As a general rule, nobody at Basecamp really knows where anyone else is at any given moment. Are they working? Dunno. Are they taking a break? Dunno. Are they at lunch? Dunno. Are they picking up their kid from school? Dunno. Don’t care.

The vast majority of the time, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is letting people design their own schedule around when they can do their best work.

This is not nearly as hard as it sounds. But it does require a shift in mindset. Away from “I have to call Jeff into a meeting now to get his take on this new feature idea” to “I’ll write up my feature idea for Jeff to check-out whenever he has some free time, and then, maybe, we can have a chat about it live later, if needed”.

If you’re constantly pulling people into things, then yeah, where they are right now matters. But if you prefer to let people consider something fully, and get back to you when when they’re ready, then it doesn’t matter where they are right now. We choose the latter.

Jason Fried

Realtime chat is a disruptive way to have a conversation. Slack is so well designed that it's become the easiest and fastest way to communicate, and therefore it has become the default place to start conversations. Making the easiest way to get someone's attention the most disruptive way to do so is inconsiderate.

“If you think about it, Airbnb is like a giant ship,” he says, holding up the napkin. “And as CEO I’m the captain of the ship. But I really have two jobs: The first job is, I have to worry about everything below the waterline; anything that can sink the ship.” He points to the scribbled line of waves that cuts the boat in half, and below that, two holes with water rushing in.

“Beyond that,” he continues, “I have to focus on two to three areas that I’m deeply passionate about—that aren’t below the waterline but that I focus on because I can add unique value, I’m truly passionate about them, and they can truly transform the company if they go well.” The three areas he’s picked: product, brand, and culture. “I’m pretty hands-on with those three,” he says. “And with the others I really try to empower leaders and get involved only when there are holes below the waterline.”

Leigh Gallagher

There’s been a lot written about the strategic focus of successful entrepreneurs.  Eisenhower’s Matrix, Peter Drucker, and others.

I find Brian’s approach refreshing: follow your unique strengths, empower your team, and fix the problems that might sink you.  His distinction of patching holes only below the water line is especially meaningful to me as I often pick the wrong problems to get personally invested in. 

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On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security” and 10 is “left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is around a 4. That makes today a hard one, cognitively and emotionally. I have a lot of sadness, a heap of regrets, and a smattering of resentment too. But I am, deeply, deeply thankful to all the people who supported me and Moz over the last two decades.

Rand Fishkin

Sad news that feels a little too close to home.

Maybe it’s because Rand and I started our companies around the same time.  Maybe it’s because we fought the same roller coaster of growth.  Maybe it’s because the idea of being ousted from the company I founded is too difficult to comprehend. 

Rand and the company he built has been an inspiration to me for years.  I wish him well and great success with SparkToro

There are times when the world beneath you seems like a treadmill, and you just can't run fast enough to keep up.  For every critical project you complete, three new ones show up.  Your call-waiting dings twice during a brief call.  The stack of "I need your input" memo's is deeper than you'll ever work through in reasonable time.

And while there are plenty of useful techniques for prioritizing, delegating, and staying effective, there are still moments where no system will work.  It is, frankly, an impossible situation.

This has been my life for the last few months.   My natural inclination is to raise my energy to keep up as best as I can.  To push a bit harder, work longer, be more aggressive, and fight.  As a result, my coach dubbed me the "crazy person" in the office.   I have become so focused on my goals and aspirations, that I don't realize the side effects on the morale of my team and my family.  I have become obsessed with keeping up with the promises on my desk, that I've dropped the ball on the implicit responsibilities that are part of having relationships with other people.


In a moment of clarity over the holidays, when the work came to a stop, I realized that it's best to use these moments to do SOMETHING great, rather than EVERYTHING poorly.   I realize that decision comes at a cost of discouraging others, for they are also in the impossible situation and just looking for a little help themselves.

Want to get better at a sport? There are clearly documented methods and approaches to practice. Want to get better at playing guitar, the drums, or the sax? Same thing.

But with those, even if you practice poorly, a certain number of reps will get you somewhere. And the reps are easy — you can sit down and practice the drums for hours, if you have the time.

I have written quite a bit over the years about accelerated learning, and practice techniques for learning new skills.  Like Jason, I too have found it very challenging to practice management skills.

Managerial trials and reps are much harder to come by. And when you practice being a manager, you’re already on stage. Your flubs have consequences. Fucking up could cost you or someone else their job. It could cost a business money, customers, reputation. But when you practice guitar you can sit in your basement, alone. No one cares, and there’s nothing at risk, if your pinky can’t stretch three frets quite yet.

I don’t know… There are a lot of reasons it’s so easy to be a bad manager.

Another reason is that you feel like you have to contribute when there’s really not a lot you should be doing most of the time. Many managers over-involve themselves. Not even micromanage, but are simply around the work being done too often. They get in the way. It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re trying to prove yourself. Especially early on when you’re job title doesn’t really line up with your experience. You’re still just practicing.

