It’s never really about the product

From an excellent Medium post: The 3 Most Important Things I Know About Consumers I Learned From Bartending:

  1. It’s never really about the product – people drink to feel (or to stop feeling) something. True again about buying clothes. “Understanding these needs goes a long way. You almost never want to speak or market directly in terms of these needs, because it freaks people out and breaks the “magic” of what they’re doing, but understanding the deeper motivations goes a long way in building rapport.”
  2. People want to be guided – so true, I always do say, “what do you recommend?” For me, it makes or breaks my visit to the place; a passionate person would give me a recommendation they themselves consume, rather than what they think I would like to consume. Interesting to also see that people care about what others do… “Social proof is a powerful thing. And with great power comes great responsibility.”
  3. Consistency vs. Novelty – Customers want rapport with you (and themselves). “People love new. They love novelty.”

Giving stuff away gets people engaged (well yes, who doesn’t love a free lunch?).

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is also that people want to like you, and they do want others to like them (and they also want to like themselves).

So when making products, think about fulfilling all these needs.

Reading more, writing more

People around me say I’m well read, or consume a lot of reading materials. That may be true, but lately I feel like I’m in a bit of a constant cycle of going through my subscriptions, and reading shorter form stuff, with a lot more context switching than I expected.

So it was kind of a great surprise that I managed to sit thru and polish off one book on my Kindle in the last day: What Men Say, What Women Hear: Briding the Communication Gap One Conversation At A Time by Linda Papadopoulos. In hindsight, all I can say is I wish I read this book much earlier. I highly recommend it, and maybe will export my notes later, but this quick 240 page read released in 2011 is what I consider “life changing reading”. You really can bridge the he-says/she-says gap.

But back to my point of reading more. It’s probably worth consuming, and then also having some output. Which is why I aim to blog more (I mean I have thousands of notes in Evernote; but that isn’t shared, is it? Current count: 21,457).

Last year started off like this, but I lost momentum as the year progressed; in the first week, I finished reading Choose Yourself by James Altucher. It’s kind of a good book to read once, around the time of the New Year’s, I would reckon.

I don’t know if my thoughts or commentary are worthwhile on issues that I don’t directly involve myself in, but if I’m going to read and even have a one liner comment, I’m thinking it makes sense to blog it. Sure it can also be federated to Twitter. Importantly though is I have my searchable archive on the Web. And I think this is what the crux of blogging is all about – I don’t only have to produce signal all the time, sometimes noise can be good too. (after all, isn’t that the premise of social media? We create a lot of noise, and it seems to work too.)

A blog I once thought was extremely popular in its space, I finally came to realise has quite a pathetic readership on a per article basis. Maybe this is because while RSS isn’t dead, you can’t help people trying to not extend its use (Google Reader’s demise was really an issue).

Anyway, back to my thoughts on consumption. Consumption has to be coupled with some kind of action, beyond it being all in my head. I’m using this process to expose my brain, and clear it up for other more important things.

I also think that there’s plenty of insights one can gain from reading all those news subscriptions I have. One more thing: trying to get reading more stuff, faster. No point going below Instapaper 500, only to see it bloom to 780 again. I’m going to make it more manageable again.

Time is something you can’t get back again which is why I liberally zap thru podcasts these days. I prefer audiobooks.

So while I don’t think I can read 52 books this year, I should feel good if I finish 20 books this year? And remain on top of all my subscriptions: NYT, WSJ, FT, The Economist, Nikkei Asian Review, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Atlantic Monthly (thanks to a friend’s kind gift!), and Monocle. The rule of going thru the item the moment you get it, is very important. I also have a habit of picking up Bloomberg Businessweek in airport lounges; a great resource, but if I’m to stick to my plan of seeing the airports less, I may eventually think of getting a subscription to that (or at least ensuring the Club’s library has a copy). I occasionally also enjoy Harvard Business Review (at the Club and online). Needing to “re-integrate” to Malaysia again, I think I might have to start consuming The Edge daily/weekly, because that’s probably the only sensible newspaper that exists in the country.

