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Do you only do what's expected of you?
Want to know a secret to setting yourself apart?
It's a lot easier than you think.
All you have to do is exceed expectations.
Consistently surpassing expectations can open doors to new opportunities and help you build a strong network.
It starts with a shift in your mindset. To start seeing what's expected as a minimum instead of a target.
Exceeding expectations in everything you do is not about being better than others or earning praise; it's about cultivating a mindset of continuous improvement and personal growth.
When you exceed expectations, you inevitably inspire others around you.
We don't start with this mindset though. There’s little upside to exceeding expectations. I was someone who tried to get by with the minimum amount of effort, maximizing efficiency.
And for a long time, I didn't get any results. I was indistinguishable from people trying the same thing.
I ended up getting my first job out of school by exceeding expectations. Instead of applying for the job and waiting, I had multiple conversations with the head of the team and was doing research on the industry. I shared what I was learning. It paid off.
Things changed once I started working there.
When you work in professional services, this becomes one of the things you are always thinking about. How do we deliver above and beyond the client's expectations?
At Critical Mass, it was called the "Ask Plus". We explicitly determined at the start what we were going to deliver in addition to what they wanted. How we were going to exceed expectations.
I've carried that mentality with me ever since.
You can too.
Students spent the last session refining their problem-solving skills as they continued to tackle World Hunger in our second session about the world’s biggest problems. Since it was an activity-heavy session, I’m instead including some interesting things I’ve been reading lately.
[A] Prompt is a sequence of prefix tokens that increase the probability of getting desired output given input. Therefore we can treat them as trainable parameters and optimize them directly on the embedding space
I spent a few hours digging into prompt engineering the other night while trying to coax ChatGPT to think from first principles. This is a good resource from Lilian Weng, an Applied Research Lead at OpenAI. She breaks down how certain prompts work from a technical perspective and how to improve the "performance" of LLMs with specific techniques. I have a feeling prompt engineering will be the next form of digital literacy that sets people apart in terms of the ability to create unique output. Like those who know their way around Google search hacks.
Quality will always be hard, but don't you want to make something great?
The one topic I nerd out on more than any is craft and quality. Doing good work is fundamentally important to me and Paul discusses the challenges of creating high-quality software. The larger the team you work on, the harder this becomes as you get layers of bureaucracy and competing priorities. And yet it's still possible. Apple does it. Pixar does it. It's rare, but doable. Paul highlights some of the ways we can do this when building products.
The index mindset is comfortable – avoiding decisions requires the least amount of effort. But if you index across every domain, you lose any differentiating features, becoming little more than an average of everyone else.
If you've heard of index investing, you might know its benefits and core ideas. You spread out risk at the sacrifice of gains. You put yourself in the middle of the bell curve, aiming for the average. In some areas of life, there are benefits to this. But as Bob Seawright writes, “the index mindset forgets that long tails drive everything and that risk and reward tend to correlate. [It] offers no framework for determining when we shouldn’t index … when the juice is worth the squeeze.” If you like the article, I also suggest checking out The age of average.
What I'm Reading
I usually have multiple books on the go. For this month I'm trying to "theme" some of my reading around exponential tech's impact on the future. I want to have my mind primed for MOONSHOT SEASON which starts in just over a week.
Outlive by Peter Attia
I've written about Peter Attia before — he coined the term healthspan and has been doing much research with his patients on the field of longevity. This is his new book. It's a bit like a practical handbook on living longer while going deep into the technicalities of areas such as the most common diseases. He introduces the idea of Medicine 3.0, where we need to move beyond Randomly Controlled Trials and into probabilistic, preventative medicine if we want to save lives. This podcast is a good introduction.
The Exponential Age by Azeem Azhar
I've been a longtime reader of Azeem Azhar's newsletter Exponential View where he discusses the impacts of exponential technology on society, politics, and business. This book offers some frameworks for thinking about the changes we are seeing. While I enjoy his newsletter, the book isn't offering me a ton of new things. It feels self-evident in many ways — exponential technological change leads to a chaotic transition where firms that adopt early survive and thrive, and those that don't get left behind. Social norms and laws often can't keep up with this transition. We are seeing the ramifications of this now.
I acknowledge that anything in a book is almost instantly out of date in this field