In the spirit of enough

Too many times, one of the biggest source of unhappiness (that I have witnessed) derives from a lack of enough. More, more, and more. And we chase it. Unknowingly walking into a trap.

It is the kid in the candy store that wants a bigger bag.

It is the influencer that wants more likes and followers.

It is the chef that wants to open another restaurant.

It is the entrepreneur that wants to scale up.

It is the pick-up artist that wants to have more casual sex.

Too often, before the endeavour, we don’t ask the hard question of ‘what is enough (for me) and why?’ We get swept up by someone else’s standards to keep doing what it is we are doing. But this time, it has to be bigger, better, and faster.

It is the kid that didn’t realise that too much candy makes him sick.

It is the influencer that didn’t realise that there is never enough likes to be famous.

It is the chef that forgot that the joy is in the sparkle someone’s eye eating your food. And no, you can’t be at 2 restaurants at the same time.

It is the entrepreneur that forgot that a $10k salary is beyond her wildest dreams when she got started.

It is the pick-up artist that did not realise that physical pleasure is a biological hardwire. There is never enough sex.

It is to be clear of why you do (what you do). It is to ask the hard question upfront.

What is enough for me? And why?

Because once we have enough, we have plenty. Instead of the unhappiness of not enough, we can thankful for too much. And then instead of taking, we can be giving.

And maybe just maybe, we can live in a world where we have a surplus of care and generosity.

The New Generation of Learning

It’s incredible how much things you can learn online.
Start a business
Get a fit body
Calm the mind
Throw flying cards

Here’s another list of thing you can’t learn online (yet).
Find interesting problems
Solve problems that have no clear answer
Lead a group

Today, the resources to learn are infinite. It is the desire to learn that is scarce.

If you want to (raise a child and) succeed in the new connection economy, perhaps the focus should be on the second list.

Legal Advice for Freelancers and Startup

Once I had a wedding intern (who was also a law student) to create a legal document. I was doing my best to keep it concise and she was trying her best to protect me with legal English. It was stupid.

A legal document might be an important marketing tool in certain business scenarios or if you’re a law firm where the presence of a dense block of text makes you look more official. If that’s the case, you might want to buy that or do a google search because stealing legal documents is always a fine thing to do. 

Generally, the goal is not to get sued (or sue others), not to have a legal document in case you get sued. You can write a legal document that will help you not get sued. There are two important points.

One, write it in really clear English so you both know what you actually agreed on. Process, timeline, deadlines, payment terms, additional fees and so on. That dramatically decreases the chances of you getting sued. 

Most of the time people sue because they are hurt and angry, not because they think they can make money. If they know what they signed, they’re way less likely to feel hurt and angry because they know what they signed. 

Two, which I learnt from Seth Godin, put a clause in that says, “Any disagreements will be resolved through binding, informal arbitration. You pick a lawyer. I pick a lawyer. The two lawyers pick a third lawyer. Submit up to five pages of material to state the case. That lawyer spends three hours looking at memos and decide who’s right. Everyone will abide by her decision.” End of discussion.

Both sides can’t outspend each other because the whole thing is only going to cost $1,500, 3 hours of a lawyer’s time. This way no one can bully their way into victory and the whole thing gets done in 3 hours. The best thing is you’ll almost never need it as you both will try to find a way to agree with each other because it’s not worth a crapshoot. 

In the case of getting paid, using a legal document to threaten someone is never a good idea. You end up paying more in legal fees. The way to do it is to get a deposit upfront, and then the rest of it before you submit the work. Get paid when you have maximum leverage. Of course, you can trust them to pay on-time later, but that’s on you. 

As the business goes forward and get bigger, what you want is a lawyer who works with you in the following way: 

You write down what you want an agreement to do. You do all the hard work of figuring out what you want. And then go to the lawyer and say, “All I’m paying you to do is make an agreement that does this. I’m not asking for advice about how I should win. I’m just asking you to make the agreement do this”.

