Messy Middle Book Review - NaumanMohammed

Never Came  Across a Book which involves this honest story portrayal. Well, such is this book. The Behance co-founder/ Author –  Scott Belsky does his best on what he is good at – storytelling, that too in such a creative way in his book Messy Middle also I got awed by the notes I could take from the book.

I remember back, creating a Behance account (because Squarespace was expensive and Behance was free). To show off my profile, and looking at others and wondering how creative those other guys are, well this same story is about those other people who were as clueless as I was and then figured out their way throughout. This is what exactly I felt posting my every blog from draft to making it happen – where you think you could contribute more but it’s done When I Published it. The following narration is done by Scott himself so it is quoted as first-person narration.

When Behance was acquired by Adobe for $150 Million this was the worth of the company at that point, however, there are inflections in every project where everything changes. You debut your creation to the world, you sell your company, or you publish your book. Even though the race continues, it feels like a finish because you’re no longer racing against the clock.

And as a legendary venture capitalist (VC) paraphrased at the 99U conference: “The two greatest addictions in life are heroin and a weekly salary.

FRED WILSON
I'm planning to adopt this in my life, by tracking my progress - by my weekly, no zero-day blog the key goal is to track progress and pay effective rewards when you achieve your goals.

Scott says “as the organization shapes, the culture of its team lowers the bar for how you celebrate a win is celebrate anything you can from solving daily problems or even gaining a new customer. The problem is with go to monetary benefits rewards like money is that they require the least imagination. Instead, create your own rewards by doing so you will engage with your colleagues more adequately even more powerful than an instant reward. Scott says milestones correlate with progress and are a more effective boost than anything else.

When Behance was going through the worst pace all they could do was showing a fake PR but they didn’t do that. Instead, they kept quiet. This is what happens when we show fake accomplishments rather than actual progress. You don’t become true to yourself and that reward doesn’t last long.

As Ben Horowitz, founder and general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz once explained in a blog – The truth about telling the truth is that it does not come easy for anyone. It’s not organic or natural. The best thing to do is to tell people what they want to hear, that’s what makes everybody feel good at least for the moment. Telling the truth is a very hard thing to do and requires skill. The kinds of messages that are painful to deliver, as a plan for sales declining, massive layoffs, executives quitting, and other dangerous situations. You must tell the truth without destroying the company but to do this they must accept that they cannot change the truth but you can assign meaning to it.

Methods for assigning meaning to hard truths:

  • Only applaud the progress and actions you want your team to repeat – It’s dangerous to celebrate accolades or circumstances that are not linked with productivity, like getting “press” that you paid for or winning awards that are not representative of your impact. After all, the most exciting pursuits don’t fit in a reporter’s beat or an award category!
  • Another example of a dangerous fake win is raising capital – Funding shouldn’t be celebrated. If anything, raising money should make you nervous: It means you have more to lose and more people you are responsible for. For strong companies, financing is a tactic. For weak companies, financing is a goal.”
Fake wins are the reward equivalent of cocaine: They will artificially inflate morale but then take you down, perhaps lower than where you started.
working together contributes more power as 2 different ideas contribute much more accomplishments -  as this may not work well If you have a difference of opinion on relatability

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) whose personal experience of her husband Dave Goldberg dying suddenly was the inspiration for Option B, she recalls, “she never would have gotten through this without Mark Zuckerberg. Mark literally planned Dave’s funeral and Mark was with her every step of the way. When she came back to work and felt like she was a ghost and no one would talk to me, she took refuge in his conference room.

 We think about providing emotional support to our friends but we can also do it at work and it makes a closer relationship with colleagues to the people we work with and it builds a much stronger organization.”

This is what happened with steve jobs back in the ’90s while forming a team with schiller – Johny I’ve- Tim cook – People who worked with Apple founder Steve Jobs over the years often talked about how his “reality-distortion field” could alter his team’s perspective, assumptions, and limits to allow for new ideas. Perhaps Jobs believed in his vision so much so that the reality around him was distorted by the power of his conviction? When you’re articulating a vision and set of assumptions with such passion and confidence, reality starts to bend your way. You’re not lying or manufacturing perspective—you’re merchandising your perspective. You’re not creating a story that you think others will believe—you’re retelling the same story you tell yourself.

While summarising my tough time right now, the only way to move forward is to celebrate the strength, even you don’t have anything to celebrate.  Just move on

“For example, you may see these tough days you’re currently enduring as character building for your team and as a source of defensibility for your product — even though it currently feels anything but are you lamenting a lack of progress or celebrating your survival and newfound strength? Are you merchandising hard work as tiring or as achieving defensibility in your market? As you summarize your team’s exhaustive work and struggles over the months or years that have passed, conjure up the perspective that excites you the most, and then share it. Storytellers make the past relevant to the future, even when it is dry and irrelevant.

