Startup Boards Book

I am new to being an official board member although I have been involved with large and small company board meetings for years.

Board meetings are not the be all end all that many folks think they are but the board members and their context within the life of a startup is pretty important.

I wanted to approach this with a beginner’s mind and was helpful to read this book and get some new viewpoints on being a board member and get some sense how founder see the board as well.

Of course only experience will come into play for me to become an awesome board member but I am enjoying this book quite a bit.

Proud to be a Smith

Yesterday was tough day. We had a celebration service for my brother.

We did our best to plan it but you have no idea who will come and how it will all go.

I should have never have doubted though, knowing how many people my brother touched it was probably a no brainer to assume lots of folks would come. And they did. We kept having to add chairs for people.

For most of us normal, non-celebrity people, we often wonder what our legacy is. We may never know since it is probably only revealed upon our death. 

Rest assured brother Daniel, you left a legacy. They come out in droves yesterday to attend your service. They took the microphone and shared story after story about how you always were always helping people. Using your badge and fearlessness to do what others wouldn’t and to make people always feel better. Even if it got you into trouble. 😉

This left a hole in my heart since it dawned on me how little family members know about their grown up siblings when it comes to their work and social impact on the world. Every human matters but we don’t always see or can comprehend the impact.

Yesterday it was well confirmed that my brother left a dent in the universe. 

The day after is a sober day of wondering how as a sibling I can know the other facets of my family better. To appreciate their impact with their friends and co-workers. Stuff I never see but I should probably try and grok.

My brother will be missed by his family for sure but I can sense that his co-workers and friends are really feeling it too.

I wish everyone a speedy recovery but I caution this with reminding myself that the pain is a gentle reminder to make sure you get to know your family, your friends and your co-workers a little bit more than you do. Be sure to make sure they feel your presence in whatever positive way you are able to.

Life is short.

2017 Letter to Shareholders

This is so good and so much to glean from it.

I think I love this the most:

Six-Page Narratives

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable.

Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.

Best to read it all though…

2017 Letter to Shareholders