Confessions, Cautionary Tales & Case Studies

The Personal Blog of the Undaunted Hustler

Opinions so new, they may not even be mine yet. 
I blog about business, family, & goals. 
When I'm out of willpower, I talk politics

At First, You’re Writing For Yourself

At First, You’re Writing For Yourself

I’m starting something new after spending a long time on Simplifilm.

I’ve got:

  • No following
  • No Audience
  • A network I’ve worn out.
  • Bad work habits.

This isn’t me saying “poor me,” I’ve started things from nothing before – and an assessment of where I’m at is so necessary.

I read from Russell Brunson (who I wrote off as a Tony Robbins type) that when you’re starting, you’re writing for yourself. I’ll add that it’s gotta be enough at first.

We’re writing to clarify ideas, build the habits, and solidify who we are. That’s where it starts. That’s the fountainhead and foundation. And so, if nothing happens, something’s still happening. You’re getting better.

Stephen King said the first million words are just practice. He’s probably right.

So, then this is where it starts. For myself.  To practice, to get better and to build.

And I gotta be OK with that for a while to go on the pat that I’m meaning to go on.

MRI

Mental Toughness, Part I.

I’ve been running again for about a week now. A few weeks ago I learned that I had a fractured elbow, and a bone spur.  Fractured may be overstating it a bit, but there are fractures there, and it’s grown spurs to try to ‘reach out,’ for the tendon.

This kept me from playing racquetball, a sport I really dig, and was using to get cardio and fitness.  It was at least partially caused by racquetball.  I was going to get surgery, but my Doctor noted that it was healing, and that it was “on the line,” so he decided to see if it would heal.  I’ve healed some more.

Early on though, any little jostle would “set it off” and I’d be in sort of bad pain for 3-4 hours and then it would dull and go away.  While waiting for the next appointment, it got a little better, and then the healing began, and now it’s more fine than not. Except when I do certain motions (like remove a belt).

It got better over time, I don’t know how long it took.  I didn’t do much for fear of aggravating it. This meant that I was out of shape pretty quickly.  Not that my “fitness” was ever perfected, but I lost cardio strength.

And mental strength.

About 10 days ago I started running again. I measured out a 3.4 mile loop from my house.

One left turn and a few right turns.

When I started – 10 days ago – I literally couldn’t run a mile straight through.  My feet would hurt, my legs, oh, I am breathing heavy.  All of that.

Now? I’m not in shape. But I can run 2.4 miles again.  I’ll probably be able to push it to 3.4.  Nothing hurts that much.  I have a little foot soreness towards the end. But just a little.

I’m crushing the goals, and telling myself simultaneously that I’m “taking it easy.”  All a mental game.

The changes cannot be physiological after 10 days. They are mental. Mentally, I believed I’d get faster, and so I did. It took less time than I thought. I figured it would be a month before I’d be able to run a mile straight through, but I did 3.4 miles last night.

So mental toughness is a thing.
It’s the thing I have to develop this year at the highest level possible.

Boundaries and Consequences And Children

Boundaries and Consequences And Children

When we see our flaws in our children, it’s a heartbreak.

When I was young, I wanted to find the end of the line. I wanted to know what was permanent. It was a hard thing for me.

I chased them, and society kept me safe. My parents sure tried, but I wound up being persistent. I’d always eventually able to wear them down and skirt the consequences with some token good behavior. My parole would come quickly.

I remember in school going to great lengths to feed my shock fix. Heckling the girls basketball team to the point where their opposing coach started coming into the stands. Getting a crowd of football spectators to chant “Fifty-Six has Bitch Tits,” at a Mid-Major college. It was fun for a moment. But the energy I spent on it, man?

In seventh grade, planted a rumor on the electronic scrolling message board (for a fundraiser if I recall). Civilized society doesn’t care. The Overton window didn’t then do anything. I remember how much of myself was spent on petty rebellions, tilting at windmills.

I played the part of Rebel. Because that was easier and more instant than excellence. And it got attention, and there were really no consequences. And the rebellion was harmless, no threat to the machine I raged against.

It took more and more to shock people. And it was taxing to try.

It was so boring.  The obvious dick joke. The joke that got a laugh once but was stale to me. The rote reactions.

