Featured

Kobe Made Me Quit My Job

I first saw the news on Facebook. I didn’t believe it. It was from a news source I had never heard of and, more importantly, it couldn’t be true.

Then the YouTube spiral. I watched video after video of athletes and sportscasters reacting to the news. First their incredulity. Then shock. Then tears. Right there, on national television, the tears.

It was a Sunday, and I was supposed to do some work for a local gym that I had been helping out on the side while working at MassMutual. I called the gym owner that late afternoon, asked if he had heard the news, and explained that I just didn’t have it in me today.

I revisited the YouTube spiral a few times over the next week or two. More people crying on air. Jerry West. Shaq. “Girl dad”. An incredible outpouring of grief and admiration in the comments. Oof.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who both died in a helicopter crash in January.

One week after Kobe’s death, I gave MassMutual my notice.

Kobe’s legacy is utter dedication. He lived basketball. It was his entire focus. He worked insanely hard on his craft. I don’t mean the hyperbolic way we often use the word “insane”. Kobe’s work ethic actually bordered on insanity. On the day he died, commentator Jay Williams told a perfect story. Williams was a rookie about to play the Lakers that night. He went into the gym early to take a bunch of jump shots. Kobe was there already, doing a game-intensity workout. Williams took shots for over an hour, and as he left, Kobe was still working out. He doubted the star would have enough energy left for the game that night. Instead, Kobe torched them “in every facet of the game”. After the game, the two ran into each other. Williams knew it was lame, but he had to ask: why were you working out so hard before a game? Kobe’s reply changed his life: “I saw you come into the gym, and I wanted you to know that no matter how hard you worked, you weren’t going to outwork me.”

Kobe once said he “worked hard in the dark to shine in the light”. You think he was born good at basketball? Nope. His father played in the NBA, but Kobe still had to work to get good. When he was twelve years old, he played an entire season of summer league and scored zero points. Not a free throw, not a fast break layup, not a lucky shot. But he had heard that Michael Jordan had been cut from his high school team, and he wanted to be good at basketball, so he got to work. Six years later, he went straight from high school into the NBA draft. Four years after that, he won the first of his five NBA championships.

The day he died, two thoughts filled my mind:

  • Life is short. It might be even shorter than expected. Spend it well.
  • What’s my basketball?

I immediately started reconsidering what I was doing with my life. I had a good job at a Fortune 100 company and was making the most money I ever had; my net worth was finally moving in the right direction after taking out a big loan to go to grad school. I had struggled through the first 2-3 months of the job and then figured out the technical aspects of it and made some major contributions. A few weeks earlier I had earned a spot bonus for taking a leading role on a huge project. As the technical part of the job got easier for me, I turned my attention more to the interpersonal team components: how we organized our work, how we communicated with other teams, how we planned large projects, and how we could debrief more in order to learn and grow. As I advocated more, I consistently encountered agreement and gratitude from my peers and resistance from management. It grew frustrating.

As I thought about Kobe in the days after his death, I asked – how can I get myself in a position where I wake up each morning, know what my goal is, and find in that goal the motivation to perform and hone my craft? Having tackled the technical part of my job at MassMutual, I considered that my next goal could be to earn a leadership position there, but increasingly saw that the culture created incentives to conform, not reform. That wasn’t going to work for me.

So one week to the day after Kobe died, I submitted a sixteen-page statement about my team’s areas for improvement and gave my two weeks notice. I left the door open for management to say they wanted to work on those things with me, but they chose to let me leave.

Somehow, even though coronavirus hit Massachusetts a few weeks after I quit my job, things have gotten off to a great start. I started a data-driven marketing consultancy, immediately got two clients, launched this website, and established a good routine of work, reading, writing, and exercise. I re-engaged with the western Mass startup community and the Holyoke civic community. I immediately became more lighthearted. My partner was thrilled for me, found me to be a much more pleasant roommate, and said she was excited to see the best version of me emerge.

I still don’t know exactly what my basketball is. It will take more time to find the one thing that can become a years-long singular pursuit, but I’ve put myself in a position to figure it out. At MassMutual, I would have continued to spend 50 hours and a lot of emotional effort each week fighting against the current, and this wouldn’t have left me with the creative mental space to consider what I really wanted to do with my life. Now I can pick my projects, cultivate skills, find good teammates, and build something from scratch.

Like most ambitious achievers, Kobe Bryant the basketball player always seemed unsatisfied. (Perhaps other than when he was holding a trophy between large hands covered in sweat and champagne.) That dissatisfaction is understandable. Necessary, even. To achieve his goals, he had to stay focused on what needed to improve in himself and others. But for those of us who grew up watching the hungry and demanding “Black Mamba”, the 40-year-old retiree seemed incongruously…content. He was such a happy presence watching NBA games, coaching his daughters, and even winning an Academy Award. I like to imagine that retired Kobe smiled so broadly and breathed so easily because he had given everything he could to his craft and was proud of where that left him.

How can we earn that contentment?

