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#4: Time with Friends | A Memory Production Gift
Epicurean pleasure, listening, happiness, your PM shape, and product strategy
👋 Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Pursuit. I spend over 10 hours each week learning about building great products and living fulfilling lives. I created "Pursuit" to share these discoveries with a larger community and connect with others who share similar interests.
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This week’s discovery:
PLEASURE - an Epicurean Guide to the Good Life - 🎧 74-min #life
Become a Better Listener - 🎧 80-min #life
The Science of Happiness - 🎧 35-min #life
What's Your Shape? A Product Manager's Guide to Growing Yourself and Your Team - 📖 9-min #product
An Inside Look at Mixpanel's Product Journey - 🎧 46-min #product
PLEASURE - an Epicurean Guide to the Good Life
As a student of Stoicism, I can attest to the many benefits it has brought to my life. But this week, I stumbled upon something that reminded me that there's always more to learn, and that sometimes the greatest insights come from perspectives that are vastly different from our own.
Epicureanism is a philosophy founded by Epicurus that emphasizes the practical application of philosophy in improving people's lives. Epicurus believed that pleasure and avoiding pain were the key components of a good life. He rejected the idea that pleasure should be pursued in a debauched manner, instead advocating for simple and accessible pleasures that are available to everyone. He also believed that friendship and community were important sources of pleasure. Epicurus also believed in maximizing pleasure for the community and prioritizing long-term pleasure over short-term gratification.
Epicurus and the Importance of Friendship
The teachings of Epicurus emphasize the importance of choosing friends for the right reasons and prioritizing them. He advises that friends should be selected based on their reliability and trustworthiness and that friendships should be grounded in shared values that are not subject to change. He also cautions against basing friendships on things that can be lost, such as popularity or wealth, as these can lead to unstable relationships. Epicurus believed that friends should be able to support each other and share joys and that a good friendship should not cause anxiety.
Epicurus on the Three Types of Desire
Epicurus believed that some desires are necessary for happiness while others are not. He believed that some desires can be extravagant, deepening our lives, but that others are corrosive and should be avoided. He classified these desires into three categories: necessary, extravagant, and corrosive. Necessary desires include basic needs like food, drink, shelter, friends, and a working knowledge of science. Extravagant desires are fancier versions of necessary desires, such as a nice IPA instead of just water. Epicurus believed that these desires could deepen the joy in our lives, but they should not be prioritized over necessary desires. Corrosive desires are those that should be avoided, as they can lead to anxiety, effort, and distraction from what is truly important. Examples of corrosive desires include wealth, fame, and material possessions.
My partner, when he was 22, I think was shot with an arrow from a compound bow in the gut. He was very lucky to survive and was in the hospital for two weeks. When we first met, he told me the story, and he said that when he was there, he realized that the only thing that he could really do was play his memories to himself that he was reflecting on all the good things in his life. And he decided that he was going to trade money for time and experiences. And you know, there are some ups... There are some costs to that. But there are a lot of benefits. So he just thought, you know, if I find myself in this situation again, like in a nursing home when I'm old, I want to be able to replay good things. And I thought, wow, how Epicurean? And I think that's really important. I love this notion that time with friends is a gift that you're giving each other for memory production.
Become a Better Listener
Listen to Win, Listen to Learn, and Listen to Fix
When communicating with others, it's essential to understand the different types of listening and how they can be applied in different situations. "Listening to win" is when we try to make the problem go away by telling the person they don't have a problem. "Listening to learn" is when we try to understand what is being said and reflect it back to the person. "Listening to fix" is when we try to take the person's problem and solve it for them or help them solve it.
Listening to our emotions, feelings, and body sensations is also important. This can help us understand how our environment is affecting us and make connections between different aspects of our lives. By understanding and practicing these different types of listening, we can improve our communication skills and create deeper connections with others.
How to Ask Better Questions
To ask better questions, it is important first to notice the questions that we habitually ask. These may be questions that we ask ourselves, others, or the world. Asking "why do I do this" can be helpful in some ways, but it can also lead to a dead end and not result in changing behavior. One way to get different and better questions is to borrow them from other people. Children often ask great questions because they don't have any filters and just ask the questions that come to mind. As adults, we often don't ask these types of questions because we feel that we should already know the answer or that it's not relevant.
Listen to the questions that other people ask and make a note of the ones that you like. Borrow these questions shamelessly and use them in your own questioning. Doing so can increase your knowledge and understanding of the world.
How to Take Other People's Perspectives Effectively
Perspective-taking is a valuable tool in removing blind spots and gaining a more complete understanding of a situation. One way to turn this knowledge into action is to develop the habit of regularly asking yourself, "how could I be wrong?" This question assumes that our perspective is limited and that there are likely other perspectives that we are not aware of. Asking this question can increase our curiosity and prompt us to seek out and consider other perspectives. This can help us to avoid making assumptions and to gain a more complete understanding of a situation.
The Science of Happiness
One effective strategy for increasing happiness is to focus on increasing social connections rather than self-care. Also, shifting into a mindset of gratitude by taking time to notice and appreciate the good things in life can also positively impact well-being. Mindfulness and being present in the moment, even when things are difficult, can also contribute to improved happiness. It's important to note that these practices may lead to small but consistent increases in self-reported happiness and not a sudden jump to 100% happiness.
