Episode #276: Scott Belsky – How To Find Your Way Through The Hardest Part Of Any Venture (The Messy Middle)

Scott Belsky is a polymath. He’s an executive, entrepreneur, author, and investor (and all-around product obsessive). He currently serves as Adobe’s Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President, Creative Cloud. Scott co-founded Behance in 2006, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. Alongside his role at Adobe, Scott is a Venture Partner at Benchmark – a venture capital firm based in San Francisco.

Fast Company’s list of “100 Most Creative People in Business.”

Scott is also the author of the international bestselling book Making Ideas Happen.  His most recent book is titled, The Messy Middle.

Scott actively advises and invests in businesses that cross the intersection of technology and design, and help empower people, among other criteria. In addition to Scott’s work with Benchmark, he is an early investor and advisor in Pinterest, Uber, and Periscope (now part of Twitter) as well as several others in the early stages.

He attended Cornell University as an undergraduate and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

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“Management is about people. You have to be at a personal level when you’re a manager. It doesn’t scale. It’s not supposed to.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • The ability to sustain curiosity – “you need to keep paying attention with a tuned up curiosity.”
    • “They say no more often”
  • “Get into the motion of trying things instead of perfecting things.”
  • How to compartmentalize?
    • “I build windows of time in my day to not pay attention to anything but the deep work. No email, no social media, no checking book sales.”
  • On flights, dedicate time to deep work
    • No wifi, this is alone time to do work
    • Odd reward mechanisms: “I only allow myself to listen to certain music when it’s time to write.  When I’ve accomplished deep work for hours, I reward myself with treats. But only after the work is done.”
  • Answering the “what do you do” question:
    • “I am obsessed with products.”
    • Adobe purchased his company, Behance
    • Seed investor
    • Best selling author
    • “I help creatives create”
  • How to pursue a side hustle when you work at a big company?
    • “Every person needs to be their authentic self”
    • “You have to feed it. The thing that distracts you. The thing you stay up late to keep working on because you love it.  That’s where you should continue to give energy.”
    • “A labor of love is always worth it.”
  • The Messy Middle — 820 Evernote notes whittled down to the most effective 120 pieces.
  • Making the leap from individual contributor to manager:
    • “Don’t depersonalize it when you become a manager.  A team is like a carefully crafted immune system.”
    • “Management is about people.  You have to be at a personal level when you’re the manager.  It doesn’t scale.  It’s not supposed to.”
    • “Don’t do reviews, do regular check ins… How’s it going?”
  • “The stories are the culture of your team.  You’re the amplifier of the stories.”
  • Qualities to look for in a person to hire:
    • “Every conversation with that person should be more interesting than the last one.  They should become continually more interesting.”
    • “There is value on analysis & strategy… But equally important is empathy & intuition.”
    • Intuition = truthfulness with self.  High level of self awareness. Be willing to seek feedback.  Be truthful with yourself.
  • “A successful creative entity must be comfortable alternating between the two creative phases: Ideation and Execution.”
    • Walt Disney mastered this.
    • “Stimulate people to think differently.  Help people suspend disbelief in themselves.  What if we did this 100X better?” – Larry Page
  • The importance of “staying in the early innings” — “We’re just getting started.”  This encourages people to keep trying new things.
  • “Hire people for initiative rather than experience.”
  • “Anything extraordinary ever achieved comes from ordinary means.”
  • Advice for young professionals — Find these three overlaps:
    • Figure out what you’re genuinely interested in.  What do you stay up doing for fun?
    • What skills do you have or could possess through learning?
    • What is the opportunity?
      • “Take the steps to get into that overlap”
      • Don’t make short term money decisions.  Find the overlap over the extra $10K in salary
  • Why we all should have a common place journal
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

Get into the motion of trying things instead of perfecting things.”

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Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom