree or disagree? And yes, do share tweet and share this widely. I would love your help in understanding what you and your friends think.

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Five Anti-Patterns That Harm Careers

Work ends up influencing who we are as a person. A career is more than a way to make a living, it is a framework to live well, to re-mould ourselves into something better. In this post I cover 5 anti-patterns that harm careers, check if the traits are familiar. Perhaps it can help you or someone you know.

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The Right Choice

It is difficult, this thing called life. Subtle aspiration and crude ambition confuse and confound. Choices abound. Better this, better that. What can be acquired, what can be got. There is no end to the possibilities. Oh the temptation of it all.

But behind it all, the barely whispered option of the the right choice. The right action to do. How difficult it is!

To ignore the short term. To put oneself in the eye of the storm. To step into the abyss.

Because it is the right thing to do. The thing that would aid your fellow men. To build and to make. To craft something beautiful out of all that is crude and mundane. To attempt. To push the boundaries within. To quell that which says enough. To silence that which asks for more.

The labyrinth of life has but a simple key. To act selflessly. To look beyond pragmatism. How simple, yet how elusive this magic.

The unseen act of generosity. To craft the sublime in anonymity. To perform acts of heroism with no audience.

Unerring are the laws of Karma. Actions seen and unseen, conscious or deliberate, each is weighed, assessed and rewarded.

These obstinately obscure guidelines they choose to call Dharma. 

Cure for Success and Failure

This post is on dealing with the effects of success and failure on the ego. Not a philosophical approach, as am usually inclined, but something more pragmatic for those working to make their visions a reality.

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Politics Trumps Ability..

..about 80% of the time. By politics I mean the machinations that people use to influence other people. I prefer to keep the negative connotation that is often associated with the word.

This is relevant when you are in a forum where more than 2 people come together, whether in politics proper or in large organizations.

When you are stuck on the wrong end of this equation, you have a few ways to go forward.

To Engage or Not To Engage

i) Wait it out – Change is constant. Even the tyrant will pass one day. If feasible, stay out of sight and stay away from the mess. Do the minimum. Seek consensus in everything you do, be a minion. Check every box and bow to every stranger. Bide your time and be prepared to rise up when the situation changes. But ensure the playing the role of a minion does not make you one.

ii) Adopt the methods – If you feel up to it, possess the ability to think through motivations of people and divine their intent then this approach is for you. You need to have built a cachet of people relationships and accumulated social credits over a period of time. Not something you can switch on and just do. You need the stomach for it. The ability to possess a double tongue is key. But this option is cancerous, unless its influence is checked one can turn into something else.

iii) Refuse to play – The easiest option is to refuse to play their game and move on. And perhaps the most difficult too, especially if you lack alternatives or the support to sustain yourself.

And remember, this is a fact of life and there is no wishing it away. It would be naïve to wish for an ideal world where transparency and honesty are the norm. Plato wished for an Utopia but as the times since can attest, it has not moved an inch towards reality.

Inventing Purpose

The unhurried ambling. The contemplative discourses at the cafe. Plain old ruminations. Whilst these qualities positively mark out an yogic aspirant or a poet, they spell utter disaster when indulged in by professionals. And I see a lot of them everyday.

For the record I define a professional as one who is relied upon to do a certain job, and is possibly compensated for it.

I see this as a problem of knowing ones purpose. Without purpose one lives as an animal. Works for the food, clothing and shelter. Breeds some, accumulates some wealth, breeds a little more. And leaves the world just as it was before.

Why is it important to know our life’s calling? Well, for starters, it acts like a catalyst that amplifies everything we do. It is a goal towards which we surely move even with the tactical diversions we might take. It is the salt of existence, tying together the various skills we bring together in living our lives and raises us to a higher harmony.

Without purpose one can go through the motions of doing everything but never accomplish anything.

The designer does not choose to think about designing beautiful things after entering office, he mulls about it every waking moment. The painter sees in his mind’s eye a masterpiece in every common view of life. The poet casts his many heartaches into sonnets that outlast the ravages of time.

