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First Month Retrospective

Intro

It’s been one month since I started working on my side projects full time. I’ve learned some things in this month. I’m not sure if any of these will be helpful to anyone since everyone has their own situation, but I hope something will be helpful to someone, somewhere.

Time

Having all your time back isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I thought that regaining back my hours of the work day (9-5) would allow me to feel that time is abundant. I was wrong. While it’s true that I get to decide what my hours are spent on, that doesn’t mean that they are spent better. A lot less time spent at a desk, but a lot more time on Netflix.

Night ?== Day

One of my friends asked me how my days are structured. I replied: “It’s like summer vacation, but worse.” For those of us who haven’t had a summer vacation, it basically means that all the days and hours blend into each other with no one hour being more important than any other.

I attempted to set up a schedule with Google Calendar, but I found that it was much too rigid. Next month, I’m experimenting with a more fluid schedule that enforces the number of hours worked, not when the hours are worked.

Money

Budgeting

I started a budget last year. It’s been a phenomenal help to me. This month I spent what I considered to be “very little”, but I was still surprised by how much I spent at the end of the month. When moving your side projects into full time gigs, you need to calculate “runway”. I know mine, but let’s just say I’ll be eating rice and beans for the next…while.

my spending in june vs july

Spending in June vs my spending in July; still higher than I would have liked.

No Paycheck

My first month without a paycheck was interesting. One gets used to a certain standard of living when every two weeks money magically hits your bank account. I’ve really been able to reflect on what I need, and what’s worth abandoning. This quote from Nassim Taleb sums it up beautifully:

‘The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.’ – Nassim Taleb

Making Money from…something?

My initial goal was to work on my YouTube presence until I started being visible to sponsors. The goal would be to continue putting out content I enjoy creating, and live off of ad revenue and partner opportunities. If this month has taught me anything, that is a long way off from happening. In the meantime, I’m considering freelance opportunities and keeping my ear on the ground for opportunities that are remote and part time.

Inspiration and Motivation

It’s tempting to just “wait” until you feel so inspired to be productive. Unfortunately, inspiration rarely follows any logical schedule.

Cognitive Dissonce Hurts

I recently learned a new word! Akrasia. Akrasia is a Greek term for “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will”. Basically, Akrasia is when you have a feeling that you should be doing something, but you’re not. You should be mowing the lawn, but you’re on Reddit. You should be working on that React Native app, but you’re watching The Office again.

Akrasia: “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will”

When you have a boss, you have performance reviews, you have entire teams of people tracking your output. When you’re on your own, you become the manager and the managed. The only way to get something done is to do it. Simple as that.

Consistency

Showing up every day. Compound interest. Garbage in, garbage out. Don’t skip leg day. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint (or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself).

compund interest

Compound interest doing its thing! Snapshot of July from my Youtube analytics page.

Authenticity

I’ve always been a closet nerd. I own six Hunter x Hunter shirts. I spend a lot of my days on YouTube watching One Punch Man and DBZ reruns.

But since I’ve always “disliked” that side of my personality, I haven’t been able to integrate that into my work. I hope to change this next month, to be able to release content that is true to my soul; and non apologetic.

Habits

Exercise

This one is huge. Exercise truly is what it’s cracked up to be. Stressed? Jog for a bit. Tired? Knock out 15 pushups. Need a morning routine? Head to the gym.

Exercise feels like a Swiss army knife and has become a core part in my routine, and helping me maintain a level head and getting me swolleeee.

Omega 3

The science isn’t conclusive, but I can say that taking omega-3 supplements have helped me feel less lethargic and more motivated when I would normally fall into patterns of depression.

(I’m willing to acknowledge that maybe it’s a placebo effect ¯ \ (ツ)/¯)

Sleep

My sleep hasn’t been great. I’ve been able to sleep in, but I’ve been getting to bed too late. It’s incredible how an entire day can go by without a single good idea, but then 2am hits and the mind becomes a F-35.

Reading

I’ve been able to read a lot more, which is awesome. My favorite reads this month were Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, for entirely different reasons.

Regrets

Still none…well no major ones, at least. I do miss the snacks in the office.

Wins

  1. Podcast with Max Hertan
  2. Finished my portfolio
  3. First stream on Mixer
  4. 24 subscribers (small, but a big deal to me!)
  5. Daily* conversations with my friend Ulrik, keeping me both grounded and motivated

*okay, maybe every other day

Losses

  1. Still no solid niche idea for YouTube
  2. Still spent more money than I would prefer to
  3. Too much time spent unfocused, neither resting nor working; just upset and unfocused

Plans for Next Month

  1. Find a monetization strategy to help propel business (profit first!)
  2. Find a mentor

Conclusion

I like the feeling of control. This world has so many incalculable variables, it’s a fool’s errand to try and control everything. But there are some things I can control. My time, how I spend my money, appreciating who I have and what I have.

This month has taught me a lot about self-reliance. I’m excited for the next one.

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fog

Next Steps

“Two paths diverged in a yellow wood…”

I just left my job.
Worse yet, I left my job to chase a quote-on-quote dream.
Even worse than that, my dream isn’t even well defined, isn’t supported by $10M seed funding, and doesn’t have the support of a university or company behind it.
And the worst sin of all? I don’t feel bad about it.

