Thursday, April 23, 2020

Positive Constraints

Constraints are things that hold us back. But they can be positive as well. Things that can help push us forward to our goals.

A simple example of a positive constraint is turning off the TV while we are working. By adding a limitation we can remove a distraction and increase our focus on the paper we are writing.

We think that we want more options. When we are given the choice we always choose to have more options. But it gives us decision fatigue and makes us overall less happy. Sometimes less is better.

And sometimes we are forced into constraints by things outside of our control. The Coronavirus is limiting how we can live our lives.

Its not easy but we can also try to create some positivity from this.

Some examples
  • It shines a light on the weaknesses of our systems in handling emergencies
  • Work and education might see a shift to include more remote work
  • A major drop in pollution. We can really see the effects of our actions on nature
  • Time with our loved ones
  • Self reflection
  • A change to a healthier lifestyle (many stories of quitting smoking and diet plans due to the increased risk of the virus)
  • Time to write that novel that you never had time for

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Now Now Now

I've added a Now page to the sidebar on the right. Its based on an idea from from Derek Sivers.

A now page kind of simultaneously tells what this person is focused on at this point in their life as well as  what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year.

I'm not sure quite what to expect. But have a few observations after having it up for 2 weeks.

So far I've had some one offs of things I did over the past week (watched certain movie / learned to cook a certain meal), something that I'd tell a friend about if they asked me how my week has gone but not worth mentioning to someone I haven't seen for a year.

I've also had a few goals that I wanted to get to but had to put off to re-prioritize other goals.

I haven't exactly figured out how I want to structure my Now page. I've browsed through many others' and they are all pretty unique in their own way. 

Here's some more info should you want to make one as well: now page

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

I Should Stop

Before Twitter was created. The founders were working at a company called Odeo, trying to build the next podcasting empire. This was before podcasting was popular.

The CEO of the startup had sent around a company wide email pinpointing a detailed plan on podcasting domination. One of the founders, Biz Stone, read the plan and agreed. He told the CEO that if they were to follow this plan, they would indeed be the kings of podcasting.

But he had one question. He asked, do you really want to be the king of podcasting? And the CEO replied, no, not really. They didn't have any real passion for podcasting. They never recorded their own audio or even listened to podcasts. So they decided to shut the company down and work on something else that they were excited about. A project that aligned with the history of what they enjoyed and that they would spend all their time thinking about, whether they were at work or not. That project ended up becoming Twitter.

Do you really want to be doing what you are doing?

This story was from the book Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone. I haven't finished it yet so won't recommend at this time but enjoyed this little tidbit especially since I recently had my own "actually, I don't want to be working on this. I should stop" moment.

Monday, October 14, 2019

How You Think

 Tim Urban has been putting out a great series of articles.  One idea that really stuck was to pay attention to how people think instead of what people think. How one thinks is more important than what one thinks. Are we thinking with our "higher mind" or our "primitive mind"? At the top of the spectrum we are open to opinions, even dissenting opinions, and seeking truth. At the bottom we are seeking confirmation of our ideas, attack opposition, and have little  evidence and thought structure to support our own ideas.

As the topics get more complex and as information changes even faster, the value of how we think increases over what we think. Thinking with our higher mind allows us to be make sure the best idea wins as well as making sure we let go of outdated ones as the times change.

This can also be applied to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Observe what level you are making decisions at. "Let's go get some fast food" might be the lowest tier vs. "I'll let you choose where we eat because I want you to be happy" might be higher up the rung.

Whenever people are expressing ideas it may be helpful to consider the axis of how the person is thinking instead of the idea in itself.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Software Is The Best Deal

Most software is a crazy good deal for the consumer. The reason is because duplicating and distributing software is nearly free. Why is this important? If it can be duplicated and distributed for free then it can reach more people. And if it can reach more people, then the price can be lower because the the maker can make up a decent profit on volume.

Most of the cost is upfront to build the product but after that most of the profit will go to the bottom line. Since software can scale wide to a large number of users, the prices can get low, maybe even almost free. The price gets spread around more and more customers. It also gets better because these economics also justify making it better; more people to get value from added feature or improved graphic. 

Now you add in competition to drive costs down and that's where we are at with some large enterprises selling their product for free to consumers because they have scale due to that nature of software and they can make money based on that scale whether it be ads or becoming a platform for others to target their users. Just this month 4 or 5 discount brokerages will start to offer $0 commission trading to stop the bleeding of Robinhood taking all their customers. They can make good enough money just on the interest of deposits alone.

This is starting to be true for non-digital goods and services as well. Maybe we'll one day see movie theaters with free movies but making money on concessions. The improving of technology and distribution, the ability to scale is a great deal for consumers.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Product-Founder Fit

I was listing to Mubs on the IndieHackers podcast today and he brought up an interesting point about Product-Founder fit being more important than product market fit in his case. Courtland then agreed in a way by saying he always took Product-Founder fit was the default and then from there, look for the things that might gain an audience or make money. Mubs does do a lot of projects without even considering how to monetize first.

In my indie developer journey, I've started with the same Product-Founder fit first approach by scratching my own itch. However, I did take a detour from that recently and it didn't end well. Since I can work from anywhere, my friend said he could host me in Toronto. Neat! I'd be able to explore Toronto and we could work on a project together. He suggested a fitness app. I'm into fitness so I said sure why not. I spent the next month working on the project. He would help too but it was difficult for him to dedicate real hours due to a tough work schedule. I wasn't really into the project but I just figured if I get the ball rolling, then the momentum would kick in. At the end of the month I knew it was not going to work. I could keep going but it wasn't something I really wanted to work on. The amount of effort it takes, the waking up early to work on it, the thought put in after hours is just not worth it if you aren't committed. One month of work wasted. Well not completely, we still had a lot of fun and I left time to explore a new city.