It could be argued that these examples are beyond the ken of normal humanity, that these are souls that are born into genius. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It is possible to exceed ones station though born with no distinguishing signs that light up the skies, possessing only average skill, buffeted by an average job and backed by an average mind. Life and circumstance don’t have to define our calling, we can choose our purpose. Imperfect it might be, but still better than leading the life of an animal.

We are not required to be the messiah who redeems humanity. A little of ourselves to perfect is enough. Not to be one who stands on the borders of heaven vowing not to go forward until every soul is rescued from mortality. To awaken ourselves and a single other soul to the beauty and compassion and perfection of life is enough.

Purpose can and must be invented if it is not granted unto us.

To build something that makes life a little better for people. To break through the status quo by unceasingly pushing ourselves. To provide hope to a handful of people around. To be the possibility that the less fortunate can look up to. To be one the haughty fear to confront. Anything at all but the mediocrity that is given by default.

Trick is to do all this with humility, while curbing wayward passions and managing the weaknesses of flesh. After all, if the Master does turn up at the end of our journeys, we don’t want to look silly.

Manifesto Proposal – Dealing With a Job Loss

ChangeThis is a repository for manifestos. Leading thinkers from a variety of domains share their thoughts in a free and open manner.

In the spirit of sharing the little that I know, I have proposed to flesh out my thoughts on dealing with a job loss.

There is plenty of material of on the net dealing with using social networks to get out the situation. But I find that they do not focus on the end to end process- as in moving from the initial shock of being laid off, or made redundant, moving through the job hunt itself and finally landing a job.

There is a logical progression of phases and I feel that a distinct set of activities and mindset is required to negotiate each one.

An initial version of the process is covered in my blog post here.

If you feel you like the post, do vote for the manifesto here. Once there are a sufficient number of votes I will be allowed to write it up. Do pass it to your friends who are in the job hunt mode, I hope it will be of some utility to them.

How To Handle Your Job Loss – Part 3

This article is third part of a series on steps you need to take in the event of a job loss. The first part is here. The second is here

Job Solicitation

Focus on two or three job portals. Upload your resume. Stick to the recommended format. If you wish to be creative, then do it on a hosted service like VisualCV. Most online job portals expect the resume in a certain format so as to better display the contents on their systems, don’t make it easy for them to reject your CV.

Get the list of recruitment agencies. Talk to a representative of the firm. Ensure you project a confident disposition. Note that a recruiter has her bonus/targets riding on you getting employment. Often she would reserve the best openings for individuals who are sure to get through the interview process. Don’t mess up, you typically get one shot at coming across a skilled professional to any recruiter.

Talk to companies that are recruiting directly too. Reach out to the HR folks, they are not easy to track down though. This is where your online and real world contacts can help. Check how you can reach out to this audience, they can easily short-circuit any long-winded road to employment.

Follow-up

Always follow-up with recruitment agencies, potential employers and contacts. Maintain a journal on the contacts made. You don’t want to sound too desperate, so contact them once a week, or even better check with them on when you should/could get back. Keep your online sites updated on how your job hunt is proceeding. Come across as someone who is proactive and can take the situation in your stride.

Interviews

It takes a couple of weeks for the interview calls to come in. Of course this is no scientific number and can vary wildly based on your domain, market situation etc. But once it does come in ensure you have a strong feedback loop in place to tweak your approach/skills based on how it goes. And remember just because an interview goes well does not mean you will actually join the company. Refuse to be elated in the short term. Hold your emotions in check. Nothing is certain until you actually join the company.

Closure

If all goes well, you will actually get a job. Once you are in that stage, ensure you reach out to all your contacts and update them. And thank them for their support, even if it is just listening to your story of woe. Update all your online profiles, LinkedIn etc. Let the world know you are back in action.

This has been a long rambling post. I hope this would be of some help to you. And do share your thoughts on the methods and what else has worked for you.

I shall leave you with a final thought – Be agile, be hungry and believe no night lasts forever. All the best.