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1x Versus 10x Performance

Seth Godin has as usual a challenging insight in his blog post today, the 10x lesson, a liberal portion of which I’ll embed below.

The thing is: a 1x contributor can’t become a 10x merely by working ten times as hard. …It’s about more insight…[and] To have the discipline to say no to distractions or even to projects that put you back into the 1x mode.

The reason that there are so few 10x contributors…[is]…our systems and our self-talk seduce us into believing that repeating 1x work to exhaustion is a safer path.

I think this is a profound insight that matches a lot of my own experience.

A caveat, however. There is an important dynamic the piece I think misses: he opens with the notion that people are always looking for the 10x performer. I don’t think that’s the case. It is safer to ask for 1x performer. We see this in consulting environments all the time. Shooting for the 10x performer is riskier. The dynamic of many people asking for the 1x impedes someone who wants to be a 10x performer.

I’ve wondered about this. How many years of 1x expectations and work does it take to ill-habituate a new staff member who might be more capable?

TriplePoint was very fortunate to hire from another agency a 10x-ish performer who was ground down at another agency. There is still 18 months of procedural damage to unwind…and its hard to do that in one fell swoop because there are still activity reports to do. While we try not to have too many of these, there are some clients that prefer reports to activities

A few years ago we lost a 10x performer to a startup because the demands of clients were too circumspect; she wanted more challenges. She was also around the two year mark. Maybe there was a sense that the rivulet of 1x work could become a trench.

A first year is hard to escape doing the 1x work – pace T.S. Eliot you need to know the rules in order to break them.  It is on both staff and firm to come up with ways to stick to a 10x lodestar.

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