Stop being so damn lean

Stop being so damn lean

 The Lean Startup is one of those books that changes the way you approach, validate and build a product. It encourages an iterative process of experimentation and validation to learn more about customer needs and reduce risk and waste of resources.

In other words, it is about learning and getting as much feedback as you can from the user and use that to guide your product development process. Too often, startups spend their time building the product in isolation without any contact with users until release.

Moving forward

To move forward, sometimes you need to slow down and make sure you are on the right track. A step in the right direction is worth more than a thousand on the wrong one.

To move forward, sometimes you need to take a step back and take a detour. Whenever you feel like you are stuck, move on to something else and come back to it later. New perspectives may offer new insights.

To move forward, sometimes you need to stop what you are doing and ask yourself if this is worth it. Don’t let the momentum of the situation carry you to a place you don’t want to be. Progress for the sake of progress is pointless.

Let’s all keep moving forward on the right path for real progress.

When to take a shortcut

In order to cope with our always-connected, attention-starved lifestyle, many of us rely on shortcuts for various aspects of our lives. We got so good at this that we have shortcuts for almost anything. Want to tie a tie in 5 seconds? No problem. Only got 2 seconds to fold a shirt, we got that covered too.

And we are not just creating shortcuts for physical tasks but also mental ones too. Armed with excellent pattern matching ability afforded by evolution, we rely more and more on our intuition and gut feeling to make decisions.

There is however a dark side to these snap decisions and judgments. We are so good at taking mental shortcuts that at times we may not be aware of it. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell showed us how decisions made intuitively can be biased and misguided. Shortcuts may lead us astray.

Another problem with shortcuts is false proxies. Shortcut involves taking a shorter route to reach our goal. But there are times that we can’t directly measure our progress towards our goal, so we use a proxy instead. The most common false proxy for success is money. So, a shortcut to success may involve getting rich quickly but it may not lead to the paradise we seek.

Shortcuts are great though. They give us more time, which is arguably our most important resource. It’s okay to use a cheat code at times like to skip parts of a game or exploit the situation to get ahead so long we are not doing it at someone’s else expense.

But don’t get too obsessed over shortcuts. There are times where you have to resist the temptation to take the easy way out. After all, the most valuable things in life comes from the time and effort we put into it.

Our lives should not be about seeking the best shortcuts. Shortcuts themselves aren't the goal in the first place. It just gives us more valuable time to spend living the life we want. As they say, it’s the journey not the destination that matters. Shortcuts aren't the destination but merely a tool to get there. And there are some journeys you wouldn't want to skip.

Getting it done

As the saying goes, if you want something done, do it yourself. This is true especially when you are working solo. Who else is going to do it? The best person to rely on is yourself.

But this also applies in a team setting where it is always better to do it yourself first. Everyone in the team has their own responsibility and you should hold up your end of the bargain.

Of course, it is okay to seek assistance. That is why we work in teams. We need the strength of others to overcome ever greater challenges. We should never be afraid to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of humility.

It might seem paradoxical to be self-reliance and seek assistance of others at the same time. The first lesson is to realize that you need to do your very best if you want something done well. The other is to admit that you can't do everything yourself and it's okay to get some help in achieving your goals.

Busy busy busy

In this age of constant connectivit, everyone is busy with something. It is probably the most common excuse you use when you forgot about an appointment or don't want to deal with something at the moment.

It is an excuse we all give and accept not just because most of us are really busy but also one that we can understand and grants at least some benefit of doubt.

When someone tell you that he/she can't make it because they are busy, we get it. Maybe something important came up or there's a deadline they got to meet.

But there are some of us (including myself) who like to keep ourselves busy in order to not do something else. We tell ourselves that we don't have the time for it now and we'll get to it later. The scary thing is sometimes we actually make up stuff to do to keep ourselves busy.

I'm not talking about people who look busy to get away with doing less. I'm talking about people who are genuinely busy but they are busy with the wrong things.

This happens when we mistakenly think that being busy means we are having progress. You tell yourself that, all these things I'm doing got to mean something right? Well yes and no. 

