I came across this episode of The Knowledge Project the other day, and I instantly downloaded this episode with Jason Fried.
The more I read and listen to interviews with Jason and his co-founder, David Heinemeier Hansson, the more I want to model JMG after them.
Some takeaways from this episode:
- The businesses Jason admires are not big name ones that everyone has heard of (except for Stripe). He admires businesses who have been around for 5+ years, such as his local grocer.
- The expectation of himself is to do the right thing day after day. That’s an admirable goal, and one that makes more sense to me than straight up making billions of dollars.
- He said he tries to understand what “enough” is. That really is what owning a business should be about, right? If we have enough, then anything beyond that is greed, no?
- He spoke about how, at one point, Basecamp set numbers and metrics and then aimed to hit them. Ultimately, that led them to doing things that “weren’t them”, such as giving money to Facebook for ads. If your company is profitable and making you and your customers happy (again, returning to the “enough” point made above), why do we set pointless goals for ourselves? Can’t we find satisfaction in something more tangible (like how something feels) as opposed to hitting a made up number?
I would love JMG to be as “successful” of a company as Basecamp in every sense of the word. As our company grows and continues to find success, I am proud of our ability to stay true to our roots and build a business that does things the right way.
We had just gotten back from a weekend in Wisconsin celebrating Shannon's grandpa's 83rd birthday. Charlee was quite a whiner... just like she had been all week long.
Well, the last several weeks, actually. She requires a lot of attention, and she is very bossy in the way she requires it. You have to play with the toy she wants you to play with (usually Goofy but sometimes Mickey or Pete), and you have to act the same way you acted the first time you did this game months ago, and god forbid you try to talk to anyone else (such as your wife) while you do it.
It was 5pm, and the Super Bowl was about to kick off in a half hour, and thanks to the day spent in the car, I still needed around 7,000 steps for the day to continue my 153 day streak of getting 10,000 steps.
I thought I should get a quick walk in while it was still bright out (and so I could enjoy the 70 degree swing in temperature from earlier in the week, when it went from -30 to 40 degrees).
Charlee, who I was playing with while I had that thought, wanted nothing to do with that idea. She insisted I stay and pretend I was Pete and that I needed to help Little Minnie get tucked in for bed.
Since my throat was a little sore, I grew weary of the Pete voice and said, "Charlee, you can either stay here with mom and play, or you can go on a walk with me."
Charlee sobbed and said she wanted to stay home, so I put my jacket on, loaded up a podcast, and started out the door.
I didn't even get 3 houses down the street when I get a call from my wife. Charlee changed her mind and wanted to go on a walk with me.
Annoyed, I turned around and came back home. By the time I got in, mom already helped Charlee into her boots. I helped her into her coat and hat and we set out the door.
Before we got out of the garage, I noticed she had two stuffed animals with her. One, her beloved Bumba. Two, a stuffed lion holding a heart that says "Love" that her mother won from an arcade game earlier that day.
I figured she might drop one of them, and due to the sloshy roads, I didn't want her to risk dropping Bumba, which would've required giving him a "bath." I told my daughter she could only bring one stuffed animal on the walk. She sobbed when I took her best friend out of her hands, but after a few steps down the road, she was just fine.
We started out painfully slowly. Again, I was slightly irritated that my brisk walk devolved into a turtle's pace, but these are the cards you are dealt sometimes as a parent.
We made our way out of our subdivision and towards the fire station.
Now, a few months ago, I took Charlee to an open house at the other fire station in town. She, as with most new experiences, wanted nothing to do with it. I showed her every possible thing you can see in that station, but she just wanted to go home.
In a last ditch effort, I forced her to go up into an empty fire truck. After she wiped the tears from her eyes, she looked around and was mesmerized. She immediately started pretending she was driving to a fire to help someone out. About 10 minutes later, the tears reemerged, but this time, they were caused by not wanting to leave this new experience.
As we strolled by the fire station on our walk, she asked me (as she has every day since the open house) if we could go inside. I told her not until they have an open house.
She then said, "Daddy, I want to be a fighter fighter."
"Do you mean 'fire fighter?' I asked.
"No, a fighter fighter,” she insisted.
Right then and there, my whole mood shifted. I looked down at her with the biggest smile I've ever smiled in my life. The rest of the walk, we had an amazing conversation. We talked about her new stuffed animal (who developed quite a personality). We talked about senses and which body parts help gather those senses. We held hands for the entire walk. We both laughed incredibly hard. She kept insisting that when she grows up, she's going to be a fighter (fire) fighter.
As we rounded the corner to complete the loop around our neighborhood, Charlee said "I want to do another one!"
I looked down at my watch. It was now 5:30, and the game was starting. But instead of fighting with a screaming toddler, I thought I should give in and let her keep walking. Besides, we both were stuck in a car for 6 hours, we might as well both burn off some energy.
The conversation continued to be lively and stimulating. Seriously. She might only be 2.5, but she has a lot of interesting thoughts rolling around that head of hers. Our pace began to quicken, even though we were both scared of slipping. We had held hands almost the entire 1.8 miles.
About three quarters of the way through the second loop, my watch buzzed. It was a notification from my buddies making fun of something that happened at the game.
