January 11, 2019

Amazon 14 Leadership Principles

14 Principles seems like a lot to Focus on, but they're Amazon
and they can get away with it, they are professionals at execution.
Here are the principles that guide their actions.

Short lists like this, when published by THE most valuable company in the world, are gold.
This is better than an MBA.

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job".

Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here". As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A LotLeaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards - many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.

Earn Trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

January 2, 2019

Lessons from above


On the last day of 2018 I woke up with the plan to do a time-lapse series of the clouds as they passed by my front window, here by the sea in Del Mar, CA.  The results show in 30 seconds what happened in 8 hours. A simple photography experiment.

After playing it a few times, I was struck with the great lesson that applies to our lives as entrepreneurs...

If I were to look out the window at any moment during the day, I would simply think "Cloudy" and that would be it. I could look out the window 50 times and still get the same message "Cloudy". 
Nothing more, nothing less. Not much to be learned.

However, by taking a look (a photograph) several hundred times, with the time between looks consistently the same, a completely extraordinary thing happens. Putting these consistently spaced photos together we can learn the clouds' speed, direction, altitude, coverage, variability, and more! 
Now let's apply this to our roles as entrepreneurs, founder/CEOs.

If you were to look at your business, briefly (a random look out the window), you might get the feeling that business is good, or bad, or somewhere in between. Not much information from a single look. 

However if you apply the principle of Time-Lapse photography to evaluating your business progress, you will gain extraordinary insights not otherwise possible.

The "photographs" you take we can call KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The time between "photographs" can be annually, as some individuals do around this time of year, and compare where they are now to last year, and resolve to make changes, corrections, etc. 

If you did that in your business, taking an entire year to re-evaluate your progress, you would have a very high probability of going out of business before you took a second look. That's why meetings of the Board of Directors/Advisors usually happen at least quarterly, and better yet if done monthly.

It is an absolute truth that the more quickly you iterate the Think-Plan-Do-Repeat loop, the faster you will achieve your goals. 

Break your annual goals into quarterly goals, and as each quarter nears, break it down into the next 3 months, and at the beginning of each month break them down into weeks, and at the beginning of each week, break it down into days. The concept is utterly simple. Just do it.

This requires that you have written goals, and that you measure your performance against the goals in writing.  It is essential that you Delegate the responsibility for achieving the goals to individuals who have the authority to do what needs to be done, and that you hold them accountable (Trust but Verify) on a consistent basis (usually weekly 1-1 meetings).

So there you have it in one paragraph. The key to success in business, simplified. Look at your own management process and see how it compares. 

If you make only one resolution for the new year, resolve to manage your business more effectively.

October 24, 2018

Congratulations to Shiv Shukla!

Say Congratulations to Shiv Shukla, CEO of Neuralace Medical for winning first place and $50,000 in the very competitive Quick Pitch competition put on by Tech Coast Angels, tonight at Qualcomm

This is what Happy looks like!

Here's a great story and photo by the San Diego Union Tribune:

August 1, 2018

Solitude, Leadership, Creativity

 It may seem counterintuitive that Solitude is one of the true necessities of leadership. 

Lead Yourself First is the 5-star book on the subject. Reading is one of the best things you can do in Solitude. Thinking, Meditating, Walking in Nature, Breathing, Yoga (solo) are all good Solitude activities (not TV/YouTube/FB...) that will energize your life, and your business. Let Solitude be your priority.

Young CEO/founders may be reluctant to embrace Solitude, believing that Doing takes precedence. Of course, change only occurs with Doing, but it is of the utmost importance that Action is less Reactive and more Proactive, founded on the creativity that flows from Solitude.

 Image result for einstein solitude

Image result for creativity solitude

Image result for creativity solitude
(Nikola Tesla)

July 13, 2018

The Chinese Bamboo Tree

The extraordinary Chinese bamboo tree, and what it teaches us about Life.

I post this because it reminds me so much of what I have gone through, and because I hope that you will remember this when Life presents you with the "opportunity" to grow.

June 28, 2018

Doing a Startup? Step 1: Learn to Fly!

If you're thinking of doing your first startup,
and want to know what it's going to be like,
learn how to fly...

I was fascinated with flying at a very early age.
At 23, about 52 years ago,
I finally made it happen, and took a lesson at the local airport.

I had no idea that what I learned that day would apply to my career in starting and building successful businesses.

Without even introducing himself, the flight instructor walked me out to a small airplane (not the one in the photo) and soon we were taxiing toward the runway...

I was completely dumbfounded with the bewildering array of instruments on the dashboard, and the buttons, levers, and lights that were seemingly everywhere. I was impressed with his ability to deal with all those mystical controls while simultaneously talking on the radio and constantly looking around for something, but I had no idea what it was...

All of a sudden the engine roared and we began rolling down the runway, and by god, we were flying! The dream of a lifetime and it was happening all too fast for me to appreciate.

The instructor must have noticed the dazed look on my face and asks if I'm ok, do I feel sick? I hadn't been thinking about that, but no, I didn't feel like I was going to puke, thankfully.