So, let’s see how much I can read, how much I can write, and how all this consumption (and output) helps me get great stuff done on a daily basis (connecting the dots, strategy, outreach, ideation, etc.)

P/S: a timely tweet that seems to be going around:

Premier Open Source Database Conference Call for Papers closing January 12 2018

The call for papers for Percona Live Santa Clara 2018 was extended till January 12 2018. This means you still have time to get a submission in.

Topics of interest: MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL & other open source databases. Don’t forget all the upcoming databases too (there’s a long list at db-engines).

I think to be fair, in the catch all “other”, we should also be thinking a lot about things like containerisation (Docker), Kubernetes, Mesosphere, the cloud (Amazon AWS RDS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud SQL, etc.), analytics (ClickHouse, MariaDB ColumnStore), and a lot more. Basically anything that would benefit an audience of database geeks whom are looking at it from all aspects.

That’s not to say case studies shouldn’t be considered. People always love to hear about stories from the trenches. This is your chance to talk about just that.

Linda Papadopoulos on the James Altucher show

I don’t listen to every episode of the James Altucher podcast (to be fair, I don’t listen to every episode of any podcast; I skip liberally, preferring to spend quality time with audiobooks from Audible). Anyway, I quite enjoyed Ep. 296 – Linda Papadopoulos: Validation: Why It’s Dangerous…. I listened for thoughts on her book Unfollow: Living Life on Your Own Terms, but stayed for What Men Say, What Women Hear.

Now that the book is on my Kindle, a few notes from the podcast:

  • In a relationship, if you argue for contempt, it would be highly likely that it leads to an end.
  • What is contempt? Having a lack of respect, disregard for the other party, belittling the other party, and so on.
  • Arguing is fine, if you argue to grow
  • If you’re in the above bucket, restructure the way you’re communicating to have a better relationship.

James Altucher also said that men like to solve problems, and Linda Papadopoulos replies that generally women just want to air their problems, not come up with solutions. Maybe we are truly wired differently?

I listen to podcasts when I can’t otherwise read (i.e. when driving a car, walking thru an airport, etc.), and have to admit that I occasionally take rough notes in a Field Notes notebook (I got a subscription). Seems “safer” than using your mobile phone and driving, eh?

Upon reaching my laptop, I decided to research a little more on contempt. How Contempt Destroys Relationships is definitely a good read, because it simplifies things a lot – a mix of emotions: disgust & anger. Listen to understand. Focus on positivity: appreciation, gratitude, affection, agreement, interest and smiles. “Dump the contempt. Listen well. And pump up the positivity!”

Another interesting link that popped up? Avoiding the “four horsemen” in relationships. For one, I’m impressed by the entire site from Berkeley, Greater Good in Action. Avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling — there are always alternatives.

It’s never too late to learn new things, and this for me is part of how I plan to improve in 2018; understanding people better, and hopefully moving on from an INTJ to an ENTJ (go on, get the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – plenty of them exist online too). It is claimed that your personality type is inborn, but you can develop traits and habits that differ or contradict the description of type; so it should be possible to become an Extrovert even if naturally Introverted. Further reading: is it possible to change your personality type?.

Movie for our times: Tulip Fever

I was flying and managed to catch Tulip Fever. Interesting show, considering I have had many conversations recently where people had no idea what the Tulip Mania was all about. It’s a good “plane movie”, and maybe gives you some insight into what occurred then, but it didn’t open to great reviews (e.g. NYT). It has two themes – love, and of course the tulip mania. I choose to focus on the tulip aspect of things, considering I’m in tech, and the crypto space is often referred to as one. Naturally this is spoiler filled.

Some gems:

  • Q: Are they a good investment? A: Well the market’s going up, you won’t go wrong
  • Man has 18 Florens in total, and he spends it all in one go – “an excellent investment”
  • “Took his own life over a Tulip bulb”
  • Man: I paid 18 Florens for these bulbs, I’m told if they continue to rise, they will double. Nun in convent: A month ago, you could have had them for 10.
  • “Cut the flower and sell the bulb, you have a rare one”

Shortly thereafter the man gives up being a fishmonger to become a trader! (A bit like crypto today when Uber drivers talk about investment advice).

