4 Minutes to read
Shaw Li, Product Manager and Founder of the newsletter Elements of Product Management
Learning Inspiration 🌈 #54
Shaw has 10+ years of product management experience, having worked at pre-seed, venture funded, corporate funded, and Fortune 500 companies. Most recently, he led product at HavenLife, an insurtech startup in NYC. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter: The Elements of Product Management @shawli.substack.com
Who are the people who inspire you the most?
Most inspired person? I don’t have one person that inspires me. There are a lot of people and their actions that have inspired me. There’s a former coworker. One time, before the pandemic, he walked into a room where I was leading an interview. He noticed through the glass door that the interviewee was coughing a bit. He came in to ask if the person needed water or some cough drops. That was very inspirational to me, the humanity, the observation. I think each of us has the capacity to be awe inspiring to others and I find it wonderful in small and obviously, the more public, larger ways.
What are your favorite books and why?
I love stories so I usually like fiction books more. With stories, we live through a million different other experiences. Most of these are pretty famous so people probably have read them, but the ones that are favorite have memorable lines or scenes the Road, by Cormac McCarthy, The Game of Throne Series of books (the earlier ones), I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, or Paper Moon by Joe David Brown, or The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Each of these are books I recall I just couldn’t put down once I started reading them.
What are your favorite podcast episodes, and why?
Sorry, I can’t give a recommendation. I’m not a repeat podcast listener. I’ve listened to different ones here and there for fun. When I used to live in California and drive, I was a fan of “radio” (I know that sounds old) and NPR’s “Wait wait don’t tell me”. I know some people love podcasts and auditory learning. I’m not good at that so don’t do podcasts consistently. But for those, I’ll give a shoutout to http://audiblogs.com/, a simple chrome extension for turning text into podcast in your browser.
How do you remember what you learn 🧠?
I write, a lot. Besides my writing on substack, I write all kinds of notes both electronically and on paper (although less on paper now adays). My writing isn’t always organized or coherent, but that’s the best way I’ve learned because writing is a type of thinking. Sometimes, I take notes from talks or meetings and it’s a that has worked for me to learn.
What would you tell the 18 years old version of yourself 👼 ?
Giving advice to your past self is impossible because usually, you tell your self to avoid some kind of mistake/pain/failure. But I think I’ve learned the most from my mistakes (at least the ones that don’t kill you, which I haven’t done anything that terrible as I’m still alive). There are a lot of things “I wish” might be different, but…I think I’d have told myself to enjoy the journey more, even if you’re focused on the destination. I don’t think my 18 year old self would understand or have done anything different, but that’s what I’d say.
What is the most important thing you learn over the last 12 months?
Important is probably how adaptable we all under a pandemic. The way we work, buy, socalize, interact, etc. I know I privileged to live with abundance, but seeing all the unique ways people have come together to address change is empowering. On a more personal notes, my personal learning has been what Visual Code Studio and windows subsystem linux(WSL). I’m not a trained in computer science, but it’s now so much easier than 5 years ago, to pick up coding and build something functional. The amount of training and available public tools, free code, and support is way more amazing than anything I’d imagine. I was able to build on about 1 month a chrome extension with a python back-end and web.py server running on Google Cloud connected and I’m just hacking code together.
Tough question! I exclude Covid because I am fed up with the word “resilience.” I’ve learned to apply something that is often said in the product world, which is, “If you’re proud of what you’ve done, you’ve already gone too far.” I agreed to submit my first book in March 2020, which was not the best timing (Covid). I knew it wasn’t perfect; it was read and then rejected. But I did! I’m glad I managed not to be self-critical and live my life to the fullest. And I got back to work on a new version.
What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome this year 💪?
I’m going to interpret this question as biggest challenge for 2020, unless you mean the month of Jan 2021.
For me, it was leaving a wonderful job and people I enjoyed working with to explore something on my own, chart an unknown path. It was challenging because I was giving up stability, an defined identity, money, people while embracing an unknown and murky definition of what’s next.
I make it sound like it’s all unknown (and I’m still working on this), but the way I’ve tried to address it is by both confronting it head on, and letting it simmer. That sounds odd, but this duel nature. You have to be honest with yourself about your current capabilities, needs, wants, and situation. At the same time, you can overwhelm yourself and need support from others. So this combination of pushing yourself ahead, facing reality, and then, putting all that aside and marching towards an unknown and then going back, is the way I’ve tried to tackle this challenge.
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