Life Beyond Code

The case for “Free” (again)

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 03 Jan 2010, 12:10 AM – 2 Comments

A few months ago, I wrote on the topic – “The Business Case for Giving Away Your Best Work For Free” at

My fascination with free started in early 2000s when I was leading an open source company. I continue to be amazed at the power of free.

I was checking the bestsellers on Kindle. Can you guess the price of each of the top ten books?

Zero. Zilch. Nothing.

The top selling book “The Crossroads Cafe” by Deborah Smith has been in the top 100 books for last 9 days. There are 40 customer reviews almost everyone of them have given a 5-Star rating for the book. Deborah has another book “Mossy Creek” on #3.

If that’s not enough, note that book #11 is Alex, I Cross by bestselling author James Patterson priced at $9.99.

Free an unfair competitive advantage on price. How can you compete with something that costs nothing?

By giving something even higher quality for nothing.

By giving your best work for free.

Think about how you can incorporate “Free” into your offerings.

Posted in the Business Models category.

Just one more step…

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 02 Jan 2010, 12:10 AM – Leave Comment

Last week, I happened to be at Marie Callender’s restaurant and noticed a wine bottle on the table. It was part of a promotion called Wine Wednesday. On Wednesdays any wine bottle is half off. I don’t drink wine so it was not attractive for me anyway but upon further poking around, I found that they have been quite successful with that promotion.

While the 50% off seems like a good deal, what they did to promote the offer was also impressive. They could have kept a flyer talking about the wine bottle. Rather than that, they went one step ahead and kept the wine bottle there. One more step and the customer can get whatever they wanted.

One more step and that’s it.

It is the same model with Amazon 1-Click ordering. You are browsing the site and you like a book (or anything) and all you need to do is click the button once and the item is on its way. You can call it as an “incentive for impulse buying” or you can say that the feature is there for convenience of time-starved people or whatever you want but the deal is simple – just one more step and you can get what is being offered.

Just one more step!

There is so much to learn and may be you can think about how you can use this or a variance of this in your own business.

Posted in the Compelling Offers category.

Elevator pitch – You need it. Now!

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 01 Jan 2010, 12:17 PM – 11 Comments

I wrote a while ago, that you are always in a boxing game. People want to “box” you whether you want it or not. If that is happening anyway, why not do something to help them “box” you right – for example, creating a compelling elevator pitch for yourself?

Now you need it. More than ever. People have only a tiny bit of attention span for what you are saying. What they hear have to meet their “filtering criteria” to make them decide to give “more attention” to what you will say next.

As a first step, you can start with creating a six-word memoir for yourself. Since most of you may not be at an age where you write memoirs, imagine yourself sometime in the future and think about what your six-word memoir should be. Mine is here (after multiple attempts) and there is no guarantee that this will stay what it is. But the the journey to reach there was fulfilling in itself.

Everyone needs an elevator pitch. I was at a coffee store at Calistoga (north of San Francisco) and saw their elevator pitch right on their wall.

This year, make it a point to create an elevator pitch for yourself. As I said earlier, the process of creating one will provide you with rewards (knowing more about yourself) along the way.

Posted in the Main Page category.

Metrics That Matter for 2010

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 31 Dec 2009, 12:06 AM – 9 Comments

Photo Credit: Darren Hester at Flickr.

We are obsessed about measuring everything. We want to know the number o connections, number of followers, number of pageviews, number of minutes someone spends on our website, number of clickthroughs, number of times the shopping cart was abandoned, number of repeat visitors, number of new visitors.. and the list goes on.

Sometimes we forget that most of what we measure is means to an end and not the end itself.

Sometimes we forget that many things we should focus on cannot be measured with any scale (caring, love, joy, happiness, compassion etc.)

Sometimes we forget that we are in a rat race where everyone including the winner loses.

Sometimes we forget that we forget to see the forest for the trees. We want to improve on the metrics for the sake of improving on the metrics.

Sometimes we forget to measure the amount of time we spend being obsessed with measuring the metrics.

Measuring the wrong things is like running fast in the wrong direction.

End of the year is a great time to stop, reflect and think about what are the metrics that really matter most to you.

I have created a ONE PAGE self-asessment checklist called “Metrics That Matter for 2010.” You can download it by clicking on image to the left or the download button below. No registration required. You are, of course, welcome to modify this by adding your own questions.

Although it’s only one page and you can skim through that page in less than a minute, my request is not to rush through it. Reflect on each question for the last two years and make a promise to yourself about that number for 2010. Good luck with the exercise.

Bonus: Send this blog post or the PDF to one or more people that you care and help them create an year that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Bonus 2: If you are in an organization and would like to explore a version that will suit the corporate world, please reach out to me to discuss further.


Posted in the Main Page category.

My 2010 Social Media Manifesto

By Rajesh Setty on Wed 30 Dec 2009, 1:04 AM – 7 Comments

This is my social media approach for 2010. I am sure this will change over a period of time.

1. No short-term strategy: This has been my mantra since the time I started my blog (Feb 14, 2005.) However tempting the lure of short-term traffic, I will refrain from doing anything to simply get traffic to the blog.

