About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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Big Goal, Achieved — So Why Do You Feel Lousy?

big goal achieved

Achievement is addictive. But it does not automatically lead to bliss. I am referring to what researchers call the arrival fallacy — the mistaken belief that once we accomplish our goals we will be happy. We think that finishing a big project, earning a promotion, or receiving positive feedback from our boss will bring us joy. But the reality is that these individual moments rarely lead to long-term fulfillment.

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8 Smart Tactics for Understanding Customer Pain Points

8 smart tactics pain points

Have you heard of the Wong-Baker FACES® scale? You may not know the name but I bet you would recognize it immediately. This numerical and visual pain rating scale shows several cartoon faces in increasing amounts of pain — from smiling (zero) to crying (10). No matter how young a patient is or what language they speak, they can use the scale to communicate their current level of suffering. 

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How to Properly Scare Yourself (Into a New Role)

start a new role

Your co-workers would say you are a zombie. You have lost your motivation and it shows. There is no spark in your soul as you drift between meetings. You are in desperate need of a new role — one that actually challenges you. But when you are in a listless state like this, it can be difficult to get worked up about anything. You must figure out how to jolt yourself into action. Sleepwalking is no way to live.

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5 Questions Every Frustrated Product Manager Should Ask When Dates Slip

frustrated product manager questions

Busy is not always better. I have written before about the difference between busy work and meaningful work. Our time is finite, so it is important to be purposeful about where we put our effort. This is especially true if you are a product manager striving to provide real value to customers. But what if, despite your best efforts and plenty of busy days, you are not delivering new features on time?

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9 Excuses Bosses Use to Keep People From Working Remotely

bosses' excuses

I still cannot understand why companies do not want people working remotely. It has served us incredibly well at Aha! — but I also believe it is important to consider differing points of view. So I recently asked folks on LinkedIn for the reasons employers had rejected remote work. One particular response floored me. “This job is too important to be remote.” Wow. This perfectly encapsulates every misguided notion that exists about the nature of distributed teams.

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The Product Manager vs. the CEO vs. the CTO

product manager vs ceo vs cto

Do you like tennis? If you like watching it live, you know that it is best to sit behind one of the players. Because if you are at mid-court, you may get dizzy snapping your head back and forth to follow the ball. And if you are a product manager caught watching angry volleys between a CEO and CTO, you also know the whiplash feeling. 

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Hey Product Managers: It Is Time to Set the Strategy That You Think Is Right

product manager strategy

“Vision.” What does this word mean to you? I define it as knowing what you want to accomplish and where you want to go. In business, it can be difficult to determine what your vision is and then commit to it. Of course, this is a lot easier if you are the CEO of a company. Everyone looks to you to set the strategy and wants to know how they can help make the company a success.

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6 Ways to Ensure Success When Your Product Is Built on a Platform

Platform-built product success

Product management is rewarding. And it is also really hard work. I know a few product managers who have the toughest challenge out there — leading a product that is built on a platform or collection of products managed by other people. You need to advocate for your product every day. In the process, those other people’s problems become yours as well. It can be difficult to see how an individual product is making a real impact on the business. So what should a product manager do? 

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The Founder’s Paradox: The “Future You” Might Not Like the Choices “Today You” Is Making

founders paradox future you

The guy with the laptop. This is how I am known by one of my kid’s soccer coaches. Let me explain. The kids need to be there 45 minutes before games to warm up. There is not much for parents to do during that time except chat with each other. So I pull out my laptop, find some shade, and work. Once the game begins, I put the laptop away to be fully present for the game. This is a conscious choice. But I do miss out on those pre-kickoff conversations with other parents.

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The One Thing Most Recruiters Overlook

recruiters overlook

Does this sound unrealistic? A screening call on Monday. An interview with the hiring manager on Tuesday. A chat with another cross-functional team member on Wednesday. A video call with the CTO on Thursday. This rapid cadence is not unusual at Aha! — our team acts quickly to schedule conversations with promising candidates who have applied to an open role. But I know this is not the case at the majority of organizations.

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Aha! Cares — A New Model for Corporate Giving

Aha! Cares philanthropy program

“A startup is for adventure.” I wrote that when we founded Aha! in 2013. Along with my friend and co-founder Dr. Chris Waters, I was energized about how we could change the way that product teams work. And since then, we have achieved some worthy milestones together — from hiring our first teammate to celebrating our 5,000th customer to publishing Lovability, a book about the philosophy behind the company.

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How to Avoid a Rambling Presentation at Work

avoid rambling presentation

“Can you get to the point?” The senior executive who asked this was clearly annoyed. It was early in my career and my colleague was presenting quarterly marketing results to a group of company leaders. But instead of summarizing the key metrics and takeaways, he gave a long-winded description of each step the team had taken along the way. Although he clearly was attuned to the details of the work, the meandering explanation left everyone feeling lost.

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Remote Team Meetings vs. Office Team Meetings

“What do you mean you saw your co-workers? You work at home.” A friend who works for the county court system once asked me this with a look of confusion on his face. He knows that Aha! is an entirely remote company, but he was unfamiliar with the concept of remote meetings. I chuckled as I assured him that nobody had to fly into the Bay Area — we simply caught up over video conference.

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