My kid was looking for the wall. He popped off at school and said some profoundly stupid things. He earned his trouble. I remember when I was his age, there’d be an uncomfortable day, and then it would blow over. I’d learn little to nothing. The lecture would end, and I figured out all I had to do was fake some contrition to make the talking stop.

This was to alleviate boredom. To find stimulation.  To get some sort of fix. Because that was quicker than doing the work to earn one. Snark is like that. It’s easier to make a shitbird remark about someone’s family picture than to take your own.

So I gotta figure out how to impart a lesson. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let my kid follow those footsteps, but I’ll also be damned if I don’t understand his point.

Some Music

Some Music

A few simple songs I used to dig at some point in my life and have lost touch with for a time:

2 Kool 2 B 4gotten – Lucinda Williams

2 Cool 2 Care – Anna Burch

Everlong – Foo Fighters

Heartspark Dollarsign – Everclear

Please Send The Letter – Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion – Black Crowes

social

The Promise & Peril of Social Media.

I came to the Web when it was new. It was asynchronous. It was anonymous. It was decentralized. It was truly amazing. It had the “wild west” vibe. You could become someone different.

More specifically: you could transform yourself into someone different. You could become the future-self. Bit by bit by trying on new identities and trading ideas at a higher velocity. The early days of the web led so many people to really contribute.

And there was a lot of great writing. My friends from college wrote longform-ish essays on a lot of topics. I never believed it would collapse and consolidate down to one giant corporation.

But Facebook was ruthless. And they won the war by both skill and ruthlessness. It landed on our actual identities (for the most part). Our friends gradually joined the web to see the pictures of grandkids. We became ourselves.

And the content changed. Nuance was lost. We started our apparently neverending political debate. Someone was wrong on the internet after all. We had to fix it. Nuanced thoughts went to the comments sections.

Because Facebook was engineered for Facebook, not for us. It was designed for a lot of low value micro-interactions. To get the ALERT to pop up, and to keep the debate raging inside of us. All of that benefited Facebook and helped us get together. That was a good thing.

But, the “bad” thing is that we don’t have time for the Deep Work. We have adapted our behavior for Facebook because that’s the system of record for our social interactions. It’s where we live, as it were. And so we adapt to that. By wanting to be “Facebook Popular,” instead of really great, we win in the short term.

We lose in the long term. We don’t have the chance to do the work that matters, because we’re explaining the nuances of our political positions, or the highlight films of our lives. We are stuck in this loop because it’s designed to trap us. We mock our cats when they chase an uncatchable laser pointer, yet here we are.

We waste time arguing if Trump or Hillary is worse. Then we have to come up with increasingly preposterous ideas just to get the same dopamine fix. We wind up abandoning the truth and accepting and spreading idiotic ideas like Pizzagate just because addictions always require escalation.

Facebook’s not the binary choice that Cal Newport and John Mayer make it out to be. Facebook is useful when we set up boundaries. We can distribute, connect and spread our message using its platform. We can reach people. There is some truth to some of their mission, the Arab Spring gave us some hope for a connected world.

But we have to make the time to have a message. We have to protect and defend ourselves, and develop our ideas. This is what Facebook threatens. Doing the work and developing. Writing – even when nobody is reading yet.

My friend Srini talks about an hour a day. He’s right, of course. Protecting our hour is important…because that’s the real source of our value and power to contribute. Making

When you are intentional about your own time…and your use of Social, you can contribute and deliver more than you would otherwise. You can build value and then share it.

But only if you protect it and act deliberately about it. I mean to do that as rapidly as possible over the coming months. To spend more time on my own apps, on purpose, and less time consuming content on Facebook. I’m guessing that you’ll see more of me in a lot of ways that matter.

Anthony-Quintano-Zuckerberg

We Sold The Web Too Cheap

In the time between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11 there so much hope.  I want it back.

To my core, I’m Gen X.  Every generation believes their songs were better, and their morals are superior to the one before and after.  But we had music, man.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam. U2. Ani DiFranco  (There was once a time when U2 and Ani both were artists, and not punchlines.) Liz Phair was singing about the things we all thought about. Erasure  and Paul Oakenfold played in the clubs where we were all sweaty and boozy and hopeful together.

Even our shitty guilty pleasure jam band had a chorus.

And you could be yourself. The Breakfast Club told us that.

There was so much hope in the world.  Our country, then, was united. We believed in an American future, where freedom would spread. Where we’d lift the world out of poverty and westernize every state, one by one. Gas was cheap. Our military was getting smaller. We were about to cure cancer.

