You do not write a book to make money. That’s true for most people unless you are already famous. And I am not. You write a book because you believe a story needs to be told. And you are willing to struggle to tell it. I definitely have had stories to tell, but I never wanted to write a book. That contradiction makes sense if you understand the backstory.
I wrote a thesis my last semester before graduating from the greatest university in the world — The University of California at Berkeley. Writing the thesis was a slog and the final version was lousy. And it was only 50 pages long. Writing a book, not for me.
So, what happened? How did I go from there to writing Lovability — my first book?
Hard work, good fortune, and great tragedy. That’s what happened. The 272 pages of Lovability are now complete and ready for pre-order — hardcover copies will ship this April. It will also be carried nationwide in bookstores. I am proud of the work and grateful for so many incredible people who helped make it great. Let me explain how this book came to be.
I was fortunate to build and sell two traditionally-funded software companies to well-known public companies within a few years. That experience gave me and my brilliant co-founder, Dr. Chris Waters, the confidence to start a new company and craft it in a nontraditional way (for a Silicon Valley-based software company).
We wanted to build a company that was completely aligned with our own values and to remain in control of its future. That company is Aha!
And it worked remarkably well. But in 2013, as Aha! emerged as the obvious choice for companies looking to improve how they innovated and built products, my family was struggling with an all-too-common sadness. My sister-in-law, Sarah Haberfeld de Haaff, had become very ill and later died from complications of breast cancer on February 23, 2015. She was only 40.
Sarah was someone everyone wanted to know. She led with her heart and taught those who had no voice how to speak.
Sarah’s last lesson was one of hope, through her embrace of the contradictions in life that we all live with. She opened her soul even when she was suffering and invited the entire community to see what it meant to face incurable illness with courage and dignity.
And she wrote. Her writings during her illness were numerous. She told stories with the wit of a comic and the grit of a boxer. She became known for her love of the ampersand because it gave her the symbol she needed to explain to the rest of us how she could be both happy & sad and hopeful & petrified and sick & well — all at the same time.
I am indebted to Sarah for reminding me that everything we do is personal and that writing is one way we can move forward. You can actually be supposed opposites at the same time.
For example, in my world, there is no split between my business self and personal self, no split between work and life. There is just life, and only action can help us remember and forget. All we can do each day is work to build what we believe in and hopefully work closely with others who have the same values.
Everything we do is work and we are compensated in different ways, depending on what we are working on and for.
I believe deeply in every person’s potential to create meaningful value. I believe that requires a human-centered approach to business to help each of us realize our best. And I am committed to helping others build lovable products and businesses through relentless effort, an allergy to boredom, and no drama. That is the story that I wanted to tell and Sarah inspired me to embrace my own supposed opposites: I could fear writing a book & embrace it.
But how exactly could I explain how to build meaningful products and companies in a way that puts people first? We are bombarded with messages that would dispute that. But it is possible. Surely not easy, but possible.
I started small. I wrote blog after blog. In my writing, I suggested that product and company builders should look to the past and reject the hype-over-substance and growth-at-all-costs mentality that seems to dominate the news today. And maybe look to how our grandparents worked, how they valued a human-centered approach to doing business.
Over the last few years, as Aha! rapidly grew to serve over 100,000 users, Chris and I codified our belief system to share with employees, pioneering a new methodology we named The Responsive Method (TRM). And I wrote extensively about our journey — the myth of work/life balance, the danger of focusing on company valuation, and the grandpa-inspired principles that powered our phenomenal growth.
We kept refining our thinking and product. And customers kept telling us they loved everything about how we did business. This surprised us. Nobody loves business software or the companies that build it. They merely tolerate it. People love consumer goods and services, but not software — software is a necessary evil. Yet practically since the day we launched, Aha! customers have been sending us “love notes” telling us how delighted they are with our product and how we treat them.
We knew that something very special was happening. We started tracking the love and working even harder to grow it. I called it lovability.
Love is the metric that nobody in business talks about but that is obvious in hindsight. Lovability — the capacity to earn genuine, heartfelt love and loyalty from customers — is the secret ingredient that propels a select few organizations ahead and leads not only to consistent growth and profitability but sustainable happiness for everyone involved.
Love is the surprising emotion that company builders cannot ignore. That is the story of this book. That is the story of Lovability.
This book is for you if you are interested in being loved for the work you do. And this book is for you if you care about building a product and business that customers really care deeply about and that you will be happy working on. We have been able to do that by pioneering the use of TRM and it is having a positive impact. Our approach has now been validated by thousands of Aha! customers and millions of readers who have enjoyed my blog posts.
Tragedy reminds us that life can be surprisingly short. Why spend it doing anything less than meaningful work with people you care about? Let Lovability help you find even greater inspiration and a few new approaches to be your best.
Go ahead and read it. Then let’s start building what really matters together. It is time for more #lovability.