Weekly Review #41: Turning 23, boring businesses, and leading by following

I turned 23 this week, but didn’t do anything special to commemorate the occasion. All day I felt like I needed to do something, but then I stopped and realized “I already enjoy my normal days – why should I change my routine just for a birthday?” Its a good problem to have. There’s a blog post in there somewhere – view every day like it was your birthday for higher joy, with the only downside meaning your actual bday is less special.

How To Build a Rocketship is a nice little podcast/book/blog that share startup scaling strategies I found.

Ryan Holiday is in perfect form as ever with advice on How to Market Boring Businesses - remember those Will it Blend videos? They don’t do much for the bottom line of the boutique blender company, but certainly worked at getting the word out.

The Significant Objects project proves that it isn’t the physical product that makes something valuable – it’s the story behind it. Artists crafted stories for identical objects that then sold for more on ebay.

Tunnelbear lets you experience the internet from another country, which is handy for sidestepping restrictive copyright laws. It also has some of the most clever and shareable content marketing photos featuring bears that I’ve ever seen.

The story behind Clinkle‘s perpetual non-start was an interesting read, to say the least. They still have no product, and have fired 25% of the team since last year, yet remain SV darlings. Possibly because the founder is ‘an investor’s wet dream’: white, Stanford CS, gregarious.

Homeslice is an app that helps you divide up roommate tasks and replenish house supplies – #duh.

The NYT article on the tech elite at Burning Man is an amusing look at what millionaires are doing on the playa. I wonder what’s the point in going to the desert at all if you bring civilization with you? But there’s nothing wrong with people using their own money the way they see fit.

HourlyNerd lets you hire MBAs by the hour for all your strategic needs. Great idea – sure paint the value of an MBA starkly, though, doesn’t it?

The Elio Motors car is a bold new look at automotive technology, at 84 mpg, tandem seating, and three wheels.

Lewis Howe’s interview with Simon Sinek on his School of Greatness (which is my new favorite podcast) was one of the best I’ve heard. Simon knows how to talk – there’s a reason his is the most viewed TED talk of all time. He expounds on his idea of leaders eating last:

  • Marine leaders actually do eat last, because they let their men eat first, which makes for a symbiotic relationship in that each takes care of the other
  • The best quality for leadership is vulnerability. If you can bare yourself to your followers, they will trust you more.
  • He calls out the vulnerability of the White House as an example (yes there’s security, but it’s not like a dictator’s razor wire encircled mansion). It’s an expression of vulnerability while keeping him safe.
  • Likewise, a leader who admits they don’t know everything curates stronger followers, because they trust that their advice is valuable
  • Eating last is a sacrifice based on trust, which makes you vulnerable to missing the meal, but expresses love to whoever you let eat first
  • Ego is someone who is confident in their ability, not necessarily someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else – thats conceit
  • Expressing your struggles makes it personal, and invites others to help – it does not mean weakness
  • There’s no such thing as a bad person – just bad environments that shape them. Wall Street encourages conceit and one-upmanship, while others like the Marines stress trust and companionship
  • The best leaders follow visions – something greater than themself. When authority figures channel something greater, they become compelling leaders, but when they don’t have something to live for, they end up doing what they’re told (in corporate matters, listening to profits alone)

Taking Cold Showers and Loving It

I’ve been taking cold showers exclusively for about a month now, and I think I’m going to continue them ad nausem. In fact, I have come to look forward to them, even though the experience itself it about as unpleasant as you can get. The word ‘cold’ doesn’t begin to describe this ordeal. Every morning, I drag myself out of bed into the shower, turn the faucet as far to the right as it will go, take a deep breath, and then step in to soap up and rinse off. The freezing cold never fails to knock my breath out at first (which taught me how to breathe well), and while I might not be 100% under the pour the whole time, it’s still enough that most sessions don’t last more than 90 seconds before I finish soaping up and step out shivering.

