My Password Keeper app is on its way to the App Store, and the site is now live.
I won’t waste time with a long pitch of the app, but it’s VERY GOOD at what it does well. And what it does well is speed and simplicity.
Here’s a gif demo also found on the site (or if you prefer a higher quality video):
If you’re big into productivity hacks, I’ve found using it has saved me ample time, especially when logging into banking sites and sites where you need to pay bills. I’ve actually ditched my bank apps because Valt logs into them faster.
Some of the best news about the news business is the gigantic expansion of the addressable market, a function of the rise of the developing world plus the Internet. So how big is it? If you extrapolate from the number of smartphones globally, the total addressable market for news by 2020 is around 5 billion people worldwide. However, we all have to get more sophisticated about defining and segmenting markets. It is critical to really understand the who, where, when, and whyto serve that massive market effectively.
For example, many evolving markets are seeing the “death of the middle.” The winners in these markets either offer the broadest breadth or the deepest depth. In evolving markets neither the broadest nor deepest is in trouble, but the middle market is withering. So it is logical to expect the big winners in the news business to either be the broadest or the deepest: To go maximum mass, or maximum specific.
Five billion people? Think about that. The news industry revolution is just getting started.
I’m really excited about the “maximum specific” growth of the industry. I want to read quality pieces often on everything I care about possible. The industry isn’t large enough for that to happen, but it will be soon.
“I asked Ylon, Lewis, and many others what were they thinking at rock bottom and the answer almost always was: ‘What else could I do with my life? I had to keep going!’”
– James Altucher
How to get Valuable Feedback on Anything
When I was 11, I built a Dragonball Z Geocities website. I started getting LOTS of pageviews — lots for an eleven year old. My upstart website inevitably garnered many emails from readers. Many were angry and they really wanted me to know.
I think I cried after I read them. I argued with many of them even though they were usually right. I gave up on the site. I still remember the angriest emailer’s name.
Damn you Stevie Z.
A few months ago when I was building Syft, my cofounder drove from Los Angeles all the way to San Francisco only to get completely ripped apart and rejected by a venture capitalist.
Sami was disheartened after. You would be, too. He called me on the phone and told me lots of stuff. I distinctly remember what the VC said about the product.
We needed his money but got his ruthless feedback. I was excited because his suggestions led to ideas that completely altered the design of the product.
I don’t think my 11 self knew what feedback really was. I probably still get a lot of feedback I don’t effectively absorb. The bigger difference is that I realize now why its important.
Feedback will help move your venture, whatever it is, in better directions. Directions that you won’t ever think of without some outside perceptions.
If you’re building something a little more serious than a Geocities DBZ website, I’m certain you’ve answered the whys of feedback. I’m not writing and you are not reading about why. We want to know about what good feedback is and howwe’re going to attain it.
The dictionary defines feedback as “information about reactions to a product”. Lack of reaction can also be good feedback. But not all feedback is useful. It’s really hard to know what good feedback sounds like. Sometimes things are good feedback that are disguised as something else. Sometimes great feedback comes from an honest VC that you drove across the state to speak to. Often you might not know if feedback is good or not until you test it out.
The only realanswer to identifying useful feedback is to collect a painful amount of any feedback. I can tell you what helped me, but it won’t be real to you until you’ve done it yourself. You need to be good at getting good feedback.
The only question that remains, then, is how?
1. Do favors for people. I would often get people to use my app by doing something (buying them a coffee, hell, even give them a genuine compliment) then ask them to download and use my app a short while after. It’s a dumb psychological trick. But it works.
2. Communicate to 1 to 3 people in person or through email. Asking for feedback on Facebook will likely do you no good. Facebook is public, not personal. You need personal. Nothing is more personal than in person. Email is very personal for the web. Good emails feel like a handcrafted gift. So make it nice, happy, and short.
I set the limit to three people because any more and you start to get bro mentality. Hive mind feedback is usually wasted effort because no one is thinking about what they really think, only what they want their friends to think they really think.
3. Which one is better and why? Just last week, I quickly designed 4 different prototype app icons for my upcoming app (getvalt.com). I then contacted three friends asking which one is better. I received quick feedback. Together, we found which one had the most potential.
