Another more subtle component of earnestness is informality. Informality is much more important than its grammatically negative name implies. It's not merely the absence of something. It means focusing on what matters instead of what doesn't.
What formality and affectation have in common is that as well as doing the work, you're trying to seem a certain way as you're doing it. But any energy that goes into how you seem comes out of being good. That's one reason nerds have an advantage in doing great work: they expend little effort on seeming anything. In fact that's basically the definition of a nerd.
Nerds have a kind of innocent boldness that's exactly what you need in doing great work. It's not learned; it's preserved from childhood. So hold onto it. Be the one who puts things out there rather than the one who sits back and offers sophisticated-sounding criticisms of them. "It's easy to criticize" is true in the most literal sense, and the route to great work is never easy.
Good product managers:
- innovate. design from first principles (not copycat features)
- concern themselves with delivery more than scrum adherence
- set a vision for what the product aims to be (while still shipping the now)
- work with (and learn from!) marketing, sales, and support to impact revenue and overall customer experience
- motivate, not micro task manage
Project managers pretending to be product managers:
- overly rely on process in hopes the outcome will be good
- delegate tasks, not ownership
- when trying to innovate, they demand breaking down of tasks rather than letting exploration happen (that’s not how creativity works)
- they only talk to product design and engineers, no relationships with the market
- too scared to be accountable to revenue
- never miss a daily stand up but never ship anything meaningful
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
How to show up more, and show up sincerely: reframe commitment as a gift.
Davis says that there are three fears that seem to account for why we can’t commit ourselves to one thing: the fear of regret (worrying that we’ll later regret not committing to something else), the fear of association (worrying over how it will affect our identity, reputation, and sense of control), and the fear of missing out (worrying that “the responsibilities that come with it will prevent us from being everything, everywhere, with everyone”).
There’s good news, though. “On the other side of these fears are great gifts,” Davis says. “On the other side of the fear of regret is the freedom of purpose, on the other side of the fear of association is the comfort of community, and on the other side of the fear of missing out is the joy of depth. These are what await you if you are ready to commit. To remain commitment-less is not a gift to your future self — it’s a denial to your future self the delights of purpose, community, and depth.”