I know, I know. I sound like Baz Luhrmann.

As Beck said: Things are gonna change, I can feel it.

In the late 1990s we were connecting fast. The web? We hadn’t seen anything like it before. It was incredible

I used a mix of corporate and private tools.

  • LiveJournal
  • Yahoo Chat
  • UseNet
  • AOL’s Instant Messenger.
  • IRC
  • Thunderbird.
  • Email chains with people from past and present.
  • Google Reader

Yes, yes, Napster.  Sorry. I was young. I mostly did it because it was faster than ripping my own music.

The openness of the web was the rub. It felt so free. We didn’t all have cell phones. So there was casual, asynchronous (but nearly instant) communication available.

For a few golden years, from say, 1996-2000 or so our parents weren’t there yet. So on LiveJournal we talked it out. We figured out who we wanted to be in privacy. Sure, there were politics around.  But the web was amazing, then. There was this feeling that it was all so new and so cool. And we had a lot of the same values.

We could manage our identity and be whoever we wanted to be.  Sure. There were trolls and goons and morons. But they weren’t institutionalized, weaponized and somehow concentrated. 

But we sold it too cheap. Google, the Gen-x company did that.

I remember the day that Google Reader was killed. It was a widely used product. And it was beautiful and amazing. I cultivated feeds of my favorites.  Old LiveJournal buddies (by 2013 or so I was pretty over LiveJournal.) New tech blogs.  Real estate shenanigans.  I’d go there most mornings and spend half an hour time hitting “J” to get the narrative of the day.  I was in control.

We picked stuff. And we read it in the absence of the social noise. Like a newspaper. There was no shouting.

When Google Murdered it, I sent an email to a few friends. “So much for Don’t Be Evil.”  The reply was “woah, shit.” 

This was the D-Day event. The assault on the URL and the decentralized, public web. I have feedly pro now. It’s good. They are good. But it’s not the same.

Google’s endorsement of RSS and the feed readers was meaningful. It meant that this “big new brand” was for the web itself. That they endorsed my choices, my agency. That they really did stand for more than selling me ads, that they were using ads as some stop-gap temporary measure till they could find a better way to collect value.  Links got worse once links got monetized.

Till this point – and despite their failures with Google Buzz, Google Wave, they were on firmly on side of the Web.

After this point, it was clear that they weren’t our friends.  They were just some company. A utility. I exchanged emails with a few friends “Oh, shit,” was the consensus. I lost trust with Google. Probably a good thing. Because I believed, man. I believed the mythos, and I believed every word about the world we were going to make. 9/11 was a blip. We’d all be fine.

Yet. Google had told everyone that RSS was uncool. Because user control no longer served Google’s machine. That RSS was derpy for propeller hat wearing idiots. Not even google saw a home for it.

Then the web we love got closed, bit by bit. Twitter came and went (and is now coming back again).  We watched Marissa Mayer (one of theirs, one of ours) run Yahoo aground.

With reader gone, and Google (possibly) now evil, there was less reason to resist Facebook. Sure, we couldn’t trust Facebook, but we didn’t need to resist them anymore.

This effectively closed the web.  We sold it too cheap. We trusted Google with too much. We didn’t build the tools that could help us sidestep big corporations and their interests. This was the “one job” that my generation had, to protect the promise of the web. And we didn’t do that.

With the Facebook stuff, there is now a brief window where we could correct that. We won’t, of course, because we’re tired.

the-big-lie

The Big Lie We All Buy

What if I told you that all you believe about business is actually a lie?

What if you were chasing a dream that you could never attain?

That was me, for a long time.

I was a huge TechCrunch fan. Back in the day, I loved the Michael Arrington-led TC articles, breathlessly championing the fundings, the user growth. The future itself.

I loved their famous Pirate article. I loved it so hard. I wanted to take my place amongst the people that their great and snarky writers were writing snark about. Except that the reality was this:

 That first company I started made a lot of money for the venture capitalists – nearly $30 million – but next to nothing for the founders.

We never believed that that would happen to us. We believed that we’d somehow be immune. We just had to subscribe to the “hustle” worldview.  And if it wasn’t working, of course, hustle harder.

