high standards everywhere


connecting the dots between a memory in toronto and a new experience in sf.

after flying to toronto to run a 200+ person climate tech hackathon at the city's largest tech conference, i was surprised to see navid + nadeem's, the founders of tks, reaction to day 1.

the tks team had volunteered dozens of hours to put this on for other 200+ students attending the conference. they designed a good structure to seed interesting ideas, and they flew me in as a tks director to help run the show.

yet, despite team's effort, the event itself was still mediocre... at best. a superstructure is not enough for a great experience, let alone great outcomes.

they came to say hello in the large atrium and lasted less than two minutes saying it was not up to speed.

we did a post mortem with the team after day 1 and switched up a few things:

it was this moment i learned the power of high standards + feedback + bias to action. implementing actions from the post mortem made day 2 noticeable better. without them expressing disappointment, no action would have been taken, let alone such immediate action.

and even though that was good for the general event on day 2, the founders were still not satisfied with the experience.

now i understand why.

when you're building something and you hold such high standards, it's physically cringe worthy to be in a space, product, or experience that is mediocre. the whole point of maintaining high standards is to escape the gravitational pull of mediocrity. and once it's on, it's impossible to turn off.

for example, when i was hosting an arduino make-a-thon in las vegas one month later, we had tks innovators (teens), who had only 2hrs of training in slides, start to critque all the professional slides of the event.

it didn't matter there were mit scientists + engineers or successful local startups presenting. once you see high standards and know how to get there, you can't unsee it.

the talks were high standards, but the designs were not. the tks innovators were right. the slides could be better. high standards are domain specific.

as i search for the best spaces around the city to host founder dojo sessions, i can't turn off the criteria for what separates a great space from a good space.

as i was hanging out with a friend in a new 'third space' in the mission that hosts daily community events, i marvelled at their contributions to the community. but when asked if i wanted to host events there, i could not help but start to run through the checklist above.

it was a bunch of little things that are now non negotiable for me. once seen, they could not be unseen. what seems like a potentially cozy living room, now felt sterile as i explored the different places to gather.

once high standards are on, and they can't be selectively turned off.

if you liked this, have feedback, or more resources to share, send me a note.

← zero proof happy hour

#1 build what the world needs →

made with 🖤 in sf.