I know rain in July feels like an interruption... but it can be a very welcomed chance to pause and reflect halfway through the year. 


Remember this as you think about the last six months, the next six months and beyond:

"No one's gonna give a damn in July if you lost a game in March."

That's from Earl Weaver, THE quintessential baseball manager... short, angry, and grizzled. But wildly successful. Also thrown out of 91 games, a MLB record. 

Seriously, let it go. 

In this week's edition of the World's Best Newsletter (#37):

1. Inertia becomes her.
2. If your customers can live without you...
3. "But, we're a meritocracy!"
4. How to boost female tech hires by 80%
5. The origin of Barbie was a high-end German call girl
6. How Slack did it
7. Why you can't write.
8. Quote of the week: When your daughter asks you if she's pretty

It's a doozy.



1. Inertia becomes her.

"If you're the category leader your enemy is complacency.
If you're stuck in the back of the race, your enemy is fear."


Every category contains leaders, those in the middle of the pack, and those in the back. Bringing up the rear are either emerging brands or those on their way out. 

Ultimately only two emerge in a two-horse race for leadership, while others get forgotten. (Coke and Pepsi.)

Third place and beyond is a dangerous place. It can be profitable, but it's filled with complacency. It's no place for market leaders or disruptive brands. I love this article by Paul Friederichsen, partner at the Blake Project. 

Be sure to read the story about a disruptive floor covering brand. Sexy stuff.

2. If your customers can live without you...

Relevant to the prior article is this hard truth in HBR, written during the recession in 2010. But, still highly relevant today.

If your customers can live without you, eventually they will.

If you do business the way everybody else does business, you’ll never do any better.

If your company went out of business, would anybody notice?

Just apply this thinking to marketing. If buyers don't need it, they will live without it. If you didn't exist, they wouldn't notice. If you do it like everybody else, well, you know how that goes. Read more.

3. "But, we're a meritocracy!"

A study out of MIT found that organizations who claim they govern by meritocracy, selecting workers on the basis of their ability, end up dramatically favoring men when it comes to hiring, promotions, and raises. They call it the Paradox of Meritocracy.

Researchers believe this is due to managers who believe they themselves are more impartial, and are therefore less self-aware and less likely to root out and bust their biases. 

"Meritocracy doesn't exist in Silicon Valley." 



4. How to boost female tech hires by 80%

Diversity. Yeah that. So many companies being called out for a lack of it, others not sure it applies to them. Still many more ignoring the problem entirely because they just don't know how to address it. 

In response to that "how do we do it, or where do we start" mentality... I came across this interesting write-up of how Atlassian increased its female tech hires by 80%. 

Here's my summary (please read the full piece to do it justice):

  • Step one: Hire a global head of diversity inclusion (just kidding.)
  • Step two: Admit you're not a meritocracy (see above link.)
  • Step three: Start like, right now. If you're starting a company, do it early. Why? Because your diversity debt starts to accrue around the 4th hire, speeds up around #10, and gets really hard after #20.
  • Step four: Diversify who you follow / who you receive advice from / who you network with. 
  • Step five: Give a hoot about diversity. Study issues that women face like the confidence gap. Measure how your efforts are having an impact. 
  • Step six: Get feedback from employees. I know, novel concept. 
  • Step seven: Standardize evaluations. Judge on potential. 
  • Step nine: Try all these amazing things: Make social events more inclusive (they don't all need to be at a bar.) Help introverts in meetings by sending an agenda. Set no-interruption rules. Confront bias. 

There's more. Yes there's more in this jam-packed article. Read it. Bookmark it. 

Wait, where are you going? 

You've got to read or at least share that article. Stop giving startup founders excuses for not tackling diversity. 

Moving on.

5. The origin of Barbie was a high-end German call girl

I just loved this article because so much consumer marketing is so effective at selling us a version of the truth so convincing that we forget to ask questions... like what could POSSIBLY be the inspiration behind Barbie's completely ridiculous, over-sexualized, unrealistic body shape? 

You know, the one we give to little girls to set them up for a lifetime of low self-esteem and eating disorders? 

That would be an adult novelty toy sold in sex toy shops and bars as a gag gift. YES, this doll was the inspiration for our beloved Barbie. 

"So it turns out Barbie’s original design was based on a German adult gag-gift escort doll named Lilli. That’s right, she wasn’t a dentist or a surgeon, an Olympian gymnast, a pet stylist or an ambassador for world peace. And she certainly wasn’t a toy for little girls…

Unbeknownst to most, Barbie actually started out life in the late 1940s as a German cartoon character created by artist Reinhard Beuthien for the Hamburg-based tabloid, Bild-Zeitung. The comic strip character was known as “Bild Lilli”, a post-war gold-digging buxom broad who got by in life seducing wealthy male suitors."

You know you want to read the full article with pics!


6. How Slack did it

One of my favorite blogs to read is from Boston VC firm Openview. 

In this post, they detail IN-DEPTH how Slack has grown to 1.25M paid users and 4 million active daily users. Remember, they have gone from $0 to a valuation of $4 BILLION in just four years. 

In a nutshell, they leveraged:

  • Their very famous founder (Stewart Butterfield founded Flickr) who brought strong media contacts, combined with excellent product-market fit. It's the word of mouth marketing formula in play. 
  • A distinctive brand voice (personal, memorable, and entertaining.) 
  • Heavy and appropriate use of social media and content, including writing well for Medium

    PS: Writing well for Medium means their articles are personal and real-life, the kind that perform well on Medium. Because of this they often find themselves on Medium's 'Popular on Medium' section or featured in the Daily Digest email that Medium sends to its subscribers. They know the algorithm - high read ratio, high amount of recommends, high comment count. 
  • A smart integration strategy that drives a ton of traffic from visitors looking for companies like Google Drive, Trello, Jira, etc, and ensures their product has a super "sticky" factor.
  • Smart use of paid marketing including PPC, even billboards in the wild and that famous full-page NYT ad "Dear Microsoft."
  • A non-salesy sales process and smart onboarding that ensures a killer free-to-paid user conversion rate.

The article is long and WELL worth the time if you're into SaaS. Let's get SaaSy.


7. Why you can't write.

OK that's an unfair headline.

This article is about why you aren't currently writing as well as you could be.  :) 

Author and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker asks "why is so much writing so hard to understand?" 

Essentially, it comes down to the curse of knowledge. Pinker defines this as "a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know." 

Many in business write poorly as they're stuck in buzzwords, or lacking empathy for the person reading what it is they're writing. Or worse... they don't have anyone specific in mind when they write it. 

To tackle this:

  • Use examples to illustrate what the f*ck you're talking about
  • Read your own writing - if something isn't clear to you, it won't be to your reader
  • Get in the habit of adding a few words of explanation to common technical terms


8. Quote of the week: When your daughter asks you if she's pretty

This is for my many friends with daughters:

When your daughter asks you if she’s pretty, looking like the universe is weighing down her little bones with insecurity, resist the urge to say “Ofcourse, darling, Ofcourse you are.”

Tell her instead: “Everyday, I bless the stars that fell apart to allow your body’s embers to glow to come to life.”

Tell her instead: “In the 7 billion that exist on this planet you are the only one of your kind.”

Tell her instead: “You are so much more than pretty. The stars that gave you to me made you to be like the sun. You are their best ever masterpiece. You aren’t pretty. You are inspiring.

- Poet, Nikita Gill

Have a great weekend. 


PS: Will I see you at any of these upcoming events?


BONUS: Tuesday next week, July 18, join me at the inaugural Engagio meetup with Jon Miller CEO of Engagio hosted by Building Engines in Waltham.