Friday, December 25, 2015

Could ‘discovery’ offer the greatest potential for the future of the internet?

I’ve been aware for over five years that discovery is fundamentally more  important than search.
My initial goal in creating PreAcquaint.com was to create a discovery engine in the form of a social network that would allow its users to discover highly compatible people they should be adding to their life that they would be grateful to have met, that they otherwise never would have come into contact with.
The problems to carry out this vision were numerous and quickly became apparent.
First of all, if an idea is good only as long as it assumes having an active network effect — in other words, if the prerequisite to its success is having millions of users — then it will indeed be reduced to being a bad idea without a practical (and innovating!) way to acquire users.
As well, such a social network typically requires having the user answer many questions so as to be able to provide useful matches, but asking the questions in the first place kills the user sign up and engagement metrics; and so it would appear that AI would be the way around this, which is a theory which remains to be proven in addition to the fact that it would likely be capital intensive to research and implement (assuming that AI in its current state could come close-enough to HAL 9000 for this particular task, and assuming that there would be demonstrable interest in the product in the first place). 
It could perhaps be done, but not easily and not realistically by an industry outsider like myself: a non-technical solo founder. It’s the type of challenges that you’d typically expect a graduate or post graduate from Stanford or MIT to be working on — not a mason who’s dropped out of college.
And so I felt I needed to leverage my position and credibility by doing something else first that was more within reach; and so I parked the social network at PreAcquaint.net for the time being and created “the new” PreAcquaint.com to be a content site, which can be more easily made to undergo “soft” pivots without having to have the entire site re-coded. Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but the jury is still out on that one.
Back to my main point, searching on Google is not an end product in itself. The discovery that results from having searched is the true and only end product.
As an example, you could be searching your entire life for a suitable partner (and some people do), but you won’t have a relationship until you discover that individual.
We search in order to discover. We can also discover without searching, and that’s a big fact of life. It’s what we call serendipity. We also rely on curation by others in whom we trust in order to discover new things to be, do and have.
Curation is built in every facet of our lives. We choose a particular retail chain over another, or a restaurant, museum, etc., largely because what is on offer has been curated. Word of mouth is basically curation.
Curation is a mechanism through which discovery can be regulated. If you think about it, there is so much that each one of us could potentially discover in the world that we’d realistically never get to, due to our limited life span of approximately 80 years (if we’re lucky).
For instance, devote the rest of your life exclusively to be studying mathematics — everything closely related to it and everything ever published about it — and you likely won’t have the time to get through it all; and you will by default have missed out on everything else, including having a family and a social life, as well as every other topic, such a fashion, politics, biology, aviation, marine life, etc. I’m exaggerating, of course, in order to hopefully drive home my point.
If the above example didn’t convince you, maybe this one will: devote your entire existence to be watching *all* of YouTube’s content, at the exclusion of everything else, and of course you’ll soon realize that it’s an impossibility.
But at the same time, we could leverage technology so as to maximize our individual discovery output (or is it rather input?) Think about all the things we could discover that we’d otherwise never get to if we could optimize the process through which discovery is made.
Imagine having at your disposal the ability to make profoundly better choices about where to live (and perhaps with whom), with what products, eating what food, down to what career, activities and entertainment would truly fulfill you; not to mention what treatments would optimize your physical and mental well-being and so forth.
Google Search was a great innovation, and it is still utterly amazing at what it does to this day, but having “curation on steroids” through AI has got to be the way of the future, IMHO.
Having access to truly powerful curation in multiple facets of our lives, powered by big data algorithms, would yield the power to dramatically impact our existence. The limiting factor would be reduced to our *willingness* to engage at that point, rather than not having the *ability* to do so.
I'm not in a position to offer suggestions as to what the technology needs to be; and I suspect this is old news for many elite computer brainiacs around the world, but writing it down has proven beneficial on a personal level, as it has made "the path ahead" clearer to me; and again, this is currently why I keep a blog.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Shouting into the abyss that is the internet in 2015

Let’s face it, the current noise level online is fast approaching the insanity threshold.
