I regularly reflect on what I have experienced to extract patterns and ideas to guide my next steps. I have two goals: 1) enjoy life with loved ones and 2) build extraordinary things. Balancing these two things is hard, so most of my reflections are about the tension between them. Year by year, my thinking evolves. This could probably be ten posts, but I’m writing for myself more than anyone else, so there is no need to optimize for engagement 😉 This is my latest iteration:

Always play the long game♟️ Or: “Be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details,” as Jeff Besoz put it. If you combine this with “build with leverage,” you quickly realize that you should hire for all non-strategic activities if you want to create something huge. I avoid ever finding myself doing repetitive manual work. I still think you need to learn by doing many things yourself. You cannot build a business around something you do not understand. Get your hands dirty. Just do not get stuck doing the same thing over and over. It accumulates no value and comes with zero leverage. Hire for such tasks. I "squint" a lot. What I mean by that is I deliberately do not see most of the details. A practical example: I do not always pay my bills on time if I'm busy with something more substantial. Sure, I might get slapped with a late fee, but if the leverage on what I'm doing exceeds that late fee, I'm happy to pay it. I even did this when I had much less money than today. There are long periods when I let nothing distract me from the high-leverage activity I'm engaged in. I will postpone everything else until I'm done. I should add that I'm not judging, i.e., there can be great pleasure in craftsmanship. If you get joy from perfecting a task, you should do it. All I’m saying is that it is pretty unlikely it will lead to an extraordinary impact.

Talk a lot about your feelings ❤️‍🩹 Almost all situations have an emotional component, so it’s helpful to express your feelings. Share them with loved ones, coworkers, and friends. Doing so helps to build trust, understanding, and connection. And it makes you much more resilient.

There is never enough money 💸 I've set new goals for myself every year for as long as I can remember. Some of them have been related to money. Get a salary of a minimum of $X/month. Buy a house for $Y million. Pay off all my student debt before turning 30. Not so humble but relevant context: I was a millionaire without student debt by 30. As you progress, I promise you that you will always find a new level you haven't reached that becomes your new desire. I have learned that you have to balance such goals with goals for quality of life. As much as I want to reach specific financial goals, I also want to make sure I am taking time to appreciate the people in my life.

Value comes from scarcity 1️⃣ I know, I know, everyone knows about supply and demand. But I still regularly fail to remember this simple thing. To create something extraordinarily valuable, you have to be unique. You have to constantly work on your positioning to find a "blue ocean"” Relentless experimentation is required since new things aren't found by looking at what others do. It can only be found by independently trying new things. Ask your customers as often as you can, "What do you think of our offering? Is it similar to something else? What is it most similar to?" Virtually all companies are similar to someone else, so be paranoid and persistent when asking. Then work on your positioning in relation to others until you look like nothing else. Some might say, "we care too much about the competition." Only listen to those people if you are accused of copying the competition. Copying has very low returns. Care about the competition by way of being different. If your offering overlaps, move in a new direction.

A one-in-a-million outcom requires betting and luck 🍀 Successful people usually have a powerful internal locus of control, i.e., they believe that their actions and decisions directly and significantly influence their behavior, choices, and outcomes. While that is true for most of the area under the curve, outliers are primarily random. Serendipitous timing and coincidence play a considerable part. Of course, luck in the hands of a passive person will not make much of a difference. You can manufacture some amount of luck by seeking the right circumstances. But excellent performance may not be enough to reach the one-in-a-million outcome you dream about. You also need a fair amount of luck, and acknowledging that will make you happier.

Products are not scientific breakthroughs; products wrap new technology in a layer of usability targeting a specific group of users 🔬 Doing research means having the persistence and mental power to push the bleeding edge of human knowledge a tiny bit forward. This image tells you what that is like:

Companies rarely invent new things but frequently retrofit scientific results for commercial use. There is a transition from research to product that usually takes years. The first scientific results are meh. If you squint, you can sort of see a future unicorn. But mostly, it just looks like a very unstable donkey. Year by year, progress is made. At some point, you hit an inflection point where the technology is ready for commercial use. Timing that inflection requires luck. If you find yourself in the right place at the right time, then be prepared to put in an extraordinary amount of work. What you will be doing at this point isn't inventing something new but instead connecting new technology to users in a way that brings them value. Doing that in a scalable way, with strong marketing, sales, and customer success, is the lion's share of building a business. The science part is usually done long before then. Sure, if your company has plenty of cash flow, you can invest in research, but that's very different from product development. Product development is about wrapping new technology in a layer of usability that makes it possible to distribute it scalably.

Build for massive size and a global footprint quickly when you find something promising. Building a global footprint will be necessary to survive, no matter how strong your idea or team is. Competition is ruthless, so you must weaponize money and size to stay ahead. That means seeking places where money and talent come at higher concentration. While the playing field is increasingly leveled as more and more companies adopt remote working policies, networks are still best made on the ground and in person. So start setting up hubs around the world quickly.

Be a prolific creator. Practice expressing your ideas constantly. Write, talk, paint, or record music. Whichever is your preferred medium, create constantly. Do you think a device should be built? Make a prototype and inspire people. Do you think your company should adopt a new strategy? Write it down and pitch it. Do you think a piece of software should exist? Write it and put it into production.

Achievement requires sacrifices. Each individual has to decide what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals. I've realized that while I'm prepared to sacrifice more than most people I've met, there are limits. Deep down, I think moving to San Fransisco would increase my chances of building a global business. But doing that is not more important than my family. I want to be close to my relatives. I want to raise my child in Sweden. When you pick role models, ask yourself, "Does this person value what I value? Am I prepared to make the sacrifices this person has made?". Remind yourself constantly when you look at other people's achievements: "Is the alternative cost of their achievements acceptable to me?".

The world runs on relationships. Forging long-term, strong bonds with other people is one of the most critical differentiators to innovate and build. The benefits include:

The world runs on stories. For millennia we have been telling each other stories. Great leaders have inspired people by crafting a narrative that provides purpose. A core human need is a sense of purpose and inspiration. Without it, we quickly get depressed. We need to believe in something or someone.

Be mindful of what you read. I have tailored my books, apps, and subscriptions to feed me content that will positively shape my thinking. As with food, a healthy diet is varied. Lots of vegetables (business books, technology books, biographies, etc.) but also things like science fiction adventures and really good blogs. Lately, I've mixed in books on mindfulness and longevity. Exposure to specific ideas will shape your thinking, so inspire yourself to think healthy, valuable things.

Pessimists sound smart; optimists make money. This is one of my all-time favorite sayings, credit to Nat Friedman, the founder of GitHub. There is never a shortage of people telling you why something won't work or why something is a bad idea. It takes a special kind of person to focus on the positives, find solutions and make things happen.