And 5 Other Things I Learned From David Cancel And Noah Kagan

Dave Gerhardt
Apr 20, 2016 · 5 min read

Here are six things I learned about work, life and productivity from David Cancel and noah kagan. The backstory on where this interview came from is at the bottom part of this post. Let’s get to the good stuff first.

The biggest mistake startups make is not making money.

After all, the point of business is to create and keep customers, isn’t it? The problem today is that too many people are simply playing business. Like it’s a game. As Mark Suster said, ring the freaking cash register:

“Nobody seems to want to make money any more. I remember just a decade ago in 2003 when we all laughed at how dumb people in the 90’s were talking about the race to “capture as many eyeballs as possible” before your competition. You would figure out how to monetize later. I say ring the freaking cash register. I have said so for years.”

Most organizational problems stem from alignment issues.

As Charlie Munger said, the most important rule in management is to get the incentives right. If you’re having problems within certain teams, more often than not that problem stems from an alignment issue — and the only way to fix that is to align incentives around the desired behavior. Need marketing to bring in higher quality leads? Don’t give marketing team members incentives that are based on traffic — align their incentives so they are bringing in higher quality leads and higher quality customers. Has churned spiked? Take a look at the deals that sales reps are closing and their compensation plans. Do reps get paid once a deal closes? Or after a few months once it’s clear that that customer is a great fit and is less likely to churn.

There are two things that can help you grow faster than anything else.

Surrounding yourself with better people. Noah grew the most by being around better people that pushed him personally and professionally — from the guy who designed Napster, to Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, project managers, the guys who are now running Dropbox, the guys who started Quora. If you aren’t feeling uncomfortable, you aren’t around better people.”

Changing your mindset. Starting out as an entrepreneur, David had nothing to lose, so he was able to change the map of what success looked like. “I had nothing to lose so I didn’t give a f*ck. That was my mindset. I had nothing to lose so if I fail, what’s the worst than can happen? That was the number one thing for my career.”

Do more of what works.

Double down on what works until it stops working. Let’s say you’re using four marketing channels to grow your business. If you cut down to just two of those channels — what would change? How much would that really impact your business? And on the flip side, what if you could spend twice as much time on those two channels that you know are working? We often aren’t willing to do the things that are painful or be aware of the few things that matter. Double down on what works and keep doubling down until it breaks — stop chasing new channels. Seems obvious, but are you doing this? Most likely not.

Start each day by being proactive, not reactive.

Your phone can wait. Slack can wait. Email can wait. David starts his day at 5AM with yoga and reading and journaling. These are all part of his morning routine, which contains three things he has to do before doing anything reactive like email:

  • Yoga
  • 10–15 minutes of reading
  • Five-minute journal

Then he starts the day.

What’s going to happen between the time that you get up and the time that you get into the office that’s going to change the course of the day? Most likely nothing.

That’s why David does not look at his phone until an hour into his morning. “I try to be intentional with each day and wanted to see if there was a difference between being reactive to and being proactive in the morning. There’s been a huge difference for me in just how calm I am — and the feeling of whether I accomplished something that day has gone way up.

From Noah: The next time you wake up to that full inbox, think about this — how much of that is actually beneficial? vs. taking the time to get your mind right for the day.

But habits don’t get made overnight. Noah is all about experimenting and starting with one goal vs. going all in. In this scenario, he might switch his morning to routine to just 10–15 minutes of reading first before trying to do all three things overnight.

The key to being productive is starting your day off by being proactive.

Spend more of your time reading books than blog posts.

Our inboxes and Twitter feeds are littered with blog posts, ebooks, guides and more every single day, but if you’re looking for a bigger change in your life, productivity, or whatever — Noah and David’s advice is simple: read more books.

Why? Think about the effort it takes to write a book. These are thoughts that have been poured over for hours, weeks and months — not a quick hit article designed to get some traffic.

When was the last time your life was changed after reading a blog post?

But when it comes to reading books, one of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to take crazy notes, lots of highlights, and come away with many lessons from each new book — and that’s the wrong approach.

Change your mindset when reading and only think about getting one or two lessons out of each book.

You don’t need to memorize every word and highlight every key paragraph.

“You only need one thing. One thing that you can implement” David said. “I used to finish every book, but then I never wanted to start a new book because I couldn’t finish them.”

You can listen to this full podcast episode with David and Noah below or download it on iTunes for your next commute.

I promise it’s much more entertaining than this blog post 🙌

The backstory on this interview…

A few months ago, David Cancel and I started a podcast called Seeking Wisdom.

We’ve talked about things like why David doesn’t like to hire product managers who have experience, and the secret to becoming a learning machine.

One thing we haven’t done yet is have a guest on the podcast, but earlier this month, the whole team from Drift went down to Austin, TX for a little offsite/team bonding.

So, we figured while we were down south we’d try and get together with legendary Austin-ite Noah Kagan.

David likes to mix it up and be controversial. So does Noah.

So we made it happen.

Plug. That’s us☝️we’re Drift.

Learn more about who we are and what we do.

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Dave Gerhardt

Written by

Director of Marketing @Drift

The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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