What if I had designed one and asked them what they thought? Unless they are used to being brutally honest with you on a professional level, you’ll usually just get the same ol’ shallow praise. It looks great, Rob! I like the yellow! So useless.
Comparisons take the focus off of hurting your feelings. Now they don’t have to tell you your work is complete shit. Even if all four of my icons were bad (they were), they don’t have to tell you. They just have to tell you which one is the least shitty. And they almost always will have a reason why they chose their winner.
You might not have or want to make multiple versions of everything you make, so be creative. The things you compare don’t have to be completely related. Examples: “Which paragraph do you feel flows better?”, “Which song sounds more ambient to you?”, “Which color do you feel was used most appropriately?”.
4. On the same note, NEVER ask Yes-No questions like “Do you think this is good?” or “Am I using too much black?” Yes-No questions create bias. The answer is almost always going to be exactly what you want to hear.
5. I lied a bit. Ask Yes-No questions only if its your spouse or best friend. I said never then I thought that Amy would absolutely give me the brutal truth if I asked a yes no question. So only ask these questions if you have trust that they’ll answer truthfully.
6. Break things down into chunks. No one wants to use you app, read your book, listen to your album, whatever, unless you’re already known to be good. Give them something bite-sized. Instead of a full album, ask them to listen to a single 10 seconds of one of your songs. I always found it much easier to give a user my app and ask them to achieve a small task using the app.
Not only are they more likely to do this, you can actually wait for them to do it right in front of you and watch their subtle body language. Ain’t got time for that shit. If its small and they like it, they might actually dive deeper into your product, and at the very worst, they lost 10 seconds of their time.
The less painful feedback is for others to give, the less painful it is for you to ask them for it. No one wants to put others in deliberate, unnecessary discomfort.
That’s why I use these tips.
Why You Hate Your Job
I remember clearly when I “became” an “entrepreneur”. What I mean by that is when I started pouring hours of my time into my own products. When I started REALLY working on myself. My relationship with Amy. When every day started to count.
It was very sudden for me. I was attending school to be a history teacher then BAM I switched to Computer Science major then BAM I started working on my first company, all within about 2 months. I went from flatlining to relentless self improvement.
I don’t know exactly what caused this sudden change. But I do believe that a sense of purpose was slowly snowballing in my subconscious.
I wanted to provide me and my family a sense of financial freedom. I knew I had issues working for other people. I’d recently started dating Amy and wanted both of us to live an awesome life. I wanted to a good example for my 4 other siblings. THESE things mattered and still matter to me.
I recently read this post about how “Do what you love” has led our generation in a dangerous direction.
If you don’t feel like reading that entire post, it basically goes on about how ‘Do what you love’ is leading several people into saturated careers where their underpaid and over worked. And how not everyone can possibly work in a highly challenging, intellectually stimulating field.
I agree. The “Do what you love” mantra is arrogant. And more importantly, dreadfully misguided.
Steve Jobs said do what you love. But he had it wrong, even for himself. He loved what he did because of the purpose of his work. To create amazing products. To build a lasting company. To change the world. The fulfillment of this purpose is what made waking up in the morning matter.
I’m working on a password keeper for iOS. Do you think I’m just fucking crazy about keeping my passwords? My friend mentioned that she needed one. I realized there wasn’t a free one that offered a simple, delightful experience. I noticed a few people who were seeking such a solution. So I’m building it.
Yes — I’m lucky to work as an entrepreneur. We don’t have to look at entrepreneurship. Let’s contrast two other fake-but-real lives then: A DWYL’r straight out of college and a illegal Mexican immigrant.
She goes to college, and she just falls in love with a class in philosophy prompting her to change her major. Come time to graduate, she can’t just get a job as a philosopher. She decides some six years of more school is her only chance because she is going to do what she loves damnit.
She gets her phD. Now what? She’s qualified maybe to teach people in philosophy. After tireless months of search, she finds a gig teaching at community college.
Kids aren’t engaging in her message like she dreamed. She works 60+ hours and gets horrible compensation. She hates it. But no one gets to know, because she’s doing what she loves.
