Saturday, March 31, 2018

Keystone Habits

Keystone habits are building block habits. Like the name implies, it is a bedrock or foundational habit that if you adopt, will significantly increase your odds of success and provide a base for you to grow more habits.

To give an example, those who are trying to lose weight might decide to walk every day instead of trying to start out with an aerobics class every day. Just walk 20 minutes every day. I'd bet they would be more successful starting with the walking. Why? Because they haven't built up the discipline to be able to handle the aerobics class. They might do it a couple times. But sooner or later the initial enthusiasm wanes and they give up: "I'm too tired to make it to the gym today, its a tough workout, I think I'll just skip today." They don't have the discipline, the habit to keep them going when they don't feel like it. But walking 20 minutes a day is a basic building block. Its something that most people can handle from day one. Don't get me wrong, its still something that you have to take time out of the day when you don't feel like it and do. But its just enough that its not too difficult a commitment yes still enough that you get to build up discipline. Once the keystone habit of walking is built, the next, more difficult goal can be added. It wasn't the walking in itself that leads to weight loss (although it does burn calories, and has physiological benefits). The point is that it is a keystone habit. A habit to build off of.

If you can commit to walking everyday it would could help you in other areas such as building personal finance habits, however, I do notice that these different areas of life have different keystone habits. For example, I'd say for personal finance, one of the keystone habits is riding your bike. Its relatively simple, it saves a lot of money, but most importantly it builds the habit, the mindset of being resourceful and not wasting.

For entrepreneurship? I'd say it is meditation. Maybe its just the current trend or some really smooth marketing but it seems like many of the successful people I listen to attribute their success partly to meditation. It seems reasonable to me so I'm committing to doing it everyday for a month. To top it off I'm also committing to writing every day. I'll let you know how it goes

In the end there isn't a one size fits all habit. A keystone habit can work for one person but fail for another for different reasons. But I think its worth committing to identifying and building foundation habits, knowing that it is a key to more.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The 5 Minute Fitness Guide

I'm writing this guide because I see too many people try and fail at losing weight and living the lifestyle that they truly want.

Achieving your fitness goals is actually really simple. But it is not easy. Thus, I wanted to condense all the information I've acquired into a guide that you can read in 5 minutes. This will be plenty enough to get a beginner going and even a good refresher for someone already fitness focused.


When someone says to me that they are on a diet, I know that they have already failed. A diet has an implication that it is temporary. So when someone says they are on a diet.l, I know that sometime after the diet they will be off the diet, usually returning to their original diet that got them to want to diet in the first place!

The solution to this is to not go on short term diets. People who are truly healthy do not go on diets. They always eat healthy. You might say they are on a lifetime diet. To be truly healthy you need to think long term. Why do you only want to be fit temporarily? Dont you want to be at your best form throughout your entire life? Commit to being healthy throughout your life and not just in short diet spurts. You will see later that once you take in this long term mentality, you're approach to fitness changes because any diet or exercise solution must be chosen with sustainability in mind.

Let me give you an example. When constructing a plan for your health, you could decide to go on to XYZ weight loss program where you pay for set meals that they send you every week. I don't have anything against these types of programs and believe that if followed, you will actually lose weight. However, these meals tend to be pricey and unless you are okay with purchasing these meals for your entire lifetime you should not use them. You would end up spending way too much money over your lifetime and be confined to eating a limited set of meals. If the company goes out of business or if you move to a place where there isn't a store near you what do you do? Remember that we want sustainable results. We don't want to go on a plan and then abandon it once the result is achieved only to regress again.

Don't restrict yourself

Since we now have a long-term mindset we no longer think in terms of a temporary diet. This means we are not allowed to restrict ourselves. How do we eat healthier without restricting ourselves? We do this by focusing on what items we eat, not necessarily the quantity. We make tradeoffs of food that is unhealthy with food that is better for you. 