It’s going to be a long time before you need what Airbnb has. Airbnb has millions of users that they have to worry about edge cases. You don’t have to worry about edge cases because you should be busy building your business, and when your business is big enough to afford a lawyer, you’ll know what to do. 

How to Fire People

The photo was taken at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Portland, Oregan

I have never met anyone who can bet their entire reputation on hiring perfectly, every time. And perhaps, just like breaking a fall, the first thing to learn before hiring is to fire someone (with their dignity intact).

I have fired a few people in my life. It was hard and it is still hard.

There are lots of people you can go to have drinks with. There are lots of people you can go bowling with. That doesn’t mean you would be happy to marry any of those people. A working relationship is the same.

At some point (hopefully earlier than later), you need to decide if firing is long-term happy. Would both of you be happier (in the long run) not working with each other? 

Sometimes, these choices can be easy. More often, these choices are hard as they are ambiguous, a mixed bag of good and bad things.

In this situation, it’s easy to lie to ourselves that with more time, more energy, and more love, things would get better. Chances are, it might.

And you might also be walking on a tight rope and it is not something you can afford. They might need 3 months, and if your company will be gone in 3 months, you don’t have 3 months.

Decide upfront. How much more time (can you afford) before you give up? How much more money (can you afford) before you give up?

Communicate that before firing someone. Tell them what they are good at, what’s not working, and how much time you can give them.

The day you decide to fire, start writing. Write because firing is hard. Write because words might run away when tears start rowing. Write because you’re not a psychopath that could fire someone without flinching.

It doesn’t mean that you are going to deliver the news over text. It just means that have thought it through first, deeply and kindly.

Hi Dione,

I’m writing with a situation today.

As you know, in September we decided to give each other a go at working together. When I said yes, I fully believed we had great synergy and we would be able to work well together.

In November, after two month of working together, it is now clear that we have very different philosophies on deadline and it has been causing friction at work.

It pains me to say this, but I need to let you go. You deserve to work with an incredible team and I’m sorry I’m not able to deliver as I thought I could. While this might work out, I (and the company) don’t have enough resources and bandwidth to commit further.

I apologise for causing you much inconvenience and likely missed opportunities. I will reimburse your pay till the end of the month and write your recommendation letter. You can take the time to look for suitable work opportunities. Let me know if there are any questions I can answer or any other way I can support your career moving forward.

– Bryan

Now, this is really important. This is not a performance review. This is not a coaching report. Even if you’re the best co-worker or manager, in this message, you assume responsibility. Because things could be better if you made better choices. You’ve contributed to this situation. And you’re here to make things better.

All that said, this is going to be difficult. And it may be the most difficult thing you’re going to do in every way. How you deliver the message is entirely up to you. Allow generosity to take the lead and you’ll probably discover that it’s easier to find the guts.

Can We Believe Science?

Science is just about the coolest thing that happened to us.

Not because it’s always right. Hardly. It wasn’t that long ago that we believed that the sun revolved around the earth, eating a lot of bread is good, and doctors don’t wash their hands before surgery. So, probably half of what we know today might be false.

It’s not surprising that people are skeptical.

Except that is not what science is. Science is not about getting a whole bunch of people to agree on something, that’s politics/marketing.

Science is a process. It’s not pretending it has the right answer, it’s merely the best process to get us closer to the right answer.

Someone makes a scientific claim. The claim makes predictions that are meaningful, novel and falsifiable. You and I need to be able to replicate and verify the claim independently. And counter experiment, that may prove the claims to be false, need to be able to run in the real world.

Then, round and round it goes.

You’re not allowed to have some magical equation just because you are in charge. You’re not allowed to change the explanation of what has just happened. You must begin again, from first principal, make a new argument, show new observations, and make a better prediction.

Science isn’t something to believe or not to believe. It’s a process. It’s something to do.