The “Hustle” Worldview is this…and you already know it:

  1. Go (REALLY) Big, or go home: It’s not a worthwhile pursuit to make a nice business for a nice family. The word “service” business is spoken with an epithet. You must be part of a creation myth, making forever companies, being part of the fabric of life itself.
  2. Hustle, Repeat, Then Hustle  Some More It was always about hustle. Making some code, grinding out deals.  Whatever your jam is, by all means, hustle. Tech Crunch taught us this, with their stalwarts MG Seigler posting as many as 10 articles in a day at times.
  3. Funding Is Meaning:  You exist to join the three comma club. A billion dollars. Small is a failure. The best way to get there is to accept funding and grind, grind, grind.
  4. It’s OK To Run At a Loss Indefinitely. Amazon did it. There’s a whole language about it: “burn rate” and “runway.See? We’re building the future. And so running at a loss was acceptable.
  5. You Gotta Risk It All The AirBNB team made cereal at the 2008 Democratic convention. Founders maxed out credit cards, kited checks and risked EVERYTHING because they believed (and were a little smarter than everyone else, just like you).

Every idea here has a sort of creation myth baked in. We wanted to be part of a chain of dropouts, misfits, and rebels. We wanted to be a crazy ones. That it’s somehow a good thing to do this.

This lie is still repeated everywhere. But it was all sold to us to benefit the truly powerful people that funded these companies. The VCs that were placing big bets on everyone needed the billion dollar exits. You had to be conditioned to accept that kind of risk.

Like some addict.

What (Dumb) Stuff I Did

What this did to my business was allow me to have a revenue-over-reality approach. I was pushing hard to grow my revenue. All the time. To grow. Year over year. Month over month. And we were growing. There were some good parts of our company, we were delivering and working with great people, and for a long time we did a good job.

We grew from $8k a month to $85k a month. We had a product that had a successful exit. Of course I was a genius. Duh?

And yet, it was a disaster in all the ways that really matter. Growth hid that. I was growing, so I couldn’t be failing. But I was nuts. My relationship with my wife (who is amazing) was in the shitter. I was barely home to see my kids. I was trying to line up work for now, for later. I was trying to sell and recruit and deliver. It was all working poorly.

When I wasn’t working, I felt guilty.

How Success Begets Failure

I watched with horror as the business I was building morphed into a lunatic Ponzi scheme. We had to grow revenue, so we sold more. Created package deals. Grew that top line number, consequences be damned. You’ve got a check now? Let’s have it

We were growing. So, we had to hire people. The people we hired technically had the skills. But in reality, they weren’t a good fit. They had the mercenary freelancer approach. Too cool for our company because (like everyone in Portland) they once worked on a Nike or Adidas project. So they couldn’t be bothered to deliver good work for us. Because we were dealing with uncool companies a lot of the times. A bolt-on for SalesForce. An analytics package. That was beneath a man that has once worked on the Swoosh. And I could have easily caught that had I bothered with reference checks. But because we had to get work out the door…we didn’t have time to deal with “trivialities” like screening candidates.

So then I needed new money to meet old commitments. That was terrifying. Especially since I was buying a house and my wife needed me to come through.

This built a cycle where we had to issue some refunds. And then we still had to pay the labor that created that defective work. This double whammy crushed what reserves I had (I was focused on growth, reserves are for fools!)

This was all in service to the lie: build the company into something which can be sold. Using revenue as a metric. Grow into your expenses. Then do it again. Be a serial founder.

During this time, I paid myself a lot less than a commissioned salesperson just selling our work would make. And I justified it to myself, my wife, and especially my ego. “This is just what it takes to grow. Plow your money back in.”

The old joke: sure we’re taking a loss on every unit, but we’re making it up in volume!

I was fragile. Exposed and then we hit a wall. A series of deliveries were unusable right in a row. The team I cobbled together wasn’t a fit. They weren’t bad people, I just didn’t have the talent or time for the kind of leadership we needed.

My standards had capitulated. It even became harder to sell because I couldn’t vouch for the work we were putting out. And I cared too much to pretend.  This was a blessing because the best parts of my network stayed intact, but a curse in that I coudln’t use my network for the pickup I needed.

Around this time was when I realized the true precariousness of my position. I was losing $35,000 a month. Selling more wasn’t the answer. Better work, better pricing, better ops would all have solved it. Selling more was just kicking the tire down the road.