80% diet 20% fitness

When most people decide to get in shape the first thing they do is try to get a gym membership or pick up running. This is not a bad thing but remember that you cannot outrun your diet! Getting into shape should be thought of as 100% diet, 0% exercise. I think most people would benefit from this mindset. But it isn't true so people try to lose the weight by working out more. This is possible but it is much more difficult (and failure prone) than just focusing on the diet. I believe the reasoning is that changing ones diet is actually the hard thing and people want to focus on the easy paths.
What food are the best and worst for you? It is true that people react differently to the same foods. So it is always important to be mindful of your own body's reaction to food. But the majority of people could do well following some basic food principles.

1) Avoid sugar

Yes it's odd that sugar, one of the tastes that we are born naturally attracted to, is actually not healthy. Why would we have evolved to be attracted to sugar? Well it makes sense, sugar provides an enormous amount of dense calories and back in the day our ancestors needed those precious calories to survive. However, fast forward today we have an abundance of easy calories. The same system that kept us fueled now keeps us fat. Today there is very little need to be consuming sugar at all. Avoid it at all costs.

2) ‎Decrease simple carbohydrates

Most food has some amount of protein and carbohydrates. For example vegetables have carbohydrates in them. These are fine. What you really want to avoid are noodles, rice, bread, potatoes, and corn. Simple right? Well it is actually pretty hard because most of the world's foods tends to contain one main carb ingredient. If you can eliminate these 5 completely you will lose weight quickly. Usually it is unavoidable so I would suggest just reducing calories from these big 5. Don't finish all of your rice. Don't eat the bread that comes as an appetizer to your main course. You will notice that simple carbs tends to be the cheapest to produce. They tend to be considered just cheap filler. Thus it should be easy to leave some on the table.

3) Avoid Processed Food

Most of the cheap processed food you find at the grocery store will contain some amount of these. It's best to avoid processed food as much as possible. A good way to tell if the food is good for you is to look at the ingredients list and see if you recognize (and can even pronounce) the ingredients. If you can't, you should probably avoid it.

Eliminate sugary drinks

The first step is to eliminate sugary drinks. Why sugary drinks? Because consuming liquids makes it so easy to overdose. If you are going to start somewhere it is best to use the 80/20 rule and fix the biggest diet issues first. Sugary drinks include all fruit drinks. Yes that's orange juice, grape juice, passion fruit, etc. All of them.

So what are you allowed to drink? Water, Coffee, and tea. Without adding sugar. Diet sodas are up in the air but I would avoid them as studies have showed that even though they are calorie free, they do strange things to the body and can cause overeating. Sparkling water or adding some lemon to the water is fine but really any juice is not okay. Even though it claims to be healthy for you this stuff is full of sugar, wheter organic or natural or not. Vegetable shakes are okay because vegetables tend to not have as much sugar. If you still want a lot of the vitamins from fruits go ahead and eat the fruits separately. Just don't blend them. It's funny because weight watchers actually has a similar system where you are allowed to eat fruits separately but not blended. This is because if you actually eat 5 bananas you will feel sick, but if you had those 5 bananas in a shake you wouldn't notice all the sugar and calories you had consumed so quickly.


Exercise is like the icing on the cake. To get in shape you need to focus on diet. It's only when you've solved that riddle where you should move on to exercise. You can't outrun your diet but any health plan should also include exercise, mostly due to the other health benefits like building strong muscle and improving the cardiovascular system.

Whether it's weights or a class, or cross fit. When you are starting out almost any exercise will give you good results. The only thing to watch out for is to make sure your form is good otherwise you can injured yourself. Watch some instructional videos or get a trainer when starting out.

I feel like most people are looking for the perfect workout. There are constantly new "try this new best workout backed by science" advertisements. This keeps people indecisive because there are many good options and that causes people to focus on the wrong thing. They focus on finding the perfect workout rather than focus on the execution of their workout. Just pick one of the them and execute.

Well, as long as what you pick is something you will commit to. For example, When I was looking for a gym, one thing that was important to me when finding a gym was that it was between home and work because if I went home first then I'd never make it to the gym. Thus, I picked a gym that I could commit to going to.
If I had to suggest an exercise, I'd recommend developing a calisthenics(body weight) workout. This is helpful because you don't need a gym or any equipment to do them. Having to go to workout when I am not able to make it to the gym gives lots of flexibility. It makes it so there is no excuse to miss a workout. I don't need any tools to stay fit, just my body.