Some background

I’m very fortunate.
I’m extremely fortunate to have a functioning body, a functioning mind, and a network of family and friends that inspire me and care for me.
I have an education, experience in a field that taught me a lot about the world and to live in a city that taught me a lot about people.
I’ve learned a lot of life’s lessons early on in my life. Lessons of mortality, lessons of money or lack thereof, lessons of love and lessons of hate.

Reality

“The more in harmony with yourself you are, the more joyful you are and the more faithful you are. Faith is not to disconnect you from reality – it connects you to reality.”
– Paulo Coelho

I find that it’s important to be realistic. It’s important to list out as objectively as possible the things that are true. Things that are tangible: my height and weight, my favorite foods, places I like and places I don’t. Things that are intangible: the times of the day I’m most focused, the books that make me happiest, the songs that make me feel most alive.

I find it’s important to be realistic about death. How long, yet tragically short, life can be. I find it’s important to acknowledge one’s “dream”, and to mercilessly pursue your own meaning in this universe (because no one else will do it for you).

Insecurity

“I Am an Old Man and Have Known a Great Many Troubles, But Most of Them Never Happened”
Old Man

As a consistent journaler, I began to notice trends. Patterns in my behaviors, in my wants and needs. Things that rattle my nerves, and most importantly: my insecurities. Oh, my insecurities! So many and always changing, never fully healed and constantly tender, like open wounds.

My most tender wound? The feeling of renting out my time on something that I don’t own. I guess this insecurity can be blamed partly on my ideology, from being raised in a WEIRD household. The need to feel like an individual, and to feel I’ve left a legacy on this planet. For my life to feel bigger than it is, to feel longer than it is, and to be more meaningful than it is in reality.

And so, with time, effort, and a lot of self reflection I threw all of my realities and motivations into one “pot” and stirred. Stirred and waited. After a while, something emerged from the cloudy liquid. Then all I had to do is take whatever emerged seriously.

Permission-less Work

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Can I? May I? Should I? We spend so much of our lives asking other people if we can do something. To a point, this is logical. Often, people will try to protect you, they care for your growth and safety, and value your comfort. The problem is, when you ask other people for feedback on your motivations, other people are really just granting permission for themselves, veiled as permission for you.
We can only perceive the world as we know it. If you ask me “Can I be a chef like Gordon Ramsay?” I may reply, “Yeah, I love the stir fry you made the other night! But aren’t you still set on med school?” Whether or not I truly believe you could succeed as a chef is irrelevant, in this moment my main concern is to maintain a positive relationship with you by telling you what you want to hear.

In the extreme, some people will refuse to act, and refuse to be, unless they have assurance from other people. They’ll assign their identity to their profession, the school they went to, or the town they grew up in.

My favorite thing about our current era, the Information Age, is the driving force of social evolution, and how anyone, anywhere, can create something that creates immense wealth for society (e.g. Google, Uber, Facebook, etc.) in less than a lifetime. In this world you can be whoever you want to be.

Say it with me: you can be WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.

The barrier of entry is much lower. You no longer need to take a physical risk to extend influence and to create something that matters to you. In this day and age, opportunity is abundant for those who are willing to look for it. People all over the world are meeting each other for the first time every second of every day, most over a screen. Their words enter your mind, and their feelings enter your heart. Even now, this post is my feeble attempt to join in on this great game, to meet and hopefully help people who I’ve never seen before.

I guess, in a way, I’m setting out to test this hypothesis. I’m setting out to find out if everyone is right about the way the world is supposed to work. If we’re meant to consign ourselves to doing things we don’t enjoy in this world, because “that’s just the way things are, and that’s the way they always have been and always will be.”

Calculated Risk

“Between calculated risk and reckless decision-making lies the dividing line between profit and loss.”
– Charles Duhigg

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about risk. Taking on risk is well… risky. Why expose your feelings by asking out the person you’ve been secretly crushing on the past five months? Why bet your life savings on a startup? Why move out of the city you know, with people who love you, with $20 in your pocket to go and pursue an idea you had at 5am one night?

The obvious answer is reward. Reward can technically be unlimited. The greater the risk, generally correlates with a higher reward. This is due to the increased accountability in the endeavor. It was a major risk to be the first people to fly to the Moon. The reward is being known as the first people on the Moon forever.

With increased risk comes increased chance of failure. Some failures are minimal, and wounds can be licked. Others are earth shattering and catastrophic. If startup culture has taught me anything, it’s that it’s better to fail forward, tripping a little bit each day, rather than to succeed for a consistent period of time and then suffer a major setback.

I’m a firm believer that empty platitudes don’t do anything. That it’s better to make mistakes of ambition rather than mistakes of sloth. That failure is a healthy and integral part of growing up and creating something that matters. That improvement is a continuous process with peaks and valleys, but trends upwards if you put in the effort.

So What Projects Are You Gonna Be Working On?

At this moment in time, I am driven solely by my obsessions. Tasks that intrinsically motivate me, that make me feel alive.

These obsessions are: music, coding, acting, writing, reading books, and public speaking.
Tomorrow my obsessions may include cooking or skiing, who knows. People change, value calculations change with new inputs, the things that are important to us today may not be important tomorrow.

I’ll be working on this blog, on my music, on more open source projects, getting involved with the tech community at large, and some projects that I hope to make money from.
I’m going to continue uploading to my YouTube channel about rapid skill acquisition, and my videos will continue to get better, because I will get better. I want to spin a podcast off of the channel as well, interviewing experts and trying to hone in on what sub-skills people should focus on to grow rapidly.