And it was harder to sell when you know that at the end of the day you’re doing merely adequate work.

But I’m getting attention!

During this time it’s finally dawning on me that something is rotten in Denmark. I’m realizing, slowly, that the reality is worse.  The gut feeling comes more often. A worry that no amount of sales can paper over my errors. Still, my resolve remains. And some part of me buys into the narrative that it’s OK to struggle, that everyone goes through it. That the best companies barely made it.

During this time, I’m getting attention. I appear on big-time podcasts as a good example. I get to talk to high profile founders regularly. I’m invited to sit at the cool kids table and I get some coaching from a high-end sales guy. I’m on panels. I give advice. Some of it was probably even good.

What’s interesting is that they never ask the real questions: are you profitable? Are you sane? Is your life worth living? Have you created value? Are your books in order? Does your team feel good? Are you proud on the inside? How’s your family?

Nobody asked. So I wasn’t lying when I described the processes that led me here.

All Of This For Nothing?

All of this was for a reason. To someday build a legacy. To someday become ultra successful. To eventually have the life I was meant to have.

The downside of the Big Lie is that of failure. Failure? That won’t happen if we hustle. If we find product-market fit. No. Failure happens. Most funded startups lose money. Most companies do shut down.

I was chasing this impossible dream. I paid myself roughly half what I’d make selling my product elsewhere. My family was deprived half of the money that it should have had had I just taken a sales job. The “growth” fantasy was what I told myself to justify not bringing it home. It multiplied by zero the good things we were doing.

I was less free. I didn’t really take a proper vacation. My body was at the point where I literally couldn’t bend over. I had a case of pneumonia that lingered for a month.

Ultimately I paid the freight for my mistakes. My reputation took a hit, but I cleaned up the busienss. All my work was basically used on a “lesson.” Worth it if I learn. I used the grit that I had. And so I landed the business mostly smoothly and decided to move on. We still do some work for our past clients, and we’re doing good work again. But our plans, long-term don’t include that business.

What I’ve Learned Since

Starting a business often creates a “worst of all worlds” situation where you’ve got more responsibility than any employee and more risk than you can imagine. Intertwine that with a paternal instinct (this is my baby) and you’ve got a recipe for an unbalanced life and a litany of excuses.

With all of that said, however, there are many things that I’ve gotten clear on as I graduate towards my next venture.

  1. The business exists to serve you, not vice versa. You built this business to serve your family. To build value, and store value in the form of wealth. There are times that it makes sense to take outside money. But that money doesn’t mean that you have to take a vow of poverty. You should have as much money outside of the business as inside.
  2. Delusion Will Kill You I talk to entrepreneurs and they tell me that they don’t work “that much” or their hours aren’t that terrible. Or that they only had one “off” month (when that month was bracketed by two “meh” months). All of this delusion is truly lethal.
  3. Make Sure it’s Worth It We are all told to worship at the church of hustle. But the best and most sweet moments in my life were times when I laughed with people I love. They were across kitchen tables, and not conference room tables. To spend money on a business that doesn’t properly
  4. Make Your Numbers Chase You Figure out what you want to earn and what you need to keep and make it into a game. Have your accounting team leverage the automated reporting features of your accounting software. Know when you’re REALLY working, KINDA working and NOT working. Know what you’re earning per hour. Pay attention to clock hours and calendar. (A suggestion: read the 12-Week Year, install RescueTime).
  5. Profit Must Be Baked Into Every Phase Of Every Project It’s easy to let weeks or months go by and say that you’ll be profitable down the road. Every account must be profitable. Doing deals for influencers or friends or family to become someone someday are mostly a ruse. Don’t do them.

I am giving it another go. I’ll have a business that will take 3-4 clients initially, and then I’ll grow from there. I don’t know what “scale” means in this context. I know that if I run my business with sobriety that growth will be welcomed when it happens. it’ll be about a week before I begin to sell. But I do know that with some discipline and reality in place that I’ll have a better chance than ever.

I’ll need less luck, and we’ll be able to learn a lot about what I’m here to give.

[As a postscript, a lot more detail is in the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. That book supplies the detail needed to execute a business system that matters.]

Greatest Showman (1)

21 Things I Learned From THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Ages ago I started seeing the trailers for The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman as PT Barnum in a period piece. Huh. I didn’t know it was a musical and I didn’t consider watching it.