What gets measured gets improved.

I personally do a weight check once a month which gets recorded into a spreadsheet. My weight doesn't fluctuate that much since my diet is pretty consistent. But I want to know if there is a change of weight. Since then I've added a column for fat and blood pressure. I also add a note in my calendar for each workout that I do. It keeps me on track and accountable.

Want To Gain Weight?

Never forget that even when working out, your diet will still determine most of the results. Working out is like an amplifier. It can simultaneously be used to gain weight or lose weight. If you want to put on bulk you must not only work out but also eat a ton all the time. Most people think they are eating enough but usually they aren't. On the other hand if you want to lose weight, you can still workout but consume less carb loaded food and generally less food.


Everybody is looking for the right strategy. But the strategy for fitness is quite simple. The harder part of of fitness is the execution. That's where discipline comes in. You don't just start out with discipline. You build it. You do this by committing to a small task every single day. You start with a small goal. Maybe you decide you will take a 20 minute walk every single day. That alone won't be what gets you to your fitness level. The walking itself is a little beneficial, but more importantly, the act of committing to goal and accomplishing it will be what brings you to success. After you complete your goal you set another goal, this time a bit more difficult. You keep going, setting goals and committing to them and accomplishing them, building up your discipline as you go. 


That's it. There is so much deep information about diet and exercise in books and on the internet but more information is not the problem.You only need the above 5 minutes of strategy to get started. Remember, fitness is simple but not easy! I hope you find this guide useful for you. Good luck!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learn Mandarin With YouTube

I love the idea of scratching my own itch. Not literally. I mean that's good too. But I mean for coming up with product ideas. The best way to get a product idea is to solve a real problem. That means talking to people and paying attention to problems you encounter. However, you are a person too and you happen to know yourself very well. So one good way to create a product is to build a product that you would use. That way, even if no-one else uses your product, you will always have a happy user count of 1. But more likely than not, you are not alone with your problem and there will be others that would love it as well.

Today I released a chrome extension of Learn Mandarin With YouTube. I'm learning Mandarin Chinese but don't really want to do so reading typical language books. I'd be nice if I could do it while watching content of my choosing. That way I stay motivated and it isn't a chore, its just enjoying what I would watch anyway.

I'm keeping on the lean startup method so I'm doing fast prototype and releases. It took me two weeks end to end to develop. It was done pretty fast so there are certainly more features to be had. But besides any major bug fixes, I won't plan on adding anything (unless its a feature I really end up wanting for myself as I use it more), unless users request it. That's the plan, solve problems and put things out into the world. No long dev-cycles keeps things fast and fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Choose Wisely

If you need to transport yourself to the grocery store to pick up some milk which is a mile away, what is the best tool for the job?

You could use yourself as a vehicle and walk there. It would take you about 15-20 minutes each way. But there would be fringe positive benefits like getting some fresh air, putting some pressure on those muscles, and getting the heart rate up. The cost is nearly free.

You could ride a bike. That bike would have originally cost you maybe $500, but after that each ride is practically free (maybe some money on maintenance and a chance of a blown tire). You would get to the store safely and get in some exercise, all in 5 minutes

You could drive a car. You could get to the store in 3 minutes but depending on traffic it could be slower than the bike. Probably by the time you park, you'd be slower than the bike. The car was originally very very expensive. The cost per mile (gas,tires,oil, maintenance) would be maybe 25 cents. So the roundtrip would cost a ballpark estimate of 50c. Not really that much for a one off. But this could add up if multiple trips are done each week. We'll ignore the environmental impact for now but its worth mentioning that this option has one.

So what's the answer? Now depending on the weather, the answer still might be a car for you. But I think its a bit sad to see that this is assumed to be the default and other options aren't considered at all. Its good to remember that we have options and each option we have has its trade-offs. I'm sure there are people out there that are like "yea I know I considered all of these options and it just makes sense for me to drive..". That's cool. But others out there might look at it and think "Wow, I can't believe that I could be getting exercise and saving myself a ton of money,  why didn't I consider my options sooner?".

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Meandering Around the Goal Approach

There's many different ways to get to doing what you love, depending on what trade-offs you'd like to make on the way and your tolerance for risk. I'll compare two main ones.