He looks me in the eye and asks: So, you want to learn how to fly, kid?
Yes, Yes! Of course I do...
Ok, then, the lesson begins!

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

His questions spilled out at great speed, each one like a droplet of water in a full-force fire hose:

What's your airspeed?  He points to the indicator.
What's your heading?  He points to the compass.
What's your altitude?  He points to the altimeter.
Look out the window! You see any traffic?
What is the engine speed? He points to the tachometer.
Are your wings level with the horizon?
Which way is the wind blowing?
Are you climbing or descending or flying level?
Are you flying straight or turning?
What's your oil temperature? He points to the gauge.
Oil pressure? Another gauge.
Where's the airport?
Can you make it back if there's a fire?
Fire?  Holy shit! Airplanes burst into flames?
Where would you land if the engine quit?
And then, I swear, he turns off the engine, and the once-spinning propeller is stopped.
The silence is like Death, and now I know I have a madman for an instructor.
Where?  Where would you land?  Look out the window, point to a place you can land.
I point to a place that looks like a field. He says No, too far away.
I point to a highway. He says, again, too far away.
The ground is getting closer all the time, and I'm convinced that this is the day I die...
Then he turns the engine back on and starts to climb to safety.

I'm totally confused. It's overwhelming.
He's a sadist, I'm sure of it. Insane!
Nobody can learn all this, let alone master it.

I thought this was going to be fun, but this is pure pain.
And I haven't even touched the steering wheel, but he doesn't call it that.
Everything has a special name, nothing is familiar.

Maybe this flying stuff isn't for me after all...

Welcome to learning to fly.
Doing a startup is the same.

So much to learn, so many things that can go wrong, so many ways to fail.

I stuck with it, and earned my solo permit after only 8 hours of instruction,
and then I quit flying for the next 28 years, while I focused on business.

I applied those flying lessons to the several businesses I started over the years,
and one of them (TeleMagic) was so successful that I finally bought my own airplane
(the one in the photo, a newly manufactured but 1935 design, Waco YMF-5, built by Waco Classic)
and flew it for the next 7 years, all over the USA and Europe.

Of course,
I did eventually learn about all those buttons and knobs and dials and gauges.
I did learn how to navigate, and communicate on the radio.
About the hazards of weather and how even innocent clouds can kill.
I did learn the federal regulations governing all things in the air.

I even learned how to have Fun while flying.
Aerobatics! Loops and rolls, and spins, and more.
Different airplanes: Open cockpit biplanes, The P-51 Mustang, the Spitfire, floatplanes, gliders, multi-engine airplanes, the B-17 bomber, more...
It was wonderful, better than I could have imagined.

But it took time, lots of time.
And practice.
There were mistakes.

Even the simplest mistake in an airplane can kill you.
As with business, not paying attention can have the most severe consequences.

When you learn to fly, you learn from an instructor who has lots of experience.
And you fly with them until one magical day they certify you to fly solo.
But that is just an illusion, you may be able to fly without your instructor, just not with passengers.
No way are you allowed to risk other lives with your inexperience.

Only after many hours of book learning, and tests to be sure you know the material,
and many more hours of flying with an instructor to check you out on the finer points of flying... only then are you certified to be a pilot in the eyes of god and man.

Even then, it's really just the beginning; a license to learn more.
You'll never stop learning.

And so it is in Business.

The big lesson keeps playing out:
Either you are IN control, or you are OUT OF CONTROL.

As pilot-in-command, and as CEO,
you MUST be in control at all times,
in a constantly changing environment.

You must always be checking your current situation with your flight PLAN, and know what you are going to do if/when things conspire against you, as they most certainly will.

Pay attention. To everything. All the time.
Focus on the most important things.
What is the PLAN?

And, in the middle of all the chaos, you want to have Fun, right?


(more later)

June 9, 2018

The addictive Dopamine rush of Goals achieved

Why we must have short term goals, and why PlayToday™ features goal setting, and the Next Steps that get you there...


June 4, 2018

The Combat Fighter Pilot and The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur and the Combat Fighter Pilot have a lot in common. It is recommended that you take a few moments to consider this deeply. Here are a few lessons in the form of quotations from successful (killers who were not killed) combat fighter pilots.