I’ve never given P.T. Barnum much thought. A sucker born every minute. Except that he never said that, apparently.

Barnum did say – as an anti-slavery activist: ”A Human soul that God created and Christ died for is not to be trifled with.”

Art evokes feelings. It transmits ideas and emotion from the creator to the viewer.  The movie that Hugh Jackman got made did that.  I’ve been a risk-addict for a long time, right?

1. Love And Loyalty Are The Soul Of Meaning Barnum takes an immense amount of risks and goes all in a few times. His wife goes right with him. He betrays her by not telling her about one of his schemes. This was a pivotal point of our film, and a lesson our imperfect mongrel hero needed to learn.

2. You’ll Get Knocked Down. A few times in the movie PT Barnum loses nearly everything. He goes all in.

3. Joy is Purpose Enough. It’s hard not to leave without a smile on your face. Music, dance. It was an escape for sure, but a good one.

4. Critics Happen. In something of a perfect metaphor, this film has the widest gap of the year between how critics and audiences felt about it. Second, PT Barnum is criticized in the film by the public and by James Gordon Bennett, the voice of the fancy people. He bears up against unrelenting pressure and still tries.

5. Wonder Happens: Barnum’s children provide inspiration and a gasping sense of wonder. One day when Barnum comes home, he gives his daughter some type of Victorian-era disco ball and that wonder is enough for a long while. I’ve felt that before, when I got to see New York with my kid (and more importantly, through his eyes).

6Musicals Don’t Need To Suck: I’ve felt like Broadway has been uselessly preachy for too long. RENT. Hamilton. Both well done, but without lightness. This one just brought the joy. The fucking joy.

7. It takes a million dreams to get one off the ground. (‘nuff said).

8. It’s Enough to Celebrate The Good A Person Rendered To The World. Shakespeare famously said, “The good that men do is oft interred with their bones.” Barnum put a smile on faces. He had a checkered career for sure. But this was a celebration of what he did right. Similarly, with America, we have our warts. But we have moved the arc of history towards liberty more than any other nation.

9. Without Family, What’s The Point? The gift of family has been the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. Barnum takes solace in his own families when times get tough. Sweeter wins & bearable defeats.

10. Strong Art Summarizes Complex Feelings: The people that loved, championed and recommended this movie were almost all entrepreneurs. The terrain is risk around family and allof the things that I’ve felt have been in here. The summary statement was strong.

11. You Can Find and Celebrate Your Gifts. Barnum gets a rag-tag band of curiosities and goonies on his side. These were all misfits. Freaks. Yet all of them had gifts for the world to see and moments where they got to shine.

12. There’s No Need To Debate Your Critics. James Gordon Bennet delivers some harsh blows to Barnum. Hits home in only the way an adroit embittered critic can. Barnum is gracious and kind and subdued with his responses.

13. You Can Leverage Your Critics. Bennett delivers a particularly harsh review. Barnum reprints it as an advertisement and puts it in every paper everywhere.

14. Heroes Aren’t Perfect. There’s a time when Barnum lets down – and betrays – his circus family, and also his real family. He doesn’t let them come into a blue-blood reception for Jenny Lind. That doesn’t make him less of a hero.

15. When You Love Them, People Will Forgive You. He’s shown them love throughout the movie. He had an “emotional bank account” full of

16. Living Things Beat Dead Things.  The key point was when he pivoted from a wax-figure museum to a performance and celebration of misfits.

17. You’ll Need To Pivot.  Speaking of pivot: Barnum’s first attempt at his movie fails. He doesn’t sell tickets and he’s got a lot of risk happening in his world.

18. You’ll Never Be Accepted By Everyone. The movie – which has been adored by the box office – has been criticized for ignoring all of its history.

19. Word of Mouth Wins: This movie has continued to grind in the box office. The opening weekend numbers were scary. It looked like a flop. But it stuck around. Word of mouth created true believers. For comparison, it’s stayed in theaters a LONG time, outlasting (not outgrossing) The Last Jedi and so many other movies. It was trending for $90 million, and has done $161 million so far, having record-breaking staying power. (I can proudly say that $100 of that belongs to my family).

20. Lightness Wins: The previous movie that Hugh Jackman made was Logan. That was a beautifully done horrifically dark comic book movie. I liked it at the time. But having watched this one makes me wonder if I’m not mostly over dark movies and anti-heroes. A light-hearted movie made me leave it feeling happy and good.

