When I first built, the first thing that came to mind were the complex machinations of my vision all coming together at once. I saw the intricacies of everything I ever imagined come alive: and it was wonderful.
If I were to go back to those neophyte days, the first thing I would’ve told myself would be to build simply.
You don’t need a grand platform to test out your basic business idea. You don’t need a full-service platform that helps your user from A to Z to start helping them out at A. In fact, the reason why startups in the digital age have succeeded so often is because they will choose the path of least resistance to test their ideas. Way before Netflix became an online behemoth, Reed Hastings was mailing people video cassettes to prove that people did want to rent videos on a monthly-fee basis.
This is what Facebook looked like at the beginning.
This is the basis of the lean philosophy that defines the startup movement: minimalize waste between point A and point B.
Had I known this, I would’ve saved a lot of time and money on my first failed startup. I think it’s a great philosophy to have beyond just startups: keep things simple for yourself and others. Build something out the easiest way possible, so you can learn, and experiment quicker.
A lot of people have commented on the fact that this blog is run on the default WordPress theme, and urged me to change it. I have adamantly refused to do so. I am using this as a platform to learn about how to display content, people are reading the content, and people are signing up to the mailing list. It is a perfectly functional platform that serves a very simple purpose, and serves it well. Why fix what isn’t broken?
You don’t win bonus points for building the most complex system, or for using more words when less would have sufficed. You win when you build something simple, iterate on top of it, and watch as your learning turns your idea from something in your head, to something used by millions.
I’ve come to realize that the best way to evaluate people in the startup scene, and maybe in life, is their ability to get shit done.
In school, we’re taught that the number of words we put into an essay somehow makes it more work, and therefore, better. This has led to something I’ve noticed where new graduates will send you emails that could be printed out, and used as mini-tables.
Getting shit done for the sake of getting shit done is probably the worst way to go about it.
What I’ve noticed works really well is focusing on one meaningful metric, and making it something so audacious and ambitious that you and those around you direct all of their efforts to doing so: and when it starts demonstrating results, that carries you all forward with momentum.
It didn’t matter what you wore, how many hours you spent chatting on Facebook, how many people you called, or annoyed: what mattered was how much the poverty rate was going to be reduced—and in consequence, the huge number of people who would be able to live fuller lives.
Getting shit done isn’t the end-all, be-all: you still have to do the right shit, at the right time, for the right reasons—but your ability to move the needle, whether you consider it a failure or a success, should matter much more than what shirt you happened to pick out the day of.
Worry about getting meaningful shit done. The rest will follow.
One of the things that you will notice after receiving a number of pitches is the number of vague pitches. It is a surprisingly large number.
The pitch goes something like this—“This is what I do. Now figure out how you can help me.”
“This is what I do. Now figure out how you can help me.”
It’s not very appealing for a number of reasons: it can be off-putting, and even slightly insulting if the pitcher hasn’t even taken the time to really look into what you do. More importantly, vague pitches make it much harder for anybody to help.
Vague pitches make it much harder for anybody to help.
Everybody only has a certain amount of time in their lives to dedicate to different causes. Helping out somebody is a good thing, but ultimately, you are the arbiter of your own time. Nothing can be more valuable—even a billionaire who has everything in the world will eventually run out of time.
You can and should choose who you help, and that starts with whether or not you’re getting vague or specific pitches.
Those making pitches can help you help them by making it clear what they need, and if they can, how they can pay it forward.
Which is more appealing?
A: “Hi stranger, my name is Peter. Not really sure what you do, but you seem generally awesome.
I run a startup called RealKarma, what we do is change the world through giving everybody access to a mobile application that allows you to upvote and downvote your friends and enemies (mostly enemies) in real-time.
This will change the world because we’re revolutionizing real-life paradigm interaction shifting, which will inevitably lead to revolutionizing real-world people.
We’re like the Reddit of real life. You can easily tell who is really bad at pitching by the number of downvotes that follow them. I think we’re going to change the world, and 80,000 other people think so too, so we must be onto something. Bye.”
