Nir’s Note: This guest post is by Auren Hoffman, the CEO of LiveRamp in San Francisco. This essay is a bit different from the normal subject matter on the blog but I hope it will stir some discussion about which of our personal habits are worth improving. Connect with Auron on Twitter at @auren or on Facebook.
To really differentiate yourself in this winner-take-all world, you should be focusing on improving your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Most people who set out to improve themselves focus on their faults. For example, here’s Bridget Jones’ list:
“Resolution number one: Obviously will lose twenty pounds. Number two: Always put last night’s panties in the laundry basket. Equally important, will find sensible boyfriend to go out with and not continue to form romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional wits or perverts.”
While I don’t deny that it’s good habit to place your undergarments in the laundry bin, it is not the best way to achieve greatness. People who focus on their faults can eventually improve them to a point where they are no longer obstacles, but doing so will not propel them to success. A better strategy is to focus on one or two of the things at which you excel and hone those skills or talents to the point of excellence. Working on your faults might help you make a living, but honing your talents may help you change the world.
Note: This post originally appeared in Techcrunch. I’m proud to have co-authored this post with Katy Fike, PhD. Dr. Fike is a gerontologist, systems engineer and Partner at Innovate50, a consulting firm helping companies create products and services for the 50+ market
As web watchers, entrepreneurs, and investors search for the next big thing, they’d be wise to focus on innovations that can be easily adopted by technology novices. A recent string of companies, including Groupon and Pinterest, have found success outside the early-adopter digerati by building products simple enough to be used by just about anyone. Designing with tech novices in mind can mean the difference between staying niche and going mainstream. Here are three principles for designing software for people Silicon Valley too often disparagingly calls “normals.”
What’s It For?
Don’t tell them “how it works” or “what it is” and certainly don’t tell them how wonderful your company is. Just tell them in big, uncluttered, blatantly obvious terms what your service is for. Novice users need to know when your service would be useful in their lives.
Take a look at Twitter’s homepage for new users. It says simply, “Welcome to Twitter. Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about.” Same story at Facebook. “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Brilliant! Now the tech novice knows, in no uncertain terms, when and why these sites would be useful. Twitter is for knowing what’s happening and Facebook is for connecting and sharing.
Note: I’m proud to have co-authored this post with my good friend Charles Wang. Charles is a co-founder of LUMOback, a former classmate, and an accomplished psychiatrist. He brings a great perspective to the art of Behavior Engineering.
Here’s the gist:
Forming a new habit requires a unique set of techniques.
Training to become an expert has a completely different methodology than becoming an amateur.
Using the wrong technique will doom your good intentions.
Today’s top selling books are about how to acquire world-class skill. Daniel Coyle’s, The Talent Code looks at how deliberate practice is required to achieve greatness. Joshua Foer shows us how we must smash past performance plateaus to be any good. Worse, Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour series is doing for hipsters what crash diets do for teenage girls, making promises of quick transformations.
These authors’ methods work. Yet, they are all dead wrong. They focus on techniques used by the very best in a field. But what about the other 99% of us? I bet your goals sound a lot more like, “I wish I could lose a few pounds” or “I’d like to save money”, rather than “I want to win the U.S Open” or “I wish I was a billionaire”.
But authors focus myopically on the techniques used by notable greats, because we all assume the great ones have discovered a secret, which if we only knew, would ensure our success as well. Implying you know this secret sells a lot of books. But there are no secrets, and what makes a Steve Jobs or a Michael Jordan is not going to help you lose that spare tire around your waste.