General Thinking

When things fall apart…

Hold it together.

Often the difference between those who lead and those who follow is merely this.

In life there will be instances when things would not go your way. We all operate on assumptions and it should come as no surprise that some of those assumptions turn out to be wrong. The more fundamental the assumption, the harder the hit. When this happens, you often feel like everything is falling apart.

As an entrepreneurs you are probably going to go through this feeling one too many times. It never stops. 

Great leaders hold it together when confronted with their world falling apart. Not only do they hold it together, they analyse the situation properly and make the right decision.

This quality singularly differentiates leaders from followers. Not IQ, not ability, not skill; just being able to hold it together and doing the right thing.

General Thinking

The Myth of Talent

Talent is a myth, I was told… Now I believe it.

In order to arrive at perfection in any area of pursuit, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice. Let us put that time in perspective. If you put in about 3 hours of practice a day, which is hard, you will do approximately 1000 hours of practice a year. So 10,000 hours of practice is a decade of undying commitment to a cause!

Now the objection that often comes up against this argument is child prodigies. They tend to be able to master something truly complicated very early in life. The truth of the matter is most children who seem to show prodigious talent are just compressing a lot of practice in a very short period of time. They tend to get enamoured by something let us say playing the piano or chess; and end up spending 10’s of hours everyday practicing the same.

Mozart started playing the piano at the age of 3 and used to practice for hours on the piano. The Williams sisters used to practice tennis since the age of 6. They would spend their days at the tennis court trying to hit a traffic cone with their service from 8AM to 4PM. Tiger Woods would practice the same shot a 100 times at the golf course since the are of 8.

When children take to something and find it enjoyable, practice seems like play and they play what they wish to play for hours. This practice is what makes them prodigious not something that they are born with.

Talent is a myth, don’t fall prey to it. Nobody is born more capable or with more ability than you were. All of us acquired it in this world once we came here. You can as well! Let nobody tell you something is too hard to do and therefore not for you.

We all learn and have the inherent ability to. The only differentiator is how much quality time we spend learning it.


An Important lesson on managing Teams

I was wondering why it is, that we tend to have better meetings at Startups Club when the group tends to be smaller than when we have larger groups. I found the answer in a book called ‘The art of thinking clearly’.

In 1913 Maximilian Ringelmann, a French engineer, conducted an experiment on horses! After his experiment he concluded that the power of two animals pulling a coach did not equal twice the power of a single horse.

Obviously, he was mind-blown and he decided to test if the same applied in the case of humans. He had several men pull a rope and measured the force applied by each individual. He found that on average, if two men pulled together, each invested just 93% of their individual strength, when three pulled together, it was 85%, and with eight men, it was down to 49%.

This is explained using a phenomenon called Social loafing. When the effort of an individual is not as clearly evident, individuals do not tend to give a 100%.

Social loafing occurs in mental activities also! For example, in meetings, the larger the team the weaker their individual participation. Have you seen meetings where the speaker is goading people on, to be interactive, but barring a few, all the rest of them seem to be dead!

Once a certain number of participants are involved, their performance plateaus. Whether the group consists of 20 or 100 people is not important – maximum inertia has been achieved.

From the perspective of a startup this is a fact that just cannot be ignored, because it is imperative to achieve peak performance from all of the individuals who are a part of the team. This phenomenon makes it abundantly clear what an entrepreneur should be doing with his team; make them individually accountable!

Now do you understand why extremely large companies find it really hard to come up with path-breaking innovation?