Remember what happened- becoming steve jobs – the rivalry between apple and adobe? well this is how it ended – Just a year or so later in 2015 a special moment happened when a senior designer on the team Eric Snowden was onstage demoing our new products in Apple’s keynote for the launch of the first iPad Pro. Another member of the Behance team, Govind Balakrishnan, who ran all of the engineerings for our group, walked over to Scott and commented that he still couldn’t believe it had all come together. We recalled some of our most trying moments and how daunted we felt at the beginning when all of this was a sketch on a whiteboard. Sure, there were fights for headcount and debates about reporting lines and priorities across different teams, but we had aligned enough people to use the organization’s weight in our favor. Now with a whole new suite of applications and a clear strategy, our team was part of Apple’s keynote—which carried extra significance, given Apple and Adobe’s long-standing feud over Flash, which was now, finally, water under the bridge.”

Instead of playing the blame game – consider this before making a judgment – You need to do your fucking job.

Scott on the tough meeting – Nail-biting negotiation or making the decision to fire an employee or whenever I had to make a tough decision that would be painful in the short term but for the greater good, Scott would talk to himself (whisper) – Scott, do your fucking job. Perhaps all he needed was a reminder that some critical tasks—often the most difficult ones—will not be taken until the leader summons the courage to stop considering it and just does it.”

At most difficult times we may also struggle to remain composed and continue carrying the pain. While members of our team will express doubt and air their hopeless moments, you will need to keep the pace by keeping the faith.You can achieve a lot more if you just refuse to be discouraged and refuse to let down your team the possibilities are endless just keep going and at your most difficult moments push yourself to do your fucking job.”- Kegan added

“Don’t succumb to society’s gravitational force toward what is common and familiar. One of the worst tendencies of the messy middle is pulling wildly fresh insights back toward the mean of normalcy. Don’t let this happen to you. While society wants you to conform, it needs you to break the mold to help us see differently and make life better for the rest of us. And as an American artist, Sol LeWitt once advised, “Learn to say ‘fuck you’ to the world once in a while.” Do your thing.” – This is what I say to myself – in most difficult times- when I stuck in a rut- and clueless of where to head next.

“You don’t know what you’re capable of whether it is starting a new business, overcoming an illness, or navigating your career giving yourself a placebo of sorts that suspends your doubt is one of the greatest factors in making progress.”

A small Idea May Have Huge Potential –  this is the one way look into it

“A friend who worked for Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page told me that when teams presented product and business goals to Larry, he would often reply, What would it take to achieve 100x of what you’re proposing? This was totally unrealistic, of course. Such questions would throw teams off their tracks, but the notion of aspiring for the entirely different magnitude of impact had some important side effects. Firstly the doubts your team carrying are converted in comparison to the new problems. secondly, teams were forced to question their core assumptions and untether themselves from reality’s gravity. In some ways, Larry was administering a dose of OBECALP to suspend his team’s disbelief and recalibrate their ambitions.”

What grit, passion, and perseverance can do – In her late twenties, Angela Duckworth quit her job as a management consultant to teach middle school math in New York City. She observed that students’ success was determined by their effort more than anything else. Intrigued, she began studying why some people work much harder than others, and she enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s psychology Ph.D. program. In 2016, she wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance about her findings. Duckworth explains that what determines whether you succeed or fail is grit, a special blend of passion and perseverance directed at accomplishing long-term goals.

Grit is having stamina and grit is sticking with your future day in and day out not just for the week, or month but for years and working hard to make that future reality it’s a marathon, not a sprint – Duckworth TED talk (2013)

I have never been fond of the “winners never quit” mantra because it goes against what I’ve learned from many successful start-ups that pivoted from their original idea with great success. Twitter, Pinterest, Airbnb, and many other companies started with either a different approach or a vastly different product before they got it right. If you have lost the path halfway because of what you have already achieved or invested then you’re officially doing things for the wrong reason.

Be Open To change – This is what More Of steve’s accomplishments come from

“As you contemplate new approaches to a problem rather than quitting altogether, it’s important to let go of past conclusions proven wrong. One of my friends who worked at Apple for a number of years recalled Steve Jobs’s ability to change his mind on the turn of a dime when a better solution was presented—he didn’t get stuck with an operating mode just because it had been one that was working. He had famously strong opinions, but he was also able to detach from them. In this way, Steve was the embodiment of the famous advice to have “strong opinions, weakly held.” Only by letting go are you able to truly attempt a new perspective of your venture before you quit.”

Instead of frequently worrying about your success – all I could do is just move ahead and focus better things

“Scott has realized Over the years to recognize the amount of time he spends checking things like website traffic trends, Daily sales data, what people are saying on Twitter, team progress on projects, analytics for our customers, the list goes on. For others, it might be diving into a spreadsheet to predict numbers, budget, or screening unanswered emails repeatedly. When you’re anxious about your business, there is no easier quick-relief antidote than checking things. The biggest problem is one could spend every day checking things and do nothing about changing things.

