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Disrupt Disruption

Jul 25th, 2022 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Der Fisch Stinkt Vom Kopf

The Germans have a strange, and probably very typical German, saying: Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf — the fish rots from the head.

I know, it’s gross. But it’s also true. Not just in a biological sense — as the brain is typically the first part of a decomposing fish to go smelly (you can thank me later for putting this image into your head), but also in the meta sense: Germans use this saying to describe the challenge that when the leadership inside an organization is dysfunctional (the proverbial head), the rest of the org follows.

I’ve been using this saying for a long time now — as a stark reminder that you can try as you might, if your manager/CEO/board isn’t aligned/bought in/supportive/understanding, you are fighting a lost battle.

Kudos to those who fight this fight — personally, I wouldn’t have it in me — but more often than not (unless the end of the era of this particular fish is in sight), you are fighting a lost cause.

If you find yourself in a fishy situation — my advice is usually to take a hard look if there is still something worth fighting for (as there might), and if not: Make your way to the exit (and do visit the gift shop on your way out).

Jul 17th, 2022

Nothing Matters — Everything Matters

A common occupational hazard for anyone I know, who is building something that matters, is to get stuck in a mental loop of “how does this thing I currently do matter in the grand scheme of things?” Playing a computer game to chill out a bit? Get back to work, slacker — the world’s problems won’t solve themselves. Procrastinating by doom-scrolling through TikTok? How could you — there is work to be done! Taking a day off to do — gasp! — nothing? Can’t do!

The guilt of being trapped in the “everything has to matter”-loop is real, and gets exaggerated...

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Jul 7th, 2022

Do One Thing

Quite a while ago a friend of mine remarked that if we would only read one (good) book on, say, productivity and spend our time and energy on implementing the insights from this one book, we would all do well. Instead, many of us read ten books on a given subject (and, of course, subscribe to ten more newsletters, listen to ten more podcasts, and watch, at least, ten YouTube videos on the topic) and implement none of the advice — or all of the advice but don’t stick to any particular one for more than a day.

I was...

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Jun 24th, 2022

Embrace The Tension

A little while ago, I interviewed’s CEO David Siegel for our Disrupt Disruption Podcast (here is the episode in case you are curious). In our interview, when talking about the tension which arrises for a leader by making necessary, but unpopular decisions, David admitted that “earlier in my career I needed to be loved by everyone. Even it that meant not making the right decision. […] As a mature leader, you become more comfortable with this. You embrace tension.” David goes on to say that “tension is an inevitable result of working with humans —...

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Jun 13th, 2022

The Simple Secret To Running a Productive Brainstorm

You know the scene: A group of people, excitedly, storms into a meeting room, whiteboard markers in hand, to start a “brainstorm”.

{brainstorm} : to try to solve a problem or come up with new ideas by having a discussion that includes all members of a group : to discuss a problem or issue and suggest solutions and ideas

And of course, it never works. Rather than getting the best ideas and insights from every member of the group, you end up with a few people dominating the discussion. Inevitably, one person jumps up, stands in front of the whiteboard,...

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Jun 4th, 2022

How You Know That You Are An Entrepreneur

A few weeks ago, I bought a 1979 first edition copy of the wonderful book “50 Classic Climbs in North America” on eBay. The book is long out of print, the purchase was a steal, and the book is truly outstanding, inspiring, and just wants me to go and climb all the fifty climbs.

My first thought, when flipping through the book, was: “I should reach out to the two authors and see if I can get them to agree to doing a reprint — a beautifully produced collector’s edition. That would be so cool and so much fun.”

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May 25th, 2022

To Commit, Let Go

You heard the old lore that “every overnight success is a five to ten year story in the making” countless times. The reason people keep repeating it over and over again — ad nausea — is that it’s real and easily forgot. It simply is a much better story when thing happen instantly — unicorns made in a year within founding, founders turning into millionaires only a few months of them coming up with their world-changing idea. The reality is, of course, that stuff takes time. And not only time, but true commitment. And committing to something, also means that...

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May 11th, 2022

How to Combat “Squirrel Brain”

In our last dispatch about Kevin Kelly’s wonderful list of 103 things he learned in his 70 years, I made a comment about a rather common problem among startup founders: Squirrel Brain (also known as “shiny new thing syndrome”). I received a couple of emails from fellow Heretics asking me to dig deeper into the topic as it is not only a common issue but also one which (in the words of one founder) “literally self-destructs startups.”

To get us started, and as it is such a great summarization of the issue, let me continue to quote this founder: “I’ve...

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May 2nd, 2022

The Right Time Is Right Now

Living legend Kevin Kelly turned 70 last week. Kevin is the founding executive editor of era-defining magazine WIRED (and a bunch of other stuff before and after that). To celebrate the occasion, Kevin published 103 pieces of advice he collected over the years. It’s definitely worth reading his list in its entirety, but Kevin starts his list with:

About 99% of the time, the right time is right now.

I have written about this idea and approach here before. When in doubt, begin. When not in doubt, begin. In the vast number of cases, you are...

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Apr 21st, 2022

How To Be (More) Creative

In Walter Isaacson’s seminal Steve Jobs biography, you find Jobs reflecting on creativity:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences, or they have thought more about their experiences, than other people.

The literature backs this — there truly...

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