The Habits of Successful People: They Start Small

handsThe other day I was listening to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and and I found it amazing how this book, which has now sold over 15 million copies, originally started:

“I prepared a short talk. I called it ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ I say ‘short.’ It was short in the beginning, but it soon expanded to a lecture that consumed one hour and thirty minutes.”

After giving this talk for some time, Carnegie found that the attendees started discussing their experiences and some “rules” emerged. Eventually the talk became a course, and there was a need for a textbook of sorts. Here’s how the now famous book became a reality:

“We started with a set of rules printed on a card no larger than a postcard. The next season we printed a larger card, then a leaflet, then a series of booklets, each one expanding in size and scope. After fifteen years of experimentation and research came this book.”

I found that absolutely fascinating – the book came out of a short talk and a few notes on a postcard-sized piece of card. Interestingly, I think a lot of the really big successes start like this.

The dangers of “big”

The challenge for a lot of us is that when we go about our lives, we interact with so many “big” things and we forget or don’t even know how they originally started. It’s difficult to understand how the evolutionary process of products and brands contributes and is vital to what they are today. We also all have big aspirations and want to get there fast.

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A Simple Strategy To Get More Replies To The Emails You Send

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“We live in a vague world. And it gets vaguer all the time. In this environment, the power of the specific, measurable and useful promise made and kept is difficult to overstate.” - Seth Godin

It’s easy to be vague, broad, and to never commit to a particular direction. It’s frightening to be specific.

One of the key things I’ve learned in the last two years of doing startups is that to make real progress, it’s important to be specific. I think this applies beyond email, but with a specific example I think it’s easier to understand.

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Work Harder on Yourself Than You Do on Your Job

kungfuThis is the 7th article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” – Jim Rohn

A long time ago, I came across the amazing quote above, which was said often by Jim Rohn. It stook in my mind, and as the years have gone on, I feel I’ve increasingly started to learn the true meaning of it.

I feel that in a startup, the quote is even more relevant. Here are some of the reasons I’ve discovered that tell me that you may want to seriously consider working harder on yourself than you do on your startup:

It usually takes a few tries

I certainly hope you do things better and faster than I have, and I know people far smarter than me building kickass products, but looking back and joining the dots of my own journey it is interesting to recall the number of different projects and startups I’ve started before hitting something that has worked.

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How to Name Your Startup

how to name your startup

This is the sixth article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

Choosing a name is one of the parts of a startup I find the most difficult. It’s also something you can easily get hung up on. We all know that the key thing is to move on to actually building something we can put in front of users.

Here are 3 steps I would take if I was naming a new startup:

1. If you can, stick to 2 syllables

Often constraints are good when undertaking a creative process like naming your startup. One of the best constraints I’ve found with startup naming is to try to stick to 2 syllables. It’s something I remember talking about a lot with my previous co-founder and good friend Oo. Generally following this rule results in a great name. Just look at some examples of 2 syllable names:

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A Simple Guide to Better Coaching and Feedback in Your Company

This is the fifth article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

andyI’ve written in the past about the evolution of our culture at Buffer. One of the things we started to do at around 6-7 people as part of the culture is that everyone has a 1:1 session with either myself or their team lead at least every 2 weeks. On top of that, I personally have a 1:1 session with LeoCarolyn and Sunil (the c-suite) every single week.

It’s been pretty powerful to put in place, and it’s something I would very much encourage startups to experiment with early on. I don’t often hear about coaching and feedback processes being in place at startups, and it took us some time to figure out how to structure it, so I hope this might be useful.

How the 1:1 sessions work

We’ve had many different iterations of the structure of our 1:1 sessions, which originated from the ‘mastermind’ format I’ve previously written about. Currently they last around 70 minutes and have quite a rigid structure as follows:

  • 10 minutes to share and celebrate your Achievements
  • 40 minutes to discuss your current top challenges
  • 10 minutes for the team lead (or me) to share some feedback
  • 10 minutes to give feedback to the team lead (or me)

Each of these sections serve a slightly different purpose and combine to create a very productive session. In addition, once sessions like this are done consistently over a period of a couple of months, a momentum builds and we’ve found the whole team has really started to move into a whole new gear.

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The Habits of Successful People: Thinking in Ratios

ratio

This is the fourth article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

Something I’ve found difficult to completely embrace, but which understanding has been super important, is the idea that there is a ratio for everything. I’ve started to call this Ratio Thinking, and I’ve found myself describing this to quite a number of people recently.

