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Survival lessons from Man vs. Wild's Bear Grylls

Matt Linderman
Matt Linderman wrote this on 36 comments


Some flint, a water bottle, and a knife. That’s all Bear Grylls has with him when he gets “lost” on Man vs. Wild.

In each episode of Man vs. Wild, Bear strands himself in popular wilderness destinations where tourists often find themselves lost or in danger. As he finds his way back to civilization, he demonstrates local survival techniques, including escaping quicksand in the Moab Desert, navigating dangerous jungle rivers in Costa Rica, crossing ravines in the Alps and surviving sharks off Hawaii.

I admit the show is pretty ridiculous: He’s stuck in the frozen tundra but stops to demonstrate how to climb out of a frozen lake!? What’s the crew up to while he is starving/freezing? You have to take the whole thing with a big grain of salt.

But it’s also damn compelling. Even if you never venture into the wild, it’s fascinating to watch him catch and eat snakes, bugs, and fish, build shelters, snow caves, and rafts, find utility in urine and dung, etc. has some clips and a list of survival tips from the show.

Some of the lessons he offers sound ripe for being turned into a business “survival” guide too. For example:

The way out of jungle or mountains? Find a stream or river and follow it.

You never know how steep something is until you “rub noses with it.” From far away, you can’t really judge.

Survival is about playing the odds. Expect to fail before you succeed.

Building a fire is a great way to boost morale. And keeping morale up is the key to survival.

Never rely on one source for catching food. If you set up a fishing net, go out and start hunting for something else.

Do your homework before going on a trip — know the local geography and what’s edible there.

Expect luck in your life. “People come through hopeless situations because they push themselves to extraordinary places.”


The Swarm: Attacking as a pack

David wrote this on 14 comments

It’s very easy to divide and delegate your plans for the future into tiny, isolated pieces. Putting people to work on their own little niche, somewhat detached from the rest of the flow of improvements. And that’s usually a very efficient way of making progress on many fronts concurrently.

But every now and then it’s good to come together on a single project or feature for an all-men-in sprint. We like to call that The Swarm.

We go into Swarm Mode when we’re just days from launch. It’s a time where roles blend together and the sense of purpose and unity is heightened. We’re all in this launch together.

When you’re done, it’s a moment to bask in shared appreciation of the accomplishment. Good times.

Why isn't it done yet?

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 73 comments

What are you working on and why isn’t it done yet? You may have great reason, but it’s still a great question to ask from time to time. What’s holding things up?

[Fireside Chat] Brian Crabtree (Monome), David Rose (Ambient Devices), and Nathan Seidle (Spark Fun Electronics) - Part 2 of 2

Basecamp wrote this on 2 comments

Continued from Part 1.

Nathan: Spark Fun says, “Our strongest products are our simplest ones.” Explanation?
Have you other guys also found this to be true?
being iconic is more viral?
simple = iconic
certainly. lower learning curves.
If you design a widget for model helicopters, you quickly limit your market. If you design a simple breakout board for the pressure sensor that could go into a model helicopter, anyone can use it.
a lower learning curve also indicates that the design works intuitively.
I quickly learned I have very little grasp of what’s creatively possible. What I mean – I think I know all the possible applications for a product, then a customer comes along and says ‘Hey, checkout what I did’. Blows me away every time.
well put.
Nathan, this happened with Ambient and energy companies.
They found the Orb, and are now using thousands to show people load on the grid
I knew nothing about “demand response”
“I think I know all the possible applications for a product, then a customer comes along and says ‘Hey, checkout what I did’. Blows me away every time.”


In the presence of greatness

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 14 comments

Last night a few friends and I went to see the last night of the free “Music Without Borders” international music series at the Pritzker Pavilion. Hooray Chicago for inviting such wonderful musicians to play at the pleasure of the public.

I’d never really heard of any of the musicians, but I left the concert in awe.

The Gerardo Nunez Flamenco Ensemble, featuring Simon Shaheen and Nishat Khan were the players. They were all stellar, but Simon Shaheen just floored me. His mastery over the violin and the ‘oud was just remarkable. What craft!

Everyone in the crowd was lucky to be in the presence of greatness last night. We’re all better off for it.

It reminded me about the benefits of being in the presence of greatness. Whether it’s listening to a lecture from a great professor or speaker or reading a great book or watching a great athlete or sitting on a great chair having a great dinner on a great table with great friends, you always leave just a little greater yourself. Where else can just being there be so good for you?

[Screens Around Town] Zip codes

Matt Linderman
Matt Linderman wrote this on 19 comments

Comcast vs. Verizon
David Norton writes: “I think that a lot more consumers do not have landline phones and therefore must use the address search to determine eligibility for high-speed internet and other services. Check out the difference between Comcast’s form and Verizon’s form…

zip search

zip search Verizon

...Comcast gets it right here with just three fields: street address, apartment # (optional), and zip code. A whole lot of the required information on the Verizon form is redundant—and in the cases when it’s not, maybe a second form could ask the exceptional customers for more information.”

Adam Gretencord writes: “For the ‘Search by Address’ tab on the USPS ‘ZIP Code Lookup’ page...

zip usps

ZIP Code field? If I knew what it was I wouldn’t be here.”

Have an interesting link, story, or screenshot for Signal vs. Noise? Contact svn [at] 37signals [dot] com.

