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Author: Andrea Grassi

the adaptive business plan

What’s a business plan? It’s an idea, a goal, a destination to reach. It means you have an idea of where you’re going and how to get there, what steps are needed to grow and to become the company you want to become.

A business plan, per se, is not adaptable, it’s not flexible. It doesn’t allow to change routes while driving. You have to get there.

What then could we improve of this idea? Think of a business plan that you can revise, adapt to a market to include new ideas. What’s scary in a business plan is that each word you write seems set in stone, while in fact a business plan can (and I think should) adapt to the world you’re living in. If there’s a market crash you should steer away from it.

The ability to pivot should be taken into consideration into each business plan, the R&D should be there, to allow your company to expand, grow unexpectedly beyond your initial imagination.

Because afterall a business plan is this: Something you imagine that you plan to realize.

the illusion of growth

Did you ever thought a book would change your life and it didnt?

Did you ever thought a book wouldn’t change your life and it did change it instead?

We’re guided by our needs by our vision. But what we want doesn’t always means that’s what we need.
Sometimes what we need is different, it’s a slightly different variation of what we want. It’s a detour. Taking time off our dreams and pursuing something else that seems unrelated but will, in the end, change our lives forever.

It’s like when you drive and discover a sightseeing spot while taking a detour.
There was no way you would have found it other than with a detour.

be kind

Kindness is often underrated and overrated.

Overrated because you might be fooled into thinking that it can solve every problem in the world, but no, it won’t happen.
You might do your best to be kind, do have empathy with someone and he or she might still treat you bad.

But it’s also underrated because we forget how much power kindness has.
There is this famous saying “Be kind; Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. That is true in a specific sense.
When you face someone that is angry at you he might not be really angry because you did something wrong. 
As in the aforementioned example, people can still react bad even when you did your best, so why this happens?

It happens because there’s a story we tell in our minds. Seth Godin, author and bestseller, clears this up by saying that it’s our internal narrative that defines what we do, how we react and so on.

He’s right. It’s that little voice in our head and the sum of all the events that produces the angriness.
A person shouting at you because you didn’t finish the work on time might do it not because he/she hates you, but because maybe he bet on that finish line, there was money/status at stake, he made promises to people that couldn’t keep.
The fact that the project wasn’t delivered on time might not be a problem on many cases, but in _that_ one it was a problem because there was too much at stake.

Or maybe he’s shouting because, thanks to this delay, he will receive a paycut, or simply because his personal status will change in the eyes of the bosses, making him look less effective.

Who know what’s the story of the person you’ve got in front. We all don’t know.
Sometimes we’re lucky enough to meet people that share this story openly, this way we know what they’re coming from and how to help them.
Other times we’re left with them shouting at us.

In all cases, be kind. Don’t be the one shouting.
Because, on the other hand, there are people who did their best and still failed.
Edison failed 10.000 times before finding one idea that worked, we’re not different. We fail.

I suppose you did fail too, right? How you felt when everything went wrong? Bad right? Maybe you deserved it, maybe not. But what if the people around you didn’t blame you too much, what if they treat you like a human and not like a stupid dog?

Maybe you would have found easier to stand up again and start doing your best work, again.

choose your words wisely

I was in the waiting room of our doctor and there was this man in his fourthies that kept talking. At first he tried to help the old women that were trying to get their medicines from the doctor, in other cases he was trying to work like a policeman in the middle of the traffict, directing people to where they would go.

To some extent, he was great. But he was too much. He did too much. It was like if he couldn’t stand the silence, as if silence itself was unbearable.

The beauty of this happened when he answered a phone call from, I suppose, his wife.
The mask fell off. He didn’t obviously become a monster, but it became clear the difference. The words he said to his wife were natural, they felt natural, while his help in the waiting room felt a little bit fake. During the call he used some f_ words and he showed lots of different sides of his personalities (caring, but also aggressive without being excessive) that couldn’t emerge on the fake “I can help you all” guy he was trying to mimic.

But why did he felt fake?
Three reasons.

One: Why do it? What would he gain from it?

This is the standard question in our mind and it happens whenever someone helps us deliberately, with no interest.

