We launched our private alpha (geek-speak for test site) yesterday so the mood under the arches is buoyant to say the least! Well, it was buoyant until we reviewed our bug register… 170 and growing! But all the major functionality is working well so we’re pretty amped!
I need to get back to squishing those pests so will hand you over to someone a lot smarter than me (not easy to find that sort of person I hear you say). Today’s list comes from the tail end of a recent interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Sunday Times. And I can proudly say I have permission from Taleb to publish his words of wisdom. To give things a slightly different spin this week I have tried to add a comment beneath each of his tips that reflects its relevance to entrepreneurs and start-ups. When I couldn’t think of any, I have done something completely different and made sarcastic comments at the expense of myself and those around me.
1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
I think scepticism is one of driving motivations behind many entrepreneurs: a healthy scepticism for existing products and people’s predictions invokes the ‘challenger’ mindset. I have honed my scepticism on the small & aesthetic for long enough now…
2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
HOW can you possibly fault a man who holds amongst his top 10 tips: ‘GO TO PARTIES’
3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
There is ONE exception to this rule. Never tease a Venture Capitalist. Regardless of the size of his tie. Buy him a drink, complement his colour-co-ordinated cufflinks, but never tease him.
4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.
Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) once said: ‘If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” And so it is with Snagsta. When the time comes we’ll be wearing our best but at first ‘site’ it may appear as if we got dressed in a bit of a hurry… tucking in our shirt on the way out the door. Kind of my ‘style’ I suppose, given I was once described as looking like an ‘unmade bed’…
5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
I didn’t understand that but I am sure it’s deep.
6. Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.
There is an interesting debate on the correlation between success and past failure. In my industry the US is very pro-failure, whereas Europe is far more risk-adverse. Statistics suggest there is no correlation but I have hedged my bets by establishing a long track record of failure…
7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).
Bit late for this advice given I am now inextricably linked to Alex M… he’s not really a loser but has exceptionally dodgy taste in music.
8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.
I’ve talked about this before. Ironically this list came from the business section of The Times… a Black Swan perhaps?
9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
The central theme in Taleb’s book (Black Swan): success has a lot to do with luck. Do whatever you can to put yourself in its way. Luck is less likely to visit you in your bedroom while you’re watching dvds…
10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.
Given his instantaneous reply to my mail I know exactly how junior Taleb thinks I am. To those of you that I haven’t written back to recently… it’s because you’re so important.
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