This is a pretty specific scenario for a DWYL’er, but I think small tweaks to it will apply to most. Loves graphic design? Skip the graduate school, add some internships she hates. She gets paid more, but can’t stand her colleagues and boss.
Our philosophy professor chose a subject matter she liked and made it her purpose to do what she loved. She later found out this was short sighted— she loved philosophy, but she hated enduring long work hours and kids who only care about a good grade. She might even hate talking about philosophy now.
The illegal Immigrant
I’ve never been to Mexico. I took a class on Mexican History awhile back. I waited tables at a Mexican restaurant that’s kitchen was staffed with nothing but illegals.
From what I’ve gathered, it’s a rough place. Rough enough for our person to risk her livelihood by sneaking her way across the US border with her husband.
Somehow, they succeed. They live with some second cousin in very limited space. They’ll move out when they can.
They also have a kid on the way. Her husband finds any work he is able to do. For good measure, she looks for a job, too. She’ll take off for like a week when the baby is due.
If they’ll lucky, they’ll find jobs to who won’t check their legal status. They’ll find a place to rent that also doesn’t. It’s even questionable if they’ll have a hospital that will accept them for giving birth in.
There’s no way they live as comfortable as our above philosophy professor. Probably ever. They certainly won’t have the convenience of a bank account or several other commodities we’ve grown accustomed to.
But they find a way. Despite what most of us would consider putrid living conditions and unthinkable risk, they’re able to make it in the US.
Did they do what they love? Fuck no.
So why did they do it?
If you’re in the US, you’re ancestors took a similar risk a century ago. Why did they do it? To Build a better life. To give their children better opportunities. Multiply that with the fact that they’re defying the laws and regulations of the most intimidating legal entity in the world (the US).
When things looked bleak, they’d remind each other why they’ve sacrificed everything for this. They kept moving forward. Now their kids are US citizens and able to enjoy a premium education.
They accomplished their dreams. Dreams which were constantly fortified with an incredible sense of existing. Regardless of you views on illegal immigration, it’s hard to deny that they have something to be damn proud of.
Deep purpose matters. I can’t articulate what a deep sense of purpose might mean for other people. It may be something meaningless to others, but means the world to you.
A deep purpose will lead you to a more fulfilling life than something as shallow as DWYL. Because you’re career will inevitably run into challenges your not going to know how to deal with. You won’t be prepared for everything.
If you can’t tap into a deeper sense of existing, you’ll shy away from the big challenges. You’ll stop moving forward. And you’ll hate your life.
Success Can Destroy You
I had a near perfect work week a few weeks. All 5 days were home runs. I felt amazing.
SO AMAZING, in fact, that I didn’t need to worry about what I ate the following weekend. I DIDN’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT A THING. I watched what I wanted, slept how and when I wanted. I deserved extra indulgence.
I let myself watch every single NFL playoff game. That’s roughly 12 hours of football in two days. I followed up with several visits to online NFL discussions.
This continued for another 5 days. My mind had become a football. What you would have witnessed was a complete meltdown of productivity, no, of HUMANITY.
You might witness the same effect in a kid who has just smashed his brother in a video game. He gloats and gets in his face. Then gets destroyed in the next game.
What me and this kid had in common is we were seduced by the good feels of success and as a result we completely abandoned what led to the success in the first place.
Incredible success is an incredible drug. This Ted Talk demonstrates that monetary success can make us bigger assholes, less generous, and bigger cheaters.
We begin to attribute more of our success to our own awesomeness, ignoring the factors outside of our control that helped us become who we are.
I thought a lot about how to keep this from happening again. My girlfriend recommended I keep a journal of my failures and mistakes every day. I thought it had potential so I gave it a shot.
I had pretty remarkable results. Even when I had an amazing day, logging the little things I could have done better or could be improved helped me remain humble and focused on improving those things for the next day.
Not only has this shown to keep me focused, but I also notice much smaller things that I could improve that I may have not noticed.
The journal provides accountability. It “listens” to me, almost like I’m seeing a therapist. This helps me improve. I think it could work out for you, too.