21. You Can ReWrite The Stars: That’s what America is about. There are indeed second acts.Whatever the obstacles that are happening now, you can change your fate. This was the biggest story and a celebration of the (more alive than ever) American Dream. More people can rise than ever before.

Now, look, this movie isn’t perfect. It’s critics apparently went into it looking for a historical biopic wrought with true-life details. Rather than a tribute to a showman and a show to watch. They missed the point and manufactured their own disappointment. The key?

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.  Neither do we.

Target Allocation Percentages

Target Allocation Percentages

In the book Profit First, Mike Michalowicz puts out a concept called “Target Allocation Percentages.”

The gist of his system is simple: you have an income account where you collect your cash, and then it’s allocated based on a real-revenue based scheme.  These go into separate accounts.  Seven of them.

He defines real revenue as revenue less contractor and per-job material expenses.

I’m starting a new business and I wanted to just put out what I mean to do.

Profit: 12%
Owners Compensation: 50%
Tax Allocation: 15%
Operating Expenses: 23%

I think that this is more or less realistic.

I’m on a path where I don’t mean to hire additional providers this year. I want to dial in a system with me as a solo entrepreneur. There are a lot of things here that I have to do to make this right.

Every business I’ve built had big goals but we plowed money back into the business. We have hit some big revenue numbers. But then the business consumed everything. So we had to scramble to keep up, and a general malaise got to us.

“Bank Account” financial planning sapped a ton of energy–  the same way that Launch Energy does.

I hired people needlessly. I spent on software. I went to fruitless and non-productive events. I did a lot of that stuff for a long time.  I had money in the bank, strong sales, and for a long time, that masked the problems. But we never got our structure right so we never got to where I needed to go.  What I had built as a business had become an inadvertent Ponzi scheme.  We needed new money to pay back the old stuff.

This time isn’t like that time. I’m putting my faith and trust in systems. 

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I’ve got some things built and completed. I’m going to really begin the work, as the plumbing part of the business is ready to be tested.

The fear and doubt are my constant companions.

Why Launch Energy Is Wasted Energy

I like starting things. And I like finishing them.

But, to me, there’s nothing more tedious than the early stages of building a platform. The “plumbing” I’ve done it about 5 times, and then I’ve “redone” existing platforms another 15 or so times. Each time I do it I’m better at it, but not faster.

Because it’s lonely work. And the details matter.

To set up my new brand, Atom City Labs, I had to:

  • Find a CRM (I used Agile CRM)
  • Build a content strategy (I used Meera Kothand’s)
  • Build a distribution strategy
  • Find a hosting provider (I used Very Fast Host)
  • Find some way to get design done (Canva, this round)
  • Find a theme engine (Thrive Themes over Beaver builder by a nose).
  • Set up a lead magnet.
  • Set up some auto responders
  • Set up analytics
  • Set up a facebook pixel.
  • Set up DKIM / SPF stuff on my domain.
  • Set up some bank accounts
  • Switch bank accounts (Hapo)
  • Set up an accounting system. (TBD: Thinking seriously about going with WAVE).
  • Set up a payment processor (Stripe)
  • Find a signature repository (I used Adobe Sign, FKA EchoSign)
  • Write proposals
  • Get insurance coverage (personal umb
  • Write an About Page, a privacy policy.
  • Some contact forms.
  • Landing pages.
  • Incorporate, get a TIN, get local permits.

The list goes on. Some of that stuff had to “validate” with my domain. Some stuff took a third party’s approval. Like the state of Washington. Other stuff costs money. All of it cost time. It’s a load that a solo entrepreneur pays disproportionately.

All of this work is backfill. It’s a precondition to really earning money. It’s an ante, and it’s a risked bit of time that…if my idea a fails I’ll never get back.

And I want to tell you: it’s agonizing. It’s horrifically tedious work to do because I know how to do it all. I’ve done it before. You can’t really save a lot of time or money by outsourcing it, you just have to slog on.

For me, it takes 3 times more energy to do this type of work than it does to run something. It’s the launch energy that must be done. It’s not serving a client, it’s simply building the systems that serve the business that serves clients.

I’d estimate that it takes 20-30 hours once you know what you’re doing to do this type of work. Half a week’s efforts.

