Today is the last day of 2021. I’ve spent some time thinking about the last 364 days and how they compared to 2020. This year was busy and fast-paced. It went by in the blink of an eye (unlike 2020, which seemed to drag on forever). Lots of new norms were established, and I learned how to thrive in an environment of macro uncertainty.
If I had to sum it up, 2021 was a year of growth for me.
I’m glad to have made it through another year, and I can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store.
The Founder Trait
In a chat with a friend today, he asked me a great question: Is there a trait founders consistently have? I had to think about it a bit. There are many founder traits, but one that’s common to all? That took more thought. Finally, I said that founders are problem solvers at their core.
Every founder I know is always thinking about and working on solving some problem. They’re not the sort of people who sit around and do nothing. They’re always looking for something they believe needs to be solved—and then trying to solve it. This drive to solve problems is hard-wired in them, I believe. Not all the solutions they work on will be successful, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from trying!
The First-Principles Approach
A friend shared with me a recent Elon Musk interview in which Musk explained his views on first-principles thinking:
To create a new product, many people start by understanding the available tools and methods. Then they use them to create the product. This is a flawed way of going about it. Existing tools and methods act as constraints, limiting our thinking about what’s possible. If something can’t be built with existing means, most people think it can’t be done. So, they create what’s possible given the available tools and methods, not what’s ideal.
To apply a first-principles approach, begin by imagining the theoretical perfect product. Then try to figure out how to build it. If existing tools and methods can be used, great. If not, create the necessary tools and methods!
First-principles thinking isn’t new, but it was interesting to hear Musk’s take on it.
Personal Operating System
I listened today to a great interview of a successful entrepreneur and investor. One part of it especially stood out. He was asked how he manages to relax even though he’s constantly engaged in high-output activities, and his answer was enlightening:
- Simplify life – He doesn’t want more things in his life that he must think about or do. He minimizes the number of daily decisions he has to make and the things he does regularly. He constantly downsizes to further simplify his life.
- Avoid mental chaos – He could do lots of things, but juggling too many things creates mental chaos and stress. When he’s stressed, his energy changes, he’s not in a good place, and he’s not effective in his work. To avoid this, his default response is no.
- Hyper focus – He says yes to something only when he anticipates massive output for a decent amount of effort. He will hyper focus on that project, blocking out time on his schedule to do so. The rest of his time is unscheduled and used for relational activities and learning.
- Optimize his “personal operating system” – He knows what he can handle and how he operates best. He doesn’t want to overload his personal OS by taking on too much. Instead, he optimizes for a few things that have the potential for a big impact.
This approach is unique. It’s counter to what I’ve heard from other successful people. I really like how he is so self-aware that he’s able to optimize his approach to what works best for him while ignoring how other people manage their work and lives.
Will Supply Chains Return to Normal?
During the holidays, chatting with friends and family, I heard about challenges with buying goods. Furniture, appliances, cars . . . people are looking for specific items but can’t find them. Many things are on back order and delayed. This is affecting people’s plans and forcing them to seek alternatives, many of them costly.
Supply chain issues have been pervasive all year. The impact on the availability of goods and their prices has been significant. I met with a few founders during the year who are running product companies. Their businesses were seriously affected by these issues. They figured out temporary work-arounds but planned for the issues to be resolved by EOY. Things would be back to normal going into 2022, they thought.
I’m curious to see how the supply chain looks in 2022. If there isn’t a clear line of sight to normality, I think companies will develop new strategies and seek out new solutions to get goods in the hands of their consumers. They’ll be thinking more long-term this time, not about temporary work-arounds. If that happens, we could see rapid innovation in supply chains, which could have a big ripple effect on other industries and the broader economy.
What I’ll Be Working on for the Rest of 2021
Yesterday was the finale of the holiday season for me. I had a great time celebrating Christmas with friends and family, and I’m appreciative of the opportunity for food and fellowship. Admittedly, I’m still a little in holiday mode, but I’ve started thinking about what I want to work on during the last few days of 2021.
I’ve got a book I want to finish reading and a few YouTube videos I want to watch. The most important thing, though, is finalizing my 2022 habits. I want to start the new year practicing small daily habits that align with where I’m aiming to be long-term.
Looking forward to perfecting my list of habits and sharing them with people close to me!
Weekly Reflection: Week Ninety-One
Today marks the end of my ninety-first week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week ninety-one:
- Christmas – This week, the focus was on getting ready for the holiday. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Planning on enjoying the food and fellowship with family and friends!
Week ninety-one was a holiday week. I’m looking forward to Christmas and more down time next week!
Atlanta Success Story: Salesloft’s $2.3 Billion Valuation
Yesterday, the news broke that Salesloft is receiving growth capital. Today the CEO confirmed that Salesloft has agreed to receive a strategic investment from Vista Equity Partners at a $2.3 billion valuation.
Congrats to the Salesloft team on a huge win! They’ve been building a great company for years. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
Seeing Opportunity That Others Don’t
I met with three separate real estate entrepreneurs today and toured their projects. As we talked, I noticed that they have something in common: the ability to see something others cannot. They took on properties that weren’t desirable and that many others had overlooked, ignoring their current condition to focus on what they can become with good execution.
Each of these entrepreneurs has a vision for their project, and they communicate it to their team and other stakeholders. Once others buy into the vision, they focus on executing to turn the vision into reality.
Seeing opportunity where others don’t and having a vision are big parts of why these entrepreneurs have been successful. Next time you come across something that others have overlooked, consider asking yourself: what could this become?