The Weekly Hagakure #29
"All I want to know is where I'm going to die, so I'll never go there." — Charlie Munger
One of my favourite books (and likely a future recommendation on this newsletter) is Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. It’s not only a great title — it’s a great message too, and a way of living.
In one of its many quotable passages, Newport writes:
“First, when you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyperaware of what you don’t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness.”
This encapsulates what, in my experience, differentiates truly senior folks (regardless of role or rank) from the rest. They ask themselves, “what can I do to help my team succeed?” instead of “what can others do to help me succeed?”. And they live by the answers.
When you focus on what the world can do for you you’re bound to get disappointed. A lot. That’s just how the world works. But it also works in a way that, by dedicating yourself to helping others succeed, everybody is more likely to win. Yourself included.
And with that, let’s dive right into this week’s picks. ✍️💈📚
It helps, after writing every sentence, to ask “Would the reader still get my point if I deleted that line?” Not “Does that sentence make sense?”
Conciseness is both fascinating and a challenge to me. Being able to “pack a punch”, and articulating our thoughts in as few words as possible is a superpower, and something that I constantly try to improve on myself. Here, Morgan Housel wisely elaborates on why that matters.
Estimates are risky and difficult. So let’s try the opposite. Instead of estimating the next story, let’s play to our strengths as developers and give ourselves a technical and analytical puzzle: Let’s fit the story to the estimate.
How many broken relationships and broken hearts in the history of software development can be directly traced to estimates? The #NoEstimates movement became a thing for a reason, right? Oldie but goldie by Kevin Rutherford with an alternative, and valuable, perspective.
Traditional metrics may be free and easy to measure in existing tools, but are they beneficial? Think about the behaviors that occur in your organization by how metrics incentivize people. What we measure impacts people because people value what is measured. We need to find better ways to measure outcomes.
A clear-eyed summary of what flow metrics are all about. Dominica DeGrandis, author of Making Work Visible, helps engineering leaders be a bit more scientific about how improving their teams: by tracking the right metrics, you’re able to construct hypothesis for changes in people, process or technology and actually verify the results. In other words, actual learning.
💈 Maybe not the typical share in this newsletter, but nevertheless a critical issue for many of us in tech with stressful jobs, juggling many hard problems at once. This thread is full of various bits of advice for dealing with something that I myself suffer from on a regular basis!
💈 Wonderful thread of byte-sized video snippets on cognitive biases as observed in Product teams and Product leaders. Like Shreyas Doshi, I have observed many of these over the years, and I’m certainly not immune to them myself — I’m human, after all. Only by being aware of our biases will we have a chance of doing something about them and ultimately avoid making too many poor decisions.
When Jocko Willink’s military unit — one of this book’s authors and a former SEAL task unit commander — met heavy fire in the streets of Ramadi, Iraq, in 2012, one would expect it to be coming from enemy soldiers. The reality, however, was scarier. It was so-called “friendly fire” and, in the midst of it, a soldier lost his life.
It’d be easy to start looking for scapegoats and explain away the mess by blaming something or someone else. But Willink knew that, as the commander and a true leader, the only course that made sense was to take full responsibility for what happened. Extreme ownership.
You’d probably agree with me that the screwups we experience within our companies and teams are, thankfully, not life and death situations. But whenever leaders don’t take extreme ownership, it’s a matter of time as trust erodes and relationships break.
The saddest experiences of my professional life are made up of top leaders who had no problems throwing entire teams under the bus, conveniently oblivious to the fact that they hired those people. And that, moreover, they had the responsibility to provide them with the ongoing context and training they need to be at their best.
Extreme Ownership is essentially a treatise in the principles of leadership, each chapter illuminating a different principle through both a real military episode from Willink’s and Babin’s past, as well as a fictional story illustrating the application to business.
These principles are not complicated, but their successful application is far from obvious. In fact, they take a lifetime of studying and application. The military canvas on this book may not be the most appealing to everyone reading this but, past that, it’s as great a field manual of real, impactful leadership as I’ve ever come across.
🙌🏽 Thank you for reading! Enjoyed this week’s edition? Have feedback on how I can make this more valuable to you? I’d love to hear it — my DMs are open on Twitter or just write a comment below.
✍️ Find some of my own ramblings on tech and org stuff over at The Evolutionary Manager.
👉 You can also follow me on Twitter @prla