Your decision-making skill, focus and working hard

I decided to launch my first startup I was still a young 20-ish student. Back in 2011 in France, there weren't much to rely on. Which - in retrospect - was most probably the beauty of it all. And I've to say this kind of wild-west created very strong and authentic bonds between many 'players'. Typically in my case, we rented out one little room in the basement of the first office of a fresh brand named Jimmy Fairly [still around and thriving -- think of it as the french version of Warby Parker] and that's also where I met Stan; now Dust co-founder.

The interesting thing in relationships more than a decade long is that you can 'see' and understand people more. It's like their true-self is revealing itself across time. Anyway, back then, I was working on our ethical fashion e-commerce website [think an early and goofy version of Centre Commercial] during the day. 7 days a week. Then 2 nights a week - from 7pm to 7am - I was at the front office of a 4-star hotel in the 9th neighborhood of Paris. 2 other nights a week - from 10pm to 6am - I was serving drinks in a nightclub on the Champs-Elysees. I felt ruthless. Obviously I needed money to pay for my degree and sustain myself while launching my thing. And of course, I wanted to fight sleep. So for 6 months, I experimented polyphasic sleep. Incl. the most extreme version of it, the Uberman schedule, 20-minute naps every 4 hours; which translates into 2 hours asleep every 24 hours. I think I just wanted to be the hardest-working version of myself. Stupididly I viewed hard-working only through the amount of hours awake working. I don't recommend such a schedule to anyone. It felt obvious in retrospect I was miserable. I can't remember any great decision I've made during that time. I do remember many of them once I stopped.

Back then, Stan was among the very few people who told me straight: this is the wrong tactic. 'Success in entrepreneurship' [clearly defining these terms might be the purpose of an entire other post] has nothing to do with the amount of hours working during the day. Quality work is what matters. Choosing to work on the right thing, the one that truly moves the needle for your startup is what matters. And it is extremely difficult. Especially in a society where you feel some external expectations to follow a specific schedule. So it was fun to hear him again - 13 years later - preach the exact same advice on one of the biggest french podcast.

Even though I can remember how back then his words made me reflect, I still didn't quite understand what that really meant. I think I do now. And there is something about decision making.

In creative jobs, good decisions beat hard work every time. If I have a clever idea in the shower about how to analyze some data, it can save me three months or more of beating my head against the wall. The importance of good decision-making isn’t unique to academic life. The modern economy increasingly requires workers to solve complex, open-ended problems.

This above comes from a post I'd highly recommend titled Is good decision-making a skill?. And of course entrepreneurship is a creative job.

That graph below was also quite interesting. Which makes me think now of how schools and parents teach decision-making. Oh, yeah: not at all. I mostly see adults in general trying very hard to teach obedience to kids but let's keep that topic for another time as well.

Jon talks about the same thing here:

He also made me remember Parkinson's Law: the observation that the duration of public administration, bureaucracy and officialdom expands to fill its allotted time span, regardless of the amount of work to be done. This is quite fascinating -- as a human trait.

I remember how stretch my whole life became once we welcomed our first child. Even stretcher for Mat since she was breastfeeding and had to recover from the whole pregnancy. That being said, we also felt that we were achieving a lot during this period. I remember her at one point telling me 'I truly feel like an execution machine'. She definitely was. It's like decreasing time to achieve XYZ was a forcing function to (a) get our priorities straight and (b) focus intensily on achieving those. Nothing else.

That being said, I feel I still have to remind myself all these lessons from time to time. Even today, when under intense pressure from work, I tend to fall back into a narrative of 'yeah but picking up the kids at 4:30pm is too restrictive, we should let them one hour later at the school nursery'. And then I remember: my challenge to achieve has actually almost nothing to do with the amount of hours per se. Even better: it's the opposite. Stopping everything at 4 is forcing me to think more about what to focus on -- to move any needle -- and then to hard-work intensely on that only.

Sam expressed it perfectly here:


Objet du jour

One of the last item I own from my Ben & Fakto journey is this laptop stand I'm still using today - 11 years later. A few things makes it special though: (a) it was an exclusive collab -- and back then we didn't make that many (b) it showcases all the logo, the motto and the color. Definitely a nostalgia-heavy type of object. Relationship recorded with Objet.