People who focus on being wealthy in “time” are happier than those who focus on being wealthy in money. Spending money in a way that saves time, such as hiring a cleaner or ordering takeout, can lead to greater happiness. While money can make people happy if they don't have enough of it, once a person reaches a certain income level (around $75,000 in the US 🤯), additional money does not lead to a significant increase in happiness.
Scientific research around well-being and happiness suggests that January 1st is just a day like any other, but for many people, it feels like a fresh start. Studies have shown that our motivation can kick into high gear at certain temporal moments, such as a new year, birthday, or other anniversaries. This is known as the "fresh start effect." However, the issue is that we often apply this effect to the wrong changes, such as losing weight or focusing on career goals, instead of focusing on positive changes that have a true effect on our happiness such as investing in social connections or being more self-compassionate. Additionally, we often approach these changes with the wrong attitude, using a drill instructor mindset that doesn't work. It's important to take baby steps, engage in goals with self-compassion and understand that happiness is not perfection but progress over time. Understanding the ways in which our minds can lead us astray and these "mind hitches" can be helpful in making better choices for our well-being.
What's Your Shape? A Product Manager's Guide to Growing Yourself and Your Team
Growth-centric PMs combine speed, analytical insight, and test-driven product development to deliver measurable gains on the critical business metrics leadership cares about. They drive growth at each stage of the product lifecycle: acquisition, activation, engagement, retention, and monetization.
Product management is a rare role that requires excellence at opposite ends of many spectrums — analytics and intuition, optimization and innovation, strategy and tactics, team leadership and task management, and, most importantly, building value for customers and building value for the company.
As PMs progress in their careers, they should take a more active role in architecting the product. This is where the skills of Customer Insight come into play — initially at the feature level. Strong PMs and Senior PMs are able to define, build, and evaluate successful features. PMs must learn to think beyond a single feature and start thinking about how features connect to each other — how they ladder up to a clear, compelling, cohesive vision for the product and how they connect to the company’s strategy. This is the point at which PMs, at the GPM and Director level, begin to shift from Product Managers to Product Leaders.
🌟 Some companies and new PMs confuse project management with product management. A good “project manager” is great at execution, but hasn’t yet mastered the craft of creating products that people love and that move the needle for their company.
Companies need to draw a clear line between project management and product management. If they don’t, companies run the risk of fostering teams that know how to build but can’t figure out what to build.
Project managers must work on Customer Insight and Product Strategy skills to grow as product managers. Companies should resist promoting PMs who haven’t started developing those skills — even when they have a strong track record of shipping. 🌟
An Inside Look at Mixpanel's Product Journey
Sticking to your core until it becomes profitable
It is important to focus on the core product and close gaps in functionality before expanding into other areas. Mixpanel started out with a successful product analytics product, but as it grew, it added more products to its suite and ran into problems with scaling. As a result, the company experienced high churn and was not meeting the market's needs in terms of features. To address this, McPherl made the difficult decision to focus its entire engineering team on closing the gaps in product analytics and innovating there. This resulted in increased retention and better customer ratings. The company also learned the importance of design and consistency in its product and made design a key differentiator to improve the reach of its features. The takeaway is that companies should focus on the core product and close gaps in functionality before expanding into other areas and consider the product's holistic design and consistency to increase the reach of features.
The Designer-Led Approach to Product Development
The Designer-Led Approach to Product Development is a process for adding new products to a company that emphasizes the importance of a clear strategy for when and how to add new products. This approach is designed to avoid blowing up the scope of a project and causing friction among team members. The process involves separating the design team from the tactical projects that they are working on and giving them dedicated space for design-led projects. This allows the designers to focus on simplifying the system architecture of the product and improve the consistency, reach, and depth of the user experience 🧡. Additionally, the process also involved considering when it is appropriate to add new product lines to solve customer problems.
When is the Time to Expand out of your core?
Expanding beyond a company's core product can be a difficult decision to make. It is important to continue investing profits into the core product in order to accelerate growth, avoid distractions from other ventures, and avoid the risk of being disrupted by competitors. It is also important to be mindful of the fact that building secondary products in categories of their own may not be as profitable as building products that are best in their category 🧠. Additionally, it can be difficult to discontinue a product that has had mild success, as it can be painful for teams who have invested time and resources into it. It is important to carefully consider these factors before making the decision to expand beyond the core product.
Don't make PMs gatekeepers of customer feedback to engineering and design
Keeping product teams close to customers is important for scaling products and getting real-time feedback. One approach is to pipe customer requests into a platform like Slack, where all engineers and designers can access the raw feed of customer feedback without needing a gatekeeper or pre-aggregation process. This allows engineers and designers to think like product managers, which can take some of the load off of the PM and empower them to improve the product on their own. The approach can also evolve to include other data sources, such as feedback from Twitter, NPS surveys, and win-loss notes from competitive deals. The key is that the process is open, with no gatekeeper.
Tunes for your 👂🏼s:
I received a couple of positive feedback about the tracks I post. So here we go… I’m not going to restrict myself to 3 tracks from now on 😏. You’ll find mostly Ethnotronica, Organic House, World, and Organic Electronic here 👇🏼