People who go straight into what they love to do. Instead of meandering around, just jump into doing the thing you love to do.  If you do this, ideally a  couple things might happen. 1) You might find that its not really what you wanted to do and change. This shouldn't be considered a failure but instead be valuable information that you should be glad to have acquired. Then you can move on to step 2. 2) You find that you love what you are doing. Good. You are on the right track. Keep going.

From here you will run into an endless amount of obstacles. Remember that the obstacle is the way. One of these obstacles will probably be that you don't have money to continue chasing your goal. You can solve this in two major ways: 1) you can find a way where you can do the thing you want to do and get paid for it. 2) You can go get a job to pay for it. You rinse and repeat for each obstacle gaining resilience and adding more ability and money as you go.

The benefit of this approach is that you don't waste money doing things you don't love. Even if you got a job that you didn't like in order to raise money, it would be for the purpose of moving towards your goal.

The alternative is to go the more traditional path and find a well paying job that you enjoy. From there you can save enough money until you can switch to the thing you love. This way is a bit more "safe". You will build a skillset that is valuable, that you can fall back on if needed,  but it can cost you a lot of time (and happiness during that time). Also, there are many pitfalls that lead us astray here; many people never exit this "rat race".

Derek Sivers took the first approach. He said that he was going to be a musician and built his life towards that. He wasn't expecting to every live a traditional life and expected to not make much money. Eventually him following his passion led him to stumble into building quite a nice business.

I took the second approach. I took all the exams and tests and courses. Then I worked hard to increase my work experience and earning potential.. until I felt like I had enough. And now I can switch to working on projects that I enjoy without worry. But, I think back and wonder what life would be like if I had to courage to go for it from the start. Trade-offs indeed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Different Sense

Drinking hot water in China is a cultural norm that is opposite of that in the United States. In the States, its typical to have an ice cold beverage to cool you down. But in China, as I quickly realized during my travels, it is just the opposite.

Even on hot days, people drink hot water. There is boiling water offered in most public facilities; trains, train stations, offices, etc. You also don't actually have the option of boiling or cold, there is only one option.  I quickly learned that I needed to buy a hot water bottle (one insulated with plastic) so I could stay hydrated everywhere.

During my stay at a hostel I ran into a lady who was originally from Germany but there studying Chinese medicine. While we sipped tea, she offered a really interesting observation: the Chinese pay really close attention to the affect of food on their bodies. Later throughout my travels, I noticed how Chinese would describe how they wouldn't eat a particular cold food item because it could cause stomach problems, or how the cold blowing on their leg caused that leg to later feel some soreness.

I think the Chinese have a culture where it is very common to talk how thing affect their bodies, and thus people pay more attention to it. When growing up in the States, I never really payed much attention as long as I didn't get a stomach ache or food poisoning. But now that I've been shown it, I've started to pay much more attention to it. I can feel the difference when I eat certain types of carbs for example, and enjoy the warmness of drinking hot water.

This is just one of the ways that travel and experiencing a different culture first hand has opened my senses, ever so slightly. No I don't only drink boiling hot water now, but now that I've seen examples like this of being really in-tune with my body, I can't avoid paying attention.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Buy What's Best

Apple laptops and phones are considered today the best phones and laptops that you can buy. They branded themselves as a premium high end luxury brand. If you want the best laptop or phone, you don't even need to think about it, you just go to Apple and buy the latest product offering.

Except, its not true that Apple has the best products. Well, its an opinion and it depends how you judge "best". If you compare Apple laptops with their competitors products, Apple has the best display resolution and brighter display. But in the other metrics such as battery life, weight, and hard drive size, it was worse. Also, the price for the Apple product is a bit higher. 

But the point about talking about the specs is to point out that they don't have to matter. The point was to dig into why people buy products. With the Apple brand, you get the confidence that you are buying a solid, top of the line product that is beautiful, as well as it is sold by a company that believes in pushing design and changing the world. And that happiness, being part of that group of forward thinkers, is a good reason to buy Apple.

To the same degree, someone else can look at a competitor and say, wow, this laptop is lighter, and has a better processor than the MacBook Pro. Those other people are idiots, this is a way better product for my money.