B: “Hi Roger, my name is Peter. I saw your article on TechCrunch the other day on Radish (really big fan of the concept!), and I figured you might like to write on RealKarma, a startup I’m running.
We’re a “real-world” Reddit, a mobile application that allows you to ping when your known friends or enemies are being assholes, or saints (but mostly when they’re being assholes).
I was really excited when I realized 80,000 people needed this in their lives: maybe you do too.
I’d love to give you more details so you can write on this in your startups column. I can pay it forward by sharing the article on our social media outlets, and giving you future tips. Really look forward to working with you.”
Good writing is about getting the reader to the next line in an organized and inspired fashion, imbuing them with the ideas you hold word-by-word, line-by-line, story-by-story. At the end, they should feel like they’ve encountered something profound, and they should look around to the nearest person to share that new feeling with.
Every word becomes a calculation with good writing: does its definition add to unnecessary complexity or does it tailor the exact experience you want to convey?
All good writers have their own voice, so it’s not up to me to dictate that trade-off point for you. This is your experience you are trying to convey, and not mine.
However, it is good to get back to the root of writing: a good writer tries to make an idea resonate with somebody else. Defining that experience in a way that is mutually pleasurable, and comprehensible, is something all writers should strive for.
Good writing is about good ideas. If you want to be a good writer, strive to find good ideas wherever you can. Constantly strive to read new stories, meet new people, and to dream for those special ideas that move you and others.
Express those ideas in their simplest, and most beautiful form.
Good writing is about touching the undefinable sacred, and profane. Sometimes no words are more powerful than many.
Do not mistake word count for insight. Marx wrote his Manifesto in 48 pages. It was the ideas behind it that really mattered, and those 48 pages shook, and continue to shake our world.
Good writing is not about showing off how many words you can look up in the thesaurus, or how well you can spell and punctuate.
Good writing is about holding a reader’s attention so that they can coherently absorb the idea you’re trying to communicate.
Good writing evokes imagery: it makes the right words dance across the mind’s eye with the right rhythm. It makes the reader feel like they are stuck one wisp away from an engaging conversation over coffee: good writing makes them want to pay for the writer’s next coffee so they can narrate every detail, to the last, of the reader’s life and make them comprehensible and tied to something greater, in ways the reader themselves never fathomed.
Most importantly, good writing leaves readers wanting for more.
Pain tells you when you’re stretching your limits, and growing. You can be comfortable for your entire life doing the same old thing, but you’ll never grow and go beyond that limit if you don’t want to experience any pain.
Pain tells you when something’s wrong, so you can learn from it. It’s why leprosy is a curse rather than a blessing: when you can’t feel the fire, you don’t know why to pull away, and you don’t know what to think of it when you see your scars.
Pain lets you know you’re taking the risks you want to define the life you need. A full life was never achieved by idling in comfort. You need all the facets of pain, from physical, to mental, to understand and grow yourself.
What you can do with pain
When you understand pain, wonderful things happen. Every company is founded on the premise of solving the pain of others.
You need to understand what real pain is before you start being successful selling a solution for it. A large reason most startups fail is because they’re solving pain that doesn’t exist: they view pain like a phantom limb—it must be there.
Inevitably, with no market validation, they realize the pain they thought was there is a figment of their imagination. The company closes because there’s no reason for it to exist, and perhaps there never was.
Your why has to be solving the pain of somebody. If that pain is large enough, and hurts enough for them to come to you, that’s when you will succeed as an entrepreneur.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin
Be comfortable with pain
One should strive for comfort with pain, if not comfort itself. Comfort is the enemy of progress: when you’re comfortable, you’ve resigned yourself to what is happening now as being good enough. There’s always ways forward, and new things to learn, so this should never be true.
Pain can slow you down if you let it. Instead of dwelling over it, and trying to ignore it, take it as a constructive bridge to the future, and work towards solving it rather than wallowing with it. Your comfort with pain will grow you into a better person.