P.S. reach out to me through e-mail if you are an expert in your field, I’d love to interview you.

Most importantly, I’m not gonna ask anyone or wait for someone to tell me yes to make something I want to make. I’m just gonna do it.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
– Steve Jobs

What am I worried about?

Bye bye paycheck (for now)

There is a certain standard of living one gets used to after making consistent money, but that is no longer the case for me currently. I’m hoping Seneca is right about our relationship with daily comforts and fortune; that it’s out of my control in the first place, and I should be grateful for what I had and what I have now:

“Remember that all we have is ‘on loan’ from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission—indeed, without even advance notice. Thus, we should love all our dear ones, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever—nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.”
– Seneca

My own self doubt + other’s doubt at the same time

It’s one thing to have to battle your own demons, it’s another altogether to have to fend off family and friends from the quote-on-quote poor decision making I’ve done around this. 😉

Loneliness

I don’t mind being alone in a room for hours on end. My books and work keep me company enough. That said, it will take more effort now to meet people who will inspire me and help me to grow, and I’ll need to take a much more active role in my social development.

Managing my own discipline

Discipline is never one of those things that is truly “solved”. It’s very dependent on mood, motivation, and physical state. There are great tools out today that can increase productivity, but I can’t imagine it will be easy.

People are less effective solo than on a team

There’s honestly only so much output one person can do in any given day, and honestly, it won’t be as high quality as what a team is able to produce. I’m excited to push my boundaries with the resources and skillset that I have, but I do worry about “not being good enough.”

Uncertainty

By and by, I have no idea what’s going to happen. That sucks, let’s be frank.

Where Do You See Yourself 5 Years From Now?

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing one year from today, or even scarier, who I’ll be. Will I have to go back to a full time job? Will one of my family members get sick? Will I get sick? Will I make zillions of dollars, win a Nobel Prize and be the first man to successfully bake a souffle on the moon? Probably not.
None of us can predict the future, but I think that future vision might suck the fun out of life. Spinning the wheel is only fun if you can’t predict the outcome after all.

All I can see, all I can do, is take the next steps.

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The Million Dollar App Idea

Disclaimer

I haven’t created a million dollar app yet either, so you can take or leave my opinions. This post arises from multiple conversations with friends at different stages of life who all have different ideas about technical solutions they’d like to see in the world.

Summary

  • The glorious idea
  • The bleak truth of “good” ideas
  • The success of the “Yo” App
  • Overly complex ideas
  • Building your team
  • Finding a balance
  • Quantity vs quality

Mr. Krabs, I have an idea!

spongebob has a great idea

We’ve all been there.

Inspiration strikes us in the night while we sleep, and we jolt up, face riddled with an excited exasperation. We’ve discovered an idea too good to fail. We rush to the nearest piece of paper and write it down, before it disappears from our thoughts like a leaf drifts down a river. For some, this idea has been simmering for months, playing around with different forms and variations, occasionally being forgotten and replaced with a need to eat or do something else. For others, it actually is a bolt of lightning. A colleague says something to you, or you’re out for a jog, or eating a donut.

But is this idea actually any good?

In the bleak midwinter

To examine if an idea is good or not, conventional wisdom suggests to look at your predecessors. What has worked in the past? Why did it work? Will my idea generate similar traction? Why does this type of app succeed, while this one failed?

Fortune claims that around ~60% of startups fail to provide their investors a 1x return. On paper, that seems like a good sign. Our odds of starting a successful business of our own are almost 1 in 2! But, let’s unpack this one more level and see if that’s actually the case. According to Entrepreneur, only 0.05% of startups get funded by VC’s in the first place. Indeed, most startups are run out of the pockets of the creators and their family and friends.

In that case, we want to make sure that our idea is good. Like, really good. Good enough that we will be able to execute, market, and most importantly get a positive return on our idea. Unfortunately, most ideas that sound good to you, don’t sound good to others. Back when I first started doing web dev, one of my mentors told me that it’s vital to ask yourself: “Is this something that I want, or will it give others value?”. This question can save you countless hours of working on a product that no one will ever use.

Yo App

Yo is an app that is extremely simple at it’s core. I send you a “Yo”, you send me one back. Thats it. In 2014, Yo was valued between $5 and $10 million dollars. Surely not as valued as a unicorn like Uber, but a phenomenal return on such a simple idea.

This is where I think the greatest divide between apps that succeed and apps that fail exists. Some ideas are too big in magnitude, too hard to implement, and fail before they can get off the ground.

Two worlds

Let’s consider two scenarios:
1. You come up with an idea that will help users find clothes that fit them perfectly, are stylish and affordable.
2. You come up with an idea that sends users a funny text at a specified time during the day.

In scenario 1, we have a thick idea. To get this idea to market we would need machine learning for a recommendation system, machine vision to capture the physical specifics about a user (or a really detailed form, I guess). We need a marketplace where users can buy clothes, a relationship with fashion vendors, a relationship with a shipping vendor, etc.

In scenario 2, we have a thin idea. This idea is effectively it’s a database with two tables. One of funny quotes, the other of users and their specified times. We write some code to link the two and send a notification to users.