Imagine a stadium in which everyone has a microphone and is speaking at the same time?
Well, the internet is many orders of magnitude worse than that, I would say.
Short of a viral hack or streak of luck, unless your social status is already into the stratosphere, posting something online and hoping that it’ll be read widely is misguided, if not delusional.
It begs the question, why keep a blog if virtually no one is going to be reading it anyhow?
Personally, one very simple reason is that I write predominantly for myself: it is a widely known fact that committing your thoughts to writing gives you clarity.
It is also yet another creativity outlet for me. I thrive on creativity.
It is also liberating in a way, knowing that what you say could potentially be read. And it is bound to be read — just not in the quantity that you’d likely hope for. And there’s always the comfort of knowing that, at the very least, the NSA will be sure to archive your article for their spy program! — (sorry, I couldn’t resist the satire.)
Lastly, if I’d ever get to experience success in a meaningful way, having a running record of the path that led me there would assuredly come handy. “Better be prepared” comes to mind….
Not to mention that it keeps those few readers who somehow seem to care about what I have to say informed about what I’m up to. ;-)
So, that’s why I write into the abyss. Let me know what you think in the flood of comments that is sure to follow. Hmm, guess not … thought so.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Returning to my project after a 12-month hiatus

About a year ago, my site, PreAcquaint.com was in need of being taken into another direction, but before I could get to it, life threw me a curve and I had a serious personal situation to deal with that took priority over everything else.
In terms of how I’ve dealt with it, I rarely get the blues, but I did initially feel some gloominess; then I was angry for a bit, but then I snapped out of it and figured a possible way out of the predicament I was in and chose to remain hopeful.
Lo and behold, I’ve managed to get the situation under control in under a year.
I did gain a whole new perspective on many things in the process.
And throughout the whole experience, I’ve kept learning through reading blogs and the tech press, consuming books, listening to podcasts and aiming at eventually creating a platform of some sort.
I’m not certain that PreAcquaint will ultimately end up being that platform, but it is the best thing I have to work with right now, given the current resources at my disposal; and there is a new direction that I can take it into, which has recently come to view, and which I want to test out.
And so, I’m bracing myself to get going again and to further my aspirations at entrepreneurship in the process.
And no matter how trite the expression “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is, I’m now a firm believer of it.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What passes for “normal”…

A little while ago, I saw a scene that unfolds daily in every city around the around the world: two police officers patrolling down the street.
I don’t know if it was something about their demeanor, or the particular prominence of their guns on that day that struck me, but I had a little aha moment and I thought, “Gee, it should not be a normal state of affairs that we need armed individuals to keep watching over the population”.
The fact, that as you read this, you are likely to think I’m off my rocker is perhaps even more disturbing, I find, ha ha!
There are so many things in the world that we take as being “normal”, which are in fact passed the point of crisis, war being just one example.
But they usually belong to the field of the Humanities, and so we assume that we can’t solve them (another thing that shouldn’t be normal to have to postulate.)
Today’s startup founders’ focus is on technological innovations; however we are currently at an inflection point where technology impacts the Humanities: by unleashing the internet, we’ve shaken the fabric of society at its core.
The fact is that advancements in all branches of knowledge, including the Humanities, constitute innovation.
Presupposing a catastrophic situation to be normal precludes solving it. And this can be used against us by those “in the know” who want to manipulate us through our ignorance, for example.
Take the banking sector, for instance. All perfectly normal, isn’t it? Well, perhaps not.
Below is an excerpt taken from the Epicenter Bitcoin Podcast, Episode #93, posted on August 24, in which Simon Dixon talks about current banking practices.
See whether you still think all is normal after reading it:
“The reason that we’re in the financial problems we are is because we’re trapped in a multi-decade Ponzi scheme as it were, where in order to have an economy, you have to have more debt. And the reason for that is simply because money is debt. And so in order to have a growing a stimulating economy, you have to have governments take on more debts, you have individuals take on more debt, you have to have corporations take on more debt. And then you get growth. And that’s simply because Economics has made an incorrect assumption; and that assumption is that banks are intermediaries between borrowers and lenders, which is just not true.
…When you deposit money with a bank, they become the legal owner of your money.
…The second property that needs to be solved is that when banks become the legal owner of your money, they can spend it as they wish. And so what tends to happen is they spend it on things which help their shareholders and their bottom line, which aren’t good for the economy. Banks were originally around to make loans for businesses, businesses can then produce something, they create some jobs and they can repay the loan and it produces some value in society. What’s evolved is that the loans have always moved to the least risky and the most profitable thing to do. The most profitable thing to do is financial speculation which adds no value.
…A bank is actually the creator of money supply. Whenever you have a positive balance, in your online banking, that’s simply somebody else’s debt; and they created that money into existence at [the] point of issuing a loan. And so 97% of every penny in the economy is created that way, which means that the only way to drive sustainability, if you want an economy to grow, is you have to have more debt. If you want less debt, then you have to have a depression. And that’s why we have boom-bust, boom-bust, boom-bust.
…I believe the financial crisis was a banking problem, it wasn’t a capitalism problem. Capitalism is my opinion is not the crisis, yes there are problems with it — I believe it is one is the best way of organizing structures.
The problem right now is that capitalism is built upon a banking system where the petrol, the fuel of capitalism is money, and money is built upon a process whereby in order to be created it has to be created as debt; and therefore, that completely skews where money is allocated, who can access capital, and the size of certain organizations that have access to capital. So I believe that we have a banking problem, and that then leads to a corporation problem, because corporations have access to finances that small to medium size enterprises don’t have access to, and therefore you get skewing of the economy. And we’ve never had capitalism to actually test.
Now, if you look at countries like Iceland right now, they are testing capitalism in its true extent. They’ve sent the bankers to prison, they’ve sued them for counter-fitting their money supply when they issue loans, and they’re looking at crypto-currencies as a foundation for their economy.
… The only way you’ll get the government to change is a complete meltdown. They have no appetite to change prior to any kind of meltdown. Unfortunately, necessity is the mother of all invention. Banking and government are completely entrenched. We’ve already seen an example of meltdown post the sub-prime crisis. And we saw exactly what they would do. They’ll create another central bank which puts together more control, they’ll lock up more control currencies, and they’ll always be issued as debt. And then all they do is kick the can down the road a little bit further.
… They chose the exact cause of the problem as the solution to the problem, and I believe they will do that forever because the brave person that goes into government and tries to exercise some of the powers which they totally have to create money without issuing debt would be met with such massive, ginormous resistance.
… If you model out the economics of our existing system, you are going to get a few results. The results that you have is a larger divide between rich and poor. You have larger consolidation of assets between ultra-wealthy, connected people and ultra-wealthy, connected institutions. And with each bailout you move the bar in terms of the debts to the most indebted people. You re-distribute the debts to the taxpayer and that increases the rich-poor divide in its infancy, but eventually, there comes a point where people will no longer lend to government — they just won’t do it because of the interest rates that come in the bond markets of that country.
…What happens is that individuals need bailing out, and so the government comes out with a scheme to allow you to buy your house, get your further into debt; but eventually they can’t repay their interests because their mortgage becomes greater than their income. And so when wages are going down and their mortgages are going up, that is just skewing money toward the banking system. Eventually the people can’t afford it, so the banking system has some kind of collapse and correction; and because all money is created by a bank, and the bank is the economy, the government then [will] bail it out, and the government then goes to a central bank, and the central bank [will] bail out the government through quantitative easing or whatever it is; but eventually, financial engineering ends.
And when that is — I’ve got no idea how much more financial engineering they have, but eventually it does end.
