Seven Things I Have Learned in the Last Year

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary on my first post on this blog. With that, I have been thinking a lot about what I have learned over the past 12 months. This is not even close to an exhaustive list, but I thought it would be fun to throw some out there.

So, in no particular order:

  1. Communication is really hard. This one might seem obvious, but it deserves a tonne of attention. The lesson to me is never take communication for granted in any relationship. Work on it all the time. Get it right above all else.
  2. I draw inspiration from my daughter as much as anyone. The lesson to me here is that most hierarchies in life are complete bullshit – especially in companies. I want the type of people to join our startup that I can learn from as much as they can learn from me. I hope I am still acquiring knowledge and learning life lessons from many people until my time is up.
  3. People love stuff they build themselves. The lesson here is build products for people to build stuff for themselves – and have fun doing it. Maybe allow people to put together their own customer trip itineraries and they will enjoy travel more?
  4. Defaults are incredibly powerful. Along with our ever decreasing attention spans, this really drives the importance of the initial experience people have with your product. If you are building a product that relies on learning and matching people, this makes for an interesting challenge. The default experience has to be better every time. The default before you know anything about your customer is even more important. Stay tuned on this topic.
  5. Programming in R is both powerful and frustrating. What lesson did I learn here? I’m not sure but hope it pays off in time. Wait, I can tell you which hospital has the worst cardiac outcomes by state.
  6. Only start a company if you have an idea that keeps you up at night. The idea needs to be a personal pain and you have to feel that you are the best person to solve the pain behind the idea. This company – if successful – is going to take over the next 10 years of your life. So this idea has to be your own personal mission. You have to be so dedicated to that mission that it draws people to join your company or help it from outside. Sam Altman from Y-Combinator does a great job describing this in the first section of his kick-off class on How to Start a Startup.
  7. Instincts are powerful for directional thinking but bad for predicting outcomes with accuracy. The lesson from this is to treat life as an experiment. Trust your instincts to tell you which hypotheses are worth testing; never trust them to know the answer. Always run the experiment. So much phenomenal thinking in this area. Anything from Dan Ariely is worth the time as is the Freakonomics podcast or Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

I have also learned that you should stop writing blog posts once you get beyond 500 words.

’til next time… Kirk, out.

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