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10 Things I've Learned from Larry Page

We don't really hear too much from Larry Page these days. He started Google, basically the most used service on the planet. He grew it even though the entire search business was done and done back then. But he built and won the field and now just dominates.

I like to study people and see from what they say and their actions what things I can learn that can help my own life.

I'm skeptical of what I believe and who I am. So I like to get an outside perspective. Page had some outside perspectives that I've learned from.

    1. “If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.”

    To have well-being in life you need three things:
    A) a feeling of competence or growth.
    B) good emotional relationships.
    C) freedom of choice.

    It's nice if you can find all three of these things in one activity.

    Being able to wake up excited in the morning is an outcome of well-being.

    Feeling like every day you are working on a billion-person problem will give you those three aspects of well-being.

    2. “Especially in technology, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change.”

    Nobody can tell if your product or book or service is 10% better than someone else's. For those who remember: was Lycos better than Excite as a search engine?

    I have no clue. One was better but I couldn't tell. WIth Google, which used an entirely new concept for search, everyone could tell.

    BetaMax was actually a little better than VHS (this is an 80s thing) for video recording. But nobody could really tell. And VHS did better marketing so it won.

    People notice revolutionary change. Not minor changes. Not incremental ones.

    3. “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.”

    Whenever I’ve managed companies and have had the small opportunity to be a leader I’ve judged my success on only one thing:

    Does the employee at night go home and call his or her parents and say, “guess what I did today!”

    I’m not sure this always worked. But I do think Larry Page lifts all his employees to try to be better versions of themselves, to try to surpass him, to try and change the world.

    If each employee can say, “who did I help today” and have an answer, then that is a good leader.

    Empowering others, empowers you.

    4. “Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.”

    The stock market is near all time highs. And yet every company in the original Dow Jones market index (except for GE) has gone out of business.

    Even US Steel, which built every building in the country for an entire century, has gone bankrupt.

    Never let the practical get in the way of the possible.

    It’s practical to focus on what you can do right now.

    But give yourself time in your life to wonder what is possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

    We’re at maybe 1% of what is possible. Despite the faster change, we’re still moving slow relative to the opportunities we have. I think a lot of that is because of the negativity… Every story I read is Google vs someone else. That’s boring. We should be focusing on building the things that don’t exist.

    Sometimes I want to give up on whatever I’m working on. I’m not working on major billion person problems.

    And sometimes I think I write too much about the same thing. Every day I try to think, “What new thing can I write today” and I actually get depressed when I can’t think of something totally new.

    But I am working on things that I think can help people. And if you are out side of people’s comfort zones, if you are breaking the normal rules of society, people will try to pull you down.

    Larry Page didn’t want to be defined by Google for his entire life. He wants to be defined by what he hasn’t yet done. What he might even be afraid to do.

    I wonder what my life would be like if I started doing all the things I was afraid to do. If I started defining my life by all the things I have yet to do.

    5. “Many leaders of big organizations, I think, don’t believe that change is possible. But if you look at history, things do change, and if your business is static, you’re likely to have issues.”

    Guess which company had the original patent that ultimately Larry Page derived his own patent (that created google) from?

    Go ahead. Think a second. Guess.

    An employee of this company created the patent and tried to get them to use it to catalog information on the web.

    They refused.

    So Robin Li, an employee of The Wall Street Journal, quit the newspaper of capitalism (who owned his patent), moved to China (a communist country), and created Baidu.

    And Larry Page modified the patent, filed his own, and created Google.

    And the Wall Street Journal got swallowed up by Rupert Murdoch and is dying a slow death.

    6. “I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society.”

    A friend of mine is writing a novel but is afraid to publish it. “Maybe it will be bad,” he told me.

    Fortunately we live in a world where experimentation is easy. You can make a 30 page novel, publish it on Amazon for nothing, use an assumed name, and test to see if people like it.

    Heck, I’ve done it. And it was fun.

    Mac Lethal is a rapper who has gotten over 200 million views on his YouTube videos. Even Ellen had him on her show to demonstrate his skills.

    I asked him, “do you get nervous if one of your videos gets less views than others?”

    He told me valuable advice: “Nobody remembers your bad stuff. They only remember your good stuff.”

    I live by that.

    7. “If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach.”

    Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted to be academics. When they first patented Google, they tried to sell to Yahoo for $1 million (ONE MILLION DOLLARS).

    When Yahoo laughed them out the door, they tried to sell to Excite for $750,000.

    Excite laughed them out the door. Now an ex-employee of Google is the CEO of Yahoo. And the founder of Excite works at Google. Google dominates.

    Money is a side effect of trying to help others. Trying to solve problems. Trying to move beyond the “good enough”.

    So many people ask: “how do I get traffic?” That’s the wrong question.

    If you ask every day, “How did I help people today?” then you will have more traffic and money than you could have imagined.
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