This dispatch marks the 1,200th Heretic post. Little did I know nine years ago, when I wrote “So let’s get this party started…”, that we will be a community tens of thousands of Heretics strong, there would be a podcast, I would have compiled the top posts from my first 500 posts into a book, and gone on to write 1,199 more posts. To mark the occasion (and reminisce), we are deviating a little from our normal order of business here and, for the next ten or so posts, make our way through a talk I used to give years ago on “Ten Things”. Ten things I learned, observed, discovered, failed at… Each post will be one thing — capping it off with a video version of the whole talk at the end of the series.
Whitney Wolf Herd, the founder of Bumble — the world’s youngest current female self-made billionaire and the youngest woman to take a company public (at age 31). Whitney exemplifies insight No. 1 for me:
Regardless what you chose to do — aim to be/do better.
We are surrounded by an ocean of mediocrity. Go into any grocery store, visit the aisle for canned beans, and you see can next to can — different brands, yet all the same. They are all fine, and all mediocre. The remarkable companies manage to stand out — and the best way to stand out is to simply be better.
Take Apple: As a company, Apple exemplifies the mantra of “superior products matter”. Take the Apple Store (the physical retail stores) — highest grossing chain store in the world on a per-square-foot basis. Remarkable, as they don’t sell all that many different products. Apple famously instructed their employees to push the screen of their laptops into a slightly closed position, so that when you get into the store and want to look at one of their MacBooks, you are forced to touch it (and therefore feel the smooth aluminum case). Meanwhile, Best Buy told its employees to make sure the screens on the laptops they were selling need to be at a perfect viewing angle to make sure people don’t touch them and thus leave fingerprints.
When you embark on your “do better” journey, aim for 10x advances — ten times as fast, good, durable, easy to use… Pick a dimension which matters to your clients and you, and ask yourself how the world would look like if you make it ten times better. You might never get there — but certainly, you will get further than if you were to aim for 10% improvements.
Ed Catmull’s wonderful book “Creativity, Inc.” tells the story of how Pixar became the best storytelling animation house in the world and makes a wonderful read on the idea of “better”.