2. Longevity of Content: 90% of my blog posts will have a long-term value. Yes, 10% of them will be announcements and such. In this regard, I will experiment with having an Editorial Calendar for the first time in five years.

3. Home Base: My blog Life Beyond Code will continue to be the main focus however tempting the other social networking sites are. My strategy for blogging is outlined in my book BLOGTASTIC! most of which I am giving away here:

Squidoo: Blogging Starter Checklist

4. Reach: I have no plans of joining any new social networks. [ So please don’t send requests from the social network that is the next best thing to sliced bread]

5. Comments: I will respond to as many comments as I can on my blog. I already know that I can’t respond to all comments. I will add more comments on other blogs than what I did in 2009.

6. Guest Blogging: I will continue to guest blog on the blogs [, Active Garage and Lateral Action] I signed up to guest blog. Exploring adding one more blog to the mix depending on the availability of time.

7. THINKaha books: More books to come out in the THINKaha series. Many o fthem are already planned so it’s a matter of executing on them well.

8. Connections: Will strive to meet my goal of connecting right people (# of the connections for 2010 is not finalized yet). My strategy on connecting outlined in the book Lasting Relationships (free, PDF, no registration required)

9. Speaking: Will focus on existing and new speaking commitments. Speaking topics to be expanded – currently they are on the drawing board. Some of my speaking topics are here.

10. Fiction: Will publish my first fiction work in English in 2010. The last fiction book (in Kannada language) I wrote was published in 1987

11. THINKsulting: I experimented with THINKsulting in 2009 and will get it going in 2010.

I am sure all of you have your own approach to social media in 2010. Whatever that is, I want to wish you success with it.

Posted in the Announcement category.

Mini Saga #51 – Criticism

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 29 Dec 2009, 12:10 PM – 2 Comments

Photo: Stanford Dish, Palo Alto

Birds of the same feather do not always flock together…

Enjoy the story:


Jenny could find something wrong with almost anything. She complained about something or someone on one or more social networks everyday. Lot of friends joined in her rants. One day, when she needed something, none or her critic friends were there to help. They were busy criticizing something, as usual.



1. A mini saga is a story told in exactly 50 words. Not 49 or 51 but exactly 50.

2. You can download a photographic manifesto of Mini Sagas at ChangeThis. Here is the link – Mini Sagas: Bite-sized Wisdom for Life and Business (PDF, 2.9MB).

3. For a complete list of Mini Sagas, please see the entire list here or at Squidoo.

Posted in the Mini Saga category.

2010 – The end of the fairy tale employment

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 28 Dec 2009, 11:00 PM – 6 Comments

Dan Pink talked about the rise of the free agent nation a few years ago. While the trend is in full force, the majority of people opt to work for companies (small to large) and for a foreseeable future that is going to remain the same.

Stages of Career Growth

The stages were simple:

Stage 1: Fairy Tale

The first few years of employment where everything goes. You can be a cog in the wheel and survive. You will get a raise every year. The raise is a function of pure market reality and less about your performance and contribution. It is almost like a ritual for companies to give a customary raise for everyone.

You are at the bottom of the pyramid. This is typically where the company gets the highest leverage. The company is looking for efficiency here. If you can get the commodity work efficiently, you are golden for the company.

Stage 2: Skirmish

 You cooperate and compete. You cooperate with your team members but you also have to compete with them to get into one of the slots in the next stage. Remember that there are far fewer slots in the next stage than you can imagine. These slots are opened either because of the company growth or because some people in the next group have moved on.

You are at the next level in the pyramid. Your goal is to extract maximum leverage from the people at the bottom of the pyramid. You are the chosen one for that job and the more you can get out of them, the better you are.

Stage 3: Street Fight

 These are tough times for anyone who has not worked on distinguishing themselves. The slots in the next stage are far fewer than you can imagine. You have to show to your employer (and whoever matters) that you are “special” and not “one among the crowd.” In simple terms, you should clearly not part of the commodity crowd.

Stage 4: Combat

 This is where you compete for even fewer slots available on the top. You need skills (e.g: dealing with office politics, uncommon influence, charisma) beyond what is in the job description. These skills, unfortunately, cannot be developed overnight. There is no contest for you with someone who has built these skills over the years.

I have taken the first two decades of your career. The larger the company, the more levels there are.

What has changed today?

Outsourcing, Open Source, Globalization, Free Agents and other such trends are eating the commodity layer of the pyramid. There are too many options to get the commodity work done. If you are part of the commodity layer, you are in trouble now or you will soon be in trouble.

The experience you gain from doing commodity work is no longer considered “experience” as the organization can get this experience from anywhere.

You are not competing just with your colleagues but from commodity crowd everywhere in the world. Remember that elsewhere in the world, an equivalent of minimum wage here is “good money” so they will happily compete with you.

Your option is to just ignore this trend or wake up now and do something about it.

If you didn’t get the notice, the fairy tale of engaging in commodity work has ended forever.

What can you do in 2010?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. If you are engaged in commodity work, get it redefined and walk the extra mile to build on skills that won’t fall into the commodity category.