If it sounds miserable, that’s because it is, but it’s also better for my schedule and the environment. I spend less time getting ready in the morning and use far less water, both of which are net positives. I used to curl up into a fetal ball under a sauna-like stream back in the day just to delay starting the day for real before – now I’m in and out in no time, completely awake and alert. Warm showers are enjoyable, but are they really that much more fun than all the other things you could be doing? I don’t think so – it’s just an diverted attempt to get back into your warm safe bed.

There’s all sorts of dubious research out there about how cold showers raise your testosterone level, burn fat, and  other health benefits. Whether or not they’re all true, I have come to love cold showers for 3 reasons only: it wakes me the hell up, I start the day with success, and it strengthens my ability to bear discomfort.

Fully Awake:
No matter how cognizant I am getting into a cold shower, you better believe that I come out of it fully awake. Indeed, I think the body goes into fight/flight mode when presented with such circumstances – my heart is racing, my eyes are open wider, and the part of me that wants to crawl back into bed has disappeared entirely. This alone is a huge boon for a non-morning person like me – I find this a much healthier alternative to caffeine.

A Sense of Success:
Stepping into the icy torrent is the archetypical self imposed daily challenge (SIDCHA); an objectively difficult task introduced into your daily routine. Once you truly commit, you can’t not do them, even though they’re hard every time you face them, and thus you come out of them feeling like a god. It’s a great feeling to walk out the door with one success already in my belt, and I’ve found myself goading myself the night before “Think you’ll chicken out tomorrow? Hell no.”

Accept discomfort:
SIDCHA’s also strengthen your ability to endure discomfort, which is a muscle just like a physical ones – meaning it gets stronger the more you use it. Why would you want to be okay with discomfort? Well, life sucks sometimes, and it just so happens that most rewarding and constructive things in life aren’t easy. The best lives happen entirely outside of your comfort zone, and a cold shower is a simple way to bring the discomfort zone into your daily routine.

While taking a cold shower is nowhere are difficult as starting a company or supporting a family, it’s still hard! My ability to bite this particular bullet every day makes me feel confident and assured when approaching the other difficult tasks in my life, no matter what they are. It’s not quite rejection therapy, but it does the same thing – makes your self discipline stronger by attacking it in small doses, rather like a vaccine.

Cold showers have become such a daily ritual for me that I can’t imagine life without them anymore. I’m not the only one – I was first introduced to it through Joel Runyon, but many other entrepreneurs swear by it. Some critics claim that it’s rather hypocritical, as  such an easy challenge (stepping into cold water isn’t the hardest thing you could be doing to strengthen yourself), but I think that’s moot, because unlike other options, this practice is easily introduced into any first world person’s life. You may not find time to run a mile or write every day, but your schedule already includes  a shower! Just imagine how much more refreshing, environmentally friendly, and mentally empowering those unavoidable minutes of your day could be.

Try it – for real, just once. But no wimping out and turning it warm after, or starting warm and slowly going cold. I’ve found the best challenge to be working up the courage to take the step into a freezing torrent right off the bat. To those who say ‘But my warm showers are important to me!’ and think I’m ruining one of the few pleasant oasis’s a harried person might have in their day – you’re right, I am. A warm shower is a pleasurable respite. But it’s a practice that facilitates complacency and meekness at worst, and boringly clean you at best. Why not tweak it to give a net positive result rather than a simple neutral?

Weekly review #40: Drones, attentional thinking, and robots stealing jobs

I got a DJI Phantom drone last week, and have playing with it nonstop since. It’s incredibly how far up you can get it with little effort, and once you attach a GoPro the footage is incredible, simply because its taken from hundreds of feet up.

Accordingly, I’m now also somewhat of a drone expert. Right now it’s sort of a Wild West legally speaking, – you can’t fly them within 25 miles of airports or within national parks, but that’s about it. And the technology is headed towards crazy scifi levels. Check out the nancopters that can catch things with nets and perch on walls. Until then, there’s all sorts of ersatz drone footage on Youtube, from the Game of Drones guy who flies his through flamethrowers and shotguns, to the guy who turned his drone into a flying Grim Reaper.