If what you are doing is moving you toward your intended goal then that's great. But too often, a lot of stuff that we do are just distractions. We conjure up tasks to fit into our schedules. We hold meetings to decide if we should decide on something.

So the next time you tell yourself or someone else that you are busy, think about it for a moment. Are you really busy or you just needed an excuse? And if you are busy, are you busy with the right things?

Taking action

Around the same time I started this blog, I also started a brainstorming group with a few close and smart friends. We called it Idearum and met up every fortnight to share ideas and discuss certain issues. Then early this year, we restarted the group and with some new members and started discussing about business ideas and things we can do. We all agreed that instead of just brainstorming ideas, we should try implementing some of them.

Inline with this new direction, I've decided to start an online community that encourages people to take action and work on their ideas. Hopefully, with the support and resources from the community, it will be easier to realize your dreams and bring ventures to life.

At this moment, we are still developing the site itself so hopefully soon we'll be able to launch it and inspire more people to take action and create value. After all, life is too short to not do something that matters.

If you got an idea that's been stuck in your head for a while, it's time to take action and work on it. Start a newsletter or work on that painting you always wanted to do. Lead a movement or build that iPhone app you wanted.

Whatever the idea, nothing will happen unless you start taking action. And maybe, just maybe, with enough of people doing great work and stuff that matters, we might be able to change the world.

Inspire action

Simon Sinek says he found out why some people and organizations are so inspirational. In his book, Start with Why he codifies the method for us to lead better and inspire change. He calls it the Golden Circle.

All organizations and careers function on 3 levels. What you do, How you do it and Why you do it.  The problem is, most don’t even know that Why exists.

Influential and inspirational companies like Apple starts from the 'why'. It sells you a story of why they are different. Simon argues that most companies start with a story that tells their customer what they are selling. They should instead focus on telling their customer what they believe in and stand for.

Here's a talk from Simon at TED that you should watch. If you are leader of some sort or want to inspire action and change, do NOT miss this.

Be creative, anywhere, everywhere

One of the reason I chose to work in the software industry is that it makes it possible for me to create something. The ability to turn your ideas into reality can be extremely fulfilling. The software industry is part of the creative industries where you deal with ideas, knowledge and information. If you are generating or exploiting knowledge and information, then you are too part of this industry.

Personally, I think everyone should be in the creative industry. What I mean by that is that everyone should be creative in their work. No matter how repetitive and boring your job is, there's definitely something you can change and make a difference.

If you are a factory worker doing the same thing like everyone else, you could lead your fellow co-workers to ensure that all your benefits and welfare are taken care of.

As a sales person in multi-national company, you could treat your clients with respect and provide the best customer service among your colleagues.

No one else is better suited to improve and enhance your job than you. You are armed with the domain knowledge to know what works best for you and your clients. All it takes is some creativity to bring things to the next level.

The next time anybody complains about their job, tell them to shut down their lizard brain and start getting creative in their work.


Given a choice, most of us would choose the shortest route to accomplish something. After all, you get to save time and effort. In fact we probably spend most of our time researching and coming up with technologies that allows us to be lazier. When you become too obsess with this shortcut mentality and start applying it in everything you do, you'll start to forget that some things should be done gradually on a firm foundation.

Nothing can replace the first-hand experience you gain doing things from the ground up. You wouldn't want to build a house without first laying the foundation especially if you plan to live there yourself.

Using a shortcut to get from one place to another is fine. But if your destination is a better career, you'll need to take a different route. Preferably one that focuses more on building your foundation and have the ability to keep you at finishing line once you get there.

Pissed off Gene

In Ignore Everybody, Hugh MacLeod talked about the Pissed off Gene that cause us to be dissatisfied no matter how well things are going. It's the urge that motivates us to create, improve and enhance our lives. He argues that we all have it in us. It's built-in since the caveman days.

The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everyone does.

Sadly, not everyone act on this urge and most will happily trade it for cash. If you are annoyed at how some things appear to be broken, use it as the drive to create something new. Apparently, it's okay to be pissed off sometimes.