People remember the exciting moments. People get excited for the shiniest things.
But often, success comes from the boring: being consistent, executing relentlessly, not letting things slip.
Apple may not be able to hang on to their success forever, but since 2007 they have shipped at least one new, successful model of iPhone every single year. They didn't even let a global pandemic get in their way.
They’ve never once slipped up — no exploding batteries, no massively unpopular designs, no unexpected huge delays.
That’s boring, but that’s a big part of what has turned the iPhone into a business that generates $200 billion per year.
Most of us aren't running a global consumer electronics business, but I think there's something to take away for all of us — whether you're a founder, an employee, or just trying to improve in your personal life.
Often the success comes not from a single moment of genius, but from the compounding effects of showing up consistently and not giving up.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." — Aristotle
As someone who geeks out on tech products all the time, I find the Threads launch fascinating, so I jotted a few notes and observations down about it.
Timing is everything
It’s no coincidence that Threads is launching in the same week that sentiment towards Twitter is at an all-time low.
Elon Musk decided to enforce aggressive rate limiting for all users, made Tweeetdeck redundant for many, and obliterated the value of public URLs by preventing tweet embeds for non-logged-in users.
It’s clear Threads could be better.
It could have more features.
It’s not quite ready when you compare the feature checklist.
But launching this week while Twitter is in the dumps (more than usual) may just give it the strong gust of goodwill that helps this spark of a product turn into a full-blown, roaring fire of a platform.
Ship early, iterate
Many “critical” features aren’t in at launch, but is the app and experience solid? Is it easy for new users to onboard? Is the experience reaching a threshold that the majority of users will enjoy and trust? Yes.
You want the ability to filter your feed, you want better search, you want to have more clarity on who’s following you. You want an API. You want the app if you’re in the EU!
But all of those are trade-offs between shipping now or shipping later.
Someone had to make that call. The easy option is always to wait. Waiting always feels safer.
Shipping this week looks like it was the right call. The rest can come later.
What I’ve enjoyed most so far as an observer of the Threads launch today has been seeing Meta operate like they have nothing to lose.
Launch today. Move fast. Share the numbers. Integrate with the open standards (eventually).
It seems unlike many of Meta’s most significant big launches: Instagram Stories was a bolt-on to not lose out to Snapchat, Reels is another tab to avoid losing out to TikTok, and Instagram itself was an acquisition.
Threads, though, is a joy to see: Zuck and the team building something that doesn’t just compete, but that could genuinely be better than Twitter. Making something people want. With a beautiful blank slate.
Maybe I am just relieved to not have another tab, view, or swipe in the Instagram app. Or perhaps it’s that my trust in Twitter has dwindled.
Whatever the reason, I’m rooting for Threads. If you’re on it, join me!
"You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."
If you work at a gym, you know where the changing rooms are.
If you’re joining a gym for the first time, and you’re heading in for your first session, everything is alien.
You don’t know where the changing rooms are, and if the signs don’t point you in the right direction, you’re lost.
When I signed up for a gym session recently, I felt totally lost and a little foolish, wandering around trying to find somewhere to get changed into my kit. I almost left out of sheer embarrassment before I plucked up the courage to return to the reception desk and ask.
Whether you build software, build physical products, own a restaurant, or run a gym, nothing beats using your service as a first-time user to find out how you can improve it.
It’s always great to get feedback from customers but sometimes they don’t tell you everything. Sometimes they may not even care as much as you do about the experience.
It’s easy to even get frustrated that customers don’t “get” the thing you’ve built. You’re so proud of certain elements you can easily get blinded from the areas you’ve overlooked.
A while ago, I gave a talk on user onboarding, and one of the recommendations was to sign up for your own product every week. I even paused to encourage the audience to put a recurring event in their calendars!
Several years on, I feel that suggestion is as relevant as ever, and it’s advice that’s easy for me to give and seemingly hard to follow.
The silence is deafening — Apple is going to announce a VR headset imminently.
The very fact Apple hasn’t denied any rumours, and the increasing nods towards a big launch, are evidence enough. If they weren’t, then we’d know by now.
The feeling is very reminiscent of the run-up to the launch of both the original iPhone and Apple Watch — both products were widely expected to be unveiled, but the knowledge of exactly what they would entail was almost entirely unknown.
We’ve been here before
While I never wrote about that feeling before the iPhone launch, I wrote a piece just before the Apple Watch was announced: “Why would Apple make a Watch?” in which I tried to get into the mind of the decision makers at Apple and understand why they would enter the watch market and what the device might enable.
