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


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 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.

Writing And Publishing

Writing And Publishing

I have written a lot over the last year. More than the prior 3 years combined.

But I haven’t published much. I can’t get into the speculative reasons as to why that would be, only to say that I’ve been sort of reconsidering my schtick. Who do I even want to be?

It makes no sense to go faster when you have fundamental ennui.

In the last couple of years – I have moved from Portland to the Tri-Cities.  I’ve become…disillusioned with my role as a founder of a video company. I’ve segued my company and “wound it down” and so a lot has changed.  I’ve changed my relationship with my wife, and I see a radically different future.  I had to process what – exactly – that meant.

Now that I have something of a direction, it’s past time to publish.

The timing – for a lot of reasons – couldn’t be better for me.

Business Lessons

Business Lessons

I’m starting a new business.

I’ve screwed up nearly everything about my old business and I want to build something that’s worth having for a long time.

  1. Always have enough money on hand to close the business. Don’t risk inadvertent Ponzi schemes.
  2. Always know your YTD, MTD, QTD collected, contracted & completed numbers.
  3. Growth follows ability to deliver, not ability to sell. You can outback your coverage and kill your business easily, especially under 5mm in annual revenue.
  4. Having impeccable standards makes things vastly easier in the long run.
  5. Pricing is everything. It determines how the business can grow.
  6. Automation is everything else. Having systems in place means that you can use them – or not – depending on what you want your business to actually do.
  7. Profits are a condition of doing business. You have to have them, know what they are. This means that you know your time and money debt created by each sale.
  8. A service business must deliver efficiently. You have to offer optimized delivery in order to grow and to create a business worth having.
  9. Pay your vendors early. Only troubled companies fund with float. Profitable companies can effortlessly pay. Plus, when you set the example that you require you’re in compliance with Natural Law.
  10. Tempo and pace matter. You have to deliver the best work in the time available, not the best work with unlimited time. When you do reps you get better at being faster.
  11. Templates matter. Checklists matter. You can go through a pre-flight check for anything – a sales call, whatever.
  12. Pre and postmortems matter. Creating a learning loop makes you better faster.
  13. Belief in your delivery is a key to selling effectively and doing it for a long time.
  14. Don’t forget to ask for help. Have a +/-/= in key areas of your business.
  15. Writing is the road to everything that a business needs. Copy, code, policy all has to be written, so get better at writing.
Thoughts I Used To Think

Thoughts I Used To Think

I’m watching a lot of people fall. I’m not really surprised by any of it. I’ve seen aggressive behavior before. I’ve also (personally) said things that I’d never consider doing these days. Usually flirting or jokes gone wrong, that could make people feel uncomfortable and in hindsight were in poor taste.

I don’t know what the “final” answer is. Is Garrison Keillor’s fall too much? Maybe. Maybe not. I wasn’t there. It’s pretty bizarre to me, his fall.

Is one lousy action, one time, with one person enough to ruin a career?

Does an apology entitle you to anything?

Are there equivalencies?

And, what’s really going on? We see Roy Moore moving the line, conning Christians into supporting Pedophilia (because Mary, the mother of Jesus may have been as young as 12). What will the upshot be?

And, what of people that reform? I don’t have massive skeletons. But I have things I regret saying to others. Times when I surely came off as a creep. I’m not owed the comfort of forgiveness, but what about people who reform, repair relationships and regret the past?

I don’t know the answers. But I’m glad that this is happening because it’s making a better world.

Radical Accountability & Transparency

Radical Accountability & Transparency

As I’m rebooting myself, I am embracing transparency. Have no real choice. I feel like it’s a pillar of my life, a building block I need in order to make my life the way I want it. Where I’m calling from.

Selective transparency is just bragging. The worst businesses and lives have areas of success.

Sure, to get a boost of confidence, we can highlight those areas. Yes, there is a point in making us feel better. Most of the time when we talk transparency, we talk about financial numbers. I’m set to make $xx per year, our results were $yy per year.

That stuff really doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is doing what I have committed to doing on a daily basis. Building a business. Publishing. Living on a calendar. Reading. Resting. Increasing my grip on reality.

Being accountable to a result. Being radically accountable to a plan and process. These things will earn me money.

So the first challenge is to publish on this blog 3 days a week through the end of the year.

Personal Operating System

Personal Operating System

This year has been a year of reflecting. I’ve filled journals, written tens of thousands of words. Gone through the five stages of grief from moving to Portland (and losing my zeal for my business).

I’ve read more this year than I have in past years. And I’ve licked my wounds (all self-inflicted) to come out on the other side feeling strong and good.

What follows is the need to rewrite my personal operating system.

Why I Need The Rewrite?

There are goals I have that I’m not making progress on. I’ve been coasting. I’ve bought into a delusion. I’ve pursued comforting amusement and ‘stature’ over achievement. I’ve told myself a story that I could do whatever I want.

And, my grasp of objective reality isn’t where I want it to be.

This means that at the end, there is a wide gap between what I mean to achieve in my life and what I’m likely to achieve in my life- unless things quickly are reversed.

I’m 41. And I’ve not really begun to serve in the way I mean to.

I think I’m operating at less than 1% of my capacity. I think I can more than 200x my impact because I have some multiplication by zero effects happening.

