My favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.
After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.
However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.
In the late 1990s, my first product management job was helping to roll out high-speed internet nationwide when it became a viable (and highly desired) alternative to dial-up services. We went from providing 300 lines monthly to more than 3,000 — all in a window of about 60 days. I quickly learned how to balance staying on a strategic course and managing the endless minutiae that was required to get each customer up and running.
I had always been a leader, so handling the stress and responsibility was natural for me — but I had a lot to learn about focusing my efforts on what mattered most. I soon realized that with great accountability comes great autonomy. It was up to me to prioritize what needed to get done and when.
This is great news for ambitious product managers: You have more control than you might think, no matter how hectic each day feels.
Here are five things great product managers do. Used consistently, these actions can help you prioritize your work every day and thrive.
1. Align actions to goals
To succeed as a product manager it is essential to take a goal-first approach. Prioritize what must get done that day and assess and align new work against your goals. Swiftly break through the endless tasks and chatter by evaluating each request or demand through the lens of your goals. This does not mean you should shut down disruptions as “noise” to be silenced. Embrace the interruptions that align with your goals — one may be the missing idea that makes your product wildly successful in market.
2. Connect the dots
Understand how your product serves your business — the big picture of why you are building it. This may seem obvious, but without that connection, product managers are often led astray by differing opinions, demands from internal teams, and conflicting customer feedback. Identify why your product matters to your business and to customers so you can navigate with a steady mind.
3. Solve one simple problem
You may be tempted to solve every problem for your customers. But you cannot be all things to all people. You will spread yourself too thin and lose that firm direction. Instead, focus on solving one problem at a time. I like to say, “Focus on one problem, and solve the second for free.” Tackle one problem well and new opportunities will emerge.
4. Learn from others
Invest the time and effort to learn about your product team’s core work so you can set realistic deadlines. This is especially important for teams that share resources. Ask questions and get to know the full scope of their experience and tasks. It is also important to admit what you do not know. Rely on the expertise of your extended product team to help you deliver on the promise of your product.
5. Say “no” with confidence
Not every idea will be meaningful. And, in fact, most will be lousy. Great product managers understand that saying “no” is not a one-word answer. This is your chance to explain why the idea does not make sense within your strategic direction. Do not hide from these conversations or be dismissive. Take each “no” as an opportunity to recommit to your goals — and to re-evaluate whether your aim is true.
I know this advice to be effective — but hard to follow. So be kind to yourself when you feel cornered or stuck. Stick out your chest and remember that you have more control than you think and a team at your side.
You too can achieve the quiet power that separates good product managers from great ones. Never lose sight of your goals and embrace each day with humility and strength. Now go get busy.
Discover your own power as a product manager.
The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every person who has ever been successful — lies in the fact that they formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.
— Albert E.N. Grey
No matter what you want to accomplish in life, it’s going to involve discomfort:
A great career or business requires hard work.
A healthy body needs exercise and foods you don’t necessarily like.
Meaningful relationships need vulnerability and compromises.
In fact, anything worthwhile often requires that you do what you don’t want to do.
And that can be hard.
But it doesn’t have to be.
I used to take my thoughts very seriously. Whenever one of them popped into my head, I’d immediately identify with it and perceive it as the “truth.”
If a thought told me I was tired and bored, I’d immediately look for a way out.
Because of that, I don’t take my thoughts as seriously as I used to.
And that, in turn, has made a huge difference in my subsequent behavior and the results I get.
These days, when my mind tells me I’m restless and should do something else, I simply thank it for the suggestion and then get back to the task at hand.
It’s never the discomfort that stops you; it’s how you perceive the discomfort.
You can assign whatever meaning you want to discomfort.
I used to believe it was a signal that I should stop.
These days, I believe it’s a signal that I should keep going.
I’ve decided that anytime I feel discomfort, that just means I’ve stepped into my mental gym and that it’s time for my mental resistance training.
Willpower is a lot like muscle power. The more you exercise it, the stronger it will get.
If you practice it for an extended period of time, you can change your behavior around completely.
You’ll be able to do what others dread doing and to stay away from things that others can’t resist doing.