2. Really take a serious look at what is the cost of your salary?

3. Avoid the CSS (Continuous Spiral Syndrome) trap

4. Check if you are being overcompensated for commodity work. That is a catch-22 situation. You can’t leave because nobody outside will match the salary. If you stay, you will become a vegetable.

[ Tech folks, please read: Why do I think many software engineers are on drugs?]

5. Take the fantasy test and see how you score.

6. Remember that even if you are employed by a market leader, your career is your responsibility. Nobody but you can take responsibility for where you are going.

7. Lastly look back at your entire life. What is the best year so far? Now fast forward 20 years to 2030. What should you do in 2010 so that when you look back at this year you consider this the best year of your life?

You got your work cut out!

Posted in the Main Page category.

Why some smart people are reluctant to share?

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 26 Dec 2009, 1:32 AM – 81 Comments

I am sure you have seen many smart people around you who are reluctant to share what they know.

I have seen many of them up close.

You might think the reasons for this may be:

  • they don’t have time
  • they are selfish
  • they don’t care
  • they don’t have an incentive to do it

I was perplexed on this and over the last six weeks I spent some time talking to many of these smart people to understand what could be the reason. The results were very interesting. The rest of the article is based on those findings.

Note: This is about smart people who are not sharing enough. So please don’t generalize this about all smart people.

In summary,

Smart people want to give their best and as they learn more, they learn that they need to learn a lot more before they start sharing. They learn some more and they learn they need to learn some more. What they forget is that most of the expertise that they already have is either becoming “obvious” to them or better yet, going into their “background thinking.”

Becoming obvious means that there is nothing special about it.

Becoming their background thinking means that they don’t even realize that it’s knowledge. It becomes part of them. For example think about alphabets and multiplication tables. It is in our background thinking and we don’t think about that as knowledge.

Take a look at the following schematic. On the X-axis is time as they build their expertise. On the Y-axis, is the level of expertise.

Think about your own passionate topic on which you are an expert.

(A) You start at level 1. Things are new and exciting and since you are passionate you just realize how much you don’t know and there is a new level of hunger for the knowledge.

(B) You are in level 2. You are at a new level of expertise. The earlier level (Level 1) seems obvious and common.

(C) You are in level 3. You are again at a new level of expertise. The immediate previous level (Level 2) knowledge is now obvious and common. The levels below that (in this case Level 1) is in your background thinking. Remember that what’s in your background thinking is almost invisible to you. You have that knowledge but you don’t think about it.

(D) You are in level 4 – a new level of expertise. Level 3 knowledge is obvious and everything below that is in your “background thinking.”

You can go on. You feel that you are not ready to share the knowledge at your current level and there is no point in sharing what’s obvious. And, what’s in your “background thinking” has become part of you. So it’s invisible so there is no possibility of sharing that.

So, what are you missing?

Two things:

1. The point that what is obvious to you is not obvious to many other people who are not at the same level of expertise so it is worth sharing them.

2. Not noticing what’s in your “background thinking.”  It may be in your background thinking but it’s not in the background thinking of everyone else. So, once you notice this, you can easily package this knowledge and share it.

Request for you: Please make it a point to share more in 2010. Only if smart people start sharing more can we increase the signal-to-noise ratio on the web.

Posted in the Main Page category.

The Gift

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 24 Dec 2009, 1:37 AM – 7 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Suresh Gundappa

Holiday season is filled with talk about gifts.

No, I am not talking about the gift that you want to receive.

I am talking about the gift that you can give.

Yes, that too at almost no cost.

Think about it..

If you can write online, you have the capacity to give a gift.

If you can talk to someone on a phone, you have the capacity to give a gift.

If you can talk to someone, you have the capacity to give a gift.

The good part is – in giving that gift, you give a gift to yourself.

I am talking about the gift of sharing what you are learning.

You are learning something almost everyday. There are hundreds of millions out there who for no fault of theirs ( for example, the place of birth can influence the fate of millions ) don’t have that privilege of either learning or getting an opportunity to share what they learn.

The gift that you have, if you noticed it is the ability to give another gift – the gift of sharing your learning.

It costs (almost) nothing and in fact, should you choose to give that gift, you instantly gave a gift to yourself. You learn and you learn more by sharing what you learn.

This holiday season why not make a commitment to start giving (and getting) that gift?

Posted in the Main Page category.

Mini Saga #50 – Reason

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 17 Dec 2009, 11:15 PM – 2 Comments

Photo Courtesy: StarbuckGuy on Flickr

The deadline is not the only reason to complete the project…

Enjoy the story:


Paul knew Roger was sick and had missed the deadline. Roger wanted to complete the novel anyway. Paul suggested Roger to stop, as there was no chance of winning. Roger responded, “I am doing this NOT because of what I’ll get but because of what it will make of me.”



1. A mini saga is a story told in exactly 50 words. Not 49 or 51 but exactly 50.

2. You can download a photographic manifesto of Mini Sagas at ChangeThis. Here is the link – Mini Sagas: Bite-sized Wisdom for Life and Business (PDF, 2.9MB).

3. For a complete list of Mini Sagas, please see the entire list here or at Squidoo.

Posted in the Mini Saga category.