JFDI

A 8-post collection

Move fast

“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

I shared the above quote in my last piece on Silent Meetings, but it continues to be at the forefront of my mind.

I’m in the last year of my twenties, and I’ve been thinking a lot about time – it’s a rather limited resource.

The longer I’m on this planet, the more I realise that the time it takes to achieve things is very often an attitude or a viewpoint, rather than an immovable fact.

Somewhat proving this point is this list of “examples of people quickly accomplishing ambitious things together” from Patrick Collison of Stripe.

Patrick’s list includes the first version of Amazon Prime (six weeks), the first iPod (approximately 290 days), and Disneyland (366 days).

This weekend I also read a profile on Elon Musk in Rolling Stone – this quote stood out to me (emphasis mine):

Beyond all this, most maddening or exciting for Musk’s employees, depending on which one you ask, is the time scale on which he often expects work to be done.
For example, one Friday when I was visiting, a few SpaceX staff members were frantically rushing back and forth from the office to the parking lot across the street. It turns out that during a meeting, he asked them how long it would take to remove staff cars from the lot and start digging the first hole for the Boring Company tunnel. The answer: two weeks.
Musk asked why, and when he gathered the necessary information, he concluded: “Let’s get started today and see what’s the biggest hole we can dig between now and Sunday afternoon, running 24 hours a day.”
Within three hours, the cars were gone and there was a hole in the ground.

Not everyone is comfortable moving fast, but I don’t think there’s any option when running an internet business: you have to move fast or you die.

When someone says something will take two weeks, you can either take them at their word, or you can challenge them to think: what would it take to achieve this in two days? What needs to change?

The folks at Basecamp made this point better than I ever could in this short chapter of their original book Getting Real – keep time and budget fixed, be flexible on scope.

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time. —Fred Brooks, software engineer and computer scientist

Speed isn’t the only thing that matters when running a business, but it’s often treated as optional, and it’s easily lost one hour at a time.

Hours add up to days. Days cause weeks to slip. Weeks drag out into quarters. Quarters impact entire years. And we don’t have many years to waste.

I ran the marathon

Today is Sunday 26th April – the date of the 2020 London Marathon. Except it's not happening today.

Last year, I ran the marathon – for the first time, and it was one of the best days of my life.

Before the memories of the day blur too much, I wanted to write them down. Perhaps someone else is thinking about taking part on this incredible day once the world returns to some form of normality.

Here's my story.


The build up

“Good luck! I’ll be watching from the pub.”

This was the first person I saw after leaving the house – a black cab driver – on my walk to East Dulwich station. What an appropriate way to start the most London of days – by bumping into someone with the most London of professions.

It was early. It was quiet. And it wasn't raining. Not hot, but also not cold. Perfect running weather.

It was eerily quiet – was it really the right day? Was this just a dream? Can I return to bed?

I had nothing but nerves. I could barely speak from the moment I woke up.

Should I drink more water?
Should I drink less?
Have I eaten enough?
Should I eat more?
I don't feel hungry! I don't want to be sick!
Will my top rub?
Will my knee hold out?
What if I trip?
Are my trainers going to be OK?
What if my timing chip doesn't work and my times don't get counted?
What if my bib number falls off?
Did I actually register everything OK?
What if I injure myself and have to pull out – my whole family are following me from the app?
Am I going to get there too early? Too late?

Once I reached the station – the platform was quiet, but a handful of other runners turned up. Clearly they've done this before. This is the correct day! This is the correct time.

When I arrived at London Bridge Station, the atmosphere became real – it was busy, despite being so early on a Sunday. People were shuffling around, following coloured flags to different platforms.

When I reached the top of the escalator up to the platform for the train to Maze Hill there were plenty of police around and lots of runners. The helicopter in the sky set me off – this is real. This is the London Marathon – and I am taking part in it.

Police were everywhere – looking after the runners, helping guide everyone to the right place. An immediate wave of positivity, of excitement, but also of collective nervousness diffused through the air.

London Bridge is where you must say goodbye to anyone you've been travelling with up until this point. You're on your own from here. I had to disconnect from the warm reassurance of Lauren. What I'd do to go and sit in a cafe and have a bacon roll right now...

The train journey vanished past, and before I knew it, we were at Maze Hill station.

The

Give praise

It’s so easy to take the hard work of others in your team for granted – to just expect people to do great work day in day out.

It’s also so easy for good deeds to go unnoticed, and to simply say “thanks” and move on with your day.

But think about the last time someone specifically spoke to you to tell you how much they appreciated something you did. It felt good, didn't it?

Being aware of what you think and what you actually express to others will likely cause you to realise that others around you aren’t aware of how much you appreciate them.

At GoSquared, for a long time we’ve put specific time aside each week to share thanks and praise within the team.

Every Friday it’s the best way to start the weekend – knowing others on the team appreciated something you did.

Next time you’re wondering whether or not to call someone out to thank them in front of the team, don’t wait, don’t hesitate, just do it.

What is your top priority?

It’s important to know what you’re going to do today. It's important to know what you’re going to do next.

It’s also important to know what you’re not going to do today, this week, this month, or ever.