That level of self-control is exactly what’s needed to become a remarkable person and create extraordinary results.
So, how do you get started?
He who sweats more in training bleeds less in war.
— Spartan Warrior Creed
The best way to practice mental resistance training is through voluntary hardship. Here are a few examples:
These are just a few ideas to help you come up with your personal mental resistance training.
The important thing is that you choose one and commit to it.
And just like in a physical gym, you don’t want to use the heaviest weights right away.
There’s no point getting overwhelmed or injured.
If your willpower muscle is weak right now, it’s perfectly fine to start by making your bed each morning. Or reading one page in a book. Or flossing one tooth.
If you’re thinking to yourself right now; “I’m not the kind of person who practices voluntary discomfort,” be very mindful of the fact that this is the same voice you want to take control over.
Don’t take it as literal truth. Remember — it’s just a suggestion. And it’s entirely within your power what you do with that suggestion.
If you choose to take action despite what your mind is telling you, it holds no power over you.
You can decide to perceive discomfort as mental resistance training from this moment forward.
And each time you push through the resistance, you’ll notice that you’ll get a little bit stronger.
If you stick to the practice consistently, with time, it’ll become second nature to do what you don’t want to do.
You’ll become a relentless action-taker.
And that’s when you can turn your most desired goals into reality.
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Patrik Edblad is a certified mental trainer and writer. He helps people use research-backed strategies to become healthier, happier and more productive at Selfication.com. Grab your free copy of his book The Science of Willpower: Proven Strategies to Beat Procrastination & Get Big Things Done.
BY JESSICA DANG
Your answer to this question is crucial.
It can determine whether or not your life’s work is contributing to you living to your full potential. In his book Springboard, Wharton School Professor G. Richard Shell argues that this question is essential to finding personal meaning and satisfaction. And that’s not as simple as most people think.
To illustrate, imagine three people who have been working hard for several years — Alex, Ben, and Catherine.
Who do you identify most with?
Notice that there isn’t any mention of each person’s pay or profession. Research conducted by Yale University Professor Amy Wrzesniewski showed that most randomly selected groups divide themselves up almost exactly into thirds, no matter what they do, or how much they are paid. Indeed, some people from exactly the same workplace felt differently about the same job. It’s not always so clear-cut.
For example, Ben could be a trainee lawyer who feels like he has his whole career ahead of him. He’s only worked for two years, and has shown promise. Maybe he’ll make partner one day, if he just works hard enough. He’s proud of his profession, even though the hours exhaust him. He would say that his career is his priority right now. His best friend in the next cubicle feels differently. He finds the work tedious and pointless.
Catherine could be a doctor working in a ward that is always full of sick children. She works long hours, sometimes with only a few hours of sleep, but it’s worth it if she gets to save lives. She can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s her calling. Yes, she earns a fair amount, but it’s not the money that’s most important to her. Last night, she was bonding with her best friend Karen about how much they love their jobs. Karen is an administrator for the local government.
You might imagine that most people on lower incomes would consider themselves as just having a ‘job,’ but down the hallway from Catherine the doctor, the janitor finishes up cleaning the floor. Nobody really pays attention to him, but if they did, they would hear him humming away happily. Even though his job can be tiring at times, he loves it because the ward needs to stay clean so that the doctors can properly do their jobs, and the janitor gets to do his part in saving lives. It’s his calling too.
In fact, people can feel differently about their work at different times in their lives, and their perceptions can shift over time as their personal lives change and they seek different goals than when they first started in a job. Ben could focus on his law career for 10 years, and then realize that he has sacrificed a lot for the sake of it. He loses sight of why he wanted to be a lawyer in the first place, and over the years his career has become just a job to him. Now he’s just doing it because he doesn’t know anything else, and the money is good, but perhaps there are more important things in life than living hard and fast. He’ll be looking for his calling soon.
