I’ve missed you, weeknotes. And before I get back to it, let’s take a look back at what we uncovered together across 41 weeks last year.
Last year, I hoped that keeping up this habit would yield a smattering of seeds I could build on in the future. I think that’s largely held — while not referring back to them every day, I do find myself foraging in the archives every now and again for something I vaguely remember writing down.
Now, I could just jot things down in a notepad, Notion, or what have you, but what’s more interesting than the thing itself is the commentary around how I first perceived whatever I encountered or experienced. It’s like being able to time travel into your former state of mind, but with the precision of a Google Search to find the moment you’re looking for.
Sunday evenings remained a winning strategy for finalizing drafts, and I think I had a good rhythm going.
Then, I experienced a profound loss at the end of 2021.
I put this blog aside (along with my work life) until I was feeling grounded again. Where November was crushing, December was healing, and I could feel my inner narrator peeking out again in January, cherry picking what it wanted to remember throughout the week —tonight, I don’t want to keep procrastinating on putting it back out on the page again.
I also thought I should revisit my format at least once a year, and I suspect I got the least mileage out of the “🔮 What do I still need to take care of?” prompt. Considering “🌵 What do I wish could have gone differently?” usually led to some forward-looking insight anyway, and this year I’d rather go deeper on fewer prompts than spread myself too thin.
January 10–31, rebooting: 😊🧐💪🏃. With Cell BC newly formed, I was reevaluating my role and proximity to the product discipline as I helped Mission Beyond define its focus for the year. Dove deep into Ankit’s essay on knowing yourself by being by yourself. Experimented with even-overs, tactful no’s, and tiny habits.
February 7–21, framing and reframing: 🤔🤭🧘♂️. Directing a short-but-sweet project focused the mind, but left larger questions about my professional identity lingering. Diagnosed the XY problem in our discipline community, studied narrative frameworks, and remembered why it’s bad form to drop a Slack note after hours.
February 28–March 14, bracing: 😲😎🤨. Got some things wrong (in a safe space). Doubled down on walking 1:1s to combat lockdown fatigue, while quietly mourning the loss of travelling as a hobby of mine. Got introduced to the values retro and continued to study theories of successful communities.
March 21–April 11, what is this?: 🙂🔥🐣😣. Helped kick off the Talent Compass team, and got a nuanced view of my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Tested the magic of this email. Passed my Life in the UK test 🎉.
April 18–May 9, the runaround: 👨🍳😪🤝😒. Finally got some new writing out in the world and dragged the team with me! Set and managed expectations for our product strategy rehearse phase, didn’t let myself get talked out of publishing a piece on API products, and upskilled in Blair’s mysterious ways. Continued to be fascinated by Tom’s blog.
May 16–June 13, crescendo: 😗😊🌻😌👌. Got our Talent Compass rehearsal to its desired aims, and rode the good vibes with the team. Wrote a ton, and uncovered more still on writing and narrative. Studied success measures, leading indicators, and crises of growth.
June 20–July 4, scouting: 😶🌫️🤠✌️️. Started settling into Cell D in earnest and looked for a new focus. Wrestled with the principals baseline and took an axe to my joint blog with Meg. Hunted for models of team maturity and became acutely aware of the importance of agreeing the meaning of terms like MVP. Remembered chaos isn’t a ladder to climb.
July 11–August 1, the long view: 🐌🧐😵💫🙂. Immersed myself in strategy design and remembered the perils of assuming (particularly with incentives). Had a think about product paths vs. bringing product onto my current path. Permission to Speak Freely marked my first curation on Medium.
August 8–30, full throttle: 🤯😎😝. Adjusted to new surroundings in Geneva amidst a rapid project ramp-up. Rediscovered my superpowers, birthed our inaugural delivery dojo, and digested the remainder of my strategy design course. Studied show-stopper questions.