I call it insecurity work—stuff that you do that has” on social media obsession- you can either check likes for your post or keep creating contents

Amazon Honest Approach Towards shareholders – “Another story about Bezos addressing his team in the early Amazon days, following an incredible quarter of performance, stick with me. Bezos congratulated his team but then reminded them, “If we have a good quarter, it is because of the work we did three, four, five years ago, not the work of this quarter. There is a huge time gap between great inventions and outcome. A new program takes a ton of refinement and optimization, as well as the natural passage of Tim”

“When something fails, like Amazon’s phone that barely lasted a year, Bezos makes it clear that he anticipates even more—and greater—failures ahead if the company is innovating enough. And when a new technology emerges, like Alexa, the company’s voice-driven user interface, it is allowed to evolve without being immediately subjected to measures of profit or utilization”

Long Term Focus and be consistent – this is what messy middle is all about –  and this is what startup world about and more importantly this is how it should be

Aaron Levie, founder, and CEO of enterprise cloud storage provider Box said it best on Twitter: “Startups win by being impatient over a long period of time.

“For many years, Netflix was questioned and even mocked by industry analysts. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings even approached Blockbuster CEO John Antioco in 2000, when the company was still focused on DVDs by mail, and reportedly offered to sell him the company for $50 million. According to Variety, Antioco thought Netflix was “a very small niche business” and declined the opportunity. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and, as I write this, Netflix is now a $150 billion market cap company. It took nearly two decades for Netflix’s strategy to play out and the tide to turn.”

“Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and others have done just this. Their founders were outsiders but had a strong opinion or vision about what should change. They then stayed alive long enough to become experts and compete with better technology, a superior path to market, and a lower cost structure.”

Big companies typically spend their time-solving problems and sustaining rather than improving — whatever it is that made them big. On Speaking Multi-Lingual Languageswow I didn’t know I had this power – that a multilingual had so much of advantage in creative space- I can converse in 7 different language – so I guess that has some added advantage now“Gabrielle Hogan-Brun is a research fellow in language studies at the University of Bristol and the author of Linguanomics: What Is the Market Potential of Multilingualism? Her main research focus is on multilingualism’s effect on the brain, and a multilingual person’s subsequent effect on teams. She points out how multiple studies have shown that monolingual brains are structured differently to bilingual brains.

For example, bilingual brains have a denser left inferior parietal cortex, which is the part of the brain used in abstract thinking, and they also have more gray matter. Having a different lexicon to draw from can also allow your employees to approach problems in slightly different ways. In Quartz, Hogan-Brun provides this example: In the German mind, the English word “put” conjures up different images: “legen” means to lie horizontally, “setzen” to make something sit, and “stellen” to stand something vertically.

All these meanings give the German speaker access to the whole new level of approaching practical problems by using different languages in the alliance will lead bring in new connections especially when dealing with complex tasks. And it’s not all just physiological and teamwork benefits—there are obvious business benefits, too. Hogan-Brun quotes economist Larry Summers in her article in The Conversation, “Why Multilingualism Is Good for Economic Growth”: “If your strategy is to trade only with people that speak English that’s going to be a poor strategy.” Hiring multilingual people also instantly opens up the potential practical reach of your organization twofold.

According to research by Bern University, the economic value of Switzerland’s multilingual advantage generates one-tenth of their GDP. Likewise, in another article, Hogan-Brun cites a survey by the Economist that surveyed 572 international company executives, two-thirds of whom said their teams’ potential for innovation was increased by their multiculturalism.

Learning a second language is generally always good for your brain, but there are also different types of bilingualism. For example, growing up in a household that speaks a language different from the one you speak at school is very different from learning a second language at that same school; likewise, speaking two languages fluently from birth has a different effect on the brain than moving to a foreign country and becoming fluent in a second language later in.

While working with Steve, I learned about the 70/20/10 model for leadership development. The model suggests that when it comes to training leaders, only 10 percent happens in a classroom through formal instruction, 20 percent is all about feedback exchange and coaching, and a whopping 70 percent is experiential. Following this premise, some companies create “stretch assignments” for employees—bold projects that purposely expose you to leaders in the field, push comfort zones, and maximize exposure to lessons learned the hard way. Experiential on-the-job learning is the most natural conduit for developing such expertise.”

In short, every company has its own shortcomings all the big company which has accomplished and yet to be big shots. But they don’t share this story’s because all people want to hear is how big it is now? How big it is going to. The biggest part of survival is how you survive the messy middle.  That is the more crucial part. You think this is it. And you quit but that’s not the end the author talks about.

Some try to change the entire root of its startup and pivot it to a completely different company in the fact that’s what did, that’s what Instagram did, that’s what Pinterest did and that’s what most companies did in fact.

Get This Book Now – Also if your loved reading this blog, do check out my other blogs Nauman Mohammed and I try to write on mostly Non-Fiction stuff. I also tweet on twitter often do check out my Instagram also.