Jason Fried

Last week I attended the Fourth Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit.  One of the key topics was the implementation of Appreciative Inquiry, which really challenged the way I think about how I understand the value systems of my coworkers.

At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organizational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes.

Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation, William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros

The passing of my grandmother Joyce last week kicked off one of the worst weeks of my life.  Her death was instantaneous, but unexpected.  She felt no struggle, fear or pain. She just left.  For her, a happy moment with her husband turned into an endless emptiness here on earth.

But for me and the rest of my family, our lives went from our daily routine to a tragedy we could barely contain. It didn’t feel so much like driving your car into a wall — even that gives you a few seconds of preparation — but more like waking up in the hospital not knowing what happened to put you there.  My family and I aren’t wrestling with what happened in that moment that she died, we’re trying to figure out what happens next.

After a few days of anxious preparations, we had a funeral, buried her, and people went back to their homes to get back into the routine of their home lives.

For me, this idea is highly discomforting. Life isn’t the same anymore, and pretending it is just stresses me out. So, I left town to do some soul searching.

What I’ve Learned Through Reflection

Bear with me a bit, as I’m still processing all of this. It all happened just a few days ago. 

I have one realization that keeps coming to mind as I reflect:  “routine” doesn’t mean “comfortable.”

My life doesn’t feel routine while I’m living in it minute by minute. While I’m at work there’s an endless stream of growing pains, client challenges, systems to improve, sales obstacles and the like. I’m not working on a monotonous assembly line. Every day is new and challenging. I guess I thought that a routine would set-in once things were well oiled and smooth running.  At that point, I believed I could use that newfound freedom to shake things up to get us to the next level.

Having a week to step back and process things, I realize how routine things actually are. Week after week, I help keep things in the current mode. I support people to do better work, but only within the boundaries of what our work currently is. This is routine, and I am a part of the grind.  

Routine is the seed that grows complacency, which creates mediocrity. Perhaps I’ve already fallen back to mediocrity, and I didn’t even recognize it.  It’s time for me to force a change in myself.

What To Do Next?

Honestly, I’m not sure exactly sure what happens next. I’m still  trying to sort that out.  But, I know that I’m not the same person I was a week ago.  I know I’m less tolerant of perpetuating my routine.  As a natural result, I feel some changes coming on:

  • I need to empower my team even more than I have, by encouraging them to solve their own problems so I have more space to expand the business.
  • I need to be even more vigilant with how I use my time. I must learn to say no to things which seem important, if they hold back larger opportunities.
  • Continue to support the tremendous team we have, with even more vigilance than before. Importantly, I need to stop coddling them as much as I do.

The fact that I was able to walk away in an instant, for over a week, and the company continues to thrive is a testament to the amazing people on my team and the company we have created together.

Right now I’m grieving. But when I come back, I'm going to downshift and punch the accelerator.

I'm an organized person.  Actually, that's probably a massive understatement.  I've obsessed over personal productivity for 15 years, and created systems to organize my rather chaotic life.  Living messy is hard for me, and I constantly need to remind myself that often times, its my job to mess things up.

Here's the thing about valuable people.  They always have too much to do. It's a simple case of cause and effect. When you are valuable to others, they want and need more of you.  This doesn't scale.  The more people learn to depend on you, the less able you are to help them.

As CEO, there's nothing more valuable than your time. Your time is your ability to help. It's why we say "thanks for your time" when someone serves you. Time is everything.

And so, to be valuable to many people, in a finite amount of time, things fall apart. It's physics, there's just no getting around it.  You can't fit it all in.  And so, we create a huge mess.

  • We are late to meetings, and not in the totally excusable 5 min "sorry for the traffic" late. Seriously late.
  • We drop the ball on promises.  Things that really matter to real people you care about.
  • We make silly mistakes by taking shortcuts. Personally, I'm guilty of delegating things to my team without good expectations.

You're probably thinking that I'm a crazy person. With some better GTD coaching, better delegating, and great supporting staff this would be much more controllable, right? Surely executing more effectively would give you more time back, right?  Not so. I've been deluding myself with this argument most of my career. 

Here's the truth.  Better productivity systems, organization and staff are critical tools, but they make you more productive. That means you can serve more people with your time, but it only overload your plate even more.  You become more like a stunt car driver than a civilian driver.  Barreling at high speeds, fast turns, unknown obstacles, and an occasional crash.  When you drive fast, no matter how experienced, you make a mess.

Intentional Mess Making

You don't always get the luxury of executing the projects in front of you. Rather, its your job to decide what initiatives need to happen. You are a strategist.

And so, you can really shake things up in your organization. You come up with a new idea and toss it to the team to catch. They aren't always ready. After all, you didn't have time to comprehensively prepare them for this project, did you?

As long as you pick these moments wisely, the team will grow stronger and the company more valuable with each mess they inherit.

So, what do we do?

There are a few things we can do:

  1. Never give up your pursuit of productivity.  This is not a reason to stop trying to organize. Remember, these systems do make you more productive.
  2. Hire and work with a great assistant. Delegate the mess. Empower them to find the most important content for you.
  3. Most importantly, surrender to the mess. Don't let it stress you out. Stress will kill you, literally. We need you, so stay calm.

