Dan Rose Profile picture
13 Dec, 16 tweets, 3 min read
I had a December tradition at Facebook of delivering a one-hour "end of year talk" to my org. The topics changed each year but the common thread was a reflection on life and work outside of our day-to-day. Here's a high-level summary of some of the themes I shared in those talks:
One of my favorite books is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. We all have activities where we are in a flow state. For me it's surfing - when I see a wave on the horizon coming towards me and suddenly I'm lifted up - I'm not thinking of anything else in that moment.
When we close our eyes and imagine our flow state activities, most of us picture things we do in our free time - cooking, rock climbing, music, writing, etc. But when we evaluate our waking time, most hours are spent at work. What would it look like to experience flow at work?
When I'm on the cusp of closing a big deal, it feels like I'm watching that wave on the horizon coming towards me. Calm and focused, I lose all sense of space and time. Engineers describe similar feelings after a really good uninterrupted coding session, like making music.
I’m also in flow when I feel connected to my co-workers, when we trust and respect each other to the point of finishing each other’s sentences. In that state, a productive strategy brainstorm can feel like you're in a band where everyone is “in the pocket” jamming together.
We tend to feel closest to people when we’re able to be vulnerable. I learned this lesson in my first job after college when I worked for a personal growth seminar company called Life Mastery. 15 years later, I started integrating those insights into a corporate context.
As I’ve shared here before, my first performance review at FB was brutally tough, my team and peers unanimously said they didn't trust me. I shared that feedback with the people around me and eventually regained their trust. This woke me up to being vulnerable at work.
As my role shifted from manager to executive, I thought my job was to stand on stage and rally the troops. Later I got feedback that I had a “leadership gap.” Next time I got on stage, I shared this feedback with my entire org and people rallied around me like never before.
I could sense that I was onto something, and I leaned into it. I started delivering my end of year talks, and I pushed myself each year to be open and share stories. I wasn’t a natural story teller back then, I preferred abstract strategy talk. But I was learning to lead.
I spoke openly about mental health, something that members of my family had personally battled along with so many others. For years after that talk, people reached out to me for help and advice when members of their own family struggled with similar challenges.
I talked about my mom’s ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease. When she was first diagnosed 25 years ago, my dad promised himself to make every day count. *Make every day count*
I showed Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech, and the final birthday speech in Meet Joe Black. And shared poignant books written by people who knew they were dying: Being Mortal, When Breath Becomes Air, Not Fade Away. The holidays are a good time to reflect on what we have.
I leaned into vulnerable leadership because I saw the impact it had on my relationships at work. Our teams stayed together longer, had more fun and got more done. People felt more connected, happy and productive. We all started spending more time in a flow state.
I created a leadership program called Flow. We took groups of 10 managers through a 2-day offsite where they had a chance to reflect on themselves as leaders, co-workers and humans. I opened each session, and I was rewarded with beautiful thank you notes and hallway hugs.
Being vulnerable is stressful. You need a safe space with people you trust. Each year as my org grew bigger I thought about abandoning my end of year talk. But then someone would come up to me and tell me how much they were looking forward to it, and I knew I had to keep going.
Earlier this year I decided to start sharing my stories broadly. It began as an experiment (like those end of year talks) and gained momentum as people encouraged me to keep going. Your feedback has been one of the great joys for me in 2020. Thanks for listening. Happy holidays.