Looking back at that piece, I feel quite proud. While I was not the only person pondering such concepts, I proposed the Apple Watch (or iWatch as I believed it’d be called at the time!) would:
Enable you to pay on the Subway, and allow for contactless payments — before Apple Pay came along.
Have easily detachable / swappable straps.
Become a key health companion, continuously monitoring your activity and heart rate.
Enable you to sleep better and wake up at the optimum time.
It’d prioritise telling the time at all costs, despite its smart features.
I got many things wrong too — I thought the Watch would:
Have incredible, unbelievable battery technology.
Rethink the concept of a display: “I will eat my metaphorical hat if we see a full colour backlit Retina display on the device”.
Be the “magic wand” remote to your Apple TV.
As you can see from my sketches — the physical appearance of the Watch I believed Apple would make was more akin to a Fitbit activity band.
I love reflecting on that post because it’s what makes following a secretive company like Apple so fun — you can dream and imagine, and you get to find out eventually if you were right. You get to decide if you felt Apple lived up to, exceeded, or missed your expectations.
So with an entirely new device and category just around the corner, what do we hope to see from the Californian giant?
Let’s dig in…
What will it be called?
I don’t believe Apple will call this a “headset” at all. Apple has never referred to the iPhone as a “handset” even though it’s how carriers and many consumers referred to phones before the iPhone.
Normal people don’t buy “headsets”. Headsets are for gamers and geeks.
Apple makes products for people who want the best, and they, of course, charge prices aligned with that approach.
There are numerous rumours and trademark filings, and even supposed confirmations in various code
If you’re interested in tailoring, if you’re interested in British manufacturing, if you’re interested in military uniforms(?!), if you’re interested in the royal family, or if you’re interested in family run businesses, this is something to watch.
Patrick Grant (who owns a tailors on Savile Row, presents the Great British Sewing Bee, and frequently stands up for British manufacturing) presents a one-hour show about the family run business, Kashket & Partners. They’re responsible for producing the hundreds of military uniforms for the Coronation of King Charles.
This program hits a certain sweet spot for me in the Venn diagram of my interests. I am in total awe of the level of detail, care, and craft that goes into something of this scale.
By the end of 2022 I was feeling exhausted. I desperately needed a break.
I'm uncertain if I really got a considerable break over Christmas — we hosted Christmas at our house for the first time, I cooked for eight people, and we headed up to Scotland for New Year celebrations.
It was fun, but it wasn’t entirely relaxing.
It was different, though — different to the usual schedule of work, the usual stress and the usual ups and downs of a working week.
Critically, I managed to reflect on 2022, and I spent some time thinking about 2023.
I’ve started January of this year with a few intentions:
Don’t eat meat (at least for January)
Get to bed by 10pm
Wake up before 7am
We’ll have to check in on these as February rolls around, let alone January 2024. But I have intentions and I am feeling positive about all of them so far.
Upon further reflection though, I know I am guilty of a cycle — every January, I feel re-energised, I start afresh, I have great intentions, and I carry them out. I’ve even written on this blog about them (often I write when my energy is highest, too):
I have never thought of myself as much of a royalist...
But when the news broke that the Queen had passed away on Thursday 8th September 2022, it hit me harder than I expected.
I know people have many thoughts and feelings about the royal family, but regardless of what they might be, the week following her passing was remarkable for so many reasons.
I hope, regardless of your views, these notes might give a little glimpse into London for those who weren’t there.
The announcement came like a full-stop in the middle of a sentence you were enjoying reading. The national anthem interupted whatever was on TV.
Over the week, I felt a sense of emptiness, one that perhaps is shared by many. The nation has lost a key ingredient that we can never replace.
From singing along to a Queen medley in Covent Garden to witnessing the impeccable processions from the military, here are a few of my highlights.
A higher order
We live in a world where corporations are often considered the new religions. To some, queuing for trainers or a new phone may be the equivalent of visiting church on a Sunday.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but the last week was the antithesis of capitalism as religion.
The normal experience of daily city life — the bombardment of advertising, hunger for the latest tech gadget, and the desire to stand out and grab attention faded for a brief moment.
It was a week for people to come together, not purely to mourn, but to celebrate a life. It was a week where total strangers from all over the world shared in a piece of history.
It was as heartwarming as it was historical.
The centre of the world
On the Friday evening after the news broke I wandered around London to soak up the atmosphere.
I strolled down the Mall to see members of the public laying flowers, quietly staring up at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Many thinking "we'll never see the Queen stand on that balcony again."
It was only when I reached the palace that I realised how significant this news was to the world, not just the UK.
