Category: Career

Evolve Your Interviews To Protect Your Company

Interviews are sort of like antibiotics. Yes, they’re useful to bring great new people into your team. But it’s also important to use interviews to keep the bad eggs from spoiling your culture and productivity. And as with any antiobiotic-germ relationship, the germs are constantly developing resistance. You can’t just ask the same old interview questions anymore. Your candidates are reading […]

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A Brand Awareness Hack for Your Next Conference

How do you stand out as a vendor when you’re walking a conference floor full of companies trying to sell their stuff? Over my few years of startup marketing experience I’ve started to pick up the habit of seeing unconventional opportunities for brand exposure that don’t cost much – if anything. At one event, that […]

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The Mental Deadweight of Permission

Permission is the enemy of speed. Everyone knows this. But I think what’s less discussed is the negative psychosomatic effect that permission has. Just *knowing* that you have to ask permission adds a certain friction that makes everything a bit slower. You have to think about the mood of the reviewer. You have to think […]

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Bring Your (Other) Skills To Work

This week at the office saw the introduction of James’s Jiu Jitsu Move of the Day. In a series of events that could only happen at my company, I welcomed coworkers into the marketing pod and proceeded to show them how to leg-sweep an attacker (played by yours truly). All it took was a nice bean bag […]

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Drive Reactivity Instead of Obeying It

Spend too much of your time reacting to and defending your work or your life from other people? Reactivity is no way to live or succeed. I’ve learned this in different contexts, but in one I received some particularly useful advice from my CEO. When our company came under criticism, my instinct was to react, respond, and defend. I was […]

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That Look College Opt-Outs Get

There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed over the nearly 5 years since I decided not to go to college. I’ll call it the college opt-out look. It happens like this: PERSON: Are you in school? / Where did you go to school? YOU: Oh, I didn’t go to university. PERSON: Oh. Accompanying this response is a […]

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My Listening Mix for the Drive To Work

How should you use up the time of a 35-45 minute morning commute? This time spent on the road adds up. So it pays (I hope) to use it well. I’ve recently settled on a mix of things to listen to on the drive in that I’ve found to be satisfying: Ancient Wisdom The idea […]

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When In Doubt, Ask Stupid Questions

I must have sounded like a doofus. “Does this quantity material handling selector mean I need to select one for however many boxes I have?” “Do I have to put multiple shipping labels on each item?” And so on and so forth. This was me* calling a service provider today about shipping and handling for an exhibition my company […]

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Conviviality and Popcorn: Or How To Make Meetings More Fun

Circle up chairs. Or sit on the floor. Pop popcorn. Pass around a bowl (of popcorn). These are things that make an ordinary night with friends into a convivial night with friends. That’s how we did things last night when my church small group met up. We’re already friendly – some of us are even close. […]

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Demystify a Job Before You Hire For It

Mystification is the root of all kinds of evil when it comes to hiring. Say you’re building a marketing team from scratch. Say you also need to hire people who can do event marketing, partner marketing, email marketing, digital marketing, content marketing, AND public relations – all key functions. Who you hire for these positions could determine the […]

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The Ultimate Late Night Office Playlist

If you aren’t staying at your office past midnight at least once in a while, are you really working at a startup? I’ve written plenty before about my love of my late-night work sessions. When the office is empty, I get into my flow state, and nothing can stop me from getting things done. Having […]

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The Pleasure of Disproving the Experts

Want to run? Experts say you need nice running shoes, controlled diets, and fancy nutrition gels. Want to start a podcast? Experts might tell you that you need the latest microphones, a sound mixer, a perfectly soundproof room, and high-cost conferencing software. Want to get into photography? Experts might say you need to get a fancy camera […]

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Network by Working

If you don’t think you have time to network, you’re probably thinking about networking wrong. Most people think to network that they have to set aside extra time on weeknights to go to “networking events” and other dubiously valuable meetups. It’s an unattractive prospect. The good news is that if hard work is your main […]

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Can Jacks of All Trades Become Great?

