Efficiency obsession: Power Reading

My biggest quirk is this stupid obsession with efficiency. I’ve spoiled every aspect of my life because of this, and the saddest part is that I enjoy it. When I have a new toy the joy of discovering it ends pretty fast, and I just want to learn how to get the most out of it afterwards. Most of the times, I don’t even need to apply that knowledge; just learning, discussing and testing it is more than enough.

I do it with almost every aspect of my life. When a get a new video game and I enjoy the mechanics, I start learning and theorising how to min max it. How to get the most spending the least time, how to break its virtual economy with handmade cost-related spreadsheets, etc. When I walk, I always think the fastest way to get somewhere, even when there’s no hurry. When I have several episodes of a TV show pending, I watch them at 1.5x. Daenerys listing her titles improves at 1.5, believe me.

And obviously, it also affects my career. I won’t talk about its implications for my daily work now, but how it changes how I face my continuous learning. I’m in the first steps in my career and have plenty of free time, so I usually try to spend a fair amount of it trying new technologies, reading about last trends, doing courses and reading. It’s not always related to my field (like The game or The Book of Five Rings), but instead of reading fantasy literature (which I love doing), I’m focusing on amazing papers that teach me something.

But how is my stupid efficiency obsession affecting my reading? I don’t know how familiar are you with power reading techniques, but lately, I’ve been following this one. I’ve always been a fast reader, although my speed is heavily hammered with technical English-written books. That’s why lately I’ve been trying some of these techniques, to get better comprehension and faster assimilation of the concepts.

I know, the main concern is: you should be enjoying the reading, not rushing it! And that’s completely fair. But as I said, the main reason for reading these books is to increase my expertise in an area, expanding my knowledge, learning new approaches, and summarising the best ideas of it. Power reading achieves all these purposes, along with training a very useful skill in my opinion: reading a really long text and assimilating its key concepts.

“But reading fast is really easy, you only have to skip some paragraphs and voilà!”. I’ve also been there. I remember my tedious maths reads, and how I tried to skip everything that didn’t seem enough important. But this time, I have another powerful tool: this blog. For every of this book that I read, I force myself to think about a lesson learnt post, and I start writing a bullet point list of the main subjects and the things I enjoyed the most. Even if I don’t polish and publish the post, it forces me to understand and pay attention to the read!

May the force be with you,

Gino

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Why a startup

I consider myself a lucky guy for numerous reasons, one of them is the luxury of have been working on energetic companies where most people want to change things and the stakeholders give you enough freedom to try your experiments. That gives I ended joining a startup, which is the final representation of this responsibility and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I like to say that startups give you as many perks than difficulties, but at this stage of my life and career it’s the situation that best suits my experimentation craving.

To be more precise, I have to point that this startup is between series A and B, the moment when you have to refine or redo your model to verify its viability. You have enough money to keep going, and the first investors reviewing you. That constraint you to act as bold as previously, but you still need to innovate and find solutions for problems that no one in the organisation has ever solved.

That given say I want to talk today about what is the key feature that seduces me about startups, the one keeps me addicted. Because let’s be honest, some of the is perks can be found no nowadays in some amazing companies, and there you won’t have most of the downsides. But there’s something I haven’t found anywhere else, and I’m quite sure that there’s not in the list you’re thinking right now.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t love the blank canvas that a startup represents for most of the processes and practices, allowing you to experiment and refining one while learning in the process; even if it carries loads of responsibility and commitment. It neither means that I don’t enjoy the challenge of being the only one of my kind, constantly pushing me or of the comfort zone to try a new solution; even if I miss some feedback from a peer to learn better solutions combining different approaches.

But what fills in this experience is the family feeling that the situation produce. We’re most of us on the same boat, facing equivalent challenges and committing to the same insane degree. We know each other, spend as much time as possible and bond way stronger than many corporations that spends thousands on team building activities. A sad face will always fire someone’s alarm, and they will try to cheer you up. Any laugh will be contagious, and any clash obvious for everyone. That’s why friction can easily destroy organisations, and culture can achieve miracles that only startups deliver.

This has become more obvious to me now that we’ve moved to our own office. Instead of an incubator with some commodities (and some problems), we have our space to shape and customise, where we share any activities like cleaning, organising or dealing with lunch. Now after I meeting I’ll be washing some mugs, and every single time I’m going to hear someone asking if I need a hand. Now a colleague will immediately wake up when I’m carrying lunch, and it’s unusual seeing one of us coming back from a walk without bringing something for someone. It’s a workspace manage like a home, evolving your colleagues to family members.

Obviously, this is not everyone’s cup of tea, and this situation makes even easier to spot the people who don’t want to bond with the family. There’s no hard feeling, I understand that people doesn’t need to be like me, and every situation and context is completely unique, but for me, this is the key benefit of working in a startup. This is what makes the difference. And that’s why, when it dies (and, as everything, the lack of commitment or investment would kill it), the organisation stops sounding appealing for me, and the other perks won’t probably even out for me.

And with this, guys, I want to thank you for being part of my family. It doesn’t matter if we share a lunch, a month or a life; you’ve contributed to shaping me and you have undoubtedly thought me something. So thank you for making me the one who I am now because I really rock.

May the force be with you,
Gino