Being comfortable with pain is a sort of superpower. It allows you to experiment. After all, what do you have to fear? You understand pain, embrace it, and look to learn from it. If everything goes well, that’s great! If everything goes poorly, well there’s a learning lesson in there, and you can cope productively with it: you’ll take that chance to grow.
Either way, you win.
So that speech you’ve been putting off giving, that girl you’re too shy to ask out: why not move forward on those?
She has to be dating someone, might as well be you.
Things you can do with your new superpower to move forward:
Do something you wouldn’t do every day. Take every chance you can to experiment and grow. What do you have to lose?
Relate better to others. Did you really think nobody else in the world has gone through pain? If you can understand your pain, you can understand theirs.
Move on. Really bad shit happens to people all the time. We fail, and others fail us. Sometimes the laws of the universe itself seem to fail us: the good die young, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. Once you understand that, it makes it easier to look forward on what can be done, rather than dwelling on what couldn’t.
Build great new things. Once you’re fully equipped to cope with your pain, and understand the pain of others, you’re perfectly suited to take on the risks you need to do everything you wanted to do. Pain is good, and so are the ventures you’re building. If you register all the pain you get positively as a sign of where you need to grow yourself and your venture, nothing will stop you.
Stop being comfortable. Have you learned to love a shit situation? It’s not too late to go beyond that. Pain is the enemy of comfort, it’s what comfort is designed to shield you from. When you decide enough’s enough, you’ll finally be growing towards a full life, rather than hiding from it.
Nothing can hurt you—not even pain.
Comfort is bad, pain is good.
I myself have gotten through plenty of both failing at many things, and succeeding at a few. It can be easy to fall into the trap of holding onto everything you have, and not clawing for more opportunities to grow: I know because I’ve been there. It’s only after I realized how valuable pain was, and how to use it productively, that I’ve been able to move on, and make rational decisions on driving towards the fuller life I’ve always wanted.
I want to be a builder. I’ve come to accept that comes with a fair amount of risk, and a fair amount of pain. But that doesn’t matter to me: after all, comfort is bad. Pain is good.
If life is a series of never-ending wait rooms, entrepreneurship is a set of meetings. A successful meeting can often determine the difference between failure and success for a startup. It’s critical for every growing organization that as many meetings as possible are successful in order to keep the momentum of the organization going. Future customers, investors, donors, and partners often hinge on a contact point as low as half an hour.
A successful meeting can often determine the difference between failure and success for a startup.
I’ve been through a lot of meetings on a lot of projects, so I know what it feels like to go through each and every calendar invite on your list. It is tiring, but hang in there. You’re winning your way to success.
You want to make sure that those short, crucial meetings turn out to your mutual benefit. To that end, here are three critical points to ensure you hack and win your meetings.
1-Get a good space. Don’t just grab the nearest coffee shop. You want to be able to hear what the other people are saying, and you want to be able to communicate effectively: that becomes exponentially harder with a bunch of other people hanging around yelling about their lives. Make sure you spend a lot of time picking out just the right place: it can make all of the difference.
I live in beautiful Montreal, and I often freely explore coffee shops, and restaurants, and keep them held in a spreadsheet. I make sure the meeting I am going for is set to a place where I know the ambiance, and backdrop is just right: from meetings with investors to first dates. It works wonderfully when without even saying a word, you have already struck the right note with your meeting partner.
The space matters with code(love)
2-Come prepared with at least three meeting points. A lot of meetings get stalled because neither person has prepared exactly what they want to say, and that is the cardinal sin of meetings: wasting time. Bring points, and an agenda to the table, otherwise it will be a waste of time for both of you. Three is a solid set of items to consider, and even if you don’t bring everything up, you’ll be prepared in case it looks like the meeting is about to lag.
Make sure your points are organized thematically, and in a timeline that makes sense. It’ll help you look more prepared, more confident, and your message will be crisper.