I was taken aback to find the world's media hunched up in countless marquees surrounding the palace, each with lights on and cameras out, late into the evening, communicating back to newsrooms throughout around the planet about what was happening.
It felt like I was at the centre of the world.
Singing along to Queen in Covent Garden
I wandered into Covent Garden on that Friday evening.
Street performers are here every day — some juggle swords, some walk on tightropes, some eat fire. Some do all of those at once.
As someone who’s lived in or near London all my life I tend to breeze through — I've been there and seen that many times!
But something was different on that Friday evening. Initially I thought it
We also took the opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons we've learnt along the way. 16 lessons to be precise. Maybe you've come across many of these before, but it never hurts to reflect...
1. Build something people want. 2. Share early, share often. 3. Constraints breed creativity — embrace them. 4. The details are not the details, they make the product. 5. Use your own product. Be your own customer. 6. Charge the trust battery. 7. Your customers are smart — treat them accordingly. 8. Treat each customer as unique, but scale your process. 9. Never underestimate what a small group of focused, aligned, motivated people can do. 10. Celebrate the small wins. Have fun along the way. 11. Most meetings don’t need to happen. 12. Knowing yourself is a superpower. 13. Simplicity is a war. 14. If you think you’re repeating yourself too much, repeat some more. 15. Focus is impossibly hard, but without it you’re doomed. 16. Just do it.
In my first episode of Lost and Founder of 2022, I talk about how I’m getting through the darkest month of the year, and why January can actually be a great time reflect, reset, and build a stronger you for the year ahead.
I always find January a tough month — all the fun and excitement of Christmas and new years is over, the weather is awful, it’s dark outside, and to top it all off we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.
But fear not, there’s a world of opportunity out there! I’m spending some time at the start of January to reflect on 2021. I’m not setting myself huge audacious goals because I don’t know what the future holds, and I know the chances of success are low unless I use my previous experience to inform my future actions.
Don’t get caught up in all the “new year, new you” nonsense — be careful what you read on social media! Instead, look at yourself, spend time reflecting on your own successes and where things could have gone better, and use that to channel your next steps as you enter the new year.
Actions / take aways
Go easy on yourself — the last two years have been hard on all of us.
It’s never too late to reflect — if you haven’t already, you still have time to reflect on 2021.
You don’t have to make new years resolutions — instead get clearer on your values.
If you are clear on your values, channel your thinking around small habits you can adopt day by day rather than setting huge unwieldy goals.
Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of January — like a trip to somewhere you like, a gift to yourself, or some other treat.
I woke up this morning to see the news that Richard Rogers had passed away aged 88. Richard Rogers has been one of the most influential architects of the last 100 years, and while I’ve always been aware of his work I didn’t realise quite how many of my favourite buildings were created by his practice.
Among others, Rogers is responsible for the Lloyds Building in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Millennium Dome, Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, and The Leadenhall Building (aka “the Cheesegrater”).
Rogers’ work has influenced my fascination with modern architecture since I was in my earliest years. I still have the fondest memories of visiting the Millennium Dome as a boy in 2000 and being awed by the scale of the place. I still recall having the sense that “this is a significant moment in the world, and I’m living through it”, and the architecture I associate with that moment is almost entirely the work of Richard Rogers.
The Rogers-designed spaces I’ve been fortunate enough to visit have me feel inspired, motivated, and ambitious, but also have made me feel closer, more connected to the people around me.
His legacy will live on for many generations to come, and I hope will continue to inspire many more.
Thank you for architecting some of my favourite landmarks of London.
On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. [...]
The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed. This is the story of its creation.
I love so much about this story — two guys in Soho, London in the 1970s tasked with a vague brief. The doubts, skepticism, and challenges of putting something new into the world.
This is a story of the ultimate success of a huge product and brand, told by the humble people who invented it, without reaping the significant financial rewards you might expect.
When I inevitably raise a glass of this after dinner at Christmas, I'll have this story in the back of my mind and remember: everything around us is here because someone, somewhere, at some time had to deliver on a vague brief to put it there.
It's been a fair few weeks since the last episode of Lost and Founder, but I'm pleased to return with a topic I've been doing a lot of thinking on lately: the Great Resignation.
I hope you find this episode helpful, and as always, if you want to talk about anything in the show, please reach out.
After a year and a half, it seems that more people than ever are looking for a change in their lives.
In what some have dubbed "The Great Resignation", in this episode I look at how to handle team changes in the wider context of managing a team through a period of significant change.
This year, the term "the Great Resignation" has been increasingly used to describe the explosion in people wanting to change their careers.
As a planet, we're in unprecedented times – and it's no wonder that many teams are going through a tumultuous time with changes never seen before.