More quotes of choice:

  • “of course, free money”
  • Nun: “the more they weigh the more they’re worth” – best bulb, sold for 920 Gilders, but we sold it for 18.
  • “I would like to get a foot into the tulip business. Will you help me?”
  • If the market keeps going up why isn’t anybody selling? Because it can go up three times in a month.
  • “All we have to do is put all our eggs in one basket. A single bulb. The rarer the better.”

Eventually at auction, Admiral Maria – a 2,000 Floren tulip bulb, which goes for 1,500. He asks for 1,200 then they agree on 1,400. He is leveraging everything even though he doesn’t actually have the Admiral Maria. Due to his friend’s drunkenness, the bulb goes missing (eaten?), and the fishmonger sadly has been thrown into the sea

Eventually, 8000 Gilders and 2 houses is what the new owner sold the Admiral Maria for.

Then the Government stepped in to ban the Tulip trade. Prices crashed.

All this points to irrational exuberance and the theory of the greater fool.

This is not a movie I’d watch paying full attention to. You could get away with occasional reading on your Kindle/iPad. But it might get more people to remember a bit about the history of the tulip mania. After all, as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Annus Horribilis, 2017

I’ve been writing New Year’s Notes for quite sometime, and in 2017 I ushered it in Lisbon. The year didn’t start particularly well, considering there was illness that befell (on Jan 1, with a doctor’s visit to the suite!). Not for me, I was still hale and hearty, but there was also a situation a week later in London, when there was a little snow, and a Uber driver riding over my dad’s leg, rushing to St. Mary’s Hospital, and finding out we had to pay absolutely zero thanks to the NHS. Like the late Sir David Tang said, there’s lots to praise of the NHS. (he passed away a week before I was to meet him).

My grandmother took ill in February (I admitted her to the hospital, a few hours before catching a flight to Los Angeles). She fought on for 50 days, and passed on April 18 2017. During that period I took extremely short flights and visited her twice a day (you’re limited when they’re in the ICU) when I was in town. I never really found time to grieve, because from death to burial, I hopped on a plane to San Francisco to go to the biggest event in the MySQL / open source database world. It surprised many people, who thought I’d be cancelling my appearance. But when I commit to something, short of being disabled myself, I will deliver.

I wrote this message on Facebook, but it was “friends only”, so I can’t actually link to it:

There is never a right time to say goodbye. At approximately 4pm on 18 April 2017, my grandmother, Amma, passed away. She had been in the hospital for about seven weeks, and was described as a fighter to me by her doctor a day before she passed. Alas.

She was a great cook. She hosted wonderful Christmas parties. I grew up with her, she looked after me superbly well. I’m in computing because she bought a computer in 1989 and it consumed my spare time. I have only fond memories of her.

I called her Amma. Which is what you call a mother. Because that’s what she was to me.

By July it has been confirmed my father had taken ill. This is going to be a tough battle ahead. And by December 26, I hear even more bad news from a personal standpoint, that I am still digesting and hoping & praying for the best.

So for me, I can’t wait for 2017 to end. I write this in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, at the Royal Lake Club, not overseas for the first time in a very long time. I want 2018 to be an annus mirabilis.

Travel stats are a good way to end this: 30 trips, 247 days on the road, 451,022km travelled, 53 cities, and 23 countries. I visited Montenegro (Budva in particular), which was a new place to check off. I also learned to dive, and had the best sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Life’s all about moments, right? Anyway comparing to 2017, it was 5 trips more, 5 days less, about 12,500km less, 3 countries more, and 6 cities more.

Do I think I’ll achieve a lot less time on the road in 2018 (it is a goal)? Will my personal life get sorted? I’m really looking forward to the horror of 2017 to end. Fin. Here’s to annus mirabilis 2018!


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