Ben Perreira

My head's dropbox.

Month: April, 2014

The 3-Day Rule

We’ve all heard of the 3-day rule. When a guy gets a girl’s phone number he’s supposed to wait three days before calling her as not to appear desperate. I think it’s bad advice so I’m going to hijack the term.

Most people I regularly hang out with (work included) are pretty damn passionate about something. It may be production, photography, writing, psychology, sports, or anything else. They don’t have time to do things that aren’t extremely captivating.

In order to live one’s life with this brand of gusto, one much put one’s ego on the line. The confidence that comes from small successes sustains us day-to-day, but a desire for something greater in the long term is more suitably nourished by ego. Success is partially a function of luck, which is itself a function of fucking up less frequently than you did previously. Ergo, success begets success. 

Sometimes, however, people of passion fail. When passionate people fail it shakes them to their core. It is much worse than physical pain, the likes of which they have likely endured many times on the road to previous successes.

Here’s where the 3-day rules comes into play. Whether the failure is professional, personal, sports-related, romantic, or other, three days appears to be the appropriate time to recover. The general succession:

Day 1: Bewilderment

Day 2: Licking wounds

Day 3: Learning and planning for the next time

When the founder of Mint.com was developing the product he encountered failure on a daily basis, usually by himself. He used to play Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” to remind him to collect himself and move on.

For the passionate, fervent and maniacal among us, old blue eyes’ message does the trick.

Nonlinearity

There’s a temptation among those looking to predict the future to assume things will continue at a constant rate.

Digiday committed this error a couple weeks ago with this chart:Image

 

(They also made the error of publishing a chart whose y-axis values don’t start at zero, but I digress.)

In contrast, take a look at actual 2007 to 2012 Facebook penetration in multiple regions (not exactly the same but a reasonable proxy):

Image

You could draw a straight line from 2011 to 2017 on the top chart, while a line connecting the tops of each bar on the bottom chart would definitely be something other than straight. This is due to changing rates of acceptance for a multitude of reasons – social (e.g. word-of-mouth), technological (e.g. smartphones), economic (e.g. job search) and political (e.g. movements in the Middle East). These things change neither at constant rates nor always concurrently.

Not only do macro trends work in this way, but we learn things in this way. Children take close to zero steps per day for the first year of their lives then take dozens or hundreds each day going forward.

I regularly play a variation of tennis called paddle tennis (not ping pong). I identified a weakness in my game a few months ago – my backhand. I was using a slice almost exclusively and it made my game predictable to my opponents. One day a friend and I decided that for an entire match we weren’t allowed to use backhand slices, forcing ourselves to practice straight/ topspin backhands. We had tried this shot before but never with any consistency.

By the end of the match we started to make a few shots. A few weeks and a few YouTube lessons later, we were making the shot as consistently as any other.

The way a child learns to walk and the way my friend and I learned to hit a proper backhand are pretty similar. Both could be roughly (and crudely) charted like this:

Image

This is why failure shouldn’t bother us. It isn’t just a stagnant point along a straight line. It is actually getting us closer to the an accelerated stage of growth.

 

Mental Toughness

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk with David Lee, a venture capitalist who has invested in some of the most successful technology companies to date.

People in the tech startup scene have been known to suffer from irrational exuberance. They think technology can change the world. History has shown that at least a few of them have been right. 

Lee’s take was that Silicon Valley owns the technology-as-differentiator model and that other cities should focus on their own uniqueness. Because it is so cheap and easy to create a website and an app, companies outside of Silicon Valley are better off using technology to enhance an offering rather than being the lynchpin in their business model.

SV Angel’s model is to invest in many companies and only step in when needed, “like a doctor or lawyer,” according to Lee. Doing this means they’re investing in the people who will execute an idea. A fellow audience member asked what Lee looks for in terms of personality. His answer, citing Bill Belichick – “mental toughness.”