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More from @DanRose999

21 Nov
A few days after I joined as head of biz dev at Facebook in 2006, MySpace announced a partnership w/Google worth $1B. I sent an internal email suggesting we pursue a similar deal and Zuck gave me a hunting license. Here's how I signed the biggest deal of my career with Microsoft:
Microsoft had been left at the alter with MySpace. They bid more than Google for the right to run banner ads, but MySpace was owned by NewsCorp and Rupert liked Google better. Ballmer was reportedly very upset about losing, so my first call was to some folks I knew at Microsoft.
MySpace had 10x more users than Facebook at the time, but we were #2 and growing. I told Microsoft we could be their “rebound date,” but they had to move fast because Google was also pursuing us (which was true). I didn’t mention we were wary of Google’s competitive ambitions.
Read 13 tweets
8 Nov
I got my first real job in '99 on the biz dev team at Amazon. Like most first jobs, it was a combination of hustle and luck. I had no idea Amazon (or later Facebook) would become what it is today, but I knew I wanted to work there. Here's how it happened:
In high school I thought I wanted a career in business, but my dad was a doctor, my mom a therapist, aunts/uncles physicians & lawyers. I had no role model in biz except my grandfather who owned a fleet of taxi cabs in NY. And my grandmother who always told me "work for yourself"
Harvard had no business major so I thought I would try economics. But after taking Econ 101 freshman year, I decided it wasn't for me (too theoretical and math heavy). Instead I studied Sociology and went down a path of learning about human behavior.
Read 15 tweets
17 Oct
In 2004 I had an offer to join the new Kindle team at Amzn and I jumped at the oppty. I was on our retail team at the time -> Kindle was new/sexy. But a week before I was scheduled to start my new job, I was told to stay put and I learned an important lesson. Here’s the story:
2 years earlier I had been given P&L responsibility for Amzn’s cell phone store. We sold phones + plans (like Car Warehouse and Best Buy). This was Amzn’s highest margin biz, but it was tiny and not growing and I was told it could get shut down. I had 6 mos to turn it around.
The industry model at that time was give phones for free w/ service plan attach. I reinvested the service plan margin to make phones less than free, and rev growth exploded. GM % plummeted, but profit $ went way up. My little biz was our fastest growing segment at Amzn!
Read 10 tweets
3 Oct
In 2008 Facebook’s user growth hit a wall at 80M and we were having serious debates about whether any social network could ever reach 100M users. 2 years later we had doubled our user base and not long after that we reached 1B users. Here’s how we did it:
I joined FB in summer ‘06 when we had 7M users and were adding 5k/day. Over the next 18 months, Zuck shipped News Feed, Open Registration, Platform and community-led translation. By end of ‘07 we had 70M users and it seemed like we couldn’t be stopped.
Towards end of ‘07 I helped raise our Series C at $15B valuation. We had <400 employees and only $250M revenue, but we had explosive user growth and powerful network effects. Our entire valuation was based on how fast people were signing up for FB all over the world.
Read 13 tweets
19 Sep
May 18, 2012 - there was a crisp blue sky at FB’s campus as we rang the opening bell. Emotions ran high as we took a brief moment to celebrate our hard work. The stock traded up for the first few hours. Then it traded down for the next 12 months...
Facebook’s IPO coincided with a paradigm shift in technology. The majority of our usage and revenue transitioned from desktop to mobile practically overnight. Facebook’s journey to a mobile-first company started with a strategic error and ended with a pivot. Here’s the story:
Mobile initially presented us with a number of challenges, and our instinct was to innovate our way around them. The heart of our strategy was HTML5, which turned out to be a flawed approach. We spent 2 years sprinting down the wrong path before reversing course. Why?
Read 16 tweets
12 Sep
Amazon launched in July 1995, and every Xmas was a near death experience for the first 7 years. I joined in ‘99 and got to experience this first hand. Starting in late Nov, all corporate employees were shipped to fulfillment centers to pack boxes for 6 weeks. Here’s what I saw:
Despite efforts to plan ahead, the company literally couldn’t keep up with holiday demand. 40% of all annual orders would come through in 6 weeks from Thxgiving through New Years. Ops teams would start planning in Jan, but by Sept they were always massively behind.
As “earth’s most customer centric company,” failing to deliver presents for Xmas would have been like Santa missing his deadline. But when demand exceeds even your most aggressive forecasts, it’s a physical world problem that requires physical world solutions - ie human bodies.
Read 11 tweets

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