Awesome piece in Grantland about Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, and empathy. I have similarly confused reactions to Card’s writings over time, and how divergent they are from his early work.
The Long Arc
I’ve written it many times, but during weeks like this week, it just comes in such focus: long term thinking — about our lives and our careers — investing in the people around us more than aiming at the quick win — it’s really everything.
This week I’ve gotten to spend time with 3 different entrepreneurs who I’ve known for a long time. One since my very first class at Stanford 24 years ago. Another who’s been one of my closest friends ever since grad school. And another who worked with me in my own startup nearly 15 years ago. The amazing thing about all of them is that we can pick up our conversations like no time has passed — we’ve been around each other in so many different contexts & in so many different roles — that we just take it for granted sometimes the way we weave in & out of each others’ lives periodically.
But I’ll tell you this: I don’t take it for granted at all. It’s been a lot of work over these many years to stay in touch, to work together — but it never feels like work, and it’s all worth it.
And even more significantly: Kathy & I celebrated our 13th anniversary together — but we’ve actually known each other & been friends for way longer — since we met in 9th grade in San Antonio, back in 1985. Hard to remember life before I knew her, honestly, and why would I want to, really?
The arc of our careers, and our lives, is long. No big insight there, except that some weeks it comes into such sharp relief — it’s so obvious — that it feels good to share it.
One of the absolute giants, Kurt Vonnegut, on what high schoolers (and all of us), can do to make our souls grow a little bit more. (via Chris Michel)
My Misfit Shine has mysteriously stopped lighting up, so for the first time in a while, I’m Unquantified. I’ve been wearing a tracker of one sort or another for a couple of years now, and so it’s a little weird not to have one now. (I guess my phone is still doing it, and Argus can tell me.)
Not sure yet if I miss it.
On the upside, I put Automatic into my car, so now my driving is quantified, so there’s that. Now I’ve got driving data that I’m not sure how to make actionable, too!
Data, data, everywhere….
Cups of Water
[reposting here from my Medium post.]
My partner Reid has a fun metaphor he uses when he’s describing how companies think about their core strategies (which don’t change very much). He says that he thinks about a company’s strategy as a cup of water they’re holding, trying to keep as much water in the cup as possible at all times (and sometimes increasing it), while navigating the landscape around them. Trying not to lose a drop.
Competitors, partners, and other companies are doing the same thing, tending to their own cups of water, navigating their own landscape. Sometimes near where you are, sometimes not in the same zip code.
And added to this, every once in a while as you pass by a competitor, you might want to give a nudge, or a hard push — to make them lose a little of the water in their cup.
So overall you’ve got 3 types of actors here: companies protecting their cups of water; companies trying to knock other companies’ cups of water over; and the landscape that everyone’s navigating.
I love this metaphor, and it’s useful to think about in all sorts of ways.
This week I got to spend some time with Benedict Evans and Ben Bajarin, courtesy of Semil Shah, two extremely sharp, thoughtful & knowledgable analysts of what’s happening today with computing, and that was followed up by Apple’s marketing event the next day, where Apple notably reduced the pricing of OS X Mavericks, iLife and iWork to effectively zero.
Lots of gnashing of teeth, pontificating, blogging about it. Lots of misunderstanding, too. A few folks commented this week that Apple & Google (not to mention Microsoft, Samsung & Amazon) are all highly transparent in their strategies, but not everyone seems to understand them.
Here’s the frame that I use: Apple sells systems. Google sells services. Amazon sells content. Microsoft, in general, sells software, although that’s changing now.
Sometimes people call Apple a hardware company, but that’s not quite right. Others have said they’re a software company, pointing out that it’s the quality of the software experience that really sets them apart, but that’s not quite right either. Having watched Apple for nearly 30 years now, and having worked at 1 Infinite Loop, I really think they think of themselves as a personal computing systems company and always have. They sell systems that work. Samsung, by contrast, sells hardware — they’re not as complete in their systems ambitions as Apple.
Google sells services that help you do things, find things, buy things, learn things. They pay for them, in general, not by charging the consumer but by charging the advertiser. But they sell services.
Amazon, naturally, sells content. Microsoft has always sold software, but they’re clearly exploring each of these models: services (Azure, Office 360, Bing), hardware (Nokia), systems (Xbox, Surface).
So now back to Apple and this week’s price reductions. Pretty easy to see, in your mind’s eye, Apple taking care of their systems business, their cup of water — and thinking that getting people on the most modern versions of their software both increases the quality of the systems they sell and sort of pushes on Microsoft’s software-oriented cup of water. To be crystal clear: I think mostly this move was about Apple’s own cup of water - making their own systems better. But a nice feature, too, that it maybe made other cups wobble a teensy bit.
You can see this dynamic everywhere. In how Google pushes Android & Chrome — not as systems, but as service front ends. In how Amazon sells Kindle at break-even or a loss — to make their content cup of water more stable.
The thing that’s most confusing is that they’re all walking around, with their different cups of water, but in the same landscape (consumer mobile), at a time when human beings’ expectations of that landscape are changing very quickly.