… The money, the assets underneath this, have to come from somewhere at some point, and there’s only so poor you can make people. There’s only so much debt you can get people in. There comes a point when people just default on their debt. And once everyone defaults on their debt, the entire system collapses.”
And then take the Ashley Madison hack.
Fred Wilson wrote a blog post about it, endorsing the following:
…society needs to be accepting of and forgiving of transgressions like using a website to arrange extramarital affairs.
He added:
…all of us are in for having our deepest darkest secrets outed at some point. So let’s hope society becomes more forgiving over time. It’s going to have to.”
That’s saying it’s “normal” for people to be unethical, perverted, etc., and so as the internet tends to leak out many a secret, then we’ll just have to lower the bar of our morality.
The end result of that would ultimately be a degenerate society (as if it wasn’t that way enough as it is!)
A lot of what we consider “normal” is in fact a severe failure of the human condition.
It behooves us to pause long enough at times to at least recognize when a situation is in fact abnormal.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The need to adequately build, lead and involve a team to participate and help in the mission

I’ve just had one these overly drawn-out, ultra-realistic and vivid dreams from which I believe a lesson can be drawn.
I know that the realism of it will soon dissipate and I won’t remember much about it, if anything.
We all have these dreams from time to time that seem more real than life when we first wake up, but that we can barely recall a few hours later.
I find the phenomenon certainly interesting.
So as an experiment, I’ve decided to capture it while it is fresh in my mind and while it is still having a strong impression on my psyche.
I suspect I’ll feel pretty stupid after the fact for having written about it, as it will have been just a dream after all; but that’s why it is an experiment, I suppose. At first, I considered saving it as a personal document on my computer, as it felt a little too weird to write a blog post about a dream, but for better or worse, I decided to go with the blog post.
I’ll keep the narrative to its minimum and strip off the extraneous details so hopefully the post doesn’t come across as conceited.
The essence of the dream — which borderlines on a nightmare, actually — is that I had proven to be competent at managing an existing large restaurant, and was then compelled to open my own.
In the typical way in which dreams are often disjointed, the next scene jumps to opening night, in which there were hundreds and hundreds of customers; probably well over a thousand, sitting at tables — row after row of them — in a sprawling outdoor, somewhat idyllic setting (and strangely, they were mostly wearing dark clothes!? Go figure…).
The problem is that there were too few staff to help me, and those that were presumably working were largely standing there, feeling disaffected with my lack of leadership, and so I was mostly going at it solo.
As good as I had thought I was, I clearly had blind spots.
It gets more colorful than that, but I'll cut it short here. The obvious takeaway I see is I had failed to adequately build, lead and involve a team to participate and help in the mission.
As much as I was convinced that I could pull it off on my own, I needed help.
I’m sure that a therapist could have a field day trying to analyze (or over-analyze) this, but to me, while the dream is still impinging and before its effects dissipate into the ether for good, I can say that its interesting side effect is to have driven home the fact that doing a startup and going at it alone is a recipe for failure.
It has somehow made that even more clear to me, which is something I need to “chew on”, being that I’m a solo founder.
At the same time, I’m all too aware that getting a co-founder is akin to getting married in some ways, and that you have to find the right person; and I’m committed to go at it alone unless I find that individual in a “natural setting”, at the right time.
As well, I’m looking at bootstrapping rather than raising money, and so assembling a team with only the cash flow generated by a nascent company is tricky — and that certainly is an understatement.
Nonetheless, and as absurd as it may sound, this dream has brought these considerations to the forefront of my stream of counciousness.
Dream or no dream, the sooner one comes to truly appreciate the importance of creating a team and a culture, the better off they’ll be, IMOHO.
You’re nothing without a team.
That’s clear to me now in a way that it wasn’t before.
It’s as if I had learned it the hard way, but the experience came from a dream, interesting…

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Forced vs spontaneous creativity

Sometimes the creative process comes out naturally and in volume but not at the right time; and if you’re like me and try to pick it up again later, it may have gone "cold" and not much is coming out.