I again thought about myself, missing out on this game. I was quickly brought back to reality when my little girl pulled on my hand and asked to do a third lap.
At that moment, my mind fast forwarded to the future. A future where my daughter was 16 and wanted nothing to do with me or the Super Bowl. A future where she was 28 and she stopped by in the morning to say hello, but ultimately went to go watch the game with her friends. A future where I was 83 and too weak to walk for a mile.
I stopped, pulled out my phone, and took a picture of my little girl. I asked her to look up at me and smile.
As you can see, this is a blurry, ill-composed photograph.
But in that future I imagined, I'm gonna look back at this picture and remember that for one brief, fleeting moment in my life, my little girl just wanted to spend another half hour walking through the sloppy, dark twilight with her daddy and her $1 vending machine lion.
Instead of another lap, we ultimately decided to go inside and take a bath.
But you can bet that in the morning, I know I'll have a walking buddy all set to hit the pavement with me.
I had to laugh out loud when Ryan said, "Oh shoot, I'm giving away my entire playbook here," to which Kurt replied, "Don't worry, nobody listens to this show."
This episode of The Schmidt List (which you aught to subscribe to, by the way) was particularly timely as we are working to hire our first full-time employee at The Jed Mahonis Group that wasn't already a good friend of ours.
Some of the key interview questions I will (shamelessly) borrow and use in our upcoming interviews include:
What gets you excited to go to work every day?
You're looking for something other than "co-workers". Something related to the job itself is ideal.
What do you think of automated testing?
As Kurt put it, this is essentially an updated "tabs vs. spaces" question. The aim is to get the developer to walk you through their reasoning for one thing or the other, and regardless of their answer, the big takeaway is whether they can justify their position.
What are you excited about in tech?
This is in lieu of the classic "what is your current side project" question, which I've never really been a fan of for the reasons they mention in the episode. Instead, this question allows you to see if they are keeping up with the industry and have thoughts on its direction.
In addition to these hiring nuggets of wisdom, the rest of the episode is a fantastic resource for anyone who is going to be moving into a role of managing developers. Two thoughts I took away:
1) Empathy, above all else, is what makes a team flow. A manager needs to be empathetic to the struggles that an employee may be going through (including changing requirements, stresses outside of work, etc.). Equally important is ensuring team members are empathetic to the struggles that their manager may be going through (including changing requirements, stresses outside of work, etc.).
2) Giving negative feedback to reports is important, and it's time to stop being Minnesota Nice about it. Not giving negative feedback is simply narcissistic and selfish.
Jason Fried is always a fascinating and insightful person to listen to, and this interview is no exception. He has a lot to say about how awful work can be (but doesn't have to). I'm definitely going to read his new book as a result of listening to this podcast.
However, what really got me thinking after hearing this podcast was the way that Jason uses his strong, personal convictions to run his software company, willfully eschewing the conventional wisdom that comes out of Silicon Valley.
I've long held the opinion that raising large amounts of money confuses me. I've always thought it was because I didn't truly understand how investing and finance works, or maybe it was because I bootstrapped all of my businesses and wasn't aware of a different way.
But after listening to the way Jason justifies the decisions he makes with his company (not having a bunch of benefits that keep people at work, paying for people to go on vacation, etc.), it made me smile and think about some of the decisions we've made at the JMG, and how the vision of the company I want to run does not need to fit the mold of the typical software company.
When running a company, it's crucial that you listen to your own gut and to skate to where you think the puck will be.
After all, isn't that what entrepreneurship is all about?
My longest friend recommended Sam Harris' podcast to me about a year ago, and I've been hooked ever since. Some episodes are easier to get into than others, but this one is definitely worth a listen.
We've got a lot of work to do as a nation to address the implications and aftermath of Russia's use of social media during the 2016 election, but as an app developer, it gives me all the more reason to help steer people towards building software that makes society an objectively better place.
(By "objectively better", I mean taking a look at the pros and cons of social media and ubiquitous internet connectivity and see if its use makes us wealthier/healthier/happier, or if it's only making a handful of people those things.)
I really like how Steli and Hiten challenge the inner dialogue that we all have around asking other people for help. If you do your homework in advance and ask for considered advice or feedback, more often than not, people will be glad to offer it.
I heard on a different podcast a few weeks ago that people love to be asked for their advice and assistance, and in doing so, you're honoring them by making them feel valued and needed.
We can all use help from time to time, and if there's ever anything I can do to help you, dear reader, then please don't hesitate to ask.
Quite a fun episode of my favorite Minnesota beer podcast, especially since they're profiling the brewery my wife works at.
I think it's interesting to see how a brewery like Badger Hill can continue to thrive in a market with such intense competition. However, as they allude to in this episode, there is no industry quite like the craft brewing industry as it relates to sharing resources between competitors.
While it's not quite as open, I think folks inside the app development consultancy space are similarly amicable towards their competitors. I've had many lunches over the past year with folks that I am actively competing again, but we are both willing to share advice and give nudges over difficult barriers.
It goes to show that while many situations are framed in black or white, truth or lie, Sith or Jedi, the world almost always operates on a spectrum between the two.