While the idea in scenario 1 is super cool, it’s extremely difficult to implement correctly. Also it’s more costly, and more risky. Scenario 2 can be built super quick, and you can get your idea in front of users in much less time, and for much less capital.

It’s often worth it to split larger ideas into smaller ones, if your heart is set on a thick idea.

News Team, ASSEMBLE

mo money mo problems

In the infamous words of The Notorious B.I.G: “Mo Money, Mo Problems”

I think it’s also important to discuss the people you’ll need to make an app a reality. If you need 3 PhD’s on your team, 5 engineers, and 3 sales people before you have a POC, your idea is probably a bit too unrealistic. Try to find ideas that are simple in nature, so you’ll be able to go farther with a smaller team.

Balance

guy balances on chairs

Survivorship bias is a hell of a drug. When looking at major companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, it’s easy to assume that with the correct mix of gusto, hard work and ingenuity, everyone can create a multi-layered complex organization. As with all of the logical fallacies though, this is a mistaken belief. These companies have visibility, and we don’t ever see the hundreds of similar companies that have failed around them.

For any good idea to bubble up, you need to strike a balance between realism and aspiration. If you believe your app will be able to compete with the top 10 in the app store three days after a 1.0 release, you’re going to feel disappointed. However, if you meter your expectations, and really narrow in on a straightforward value you can provide to your users, you’ll be able to iterate quicker and see measurable results.

Quality vs Quantity != Yin vs Yang

So is your app idea good? That’s hard to tell. Is there a market you’re inserting yourself into? What value does your app provide?

Personally, I’d much rather try three smaller ideas, and whisk them off to market and have them all fail rather than put all of my eggs into one proverbial basket. It’s important to not let your idea cloud your success, especially on a market like the App Store, where competition is tough, and it’s very hard to get visibility. Don’t be afraid to pivot, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to make small projects. And most importantly, remember to make stuff that provides value.

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code-hp

Why Everyone Should Learn To Code

This post is a response to the great video released by PolyMatter called “Not Everyone Should Code”. Here’s the video but I’ve summarized the points below if you don’t want to watch it.

Summary of Not Everyone Should Code

  • Programmers get paid really well
  • Programming as a job is trending upwards
  • There is a ton of hype (and alarm) of people finding new jobs/losing jobs due to programming
  • Programming full-time is a trade, similar to surgery or plumbing
  • A lot of code teaching websites over simplify the career
  • A lot of people do it for the money, which will lead to unhappiness
  • Demand (even though its high right now) won’t stay that way if everyone has the skill to program

There are a ton of good points

Required Skillz

Before I jump into what I disagree with, I’d like to talk about what I do agree with. I’d like to say PolyMatter makes great points and I agree with him on multiple fronts, especially that being a programmer should be treated as a trade and not a necessary skill. If people have their education in finance or biology or architecture, etc. they shouldn’t be forced to learn program the same way that a Computer Science student isn’t forced to learn how to use a pipette.

Tech Companies

I also agree that tech companies hold an enormous amount of power in the world, and show no sign of slowing down. Apple may become the first American company with a net worth of over $1 trillion dollars, which is ~1/20th of America’s entire national debt. Damn.

Bootcamps and Learn to Code Sites

Finally, I agree that a lot of free learn to code websites and boot camps can overall be a disservice to their students, overpromising and under delivering. These programs can lack the rigor of pursuing a full-time degree in Computer Science. Claims of wealth and fortune, promising that they too can make a six figure salary after 10 weeks of writing for-loops is a dangerous game.

But I don’t like all of ’em

Efficiency

Now on to what I don’t agree with. I think PolyMatter is greatly underestimating the overlap between programming and computer science. In the video, he mentions that computer science is all about efficient problem solving and that programming isn’t. Here’s the thing though: I barely ever use my CS degree in my day-to-day work. Most of the programming companies will pay you for is to solve problems, but since every company has a different model, the CS degree past Intro to Data Structures very rarely applies. I believe that programming as a skill forces you to become better at solving problems over time. There are only so many times that you can get burned by inefficient code before you or someone else has to “open up the hood” and dig deeper into the internals, and make your code more efficient.

Money

Another thing I’d like to disagree with (tentatively) is the “going into a programming career for the money” aspect. It’s true that software engineers/developers/programmers get paid a lot (the average salary is ~$80k annually), but that they work pretty hard as well, with some days being crazy stressful. I don’t believe that shaming people for wanting to have a career that pays well, as if passion directly aligns against how much a field pays. Especially with programming, and here’s why:

  1. Programming: As a skill, coding is vast and can influence a ton of fields. I worked for a Political Science department back in college, and learned so much about the field by just being around it. You can find programmers in medical, entertainment, fashion, etc. It’s very versatile!
  2. College costs: College should really be thought of as an investment the same way that people will buy a house. Students should get a positive return on the money they spend for their education. I think it’s equally if not more dangerous to tell recent high school grads to study whatever they please. Especially if it will put them $100k in debt and leave them without opportunity.

Required Skillz, Part Deux

The last major point I want to make is that learning how to code is a spectrum. Just because a student can write, doesn’t make them a Pulitzer winning author. And just because I can cook a grilled cheese sandwich, doesn’t make me a five-star chef. Learning how to program is a valuable skill, and languages are easier to pick up now than ever. If it were 1985, and the only language to learn was Basic, I’d agree that programming should be left to hobbyists and professionals. But these days, programming can be easy, fun, rewarding, and give people technical literacy. I think we learned our lesson with the printing press, knowledge is meant to be shared, not be gated and hidden from people. Coding is no exception.

