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.

Tools for Weight Loss

Celebrating the fourth year of my weight loss journey, I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. From 86kg, I’m about 75kg now (with many ups and downs). I’m on track to hit 72kg by the end of the year (which will be my lightest since I’m 16).

Withings smart scale – has recorded my weight for 4 years. Every morning, it tells me the truth about my weight. I learn the relationship between the food I eat and my weight, daily. I can’t stress enough about this important feedback loop. An aside, in 2016, the company was sold to Nokia and it suffered poorly. The founder had since brought it back.

Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb diet was my first introduction to weight loss. I lost 11kg (from 86kg to 75kg in 12 months). There were others that lost 100 pounds from it. The diet works. But sometimes, I eat emotionally.

The Broccoli test taught me physically hunger from emotional hunger.

Jerzy and Anelia taught me that losing weight has almost nothing related to excise. Exercise is for posture, flexible, power, speed, and almost never about losing weight.

I use large Mason jars to prepare delicious salads every weekend, 6 jars a week. The fridge is always stock with delicious and healthy food when hunger strikes.

James Clear builds on the cult-classic The Power of Habit and wrote Atomic Habits with actionable strategies. A big-picture view of how to build and keep habits.

Get buy-in from friends and family. It can be as easy as “hey, I’m trying to get to the best shape of my life and I need your help. This is my plan.” Or as formal as a contract to show that you are serious. (editable version)

Airtable can be hacked to track food intake (uploading photo of meals). I use to stay accountable for my goal’s contract. It is the best of it’s kind (and mostly free).

Sometimes, I travel to a new country and “need” to try every single restaurant. I gain a lot of weight. I use intermittent fasting as a reset. An 8 hours eating window (from noon – 8 pm). Zero is a beautiful app to manage intermittent fasting. Thanks for the gift, Kevin.

Finally, there a trend of online weight-loss coaches. They are expensive but it might be worth it to have a guide on the journey, someone who has been through it. Just know that if you work with one, you need to like and trust them for it to work. Let them go if you don’t like them.

Here’s to the lifetime of eating good, looking good and feeling good.


If you’re having trouble “finding yourself” so that you can succeed in the world, it’s not your fault. Because the only authentic version of “who you are” is a few days old, naked and afraid, pooping in your pants.

Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promised, not “being who you are”.

That’s because ‘being’ is too elusive and we are notoriously bad at judging that. Doing, on the other hand, is an act that can be seen by all.

If it acts like a cat, it’s a cat. Doesn’t matter if the cat thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a cat.

You could spend your day wondering if what you say you are is really you. Or you could just act like that all the time.

The question, then, is what do you want to be special about, and who do you want to be special to? How can you keep that promise, again and again?

That’s good enough. Save the identity crisis for later.

(HT Seth Godin)

The Meaning of Life

The rationale for finding the meaning of life is that it would unknot the existential angst, give direction to a good life, which will ultimately allow us to be happy.

But what happens after everyone found the ONE meaning of life?

It’s interesting to note that we would be trapped. We would all have to live to that one answer and be like robots, each one competing with each other to fulfil that singular meaning more than the others.

And for the rest of us that don’t think that it is worth it, well that’s the end of that.

It might sound gloomy but the insight is to realise that the question is more important than the answer. And to bring peace to the existential angst, consider the Agrippa’s Trilemma.

When you try to answer this big question, it helps to keep in mind 3 types of answers.

1. The answers end up in an axiom and everything falls on the one thing being true.
Because math.
Because universe.
Because nature.
Because god.
Because the Big Bang.
Because simulation theory.

2. There is no answer you could give to that question that wouldn’t have another why. The why’s just keep accumulating, and as Richard Feynman said, it would be turtles all the way down. There would be an infinite regress.
If I say the meaning of life is to please God.
Then you asked, which god? Well, Hindu God.
Why that god?
Then why, why, why, why and why?

3. One answer hinges on the other answer being true. Then we start going in circles causing circular reasoning.

“Wellington is in New Zealand. Therefore, Wellington is in New Zealand.”

“There is no god because there is no such thing as a god.”

Well, A.
Why A? Because of B.
Well, why B? Because of A.

So, what is the meaning of life?

What it boils down to is that you have to choose your own meaning.

You get to decide if this a play that I’m going to or that I’m just watching?
You get to decide if there is a self-actualisation dance that you’re doing.
You get to decide if there is a specific thing that you desire just for the heck of it.

It can be about generosity, connection, and possibilities. It can be about did you open the door for someone else. Or if you have inspire someone today. Or if you have made things better. The opportunity lies in knowing that if the meaning we choose is actually helping us achieve the things we seek.

[HT to Naval].