As part of my Charity:Water campaign, I’m writing blog posts for people who contribute $25 or more to bring clean water to 23 people. You have a word/topic/question you want me to riff on? I’ll (probably) write it. One donor asked me to write about whether jacks of all trades could become really great.  Interested in supporting […]

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Why Thrillseekers Should Be Driving for Uber and Lyft

If you want a thrilling Saturday night adventure, start driving for Uber on the weekend the Super Bowl happens in your city. Even though this technology is years old (and I’ve been using it as a consumer), you can still got a hefty dose of adrenaline from trying it out for the first time as a […]

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Ownership vs. Fiefdoms

Ownership can save any project or company. Fiefdoms will kill both. But the difference is often fine and hard to distinguish. Ownership is the ownership of responsibility for a given task or set of tasks.Just like a house will keep better with a homeowner to tend it, so will any project. Bob might “own” the email-based customer support efforts […]

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The 10 Startup Rites of Passage

“The best start-ups might be considered slightly less extreme kinds of cults.” – Peter Thiel  Every year, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States join small, unvetted mysterious organizations that require extreme lifestyles and promise untold riches. Are there new cults sweeping the nation? Are people joining boy bands? Nope. They’re joining high-growth startups. When you really think […]

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Team? Family? Squad? Finding the Best Analogy for Coworkership

How should you think about your relationships with your coworkers? Everyone has their favorite metaphor. Some people think of employees as “family.” This has the advantage of creating (if done right) an. But it also isn’t fully honest. Unlike in families, dismissal/firing is a part of the life of a workplace. Some people have responded […]

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Coming Home to the Office

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was […]

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Strong People Don’t Say “I Told You So”

Just like strong people don’t defend themselves, or make excuses, they also don’t say “I told you so.” It is a constant temptation (especially in the workplace), but pointing out in the wake of a mishap that you warned against that mishap is a weak thing to do. To rely on someone else’s catastrophe to […]

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How People Become Experts

I have a friend who is a computer science expert of sorts. But he wasn’t always that way. When he was young, the people around him threw up their hands when they encountered computer problems. They looked for someone to fix them. At 11 years old, my friend was not a computer expert. He was just […]

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Create (and Keep) a Volunteer Culture

Some of my favorite memories of working at my company include the chores that “weren’t my job”: moving boxes, ordering lunch, restocking the fridge, doing A/Vs setup, doing customer support, even sitting at the front desk. We now have some wonderful people who take care of things like these – but we went through a long […]

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Be Radically (Un)Entitled at Work (and Everywhere)

In any workplace, you are going to need the help of others to be as effective as you can be. That said, there are two ways to approach getting help. The first is entitlement. If you want to have people to blame when you fail, go into work with the expectation that other people owe you […]

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Hospitality Is the Ultimate Networking Skill

When most people think of hospitality, they think of hosting and cooking meals for guests. If they’re southern, they think about serving sweet tea. In any case, you probably think of “hospitality” as something you just do at home. But making people feel welcome, honored, and “at home” can happen anywhere. And that’s why you should start thinking […]

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Be Good Enough to Participate: a Theory of Generalism

What’s the right balance between being a specialist (being really great at one thing) and being a generalist (being OK at a lot of things)? I and a lot of other people have spent a lot of time thinking this question through. I don’t know the right answer for you, but while it seems to me that you must […]

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Rage Against the Dying of the Year*

Not another year Not a fate of shame Another cycle of human days Should not end with a smaller ambition   Not another year The coming end carries word That all that is undone before me Can yet see mighty work   Not another year With goals beyond my nerve Not another trip around a […]

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Dilettante Mojo – Or How To Balance Professionalism and Amateurism

n. Dilettante – a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. People tell me that I’m good at writing. It’s a flattering thing to say about a dilettante like me. They also say or imply that they think I’ll become a writer one day. This is […]

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Great Branding Starts With Great Hiring

So, you want a brand and a company that everyone will love? It’s counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t start by working on your brand or working on your company. You should start by working on your hiring and your team. In the final analysis, “brands” and “companies” are not things that exist. They’re ideas. And the idea […]

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A Defense of Absurd Silicon Valley Startup S***

Scooters at the office? Lightsaber battles? Champagne and fries? Starting work at 10 AM? We’ve had it all at my company. These are the strange trappings of the Silicon Valley startup culture that’s arisen in the last decade. They have their problems. They can be excessive. They can distract from the real work at hand. They can be a waste of money. […]

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Work Like You’re Already Fired

What if you only had two weeks left to work at your company? What if you knew you were leaving, or if you knew you were going to be fired? But what if you still really wanted to make an impact? Assuming you’re a value creator, you’d do a few things differently. 1. You would […]

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