“What’s important to you in the development of a product?”

The following is from a 1996 interview with Steve Jobs:

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

And so we had a lot of great ideas when we started [the Mac]. But what I’ve always felt that a team of people doing something they really believe in is like is like when I was a young kid there was a widowed man that lived up the street. He was in his eighties. He was a little scary looking. And I got to know him a little bit. I think he may have paid me to mow his lawn or something.

And one day he said to me, “come on into my garage I want to show you something.” And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, “come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got just some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and he turned this motor on and he said, “come back tomorrow.”

And this can was making a racket as the stones went around.

And I came back the next day, and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in, through rubbing against each other like this (clapping his hands), creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been in my mind my metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.

Source: Fortune

Startup Life on a Budget

To rock the bootstrapped startup life, I’ve been living on my savings for a year. This takes a lot of planning. Along the way, I’ve found some budget-version alternatives to former luxuries that pleasantly surprised me. Here are a few examples:

  • Joining a Buy Nothing Project group on Facebook has saved me hundreds. It’s a neighborhood-based gifting economy.  I’ve been given my office desk, haircuts, a yoga mat, clothing, and my most favorite, a brand-new dutch oven. It’s also allowed me to give away a lot of perfectly good items that I just wasn’t using.
  • Cooking at home has allowed me to save money and also eat healthier. Using the aforementioned dutch oven, I’ve learned to make delicious and easy bread with no sugar. And when I do eat out, it’s more of a treat than “ho-hum same ol’ same ol’ routine.”
  • I learned $3.39 mascara is just as good as $20 mascara. Past Cassie was just dumb.
  • Our Seattle Public Library is an amazing resource that I leaned on heavily as a kid. This year I’ve gone back to my roots and rediscovered the library. They now also now provide eBooks, music, audio books, and streaming movies. Having an SPL card means free membership to Lynda.com courses.
  • Starbucks provides free refills on coffee and tea to go with your free wifi. Instead of spending $4-5 on a fancy, sugary drink I spend $2-3 on a drip and refill once or twice. Drip at home is even cheaper.
  • I quit going to my fancy schmancy gym and found an alternative solution: running outside and doing free weight training group classes at 24 Hour Fitness. This saved me $1400 in a year.  (Again, what was past Cassie thinking?)
  • And, finally, a one hour massage can be had for $35 via reflexology massage places like this one in Fremont. I’ve only done that once (and it was honestly a gift) but it was awwwwesome.

In addition to spending less, this lifestyle change has lowered my sugar intake, caused me to have fewer items that I don’t really need, and taught me to appreciate the wonderful free activities in life like going on walks, reading a good book, exercising, learning something new, or of course, spending time working on moving your business forward.  While I look forward to making a salary again some day, I’m hoping these priceless lessons will stick with me forever.

Side note: remember time is money, especially when working on launching a startup, so be careful not to always over-optimize for the cheapest option. This topic could be a whole additional post.

The Problem with Blogging

I learn new things and change my mind. But the blog, she is eternal.

Is it better not to speak for fear of inadvertently speaking ill? Probably not, but it seems unnecessary to overexpose oneself to critique unless there be some large gain worth the risk.

What does one get from blogging? Self-expression, I suppose, but that can be gained through good conversations. And with good conversations, there comes an inherent understanding that this is my position now, knowing what I know now, and that is all. There is more empathy from the listener, more of a desire to reach understanding – the gentle grace of giving one the benefit of the doubt because you trust their good-willed nature. Alternatively, everyone on the internet is some hideous fiend that needs to be proven wrong and argued with at length, or so it seems.

Aside from a more approachable attitude between people engaged in face-to-face conversation, there’s also the ability to have context. For example, in the future someone can say, “In 2016 Cassie Wallender wrote, ‘everyone on the internet is some hideous fiend that needs to be proven wrong’.” And they would be technically accurate, but missing the flow of my statement entirely.

So I struggle baring my soul online. Because I enjoy writing, but this seems like an abysmal trap.

Risk and Privilege

To quit one’s job and start a company is a terrifying thing, a huge risk.

But let’s reframe that with gratitude: to be able to quit one’s job and start a company is a huge privilege.

I feel so lucky for this opportunity to embrace the risk, not that I haven’t worked for it, but there are so many things that could have worked against me but did not. Along the way I had amazing family, friends, colleagues, bosses, and mentors who believed in me and helped me gain the confidence to take this plunge.  Because those who said, “You can!” out numbered those who said, “You can’t!” the later became the exception rather than the rule.

So thank you, dear ones, for all your support and encouragement. You’ve changed my perspective on what I can accomplish.  And thank you to the founders I’ve worked for, for showing me by example what can be achieved.

Please be patient with me as I may be mostly unavailable for the next ten years.  And never stop telling others they can do it. 🙂

Never Check Out

I see so many people check out their last two weeks (or months!) on the job.  I have a personal policy against it. Why?

1.) Empathy
You wouldn’t want someone checking out on you.  If you are somewhere, be there. Help smooth transitions, document tribal knowledge, and set those you leave behind up for success as much as possible.

2.) Reputation
You’ve established a reputation for years.  Don’t blow it away in your last month. Once I’ve left a company, I want to be remembered fondly as a person of great work and high integrity.

Fahrenheit 451

It is the first of January, and I devoured Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 today. In a nutshell that does not do it service, this 1953 novel tells tale of a shallow and violent future society.  It is a society which has traded in quality of thought for entertainment, and in an arguably prophetic way, it stands as both a warning to America and a love letter to ideas. It’s a classic for a reason, but not just because of the beautifully poetic writing. The ideas contained within resonated with me so strongly that I felt essentially connected to it and the author. I could not help but feel somehow that I’ve robbed my past self by not reading it earlier, and I could give no stronger recommendation to a book.

It’s late, and has been a long first day of the year, but a beautiful start of the year. Here’s to ideas in 2016.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”  – Ray Bradbury