The NYT taught me that the brain has two systems of thinking: task positive and task negative. The former is when you pay attention and the latter is when you don’t, but each one is better at different things. But both suffer when you take breaks to check on frivolous things – budget your time in the internet firehose.

Another Paul Graham essay treasure relic- is what you’re working on going to be mentioned in your obituary? If not, why aren’t you workign on that? Also, why procrastination can be a good thing.

GCP Grey points out that robots aren’t going to take our jobs away - they already have. All that remains is for them to scale up to the 45% of the economy. The world isn’t ready for this – we are the horses in 1915, complacent with the advent of the automobile.

Some worthy startups: Naytev  lets you A/B test social media posts, RememberWin tracks your successes and uses them to fuel further wins, and Shadow makes dreamlogging super easy.

Sam Parr’s summary of Made to Stick is a worthier read than the book itself, IMHO. QuickMVP.com lets you test business viability in no time flat.

Fiona Duffy preaches on Startup Marketing: Know your customer, define a clear purpose, engage customers, make people feel like they’re part of something, and invest time in design thinking.

Ryan Holiday with a stellar post on Information vs Knowledge vs Experience. You have to DO things to get the latter – no passive absorption. Speaking of Ryan, he and Tucker Max have a new website/book up about self publishing a best seller – check it out.

Your Girlfriend Should Make You A Better Person

Two people I follow with interest are Scott Britton and Ben Altman, who along with a few other entrepreneur friends just moved back from a year of living in a beachside apartment in Rio De Janeiro. When asked why, they responded: ‘Best beaches and hottest girls, of course!”

Now I can’t argue with their choice based off of that logic, but there’s one part of this equation that doesn’t make sense, in my perspective. Scott, Ben, and their kind are hustlers in the truest sense of the word – they’ve all evolved beyond ‘real’ jobs, turned their passions into income streams, and basically designed the heck out of their lifestyles. My sense is that they don’t live normal lives, they don’t spend time with normal people, and that they’ve mercilessly cut out the inefficient/ineffective parts of their lives in order to live the very best they can.

Now, Rio is great as a party destination, but how many hustlers of equal caliber are there? More importantly, how likely is it for these guys to find a woman who shares their conviction for self betterment and willingness to live extraordinarily? I’m having a hard enough time doing that back here in the States, whose citizens invented the concepts of lifestyle design and intentional living. The only places abroad I have ever encountered comparable life philosophies abroad were Berlin, Stockholm, and London. To live outside the 9-5 one must first live in a developed city that has 9-5 options to break out of.

I have nothing against Brazilian women (to the contrary!), but I doubt that they are very into the self development scene. Which doesn’t matter if Scott and the boys were looking for short term relationships, but it does matter if they are looking to spend serious amounts of time with such women.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.” Countless effective people (Scott and co. included) have lectured on the importance of surrounding yourself with people better than you who can help you learn. The boys in Rio have doubtlessly done this through banding together to get their apartment, but all that time spent flirting with Brazilian women on the beach doesn’t help. It’s great fun, to be sure, but I can’t help but wonder how much wife material is on those beaches. Time spent with any woman solely due to her looks rather than her personality, is not going to make you a better person.

Few people would disagree with that on principle, yet I see so many men forgetting this. Even smart, efficient ones like Scott and Ben. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to spend it when a person simply because you enjoy their body but not their presence. She deserves someone who likes her for her, and you deserve someone who you like because she enriches your life.

And don’t tell me the sex makes it worthwhile. A pretty person without a compatible personality to your own is functionally no different than your hand. Your hand does nothing more than pleasure you – it cannot make conversation, it cannot introduce new things into your life, and it does not have an opinion you respect. It, like any vapid person, is neutral – neither good nor bad.

