On Mornings

Have you ever tried A/B testing having a productive morning versus a non productive morning. It changes the experience of the day by a ton. The feeling and productivity of getting important "things" done before 10 AM is HUGE, rather than waking up at 10 AM and slowly getting through your day.

As a society, it seems we're always complaining about a lack of time. Too much time spent working, not enough time for weekends, downtime, working out, eating right, working on things you want. This is all indeed true especially for people who work 80+ hours a week. Where you basically end up spending your waking hours working 10-12 hours a day, with something like 6-8 hours sleeping, which leaves you really 4-6 hours for EVERYTHING else, cooking meals, spending time with family friends. 

Now unfortunately "early" mornings on a 80+ hour work week is pretty hard to do. You'll need to be a machines, do like Elon, or like a real robot that doesnt need sleep.

But if you can focus on productivity of your morning, getting in your daily workout, day planning, food eating (breakfast), meditation/clearing your head, and the most important task for the day before 10 AM. You'll be golden goose. You'll become that "guy/girl/it" that really is a crusher of the day.

Man how did they workout, feel/look amazing, and finish that huge task for our deadline before we ever got in to work. And on the flip side how do they do it without sleeping!

What I've noticed by incrementally moving my biological clock wakeup time over the last few weeks has been, I get sleepier earlier which allows me to fall asleep faster, which leads to earlier and more productive days.

Here are some of my tips for getting up early:

1) Flux lighting only after 6 or whenever the sun goes down 

2) If you can get off your computer/laptop/tv  - 8/9 PM that would be huge

3) Read something before bed, hopefully its boring and puts you to sleep.

4) Keep your bedroom cold, below 68 F.

5) Blackout your room, the less light the better

6) Wear earplugs/eye mask if you have trouble sleeping

7) Set progressive alarms, so you wake up when you're body is at the right part of the sleep cycle

8) Do a tiny habit when waking up, I make the bed and brush my teeth

9) Drink a glass of cold water or shower to get you going

10) Having a morning ritual to do list to get your mornings going. 

11) Allow the first hour of your day to be about you and your health (yoga, stretching, warming up, meditation, reading, journaling, or all of the above)

12) Start on your most important task for the day. If you get that done you win for the day.

Thats it!

On daily journaling

Recently I've been working on the habit of morning journaling. The goal has been to write daily, in the morning, without a specific goal except to clear the mind and be more present in the day to day rhythms of life. So far the results have been spotty in terms of consistency and focus, but overall I've noticed an increased ability to regulate ups and downs of work/life etc with a somewhat grounded practice of writing.

When journaling, it often feels like dumping out some of the cobwebs and pervasive thoughts in your mind and offloading them. This oftentimes helps with two things, clearing out what is bothering you, and making real thoughts/imaginations/and dreams you have internally.

It's nice having this practice where the goal of the writing is not to show others, to write well, or to even have clear thoughts. Instead it is much like meditation, yoga, and exercise for your mind. A focus on taking care of your mental well being and preparing your mind for the day ahead of you.

I'm beginning to see journaling as an exercise for the mind to keep strong, keep healthy, and keep focus on what matters. As far as I ca tell this is the one life you get, its short, sweet, and sometimes terrible yet beautiful. So you might as well spend as much time taking care of it and watching it as necessary to be healthy happy and in the moment.

On Workcations

I've recently begun to focus spending my income and time on experiences over material goods.

One of the outputs of this has been planning more trips traveling to different places. Instead of simply accruing vacation days and taking off for 1-2 weeks per year, I've focused on creating a work situation that allows for remote work and taking a day off here or there for travel time.

Now I know not everyone's job can be done in this manner, but if you spend the majority of your day online working you are probably working a job that can be done from anywhere. If you're lucky enough to work in this type of work and you have an understanding manager (who should also understand that flexibility in job locations is a great way to retain employees), try doing a workcation.

A workcation includes the benefits of traveling, exploring, and experiencing new places with the efficiency of still getting work done, being productive, and contributing to your company.

I've been doing it over the last two weeks of this month, and its been some of the most creative/productive time I've had at work as well as one of the more rewarding travel experiences.

Luckily in this time I've been able to visit friends in Boston, New York, and Austin. 

You should try it sometime. Its pretty great.