But lesson learned, make sure there is Product-Founder fit because even if you end up not finding Product-Market fit, at least you will have worked on (and hopefully shipped) something you love.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Lead Your Own Nature

I remember one time I was driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Santa Barbara, where I was attending university at the time. I had a packed car full of colleagues. Many of us would carpool together to visit our families over school breaks. It was my turn to drive.

On the way I was cut off randomly by another car. Nothing bad happened. No accident. I may have swerved or braked a bit. But what I remember vividly is the reactions of my passengers. They were angry. Yelling at the other car. “You idiot, you could have killed us!”  Everyone was pretty heated. Except for me... and that’s why I remember this. Because not only was I not angry about it, I was actually embarrassed that I didn’t have the same reaction as the others. I wanted to fit in but I don’t think I could have faked it if I tried. That could have been the end of my life, why wasn’t I angry?

There’s a story I heard recently (sorry forget the source) about a man who joins a group meditation. He starts getting into a good mind space but is interrupted when he hears the guy two rows over is making some funny sounds. They guy is making some awkward clicking sounds as if gnashing his teeth. And it doesn’t seem like he is just adjusting himself but doing it randomly. Is he doing this on purpose? Maybe he is just trying to mess with the class? And if it was a medical condition, he should know not to join a meditation class! The nerve. After it continues for a while the guy is thoroughly annoyed. He’s had enough of it and decides to confront the guy making the noises. When he gets close he realizes that the sound was not coming from the other man but rather from the water heater next to him.

This changes everything. Even though the sound was still there, the man calmed down instantly. It’s a bit silly to be angry at the water heater. But if we think about it, maybe we should be treating other humans like the water heater. We give special privilege to other humans to affect our own moods because we believe they have control of their actions and those actions should be what we expect. When it’s not, we get sad or angry. But in some sense humans aren’t really different than the broken water heater.

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. - Marcus Aurelius

And that’s one of the core principles of stoicism: you can’t change things out of your control. But you can change yourself. And to go even further with it Marcus stresses that it's within their nature to lie, cheat, drive poorly. "They can't help it". Rather "look straight ahead, follow your own nature, through your own actions."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

We are Lemmings

Sometimes it helps to see ourselves not as brilliant magnificent beings who have perfect discipline and motivation but rather lazy, easily distracted,  and weak minded. We aren't always like this and most of us are somewhere in between, and sure it depends on the day, but seeing ourselves as the latter will help us set up helpful systems. Because if we can get ourselves to do what we need to do on our worst days, then we can do it for our best days too.

I keep track of my weight other fitness measurements like body fat percentage, resting heart rate and blood pressure and try to measure it every month. It helps keep me in check; if I notice I put on some weight then I know I need to adjust my diet. I have it on my calendar to do this, but when the time comes I often forget to do it at all. And I'll keep forgetting to do it multiple days in a row. To fix the problem, I had to lower my view of myself. Instead I left clues for myself by putting all the equipment I needed in front of my computer the night before. That way when I checked my computer out of habit first thing in the morning I'd be alerted.

This is similar to the idea of wearing your gym shorts to sleep if you want to start running in the morning or putting your guitar down next to your couch if you want to learn to play the guitar. You have to lower the amount of friction and prime yourself. Lower your ego and think of yourself as a dumb automaton that just goes through the motions (habits) most of the time. That means, when you are in the right state of mind, you need to prep the environment, set down some habit triggers ahead of time for your lazy automaton to execute.

Have you played the game Lemmings? It's kind of like that. If you don't put down a bridge (plan) ahead of time your future lemming self will just fall into the water and die (binge watch Netflix or grab fast food)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

An Example of Me Doing Less

I'm staying a friends place in Canada and he lives in one of those fancy apartments with its own gym. So one day I am doing a my workout and I think. Hey those machines look pretty fancy, maybe I should try out that leg press machine today. After doing a couple reps I start thinking back to what I wrote about longterm fitness goals and sustainability: do less. I talk about how people should think about long term goals; consider being your best 100 year old self.

I don't have a leg press machine at home, so this would just be a temporary. I mean I could go to the gym but I don't because its more efficient for me to not commute and I still get a great workout in. It's good to mix it up now and then but any gains that I'd get from it would be soon lost after I get back home and continue my standard workout routine. The leg press is a more isolated movement so I don't add it to my standard exercise routines, instead I opt for more (time) efficient compound movements.

So I decided to skip the fancy leg press machine and go back to some (bodyweight) squats instead. If I was trying to bulk up I'd definitely want to add more barbell and heavy lifting. But I've done that before and know that the amount of effort lifting and getting enough good calories to build muscle isn't worth it for me.

Everyone has different goals so do what works for you. Like the majority of people, I used to just go to the gym and do whatever seemed popular. But now that my goals are a bit more defined, its easier to adjust my actions to fit them

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Filter vs. Block

It's significantly more work to filter vs block.

Saying yes to the top 1% of things doesn't make it only 1% easier than saying no to everything. It's much harder.

If you are an investor, you can't lower your work by saying you are only going to invest in 5% of the best companies instead of 10% you did last year. The reason is because the filtering is the work. You have to filter either way.

It's easier for you to say no to candy, or alcohol if you decided you don't eat that food.

It's less work to filter your email by setting a filter to catch all email with the word "unsubscribe". But, you might miss something you actually wanted to see.

Choosing to say no to things frees up energy and focus for the things that are more important. But for the very important things, we probably should spend the extra energy that it takes to filter.