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January 24, 2006

Hindsights II: the Learning Continues

It's been a few years since I wrote the Hindsights speech. During these years, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. I am married to the same woman. I have three kids with a fourth on the way. (My youngest is a girl we adopted from Guatemala, and any day now, we are adopting her biological brother.) I've written seven books and made about five hundred speeches. I've started three companies and done another tour of duty at Apple. Finally, I've racked up 1.5 million miles on United Airlines--it's a bad sign when immigration tells you, “There's no more space on your passport; you need to get a new one.”

You'd think that I would have learned something beyond the original ten hindsights, and indeed I have. To this end, here is Hindsights II. If you add these hindsights to the ones in my first speech, you'll have the big things that I've learned in life.

  1. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. When I was working at Apple from 1983 to 1987, the company experienced fantastic highs and dismal lows. Shipping Macintosh was one such high. Apple's first layoff a few years later was a dismal low. But I saw that when things were supposedly great, there were lots of problems that people chose to ignore. Then I saw that during the black days, things weren't that bad: Customers were still buying Macintoshes by the thousands; developers were fairly happy, and most employees weren't affected by the layoffs. (Some employees even thought the layoffs were a good method to clean house.) So I've learned to temper my optimism and my pessimism in my old age.
  2. You can love an adopted child as much as a biological one. A man's contribution to a pregnancy lasts about ten seconds--five if he told the truth--three if you asked the mother. And yet I've met many men who who were skeptical about adoption because they didn't think they could “bond” with a child that didn't have their DNA--ie, the ten-second commitment. This is simply not true: when you hold your precious jewel for the first time, no one cares if none of those chromosomes came from you. Certainly not the baby. Certainly not your wife. So get over it. Your DNA isn't the Holy Grail--to mix several metaphors.
  3. The key to child delivery is one word: “epidural.” We went to the delivery classes; we learned the relaxation techniques; we took the soothing music with us to the hospital. At the end of the day (or, more accurately twenty-six hours), we came to believe that if God wanted every delivery to be natural, She wouldn't have enabled doctors to invent the epidural shot.
  4. People act like their last names sound. People may start to look like their dogs, but I think that they act like their last names sound. For example, I have a buddy named Will Mayall. He helps me with anything technical; for example, when I ask him if he can make my web site or blog do something, his initial response is, “I may be able to” and then two hours later he's done it “all.” Hence, “may all.” Similarly, there's Jean-Louis Gassée. He's a funny guy--always armed with a great (usually sexual) metaphor to explain anything. He is a “gas” for the things that he “says”--hence, “gas say”. Then there's Kawasaki--my high school football teammates told me that I was a “cow's ass sagging.”
  5. If you think someone is an orifice, everyone else does too. When I met people that I didn't like, I wondered if it was me or the person. Perhaps I had gotten her all wrong, and other people liked her, respected her, adored her, whatever. After much investigation, I formulated the Rule of Perfect Information About Orifices; that is, if you think someone is an orifice, pretty much everyone thinks she's an orifice too. There is seldom disagreement about orifices. The same, however, is not true about good guys. If you think someone is a good guy, you should never assume most people agree with you.
  6. Life is too short to deal with orifices. Continuing on the orifice track. I'm now fifty-one years old, so more than half my life is over. There's not enough time left to accommodate orifices--frankly, there's not enough time to take care of the people you like. Why should you waste time with people you don't? So no matter how great a customer, partner, or vendor someone could, or should, be, don't waste time with orifices. They not only waste your time, but they taint your soul for the time you spent with the people you like.
  7. Entrepreneurs are always a year late and 90% high in their “conservative” forecast. I've worked with entrepreneurs who were so green they couldn't run a lemonade stand, and I've worked with entrepreneurs with great track records in brand-name companies. At the end of the day, experience, age, gender, educational background...nothing matters: entrepreneurs are usually a year late in delivering their product, and their financial results are 90% lower than their “conservative” forecast. This isn't necessarily bad--indeed it may be necessary for entrepreneurs to believe their own bull shitake, but it is how things work.
  8. Judge others by their intentions and yourself by your results. If you want to be at peace with the world, here's what you should do. When you judge others, look at what they intended to do. When you judge yourself, look at what you've actually accomplished. This attitude is bound to keep you humble. By contrast, if you judge others by their accomplishments (which are usually shortfalls) and yourself by your intentions (which are usually lofty), you will be an angry, despised little man.
  9. You don't have to answer every email. I am compulsive about answering email. Sometimes I simply can't answer email for weeks, and I feel like slitting my wrists. However, there have been a couple of times where I lost my inbox--copied the wrong file, file got corrupted, whatever--and I was terrified that hundreds of people wouldn't get a response and would be furious. They'd be thinking, “Guy thinks he's such a big shot that he doesn't need to answer email anymore.” I expected to get hatemail for weeks. Do you know what happened? Nothing. Not one pissed-off email. I was amazed. But I am still compulsive about email.
  10. Always use the toilet in an airplane after a woman. This is getting a little vertical, or horizontal, depending on how you want to look at it. Simply put, men pee on the seat. Women don't. And if a woman follows a man who peed on the seat, then she will clean it up before she sits down. If you sit down after her, you're good to go--so to speak.
  11. Never ask people to do something that you wouldn't do. This is the ultimate test for every sales promotion, marketing campaign, engineering design, and employee directive. If you won't do something, don't ask anyone else to do it. I don't care how great your nuclear powered mousetrap is: You wouldn't pay $500,000 for it, go back to school for a PhD in Physics to learn to set it, and drive to the middle of Utah to drop off the dead, toxic mouse. On the flip side, as my buddy Smittie told me, if you do the tough, dirty stuff then (a) employee can't complain; and (b) employees will follow you because they know you would do what you're asking them to do.