On Accelerators

I recently went back to Techstars NYC to visit some old mentors and companies. It was great to be back and reminded of the intense period of time we had together working during the Techstars program. Months of late nights and long weekends building out product, meeting with mentors, and iterating quickly on the company to hit internal metrics and goals.

Looking back with some perspective, some of the biggest things I can take away from Techstars has been the value add of being part of a built in network of like minded entrepreneurs.

The culture of relentless focus on doing what it takes to hit metrics, to improve product, and to make customers happy. This definitely came out of the relentless process that is Techstars. The momentum you gain out of Techstars through its intense process has so many long tail positive effects on your company.

It makes fundraising easier, it makes building product more focused on the right things, and it makes focusing on the right things easier.

It's been good to be back and even better to be able to with some perspective appreciate the value added.

On Paid vs Free

There seems to be a never ending debate around whether a product released should have a freemium or paid only tiers. There is no right answer to this but I wanted to break down some key examples I've noticed over time that help frame things better.

Advertising - If you are going after a social media play, a network effects driven play, a every human on planet earth should use this play. Most likely it should be free for the basic user. In terms of monetization if your going after billions or hundreds of millions of customers IE (Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter). Going with a free model makes sense as you rely on the content generation of your customers to provide value. If this is the path you go down, you should think of advertising monetization in the long run.

Freemium Model - However if you're in the business of millions, tens of millions, maybe a hundred million users you'll want to look at a freemium play. You'll expect 90%+ of your customers to never pay you. You'll most likely cover the cost of these millions of users with advertising, with a play on a paid version for pro users. Good examples of this approach would be (Dropbox, Spotify, Soundcloud). 

Paid Model - If your market size may never reach millions of customers, or you're approaching companies/enterprises as your main target ie (SaaS or Enterprise Products) you will probably land with a low customer count high ARPU approach. This approach might mean having a trial period test product, lightweight plan for growing businesses. But most likely the focus of your business will be on the "enterprise" sales side. Your goal is have thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of dollars in revenue from each custom. Ideal company examples like this are (Salesforce, Box, Workday).

Having defined some sort of framework to identify what time of monetization strategy you might be going after based on your product and the ideal customer market size things should be a little clearer to see if there is a scalable market for your idea.

Below are some good questions to answer to help identify what kind of company/product you want to build. Do you want to build one that covers its cost with paid customers and grows over a lifetime (Teem Treehouse), or do you want to build a rocket ship and ride it off to mars (Slack). In the end both products/business paths reach a certain level of success. The main difference there is the journey. Who you want to be in that journey, what matters to you most, and what success means to you.

Are you going after a consumer market ? 

Is your average customer in the business of making money utilizing your product?

Can your customer on average even afford this?

How large of a company are you trying to build?

How quickly do you want this product to scale?

What is the end goal?

On Functional vs Object Oriented Programming

Starting out programming, I always found Object Oriented Programming to be awesome. It totally made sense, you could model your real life in code and data so easily. 

You have your class object that has class methods that did operations on the object, you have your class attributes that you can update. Anything and everything is fair game. But I recently read a good quote about how Object Oriented programming is great for large corporation because it allows you to monkey patch existing bugs and issues to objects.

This view of OO programming got me to thinking and digging more into functional reactive programming. Stuff such as immutable data, reactive declarative programming, monads, etc, etc kept calling my name. Though the concepts of FP are definitely foreign and note as easily relatable as OO, there are some awesome concepts and guidelines around it that make things feel so simple.

Rule: Data is immutable, it cannot and should not be overwritten.

If you want to update a value on a data object, you must create a copy and trigger a change related to the object in memory/storage.

Rule: Code should be reactive and easy to debug.

This means convoluted, hidden functions on specific objects were a no-no.

RuleCode should be readable and easily maintainable.

Code should be clearly expressive and obvious as to what it does.

ES6 which is Javascript's new version is supporting even more features that support a more functional, reactive approach to programming. Thing such as monads, generators all defer to a more declarative approach to programming.

Here is a great example of using Javascript Streams with functional programming using highland.js.

// returns [1,2,3,4,5]


On The Value of Time

A lot of times people talk about how their time is money. But the funny thing about making this relationship is how disproportionate amount of money vs time. 

The accrual of money by an individual can be extremely high. IE Bill Gate, Warren Buffet. Billions of dollars per person or more. On the other hand the accrual of time by an individual, has an upper limit of 120 years so far, and a norm of 60-80 years. 

