A Bias for Action – Avoid the Only True Failure

Working at Amazon was one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had.  I was only there about two and a half years, but my professional growth during that time was astounding.  I learned more about leadership, humility, and even life there than any other experiences I’ve had in my adult life.  Looking back, I can attribute most of the growth towards Amazon’s leadership principles.  I jumped in head first abiding by those principles, and now that I’m 3 years removed from Amazon I’m still all the better for knowing them.  Some ideas are just too good to shake off or unlearn.

The usefulness of the principles comes in cycles.  Sometimes you’ll exemplify some of them and be weak in others.  As you work out your weaknesses, you’ll inevitably realize you’re failing at another one along the journey.  For me, I tend to cycle through the list about once a year, consciously or not, while working to be better personally and professionally.

This time around the principle is a “Bias for Action.”  Amazon defines it thusly:

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

If you read my post from yesterday, this likely rings a bit familiar.  I’ve struggled a lot recently with just doing what needs to be done.  Frequently I get caught up in the planning more than anything:

  • Do I need to get into the gym?  Well then I better make sure I have the right gym bag, the right shoes, the right headphones, good gym shorts, etc.
  • Is it time to hone my writing skills with a professional blog?  I better waste three weeks trying to find the proper domain name.  I better spend two weeks getting all of the ideas I want to write in order.  I better research other blogging tools and calendars, tinker with Calypso and Gutenberg to make writing easier, etc.

At some point, though, you just have to start.  You have to have that “Bias for Action.”  Take a calculated risk!  Creating the perfect plan in most cases is a likely waste, especially when the benefit of starting even if you fail is still a better reward than never starting at all.  We learn more from failing, anyway.

For me, going to the gym at all, even if underprepared, is better than not going.  Starting to write something, even if it ends up being garbage, gives me the practice to write that killer post down the road.

Don’t be afraid of failing…after all, the only way to truly fail is to never start.

Sharing this post is a bad idea

Why do we so often fail to meet the goals we set for ourselves?

For a few years now I’ve REALLY wanted to blog. I’ve had so many ideas I’d love to flesh out in writing…to talk through and get feedback on. Blogging is something I’ve been really, really excited about! I’ve talked to others about how excited I was to start maintaining my blog regularly, asked for tips and tricks from really experienced bloggers in my space, evaluated tools, taken small courses on how to blog…I’ve done it all! All except blog, it seems. Check the dates on my last several blog posts…it’s embarrassing.

As an overweight individual, I’ve struggled with weight loss my entire life. I’ve read book after book on the best methods to achieve my goals. I’ve purchased memberships for gyms that I’ve never set foot in after the first week. I’ve purchased specialty meal programs only to binge on ice cream or something later in the day. I haven’t stuck with anything for more a year despite all of the steps I’ve taken…despite my motivations to be healthy for both my wife and daughters so that I can be present in their lives for as long as possible.

As one who loves to learn, I’ve purchased many courses to help teach me new things. I’ve started courses in development to learn JavaScript, PHP, C, database design and more. I’ve purchase courses on marketing to learn AdWords, Google Analytics, growth hacking, and other modern marketing techniques.

I have a shelf full of books on customer service to help fine tune my skills further. If there’s anything I can claim expertise at…customer service is my jam! Yet it’s been months since I’ve cracked one open and really dove in to grow myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’ve read a lot of other books recently (in fact, I credit this blog post to some of them that I really want to talk about soon.) My point is that if I’m really honest with myself, I’m more enamored with the IDEA of learning than I am about learning itself at this point in my life. I’m more enamored with the IDEA of weight loss, blogging, and so many other goals I’ve created than I am with actually pursuing them.

I am, however, self aware enough to recognize it in myself. That, to me, is the best starting point one can have when pursuing life change…recognizing real imperfections where changes need to me made instead of superficial ones. My problem isn’t that I don’t blog enough, that I’m fat, or that I’m too dumb or distracted to learn. My problem is that I’ve failed to recognize for years that the value in changing all of these situations lies in the passion for the PURSUIT of them, not in the ideas or values themselves.

This is also backed by science. I feel like in the back of my mind I’ve always known this but at a business conference last year I had the honor of sitting in on a session led by my amazingly insightful friend Chris Lema. He talked specifically about when we purchase materials or courses to learn a new skill, that the purchase itself triggers the same pleasure center in our brain that actually learning the skill would.

Think about your own life…how many times have you bought a course and talked to friends about how excited you were to go through it, or bought a gym membership on January 1st, posted your New Years resolutions online to the cheer of your friends, only to give up by February? “Symbolic Self-completion” is the term coined by University of Texas at Austin professors Robert A. Wicklund and Peter M. Gpllwitzer. In a study conducted by the psychologists, they learned that those who keep their intentions private are significantly more likely to complete their goals than those who go public with their goals.

Their proposed explanation is rather simple. Telling others of your noble goals makes one FEEL noble. It increases one’s sense of self. Announcing the intention to lose weight makes one feel as if they’re already on that journey, even though in reality they’ve never started the journey at all! This results, paradoxically, in reducing ones’ desire to actually begin the journey while their ego feeds on the false narrative they’ve inadvertently created.

Sharing this blog post is a dumb idea if I want to meet the goals I’ve set for myself for all of the reasons stated above…but I’m going to do it anyway. Hopefully someone else comes across it and it helps them become self aware enough to realize where they’re broken. In my opinion, that’s the true first step of the journey.

And, after all…I did actually, finally write a new blog post. 🙂

Learning 5s

5S is key to a sustainable support system.  This might sound strange to those who are already familiar with 5s, a lean manufacturing methodology designed to eliminate waste…but the principles of lean manufacturing may apply more to shaping your support methodology than you think.  Support queues are like assembly lines…FIFO, 5s and more are all legitimate ways to tackle handling the issues that our users are facing every day.

There are five steps that make up 5s.  I’ve listed them below, along with a very short description to help remind you of the main goals at each step.

  1. Sort – Keep what matters, get rid of the clutter
  2. Set – Find a place for everything
  3. Shine – Take the time regularly to tidy up
  4. Standardize – Document your plan
  5. Sustain – Stick to it

Below is my WordCamp Atlanta talk where I dive a bit deeper into the five steps, but I’m going to break down each step in more detail soon.

Sustainable Support – Creating Happiness for Your Users Without Sacrificing Your Own