How to be Extraordinarily Productive from Home
30 days. That’s roughly how long I’ve worked at an office. I had the option to work from home or travel to an office for over a year.
The choice was easy. Working from home is what I had always done before, and I’ve continued to after. The office contained too many variables that often impaired productivity.
I’ve found rules that effectively keep me on task. Sometimes I convince myself they’re not worth following. Those days usually suck. That’s okay. I eventually rediscover these rules.
1. Take work breaks.
Life is not a marathon. You need periods of rest. You wouldn’t move from one intense workout to the next without a break. Maybe you do. I hope your joints are okay.
Productivity decays over time. Passion decays over time. Work all the time and you’ll become a zombie who hates everything.
2. Stick to a routine.
Use software to automate it. Wake up and sleep at the same time daily. Start work and end work at specific times.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. Routines are nullified. That’s cool. Create ‘plugin’ routines — routines for situations like sleeping in late. Plug in Sleep In Late routine and you’re golden.
3. Limit information into your brain.
Stop feeding your brain useless stuff. Get off Reddit, Facebook, Techcrunch, whatever is your candy.
Junk content allocates brainpower, too. Your brain will be confused with what to prioritize, and inevitably distract you with this junk information when you’re trying to work.
4. Don’t Overeat. Learn to cook.
Many say its what you eat, and I agree to a certain point — sugar and prepackaged gunk terminates focus.
I’ve experimented a lot with my diet. I’ve tried just about every diet out there, real or fad. Almost all worked well. Eating obscene portions is the real dagger.
If I eat too much, I get that dreadful brain smog that keeps me from being effective at anything but sleeping. I NEED A NAP
5. Write task lists in a notebook.
Keep things you have to do out of your head. You will never remember them all and will prevent you from focusing on what you’re doing now.
I prefer notebooks over apps because they allow me faster movement and more creativity. Apps have too much constraints to effectively express some things.
I DO recommend an app for less immediate or non trivial lists. I use Clear to manage lists like Groceries, blog ideas, app ideas, and what I should learn next.
6. Be Active.
After I finish work, I try to do something that gets me moving. Sometimes its challenging cardio workouts or play with my pitbull. Often I like to jump on my bike and explore random parts of New Orleans.
I get excellent exercise plus it takes my mind off work so I can recharge for my next session.
There is probably other smaller items I could stick within these rules, but these are the major six that, when followed, almost guarantee a productive, happy day.
(email me to chat: email@example.com)
Why Freelancing is Toxic for Entrepreneurs
I failed hard at freelancing. A few months into one of my client’s projects I traded almost all my pay for equity to become a founder. The company had no revenue, only funding and hope.
That company ran out of money after a year and a half. We failed to find market fit.
I would not recommend doing this for anyone seeking to be a good freelancer. I would recommend doing EXACTLY this for anyone looking to be an entrepreneur.
Freelancing is not entrepreneurship. Some people think it is. It’s not. Freelancing is repeatable, but in no way is it scalable. Income progresses linearly. Hockey stick growth can’t happen.
You might think the freelancing experience will transfer over to entrepreneurship. You’re right. Some of it will.
But lots of it won’t.
Freelancers’ make money by doing work for clients. To improve their revenue, they take on more clients or charge more. Both of these require getting better at attracting clients.
What clients want and from the freelancer isn’t necessarily going to sell effectively, even if the client thinks it will. So Freelancers are effectively selling the PERCEPTION that what they build WILL sell effectively.
I’m not insinuating that all freelancers try to build products that don’t sell effectively to their client’s customers — I’m saying that because freelancers are not directly responsible for the success of the product, there is less accountability.
If the product they build is ineffective, they’re still getting paid.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t and shouldn’t allow this luxury. When you fail, you better FEEL the pain of that failure. Because you need to learn from it and not do it again.
Amelia Earhardt said, “The best way to do it is to do it.” Freelancing simply won’t teach you all the necessary thing it takes to build your own product.
The longer you do it, the more you strengthen habits that will betray you when trying our own product.
““Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.” — Teller http://clearquot.es/f3”
“When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of? If you can’t answer that, the idea is probably bad.”
– Paul Graham