Follow for more kewl coding stuff

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How to Start a YouTube Channel with your iPhone in 2019

What you’ll learn:

  1. What kind of iPhone do you need?
  2. Content is King
  3. Creating a Youtube account
  4. Recording videos with the Camera app
  5. Simple editing with iMovie
  6. Uploading a video with your phone from the YouTube app

Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a YouTube channel. Today marks the start of being able to upload your own content and share it with the world. It’s gonna be a good day.

Intro

Starting a YouTube channel can be a confusing process. You see the work your favorite creators create, but you’re not sure where to start.

The bad news is: those creators have a ton of experience and fancy, and sometimes thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

The good news is: it’s 2019! We as a people are more empowered than ever before to create the content we want.

We can upload to YouTube using just our phones. And better yet, you won’t need anything for this guide that’s not completely free!

What kind of iPhone do you need?

I have an iPhone 6. I got it refurbished on Amazon for ~$220. I’ve been using it to post videos on both TikTok and YouTube.

Your phone might be newer than mine. It may be older. That doesn’t matter too much. Thanks to a competitive smartphone landscape, phone cameras are better than ever on all phones. The Pixel 2 can capture photos of similar quality to a lens 9x its own size.

For most “starter” content you may be interested in uploading to YouTube all you need to be willing to do is to smile at your phone camera.

As time passes and you get more confident with your YouTube presence that is when you should worry about dropping $$ for more expensive tools. Don’t put the cart before the horse!

The content is the most important thing. Speaking of…

Content is King

Whether you plan on uploading comedy, educational videos, animations, compilations, vlogs, music covers, or anything else, at the end of the day only one thing ends up mattering. Content. Content. Content.

The words you say, the meaning you convey are all that matter.

Design plays a very important part, as well. So does marketing. But they both pale in the face of content.

Before you work on a video, have an audience in mind, and an end goal. Don’t overthink this.

Content is a complex topic and varies from person to person. But basically, post stuff that you’re interested in and knowledgeable about. The rest will fall into place.

“post stuff that you’re interested in and knowledgeable about”

Now let’s get to business!

Creating a YouTube Brand Account

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to create a YouTube brand account.

Click “Add account” to create a YouTube account.

Next, hit “Create Account” to actually create the account.

Next, choose a name for your channel:

Nice!

After your channel is created, write down 2 ideas for videos. They don’t have to be impressive, and the easier the better!

Here’s some ideas I might come up with about things that **interest me**:

  1. Talking about pure DPS classes in WoW vs hybrids
  2. Recipes to cook in an Instant Pot

Let’s aim to have a one minute length edited video, which is roughly ~2-3 minutes of content, assuming you’ll slip up.

Recording on Your Phone

Next up, we’ll record our video on our phone. Open your Camera app. You’ll want to use the back camera because it renders at a higher quality. Oh, and turn it horizontal.

“…hold it horizontal man, Be professional” – Childish Gambino, Worldstar

Editing Your Masterpiece

I used Splice to edit my video, but there are a ton of free apps on the app store, pick one you like.

Let’s add some text to our video.

And let’s slooowwwwww it down.

Now we have to select our video attributes, like if we want it to be HD or not.

Now, let’s export it!

Upload!

Hit the little camera on the top right of your screen

Next, give your video a title and description.

Add some music if you feel so inclined.

Stay on the screen while it’s uploading (I don’t think you have to, but it will help prevent errors from occurring).

Congrats! We now have our finished product.

Conclusion

As you can see, you don’t need the fanciest tech and gear out there to start creating things you want to see. I challenge you to take action! Create the video you want to create, and then iterate as you improve!

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Optimizing your Workday with Simplenote

this post is not sponsored, I just really enjoy their software

TL;DR download Simplenote. It’s a well thought out Notes app that supports markdown, syncs between all of your devices, and uses a tagging system to search.

Finding a good note-taking app is critical. Getting stuff out of your head for later processing is key to productive work.

To me a good note taking app is:

  1. intuitive
  2. lightweight
  3. markdown compatible
  4. searchable
  5. syncs between all my devices
  6. secure/private

I’ve used a lot of note taking softwares, to various degrees of success. I’ve used Notion, Apple Notes, bullet journaling and I even tried managing notes on Google Docs for a brief stint.

The problem was, most note taking options were much too heavy. They either took forever to open or were so bogged down with features that it distracted from the note taking experience.

Before Simplenote my favorite note taking devices were:

  1. Bullet Journaling
  2. Apple Notes
  3. Notion

Bullet Journaling

I love bullet journaling because of the daily format. Each day is unique, and may require drawings and chicken scratch to describe, that text just can’t do. The dots, dashes and circle method is intuitive and makes searching through pages a breeze. And since it’s not put on the internet, it’s private!

But.

Carrying around a journal is a pain.
Remembering to write everyday is a pain. Losing a journal is a pain.

Apple Notes

Fast. That is the main reason I used Apple Notes. An idea strikes? Open the notes app. Want to clarify an older idea? Notes app. The search functionality is impressive.

But.

The Notes app doesn’t support markdown. This makes formatting a pain. Writing longer form content on it is out of the question.