Neither of the viewpoints is wrong. Whether that would be to fork over the money for that "Apple eliteness" feeling or fork over the money for that "best specs at this price point" feeling;
Both people have chosen their definition of what is "best" and both products (or product marketers I should say) have sold those people on that product's bestness.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

No More Standups

When I was first promoted to team lead, I had no idea what I was doing. I had worked within the team for a couple years so I knew how things were run, but I had zero management/lead experience. Although at the time I was really nervous about doing things the "right way", I look back now and realize what a wonderful advantage it was for me. Because I was so inexperienced, I didn't have as many prior assumptions and that led me to question everything.

Agile is still the main software methodology used today by software development shops. Its a way of building software that promotes efficient iteration and collaboration. Although there are different variants of agile, one of the core rituals that they do is the daily stand-up. The daily stand-up where the team forms a circle (preferably standing up because the stand-up is meant to be short) and each member talks about 3 things: what they did since the last stand-up, what they are doing, and any blockers. 

Although this stand-up is considered sacred, since I was new, I questioned it anyway. I was determined to get rid of bad processes that didn't help the team. Some of the research I found opposing stand-ups were:

1.  "manager vs. maker time": makers need chunks of time to do work and cannot work in short spurts so its best not to schedule a meeting in the middle of the day. Although the standup was in the morning, the engineers would be in there before that time and there is a worry that the meeting would prevent them from jumping right into a heavy-concentration project when a standup would cut that short.

2. Peopleware: this book is one of my favorite books on technical leadership and it has an excerpt that if people are going around the circle and only interacting with one central figure (me) then it is not for communicating with the rest of the team but more of a status update for the manager. The more insecure the leader the more they want status updates, and some really poor leaders will do multiple "standups" a day to make sure their team is getting things done.

With this hypothesis and plus the fact that the team didn't always seem enthused to be at the morning standup, I decided to cancel it. Yes. I canceled the holy Agile declared necessary standup. I had explained to the team what the hypothesis was and that if I needed a status updated I would just check our Scrum board. I'd assume things were under control if no one said anything.

After the sprint was over, during the team retrospective, we attributed some of our slip-ups to the missing morning standup meeting. The QA members of our team (we had dedicated QA) requested bringing the morning standup back. The developers on the team agreed. We needed it to explain some nuanced information. I still thought there were other ways to work besides having the standup but I stuck with the team decision. I actually think that this was a result specific to the types of personalities on the team. Other teams may not have the same results.

I was happy that I ran into an actual problem that our standup was solving and not just taking the word of the current popular methodology. Looking back, I don't see this as a failure of changing a process but rather a good exploration and lesson learned. I implore myself and others to question everything and not just assume things are needed. Try to continually improve and get better. Sometimes that will be by addition but other times you might grow by putting your current processes to the test.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Run In The Rain

Its raining today. I look out the window and its raining and cloudy and cold. There is no sign of sun. Back when I was running, there was a similar such day. I would run regularly but when there was foul weather I would say, "oh, its raining today, I guess I can't go running." In the back of my mind I knew that it was just a lie. One day I decided to do something about it. I put on a hat, a water resistant jacket, sunglasses and some gloves. I took off running into the rain, down the streets of San Francisco.

There weren't that many people out since the rain was coming down hard. Those who did were timidly under their umbrellas, probably cursing the weather. I'm sure I got some odd looks when I breezed by jogging like it was a sunny beautiful day, smiling and enjoying my run. I didn't care. One time I crossed another runner doing the same and we both glanced at each other and nodded. Giving props to being out doing the work, even though the conditions weren't right. It was an exhilarating feeling of the cold rain hitting me, yet me not caring. The rain bouncing off my sunglasses like they would a car's windshield. Since I was already wet, I would purposely stomp through puddles like a 4 year old would do, just having fun, before they were told to cut it out.

I learned that our mind gives us a bunch of excuses and we can choose to accept them or not. That even though conditions aren't optimal we should do the work anyway. That fighting through obstacles to your goal rather than succumbing to them will give you a no excuse attitude. That what might seem uncomfortable at first can actually be a lot of fun, its only the getting started that is hard.