And why settle for that when your girlfriend can also be your best friend, your mentor, your trusted advisor? Because of a nice pair of tits? Come on. You’re going to be spending large chunks of your days with her regardless, so you might as well find a person worth spending time with. Life’s too short to spent time with someone uninteresting, no matter how easy on the eyes they are.

At best, the women I’ve been involved with have taught me things (Spanish, salsa moves), introduced me to new authors and friends (Sam Harris, and new people whose friendships have long outlasted the romance), and engaged me with thoughtful discussions that changed the way I think about the world. At worst, they offered a few minutes of pleasure and maybe about four times as many minutes of dull conversation. This is not unique to women – many men are equally boring. The difference is that few straight men would bother to spend time with another boring man, no matter how good looking. Yet somehow an obscure (and usually non-existent) promise of a half hour of carnal pleasure leads them on.

Everyone has two aspects – their physical and their mental. I contend that spending time with people who share mental similarities with yourself (ideally positive, constructive ones that feed off of each other) is perhaps the best pastime possible. We know this, when we selectively choose which friends and people we spend time with. And yet with women so many of us men forget this and let the physical aspect outweigh the mental one. This is a colossal opportunity loss, and is unfortunate for all parties involved. (It’d be the same for women spending time with a pretty boy, though I have not come across this as often.)

This rationale is not enough to stop me being jealous of the boys’ Rio location, nor is it enough to stop me ogling the pretty women downtown. But I have tried to cut out boring people from my life both male and female – by ignoring certain Tinder archetypes, and spurning the parties of those I regard as intellectually boring. If I’m going to devote any amount of my life to your presence, it’s not going to be due to a killer pair of legs alone. (this is a command to myself as well as a statement)

I’ve since spoken with Scott’s new Stateside roommate Justin Mares on this subject, and found his perspective viable, yet personally unappetizing. He responded that it was of no importance to him how ambitious or entrepreneurially minded his wife was – he would rather she be talented in the departments that he was lacking in, like compassion and empathy. That way his better half could help fill out him as a person, and he could do the same to her. He says “What do I care if she knows who Tim Ferriss is?! It’s more important that we complement each other as people.”

I can’t argue with that rationale, but it seems that Justin and I disagree on the specifics. For me, an ambitious woman would complement my own ambition, and we could share tactics and learnings each of us has encountered in our paths. While I may be lacking in empathy and other departments, building those attributes are not as important to me, beyond meeting the baseline required in order to be a quality person, friend, and husband. I guess it all comes down to dealbreakers – everyone has their own, and it matter to them but few others. Find your dealbreakers and stick by them – but I suggest one of them be “inability to talk about anything you regard as important”, for both friends and dates!

This ties in which another returning wonder I have, a variant on the ‘opposites attract’ schema: do ‘birds’ attract ‘rocks’ for mates? Birds being ambitious, Type A people and rocks being grounded, Type B people. I’ve noticed a lot of successful relationships have one of each, and could see why when you get two birds or rocks together it wouldn’t work. What do you think?

Weekly Review #39: Habitual products, content marketing, and 2 sided marketplaces

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.” – Jerry Sternin

“Writing crystallizes thought and thought produces action.” – Paul Meyer

“Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile, predetermined, personal goals.” — Paul Meyer

“Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say are in harmony.” – Gandhi

Nir Eyal’s guide to building habit forming products looks worthy.

Here’s a big fat list of tech reporters and their contact info. Handy for PR, as is the author’s guide to do exactly that. Boils down to having a story, crafting a tempting press release and pitch email, giving someone an exclusive, and then using that to trade for more.

Interview with Pinterest reveals that they have a lot loftier goals than planning weddings. Interesting, it truly is a ‘database of intentions’, because people pin as the first step in a process that usually ends with an action.

Neville Medhora decided to live like a homeless person for a week, to see what it was like. Interesting takeaways.

I did  a lot of research into growth hacking/marketing this week. Some of the best stuff:

For Content Marketing:

On Growth Hacking:

On Airbnb and two sided marketplace success: