Make it 10x better or don’t do it.

I just read this article on hacker news about how to be a good startup mentor. There was a nugget of advice in there that I think can work in many more places.

In #2 @anreasklinger advises that if your advice won’t make what they are doing 10x better than keep your comments to yourself.

The 10x principle was drummed into my head during B-school. If you can’t make your product/service 10x better, cheaper, faster then don’t bother because no one will care. It seems like 10x is sort of the magic boundary where people become grateful for your advice instead of annoyed by your micromanaging/nitpicking.

I think this principle can hold true in personal relationships as well. I’m in the middle of teaching my 6 year old to program. We are keeping it simple, and as you might imagine, I can immediately think of a better/faster/righter way to do whatever she is doing.

I think this could become demoralizing instead of empowering if you correct someone too much. They may convince themselves that they are no good at the task because of how much you are correcting what they are doing. Ask yourself, “What is my goal?”

If your goal is to get them to do something exactly the way you would do it, then you should probably just do it yourself. If the goal is to teach or empower the other person, they need autonomy to do it their own way.

It’s a balance to offer enough advice to keep an employee or protégé from stalling, but not offering so much you discourage them. From now on I will use the 10x rule to determine when I offer my $0.02.

If I think my advice will make what they are doing 10x better I will speak up. If not, I’ll shut up. I have a feeling I’m not going to get to talk very much.

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