The rain is just a metaphor for any obstacle in our lives. Are there times in your life where you should be running in the rain instead of staying in?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Apply First

Elon Musk created his own school because he said that school is backwards. The traditional way of learning about tools is to have a class that teaches you what a hammer is and all its uses, then a wrench and its uses, a screwdriver, etc.. It might have some projects using these tools, but the focal point is really about learning about the tools. Elon said that the way it should work is there would be an engine and in order to take apart the engine you would need a screwdriver for a certain part, a wrench for a different part, and from there you can use it and understand the tool. School should be project or goal oriented and the learning should supplement that rather than be the goal itself.

I think this is a good lesson for learning anything. If you want to learn programming, don't just pick up a book on Python and read through it. Instead, think of what you want to build first and then go and try to build it. Let the project drive the learning. You'll get stuck in different places and need to research solutions to solve it. This will ensure you have a proper amount of building and learning and you'll have fun and have a completed project to show for it. It keeps you learning efficiently since a much of the book is filler material that you would forget. The doing would reinforce the learning and increase the odds of retaining the information.

Don't just learn for learning's sake. Take it away Bruce.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

You Don't Need Motivation

People often ask how they get motivated. They want more motivation so that they can do the thing to work towards their goals. But they just don't feel like it. The answer is discipline.

Motivation is just a spark. It comes quickly and goes away just as quickly. The secret to accomplishing goals is not motivation, but rather commitment. Discipline. You have to be able to do the thing you want to do especially when you don't feel like it.

You don't accomplish this by needing more motivation. Instead you accomplish this by needing less, or even none. You do this by establishing habits. Habits are deeply embedded in the brain. Once they are built it becomes hard to break; it becomes harder to NOT do the task you want to do than to do it.

That's what you want to build for. So the next time you are motivated. Go ahead and write down a couple things you are willing to commit to every single day. Then start doing them over and over again until it becomes embedded it becomes a habit.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mind Control

I've written before about the things you own, owning you. But the same is true for non-physical things: I'm talking about ideas and thoughts. Taking on a thought or idea is just like buying a gadget. You spend your money when you buy physical goods. You spend your attention when you watch TV, identify with a group, or become angry at the dog. That gadget owns you as much as you own it. The same is true for ideas. They own you.

What you believe limits where you can go and what you can do. Your beliefs tell you what to eat and what to wear. They will drive all the decisions in your life; decide what is important to you and what your priorities are.

So that means in order to become the best version of yourself you need to keep to good thoughts and ideas. The ones that benefit you, rather than hurt you. In order to do that you need to control  your mind rather than become a slave to it.

So the question becomes: how do you control your mind?

Lets just brainstorm on things that affect the brain..

Mind altering substances - most that I know of are negative. You certainly won't help yourself with most drugs and alcohol. There are stories of famous founders using psychedelic drugs such as Ayahuasca.

Electric stimulus - Neuroscience have recently showed that they can apply electronic impulses to the brain at specific times in order to alter thoughts. By doing this they have been able to cure some people's addictions.

Audio/Visual stimulus - Our surroundings probably have the greatest impact on our thoughts. From the media to talking to those around us. We are the sum of the 5 people we surround ourselves with the most because thoughts and ideas permeate between interactions. In today's world, the constant bombardment of media might have caused many of us to be permanently distracted. At the same time novel thoughts and stimulus are shown to activate different parts of the brain.

Physical stimulus - they say the mind and body are connected. And there is a lot of evidence now that thoughts are just brain impulses. That means they can possibly be affected by the overall conditioning of the body. There is direct evidence that exercise at the very least pumps more oxygen to the brain. Our body controls our thoughts: if you are tense and your heart rate is up, the brain can interpret this as fear or excitement. Nutrition as well. Just like the rest of our body, our brain is affected with the food we eat as well.

Controlling thoughts itself - at any moment we are able to direct the brain into thinking thoughts. We do get distracted and we do get tired. Practice such as meditation helps with this. Helps us create stronger focus and concentration. You can also reinterpret thoughts. If you think you are nervous, you can decide that you are actually excited instead.