The law of averages

I think we all understand that we might not get a 100% success rate on everything we do. In fact, in most cases it is far lower. For myself, I think I have struggled to fully comprehend this.

I’ve heard the idea of a ratio for success many times. I think perhaps the best description I’ve come across what Jim Rohn describes as the “law of averages”:

If you do something often enough, you’ll get a ratio of results. Anyone can create this ratio.

Once I fully understood this, it made everything much easier. As soon as I accepted that the whole world works in ratios, that’s when it became easier. Knowing that success happens in ratios allowed me to go ahead and send that email, without worrying about not getting a response, about ‘failing’.

Here are a few examples where I think ratio thinking can help you as a startup founder:

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5 Things That Seem Essential That We Launched Buffer Without

This is the third article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

It’s a long time ago now, however I still remember it very well. When I first went about creating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for Buffer, there was something I kept very clear in my mind.

When I came across Eric Ries and his work on the Lean Startup while working on my previous startup, I tried to read almost everything he had created and watch every presentation he had done. I found his presentation on the Minimum Viable Product and remember this answer to one of the questions from the audience:

Most entrepreneurs’ instincts for what is the minimum viable product are like 10 times off. So, maybe you’re one of those rare entrepreneurs who has that gut instinct for creating an MVP, but just in case, just check out whether it’s possible that you could accomplish your strategy and learn something interesting with half the features, and maybe if you want to be really bold with half again, and just imagine: what would that look like for customers?

As a result, I had in my mind the whole time when I was putting together the first version of Buffer: how can I go even more minimal here? In fact, as we have grown, we have also incorporated this into the culture with a key point of our “Be a ‘no ego’ doer” value to often asking ourselves the question “what can we do right now?”

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The Habits of Successful People: Be Inconsistent

eraserThis is the second article in our new series with advice on building a business, company culture and life-hacking from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. You can grab all posts here.

Recently 37signals published an article titled Some advice from Jeff Bezos. This wasn’t your usual advice, and I found it interesting to read and how familiar it felt as I read each next line. The post was all about “changing your mind”. The way I would describe the overall theme, is “inconsistency”. Here’s the key part of the post, paraphrased:

People who are right a lot of the time, are people who often change their mind. Consistency of thought is not a particularly positive trait.

I find this fascinating, because one of the biggest challenges I’ve found as a founder for the last few years is the times when I change my mind, when have a realisation and I become inconsistent on a thought I previously had. This is amplified as your startup grows, because you have users, co-workers and stakeholders who you are in touch with who are there to witness and be affected by your inconsistency.

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6 Simple Things You Can Do Every Day to Be Consistently Happy

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We’re starting a new series on the Buffer blog today with great tips and insights from Joel, CEO here at Buffer. Joel will share his ideas and insights about lifehacking, building a business and working on company culture. Here is #1:

Today it’s a little over three years since I first had the idea for Buffer, and with the year and a half before that which I worked on my previous startup, I’ve started to notice a few patterns amongst the ups and downs that come with building a startup.

One of the most important things I’ve learned during this time is that I perform the best when I’m happy. It really does change everything. If I’m happy then I’m more productive when hacking code, I’m better at answering support, and I find it easier to stay focused.

I’ve found that there are a few key habits which, for me, act as great rituals for enabling me to be consistently happy. They also act as anchor activities to bring my happiness level back up quickly whenever I have a period where I’m not feeling 100%. So here are 6 of the things I do:

1. Wake up early

One of the things I love about running my own startup is that I have complete freedom to experiment with my daily routine.

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My 5 secrets to sharing great content 15 times a day

I’ve been lucky enough to have people ask me fairly often how I continue to share great content on Twitter on a regular basis.

Over the last year I’ve built up a number of different methods for doing this, as well as ways to keep to both high frequency and high quality. I’ve found 15 times per day a good number to aim for, since it is a Tweet every hour in the peak times of the day for my followers, and once every two hours at other times. With my spontaneous Tweets from random thoughts during the day too, and speedy replies to any @replies, I’ve found it to be a great approach which I’m very happy with and is manageable.

Therefore, I wanted to share my current methods at this point in time as that may be useful and there may be a few things you hadn’t thought of trying. I’m continually adapting how I share, so this current setup may change soon, but it’s working well right now.

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