Cut The Fluff

Last year I signed up for Audible. I listen during my commute and, as a result, have dramatically increased the number of books I consume.

The majority of what I read is non-fiction. One theme across many (not all) of these books is that they could be much shorter. There’s one or two strong arguments and the rest of the book is filled with stories of how that argument was applied by somebody.

Examples are useful up to a point. After that, it’s fluff. Extra filler chapters to make the book longer and pricier. I don’t need the fluff. Give me the good stuff. Cut the fluff. It’s useless and repetitive.

Now as I start to see signs of this I’ll fast forward a bit and eventually drop the book if I feel I’ve gotten the point. That’s what makes services like Blinkist popular.

In general I’m not a fan of fluff. I try not to consume it or produce it. Writing without fluff is stronger. A product without fluff is more effective. Life without fluff is just… better.

Cut what doesn’t matter. Keep what does.

Content Begets More Content

On January 1, 2018 I started writing this blog with a specific goal in mind. The goal is to “write everyday and/or publish 300 posts”.

I phrased the goal in this way because “write everyday” isn’t a well-structured goal. While that is what I’m doing and it’s a habit I’m working to form, it doesn’t set me up for success. If, for whatever reason, I have to miss a day and can’t publish a post — I’ve failed and missed that goal for the year.

By saying “and/or publish 300 posts”, I give myself room to have days where life gets in the way. And should I miss that day, that’s okay. I’m still on pace for the 300 mark and the daily ritual of writing will get me there (and likely above it).

Today is the sixth day of this ritual and I’ve already found an interesting side effect. The more I write and publish, the more I have ideas for other things to write and publish.

I wrote in the initial post (of writing)…

“It allows me to offload the top-of-mind thoughts and make room for the interesting ones hiding below the surface.”

Not only has this proven true, but it feels phenomenal. I’m more energized and stimulated mentally. It’s having the desired effect, which only motivates me to keep it up.

Investor Updates

Yesterday I wrote a company update to all of our investors. This is something I send each month on the 1st. It outlines where the company is at, what we’ve accomplished, what we’re focused on, and what we need.

I’ve come to appreciate these updates more with time. They serve a number of useful purposes.

1) Reflection.

Looking back at the previous month (or year) allows me to gain perspective about all that we accomplished. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds and continually push towards the next goal. While that’s not necessarily a bad mindset, it’s important to look back and celebrate wins. Not just because it makes you and your teammates feel warm and fuzzy inside (it does), but because there’s valuable learnings in that reflection exercise.

Each month, while setting goals, our team reviews that last 30 days. What did we do well? What didn’t we do well? We take those learnings and create specific actions that reinforce the positive and embed those learnings into our company.

2) External Communication.

Keeping investors updated is a good thing. First, it can save you redundant check-ins because curious investors know they’ll be getting the email soon anyway. Second, it establishes an open line of communication. It’s an email overview of where the company is at (often with an “Ask” in it), not only providing an update, but also creating a thread that they can reply on top of — if they can help with something or have a question. It also makes investor meetings easier because nobody is in the dark about what’s happening with the company. There’s no multi-month lapse where they’re not sure what’s been going on.

Finally, if your updates are thorough and forthcoming, they can serve as an excellent sales tool with new investors. You can forward last month’s update to an investor who is interested in the company. Not only is it a great overview but you can illustrate what it’s like to work with you as a founder and how you’ll communicate once they’re on the cap table.

3) Internal Communication.

This takes form in a couple ways. When creating the email, it’s necessary to get updates from colleagues throughout the company. It’s an opportunity to dig into the numbers, learn more about projects in progress, and hear what’s working and what’s not.

Perhaps even more important is sharing context. In my job as CEO, I have a more holistic view of our company than anyone else. I’m a bit of a curator in that way. I receive inputs from everywhere (customers, sales, marketing, product, operations, investors, other founders, lawyers, research, etc.) and my output is synthesizing and prioritizing those to create a direction for the company. It’s crucial that I share my context with our team internally. Providing them not just with the “what” but also with the “why”.

This takes shape via our weekly all-hands meeting but also through these investor updates. Each employee at our company is on the distribution list so they too can see the holistic picture and understand how our progress and status is being communicated to investors.

Perhaps I’ll share the template I use for our investor updates in a future post, if people find it useful.

New Year, New Blog

I imagine I’m not the only one starting a blog today. It’s January 1st. A day many kickoff new habits, routines, diets, etc.

I’ve also blogged before. I’ve written a number of posts for different publications over the last few years. So what’s different now? Why am I doing this?

1) To flex the muscle.

My main objective is to write more. I love to write. It’s cathartic for me. It allows me to offload the top-of-mind thoughts and make room for the interesting ones hiding below the surface. It’s also an exercise for me to better understand myself and make sense of all the information I take in on a daily basis.

2) Increasing frequency.

To achieve the above, I need to make this a habit. Something I do everyday. And to do that, I need to change my style.

3) A new style.

In the past I’ve spent way too much time editing and revising posts before publishing them. No more of that. I’m pushing outside my comfort zone and spitting in the face of the need for perfectionism. No individual or blog post is perfect. Accept that and publish.

What this also means is that my posts will vary in length. Some will be a paragraph or two. Others will be 1,000+ words like most of my previous posts. It will depend on the day, the subject, and my schedule. I’m not committing to a certain style — I’m committing to the frequency. Making the exercise a habit and forcing myself to hit ‘Publish’.

So, no, this blog isn’t for you. It’s for me. It’s to get myself in the practice of writing everyday and ridding myself of the debilitating search for perfectionism. And if, along the way, some of the posts prove to be valuable to others… then great. That’s my new definition of perfect.