Derek Sivers on Focus

 

Tim:

What advice would you give your 30 year old self? And place us, if you would, for where you were at 30 and what you are doing.

Derek:

At 30, well let’s see, I had just started CD Baby, that I think the biggest advice I would give to my younger self or more likely knowledge learned like “hey younger self, you should know this now”, is that women like sex. I didn’t know that until I was 40. I think I didn’t get that. I think through teenage movies or whatever, what kind of taught the opposite. That’s like men always one sex and women don’t. I don’t know why the media portrays it like that. But later I found out that’s not.

But I think the more interesting answer is that my advise to my 30-year-old self would be don’t be a donkey.

 

Tim:

What does that mean?

Derek:

Well, I meet a lot of 30-year-olds that are trying to pursue many different directions at once. But not making progress in any, right? Or they get frustrated that the world wants them to pick one thing, because they want to do them all, and I gets a lot of this frustration like “but I want to do this AND that AND this AND that, why do I have to choose? I don’t know what to choose?”

But the problem is if you’re thinking short-term then you’re acting as if you don’t do them all this week that they won’t happen. But I think the solution is to think long-term, to realize that you can do one of these things for a few years and then do another one for a few years and then another.

So what I mean about don’t be a donkey is, you’ve probably heard the fable about Buridan’s donkey. It’s a fable about a donkey that is standing halfway in between the pile of hay and a bucket of water. And he just keeps looking left to the hay or right to the water, trying to decide hay or water, hay or water, he’s unable to decide. So he eventually falls over and dies of both hunger and thirst.

So the point is that a donkey can’t think of the future. If he did he’d clearly realize that she could just go first drink the water and then go eat the hay.

So my advice to my 30 year old self is don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do, you just need foresight and patience.

Say, for somebody listening, you’re 30 years old now and say you have like five different things you want to pursue, right? Well then, you can do each one of those for 10 years, and you have them all done by the time you’re 80. You’re probably going to live to be 80. It sounds ridiculous to plan to the age of 80 when you’re 30, right? But it’s a fact that’s probably coming, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Use the future. That way you can fully focus on one direction at the time without feeling conflicted or distracted, because you know that you’ll get to the others in the future.

 

Your MVP might be someone else’s full business

red bikes

Before learning about the Lean Startup approach to building online products, the first ideas that came to mind were big dreams of complex apps that were obviously going to be the next big thing: Facebook but for rats, Uber for haircut services or a Tinder for dogs.

Whatever the idea was, I found myself overwhelmed by the theoretical difficulty of my projects before I thought about the really important stuff first: If I was actually solving a big problem for people and if they would actually pay for it.

So, apart  from the logical fundamental steps of learning how to code while using services like Zapier to glue together some API’s to launch a quick MVP (will talk about this in another post). One of the skills I’m trying to develop is the Minimum Viable Product muscle.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

An MVP can come in many forms if you are creative enough. They can range from a google spreadsheet or a simple form asking for the user information. The most popular kind, however (and the least original) takes the form of  landing pages.

The entrepreneur builds a single page site with a clear description of the problem and how her product is solving it. Using a fake  “Buy” button and some tracking analytics she tests if there’s enough demand for her product by studying how many people actually clicked “Buy”.  Now that she knows that they are willing to pay she can now start building a solution. Here’s a cool recent example I found a week ago.

And like that example, there are much more.  If you train your brain to spot MVP’s in the wild you improve your chances of coming up with good lean tests to see if your idea is really worth it. And that takes me to my next point:

Finding a cool little business in Cozumel

Cozumel

 

I recently decided to stay in Cozumel for a couple of weeks while working remotely and getting a scuba diving certification. I was in need of a service like Uber eats or Grub hub and since food delivery startups in México are really big (at least 500 million in sales a year big)  I asked some friends  if there was something like sindelantal.mx here. They told me of something called “Room Service” a nifty small business that delivers whatever you want right to your door.

  1. You can call them, use Whatsapp or FB chat.
  2. Tell them what do you want to order and from where.
  3. Give them your address
  4. Wait
  5.  🤑

The thing with Room service is that it could be the perfect MVP:

  1. No code needed
  2. Uses existing services (Fb chat, Whatsapp, Calls)
  3. Almost no cost to test it ( spend on ads or market it through Facebook groups)
  4. You can test demand immediately

They don’t even have a website, just a FB page and I’ve seen their bikes pretty frequently so I say they have a healthy amount of daily orders. Of course, there are other variables involved in this kind of businesses like the cost of delivery or the covered area (it works really well in Cozumel since it is a small town and you don’t need to travel long distances).

The point of this is that if they have a working and growing business without complex tech. Then what is stopping you from testing that idea that you have?