Notion

Hyper futuristic writing-organizing-editing-workflow technology that I hope to return to in the future. Linking between pages is a joy, and there are a lot of fun toys to play with.

But.

The experience on iPad and iPhone is awful. It lags, it jumps around different parts of the document, editing previous blocks means you have to scroll and tap on them.

Simplenote

For me, Simplenote was the solution. I needed something that wouldn’t take 500 years to open on my phone to capture quick ideas, but also be flexible enough for longer form content. It is password protected so I feel less nervous expressing my thoughts (still not nearly as safe as paper; given the nature of the Internet).

Simplenote allows me to organize my thoughts, monitor project completion, and capture ideas when inspiration strikes. And it syncs between all my devices! For free!

Caveat: apparently some users have ran into issues with syncing. I personally haven’t.

At the end of the day, the tool needs to fit the job. If you're more comfortable on Evernote, or with pen and paper, or writing on cave walls, you do you. Find what works. Click To Tweet

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3 Immediately Actionable Tips to make your Day Better

Summary:

  • What is “Actionable”?
  • Biological Processes: HALT
  • Smile and Power Pose
  • Write it Down

What is “Actionable”?

In this context, actionable means that the results of a process will be immediately apparent. For example, stubbing your toe is an immediately actionable tip. A bad one, but I digress.

via GIPHY

1. HALT

I learned about HALT a few years ago and it has had a positive impact on my mindfulness since. The rules are simple. When you’re upset, stop and assess the following:

  • Am I Hungry?
  • Am I Aangry?
  • Am I Lonely?
  • Am I Tired?

From there, it’s a simple algorithm:

if (hungry) { eat something nutritious(it’s important that it’s nutritious!) }
if (angry) { take three deep breaths, 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out; and assess if there is any way to politely remove yourself from the situation }
if (lonely) { call someone who cares about you }
if (tired) { take a nap or set a reminder in your phone to go to bed early tonight }

2. Smile and Power Pose

Wonder Woman Pose

There is research that suggests that smiling and power posing can influence your mood in a positive manner. While not verifiable, power posing is easy to do, and the act of feeling in control of your emotion will have a positive impact on your mood.

3. Write it Down

If you want to solve a problem, the best way I’ve ever found is to simply write the problem down. Get it out of your head. Once on paper, it will become monumentally easier to deal with. Promise.

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Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

4 Ways to Minimize Regret

Regret sucks. Let’s talk about some ways to make it suck less.

What You’ll Learn

  1. The Regret Minimization Framework
  2. Any Unasked Question is a No
  3. Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth
  4. The Only Question

The Regret Minimization Framework

The Regret Minimization Framework is a fantastic tool. It is similar to an algorithm in Computer Science called Hill Climbing. Hill climbing is focused on finding local maxima (a fancy term for finding the highest point close to you.

Math is Fun Maxima Graph
thanks to math is fun

Given multiple choices, we want to take the option that results in the least amount of regret after it’s over.

Example

You have 3 options that will take you one hour to complete. Doing one prohibits you from doing the others, adding an opportunity cost to all the choices.

Option A: Exercise (Regret score: 15)
Option B: Hanging out with your friends (Regret score: 20)
Option C: Watching Netflix (Regret score: 45)

In this case, it is best to spend the hour exercising. It incurs a cost of missing conversation with friends, and not getting ahead in our show, but minimizes the guilt felt at the end of the hour.

Hill climbing and regret minimization is not a perfect science. By focusing on local maxima, we miss chances to find optimal routes. But the ones we do find are good enough.

Any Unasked Question is a No

Anxiety is the sibling of regret. Regret criticizes choices made, and anxiety criticizes thoughts about choices. Anxiety is useful in doses. It prevents stupid decision making, for individuals and societies.

The sucky part is that if anxiety wins, regret will also win later.

Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a promotion. You’re anxious because you don’t want a light shined on the work you’ve done. So you don’t ask. 3 months later, your coworker is promoted to the role, and you regret not asking.

You’ve felt and acted on both the negative feelings of anxiety and regret. Ouch.

Any unasked question is a no, so go ahead and ask!

Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
– The Prince, Machiavelli

The quote sums it up. There is no such thing as “no risk”. Make bold plays.

The Only Question

The final and easiest way to minimize regret is to ask yourself:

When I’m looking back at the end of my life, did I do everything I wanted?

Think in the long term. The short term has too many variables that pollute thinking. Long term thinking is values based, and since you can’t see how your plans play out, you’ll only have your values to guide you.

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Analysis of Panic Room by Silent Planet

I’ve been listening to this song for a few days now, and I love it. I love the lyricism. There are a ton of clever metaphors. I wanted to take a deeper look into some of my favorite lines.

Selected lyric analysis below:

Lustrous lines obscured by opaque blinds
Frozen metacarpals tap tap tap the window glass

A person afraid of going to sleep, because they are afraid of what they’ll find when they close their eyes. The person in the song is suffering from PTSD from their time serving in the military.

The tap tap tap on the window glass is a vivid descriptor. You can imagine lying in bed, hiding under the covers, while your demons are right outside.

Syncopated staccatos with the broken clock
Synchronized with my post-traumatic ticks ticks

Phenomenal use of alliteration. I’m no English major, but damn, I appreciate this lyric. With every clock tick the person shudders, reminded of a time where every second could have been their last.