I’m referring to any creativity: writing a blog post, a piece of music or anything else.
I’ve learned a little trick related to this.
When the creativity juices are flowing spontaneously, I stop what I’m doing long enough to write/dictate little summaries of them on my smartphone that I can go back to later and re-ignite; otherwise I more than likely run the risk of losing those little gems of creativity.
There are other times when my schedule forces me to create something whether I’m in the mood for it or not.
And I’ve got a trick for that too.
In those instances, I’ve learned to let any ideas flow out of my imagination as it will and simply note down or in some way record what the output is; and I make sure to not let my consciousness interfere with what is happening. In other words I stay “out if the way” and let the process take place.
What that does is it turns on the “creative factory” and puts me “in the zone” so that something good will emerge.
I wrote a song titled “It’s in Your Heart”, which is a good example of both processes.
The music came out as a burst of creativity and essentially wrote itself. It was quite surreal actually and it felt as though I was only the medium through which someone else or some other entity was composing the song.
But then I wanted to get on with it and get the lyrics done. The only thing  is I had a major case of writer’s block. Nothing was coming out and waiting forever for spontaneous creativity wasn’t an option. I took a pad and a pen and let any thought occur that wanted to flow out of my stream of consciousness. Before long the lyrics started to come out and it felt quite magical.

In the end, it is as if the song wrote itself, just as this blog post is right now.
At other times, I do a combination of the two techniques. For example I have no idea what the next blog post will be about and then one day I hear or I read something which sparks a thought, of which I record a summary in bullet points in under five minutes. I then let this “brew” in my head for a while, and when I have time and feel ready to create the blog post, I sit down and commit to write it on the spot. If I experience the infamous writer’s block, I just “get out of the way” and let any idea flow and see what emerges. Once the spark ignites, then it virtually writes itself.
Creativity can be harnessed much like the raw forces of nature, in my opinion.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books which are currently changing my life

I’ve often seen lists of books which have had a positive impact on the individuals making the recommendation, but I’ve yet to see one which tells how the person’s life is currently being transformed by a particular set of books; which is what I’ve set out to do here.
I’ve therefore purposefully made use of the progressive form of the verb in the post’s title.
The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
The world has changed and this book drives home the point that the best approach to professional success is to consider one’s career as a startup, and it stresses the importance of having a plan B, as well as an extra emergency backup plan in addition to your plan A.
So three plans: Your current career (Plan A); something else you’ve prepared yourself to jump into if need be or if deemed more beneficial (Plan B); and your contingency plan if all fails (Plan Z).
This is particularly useful to me, as I’ve used to always have two or three sources of income, but all have eventually dwindled down to my current Plan A, which is my historic masonry restoration business. I have had  a Plan Z in place for some time, but the book has now stirred me to work in a focused manner on putting a new Plan B in place.
So this book is literally in the process of changing the course of my life as I strive to implement the Plan ABZ approach.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel is a captivating thinker, and is often referred to as the Don of the Paypal Mafia.
There were some discussions lately about Silicon Valley being a religion. I don’t think that’s the case, but if it were, I’d personally vote Peter Thiel to be the leading ecclesiastic of it.
I’m speculating that having a meaningful intellectual conversation about changing the world with Peter Thiel would have to be a mind blowing event.
Powerful concepts abound in the book.
My personal takeaway is four-fold.
First, Peter Thiel makes the point that any given moment in the history of business happens only once.
“The next Mark Zuckerberg will not be starting a social network, the next Larry Page won’t be starting a search engine, the next Bill Gates will not be starting an operating system company; and if you are trying to imitate these people in some sense, you are not learning from them at all", he says. And so the question to be asking is "What great company is no one else building?"
Second, and this is something I’ve been keenly aware of on some level for the last 20 years, perfect competition takes away profitability. You need to build a monopoly through innovation so you become the last mover in a market and create lasting value and retain some of that value. This statement needs unpacking — watch the video and get it directly from Peter Thiel.
