Christmas Yourself

October 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

I love getting packages in the mail. For me, it’s all about the drama. You buy something from Amazon, and they send you an email: “it’s shipped.” Wait a day and you’ll see that it’s “out for delivery”. And a short 48 hours after you paid, a smiling lady walks up to the door with a box and rings the doorbell.

This is how I starting Christmasing myself.

I took $100 and decided to do something nice for myself. I like books, so I bought a bunch. 15, I think. No special occasion, no reason, just wanted some books and decided to go a little overboard for the fun of it. Books by dead people…Mother Theresa, Plato, Henry Ford.

As it turns out, the good people at Amazon decided to send my packages via Fedex, UPS, and USPS. I spent yesterday with package deliverers lined up, waiting to drop off books.

And it was amazing. So much fun to rip open the boxes and look at the books and think about reading them. On my “love language” test, I don’t think I score very high for gifts. BUT I LOVED IT. Simple, cost $100, and great.

The Rules
The rules of Christmasing yourself are simple. No more than $100 and make sure to get lots of little things. Maybe even space them out on shipping so you don’t get everything all at once. And only once per year. Any more and it’s gluttony. ;)

The Challenge
The challenge I’m giving myself now is…how can I Christmas someone else? No reason, no particular timing. But the Bible gives Christians the motivation and the prompting to love others…sometimes…by Christmasing them.

Be inspired:

I am a bootstrapper. I have initiative and insight and guts, but not much money. I will succeed because my efforts and my focus will defeat bigger and better-funded competitors. I am fearless. I keep my focus on growing the business—not on politics, career advancement, or other wasteful distractions.

I will leverage my skills to become the key to every department of my company, yet realize that hiring experts can be the secret to my success. I will be a fervent and intelligent user of technology, to conserve my two most precious assets: time and money.

My secret weapon is knowing how to cut through bureaucracy. My size makes me faster and more nimble than any company could ever be.

I am a laser beam. Opportunities will try to cloud my focus, but I will not waver from my stated goal and plan—until I change it. And I know that plans were made to be changed. I’m in it for the long haul. Building a business that will last separates me from the opportunist, and is an investment in my brand and my future. Surviving is succeeding, and each day that goes by makes it easier still for me to reach my goals.

- Seth Godin in the Bootstrappers Bible

I was so moved by these words that I am switching to just use my computer for work. Entertainment can happen on my phone and AppleTV. To remind myself to stay focused, I’m redirecting the following services to the page you’re reading now:

  • Facebook
  • Hacker News (major tears, but this is a terrible habit.)
  • Macrumors
  • Mashable
  • Techcrunch
  • Instagram

Buying a House

May 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’m in the process of buying a house. The options are enough to make you go crazy. 3 bedrooms. 2 baths. Oh wait that’s 1.5 baths. 1200 square feet. Big lot. Small lot. Is there hardwood or is that laminate? What about the crime rate? I think someone’s car was stolen in that area.

I can afford $110k right? But $125k houses look like a lot better value and it’s only like $75/month more. Can I afford $75/month?

What is my credit score? What IS a credit score?

Then there are “fixer upper” options. They’re $80k but need $25k+ of work. Can I get a loan for that? With the allure of thousands of dollars in profit over the course of a few years, a few (hundred) hours of sweat equity seems worth it.

Yesterday I was talking to Rusty at work and his advice was helpful. Continue Reading…

Interview: Africa in 2013

November 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

blessing_41Recently we were talking about what smart people expect to happen with Africa in the world economy. Since I’m not African, I reached out to my friend Blessing Mpofu from South Africa. He can’t speak for the whole continent, but was willing to share his thoughts into what is really inspiring people these days.

Blessing’s response helped me understand a little bit more about how our friends in Africa are thinking.

Here’s the interview: Continue Reading…

Charles Robertson is an economist who recently wrote a book called “The Fastest Billion“. He gave a talk at TED about Africa, and laid out some pretty interesting predictions. Continue Reading…

The Wall

October 30, 2013 — 11 Comments

Crap.

Last week I was on day 17 (in a row) of working one-hour+ on this search for a startup. Things were moving. Each day was fun. I think I wrote an average of 1000 words a day, not because I was trying to, but because I had a lot to say.

Then I hit a wall so hard and didn’t even see it coming.

Out of ideas. Feeling unmotivated to keep moving forward. Not sure if people would ever buy anything I produced. Seriously, the song of self doubt is on repeat. Continue Reading…

Concept: Bug Tracker App

October 21, 2013 — 7 Comments

Problem

screengrab from Fogbugz

screengrab from Fogbugz

Once a website is built, the QA process involves using a software package like Fogbugz, Zoho Bugtracker, Redmine, or another. A dedicated, trained team submits bugs through a package built to handle any kind of development – online or offline (like application development).

