Weekly Review #53: Bubble Soccer, Job Hacking, and Github for music

We rented from Bayareabubblesoccer.com to finally experience firsthand what those viral videos of europeans knocking each other over have been showing us for years. Gameplay quickly devolves into you either prioritizing the ball, or foregoing it completely in favor of knocking the closest player onto his back. Rest assured, it’s as fun as it looks, but your neck and upper arms hurt for days afterward….
  • Time is a tool just like money, and you’ve already won the time lottery – you have as much as everyone else. How are you going to use it?
  • ‘Things in excess become their opposite’ – look at billionaires who can’t take a week off for vacation due to business needs
  • You don’t want to optimize everything for efficiency – how do you optimize hours on a beach? (I take issue here – you can’t optimize the time on the beach, but you can optimize your day/life to facilitate said hours
  • ‘War is God’s war of teaching Americans geography’
  • When you’re bored, ‘walk until your day becomes interesting’.

Ian Adams of the Senator Club got fired from his sales gig, and found a new one in 19 days. He’s shared exactly how, offering a fantastic model for any enterprising job seeker.

  • He used a digital assistant to find all the listings at companies that fit his criteria ‘SF startup with money raised’
  • He copied the listings into Wordsift to find the most desirable keywords, the updated his Linkedin to reflect them
  • Emailed everyone he know by exporting his Linkedin contacts
  • Role played phone interviews until he had them down cold, telling his personal story and converting into in person.
  • Landed gig at Yesware!

Some drone innovations – Skycatch lets you hire drones and their operators by the hour, rather like Uber, and DJI’s futuristic Inspire drone has legs that lift up for uninterrupted 360 degrees of video.

Splice is a clever idea – it’s a public repository of music tracks in the style of Github, doing to music production what the latter did for code. Open collaboration is a great idea – I could see some innovative remixes coming out of these tools.

Cameron Chardukian has a poorly formatted list of 32 personal development blogs, offering a good mix of established authors like Leo Babuta and lesser-known ones.

Custom Spaces is an SF based architecture firm with a beautiful website displaying the gorgeous offices of many tech giants like Github, Airbnb, and Eventbrite. Ogle away.

And for fun, put any words you’d like in the new Star Wars logo.

How to Network Unforgettably

I love networking. The practice gets a bad rap, since it conjures visions of slimy self promoters eager to hand you their business card before they even know your name, or professional events where nobody cares about each other. At certain events, this may be the case, but at the good ones, you’re just finding new friends who work in similar industries. Who can say no to that – someone who adds value both professionally and personally?

I love meeting people who I can discuss esoteric tech principles or marketing techniques. I love meeting exotic entrepreneurs from other countries who have come to Silicon Valley to make it big. I love meeting bloggers, authors, and artists who have stories about their creations and passions.

I may have to have dozens of dud conversations before I find someone I want to follow up with, but the return on investment on the Wins far outstrips the drudgery involved in finding them. Through networking and conferences, I’ve discovered sites like CollegeInfoGeek, PartTimeTraveller, and LifeLong-Learner.com, which are all great sites I enjoy. But more importantly, I count the people behind them as friends – friends who can help me along my own entrepreneurial path.

Anyways, after all this networking I’ve picked some mannerisms that help me do it better. I’m certainly no expert networker (or slimy self promoter), but here’s advice I would give to anybody:

Repping the red pants at SXSW 2014

Dress Remarkably

My default outfit always includes pair of bright red pants with a white contrasting belt. It’s just different enough as to be remarkable, without me looking ridiculous or overbearing. Anybody can walk up and comment on my pants to start a conversation – it’s one less hurdle between us talking. If you dress in a way that sets you apart, it’ll allow the more gregarious (or inebriated) of the crowd to start conversations easily, while ensuring people don’t forget you as easily.

This is a tactic that started in bars, where men ‘peacock’ by wearing outlandish costumes to stand out from the pack. No need to go overboard – Dave Kerpen accomplishes this through bright orange shoes. Just different enough to be memorable when you’re trying to remember him among the dozens of people and names you met at a conference.

Don’t Use Business Cards

Foisting your business card on someone too early in an exchange is a surefire turn off. Wait till the end, and only do it if it makes sense and you really want to follow up. Too often I’ll end a conference with pockets full of business cards I’ll never look at twice, since they felt obligated to give me one. Connect if it makes sense, and if not, it’s no big deal.

Personally I don’t ever use business cards – if I want to connect I’ll add them on Linkedin right there on my mobile. Or they can take a picture of me holding up my wallet, which has a business card of sorts on it, with my name, website, and contact info. That way I 1) stand out from the hordes with business cards 2) don’t waste paper with an easily deletable photo, and 3) tie my face to the information. But that’s just me.

Present Yourself Strategically

Look for groups of people with odd numbers, so that you can easily slide yourself into the conversation without drawing them away from each other. Single people wandering around or playing with their phone are also easy prey. If you have to join an even numbered group, do so directly, by entering from a direction where everyone can see you, maintaining eye contact, and introducing yourself when the conversation lulls or it seems awkward that you’re there. Of course you have to read the body language, but it’s easier than you think.