Pee Addendum: Hindsights IIa: Many men have written to me that their spouses pee while standing up. Thus, my belief that women pee sitting down is false. And maybe WAY false because a woman peeing standing up is likely to be “less accurate” for reasons of plumbing. All this said, someone once told me that pee is sterile anyway, but I digress.

Written at: Anderson School of Management, UCLA, Los Angeles, California.


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well, I really do not have anything to add to your hint - sights :). Exept that pee is of course a means for sterilization the moment it comes out (if you are in battle and get badly hurt and the medics are 1000miles away, you can have someone pee on your wound to sterilize it). Using pee after , say 10 hours, is not the thing to do howver since the ammonia NH3 in your pee deteriorates over time when exposed to oxygene.
And becomes a source of pollution :) or something like that :)

"Judge others by their intentions and yourself by your results."

I would go further:

"Judge others by assuming that they have good intentions." Assume that they are doing at least what they think is best.

Civil discourse is often damaged by ascribing evil motives to others' behavior.

Regarding the orifice commment. You said that if some is orifice, pretty much everybody does.. I dont think its true. Your other point that if you think somebody is good, does not mean everybody thinks so, justifies my argument.

I'm not loving the pushing the belief that you HAVE to have drugs for birth. I had 2 natural births and it's a better start for baby and mama. In fact, I don't like the viewpoint of what I just said. Rather, it's a NORMAL start. Drugs aren't. Just like breastfeeding is NORMAL and formula feeding LOWERS the baby's IQ and causes more health issues. Perspective. If there was any chance of any birth intervention affecting mom's or baby's health, wouldn't you choose to avoid that intervention? The (mostly male) OBs use interventions for a variety of reasons: fear of someone in pain, fear of lawsuits, fear of loss of control, wanting to look like the expert, and having a golf game to go to. Okay, I may get slammed for those, especially the last one, but it's true! :)


On point #2, I can also say with deep conviction that my wife, Gina, and I love our 4 kids equally--2 adopted and 2 biological. The one interesting footnote is that my wife is far more sensitive to baby cries after the birth of our twins. She noticed the difference between our 1st and 4th kid who were both adopted. The 4th one follows the twins' birth. So there is some chemistry at work here but it plays no role in the pure love we feel for all four.

Thanks for putting this out, Guy.


I really liked your "hindsights" stuff, but beg to differ on #4:

"People act like their last names sound."

I much prefer the Norwegian interpretation of "krapp" which means

"moving rapidly, turning sharply" and is often used when referring to the sea.

BTW: I went to a conference and cracked a joke about my last name, and the next speaker up commented on that, saying that "I can feel your pain!"

The guy was named Pablo Clemente-Colon...

As an adoptive father, I strongly echo your sentiments in #2. Both of our boys are adopted and we're in the midst of our third adoption now. I can't imagine it any other way. I've had friends comment that my kids did something because they were my children and had my genes, only to remember that they don't even have the same skin color! Besides, with adoption we didn't need to worry about #3. ;-)

On your last hindsights speach I told you that you made me both cry and laugh. So anyways I just bought your hindsights book of amazon. Just wanted you to know.

André Hedetoft
"Giving you goosebumps, one movie at a time"

Amen to Jessica's comment !!! I was looking at my journal entries for exactly one year ago (a somewhat depressing period), and was amazed to realize how much I've grown past the experiences I went through at the time. I wouldn't have appreciated it as much without the detailed written record.

Wireless World: Enormous innovation, but big challenges
A record number of mobile phones were shipped last year, and analysts and investors are now saying that the promises made 10 years ago about the potential for the wireless economy are truly being realized. Still, some of the foremost investors and analysts tell United Press International's Wireless World that they are nervous that the United States may not maintain its competitive edge in the global information economy unless certain changes are made -- by federal policymakers and business leaders -- soon.