That's all I can think of for now. Within those categories above there are a million different tactics to choose from, but in order to control our mind, that's what to focus on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writer's Fear

Ah. I love Seth Godin's work. If you are a maker human, then you should check out his new podcast Akimbo. I just finished the 4th episode: no such thing as writers block.

For most professions there are no excuses: A plumber doesn't get plumbers block. They do the work regardless of the how they feel. But somehow creatives have made an excuse called writers block. Or just not having ideas. This is ridiculous. You must get started. You must do the work. The work consists of creating work and ideas, even if that means bad ideas. History of successful people shows us that often times we don't even know if work is good or bad. Sometimes the work we think is bad, ends up resonating with someone.

The reason we do this is because of fear. We fear having bad ideas and want to be perfect. Thus, we do nothing at all. You need something in order to iterate. You need something in order to get better. It doesn't matter if the first version is bad.

I've talked before about trigger words. Seth gives a suggestion of changing "but" to "and". "I'm in Florida but it is raining". "I'm trying to write but struggling at the moment". Instead say "I'm in Florida AND it is raining". "I'm trying to write AND I'm struggling". That way a "so" naturally fits in the end: "... so I will jot down a couple of bad ideas and write anyway". "... so I'm going to stay inside and enjoy a nice book". That puts you in control. That keeps you away from excuses.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Money, Confidence, and Discipline

I read a blog post by the famous Mr. Money Mustache titled Money and Confidence are Interchangeable . Basically, the more confidence you have, the less money you need to amass before you can give your leave notice. The opposite is true as well. The less confidence you have the more money you need. I totally agree with this notion I just really worry that most people will read this and misunderstand what he means by confidence. If someone just decides that they or confident or maybe takes a couple sips of beer and quits their job. That would be a huge mistake. Regardless of how "confident" they feel about it, if that confidence isn't backed by anything, then it would be a foolish move and they just wrote a check they can't cash. Its highly likely that that person would struggle in that situation and take on a lot of unneeded stress. But, if that person has seen himself respond well during hard times and had built up discipline then he should feel rather confident to take risks and live the life he wants.

Confidence isn't just something that comes to you because you decide. It's some thing that comes to you because you decide AND you act. And if you do this over and over again, in different situations, you build up that confidence and become antifragile 

When I quit my job I looked how much money I had in the bank and what my run rate was. Then I looked at my discipline. I looked at what I did when I woke up. I looked at my ability to focus and concentrate. I looked at my ability to prioritize. To grind. And even though I had some failures in some of my interviews (when I was looking), I was mostly looking at how I reacted to them. Did I feel sorry for myself? Or did it make me work harder? Working harder and getting stronger under stress and adverse conditions is an antifragile response. Knowing myself and seeing myself in action (and having savings) gave me the confidence to decide to quit.

I think its a great article but I'd say that Money and Discipline are Interchangeable would be a better title.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pound The Rock

Elon Musk has said that 99% of startups fail. That's not really good odds. Or is it? Let's say you did a 12 startups in 12 months approach. After a year you'd have a 12%  chance of at least one of them succeeding. After 2 years, 24%. After 3 years, 36%, After 4 years you'd have 48 projects and a near coinflip that one of your projects panned out. You'd get near a 100% chance around the 96th month.

But that's assuming you aren't getting better. After you fail at a startup you will learn a ton and your chances of a successful startup should probably be better on your second go. Let's assume that you get better by 10% each startup. Then your graph looks like this:
This is a huge change. Your 50% chance of success happens around the 19th month. After working 25 months you would be near a 100% chance that one of your previous projects would have succeeded.

Obviously these numbers are pulled out of nowhere and my statistics are questionable. But the point of this is to quickly illustrate how little improvements go a long way. This is why its so important for founders to have momentum and ship, even thought it might not work out. Their previous failures act as stepping stones, increasing their odds of success down the line.

I'll leave with one of my favorite quotes:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

― Jacob A. Riis 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Productivity Tracking

I read a story today of how John Carmack, author of Quake, was a super productive guy. He had a clever way of measuring his productivity by playing music in the background when he was working and then pausing it when he wasn't. This included pausing his music when he went to the bathroom. At the end of the day he could figure out how productive he was by how far along his playlist he was.