Third, we need to accelerate the pace of technology in order to sustain our society in the future. If you think we live in an age of great technological progress, think again. Our society is largely anti-technology. Go tell your neighbors that Google is working on life extension, and you’ll be surprised to find out that many of them will be against the idea and will claim that the planet will not have enough resources to cope with that advancement, etc. Most sci-fi films are dystopian. We tend not to trust technology to be used for the common good.
But the fact is we need much acceleration on the technology front so we can avoid environmental disasters, raise the entire planet’s standard of living, remove pollution, eliminate diseases, etc.
We’re behind, not ahead, so now is not the time to be complacent about innovating.
Fourth, businesses that could become big, need to start small — which is counter-intuitive.
Startup Communities by Brad Feld
Brad Feld has proven that startup communities can successfully be created outside of Silicon Valley.
His full thesis is explained in this book.
For me personally, the most comforting aspect of it is that tech communities need by default to be open to anyone who wants to be included.
This is helping me persist in my decision to make my Plan B centering around being involved in the tech/internet industry, even though my background is literally in brick and mortar.
I’ve come across other advice that would urge me to “stick to my day job”, but Brad’s philosophy will have been instrumental in helping me make the transition, if and when I do.
I also plan to help other non-technical individuals who have similar aspirations.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
This book is really important to me.
Why make a particular career change? Why start a company? Why live at all?
Answer: ultimately, it is for the pursuit of happiness.
As I strive to make changes that’ll make me even happier, I’ve been asking what’s really important to me.
Something has clicked while reading this book.
My current idea of the type of business I want to build is like this:
It will be bootstrapped, as I’m not VC-fundable. It will be creating a positive impact in the world, which will be central to our company culture. Diversity will be celebrated.
When my condo would become too crowded, instead of renting an office space, I would rent a house in downtown Toronto for all of us to work from. I would mostly make the furniture with my wife out of raw materials from Home Depot, and with our artistic skills, we would fare adequately on the aesthetic front even with the self-imposed financial limitation.
Most of the space where there is natural day light in the house would be used as the company’s work space. Some of us could work on balconies or in the backyard in the summer.
I would reserve a room for my wife and I to sleep there so I could remove as much friction as possible in order to be fully engaged. My wife could retreat as often as she wanted to our condo in the North West end of the city.
I would turn the attic, or some other space, into a dorm so that employees would be welcome to crash there whenever they wanted — the more people in the house, the merrier.
We could all use the kitchen and outside BBQ and have meals together as we saw fit.
And we would be making a difference together.
That whole fantasy I’ve just described is what is currently close to my heart, as opposed to be aiming toward getting wealthy and living large, which were my aspirations of old.
I know which one would make me the happiest.
I've been slowly working  my way through this thought process in the last few years, but thank you Tony Hsieh for finally making it all come together for me.
The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh
It is common knowledge by now that the job security of yesteryear has evaporated into the ether.
The Alliance offers a powerful framework for the new market reality that we live in which aligns employer/employee interests for a pre-determined amount of time in an honest, mutually benefiting way.
I can’t imagine managing a company without this knowledge in the current world we are living in.
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Ever since Bitcoin has gotten the attention of the most elite tech investors and has caused them to invest millions in its infrastructure, I knew it would become a very important platform in the future — a fact which luckily has yet to materialize.
Many of us weren't quick enough on our feet to take advantage of the internet when it first arrived. It is still possible today to break through, but it is much more difficult due to the sheer volume of startups that compete for user attention.
Crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin offer the next big opportunity in the not-so-distant future.
The book provides the history of Bitcoin, and more importantly for me, it reveals what the catalyst has been in getting Silicon Valley interested — very useful to know, IMO.
_____________________
My journey ahead is relatively understood to me; and if I arrive at my destination, it shall have been, in no small part, due to these books having guided me along the way.