"There is enormous innovation in our economy -- no doubt," said James Melcher, founder of the New York City-based hedge fund, Balestra Capital Management, in an interview with Wireless World. "It's incredible. But there are problems. Why are countries with only 40 percent of the world's population (e.g., China) graduating ten times as many engineers and scientists as we are? Why are our schools pumping out so many lawyers? There is no value-added in legal work." By Gene Koprowski

I would add:

When someone opens a sentence with "If I'm not mistaken", she doesn't believe for a second that she's wrong about the statement to come.

I've been enjoying your blog so much...thanks. :) I couldn't agree more with #8 and #11, and try to keep those in mind every day.

As for #10, the results of the "hover phenomenon" have made women's restrooms pretty disgusting. Alas, we can't work with a urinal, and many women DO NOT clean up the seat (though I can't figure out why), so the women's restroom is often an unpleasant experience.

Finally, I have another to add:

Keep a journal so you can remember the important (big and small) stuff.

I used to think I would remember my past feelings and thoughts, and never took the time to write them down. When I got pregnant with my son, though, I realized that I wanted to share them with him, so I started writing in a journal. It's amazing how much more complete my memories are now that I have a hard copy. I now wish I had journals for earlier memories.

If journals are not your thing, scrapbooks or even quick notes on the backs of photos (more than just the date) would work equally well. Just find a way to save your thoughts, because otherwise, you won't really remember.

The problem with universal appreciation of "good guys" is that if the good guy is effective at making things happen, s/he will undoubtable piss someone off somewhere along the way. Sigh, you can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs despite best intentions.

#4: Doesn't really work with chinese last name. However, some make really good jokes.


RE: Frankly, I'm very disappointed.

I appreciate the passion of this comment. The appearance of a comment like this in my blog is a good thing: it means that my blog is moving beyond the people who are "fans" into the mainstream.

You don't care who I am. You're not in my reality distortion field. You feel perfectly comfortable ripping me an new orifice. I think that's great.

Feel free to provide such feedback as much as you like. As the PR saying goes, "I don't care what you say about me as long as you get my URL right."


Simon's right...women hover. With that said, go after a guy that spent a long time in there...preferably the guy that also crumpled his napkin into his cup before returning it to the flight attendant. That's the guy that cleaned off the seat. A simpler method, clean the seat yourself.

Dan: with all due respect, do you really think that Guy is going to change his writing style and subjects after your comment? Then “seriously re-think” again, cause no one has the right to order others their blogs contents or style.
And I do not mean with that not to disagree with Guy. If you don’t like something, like point 10, that’s more than ok in a comment. Sure a lot of people is with you on that and I’m glad to read it (although I find n.10 very helpful..). But one thing is to criticize something and other very different is to try to impose something.

I love the "She" in #3 (and the rest of the list) ;-)

Guy, I'm a man, and frankly the #10 item was DISGUSTING. The rest of the items were NOT FUNNY (you probably intended them to be funny). I'm seriously thinking of unsubscribing from your RSS feed. You started the blog very well, made some insightful posts, but then started to write disgusting posts or very personal posts which are totally uninteresting, such as the one about the extremely obscure restaurant that you liked. Frankly, I'm very disappointed.

Perhaps #7 is the same as with the problem in (American) football. After every play, the guy with the ball has to put it a little bit forward of where the spot should go, because the first thing the ref is going to do is move it back. So perhaps the entrepreneurs are overestimating by 90% because they know the VC's are going to assume they are 90% over?

See, wouldn't it be better if everyone was just honest? :)

If what you're saying in #2 is true Guy, then somehow you got off easy. Because my contribution to the pregnancy only started with the 3-10 seconds. There followed 9 months of complete and abject slavery to the needs and desires of the "enlarged one". And now, 15 years later, it's not really any different (except maybe for the "enlarged" part).

BTW, my wife clued me in to the "hover" thing back before we got married. She swears the women's rooms at her work have to be worse then the men's room (although of course she's guessing).

Thanks for #2 Guy. Both of my kids are adopted and they rock! And as Doug Fleener said people say things about adopted children as if they don’t have feelings. It’s important that well known people like yourself stand-up and say adoption is an option. The family is real and the love is real. Hopefully in time the general masses will lose their ignorance. We should set up a blog day for adoption where all the adoptive parents on the blogosphere make a post about adoption so that people can really see how common it is. I think November 18th (the official National Adoption Day) is too far away and weekend dates won’t get the message out. How about February 1st? Game?

I also liked #11 a lot. You can’t lead if you’re not willing to follow and it’s far easier to supervise a task if you know enough about it to teach it. (Which means you’ve done it.) That’s one of the great lessons I’ve learned from coaching and from business. I used to play hockey at the Ice Oasis for Ken Yackel and he is a GREAT coach. He deeply understands everything he teaches and on the bench he never asked anything from us he didn’t know we could do. Plus he was fun and that goes a long way!

12. Pick thy nose, for thou know not what lie within thee.

#6 really resonated with me. Up until last year, I would put up with orifices. Now, I just don't let them in my life. Good list Guy. (BTW, The Sharks done good last night!)

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