The 5, 10, 20 year plan

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 36 comments

At the end of every interview someone inevitably asks “Where do you see 37signals in five years? Ten years? 20 years?” My answer remains the same: “Still in business. Beyond that I have no idea.”

Five years ago I had no idea we’d release Basecamp. Four years ago I had no idea we’d release Ta-da List. Three years ago I had no idea we’d release Backpack or Campfire. Two years ago I had no idea we’d release Highrise. Did I ever think we’d write another book? Not until we started it. And what about next year? I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to be working on.

You know more later than you do now

Just as we don’t believe in functional specs for software, we don’t believe in functional specs for companies. Planning it all out beforehand puts too much faith in the unknown. You know more about something while you’re doing it than before you’ve started. Just as we don’t much about the product we’re going to build before we build it, we don’t know much about the business opportunities before they happen. Books, plans, and documents may tell you how things should be, but only real experience tells you how things really are.


“But if you don’t know where you’re going how are you going to get there.” We don’t know where we’re going. We know where we are. For us, what’s next is what’s now and what’s now is probably what’s next. Today’s weather is the best indicator of tomorrow’s weather. Things change, but not as much or as fast as most think. Focusing too much on the stuff that changes is why many companies lose their way. They’re always tripping over themselves as they try to keep pace with what’s new. People want what works, not what’s new.

Focus on what won’t change

The best business advice I’ve ever heard was this: “Focus on the things that won’t change.” Today and ten years from now people will still want simple things that work. Today and ten years from now people will still want fast software. Today and ten years from now people will still want fair prices. I don’t believe we’ll have a “I want complex, slow, and expensive products” revolution in 2017.

You can still evolve, improve, and innovate

Focusing on the things that won’t change doesn’t mean you’re stale, slow, or unwilling to adapt. It means that in ten years time your products will be more refined, more perfected, more efficient. Japanese cars sucked when they first came on to the market, but today they’re seriously refined and seriously good. This is because Japanese auto makers focused on principals that don’t change: Reliability, affordability, practicality. People wanted those things 30 years ago, they want them today, and they’ll want them 30 years from now. Constant refinement of those principals yields wonderful products.

Real opportunity comes from being opportunistic

Opportunities are spontaneous, but when you’re sticking to your five year plan you don’t deviate. You’re putting the blinders on. “This is where we’re going because that’s what we said!” When you don’t have a plan you can pick up on an opportunity that comes along. You’re taking the blinders off. “This is where we’re going because it makes sense today.” I’d rather stroll into the future with my blinders off.

Your mileage may vary

Of course it all depends on what you’re doing. Boeing probably needs a pretty stiff plan when building a new airplane. NASA needs to plan rocket launches many years in advance. If you want to be a doctor you’ll need a longer-term educational plan. But most businesses most of the time could benefit by just keeping their eyes open, being aware of what’s going on now, focusing on the basics that will be important to their customers today and tomorrow, and not looking too far ahead.

[Sunspots] The tenacious edition

Basecamp wrote this on 22 comments
Poetry speaks to many C.E.O.’s
Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries: “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers…Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”
The 105% Rule: Word of mouth is generated by unexpected highlights
“Call it the 105% Rule. From a word-of-mouth perspective, it’s virtually impossible to discuss an experience that is 5% better than the norm on all dimensions. People don’t talk like mystery shoppers, reporting diligently on each relevant feature. People talk about the exceptions, the unexpected, the highlights…Fostering the conversation you want customers to have about your products should be an explicit part of product development.”
Heat Maps are “the new visualization vogue”
“Lets you see trends at a glance. Heat maps are useful for everything from where to place your Google ads to sussing out rent prices in your city. They sometimes even approach the level of art.”
Black panel
“One Saab innovation, inspired by the company’s roots in aeronautics, was the ‘Black Panel’ feature (also known as Nightpanel). This allowed most instrument panel lights to be extinguished at night at the touch of a button, permitting less distraction during night driving. While Black Panel was active, other instruments could illuminate themselves as required to gain the driver’s attention.” [tx Derick]
Coke cans go on a diet
new can“Ever since its introduction, Coca-Cola Classic has had an ever-increasing need to cover its labels with extraneous seals, bubbles, stripes, bevels, edges, shadows, doodads, gizmos, what-have-you. Its a (pardon the pun) classic example of destroying a beautiful and timeless logo, but typical of what happens in packaging and advertising with the need of marketing departments to pack everything they can into whatever they can. (“Add this! Jazz it up! Make it pop!”) How this new label made it past all the approvals is beyond me, but it boldly projects confidence and respect for the Coca-Cola logo and brand as a piece of American culture that should not be adulterated. Kudos to Coke for having the balls to go with such a clean design.” [image via gedblog]

Champions pay the price

David wrote this on 18 comments

Who knows what the impact of a new feature will be. Will people understand it? Are we going to get swamped with support requests? Will it be a drag on performance? You can always count on uncertainties to scare you off. There are plenty of “What ifs” that can kill a good idea through fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

What you need to climb that wall is a willingness from someone to accept the risks and pay the price. The champion. He who wants this bad enough to be willing to deal with the initially confused customers, answer support emails related to the feature, and put in the work to make it fast and solid.

With a champion in place, most of the counter-arguments lose their appeal as they’re usually born from a perceived discrepancy between cost and reward. As in “sure you want this, but I’m going to be the one who has to deal with the mess”. When cost is assigned to the bulls, the perceived discrepancy of the bears dissipates.

The working title for this story: “How 37signals adopted OpenID”