Run Less Software
The $200 million software company Intercom was built on an engineering philosophy called Run Less Software. In explaining the Run Less Software, Intercom’s Engineering Director uses the following analogy. “Let’s say I’m a soldier in medieval times,” he writes. “In theory, I can choose 1 of 5 swords. It would be incredibly foolish of me to bring all 5 of those swords into battle with me.”
The Run Less Software philosophy is all about doing less, better. And that’s what this week’s newsletter is all about too.
Make A’s In Fewer Things
In 2008, Matthew McConaughey got a call from his film production office. He reached to pick up the phone, but his hand paused midreach when he saw the caller ID. He didn’t want to answer it. He let the call go to voicemail then called his lawyer. “I’m shutting down the production company immediately,” he said. “Shut down j.k. livin Records as well.” It was too much. “I had five things on my proverbial desk to tend to daily: family, foundation, acting, a production company, and a music label,” McConaughey writes in Greenlights. “I felt like I was making B’s in all five. By shutting down the production company and the music label, I eliminated two of my five commitments with plans to make A’s in the other three.” He began to focus entirely on his family, his foundation, and his acting career. “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate,” he writes. “Alright, alright, alright.”
Funnel Your Energy
Mr. Beast, who has the fifth most YouTube subscribers in the world, mentors other YouTubers. A month after he started helping a YouTuber, Mr. Beast shared before and after monthly stats. Before Mr. Beast’s help, the YouTuber got 4.6M views and made a little over $24,000. With Mr. Beast’s help, the YouTuber got 45.7M views and made over $400,000. Mr. Beast was asked: what kind of advice does he give these YouTubers he helps? He said he helps them better funnel their energy into making better videos. “Because YouTube is trying to serve people the best content,” he said. “They don’t want to serve you 100 lame videos. They want to serve you 1 good one. So it’s all about helping them make their videos really good.” To do that, “I help them build out a little team,” he said. “Because, think about it: if you’re doing five jobs, you can only put 20% of your time into each. But if you hire an editor who can put 100% of their time into editing—even if the editor is 20% worse than you at editing, the editor will still do a way better job because that’s where all their time is going. That editor is able to obsess over it—you can’t spend 10 hours editing a video, but they can.”
The Moment The Bulls Became A Championship Team
Throughout Michael Jordan’s first five seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls had a run of back to back to back losing seasons, fired three head coaches, and were swept in the first round of the playoffs twice. Then, in Jordan’s sixth season, after a 21-point loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls were sitting in ninth place in the conference, completely out of playoff contention. The day after the loss to the Pistons, Bulls’ head coach Phil Jackson, as the Chicago Tribune reported, “named center Bill Cartwright a co-captain along with Michael Jordan, who had held the job by himself.” The Bulls won twelve of their next thirteen games. Then after an 11-game winning streak then a 9-game winning streak, they finished first place in their conference with a franchise-best 61-21 record. After sweeping the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs and knocking off the 76ers in just five games in the second round, the Bulls swept the Pistons in the Conference Finals. They lost game 1 against the Lakers then won the next four to win the 1991 NBA Finals. As Sam Walker, author of The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership, said, “If you looked at the numbers, just purely the numbers and asked, what’s the moment the Bulls became a championship team? You would point to the day Cartwright was named co-captain. It was that day. It’s clear as a bell. That’s when Jordan became good—when he was allowed to be the star and someone else was taking care of the duties of management.” “Bill,” Jordan wrote of that ’90 season, “made all the difference.”
A Fellow With Mere Brains
In 1986, Richard Hamming gave a talk on how to do high quality work for a long time. The talk was informed by his experience working with Nobel Prize winners, interviewing the great minds of his time, and studying the greats of all time. “Most of you in this room,” Hamming said, “probably have more than enough brains to do first class work. But great work is something else than mere brains.” Hamming tells the story of a fellow with mere brains. “He took me into his office and showed me his method of getting letters done and how he took care of his correspondence,” Hamming says. “He was bragging about how marvelous it was and how he could get so much work done without the secretary’s interference.” Hamming told him, you are being a fool: let the support staff support you. If you do less, Hamming told him, you will go much further. “And, he never went any further,” Hamming writes. “You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There’s no question about this.”
If You Send Reinforcements Everywhere, You Will Everywhere Be Weak
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says, “for should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.” Everywhere means nowhere. Concentrate your forces. Pick 1 Sword. Make A’s in fewer things. Funnel your energy. Do less, better.