Best Advice I Ever Got: Catherine Cook
Good advice is hard to come by. When you are in a leadership position, people tend to ask you for advice rather than offer their own. Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurs to seek out advice from all sources, whether it roots from other companies, good books, caring parents, or...British politicians. Here are three pieces of advice that shaped myYearbook— and my very own life:
- Don't be afraid to make (and measure) mistakes. Winston Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." While it is extremely disheartening to have something fail—something you have been working on for months and months—what you learn is invaluable. Not every feature launch is a success, and not every update has game-changing results. If you are too worried about making mistakes, then you don't give yourself room to innovate. Many decisions, especially as they pertain to new technology, need to be made very quickly, before enough information is known—making mistakes much more likely. If you're not making mistakes, then you're not making decisions. However, not learning from your mistakes will lead to failure. The only way to learn from the mistakes is to have good measures of impact. At myYearbook, we have a metrics-driven culture and can quickly assess how a new product or feature is performing. It's a cliché, but as the saying goes, "The only failure is not to try." Take the risk, but be sure to track it.
- Be about one thing. Google believes that "It's best to do one thing really, really well." When we started myYearbook, we had a broad mission. We wanted to be where you go to have fun and connect with any type of friend—new or old. But it didn't feel right. As time went on, our message became more crisp and we realized the value in Google's wisdom firsthand. Over the first few years, we narrowed our focus and became about being less, not more. Instead of trying to continue to compete with Facebook as another social networking platform, we completely broke off into a different category—the meeting network. As a meeting network, we do one thing—connect you with people who you want to know, not people you already know. This allowed us to focus our product and create features specifically around meeting new people, giving us considerable growth in the U.S. without spreading ourselves too thin.
- Take a break. When I am working on something for a while and at a standstill, my mom always tells me to go to bed and try again in the morning with a clear and fresh head. It's wise advice that I try to follow and nearly always leads to a better idea, a clearer picture or a better perspective. When I am stressed out or deep in thought, I know that I can go for a run or get some fresh air, and even if I don't solve the problem right away, I'm always glad I took the break. It's also important to know when to end your workday. When I graduated college, I decided to live 20 minutes away from the office instead of in the same town so that I would be able to maintain a sense of unwinding by "going home." Even if you're doing something you love, you still need to rest from it once in a while to clear your head. The breaks don't have to be long; it's whatever best suits you at the time. I think it would be hard to stay sane without those little breaks.
Catherine Cook is the co-founder of myYearbook, a social network for meeting new people. She is responsible for creating some of the most important features and applications on myYearbook and has been instrumental in driving growth of the site, which will soon be known as MeetMe. myYearbook. @cncook.