Speed is About Trust

Aaron Levie, founder and CEO of Box, tweeted about speed as an advantage:

The crucial point here is this trifecta:

Small teams, hyper aligned, with few constraints.

I’ve always believed in this.

It seems easy in theory but hard in practice because organizations have a natural gravity about them that can lead to internal competition and misalignment.

But when you have all three, magic happens. I know because I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of such teams.

The hyper aligned” is the hardest part of the trifecta. You can have small teams with few constraints that cannot build with speed, quality, and with learning in mind. I know because I’ve also experienced this before (in different teams).

The difference is top of mind for me now every time I do something new. When you’re on that slow, sluggish, train of dysfunction, it is the opposite of all the feelings of magic. (For more on this, read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni).

What I’ve come to understand is that hyper-alignment only happens if there’s a shared vision, mutual trust, and a focus on team achievement.

And the opposite is also true: a team is not aligned if they don’t have a shared vision of what their product ought to do, if the team doesn’t trust each other, and if people’s focus is on individual achievement such as promotions, raises, and bonuses, rather than the team serving the customer. And this toxic environment is painful, it’s hard to rebound from (though not impossible, but would require everyone to check their ego at the door, which is what makes it difficult), and most of all it is a waste—a waste of resources, of talent, of time.

This is why nothing is more important than establishing and fostering trust in a team. (For more on this, read Radical Candor by Kim Scott). You can have top tier talent and still not produce anything close to its potential if you don’t have trust. But teams with trust can go much farther together and accomplish something much greater than the sum of their parts. Trust is the great multiplier.

The trifecta of small teams, hyper aligned, with few constraints” is how organizations achieve speed. But trust is what makes or breaks it.

December 29, 2021

Believe in Your Genius

Genius is believed to arrive at birth. But contrary to popular belief, all of us have genius.

Or a better way to put it: all of us are bestowed genius at the time of our birth and it doesn’t really leave us until death. And even then, the gifts of our genius will keep giving in the cycle of eternity if properly nourished.

The modern definition of the word has come to mean a specific person with supreme intellectual ability or creative prowess—someone who achieves new discoveries or advances in a domain of knowledge.”1

But the word genius originates from Roman mythology, which means:

the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. Much like a guardian angel, the genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died.”2

If genius then is present in everyone and not a select few, how do we unleash this genius?

The difference is whether we choose to cultivate that genius throughout our lifetime. But for us to even do that, we must first accept it, and for us to accept it, we must believe each of us have genius, and acknowledge it when we see it and feel it.

Genius thought of as something reserved for the few has become a reason why individual genius isn’t more cultivated in the way it deserves to be. That we can’t or won’t be Einsteins or Da Vincis or Marie Curies or Musks is said often and used as an excuse, but this only exemplifies the point: each of these people cultivated their genius to the utmost extreme and because they cultivated their own genius, by definition, there can only be one of them. More importantly, trying to be like them would only be running away from cultivating our own genius. We can be inspired by other people and their respective geniuses, but we cannot copy or achieve someone else’s genius—we can only cultivate their own.

Think of it like each of us have our own spiritual pet that we didn’t choose but chose us. This representation is prevalent in mythology, literature, and even in modern fiction: Dorothy’s terrier Toto, Luke Skywalker’s droid R2D2, Ash’s pokemon Pikachu, Jon Snow’s direworlf Ghost. These are not merely expendable sidekicks. They protect their owners and have deep similarities with them—they almost share one soul. Genius is similar: we cannot have someone else’s genius because each of us have our own, a spirit which we are one with, one whose lives depend on us, and reciprocally, our lives depend on them.

Genius is a gift we must accept. We must believe in its existence. And we must cultivate it—feed it—like we would spiritual companions and pets. Only by doing so will our own individual geniuses serve us in return. This process will take time because our geniuses need nourishment in order to grow to its full potential. But it will never get close unless we believe in our individual genius in the first place.

While it may take time for it to reveal its shape, its features, its ultimate final form, believing in it is the first step. And once we understand that it is an integral part of us, we must accept it for what it is, and nourish it as much as we can. We can’t let it die, because then, we may be physically alive, but would be spiritually dead.

And while many of us might feel spiritually dead in our day to day—an endemic of modern times, it is never too late. After all, our own individual geniuses are inside us just waiting to be nourished, and ultimately, be freed. It all starts by believing in our genius.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genius↩︎

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genius_(mythology)↩︎

September 27, 2021

Life is About People

The quality of our lives depends so much on the quality of people we allow into our lives.

As I get older, I’m more convinced life is ultimately about spending time with amazing people.

This was not so obvious to me growing up and is still unnatural for me as someone who loves spending much of his time alone.

But being around amazing people who make you better makes life better. Life is more likely to be average or mediocre if you’re around average or mediocre people, but we can increase the likelihood of our lives being amazing if we’re around amazing people.

Humanity is about connection, building memories, and triumphing against worthwhile challenges. You can only do that by being around great people and being a great person to be around with.

As the saying goes: If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If the quality of our lives depend on who we spend time with, it makes perfect sense that we should aim to have a high standard for people (family, friends, colleagues, partners, etc.) we surround ourselves with. We absolutely need to be picky about it and should expect others to do the same.

It’s only right that we should seek the absolute best people given that life is finite and because our lives get exponentially better the more amazing people we surround ourselves with. It is truly one of those things where the returns increase with more inputs and compound on each other on a long time horizon.

But what is great” or amazing”? That depends on what purpose that other person serves in your life. And make no mistake that you, too, serve a purpose in other people’s lives, thus being high value is imperative if we want to be surrounded with other high value people.

If it’s your friends, do they truly support you in your endeavors? Do they raise your ambition? Do they make you want to be better? Do they keep it real with you and tell you things straight? Do they have your back when you’re down? Do they make you feel you belong? Do you have them for life?

If it’s your colleagues, do they challenge your thinking? Do they help you grow in your career? Do they make you want to bring your A-game? Do you trust their judgment? Do they truly want what’s best for the team and company? Do they want to win as bad as you do?

If it’s your partner, do they inspire you? Do they make you want to be a better person? Do they make life sweeter and more meaningful? Do they make you feel fortunate they chose you? Do they seem like good role models? Do they exemplify traits you wish your children would have? Does their existence alone make life worth living?

Life is meant to be lived in the company of amazing people.

If you can’t find any, ask yourself why, or go find them.

This is one of those challenges worth a lifetime to get right.

May 25, 2018