Success flourishes only in perseverance — ceaseless, restless perseverance.
— Baron Manfred von Richthofen

Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.
— Baron Manfred von Richthofen

Of all my accomplishments I may have achieved during the war, I am proudest of the fact that I never lost a wingman.
— Colonel Erich 'Bubi' Hartmann, GAF

The wingman is absolutely indispensable. I look after the wingman. The wingman looks after me. It's another set of eyes protecting you. That the defensive part. Offensively, it gives you a lot more firepower. We work together. We fight together. The wingman knows what his responsibilities are, and knows what mine are. Wars are not won by individuals. They're won by teams.
— Lt. Col. Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski, USAF, 28 victories in WWII and 6.5 MiGs over Korea

In every squadron there were, perhaps, four or five pilots who exuded confidence. They knew that they were going out to shoot. The rest knew sub-consciously, that they would make up the numbers, mill about, and get shot at.
— Lynn Garrison, quoted in Fighter Command Air Combat Claims, 1939–45 (2003) by John Foreman

The most important thing in fighting was shooting, next the various tactics in coming into a fight and last of all flying ability itself.
— Lt. Colonel W. A. 'Billy' Bishop, RCAF

In nearly all cases where machines have been downed, it was during a fight which had been very short, and the successful burst of fire had occurred within the space of a minute after the beginning of actual hostilities.
— Lt. Colonel W. A. 'Billy' Bishop, RCAF

You must take the war to the enemy. You must attack and go on attacking all the time.
— Major Willy Omer François Jean Coppens de Houthulst, Belgian Air Service, 37 victories WWI

When one has shot down one's first, second or third opponent, then one begins to find out how the trick is done.
— Baron Manfred von Richtofen

I put my bullets into the target as if I placed them there by hand.
— Capitaine René Paul Fonck, French Air Service, 75 victories WWI

Fighting spirit one must have. Even if a man lacks some of the other qualifications, he can often make up for it in fighting spirit.
— Brigadier General Robin Olds, USAF

I never went into the air thinking I would lose.
— Commander Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, USN

Speed is life.
— Anon., popularized by Samuel Flynn, Jr., USN

Aggressiveness was a fundamental to success in air-to-air combat and if you ever caught a fighter pilot in a defensive mood you had him licked before you started shooting.
— Captain David McCampbell, USN, leading U.S. Navy ace in WWII

The air battle is not necessarily won at the time of the battle. The winner may have been determined by the amount of time, energy, thought and training an individual has previously accomplished in an effort to increase his ability as a fighter pilot.
— Colonel Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington, USMC, 26 victories, W.W. II

He must have a love of hunting, a great desire to be the top dog.
— Sergei Dolgushin, Russian Air Force, 24 victories WWII

If you're in a fair fight, you didn't plan it properly.
— Nick Lappos, Chief R&D Pilot, Sikorsky Aircraft

A squadron commander who sits in his tent and gives orders and does not fly, though he may have the brains of Soloman, will never get the results that a man will, who, day in and day out, leads his patrols over the line and infuses into his pilots the 'espirit de corps.'
— Brigadier General William 'Billy' Mitchell, USAS

Everything I had ever learned about air fighting taught me that the man who is aggressive, who pushes a fight, is the pilot who is successful in combat and who has the best opportunity for surviving battle and coming home.
— Major Robert S. Johnson, USAAF

There are pilots and there are pilots; with the good ones, it is inborn. You can't teach it. If you are a fighter pilot, you have to be willing to take risks.
— General Robin Olds, USAF

The man who enters combat encased in solid armor plate, but lacking the essential of self-confidence, is far more exposed and naked to death than the individual who subjects himself to battle shorn of any protection but his own skill, his own belief in himself and in his wingman. Righteousness is necessary for one's peace of mind, perhaps, but it is a poor substitute for agility … and a resolution to meet the enemy under any conditions and against any odds.
— Major Robert S. Johnson, USAAF

To be a good fighter pilot, there is one prime requisite — think fast, and act faster.
— Major John T. Godfrey, USAAF

We were too busy fighting to worry about the business of clever tactics.
— Harold Balfour, RAF. W.W.I fighter pilot and British Under-Secretary of State for War

The ordinary air fighter is an extraordinary man and the extraordinary air fighter stands as one in a million among his fellows.
— Theodore Roosevelt

He who can handle the quickest rate of change survives.
— John Boyd, last line of his New Conception For Air-To-Air Combat, 4 August 1976

To become an ace a fighter must have extraordinary eyesight, strength, and agility, a huntsman's eye, coolness in a pinch, calculated recklessness, a full measure of courage—and occasional luck!
— General Jimmy Doolittle

The most important thing for a fighter pilot is to get his first victory without too much shock.
— Colonel Werner Moelders, Luftwaffe. He got his first victory, and 114 others

I gained in experience with every plane shot down, and now was able to fire in a calm, deliberate manner. Each attack was made in a precise manner. Distance and deflection were carefully judged before firing. This is not something that comes by accident; only by experience can a pilot overcome feelings of panic. A thousand missions could be flown and be of no use if the pilot has not exchanged fire with the enemy.
— Major John T. Godfrey, USAAF

If he is superior then I would go home, for another day that is better.
— Colonel Erich 'Bubi' hartmann, GAF

The heavens were the grandstands and only the gods were spectators. The stake was the world, the forfeit was the player's place at the table, and the game had no recess. It was the most dangerous of all sports and the most fascinating. It got in the blood like wine. It aged men forty years in forty days. It ruined nervous systems in an hour.
— Elliott White Springs, 13 victories WWI

Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best. — Flight Lieutenant Adolphus G. 'Sailor' Malan, RSAAF, August 1941

Source: http://www.skygod.com/quotes/combat.html