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Better by Default

Good defaults are a good way to do the right thing most of the time.

Value by default. As a company grows and matures, we get sucked deeper into its internals. We make decisions based on efficiency, revenues, strategy, people, growth, and whatever that senior guy said. These are all fine exceptions as long as the default driving force behind our decisions is customer value.

Speed by default. Many mistakes can be prevented and higher quality work can be done if we could just slow down. Startups who adhere to this mindset are already dead. Speed is the only advantage a startup has. Moving fast must be the default and slowing down the rare exception.

No by default. Intense focus allows startups to achieve results that are disproportionate to their size. Saying the word yes is like taking a knife, sharpening it, and stabbing that frail focus right at the heart. No by default is how we keep focus alive.

Generous by default. I used to try very hard to give people precisely what they deserve. When you give just enough you get just enough in return. When you give generously you get dedication and commitment in return. Just be generous.

Scrappy by default. While generous with people, be scrappy with everything else. A scrappy mindset won’t only save resources, it will keep ingenuity high and laziness low. Use your brain to solve your problems, not money and consultants.

Big by default. Building a massively meaningful business is extremely hard. Building a small, nice business is equally as hard. There are only advantages for thinking big.

Tiny steps by default. Think big, but take the tiniest and fastest steps towards that big dream. The bigger the steps the more bones you’ll break when falling.

No hire by default. There are 3 types of hiring decisions: Hiring the right person, passing on the right person, and hiring the wrong person. The latter must be avoided at any cost, even the cost of missing out on hiring the right person or waiting much longer.

Long term by default. Faint memories are the only difference between a failed startup and a startup that never existed at all. Crushing your goals or impressing your board are short term pressures that matter only in their contribution to the long term. Optimize for the long term. There’s nothing else to optimize for.

Less by default. A design with less buttons is better. A product with less features is better. A value proposition with less words is better. A company with less people is better. A paragraph with less examples is better.

Default to Action. It’s important to think, it’s important to strategize, it’s important to discuss, and it’s important to research. And at the end of the day, the only thing that moves the needle is action. Action, even the wrong action, is the sole driver of progress.

Transparency by default. A startup that has many things to hide is doing something wrong. Tell your idea to as many strangers as possible, tell your employees about your runway, tell your investors about your problems. If nothing else, the simplicity of holding only one version of reality in your head is liberating.

Trust by default. Trusting everyone by default implies occasionally getting screwed. Not trusting by default means never getting the most out of a relationship. The latter is a sad way to live a life.

Over communicate by default. Overcommunication is the right amount of communication. Make it a part of everything, not an afterthought. Be generous with your communication and put in the effort to make it good. The foundation of a healthy relationship, team, and company is healthy communication.

Stories by default. A user is describing a feature that will save her an hour of work every day. You can convince, ask, or force your team to build that feature, or you can tell them about a user who could spend an extra hour with her kids every day if they build it. Only the latter will get your team to act, and with sheer passion. Humans respond to stories.


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