There is always an interest, and if so, better to always show it beforehand “I’m doing because of this (explain it in honest words), and I don’t mind helping you along the way”.

This helps people know why you’re doing it and makes you trustworthy, while on the other hand if you push your kindness too far, well, it might come as fake.

Two: Vulnerability.
I pose a great value on vulnerability. It’s a powerful element in our lives and can help us both in work and personal life.

While he was trying to do the one man show the guy didn’t have any vulnerability whatsoever. He didn’t show his weaknesses but simply tried to be perfect and guess what? We, humans, are imperfect as hell. We’re always a work in progress and there is no exception.
That’s why he become surprisingly nice when he answered the phone call, he instantly become real.

Three: Words have a weight.

James Altucher, writer, once said (I’m paraphrasing) that he tries to don’t exceed the limit of 1000 words per day. Not in writing, but in talking.

Why? Imaging that words have a weight, but not a weight on the single word you say but a total weight. Like 50kg per day.

So, if you say 100 words in a day each word would wait 50kg/100=0,5kg.

The more words you say, the less each word weights and this mean that everything you say become less and less important.
You might think of this as a new age thing but it’s not. Words do weight. And they can also lose weight if you don’t consider them valuable.

How? Think about your friend that promises you to come visit your house each time you see him, but in the end he doesn’t do it.

If he comes to you and say to you “Oh, we should definitely have dinner some times”, would you believe him? Of course not.
Each time he made a promise and didn’t keep it his words lost weight, they lost value and now they are worthless.
You should respect your words, value them, and consider them a great good that you should use sparingly, because the more you learn how, and when, to use them, the more you’ll be able to do.

changing the system and influence decisions. On becoming a problem solver.

It’s amazing how we all need some reminders from time to time of what it’s “the path”, the way to follow, the goal.

Often we find ourselves trapped in work situations where we would like to improve an efficient process, yet we feel we don’t have the power to influence that process. No matter what, our advices don’t get through.

Why is that? There are many reasons, but how could we change it?
I was listening to this wonderful interview of Jocko Willing, author of “Extreme Ownership”, and he reminded me a couple of things I knew back then that are still useful today.

First and foremost: if you want to change a process, a part of the company, whatever: Earn the right to speak.
Be impeccable, follow the rules, be the absolute best, do your best work.
You must become the example to follow, the perfect employee not in the sense of pleasing the bosses, but in the sense of quality of work, of results, all of them.

Second: If you have a problem you want to be fixed be sure to give a solution.
Keep in mind though that the solution is not enough. The solutions should be feasable, applicable, it should be something within reach.
And if possible: You should be sure that the solution will work.
How? Test it before, try it, find ways to use the method beforehand so that you can confidently say that it’ll work.

Third: Once you earned the right to speak and have a solution, now it’s all about timing.
As humans there are times we are more inclined to listening and understanding. Such times are influenced by how many things we have in our mind, what are our priorities and so on. Try to find a good moment when the boss or whoever can fully listen to you with no distraction. It could be a meeting or a coffe break, you name it.

Fourth: Give the solution with humility.
Not fake humility, real humility.
If you can’t be true, then it’s useless. Humility is key to this because nobody wants an asshole or a “I know everything” guy. Be humble, propose, be honest. Try to frame the solution from their point of view, listing benefits and risk. 
Don’t hide risks, but be sure to explain what will come if there’s a benefit.

Fifth: If it fails, start from 0 again and do better. 

fixing your bike

Do you know how to fix your bike? Of course not (unless you’re a biker).
If someone would tell you to fix your bike today, would you be able to do it? I don’t think so.

But if you started learning how to fix it, reading, working each and every day in perfecting the skill and the craft, would you be able to do it in a year? Probably yes.
In a month? Still probably yes.

In a day? It depends.

I’ve often wondered what’s different when it comes to problem solving and tasks. Some people are able to fix their own problems, some are not.
Some stops right away at the first barricade, the first bridge to cross, the bug they don’t understand, the software they don’t know.

It could be a developer, a designer, a marketer. It’s not the job, it’s the mentality.