It’s not easy to work out whether you have a job, a career, or a calling. Things that matter to you now might not matter as much later, and vice-versa. In the long run, only you will know what is right for you. If you’re lucky enough to find your calling — work that you enjoy and that can support you financially — then you are better than two-thirds of the people in the workforce. And you’re well on your way to finding success and happiness.
by EMMA ORLANDO
Being fearless enough to chase what you want is the ultimate goal for all of us. But in reality, leaving your comfort zone to get everything you want just isn’t that easy. Tired of letting your doubts stop you from reaching your full potential? Fed up of thinking about what could have been? Or, do you just need to face a new chapter? Here’s a 10-step routine for getting what you want, which will help you achieve your goals and dreams faster than ever before!
Before you can go after what you want, you have to be sure it’s definitely the right thing for you. Map out what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there. It will make the end goal much clearer.
Once you know what you want, the initial changes don’t have to be too drastic. Ease yourself in by making little changes every day. Wake up earlier, write to-do lists and take time for yourself. These small changes can make a huge difference.
Whilst you are taking things into your own hands, you may find that you need the help of others too. To get what you want you can’t be afraid to ask for what you need. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Knowing what you want and achieving it are two very different things. You have to be prepared to work hard and never give up. Your willpower will be tested like never before. Believe in yourself and persevere.
No matter how big or small, to reach to your end goal you have to celebrate every bit of success along the way. This way, you will keep up a positive mindset and be all the more likely to get what you want.
The road to getting what you want is bound to be a bumpy one. Come to terms with the fact that you win some and lose some, instead see it as a new challenge to prove yourself. With this mindset, you will be far more likely to get what you want in the long run.
Just because something is what you once wanted, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. It’s okay to change your mind. Make sure you regularly ask yourself, ‘will this make me happy?’ and ‘is it worth it?’ This way, you will know exactly how to get what you want.
To get where you want, you have to make sure you are surrounding yourself with people that help get you there. Remove anybody that refuses to help you move forward, celebrate your success or help to pick you up when you are down. You will be surprised how others can stop you from getting what you want.
Being determined to get what you want is great, but you have to make sure you aren’t working too hard to get there and neglecting your social needs. Find that perfect work-life balance and you will find your goals much easier to achieve.
Often, we can become so focused on getting what we want that we forget to appreciate what we have. Take a step back, appreciate what you have achieved and you may find that what you want may already be something you have.
Throughout history and around the world, men and women have always sought status and recognition. But in the modern era, the yardstick is almost always the same: economic success.
More bluntly, money.
The benefits of money and status are obvious: freedom, resources, comfort, time, attention, and deference. A lack of status, on the other hand — even if it is only perceived — can lead to sadness, anxiety, and even depression.
Our capitalist system thrives on the pursuit of status. Entrepreneurs take elaborate risks in the pursuit of great rewards. Consumers buy superfluous products — especially luxury brands — they believe confer prestige. The pursuit of status motivates us to develop our talents, work hard, demonstrate excellence, and achieve worthy goals.
In today’s increasingly affluent society, however, our ideas about what are “essential” constantly change.
For example, consider the percentage of Americans who believed the following items were necessities in 1970:
If these were nonessential to Americans 45 years ago, why do hundreds of millions consider them necessities today?
It’s not just that these things make our lives easier and more comfortable. Many folks would feel embarrassed or ashamed to be without them.
Our sense of happiness is based on comparing ourselves to others. Unfortunately, that is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.
The problem with making economic success the foundation of personal happiness is that a) you cannot control the economy and b) most companies eventually fail. Needless to say, this undermines job security and financial well-being.
While life will always be uncertain, there is a simple and effective cure for status anxiety: changing the way you think.
Every time we feel satisfied with what we have, however little that may be, we can count ourselves rich.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted there are two ways to make a man wealthier: Give him more money or curb his desires. Or, as Socrates declared as he passed the expensive goods on sale in the Athens agora, “How many things I can do without!”
As for other people’s opinions, whether you get the recognition you believe you deserve is out of your control. But if you haven’t done anything that deserves contempt or disrespect, what difference does it make what someone else thinks?
An obsessive pursuit of status may not just be a waste of time. It could be a waste of a life.
About the Author: Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters, and Beyond Wealth, that show you how to lead a “rich” life during trying economic times.