But establishing your set of your priorities doesn’t happen by chance or by accident. If it does, then they’re not priorities, it's just a list of things to do.

To be clear on your priorities you also need to think about what’s most important in your business, in your social life, in your family, in your relationship, and to you personally.

Is figuring out your priorities a priority right now? Maybe it’s time to make it one.

If you can sell one, you can sell two...

My sister recently started her own business – selling beautiful, handmade, refillable candles.

I'm incredibly proud of her achievements so far, and I can't wait to see where her business goes next.

The whole process has been a huge learning curve for me though – having run GoSquared for so many years, it's refreshing to see a business from inception again.

One key misperception I see with founders just starting out, is that they hold too much back for too long – they wait until everything's perfect before sharing their creation with the world. They believe there will be a sudden influx of customers that will buy their perfect product the moment they launch.

Even for established businesses, having a queue of willing customers is a challenge – for a fresh new enterprise, it's as good as impossible.

Don't hope or even plan for the flood of customers. Time spent planning for that is time you could spend elsewhere.

Stop perfecting.

Just sell one thing to one customer.

Then do it again.

And then again.

You have to start one by one. You'll learn a lot this way, and you'll be making progress each and every day.

If you can sell one candle, you can sell two. And if you can sell two you can sell many, many more.

Running the marathon

On Sunday of this week, I’ll be running the 2019 London Marathon.

My primary feeling right now is fear, followed closely by nervousness, and a distant third is excitement.

I’m running for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the RNLI – they’re the charity that saves lives at sea. They’re like a fourth emergency service in the UK, except they’re all volunteers. They’re the people that come to save you if you are in trouble at sea or in a river like the Thames in London.

This post is less about trying to persuade you to donate – although if you are feeling generous or wish to show your support in any way, I would appreciate it more than you can imagine. See my JustGiving page to follow along.

The marathon is a distance I have never run before. Doing this is a venture into the unknown – will my body be able to cope? Will I make it to the start line without an injury? Will I be feeling 100% on the morning of the big day? Will I need to go to the bathroom mid-race? Will I eat enough of the right food to ensure I have energy to get me around? Will I hit the infamous “wall” unexpectedly and struggle to finish? Am I worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong?

The only thing certain to me right now is this: I would never have trained or run this far unless I had committed to entering for a place in the London Marathon.

If I can take out just one thing from this experience it’s that you simply don’t push yourself to your limits unless you have a really big hairy audacious goal to aim for.

And there aren’t many goals as big, hairy, or audacious as running 26.2 miles.

Just a few years ago I had barely run 5km. I hated running at school. And now, in just a few days I’ll be starting a race across an absurd distance.

The whole experience has had me thinking: is there an equivalent to the marathon in other parts of my life? How can I push the boundaries of my own abilities in other areas?

Whether it’s running or not – is there the equivalent of a marathon you can commit to to push the boundaries of what you think you can achieve?

Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far – whether with advice, suggestions, or donations. It means the world to me.

See you at the starting line!

Create more. Consume less.

The start of the new year always provides time to think deeply about what you’ve achieved (or failed to achieve) in the last year, and where you can do better.

Life can be short – when a new year comes along it reminds me of everything I still want to achieve.

For me, at this point, it comes down to two areas: create more, and consume less.

Create more:

  • Art. Draw more.
  • Writing.
  • Photography.
  • Time for exercise.
  • Good habits for money management.
  • Happy memories.


Consume less:

  • Social media.
  • News.
  • TV.
  • Plastic.
  • Poorly made, short-life products.
  • Meat.

Best of luck with your own goals for 2019.

Jump in at the deep end

I was in central London doing some last minute shopping today, and I debated getting the Tube back with all my bags, or being lazy and jumping in an Uber.

It's been a knackering week, so I opted for the Uber.

But I'm so glad I made this choice – I ended up having an extensive chat with the driver who had moved here from India to become an IT consultant.

He's a freelancer so is keen to get more work, hence why he's driving for Uber on the side. Naturally, we got onto the subject of building a personal "brand" – or at least, finding ways to get people to notice you.

We were talking about starting a blog and how he's not written in a long time. I could hear him finding reasons to hold off on writing – he wasn't ready.

But I hear this all the time – "I'm not ready". When will you be ready? How will you ever be ready?

You will never be ready unless you start.

So I started pushing him to just write. Just Do It!

You have to just start, with the knowledge your first attempt will probably suck.

Then he told me a story that really resonated with me: he explained how when he lived in India he desperately wanted to learn to swim.

The pool was deep at the deep end – 16 feet deep! Because it had a diving board.

He would walk around and walk around and become increasingly nervous, just staring at the depths of the water.

He'd stand back and watch as others swam up and down, growing more and more frustrated.

Until one day he jumped in (at the shallow end), and just started to try.

He kept trying and gradually swimming further and further from the edges until he could fully swim.

This simple story just emphasises so much of what holds us back from doing new things – fear. And that fear leads us to push back the idea of even starting.

You can’t learn to swim unless you jump in and try.

Whatever you're hoping to start in the new year – don't wait. Just start. Jump in.

Photo by Artem Verbo on Unsplash.