Copy what works and iterate fast, let me know what you think about this in the comments or tweet me your opinion would love to talk 😄

Photo credit: Alex Barlow

 

Book summary: Deep Work by Cal Newport

deep work books

These are some of my notes and highlights on one of my favorite books of all time. I’m starting to implement deep work strategies in my life with the objective of improving professionally. I’m sharing some of them with you because by training our minds to do deep work and use our time productively we immensely raise our chances of success and growth.

Deep Work vs Shallow Work

Deep Work:

Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.

Shallow Work:

Noncognitive demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much value in the world and are easy to replicate.

There are four rules for deep work:

Rule 1: Work deeply

You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.

Decide on your depth philosophy

Monastic philosophy: The most extreme one where you quit all shallow work activities that could affect your deep work sessions. Think no emails and smartphones. This method is preferred by people like Neal Stephenson that chose not to have an email to be able to produce good work.
Bimodal philosophy: The bimodal philosophy believes that deep work can produce extreme productivity, but only if the subject dedicates enough time to such endeavor to reach maximum cognitive intensity. The minimum unit of time for this philosophy is one day.
Rhythmic philosophy: The easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep.
Journalistic philosophy: To understand this one check out the way Walter Isaacson works, according to one of his friends:
It was amazing… he could retreat up to the bedroom for a while. when the rest of us were chilling on the patio or whatever, to work on his book… he’d go up for twenty minutes or an hour, we’d hear the typewriter pounding, then he’d come down as relaxed as the rest of us… the work never seemed to faze him, he just happily went up to work when he had the spare time.

Ritualize

Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants.

– David Brooks

The objective is to make the most out of deep work sessions by ritualizing everything:

Where you’ll work and for how long: Office Desk or library?
How you’ll work once you start to work: Will the internet be allowed? For how long? What metric will you use to track progress?
How you’ll support your work: What kind of exercise will you take and at what time? Will there be breaks? What food or beverage do you need to keep working?

Rule 2: Embrace Boredom

Instead of a break from distraction, a break from focus. Schedule when you’ll use the internet and avoid it outside of those times.

Work like Teddy Roosevelt:

Identify a task that’s high on your priority list
estimate how long you’d normally put aside for an obligation of this type the give yourself a hard deadline that drastically reduces this time.
Meditate productively

A technique where you use your downtime (bath, exercise, etc) to think deeply about a particular problem or topic that you are working on. By concentrating on it and making a process out of finding the solution you train your mind to concentrate and improve your deep work muscle.

Be wary of distractions and looping: Pay close attention for when your mind ‘loops’ while thinking about a problem. Always try to advance and if you get stuck keep thinking about the problem from different angles.
Structure deep thinking: First review general variables about the problem, search for the next step question and consolidate the problem in your mind.

Rule 3: Quit social media

Social media can be particularly devastating for deep work. They offer personalized information arriving on an unpredictable intermittent schedule. Making them massively addictive and damaging to any forms of concentration.

The craftsman approach to tool selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.

Using the 80/20 approach to knowing which tool to eliminate

Identify the main high-level goals in both your professional and your personal life.
List for each the two or three most important activities that help you satisfy that goal.
Consider the network tools currently in use
Keep using the tools only if you concluded that it has substantial positive impacts and that these outweigh the negative impacts.
Don’t use the internet to entertain yourself

Nowadays we use our smartphones to fill our downtimes and get cheap worthless entertainment. If you really want to keep improving then you must use a technique used by Arnold Bennet: Put more thought into your leisure time. Figuring out what you’re going to do with your evenings and weekends before they begin.

If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative. Not only will this preserve your ability to resist distractions and concentrate, but you might even fulfill Arnold Bennett’s ambitious goal of experiencing what it means to live, and not just exist.

Rule 4: Drain the shallows

Schedule every minute of your day: A deep work habit requires you to treat your time with respect. Decide in advance then what you’re going to do with every minute of your workday.
Quantify the deep of every activity: Evaluate and analyze every activity that you do every day and see which are shallow.
Finish your work by five thirty: Fixed schedule productivity enables you to establish an ending time and work backward to make productivity strategies that enable this goal.
If you want further reading I recommend you check out Cal Newport’s blog and buy his insightful book. Its one of those books that multiply your investment exponentially if you apply everything it proposes.

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Micro Saas and niches

 

 

Tyler Tringas on the advantages of building a micro Saas

You can be outrageously better when you are tackling a niche. You can go in there and find that there are still large groups of people that are using proceses or software that are truly terrible and you can go in there and build something that is just outrageously better than anything  they ever seen and they will love it.