Post-Its #1: Straws, Surf, and Cronuts

Post-its. Yeah, they’re useful. Tiny pieces of paper that seamlessly connect to each other. Powerless until you take them off of their stack and write on them, unless you’re making one of those flip-up animated cartoons. And I wish I could make one of those, but I can’t.

This summer I’ve chosen to write down a single lesson from every day on a post it, with two key events from the day below for reference. For example, today’s post-it reminds me to “examine all perspectives” and is followed by one-line descriptions of two particularly provocative meetings.

A stack of Post-its can be a reflective productivity tool. (Photo by Jan Piatkowski on Unsplash)

Goal setting in the startup world can be overrated, and founders should instead leave time for reflection. If your business is moving as fast as it should, you should never be able to predict what will happen every day. Factoring in for unpredictability is as essential to the organization of a startup as a fluffy interior is to a cronut, so setting measurable goals can be difficult. A goal should not be to complete a menial task, but rather be a bold statement that drives an overarching purpose. A prescient, future-looking entrepreneur shouldn’t think in the past, but should aim to be reflective every day when the purpose of a young company is to develop and learn.

At my company SeaStraws.co, we are aiming to replace every single plastic straw in the United States with ones made of compostable paper. This is a daunting task given how 500 million straws are used in this country daily, but it is a forward-looking goal. Goals should be moonshots that cannot be summed up in a single phrase. The day to day operations of a company, however, can be reflected on proactively with the simple use of a post-it. To put it bluntly: don’t reduce your dreams to a single day’s work.

To give you a sense of what it means to craft the product of your dreams, watch the video below. I promise you it won’t disappoint, especially if you’re hungry right now. Skip to 3:49 if you want to go straight to the most relatable quote.

Hey Mr. Ansel — does your bakery need any straws?
“It’s some sort of craft you have to master, you have to do it over and over again day after day after day. It’s not something you can just pick up and be good at.” — Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut

If you were confused before, I’m sure that you now understand the earlier cronut reference or hungry comment. Dominique Ansel or Anthony Bourdain speak of a level of craftsmanship that is necessary to goal-reaching product development and startup success. Ansel has even told LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman that it took him five years to perfect the cronut recipe on the podcast Masters of Scale (highly recommended). Whether it’s a cronut or a compostable paper straw, quality product development is an example of a true long-term goal. When you take daily steps towards these goals, mark them on your post-its so that you can reflect on them later.

SeaStraws has been put in an excellent position by entering the nationwide compostable paper straw market at a time when public criticism of plastic straws is at an all time high. An editorial covering a potential NYC plastic straw ban was the front page article of the Daily News this Wednesday, and Seattle is gearing up for their official ban of plastic straws in July. Local movements like the ban in Monmouth Beach, NJ are sprouting up as well.

With such a broad scale of opportunity, we must organize our daily operations efficiently. This is an issue that people are passionate about, and a nationwide grassroots movement is upon us. Even small actions like speaking to establishments about the dangers of plastic straw use are incredible steps towards growing public awareness. With the SeaTeam newsletter and activity on Instagram, we’re focused on building the movement with small steps that engage the public and allow us to reflect at scale.

So, when you take in some surf this MDW on the Jersey Shore, the Pacific coast, or anywhere else, think about how a post-it can drive your productivity, creativity, or product development. I relate my post-its back to the overarching goal of using compostable paper straws to help preserve the ocean, but you don’t even need to be working in a value-driven startup to use this tool. It’s the spread of small decisions that leads to collective change, and post-its can help us get to where we want to be.