For over 4 years I've been reading a book every week. Its one of my favorite habits and creates new learning opportunities for me all the time.

I still accomplish this just about every week, and it's lead many of my colleagues intrigued with how I pull this off while running two organizations and a home life. Much to their surprise, this habit is largely the reason I have the opportunity to do just that.

When it comes to your time, reading is one of the most valuable investments you can make. A few hours in a book will return years of wisdom. There are few investment opportunities with that kind of ROI. That newfound knowledge will make you more effective with the limited time you have.

There are two challenges to overcome if you want to build this habit for yourself. First, you have to learn how to read a single book in a week, and secondly, you have to build enough discipline to do it week after week.

How to read a book in a week

There are a staggering number of people who don't read regularly. I believe this is largely psychological. Books are thick and dense and our mind tricks us into thinking there just isn't time to flip through the book, let alone understand it fully.

Reading a thick book is not as intimidating as it first seems. On average it takes me 4 to 6 hours to read a book. If we assume 6 hours, it's roughly an hour of reading each day to get through it fully.

Well, you could swap your Netflix time for reading, but that approach didn't work for me. I enjoy a good TV show, movie or sports game. If my reading takes this time time away from my family, it won't get done.

So, I invented a new technique that I call reading in the gaps. It's so simple, obvious and effective that I can't believe more people don't do it.

Our professional days are full of 10 minute gaps. We wait for someone to arrive for a meeting, take a short mental break from your work, wait for someone to finish a task that has you blocked. Even at home, waiting for your significant other to come home get have dinner.

For me, those were stale moments which provided little value. When others might pick up their phone to check Facebook, I pick up my Kindle and read a few pages.

That's it. That's the big secret. 5 of those breaks each day turn into an hour of reading each day, which sums to enough time to read a full book in a week.

How to read a book a week, every week.

Learning to read a book quickly and thoroughly is immensely valuable, but making that routine part of your life requires some big changes in discipline.

Many authors have published their research about developing habits. Charles Duhigg provides a comprehensive study in his book The Power of Habit.

As a compliment to Duhigg's study, there's one key for making any habitual change we need in our life. That is, to desire the habit. We follow our desires, at all expense and at all costs. If you crave the results of reading, and the pleasure of learning, the reading habit becomes natural. But, if you'd rather eat cookies and watch reality TV shows, then reading will take a backseat.

It's not enough to desire the habit. You must desire it more than your current habits. Alas, this is the monster that must be spayed on the path of any serious life change. New habits are challenging and demoralizing at first, and therefore undesirable. It takes great energy to plow through, and most of us won't cope with the pain to do so.

You cannot truly experience the benefits of reading every week until you have done it for a couple of months. There's a transition period, where you force yourself into the habit in order to desire it later.

Do what you can to make this transition enjoyable. If you find yourself reading a book you don't enjoy, put it down and pick up another one. There's no reason to force yourself to read something you don't like, when there's so much out that that you will enjoy. Reading something you don't enjoy is a guarantee you will stop reading eventually.

What book will you start with?

If you aren't sure where to start, take a look at my library. I share a small collection of the professional development books I've read that are pertinent to entrepreneurship.

Make sure to send me a note on Twitter, @joshwalsh, with the book you selected to start from. I'm cheering you on.

How do you decide if you should trust someone?  Do you trust by default, or does someone have to earn your trust?  What factors go into that decision?

What if I told you that this way of thinking, that you can consciously decide who to trust, is one of the most damaging aspects of your professional mind?

In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains the two mental systems that control our mind:

The subconscious mind is the part of the mind we don't directly control. It takes input in the form of experiences and observations and guides us to survive.  Our subconscious doesn't understand language, and manifests itself as feelings. 

Conversely, the conscious mind is used for analysis, reasoning language and systematic thinking.  It's who you are talking to in your inner dialog.

Furthermore, it's important to understand that the conscious mind can easily influence the subconscious mind, and eventually overpower it. 

A pathological liar will eventually believe their own lies.  At first they know they are lying.  They choose their lies consciously.  But overtime, their conscious mind overpowers their subconscious, and the truth is repressed.  They believe their own lies, and live their life out of alignment with reality.

The same is true about trust, and I have a dangerous habit that I need to work on. When I sit in front of someone that I subconsciously do not trust, I ask myself why I don't trust them.  I deconstruct my history with that person. I look to understand the intentions behind their actions.  In my head is a fictional representation of who I want them to be, and I consciously find supporting arguments to defend that position.

This is classic overthinking.  My subconscious has a much more honest understanding of that person, but my conscious mind overpowers it. Much like the pathological liar who believes his own lies, I trick myself into trusting someone I shouldn't. The truth is repressed, until reality comes crashing back.

My perception of reality will never be more true than actual reality.  To fix this bad habit I must learn to always feed my subconscious truthfully and listen more closely to my gut instinct.