Why is that some people do find a way to fix bugs they weren’t aware of, in softwares they didn’t develop, while others can’t fix a bug they know in a software they created?

I think it boils down to 2 things: Questions and surrender.
And while you might think you’re not in this group of people, think again.
Because you are. I didn’t find a person in this world, myself included, that at least once in a while didn’t surrender to a seemingly unfixable issue.

So, whhy Questions and Surrender?
We tend to surrender too fast. To accept failure as an immutable condition. We can’t simply go forward. We don’t have the information, the skills, the knowledge, enough practice, you name it.

 What we don’t say to ourselves is how. How could we get more information? More skill, more knowledge?

I had people come to me because they never used a software and didn’t know how to use it.
I didn’t either, yet I used it. Was it because I had some magic powers? Of course not. I simply tried, tested, learned.

The difference was not in the skill, but in the ability to question: How do I get from here (where I am) to there?

In case of learning how to use a software an answer could be something like

  • Read the damn guide
  • Read closely each text.
  • Push some random buttons and explore the whole set of features until I find something that resemble what I want to do
  • etc

In case of a bug (as a developer) the questions are still there but in a different form
* Can I isolate the source? 
* Can I remove code that removes the bug?

Even if I don’t have the skills, I can isolate the bug, find the cause and then think about how to fix it.
It might seem like an impossible task but I can guarantee this by experience: I once fixed a bug in a software I didn’t develop, that I didn’t ever see nor used, developed by people that I didn’t know and the only difference between me and them is that I isolated the problem by remove code (in a logaritmic way, but still code removal is).

We seek help too fast for problems that are too littles. It should always sound alarming when you reach out to someone, he/her doesn’t reply you and in the minutes you wait for their answers you fix the problem.
It means you asked for help too fast. 
You were lazy maybe, maybe you didn’t were confident enough.

Whatever the case, you surrender too fast. And the only way to fix this is to not surrender at all. At first you’ll fail and it might be disarming but there’s no way to learn without some trial and error.

I’d love to be a farmer

It’s what every developer would say.
It’s what a marketer might tell you.

Doing a simple job, repeat it each day of his/her life.

Yet they don’t change jobs, even though they’re much more skilled than what’s required to work at mac donalds or lend a hand in a farm.
And that’s a good thing, because if that was the case they would discover the worst thing of all: The fact that problems are not tied to jobs, they’re tied to people.

you’re a marketer

If yoou’re a software developer you need to market your skills. If you’re a team leader you need to market your goals, if you’re a product manager you need to market your product.

You will always need to market your ideas, no matter what field you’re in. Marketing meant as a way to convince people, not manipulate them, but let them understand your point of view by removing the roadblocks created by theyr own prejudices.

And this will always be marketing, and will always need some of the techniques involved in marketing. Like understanding the right time to say things. It might sound obvious when you’re sending an email at 3am in the morning to your subscribers that it’s not the best idea.
Guess what? It also applies to real life, because timing matters

You’ll need also to be in the bucket of the things they want to listen to, and then you’ll need to remove all of their roadblocks. Only after this you’ll be able to speak your truth, and if it will be worth it then you’ll have changed a small part of your world.

But in all cases: You need to learn marketing skills.

the courage to open a shop

Today a friend opened a street food bar in our city center.
As both employee and enterpreneur I cannot stop thinking of how big the leap of opening a shop is. It’s a total leap of faith.

To me, building a business, was only a matter of testing and refining. Once I got people that wanted to pay for the product I decided it was worth it.

On the other hand certain type of products cannot be always tested. Food can be tested obviously, but to what extend? How can you be sure that someone would pay for it or that it’ll get enough visibility/success to be sustainable?

It’s a different beast and it requires courage and faith to move onto such uncertain path.
When writing this I was reminded of how we tend to forget our own struggles. When you watch someone you admire, or a successful business we often think “I couldn’t do that. I’m not able, not capable enough”.
But the truth is that we always face our struggles and often we get over them.
There will always be someone that, looking at our work, might say “I couldn’t be able to do that”.
The only difference is in our belief, not in our abilities.