Set the agenda with code(love)
3-Make sure you know what you’re willing to give, and what you’re looking to get out of a meeting. A meeting is often an exchange between people who would look to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Make sure you have an idea of what you want out of your first meeting, and what you’re able to give the other people, and be prepared to state it honestly. Show how you can pay it forward in return.
Oftentimes, this is the trick to getting meetings in the first place: you need to be able to clearly state what you’re able to give. I have gotten a lot of meetings by enumerating what I was able to offer: either new insight, my story, or some service like writing about their startup. Steve Blank, credited for launching the Lean Startup movement, and therefore a very popular target for meeting requests put it best in his piece “How to get Meetings With People Too Busy To See You”. Make sure you offer something of yourself if you’re expecting your meeting partners to do the same.
You don’t want to be known as the person who calls meetings just because they can.
You don’t want to be known as the person who calls meetings just because they can. Make sure your meetings are focused, productive, and mutually beneficial by following these three tricks. You’ll be able to hack and win your meetings, on your way to building and scaling that next great idea.
We‘re all guilty.Everyday from the moment we wake up, we live our lives caring what other people think of us.We accept the status quo for what it is because everyone around us does.
We tip toe our way through life by doing things in order to please others, not because it’s what we believe in. Eventually our actions, appearances, and lives become moulded by how we think other people perceive us.How are these pants going to make me look? What will my colleagues think if I spoke out? Are those people talking shit behind my back? If I take this job, what will my friends and family think of me?Just writing that paragraph alone gave me a headache…
It’s exhausting. It’s dreadful. It has to stop.Living a life that follows the ideal notions of what other people think is a terrible way to live. It makes you become the spineless spectator who waits for other people to take action first. It makes you become a follower. Worst of all, it makes you become someone who doesn’t take a stand for anything.Today is the last day we live a life dictated by others. Today, we’re going to get to the bottom ofthe truth. Today is the day we stop giving a [email protected]$%.
No one really cares
Believe it or not, we’re not that special.
We go through our days thinking about how other people might be judging us. But the truth is — those people are thinking the exact same thing.
No one in today’s “smartphone crazed” society has time in their schedule to think more than a brief second about us. The fact of the matter is, when we do have time get our thoughts straight, we’re too busy thinking about ourselves and our own shortcomings — not others.
A study done by the National Science Foundation claims that people have on average 50, 000 plus thoughts a day. This means that even if someone thought about us ten times in one day, it’s only 0.02%of their overall daily thoughts.
“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.” — David Foster Wallace
It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think of most things relating to “me” or “my.” This means that unless you have done something that directly affects another person or their life, they are not going to spend much time thinking about you at all.
I’ve always enjoyed watching performers trying to hustle some change at the New York City train stations. These guys simply don’t give a [email protected]$%.
But the more interesting observation I made is how the spectators react. Rather than watching the actual performers, most people are looking around to see how other people are reacting. If people were laughing, they would start laughing too. But if people weren’t paying attention, they would also pay no mind.
Even when provided the blatantly obvious opportunity to judge someone, people are still thinking about how others may perceive them.
Once you understand that this is how people’s mind works, it’s a big step towards freedom.
You can’t please everyone
It’s impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations.
There will always be people — no matter what we say or how we treat them — that will judge us. Whether you’re at the gym, at work, taking the train, or even online playing Call of Duty. Even now it‘s happening. You will never be able to stop people from judging you, but you can stop it from affecting you.
Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen when someone is judging you or what you’re doing.
I guarantee that chances are — nothing will happen. Absolutely nothing.No one is going to go out of their busy lives to confront us, or even react for that matter. Because as I mentioned before, no one actually cares. What will happen, is that these people will actually respect you for claiming your ground. They may disagree with you, but they’ll respect you.
Start standing up for what you believe in — causes, opinions, anything. You’re going to have people that disagree with you anyways, so why not express how you truly feel?
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in life.”— Winston Churchill
I’ve learnt that it’s better to be loved by a few people you care about, than to be liked by everyone. These are family, friends, spouse — the people who love you for who you are, and the people who will be there for you during your worst times. Focus on these people. They’re the only people that matter.