The term time is money hides the reality of the truth, time is nearly infinite in value relative to money. We have a finite amount of time to live yet we pursue money as an end goal as if it will satisfy the needs of a lifetime if we have enough. Instead money should be treated as a currency to buy freedom, flexibility in what you do with your time, not as an end goal.

In reality money is worth very little, you don't really keep it when you die. Ideally some of your offspring will thank you for any money you leave them behind. 

On Rituals

I sometimes wonder  how often people we deem "successful" operate on consistent routine.  There is a great book out there called daily rituals that covers the daily rituals of highly successful and productive people in the world.

One of the largest common denominators between them all was that they had a consistent pattern/routine they abided by. Some people were early risers/others were late risers. Some liked to work only in the mornings, some started work late in the afternoons. But the key component of each of their days was a well thought out process that maximized their creative output and potential.

The majority of their rituals came around simple actions that seem to set them up right for a high output day. Some took cold showers in the morning, others wrote first thing, most had quiet time in the morning. 

I guess its time to perfect that morning ritual. 

On Hardware

Hardware is hard. Really hard. You're talking about firmware, software, electronics, manufacturing, testing. Talk about full-stack development, this is true full stack development.

Peter Thiel, amongst others has complained about the very true problem of tech wanting to change the world and only doing so for bits and bytes.

He also mentions that Elon Musk is one of the few entrepreneurs that is making the jump from bytes to atoms with Tesla and SpaceX.

I believe the key to this ability to bring a startup, high pace, innovation based approach to hardware is the ability to replicate the software development process that exists today on the web.

Software is highly iterative, there are no version, you can deploy changes daily, multiple times a day. There's a reason why tech startups outpace any incumbents.

Unfortunately for the majority of time hardware has been made as versions. You have your 2014 Prius, 2015 Prius, Roomba 1, Roomba 2. This is often due to the fact that hardware manufacturing is hard and costs a ton of money/time to alter things. So most major companies don't change things year to year. 

There are some great parallels between the war between Desktop "Software" and Cloud "Software". Desktop version get released yearly, cloud software gets updated daily. Its pretty clear who wins that one.

There's a reason why Slack came along and smashed competitors in the face, they use chromium, a browser emulator on the desktop that allows for daily updates without needing a user to "update" their software.

Going back to hardware, the secret to Tesla and SpaceX ability to compete with existing incumbents is their speed of innovation. The Model S does not get released every year as a new version, instead each new car that is rolled out has new features added as new features are ready. 

All of a sudden features such as auto-pilot driving, ludicrous mode can be released in subsequent months instead of in a yearly cycle.

Beyond this Tesla has built in their own custom firmware/software into their car so remote updates can happen at any given time. Tesla amongst others has been able to bridge the gap of innovation from the web to hardware by allowing their engineers to continuously deploy, test and release improvements to the car via software updates.

If more hardware companies can build on this practice of speed and innovation into their manufacturing and product software, you'll see new startups blow incumbents out of the water in a matter of months simply due to the speed of their improvements.

Speed kills competition. Startups already know that. Its time to see more hardware startups take this approach and beat out their bigger competitors.

On Startups

Currently joining a startup has become this sexy thing that everyone wants to join to change the world. Now, I agree this messaging is correct and should be the goal. 

What people miss out on in terms of startups that succeed and "make-it" doesn't come from just a great idea or luck. It comes from a combination of  three things.

1) IDEA: something that provides insight into a service/product/sector that is in need of innovation. Messaging clients are old school, let's build Slack a better one.

2) TIMING: The ability to deliver on this idea/innovation at the right time. Launching palm pilot was close but too early.

3) EFFORT: This is what separates the amateurs vs the pros. Startups that win put in 10x the effort and execution into something for 5-10 years before they win. Most startups don't get there.

There is no magical formula to becoming a successful startup. It's the same as a successful musician, athlete, normal business; it involves hard work over a period of time.

The main difference, so smartly said by Paul Graham, is that startups do it in a compacted amount of time. Instead of taking a lifetime to become great a basketball, startups go crazy for 3-5 years to become great at what they do.

So if you want to change the world, and maybe make it rich. Make sure you're mentally ready to dig at it for a minimum of 3 years and if you can survive and grow for 10 years, you might just make that IPO a reality.