What My Operating System Is Now:

I’ve got a mix of things that are working with me.

The normal gen-X stuff: A lazy smirk and a wink. A dash of snark. A little bit of aspirational thinking that doesn’t get translated into results. A burst of creative energy that’s not sustainable, and a cycle of zeal and burnout.

The slacker ethos: I don’t care that much, so I can’t be hurt. Leave before you get left. (The fact is: we’re prevented from doing the real and necessary work, the vulnerable good stuff when we drape ourselves in this bit of delusion).

Too Many Shortcuts The search for hacks and tricks and tactics and shortcuts. Enough hustle to clean up most of the messes I make. Enough good things to keep me from totally crashing. Occasional good years where everything works. A few key relationships that keep me afloat.

Popeye Syndrome: I get my ass kicked for a long time, but I know that in ACT 3, I’ll find some spinach. I get dialed in just in time to “save the day.” Usually. I’ll carry a smug satisfaction through the whole cartoon, a shit-eating grin even when I’m getting knocked around, since I’m denying that this is truly happening to me.

The Need For Affirmation Too often I’ve looked for an ‘attaboy’ without digging in and doing the real work. I wanna be loved! Am I not a blogger? And yet, getting those simple likes/whatever eats into me. So I put out a Bon Mot in a Facebook group and people like it. And I feel good. But that’s so dumb.

Bad Habits It’s been said that the will to win is nothing without the will to prepare to win. 1 I’ve defaulted to a lot of things that don’t support where I wanna go.

Selective Transparency: Which is to say that it’s not true transparency. We crow about where we win, we cover up when we lose. And time goes by and we don’t just do this.

A Run From Reality I have a business that earned some money this year. I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid knowing just how much. There are other areas where I avoid reality. I’ve not embraced reality so I can’t change it. Moving through time randomly.

Focus & Completion Issues I have to be willing to see things all the way through to the end and to find a few hours a week to truly focus. I have to develop that for itself as its own skill, and stick to a system that supports it. Schedule or otherwise, it’s gotta get done.

Relationship Issues Too often, I’ve chased people away that can do me good. Too proud to accept help, but not committed or capable of doing things on my own.

This isn’t a complete list, and I’m concerned more about what I need to do better than what’s working right, right now. I’m unconcerned about what’s working well; in broad strokes:

  • I’m reading
  • I’m doing a good job with my kids
  • I’m seeing what I need to do and creating in my head the life and business I want.

Where I Want To Go:

I’ve clung to an obsolete style that I don’t care about. The old saying: we spend our times working in jobs we hate to buy things we don’t want to impress people we don’t like.

I’ve got this belief that I can 100x myself by changing my way of thinking and interacting with the world.

The end starts with the goals.

  1. A Mission (Or A Couple of Missions) I love entrepreneurs. The independent spark that says “I don’t need to friggin’ work some job. I want to fan that spark till it’s an inferno. I always have seen myself as independent, ever since I was little. My mission Is to serve them.Missions are different than goals. I have two right now:
    • To help 25 Entrepreneurs close a total of $10,000,000 in business.
    • To Bring in $2,000,000 in new business to the Tri Cities Area.

    These should be sane and fun to do.

  2. Orderly Finances: I’m building a new company.. The opportunity to have truly orderly finances is mesmerizing to me. I made a mistake and I never took the time to recover. Now with my wife earning enough (and expenses cut) I have opportunity that didn’t exist a year ago. I have underestimated the power of this. I always went with my gut and was delusional about how much unnecessary risk I was carrying (as well as the returns possible).
  3. Fitness, Man, Fitness I love the feeling when I’m working out (and I’m working out reliably again). I want my body to be fit. And my business, and my life (home etc).
  4. Process Man, Process How we do things is important. What makes our work great?. What goes into that sort of thing.

What I Have To Do:

  1. Figure out some specific goals. I’ve got a mission above, and I’ve gotta

I have to build an operating system that supports that. I have to change my way of thinking, embrace deep work and remake myself into a person that can get this done. This will likely take 18 months. It could take longer.

I have to relearn the way I sell, the way I connect with people, maintain relationships. I have to define what I mean by “integrity,” “focus” and such. I have to drive to my mission and not anything else.

  1. Learn about my strengths. Will do Strengthsfinder, Meyers-Briggs and maybe DiSC again. Will work hard not to game the system. (This will be hard).
  2. Embrace radical transparency. There is a long way to go in my business, and so I have to be open and earnest about everything.
  3. Embrace radical accountability. I have to make and keep my word first to myself, then to my family. I’ve gotta create a scoreboard.

That’s it. This is a 2.0 time for me, or 3.0. It’s a time for a massive reinvention. I’ve had the year to heal and to make forward progress, so now it’s time to make it all happen the way I want.

I’m less certain about what I’m meant to be but I think more dedicated and capable of being that thing. It falls to me to go do it.

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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At First, You’re Writing For Yourself

By Christopher Johnson | June 22, 2018

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 […]

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Mental Toughness, Part I.

By Christopher Johnson | May 16, 2018

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 […]

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Boundaries and Consequences And Children

By Christopher Johnson | May 12, 2018

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 […]

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Some Music

By Christopher Johnson | May 7, 2018

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 […]

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The Promise & Peril of Social Media.

By Christopher Johnson | April 26, 2018

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 […]

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