September 6–26, escalations: 😓💪😯😮💨. Struggled to steer the ship, recognized I needed help, then got it. Tussled with roadmap anti-patterns as we tried to plan our forward engagement. Tried to take responsibility for what happens next.
October 3–November 2, recalibrating: 🤗😋🙃😶. Ducked into London while trying to avoid Covid. Reassessed when I need to be vocal and when I should focus on conditions over processes. My share of the Mission Beyond case study made its way out the door. And the inevitable caught up with me.
- Tell new people at your company that you value their fresh eyes.
- Google is not a synonym for research. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.
- Goodhart’s Law can also take hold of your resumé. Don’t fall for the prestige trap.
- Be wary of predictions from an unreliable narrator.
- Just because someone smart, famous or successful said it, doesn’t make it true.
- Don’t worry about being a luminary about the topic you love. Deep practitioners rarely are.
- When decisions feel ethically thorny, try the sunlight test: if the world knew about it, would you still be proud of the decision?
- Perceived effort (to engage) is a leading indicator of community health.
- To move a larger group towards psychological safety, start with its subgroups, and the local leaders who can foster safety at smaller scales.
- A reorg doesn’t magically wipe out organizational debt. Giving teams space to restabilize is like budgeting the interest payments on your principal.
- The best way to scale your help is to write it down and put it in the open.
- If someone is flawed or imperfect, (a) remember we all are (b) consider whether they have had repeated success. If so, get curious. Curiosity doesn’t require you to like someone.
- How much of thought leadership is status-seeking performance?
- Build cognitively diverse, but values aligned, teams.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
- Time travel to add some perspective to your decisions. What would future you think of what you’re doing?
- Honor your calendar — make sure you’re consciously spending time on what you value.
- Like other design disciplines, service design starts with intention and focus.
- Narrative arcs aren’t a bad constraint to impose on yourself when your goal is to ensure your ideas are easily understood by others.
- Followings are overrated. Intellectual buddies are much more interesting.
- The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greenest where you water it.
- Beware conflating building a lean product with gathering data for a business case. They overlap heavily, but aren’t the same activity.
- Be careful not to target symptoms at the expense of the underlying problem.
- Phased approaches mitigate the risk of being wrong.
- The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
- Don’t fall into the trap of tracking only business outcomes, because they will always lag customer outcomes.
- We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in ten.
- Beware Hobson’s choices of your own making.
- Ask others how they want to be treated, rather than assuming it’s the same as how you’d want to be treated.
- If you’re privileged enough to have people who look to you for advice, for support and to help them progress, you should damn well take it seriously.
- Asking a great question in a meeting is worth way more than hogging the airwaves. Get known for that.
- It’s much harder to claw back power later, than to have never ceded it in the first place.
- Never take people’s motivation for granted. All the best laid product development plans are useless without a motivated team to deliver them.
- Beware using the possessive, on those who do not wish to be possessed.
- Good teamwork means creating space for others to play the other roles so you don’t have to play them yourself.
- The common mistake is to assume the convention around personal finance discussions applies to commercial conversations. It does not. In fact, avoiding money discussions is considered a sign of poor business acumen.
- Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
- In a VUCA environment, the problem is always changing. Don’t go too far down a solution before reassessing the problem.
- If you’ve met someone’s expectations to be considered an expert, consider what you’d do if those expectations were wrong. Be candid with yourself about where you can grow.
- There is a one-dimensional dullness for all to observe about those who only work. Rounded, life experienced leaders who’ve divided into different life scenarios tend to develop agility & authenticity suited to these times.
I’m glad you’re here too, but I have to ask myself first: why do I want to continue writing here?
Don’t know if he was the first to say it, but I love Will Smith’s take: self-discipline is the definition of self-love. Even when I catch myself dragging my feet, I know it’s good for me to have this rhythm to my weeks, therapeutic to get it out of my head, and valuable to revisit in the long run.
So here’s to another season of maintaining discipline, growing in public, and hopefully seeing more clearly as a result.