Productivity is important for all of us, and possibly the most important metric. I suppose for salaried workers, who aren't necessarily directly incentivised to be productive (some people delaying working to their potential because they would just get another task if the finished sooner, they didn't feel like they would gain for being productive so they didn't care and did just enough to not get fired), there's probably not a huge incentive to track time being productive. But for an indie hacker working on his own projects (like myself currently), this is really really important. If I click over to YouTube or Facebook and spend all my time there, then I get nothing done and there is noone else to pull me forward.

I'll add in a reminder that Four Hour Work Week gives a warning about "being busy" being a form of procrastination. Avoiding the important (which are probably the hard things) that need to be done like getting  on the phone with people. But there are times where you need to put fingers to keyboard and just grind and get things done.

Just like you would track your expenses if you wanted to fix your finances, or track your food and exercise if you wanted to get healthier, you should track your productivity. I still do the first two and have been for quite some time. Okay, I'm inspired now to give productivity tracking a shot.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Indie vs Enterprise software development

Writing code as an independent developer (which I'll refer to as indie hacking) and enterprise developer both require you to sit down and crank out code but they are worlds apart.

When I was doing enterprise development I started by working with Product Managers to flush through the details and then come up with a technical design which then might have some iterations. Many different use cases and error conditions would get flushed out here. Then it got prioritized in our Agile Sprints and myself or the other devs on the team got to work. The code written is clear and readable, if it doesn't play nicely with other code, sometimes existing code needs to be refactor.

For indie hacking, I come up an idea and nail down an mvp with just a couple sentences. I come up with a sketch of what the UI is supposed to look like. I get started on it as soon as possible. The code works but is not polished at all. There certainly aren't any unit tests.

I think this makes sense because the thought process is different in both cases. In the enterprise development world you work on a much larger team so much of the code you read is optimized to be readable. The code is expected to live a long time and other people will be working in the same code base. As a technical lead, often the main effort was on the communication side of making sure stakeholders were on the same page. The company has been around for awhile, the business has already been validated. Maybe the specific feature you are working on might get killed but the company is invested in getting it out right and still has money to pay you even if it doesn't. This means that although you are expected to work fast, speed is not the most important priority.

On the flip side, indie hacking has so many unknowns. You often have no idea is the business is even viable when you write your first line of code. The more validation you do the better but you run into the chicken  and the egg problem. The customer doesn't really know what they want until they see it. Or people say they want a certain product but in reality won't end up paying for it. Thus you want to get something out as soon as possible so you start getting feedback. Sometimes that just means throwing up a landing page without having a real product to get signups. If you can do things without writing any code, even better. But don't do what a ton of developers starting out do and write code for a year and then end up finding out that noone wants their product. That means fast is a top priority. You need to take shortcuts. This means the code is working but not super polished and not refactored a million times. Note that an MVP should still be high quality, but just a slice of the entire pie with priorities taken into account.

I remember one time the company I worked at bought another company. One of the senior engineers on the team remarked how ugly the inherited code base that he had to integrate with was. Looking back I think the engineer that build the code did the right thing. He wrote working code and sold his company for millions. I suspect that Zuckerberg's original code had to be terrible and I'm sure that if he showed it to developers (before Facebook went to the moon) he would be laughed at by those that didn't understand the tradeoffs he was making.

So I'll dispense with writing the beautiful, perfect code that I am used to 😉 and switch to writing code that works and is good enough. I'll also hopefully learn to feel for what is too much or too little work to put in the different phases. I'll focus on starting and launching and learning.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Active Living

Are you living life passively or actively. Are you doing what you are doing because you chose it or because it was given to you? Are you waiting for something to happen? Waiting for a promotion? Waiting for an idea for your business? Waiting on someone to ask you out?

Does today look a lot like yesterday, which looks a lot like last month, which looks like last year? You've made no progress. You haven't gotten nothing done.

If you haven't made any progress the antidote is to recognize whether you are on defense and reacting to the world or if you are actively working towards your goals. If you are living passively then take a step. Just one step. Sometimes you don't even know which direction is forward so you just need to go in some direction until you figure out your path. Go. Take some action today.