You reap what you sow
Worrying too much about what other people think can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the way we think starts to become the way we behave. These individuals become people-pleasers and overly accommodating to others, thinking it will stop them from being judged.
In fact, the opposite is true. Most people don’t like push-overs and are turned off by it. The behaviour we use in an attempt to please others, can actually cause the opposing effect.
If how we think affects our behaviours, then how we behave affects who we attract.
This means that if you’re a push-over, then you’re going to be attracting others in your life who are also push-overs. Vice versa.
This can be quite a dangerous path to go down if you don’t recognize its consequences.
It’s been said that we are the average of the five people we hang out with the most. When we start to attract and associate with the same people that share our weaknesses — we’re stuck. We stop growing, because there’s no one to challenge us to be better. We start thinking that this is the norm and we remain comfortable. This is not a place you want to be.
First and foremost. You need to know what’s important to you in life, what you truly value, and what you’re ultimately aiming for. Once you know who you really are and what matters to you, what other people think of you become significantly less important. When you know your values, you’ll have something to stand up for — something you believe in.
You’ll stop saying yes to everything. Instead, you’ll learn to say no when friends pressure you to go bar-hopping, or when a tempting business opportunity that distracts you from your business.
When you have your values straight, you have your shit straight.
2. Put yourself out there
Now that you know what your values are, it’s time to put yourself out there.
This can be done several ways. Here are a few suggestions:
Wearing a polka-dot sweater
Flirting/Asking someone out
Keep in mind that when you’re doing any of these activities, you have to speak your mind. Be honest with yourself and what you share, because the world doesn’t need another conflict-avoider who does what everyone else does.
3. Surround yourself with pros
Surround yourself with people who are self-assured, and live life without comprising their core values. These people will rub off on you quickly.
One of my best friends, Cody, has been a big influence on me. Having spent the summer with him, I’ve observed countless times where he strongly voiced his opinion on controversial topics. What I learned was that he was simply voicing opinions that people already had in their heads, but were too afraid to voice. People admired him for being so honest and direct, even when they disagreed with his views.
I haven’t told anyone this, but I have this list called the “Growth List.”
A Growth List is comprised of all the things in life that makes you uncomfortable. These are fears, insecurities —anything that gives you the jitters.
Here’s how it works.
You start by writing all the things that make you feel uncomfortable.
Then one-by-one, you do them. Once you complete the task, you move on to the next. Repeat.
My first growth task was taking a cold shower. I turned the water as cold as it could get, and I could feel my body shake before I even entered the shower.This was the inner bullshit voice in my head talking.
It was hard at first. But surprisingly, it got easier the second time. Then even easier the third time. Before I knew it, my body stopped shaking — I was no longer uncomfortable, I’ve conquered my fear.
This exercise does wonders. I have yet to find a better way to get out of my comfortable zone. You can read all the books in the world about being confident or getting over your fears, but if you don’t take action, you’re just someone who’s read how to ride a bicycle without ever having ridden one.
5. Travel alone
If you’re looking for an ultimate transformation that combines all of the points above, you should travel alone. Traveling with other people can be fun, but you won’t get the opportunity to truly get out of your comfort zone.
You’ll be exposed to different social cultures, break social norms that you didn’t even know existed, and ultimately be forced to burst out of your small bubble.
Bring as little as possible, and fit everything into one backpack. Plan nothing, except for a one-way flight ticket to your destination — figure everything else out when you’re there. Trust me, you’ll be just fine.
It won’t be easy initially, but don’t get discouraged. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable will grow with time. I continue to struggle with it everyday, as do many others. But you need to get started today.
The world is already full of people who obey the status quo. But the people who don’t give a [email protected]$% are the ones that change the world.
Be the latter.
Start living life the way you want, be fearless like you once were as a child, and always, always stand up for the truth.
Someone has to.
If you found this article helpful, share it with your loved ones. You can find me on Twitter @sseankim.