It seems like the QA process has roots in traditional software development where you couldn’t capture a URL, much less the state of an application or the steps to reproduce. So we are stuck capturing that info manually. Continue Reading…

Concept: Idea Platform

October 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

The Problem

So many people walk around wanting to start something interesting, but don’t regularly encounter big opportunities in their everyday lives. Other people deeply need solutions to the frustrating issues that surround them. This relates back to the Trap of Small Thinking. A teacher at a school typically doesn’t have expertise to successfully pull off a web app for her kids, even though she might see an opportunity in the market.

The Solution

Imagine an online platform where people could submit ideas specific to the industry in which they work. It’d be similar to GitTip, a “simple platform.” Continue Reading…

The Trap of Small Thinking

October 17, 2013 — 1 Comment

Through my process of pre-entrepreneurship, I’ve dealt with a big question: why? Why do I want to start something new? Why not settle into a nice, comfortable job with benefits and free popcorn and money that appears every 2 weeks?

Yesterday I heard a story.

There was a man, and for the purpose of this story we’ll call him Jacob. He’s a software developer working on an app that is “sort of like Pinterest for dogs, but with a twist.” Explaining the twist is hard. It frequently breaks down the conversation at parties.

Jacob has a friend named Chris who has worked with him for a few years. One day Chris walks into the office, looks at Jacob and blurts out: “I was diagnosed with cancer. They’re not sure what the tumor is. I’m dying.”

And just like that Jacob’s life changed.

That day he decided to help his friend and those after him by assembling a database to collect detailed information about every tumor, in every person, in every country. All of them. A friend asked “do you know anything about cancer?” His response: “No. But I know about data, and I care for my friend.”

That’s entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, I am so stuck trying to solve problems that I can’t even really prove are problems at all. Like, here, let me CONVINCE you that this is a problem you face and I have a solution which adds some tiny value to your life. Can I have $10?

Who even cares?

There are So Many Great Problems

Think of all the amazing, difficult, thorny problems in the world. What about the 47% of young children who don’t have an adult who reads to them. Or the 6,027 people who died today from diarrhea. Or the startups in Ghana who deserve attention and funding but don’t get it because of their location. There is a for-profit business in Georgia that hires homeless people to be craftsmen making beautiful furniture. Another group is helping people who need medical care but can’t get it.

A guy made a watch for blind people that looks so good, seeing people want to wear it.

What a win.

So much of the difficulty we face trying to attract quality people and quality investment is based in a simple truth…driven people need interesting problems. They won’t stop until they’ve found a mission worth pursuing. Fortunately, there is a class of problems that are universally worthwhile. Slavery, homelessness, illiteracy, poverty, health. Just about everyone agrees that these problems deserve high-quality solutions.

SkyMall Entrepreneurship

nambe chip and dipWe fall into the trap of small thinking when we believe our biggest problems are (1) how much bigger can my TV get and (2) how can I run out of chips and dip at the same time? As a result, our entrepreneurship revolves around cute ideas while ignoring the people who actually need help. Software is going to play a big part in helping little children read. Technology, rightly applied by caring people, can hydrate a man so he doesn’t die of thirst (literally).

Let’s get out of the the trap of small thinking and start to design fixes for big problems. Society doesn’t have time to entertain lazy thinking from talented, privileged young minds focused on fake problems.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’m preaching to myself too. I started an organization whose sole purpose was entertainment.)

A New Opportunity

Can I tell you the BEST thing about large thinking? There isn’t much competition. While everyone is fighting to get a 14-year-old suburbanite to play AngryAlien (as opposed to AngryBirds), the number of people competing to solve weighty problems is comparatively tiny. Most won’t even show up.

People will tell you there isn’t money in solving social problems.

People are wrong.

It is totally possible to build solutions for those who need them. Maybe you take a little more creativity and experimentation to find profitability, but don’t believe you need to punt on revenue. M-Pesa has done great things for African financial markets. Social enterprise is still enterprise, my friends.

Dr-Foot-Foundation_clip_image001

People are waiting for you. Not because they’re helpless but because you hold immense power to enter their life and accelerate the amazing things they’re already doing. Power. Best used with large thinking.

Startup Requirements

October 16, 2013 — 4 Comments

So…I hate writing requirements documents. But they’re extremely valuable for thinking through all the aspects of what you’re trying to create. A good requirements doc explains exactly what you’re creating in detail…all the features, functions, how you’ll support it, code methods, etc. Everything from top to bottom. This document is still open to change (a lot!) but I wanted to at least write down some of the things that are driving my thinking.

Since this concept isn’t set, yet, the only requirements are around what it *could* be. Continue Reading…