Once you’re in, remember that many of the people you meet will never see you again – you’re looking for those who share interests or business opportunities with. So present yourself strategically, by selecting the parts of your story that help them figure out where you could fit in to their future. I introduce myself as a content marketer and blogger, citing my startup marketing past  and self-published book as proof. (Oftentimes I’ll have the book with me, as a sort of instant wow-resume.) That gets the conversation oriented around what I can bring to the table, or just around topics I care about.

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Too often conversations get mired in boring work talk. Find the good stuff that one or both of you are interested in, and talk about that. Start with open ended casual questions like ‘What do you want to take away from this event?’, ‘So, what’s your story?’, ‘How can I help you?’, or ‘What are you passionate about?’. Then they can take the discussion in almost any direction, and it spares them from immediately relating what their job is or where they’re from over and over.

Take it easy!

It’s not networking – it’s just talking with friends you haven’t met yet! Listen as much as you talk, maintain eye contact without being aggressive, and feel free to end conversations you think aren’t going anywhere – most people understand a simple ‘It was great talking to you, I’m going to go [get a drink, check out upstairs, whatever] now’. If I’m tired I’ll often find a couch with one other person on it and recharge with light conversation instead of serious discussion.  The night is up to you – there’s no need to make it an ordeal.

Weekly Review #52: Quantified athletics, robot job poaching, and the best tacos on the peninsula

I attended an Andreesen Horowitz book event with Mark McClusky, the author of Faster Higher Stronger, a treatise examining recent athletic advances. Some thought provoking factoids:

  • Sleep is so important that top athletes travel with their own pillows, because it has a material effect on their performance.
  • There’s a new trend towards ‘random practice’, where practices simulate game environments. For example, basketball players practice 3 pointers after doing sprints, just like in a game
  • The athletic version of the significant/happy question: would you take a drug that guarantees you an olympic medal but will kill you in 5 years? Many athletes would.
  • Quantified self is reaching the athletic world – australian rugby players have sensors in their jerseys that track vital stats in real time. Looks bleak for the weak team members….

Reid Hoffman says we have moved from the Information Age to The Networked Age, noting that people now look to their network for answers, rather than Google. Take job hunting or venture capital, for example. I fully agree with him, in that there’s too much information out there nowadays and the only trusted curators of it are your network.

Marc Andreesen doesn’t think robots will eat all the jobs. He admits they will eat the jobs of today, but notes that once all needs are taken care of, humans can focus on art and science at leisure, in a consumer utopia where are good are cheaply made by robots. Plus, robots aren’t even close to being able to doing everything we want them to do.

Jason Shen waxes on Lessons learned at an Enterprise SaaS company - it’s harder to adopt new software, documentation is king, and marketing serves sales. His take on blogging to increase your luck surface area is intriguing as well – luck is proportional to your passion and how many people you share it with.

Startups/tools: Starry is like Rapportive for web browsing – you can see startup stats and competitors all from their homepage. Assistant to aims to fix personal scheduling by allowing you to select mutually compatible times from within Gmail, and Wordsift brings up the most used words in a passage within a word cloud. Also, Boxouse is a really cool story about an Oakland couple living carbon neutral out of a shipping container, and they’re aiming to sell the units soon.

Fun stuff: All the Taquerias of Redwood City is an exhaustively researched guide to the best mexican on the peninsula, and this homeless guy who looks for one night stands just to get a bed has me shaking my head in equal parts awe and disgust.

Benefits From One Year of Blogging

image from Scott Beale

Last week I had a three hour long conversation with a fascinating friend of mine. He’s both thoughtful and knowledgable, which means that he knows what he’s talking about enough to be educational, while coloring it with his opinion to make old stuff interesting. Our conversation was filled with me taking notes with which to research the subject matter further, and I left with enough content to fill multiple blog posts.

Yet when you google this guy, nothing comes up beyond a neglected twitter and Linkedin account. I know that he’s full of more interesting opinions and ideas worth spreading because I’ve met him in person, but the world at large will never be enlightened because most will never meet him. He couldn’t care less about meeting strangers, but I’m not thinking of him – I’m thinking of the potential audience who would benefit from hearing his take, and the various ways in which it would benefit him.

He’s not the only public-shy friend of mine with a mind full of enough content to fill books. I can think of several other acquaintance ins my life who are willing to wax poetic for hours about their well-informed views over lunch or at parties. But when I tell them to blog and put these views in public where more people can find them, they demure. They say they can’t write, that they don’t have the time, or that they don’t think their ideas are worth sharing.

Anybody who can think can write, we make time for what is important to us, and you don’t know which of your ideas will reverberate. The argument is invalid. The only defense left is ‘blogging is not important to me’ and I can’t argue with that. Your life priorities are up to you, but with Weekly Review #52 around the corner, coreybreier.com is one year old. With 365 days of experience behind me, I can definitively say that putting yourself online is a good idea.

