John was a lumberjack. Every day he would go to the forest, chop down trees, and
haul them back to town to sell to anyone who needed lumber. Fortunately for
John, everyone needed lumber, all the time, as the town had many flourishing
businesses and the population was growing.
Because demand for lumber was always high, whenever John wanted to make a bit of
extra money, he could push himself to work extra hard and cut down a few more
trees to sell. While it was demanding work, he always felt incredibly gratified
after such days. Not only was he rewarded for his effort; he knew he was also
providing extra value to the people of the town, who could always put the
lumber to good use.
A few years ago I wrote a piece called Advice vs. guidelines because I
wanted to distinguish between times when I'm just trying to be helpful to
someone given the state of the world, versus other times when I have an opinion
about what the state of the world "should" be.
I was chatting with a colleague recently and we were sharing our experiences and
perspectives working through recent organizational changes at our company—new
leadership, new org structures, new ways of working. He said something
like "Either we will change, or our new leaders will have to change."
I noted that both would surely change; the question was only a matter of
degree on each side. The executives who had recently joined the company would
inevitably find themselves adapting to the culture that existed before they
arrived. And the rest of the company would likewise adapt to its new
leadership. On this we agreed.
One Friday night recently, some friends of mine dropped off their daughter for
an evening play date with three other girls. Their daughter hadn't met two of
the other girls, so they hoped she would get along with them but figured most
likely she would still want to come home before bedtime. When they returned
later that evening, the girls had become fast friends and were already making
plans for what they would do the next morning. But since the parents had
assumed their daughter would want to go home, they hadn't brought a change of
clothes, her toothbrush, or anything she would need for a sleepover; so they
found themselves driving home with a deeply disappointed and frustrated child.
Back in early 2018 I decided to start learning about cryptocurrency. I created
a website, called "Adventures in Cryptocurrency" (no longer live), to document
my experience learning about the subject. It didn't last very long: by the
end of January I was already becoming skeptical at the ostensible
aspirations of the crypto community to offer a decentralized alternative to
Two traveling men meet on a vast, endless beach.
Both men are traveling with carts full of useful items that they've collected throughout their lifetimes.
The first man, Saul, has built up his collection by finding things beneath the sand. Every day, he digs countless holes. Most of the holes lead nowhere, but every now and then he finds something.
Note: this post was published in 60 minutes.
I've used this analogy over the years with multiple people, both team members reporting to me as well as peers and friends. Since others have told me they found it helpful, I decided to write it down to share more broadly.
Early on in most of our careers, our responsibilities are limited. The people we work with don't depend on us for too much yet. But we may be capable of doing a lot, and many of us are eager to be given a chance to do more.
This is advice that I have given multiple times, to multiple managers. I figured it was time to write it down.
At many tech companies, there is a formal process for requesting a promotion. At Atlassian, the biggest part of this process is a collaboration between a promotion candidate and their manager on compiling documentation justifying the promotion. The main requirement for this documentation is that it provide strong evidence, based on a standard framework, demonstrating that the candidate is performing at the level they're targeting for promotion. Ultimately this document (the "packet") is reviewed by a panel comprising 7 senior staff members, and the panel ultimately decides by vote whether to approve it.
This is something I've observed countless times in both my personal and
Often, I will hear someone say that they sent someone else an email, or a Slack
message, or a text, confident that they communicated important information to
the other person.
It can be the same when a team member says, "I wrote a page about this." Or: "I
published a blog post." Or: "I gave a demo of this."
I've been thinking about burnout.
It's a topic that comes up often, and the framing is almost always the same:
The team is feeling burnt out. What can we do to help them recover? The
proposed answers tend to fall into a few predictable categories: games or other
social activities, encouraging team members to take time off from work, and
gifts (like one of those "I survived <insert nightmarish project>"