I strongly recommend them to aspiring  — as well as seasoned — entrepreneurs; but, they would really benefit anyone.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lessons learned as an aspiring entrepreneur

I’ve had a few thoughts bouncing around my head lately that I wanted to turn into a blog post regarding some lessons I’ve learned in the last five years as a would-be entrepreneur.
It takes some of us longer than others and that’s okay.
On his podcast Jason Calacanis recently was interviewing a striking individual named Kenyatta Leal who had spent 19 years incarcerated for possession of a firearm under California’s Three Strike Law, but had made a complete turnaround and landed a job in the tech industry in the heart of San Francisco although he was still serving a life sentence at the time — in other words, if he ever came out — and had never seen the internet!
Jason then asked Kenyatta how could he ever have reconciled the fact of having lost 19 years of his life, to which Kenyatta retorted that he hadn’t lost anything, but that he had needed every single day he had spent inside to truly find himself and to determine his future moving forward.
Very, very powerful stuff; I strongly recommend to anyone listening to the entire episode — you will not regret having taken the time.
It made me realize that everyone’s journey is different and it’s up to me to make mine count despite the fact that I'm no early prodigy, to say the least.
Even though Instagram took off really quickly and sold shortly thereafter for $1 billion while I concurrently have seemingly gone nowhere fast, it will not help me to make the comparison.
I’ve come to realize that what’s important is to truly find my path and take it from there while making my advancements more efficient relative to myself, not to others.
Try not to go to battle with a only toothpick.
I started five years ago getting my first web development off the ground, not knowing any basics, much less knowing what PHP referred to. I didn’t know the difference between an angel investor and a VC. I didn’t even know that what I was planning to do was called a startup, and yet I had decided to do just that. It was a long learning curve as a non-technical solo founder having to outsource development and subsidize my own way while learning the rudiments of being a product manager.
Fast forward to now and I’ve come to realize that I had gone to battle with only a toothpick as my sole weapon.
No harm done, however, save perhaps for the extra long runway; but the exercise was excellent at driving home, (keeping the war metaphor going), that to succeed I need to go back to the gunnery and get myself a flame thrower, a bazooka and a few miscellaneous items before heading to battle.
When the needle ain’t moving there’s no point staring at it and hoping it will.
When (and where) I grew up, I’ve commonly heard people throwing the following expression at one another: “You get it quickly as long as I explain it to you for a long time”.
It was derisive, even when disguised as humor.
Being a mason, I have made my own version:
“I learn quickly if you bang me over the head repeatedly with a brick for a long time.”
Even though it is self-deprecating, I have felt that way with metrics: sometimes I can be stubborn.
When people would talk about metrics I would tend to tune out.
Well, after five years of very little traction, something has finally hit me on the topic of metrics. I have a difficult time putting into words, but “I get it now” is what I can say; and it is a profound, visceral grasp that is beyond a simple intellectual understanding or lip service.
It took getting hit over and over for 1,800 days with the same fact — a flat graph to contemplate — to really drive it home. Talk of being stubborn as a mule, LOL.
In short, you can make all the excuses you want, but the metrics tell the real tale.
It’s much more efficient (and rational!) to look and act accordingly.
Be thankful for what you already have.
I had a personal crisis a few months ago (sorry but I shall remain mostly opaque about what it specifically was) -- and I'm still not out of the woods yet -- which has made me truly appreciate the need to be thankful for what I already have, as it could all quickly go away.
When you’re chasing “the dream”, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll only really start living when you’ve reached it.
But you have to live your life every day that you are living it, because that is your life.
Now, when I wake up every morning, I still very much focus on what I want to achieve; but immediately after that, I take a few minutes to reflect on everything I currently have in my life and put myself in a mental place where I’m thankful for having it.
Don’t ever give up.
This is not a lesson I have learned in the sense that I once gave up and had to learn from it.
It is a continuous observation and appreciation of the fact that I’m not the type to give up and don’t intend to.
Call it the positive side of my stubbornness.
That may be the most important lesson of them all, as nothing is rarely handed to most of us on a silver plate.