Delegating to an attorney takes about the same time, it’ll be done wrong and cost $1k.

As I’m launching my new company I have had to do this twice. I launched under the auspices of a different entity and shuttered that because (after testing) I learned that my clients needed a product to be in place as a precondition to me being able to serve them. And I had to sell THAT first because without follow up or systems the whole thing would be likely to fail.

So I had to duplicate a fair bit of this work (and pay another $50 to the state of Washington to change my LLC’s name).

Then, in a few months, this same ‘ante’ can be paid if I decide to pivot.

A lot of it is unnecessary, a distraction. A way of seeming busy, and stuff that you can justify that isn’t one of the core activities of a business. (Prospecting, presenting, negotiating, closing and delivering).

Then, this sort of thing happens again.

At Simplifilm, I changed a perfectly “fine” logo. It was a logo built in 2012 and it had a little bit of that era’s “apple” look.

Well, the number of forms, places on our website, the video reveals and the rest made that work take a lot longer than I imagined. And we kept having “both” logos displayed for a long time. For what gain?

No gain.

For me, this type of work is agony. And yet I retreat to it because it’s a version of Bikeshedding.

Unfinished Business

By Christopher Johnson | October 14, 2018

I left Real Estate in 2008. In something of a huff, with the confident contempt that I’d never be back. Good riddance, we said to one another at the time. I had done all the jobs in the industry, pretty much. The last one had me as a mortgage lender, and I was waiting out […]

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Practitioner

By Christopher Johnson | October 12, 2018

One of the things I love about the current economy is its opportunity. People can be anything, do anything. The thing I hate? There are so many people that achieve a tiny modicum of success, they are one chapter ahead in the book, and they then stop practicing. They start teaching. A couple exceptions would […]

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Slash

By Christopher Johnson | October 10, 2018

Not too long ago, my friend Tim Paige was musing on Facebook about people with dual careers. Dual Careers by choice, and not because they were beginners. Tim comes from over in Voice Over, and there are a lot of people that do that gig part time. Or they do it while also pursuing something […]

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Hustle as Performance Art.

By Christopher Johnson | September 20, 2018

(Really cool poster by Joey Roth) Most people don’t hustle. Sturgeon’s Law and all that. The big blue ocean is too big and scary for them, and they seek the familiar. I’ve been that guy way way more than I’d like to admit. Like me, most people think they hustle. It’s comforting to think that […]

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Notes On Hamilton

By Christopher Johnson | August 28, 2018

While Heather and I were driving around the PNW for a really great little 5-day vacation, we listened to Hamilton a few times. I have been listening to the choruses for a long time, but I never had the chance to REALLY listen. But man, oh man! This work was genius. The density of the […]

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To Be In Practice

By Christopher Johnson | August 15, 2018

One of the things about opening up a business is that you need to find your way to what you want to do. In my case, I’ve missed out on being a practitioner of sales for a few years. Thinking back, it’s been over three years since I’ve really sold with the idea that maximizing […]

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Dear Microsoft:

By Christopher Johnson | July 24, 2018

Dear Microsoft: Listen, I am rooting for you. I love me a good comeback story, and it seems that you are dialed in right now. And I’m glad. But, look, you’ve got to respect me a little bit more. I have two of your products: Office 360 and Xbox One. And they both annoy me […]

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The Muse Vs. The Practice

By Christopher Johnson | July 19, 2018

We’ve all had those moments where we can work effortlessly. Where it “comes.” Our creative output is remarkable. The Muse visits. They happen. It’s a thing. We’re right to embrace those days. We’re right to feel proud and good of being in the flow and producing something great. Emrace anything that helps. The beginner, though, believes these […]

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That Old Familiar Fear

By Christopher Johnson | July 7, 2018

For the last year, I’ve been winding down Simplifilm. I’ve got this idea about what I did right, which was getting clients for agencies. I love to sell, I love to hunt and I love to help. So I put a little site together with the intentions of launching something on Monday. At Simplifilm I […]

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Daily Operating System: A Theory To Practice

By Christopher Johnson | June 24, 2018

Days have gotten away from me, and I’ve not accomplished enough in 2018. My decision velocity is sluggish, as has been the output/throughput. For those of you nice people like David Gibbons that are telling me I’m too hard on myself, I say to you “meh.” I’m not, trust me, I’m not. Time Freedom is […]

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