Entrepreneurship is uncertain and full of hardships. Lee has found that successful entrepreneurs tend to be able to get knocked down and get up to keep getting the job done.

I sum up business as “getting people to buy stuff.” In the technology world, you either invent that “stuff” (really hard), or you figure out what people need and make it great using existing technology (less hard).

Satisfaction

I know a guy whose stated goal is to become a billionaire. Everything he does surrounds that goal. I’m jealous of him. Not because I want to be a billionaire, but because satisfaction is something so singular is so difficult for me.

Everything I do I want to do again, but better. I don’t like to talk about my “accomplishments” because I’m too busy examining the cracks to gloat about the polish.

I’ve seen how money and fame destroy people. I don’t need the money or the fame.

I want the learning. I want to push myself. My satisfaction comes from being prepared for any situation.

I study people and what motivates them to act in often irrational ways in a commercial setting. This is a cheat sheet for my source of motivation.

Are There Any Questions?

As an undergrad I had a class called “Interaction Analysis” taught by a Professor Zimmerman. The class was based on how speech can cause communication breakdowns in critical circumstances, such as during 911 calls. At the time I found the class a little dry in between others on criminology and radical social movements. But as I began to more closely examine how research is conducted I became very interested in how we ask questions.

Professor Zimmerman used the example or two questions that garnered two very different response rate. They were:

“Are there any questions?”

“Are there questions?”

His research found that the first statement had a much lower response rate because the “any” caused reluctance in the minds of the parties being questioned. 

The implication is important because from an objective perspective, almost every native English speaker would confirm the two questions are asking the same thing. If we ask people the “same” question and get different answers, the problem is in our own process. That problem then magnifies when we try to analyze the results of the research and find insights where none should exist, or fail to find them where they should exist.

I’m not sure how to make sure all questions are devoid of linguistic bias, but I’m interested in giving it a shot. It’s also why Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question” is next on my reading list. 

Tough Decisions

Yesterday, pro surfer and soon-to-be AARP member Kelly Slater announced he would be ending his sponsorship partnership with Quiksilver after 23 years. Since it was already April 1st in Australia and Slater was there for a contest, some people thought it was a joke. It soon became clear that it was no joke.

It reminded me of Spring 2009 when I was working for Slater’s agent. My responsibilities were everything from answering phones to running social media for Kelly and other clients. One time I picked up Kelly’s truck at LAX and took it to a police station to take care of a fix-it ticket. The pay sucked but it was fun and I learned a ton. 

As one can imagine, Kelly is pretty desirable to brands. With 11 world titles, he’s one of the most decorated athletes of all time. He’s also handsome and articulate. His Quiksilver contract was up in 2009 and he came pretty close to signing with another brand or doing a licensing deal similar to what it looks like he’s going to do with Kering. (This all came out in the press after his Quiksilver deal was signed in 2009, so I’m not spilling any privileged information).

At that same time I was getting a little restless professionally. My boss could probably tell and he and I sat down to discuss where I could go next. One possibility was to work with Quiksilver as a designated liaison for Slater. Another was with the Kelly Slater Wave Company. I ultimately chose to work on a surf tour that would fail about nine months later. The concept and some of the team would re-surface to finally take over the ASP World Tour this year.

Kelly was evaluating multi-million dollar contracts while I was hoping to crack $40k annually, but our dilemmas weren’t quite so different. Neither completely knew what would happen. I chose a riskier path with greater upside while he chose a safer path by sticking with his longtime sponsor. This time around, Slater took the riskier path with greater upside. 

Often wrongly interpreted, Robert Frost once wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.” Few people look at the two preceding lines, “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence.” 

Frost’s speaker is admitting with his prospective “sigh” that life is full of inherent unpredictability mixed with the impossibility of doing more than one thing at a time. What matters isn’t which road is more or “less traveled by.” He would be thinking about “the road not taken” whether it were the former or the latter! What matters, perhaps, is how one finds satisfaction with how he travels.