Why best products and leaders are never heroes

Source: Mehdi Babousan

When I became a lead PM, I made a near-fatal career mistake. I was used to working at a tiny startup. A startup is like a baby. It cries 24/7 and requires a team of heroes to keep alive. I liked being a hero, someone trusted to save the day.

A startup is also designed to grow fast. Unlike a real baby, it can become a teenager overnight. And a teenager doesn’t need a hero, it needs a guide.

Most of us see ourselves as the hero. We need to save our customers to win them over. …

Anyone can do it with these examples

Source: Adobe InStock

Identities are dangerous. When you say “I’m analytical” or “I’m a PM” you tie your identity to a strict attribute. This is comfortable in the moment, but very limiting when circumstances change. Stumbling on an analysis or navigating a career change can feel like losing your identity.

“I’m analytical” also implies that you either have it or you don’t. The truth is that we are not born to do anything, we’re born with the potential to do many things.

Analytics is now a superpower of mine, but I started as a lost beginner. I’ve learned that you don’t have to…

Actionable tips to improve your business writing

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Best ideas don’t win. Best communication of the idea wins, as do the people behind them.

The most powerful communication tool might be a snappy meme these days, but in business, it’s still the written word. Writing well supercharges your trajectory. Yet great writing is rare. Why?

Turns out we’ve been taught some things that simply don’t apply:

Increase your chances of finding a mentor with these top tips

Image by Adobe InStock

TLDR: most people ask hard, annoying questions of people they admire; instead, start a dialogue and don’t outsource your thinking

In college, I desperately wanted a mentor. I set my eyes on Sheryl Sandberg. Who better to take me to the next level?

What I failed to ask: why would Sheryl want to mentor me? What had I done to earn it? Absolutely nothing. I hadn’t even bothered to read her book, Lean In.

Then I came across an interview where she shared her most dreaded question: will you be my mentor?

How to launch a new product

Source: Adobe InStock

Is building a business a learnable skill? This was the big unknown when I quit my PM job.

Two months in, I’m leaning towards yes with a caveat. Your odds of success has one reliable predictor: how closely the opportunity mirrors what you’re already familiar with. In my case, I chose a small experiment close to home: downloading the skills I’ve honed into an info product that helps anyone learn product skills faster.

Unlike most education materials, I steer clear of fuzzy theory. …

“I love the thing and I hate it at the same time. The reason I love it is that it gives me so much power. And the reason I hate it is that it has so much power over me.”

The quote refers to smartphones, yet the same can be said for our jobs. It’s at the root of our Sunday Scaries. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

There are some unwritten rules that your boss is unlikely to ever tell you. For starters, what it takes to get your career off the ground is not what will…

Step-by-step guide from making slides to building products

Source: productlessons.xyz

So you want to go from making slides to building products? It’s a leap, but you’re not alone.

Some years ago, I was a consultant desperate to make this leap. Fortunately, I ended up getting a PM job at a tiny startup called Faire. It’s since reached a multibillion-dollar valuation at record pace. Along the way, I’ve shipped hundreds of features, and managed other PMs. Dreams do come true.

But to get here, it took meandering, and a LOT of work. …

There are perks to being a generalist but it’s the specialists that rise faster and command more money

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

What’s your favorite restaurant? I bet none of you will name a buffet. Even pre-COVID, buffets were known for having a little bit of everything but loved by nobody.

Yet many pursue the buffet strategy in careers: jack of all trades, master of none.

Allure of the buffet

I started my career in the buffet line. One of the advertised perks of consulting is you get a taste of everything! Who doesn’t want endless variety? Same with rotational programs. It’s music to the ears of commitment-phobes everywhere.

The truth is a bit more nuanced. You do get variety, but there are some catches:

  • Is…

Q: How did you manage to cram 8 years worth of PM experience in 3 years? Can this only be done working at a startup?

Believe it or not, it’s possible to do in any setting. The right startup provides some built-in support, but anyone can accelerate their career with the right tools.

Decoupling experience from a number of years exposes an uncomfortable truth: most time is spent learning haphazardly, if at all. Time gives you the opportunity to take more swings, but many swings are taken in utter darkness.

To change this, we need to examine the core building…

Since walking away from an Instagram offer and a seat in a hyper-growth startup, I’ve been asked how I knew this was the right decision for me. The truth is that I don’t know for sure, but I’ve learned to bet on myself.

If you told me years ago this would happen, I would be aghast. As a kid, I was meek and fearful. My default in school was to blend in and never get called on.

Yet somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon how to build the confidence to take more shots in life, and stamp out imposter…

Linda Z

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