My 9 lessons from an early stage startup
May I never forget.
I’ve thought a lot about how to write anything during a crisis like this. I feel like there is no way I can address the situation with appropriate respect. So I don’t. But, I believe the main lesson applies here as well. We must reflect, learn and prepare for whatever the future may bring, even war.
Thanks for reading my newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
The funding enabled us to build a solid team and I’m infinitely grateful for meeting a bunch of great people. There were ups and downs. It was fun.
It hurt but it was worth it.
Designed to forget
The conflict in Ukraine surely puts things into perspective. If you let it, anyway. I say that because as we look at the world through our own eyes we expect the perspectives of others to be fairly similar to our own.
But they're not. People are different. Cultures are different. Some change, some don't, some evolve slowly.
It makes you reassess the true value of the fundamental comforts we have grown accustomed to in the West. We take them for granted and basic. Standard. But they’re not standard in parts of Asia and Africa. And now they're contested here in the West.
It took a conflict in a specific location for this global community to recognize its fragility and value of the freedoms it enjoys.
And some aren't aware of it still. And some may soon forget.
Principles precede lessons
As in life, foreign policy, and business, certain principles are at work. These are not new, but it feels that way when the lessons slap you in the face. That’s why I love old books that are still true. I still get slapped around.
As I’m leaving Simplicity, I’m reflecting on the lessons I obtained during my work there as a product designer and design lead. I learned a lot about product, people and myself. I categorized the lessons accordingly but I realize now that most apply generally. Anyhow, I’m writing it down to remember.
❶ Things are often what they seem.
Sometimes they are not. Be prepared for both. Don’t expect. Inappropriate expectations can cause a lot of pain. Instead, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
❷ Move fast and break things sometimes.
There is a time for moving fast and breaking things. Yet, it is only worth it if you learn from the broken things. Speed then is just a means for progress, not progress itself.
❸ Measurement is important, reflection is crucial.
Good data and solid goal setting are meaningless without reflection and planning. Learning is the critical step of the (product) lifecycle.
❹ Confront the brutal facts as early as possible.
Slight discomfort now over lot more suffering later.
❺ Feedback is a gift.
Be generous. Own the way you give it. It’s your fault if they don’t get you. Ask for it. Above all, don’t expect it to be effective.
❻ Choose your words carefully.
In copy and conversation. You can choose your response. You can choose not to respond. Speaking slowly is better than lying and hurting people.
❼ Address concerns at the moment they arise.
Instant feedback is difficult, uncomfortable, and necessary. Don’t forget to choose your words carefully.
❽ Empathy is a skill.
Practice. If you want to accomplish anything meaningful with anyone, you won’t get there indifferent.
❾ Today is the result of yesterday's choices.
Own it. If there is shit happening today it’s too late to whine. It’s not too late to reflect and plan for tomorrow.
▵ You can’t expect team commitment or results without trust.
I love an old book that passes a test of time. Ever since Robert recommended it to me I became an evangelist. Extreme value in a simple concept.
For some of these lessons, I paid a price. For some, I’m still paying.
But this is me committing to keep learning.
To not forget my own fragility and proclivity to error. To not forget to be grateful for everything we have. To be more diligent. To be true to the principles that make up a tomorrow to proudly own.
Random interesting stuff I found/like (a.k.a. RISIF/L)
Mac native calendar app called Cron - pretty great (Joey Banks pointed me to it) I have three invites, e-mail me your address and I’ll add you.
✦ 4 out of 5 convenient
Mac menu bar control Bartender - love this thing. Have been using is since 2016. My menu bar is clean and tidy. What a utility.
✦ 5 out of 5 useful
I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews lately. Being a good interviewer is a skill that is slightly different from being a good designer. I found out late 🙃 However, there is a lot of resources about how to handle interviews, how to prepare and what to expect. It’s effective, and it will make you a better designer in the end, too. I found the content by Femke van Schoonhoven the most helpful. She was a product designer at Uber and now shares her experience on Youtube and elsewhere. These tiny specialized communities are really taking hold and Femke is doing it well.
✦ Love it, 5 out of 5 helpful.
I wish to keep writing and I’m shooting for a bi-weekly cadence. I used to love writing on Medium but got a little sidetracked by duties around the house and family.
I’m looking forward to get back in. Join me 🙋♂️
If you spot a typo, hit reply and tell me, thanks 🙏