If you're anything like me, handling team changes is one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager and leader. I find it hard to even know where to begin on this topic, but I thought I'd share my latest thinking in this episode with the hope it will be valuable to others out there going through similar challenges.
Actions / take aways
Every change is an opportunity to look at the business – what is going well, what isn't?
Understand people’s goals and desires and ensure they’re on the right path.
When someone leaves there can be tremendous opportunity for others on the team to grow into new roles.
Be clear with yourself on the goals and needs of the company.
Remember: everyone is on their own journey. You can’t control that! Focus on what you can control – organisation design, encouraging the culture and performance you want to see, leading by example, and making people the hero on their own journey.
You’re not alone. This stuff is hard. Talk to others and you’ll realise that many others are in the same boat and going through similar challenges.
Anyone who knows me knows I have been a fan of the fruit company from California for a long time. In this episode, I share how I became a fan of Apple early in my life – from hanging out in the design agency my mum worked at, to being fortunate enough to get an unwanted Mac from my dad's office.
Steve Jobs influenced me in many ways – through his keynotes, his showmanship, his stories, and through the many products his company brought into the world.
In this episode I summarise three key areas where Steve Jobs had an impact on me: his showmanship, his obsession with simplicity, and his views on life.
This week I share why it's so important to take a break, to rest, and recharge your batteries.
I’ve spoken a lot about habits and healthy routines on the podcast in previous episodes, but this week I wanted to change the focus to what happens when you fall out of touch with those routines and start to feel overwhelmed.
It's so important to give yourself time to rest and recharge — it's only by pausing you can truly reset and move forward stronger.
As the renowned street artist Banksy once said: "Learn to rest, not to quit."
Actions / take aways
Find ways to check in with yourself to understand how you're feeling.
If you feel you're overwhelmed or struggling, don't be afraid to pause and rest.
Every so often a reset is what you need — take the time you need to get back on track.
You might not need a holiday — sometimes just a day to yourself can help.
If you've been stuck in the same surroundings, try getting into a different environment — a coffee shop works for me.
When launching a product or a feature, or even launching a whole new business, it’s often difficult to know when to do it. You’re pretty much always going to launch too early or too late — from my experience, it’s almost impossible to launch “perfectly on time”.
If you’re getting ready to launch something, I hope this episode is helpful for you.
Actions / take aways
I’ve outlined some key actions and take-aways for those too busy to listen to the full thing:
Set a deadline for your launch — every time you do this you learn how to get better at setting deadlines.
Assign an owner if you're in a team — if more than one person “owns” a project, then no one actually owns it.
Be clear on your priorities — ensure everyone is aware of what is most important to the launch and the company.
If in doubt, optimise for speed — moving faster tends to solve more problems than it creates. Speed means you learn faster.
I get a small dopamine hit whenever I check an item off my list. I have built into my muscle memory the keyboard shortcuts to record anything anyone mentions to me that I’ll need to action in the future.
But every day I still finish with items unchecked. It gets me down and it stresses me out.
Earlier this week, several people sent me this post on how a CEO manages their time and it made me question my obsessive todo list usage. Is it really helping me? Is it contributing to me feeling down? Is it actually holding me back from focusing my time on what I need to do?
For the last few days I experimented with deliberately blocking my time on my calendar for the important work I needed to focus on. I have dabbled with this approach in the past but kept one foot in the “todo list” camp and it didn’t stick.
What I found from a few days last week was eye-opening:
I was more conscious of the tasks I put into my calendar (everyone on the team can see my calendar if they want to view it)
I blocked time to focus – and this time was protected from meetings. People couldn’t book / invite me to anything that clashed.
It drove my awareness of how much time I need to spend on certain important projects – time I wasn’t dedicating before.
It made me realise I go into every day, and every week, with an overly optimistic assessment of what I can achieve, that ultimately leaves me feeling like I haven’t achieved enough by the end.
I intend to keep this approach up. I am not ready to drop my usage of Things yet – especially not for my personal life todos.
I’m interested to find out after another few weeks of using my calendar more deliberately if I can learn about the following:
How much important work can I do? Not just the urgent work.
Can I get better at communicating with others around me what I can / cannot achieve by certain dates?
Can I feel better at the end of each day knowing I've focused my time in the right places, and achieved more with my time?
The clearer I can be with myself, the clearer I can be with everyone around me, and the more I can help people achieve their own tasks and projects.
Let’s find out!
Update: in episode 10 of Lost and Founder I share what I've learnt from using my calendar instead of a todo list over the 3-4 weeks since writing this post. TL;DR: it's helping.