We’ve all lay in bed late at night, our eyes glued open at the ceiling. Each second feeling longer than eternity itself.

In my endless dance with entropy
I must rescind my sentience

We all have coping mechanisms. Defense responses to our internal struggles. Some drink, others watch too much TV, others eat. They all serve the same deeper end goal. To silence the voices that are telling us things we don’t want to hear, or remind us of things we do not want to see.

In the endless dance with the internal chaos, we cede our control.

Machines of air looking down on us
The beasts of dust as we grapple heel and hand,
Mud and sand, (blood red oil)
The chaff of the harvest
Converted to currencies of wealthy means
Stepping stones cut from our perforated bones
Riches are reaped beside our bodies sown just to be thrown back again
And forgotten if we stumble in
Laid inside a homeless nest,
Stuck with eager dirty needles,
Shipped to an early steeple
where boxes close
Descend with grace as you defend yourself
Both charitable and chaste
Praise me for my valor, lay me on a crimson tower
Justify my endless terror as my finest hour

Treat me as a token to deceive the child
Whom we fatten for this scapegoat slaughter

emphasis mine

Wow, just wow. This bit is quite political (which I don’t like to get into), but it made me so unbelievably sad. It gets the listener to question who is profiting from war, why we idolize the system that encourages young people to go and die for valor, to come back home and be mistreated and forgotten.

The homeless nest refers to the many veterans who turn to drugs to deal with PTSD, and then get shamed by their communities for trying to deal with their demons in the only way that they could find.

I learned to fight I learned to kill
I learned to steal I learned that none of this is real
None of this is real
None of this is real
None of this is real
But there’s a war inside my head

Another extremely heavy lyric. What is real? Does war end when you return to your family and friends? How do veterans use the skills they’ve learned? What about the millions of people who never fully come home?

tabula rasa

Two Sentence Paragraphs are the Future

Attention spans are slim, folks. This is no surprise.

In order to keep readers/listeners/users/watchers engaged, introduce new concepts.

A lot of blogs on the internet, they’re much too long.

They spend word upon word elaborating, elucidating, compounding, expanding upon.

Let’s make things simple. Simpler than they were in school.

Say what you need to say, nothing more. And use spacing, damn it! No one likes walls of text!

Silence is a virtue.

4 sentences per paragraph is much too many.
Stick to two.

what this piece looks like as one paragraph, I challenge you to try and stay focused the whole way through!

Attention spans are slim, folks. This is no surprise. In order to keep readers/listeners/users/watchers engaged, introduce new concepts. A lot of blogs on the internet, they’re much too long. They spend word upon word elaborating, elucidating, compounding, expanding upon. Let’s make things simple. Simpler than they were in school. Say what you need to say, nothing more. And use spacing, damn it! No one likes walls of text! Silence is a virtue. 4 sentences per paragraph is much too many. Stick to two.

wow queue time smh

Week 1 – Regret Minimization Framework: Choosing a WoW Main

What you’ll be reading:

  • class choice regret
  • too many options
  • minimizing regret by optimizing variables

When you look back at the end of your life, would you do it all over again?

Heroes of Azeroth, WoW Classic is upon us.

It is time to retrieve our weapons, don our armor, and sound the horns of war.

After your 4 hour wait in the queue, you finally see it. The character creation screen.

You pick a Tauren Shaman, and grind tooth and nail killing wolves, accepting quests and learning new combat abilities to level 10. You decide to become an Enhancement shaman.

You continue your journey, entering a PvP zone. You get ganked by a rogue. Multiple times. You get upset. Why can his class turn invisible? Yours can’t.

You decide to enter a dungeon. You whisper a group looking for a DPS. They ask you to heal. Wait, you say. I don’t want to heal. That’s why I chose Enhancement. Tough butts, they reply, they’re not looking for your role. Better luck next time.

You head back to the character screen and select Undead rogue. You grind to level 10. You head into a PvP zone. A warlock fears and DoTs you. You die. You get frustrated. Repeat.

There are many different ways to approach WoW, from casual to hardcore. And while there isn’t one correct choice, there are many wrong ones. Let me clarify that point. A bad choice means you chose a class or a role that is considered “bad”. At its core, WoW is a group game. If groups don’t want you, you’ll have a lot less fun.

Barking up the wrong tree costs time, and time is an invaluable asset. If you get to level 30 and decide that you hate your class, you’ll have to start a new one at level 1.

Regret Minimization Framework to the Rescue

Instead of considering all potential variables for a class choice (and there are a lot), let’s instead ask one question:

In one year, will you regret picking your class?

Go through the selection screen, through all of the races and classes you may want to play and ask yourself this question.

As for me, I’m going druid. Or maybe rogue. Hunter? Damn, still some choices to be made. See you in game.

Trying Out Mental Models

I’ve been hearing a lot about mental models. How they improve decision making, and can supplant heuristics we use day to day in our brains.

Over the next 30 days, I plan to use them to help me make decisions and see if I become happier, more productive, have a positive overall ROI.

via GIPHY

The Rules

Focus on one per week, try and make at least one major decision and two minor decisions based off the model of the week. First up, regret minimization.

The Models

  1. Regret Minimization Framework
  2. ICE

Make short-term decisions using this model: When facing many options needing prioritization, score each on a scale of 1-10 using three variables.