Here’s why:

It connects you to like-minded individuals

If somebody thinks you are intelligent, then there’s probably others out there who agree with them. But with billions of people on the earth and limited time, you’re not going to find others by networking and meeting in person. Luckily, there’s the internet, which makes it pitifully easy to broadcast to anyone in the world.

This leads to new friendships, strengthens old ones, and creates job opportunities. I’ve had all three – Bud Hennekes reached out to me after loving my blog and now we’re best friends, several people I’ve fallen out of touch with have rekindled our friendships through offering thoughtful feedback on my posts, and I got a paid writing stint for Matador Network after they stumbled upon my old travel blog.

Putting yourself online makes you luckier. As Jason Shen relates: the serendipity  in your life is directly proportional to the degree in which you are passionate about something combined with the number of people you communicate it to. Blogging is the easiest way to convey your passion to a large number of people. It increases your luck surface area and facilitates encounters you’d never have otherwise.

It’s an easy way to build your reputation

Any consistent author ends up with a sizable body of work in no time, which is a powerful measure of credibility. James Altucher calls it the new business card – a book or blog is a far superior introduction than a meaningless name on a card. When I walk into a room and say that I wrote the book on group games, I immediately am treated with respect and authority, even outside of the realm of games. All we did was take our knowledge of games and package them in a digestible format for others – anybody can do this today at minimal cost, with all the free web tools available.

Putting your work in public garners feedback from others, which refines your thoughts and lets you look at them more objectively. At worst, nobody reads your stuff, or some internet trolls make you feel bad. But the best that could happen is that make a living off of your blog. (The internet is full of examples) The potential upside is so much stronger than the potential downside.

Plus, what’s the first thing anybody does to you these days, professionally or otherwise? You google them, and if nothing shows up, then they may as well not exist. If someone’s work is significant and nothing is online for people to google, does it make a difference? Not really. Charlie Hoehn teaches new grads how to exploit this in his ebook the Recession Proof Graduate, but the principle holds for anybody.

You may argue that the richest and most powerful out there don’t need to advertise themselves, because they’ve already built networks and know the right people to pull strings and cash checks. True, but chances are you aren’t part of that elite cadre, and you’re unlikely to get there without anybody knowing you exist outside of those you see face to face.

It provides a personal mirror

Yes, it’s easy, yes, it could make you a profit, and yes, it makes you look good. But most importantly, it’s a valuable exercise for you the author. I can look back at this year and see what I was thinking and consuming at any given week, which will become all the more valuable as I age and change my views. Writing is so cathartic that I now become grumpy when I don’t do it, and even the blog drafts that don’t end up in public help me think through my problems and opinions such that my personal understanding becomes clearer.

It holds me accountable, as my friends bring up my thoughts in our conversations and challenge my logic, or direct me to further relevant resources. All I’ve ever done is put my thoughts down on a deadline, and even that forces me to think better. Everything else is a happy side effect.

And I’m only getting started. Who knows what next year will bring for me, or for you if you put yourself online?

Weekly Review #51: Morning club parties, Russian wakeup calls, and peeing in the sink

I went to a Daybreaker event on Halloween, a new fad started in NYC where you wake up early and go dance for 2 hours before your work starts at 9 am. No alcohol is served – just kombucha and a fruity breakfast. It was a novel take on an environment that usually leaves me hungover and wanting to go to bed – instead, I faced the day energized and happy. Plus there’s no surge pricing on Uber at 9:30 am, which is a big plus!

Wakie is a novel startup that gets total strangers to call you as your wakeup call – I understand there’s lots of drunken Russians ready to help you out on there.

James Altucher’s 22 rules of writing has some gems, mainly ‘somebody dies in the first line’ (start with a hook), ‘people read in an F – the first line then the headers of paragraphs’, and ‘life is cold – keep readers warm through the intimacy of a story’

Ryan Holiday’s guide to marketing a bestseller is yet another comprehensive take on what he does best – takeaway for me on this one is that ‘an author should measure his success based off of the assets they accumulate, not the copies sold.’

WPCurve shares 5 startups whose income reports are entirely transparent: Entrepreneur On Fire, Baremetrics, Empire Flippers, Buffer, and Groove. Proof positive that being transparent can be a good thing.

Christina Cacioppio is a woman to watch – she used to work in venture capital until she realized the future belongs to those who code so dropped everything to do exactly that. Great wishlist of what she’s reading here, plus she built Join-Startups.com, which aggregates many tech jobs all in one place quite neatly.

James Clear with two solid points: email is where keystrokes go to die (your hands only have so many movements in them before carpal tunnel; do you want to spend them on an email for one person or on blog posts that reach hundreds?), and an introduction to Sisu, a Finnish concept that is an extreme version of what we Americans call grit and is more important than IQ.

Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart’s quest to use less than 4 liters of water in one day leads to drastic steps, like peeing in the sink and using microbial sprays instead of showers. Sounds like Rob Greenfield, who similarly lives off little water, like the time he drank only from leaky faucets during a heat wave.

Lastly, there’s a helpful aggregation of website that will pay you for personal essays, and if you’re bored on the internet, Vsauce’s big list of things to do online has the potential to waste hours.