Small Business Playbook During COVID-19

This is a partial, work-in-progress list of resources to help small businesses survive during the pandemic. If you have suggestions for additional resources or advice, please email me at adrian[dot]dahlin[at]gmail[dot]com.

Government Resources

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March included the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). PPP offers small businesses loans that turn into grants if they keep all employees on the payroll for eight weeks and spend at least 75% of the money on payroll with the rest spent on rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The program became available April 3 and was supposed to run through June 30. However, the appropriated funds ($349 billion) quickly ran out and applications are now being denied. Congress and the President are now discussing if and how to extend the benefit.

Here’s a helpful article about how to calculate your loan amount for if and when the government extends PPP. It includes scenarios for sole proprietors with or without employees and self-employed people.

Contact Your Federal and State Representatives

If you need help navigating government benefits and especially if you’d like to lobby for more support for small businesses, contact your elected officials! Here’s a helpful link to find contact info for all your elected state and federal representatives.

One of the reasons the PPP funding quickly ran out was the definition of “small businesses”. The law included hotels and restaurant chains that have less than 500 employees per location. If you don’t like the idea of a federal bailout going to huge chains, that would be a great thing to call your US senator about!

Embrace Virtual Marketing and Sales

Need to figure out how to reach customers remotely? Know you should be using social media and email more but aren’t sure how? I can help! Get in touch. Digital marketing is not just vanity or a nice-to-have; it’s essential to most businesses in 2020.

Here’s a great guide from a college classmate of mine for how to start selling your products online.

Use This Time as an Opportunity to Learn

Much of the change we’re seeing because of the pandemic shutdown would have come about anyway more slowly over the next few years – the growth of video meetings, for example. Take some time to reflect about how you can learn from all this. How do you need to adapt to succeed in a world that is increasingly virtual? How can you connect with your community while you’re remote?

As painful as it is, this will be a time of creative destruction. Some ways of doing business will diminish and new ones will emerge. How can you purge your work of ineffective traditional practices and embrace the new reality?

Additional Resources

  • Entrepreneurs may like these webinars provided by Valley Venture Mentors, a startup accelerator and mentorship program.

Marketers Should Post More Frequently on Facebook

I was recently working on a social media strategy for a client and decided to refresh my knowledge with some research about the ideal number of posts per day on various platforms. The information I found about Facebook seemed a bit off. Most analyses focus on how to optimize the number of engagements per post. But is this the right metric? Do you think it’s the right one for you?

Individual post engagement is interesting, for sure (especially when comparing posts with each other), but for most pages it misses the ultimate function of social media: to drive some kind of outcome, like brand exposure, link clicks, or app downloads. This article will show why the number of engagements over time – across all posts – is a better metric to use for companies that are using social media to drive traffic, and how more posts is probably better.

HubSpot is a great source for digital marketing advice, but I think they’re getting Facebook frequency wrong. This HubSpot blog post offers “insights on how post frequency affects clickthrough rate” and relies on this graph:

HubSpot's analysis of post frequency and clicks per post.

It does a good job showing that pages with less than 10,000 followers have higher engagement per post with fewer posts per month. But if you optimize for engagement per post, HubSpot’s analysis would suggest that you’re best off with only 1-5 posts per month, which few marketers would recommend. Louise Myers’ blog cites the HubSpot article but then suggests 30-60 posts per month, not 1-5, because while 1-5 posts per month might maximize engagements per post, it’s clearly not enough to maintain a consistent digital relationship with your audience and drive traffic to your website, physical location, or app.

If a Facebook page’s primary goal is to engage an audience and/or drive traffic, shouldn’t we assess total engagements over time, not just engagements per post?

Let’s look at this using HubSpot’s data but a different analysis I created:

Adrian's analysis of post frequency and total clicks per month on Facebook.
70/month was an arbitrary choice for the highest frequency category since HubSpot’s largest category was 61+

Instead of clicks per post, this analysis looks at clicks per month combined across all posts in that month. I’ll explain using the 1001-10,000 follower group (green) and the 16-30 post-per-month category. I took the median posts per month for this category, 23, and multiplied it by the group’s “indexed clicks per post”, which is 80. That means that the average page with 1000-10,000 followers posting 23 times per month would get 1,840 clicks per month total. Isn’t this a better measure of how much value the Facebook page creates?

When you look at this engagement-per-month metric across all page sizes and post frequencies, you see that as post frequency goes up, clicks per month go up.

You may ask: what about the cost of over-communicating and losing followers? It’s baked into this analysis. The Facebook pages that HubSpot monitored that had lots of posts per month probably lost some followers, but they still saw more clicks per month.

This probably means that higher frequency winnows down your audience a little by driving away people who are annoyed by the content, but since the remaining people are more interested in the page’s content, they engage more, which drives up overall visibility on the platform, which increases the number of new people reached, some of whom will remain active members of your audience.

Fans of frequent posters are true fans.

It’s the lesson we learned from Roger Ailes and Fox News (and then Netflix and the internet generally): don’t try to serve everyone; delight a segment.