The positive impact it would have if it succeeds.
The confidence you have that it will succeed if you try it.
How easy it would be to try it.
For each option, average its three numbers to get its ICE score. Then order all your options by their ICE scores. Options at the top of your list will have the highest expected value and should be given priority.

  1. Pareto Principle
  2. Eisenhower Matrix
wall niche

The Niche Myth


Small Holes

When you think of a niche, an image of a penguin might come to mind. Penguins have mastered their frigid environment, huddling together in the cold, and sliding on their bellies doing badass backflips off of glaciers. An ecological niche is when an organism is well adapted for its environment.

“If you put a gun to my head and said, ‘You have to come up with a story for Happy Feet Three,’ I’d say shoot me.” – George Miller

Or, for you architecture buffs out there, you may think of niches’ second, and less commonly used definition, a shallow recess in a wall. I don’t know how frequently this applies to anyone, tbh.

Today however, we will be discussing the third definition of niche:

(n.) a comfortable or suitable position in life of employment

** N.B.: the English language loves to overload definitions

Comfortable or Suitable Position? The Heck?

To be fair, that definition is pretty sucky.

Organisms in general, prefer comfort over conflict. People are no different. So, let’s just define comfort as being in a comfortable state most of the time.

Ok, how about suitable? That word is well…suitable. It acknowledges that no situation will ever be entirely ideal, but it can be suitable. In other words, “Meh, I’m ok right now.”

this is fine

Environment Envy

Arguably, one of the reasons the human species is so successful on Earth is how quickly we adapt to new environments. Hot, cold, mountainous, desert, or rainforest, you will find people all over the surface of the planet.

According to natural selection, success is determined by survival and continuation of the genes of an organism.

In business, success is defined as making more money than you’re losing. Whether you sell shoes, technology, or insurance, the goal is survival and growth.

The environment is an always changing system. The larger the environment, the harder it is to predict change.

Big businesses are harder to operate because they are less adaptive. For a real life example of this, decide what you’re going to have for dinner tonight. Now, ask a friend and decide together. Now, ask another. For every friend you add, the more complex the decision becomes.

Much like an environment, the market must be worked with, not against.

Success in a market is a combination of timing, a solid product, and the ability to sell. Without all three of these being present in some shape or form, a venture will be dead in the water. For a real life example of this, try to open a lemonade stand in December.

The Common Advice

People argue the importance of finding a niche, a hyper-specific use case for your skills/product/juggling talent. This advice is well founded. Many successful businesses we see in our day to day lives do something well enough to get people to part with their money. Even in a sea of competition, they continue to generate value and capture a percentage of that value.

However, I’d argue that the way most people go about finding their niche is flawed.

Better Advice

When choosing a niche to work in, set out to find your particular competitive advantage. If you don’t think you’re good at anything, what do you suck the least at?

Competition

Examine the competition. Monitor what makes the Taco Bell franchise successful, or why Apple has so many raving fans.

After you examine businesses you admire, throw out your findings. You are not Taco Bell. You are not Apple. Imitation will only get you so far.

Great artists steal, but their personality isn’t run over by the stuff they stole.

The Benefit of Staying Small

The smaller the better! Right? Well, kinda. Being small can actually be a bad thing, if you’re small in the wrong thing. For example, if your niche is making boots that are for moon walking, your audience is going to be pretty small, if not zero. Not that many people have been to the moon.

So I should go broad?

On the other hand, if your audience is too broad, it’s likely that your product won’t be good enough at solving a specific problem and you’ll disappear into the noise. For a real life example, look at most YouTube channels.

“WHAT IS UP YOU GUYS THIS IS ** insert channel name here ** !”

Strike a balance. Build something brand new, but make sure it’s something people actually want. People may say they want a live-action remake of Hey Arnold, but they probably don’t need it.

How do I find my niche?

Unfortunately, I haven’t found one answer. I spent weeks trying to narrow down into a niche for my YouTube Channel. I’ve tried podcasts, comedy styles, how-tos, video diaries and more.

I do have tips to share though.

The first thing is to make content that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy the process, you’ll eventually burn out.

The second thing is that the content worth creating will signal back to you. People will come up to you and ask you about it. They love your neon chair lights, or your charisma on stage, or the way you make that dank soufflé. This shows genuine interest, and is a sign from “nature” that you’re on the right path.

Specialize in Adaptation

If you must specialize, specialize in adaptation. The environment isn’t static, so specializing in the traditional sense can cause more harm than good! If your soufflé business is going under, utilize your baking skills and pivot to the hot new dessert!

Handedness

When I first wrote this article, I wanted to examine the relationship between niche and handedness. It didn’t end up fitting the vibe, but damn it, I’m gonna address it anyway!

I’m left-handed. About ~10% of the human population are left handed.

Why is this important? Well, almost by definition, left handed people are more adaptive to the environment. We have to be. Tools, cars, written language; are all made for right handed people.

For a real life example of this, ask a left-hander to write anything with a pencil and have their hand not look like this when they finish.

the struggle is real

Unfortunately, we also don’t get to complain about it. The environment very clearly signals that righties are dominant. Lefties must find their small hole as it was. Sitting on the left side of dinner tables as to not bump any elbows. Using notebooks with rings on top, etc.

Embrace your inner lefty. Adapt and utilize your strengths in any environment.