So if you’re a Facebook page manager, try posting more frequently (as long as you can still maintain quality content), and see how it affects total engagements per month across all your posts.

~ Adrian

P.S. Here are some questions for further consideration:

  • How does post frequency affect the number of people who click per month (in other words, adjust for people who click frequently)?
  • How does it affect the total reach of the page?
  • Pages with more than 10,000 followers have the strongest connection between frequency and engagement. Is this because they have the largest budgets to pay expert social media marketers? This gets at the factor that correlation between frequency and engagement does not necessarily mean causation, though it’s a strong indicator. It would be especially interesting to look at pages that have changed their own post frequency and see if their total engagement changes (as opposed to comparing pages with each other).

P.P.S. Since we’re talking about Facebook marketing, start a group for your brand! Look out for a forthcoming post about why this is an important tactic 🙂

ANTIFRAGILE by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

13530973._UY630_SR1200,630_

This is my summary of Antifragile. Underlines are notes from me. The rest of the text is quoted from the book. It consists entirely of passages I underlined while reading the book.

Prologue

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, culture, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance…even our own existence as a species on this planet.”

“Anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.”

“While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse it taking place. We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price. At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. The chief ethical rule is the following: Thou salt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others.”

“Man-made complex systems tend to develop cascades and runaway chains of reactions that decrease, even eliminate, predictability and cause outsized events. So the modern world may be increasing in technological knowledge, but, paradoxically, it is making things a lot more unpredictable.”

“Consider that Mother Nature is not just “safe”. It is aggressive in destroying and replacing, in selecting and reshuffling.”

“The antifragile gains from prediction errors, in the long run. If you follow this idea to its conclusion, then many things that gain from randomness should be dominating the world today–and things that are hurt by it should be gone. Well, this turns out to be the case. We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compelling–very compelling–evidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call lecturing birds how to fly.”

“The fragilista belongs to that category of persons who are usually in suit and tie, often on Fridays; he faces your jokes with icy solemnity, and tends to develop back problems early in life from sitting at a desk, riding airplanes, and studying newspapers. He is often involved in a strange ritual, something commonly called “a meeting”. Now, in addition to these traits, he defaults to thinking that what he doesn’t see is not there, or what he does not understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent. The fragilista falls for the Soviet-Harvard delusion, the (unscientific) overestimation of the reach of scientific knowledge. Because of such delusion, he is what is called a naive rationalist, a rationalizer, or sometimes just a rationalist, in the sense that be believes that the reasons behind things are automatically accessible to him.”

“In short, the fragilista (medical, economic, social planning) is one who makes you engage in policies and actions, all artificial, in which the benefits are small and visible, and the side effects potentially severe and invisible.

Where Simple Is More Sophisticated…Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects…I will produce a small number of tricks, directives, and interdicts–how to live in a world we don’t understand, or, rather, how to not be afraid to work with things we patently don’t understand.”

“Only distilled ideas, ones that sit in us for a long time, are acceptable–and those that come from reality.”

If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. Just as being nice to the arrogant is no better than being arrogant to the nice, being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it. Further, many writers and scholar speak in private, say, after half a bottle of wine, differently from the way they do in print…And many of the problems of society come from the argument “other people are doing it.” So if I call someone a dangerous ethically challenged fragilista in private after the third glass of Lebanese wine (white), I will be obligated to do so here.”

“Compromising is condoning. The only modern dictum I follow is one by George Santayana: A man is morally free when . . . he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.” I don’t trust myself nearly enough to do this.

“Commerce, business, Levantine souks (though not large-scale markets and corporations) are activities and places that bring out the best in people, making most of them forgiving, honest, loving, trusting, and open-minded. As a member of the Christian minority in the Near East, I can vouch that commerce, particularly small commerce, is the door to tolerance–the only door, in my opinion, to any form of tolerance. It beats rationalizations and lectures. Like antifragile tinkering, mistakes are small and rapidly forgotten.”

“Books to me are not expanded journal articles, but reading experiences; and the academics who tend to read in order to cite in their writing–rather than read for enjoyment, curiosity, or simply because they like to read–tend to be frustrated when they can’t rapidly scan the text and summarize it in one sentence that connects it to some existing discourse in which they have been involved.” This is me a little bit. Maybe this book summarizing thing makes that obvious. On the other hand, I totally enjoyed reading Antifragile and I enjoy looking back over my underlines and notes as I write this summary.

“I write about probability with my entire soul and my entire experiences in the risk-taking business; I write with my scars, hence my thought is inseparable from autobiography. The personal essay form is ideal for the topic of incertitude.”

“The Triad classifies items in three columns along the designation

FRAGILE    |    ROBUST    |    ANTIFRAGILE

…take the health category. Adding is on the left, removing on the right. Removing medication, or some other unnatural stressor–say, gluten, fructose, tranquilizers, nail polish, or some such substance–by trial and error is more robust than adding medication, with unknown side effects, unknown in spite of the statements about “evidence” and shmevidence.”

To be continued with Chapter 1…

%d bloggers like this: