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

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.

On Form and Practice

On Form and Practice

One of the quests I’ve had lately is to get better at playing Racquetball. I’ve rediscovered it and enjoyed playing the game. It’s mostly a game of skill, and my acute lack of footspeed isn’t a disqualifier like it is in basketball.

I bought a book as an add on from Racquetball Warehouse.It showed that I had a bad swing, and a bad grip. The combination of a bad swing and a bad grip meant that I was torquing my shoulder. The shoulder was hurt a lot.

I had good timing so I was winning some matches.

But I couldn’t play two days in a row. And I was using a TON of energy. So I had to change my grip. It was painful. I had a grip that was ‘not great’ but I was used to it. So I switched to the recommended shake hands grip. I had grabbed the thing.

This far in, I decided to keep going. And so I changed my whole swing. This from the “random” swing that I had to something that was the way it was supposed to work.

A few hundred “drop and hits” later, I had a working swing.

The biggest difference: with much less effort I’m generating the same power. I don’t yet have the timing dialed in like I did on my “bad” swing, but I can effortlessly hit a good, accurate shot about 85% of what I could hit it at when I was locked in. With good form the margin for error is wider. I’ve occasionally had everything come together and hit serves and shots with really impressive power, harder than I’d ever done it before.

The more astonishing thing was that this didn’t take long. About 3 hours – total – of practice spread out over about 2 weeks. Drop and hit drills from 9 positions on the court, hitting 3 shots (down the line, cross court and pinch).

The current drawback is that I’ll go for stretches of a match and be very “lost” having had old habits show up, and I haven’t dialed in a method to slow down and correct things. This results in stretches of comically poor shots. It’s sometimes hard to diagnose in a match. Going forward I’ll try “early prep, trigger finger, follow through”.


I was much worse for about a week. About the same a week later. Now I’m certainly better than before. Everything is coming together better than it had been. I don’t have shoulder pain and I can play 3 days in row at nearly 42 years of age.

And I’ve only worked on my forehand. With one drill.

The next step will be to do the same thing for my backhand, and then to add the rest of the drills to a practice session.

On Selling Out

On Selling Out

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend. Her premise was that artists all eventually got corrupted and sold  out. There was a hint of contempt—or even pity—on those words. That this was just what happened in a lifecycle.

There was the egg stage, larval stage, starving artist stage and finally, pretentious Dbag stage. We all secretly liked our indie band before they hit it big, right?

But what is the point of art, then? Why do we do this? Because we want to inflict misery on ourselves? Because we want to be “pure”? Artists make art to share their point of view with the world. And yeah, hopefully to transfer the emotion, wonder, hope that they can feel to a new audience.

We don’t all want to be John Kennedy Toole, an author who’s work was shared only posthumously. We want to contribute, release our art to the world and let it shape us. We want to find and grow an audience. We want what we make to support us. That’s selling,not selling out. Instead of cultivating contempt for commerce, why not admit what we want?

Work Vs. “Work”

Work Vs. “Work”

We all want to work hard. Or do we just want to seem to work hard?

So many times I find myself not productivelyspending office time. I listlessly look at Reddit. Or I look at my burn rate and try to figure how many sales I need to make. Or I’ll scroll through LinkedIn and make some connections. Or I check my analytics for no discernible reason (because I’m not trying to solve a problem).

This is true #hustle, right?

I’m #grinding while you’re sleeping, right?

Hastag winning.

Nope. I’m mostly just deluding myself. I’m here, doing little of value. Little to advance my interest. It feels like work, and to an outsider it looks like work, but it’s the 80% of the stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s unfocused, unstructured, and constant.

It has all of the bad qualities of work and none of the healthy, productive qualities. It drains me. It makes me think. It induces decision fatigue. But it makes nothing. It resolves nothing.

There are so many thins like this that I’ve done. Make-work projects that feel like work but don’t add value to my business or to my customers. Redoing my logo is one. Agonizing on the move between Quickbooks and Xero is another. And I shudder at how much money that I’ve lost on this stuff. On not being able to summon the intensity needed to resolve the real problems.

My guilt keeps me in the chair, but a better use of my life would be to do what? To go for a run. To play with my kids. To read a book. To finally order a bookcase. All of these things .

So I know that I’ll get private messages giving me advice. I’m gonna resolve this this way:

Each day I’m gonna start with my core four activities.

  1. Writing – that is the gateway to my own sanity. The thing that makes me better, and the thing that I take pleasure from. I’ve had varying degrees of practice and skill in my life.
  2. Reading- Again, having long conversations with mentors, escaping yourself and getting into someone else’s problems is a key/core part of my sanity.
  3. Fitness- At a mentor’s suggestion I’m going all in on the Get Serious program. I was playing Racquetball, counting it as exercise. Since I was eating pretty well I’ve lost 20# this summer. I want to take it to the next level.
  4. Prospecting- I have a few funnels to fill and a few products to sell. I am a good closer so I eschew prospecting and can get away with it. But right now, I know how critical an hour a day is.

This is the next component of where I’m going. I’ll have days that I do more of each of these things, but the core four activities will be what I knock out each day.

This will be done first, and the schedule will be:

5a- write or read (alt days)

  • 6a – read/write
  • 9-10 prospect
  • 10-11:30 fitness
  • 11:30-x hit my list.

That’s it. That’s the core four.

Minimum Viable Business

Minimum Viable Business

I’ve put my own company back on track. It took some doing, and some stubborn optimism. And I’ve started advising other startups, too. All of it is pretty great. I’ve had fun with it.

But, I’ve noticed something. A lot of companies create complexity in lieu of simplicity. They have some idea that the future may require that they have this giant workflow with a lot of tagging, a lot of automation and a lot of work.

But they don’t have the “bones” built to automate.

I was thinking about the things every business needs:

  1. Values: You have to know what you stand for and what you’ll never do.
  2. An Offer: I will do for $, by . It’s that simple.
  3. A Contract You’ll have to have an agreement to sign.
  4. A Payment Processor For both recurring payments and one offs. Make it stupid simple to do business.
  5. An Onboarding Process: What happens? What happens when something is confusing? How do we fix it?
  6. A Support System What do we do when people (inevitably) ask for and need help? Where do we go for that?
  7. A Delivery Process What do we do when our work Is “done.”

This should be done well manually, at first. Then it can be addressed with automation.

These are just a few. There are some obvious ones, too: people to run it, customers to buy, an email solution, etc. I tried to generalize. Even a hotdog stand (or lemonade stand) has these needs. The goal is to simplify the friction in every area.

If you don’t have this, the first order things done as frictionlessly as possible, you don’t have a lot of business doing other things.

I got the year wrong but everything else is going great.

April 2017 Commitments

Commitments, Course, Constraints, Challenges.

This is the first in a planned series of posts detailing what I’m after and what I can do. Feel free to follow along (or not).

Chandler Bolt inspires me. He and I haven’t met and we’ve only barely interacted. But he’s influenced and inspired me to think bigger for myself and to accelerate my timetable. And to be deliberate about what I want.

He’s posted about some big goals that he had in February, and posted his results even though they weren’t perfect:

This stuff moves me. How can it not move you? A life was changed in big ways in a month. In the open. How can you not love that?

Putting a target on yourself.

Because pressure is a privilege.

I’ve been inspired the recap posts that Nathan Barry, Pat Flynn have done over the years.  And, of course, Groove. Oh, for that level of transparency!

The reason I haven’t done this?

  1. Fear that it won’t go well.
  2. Not wanting to expose myself (A month is an erratic time).

Ramit Sethi tweeted this some time ago and it rang true:

Yup. I’ve shied away from transparency because of this reason. Sometimes you fall off the wagon, sometimes your pursuit was half-hearted.

I made some mistakes in my business. The mistakes weren’t the problem, the mistakes set a path where I then made some excuses to follow the mistakes. The hangover, or the fact that the mistakes followed me around. Enough.

It’s time to think bigger…and to pursue really big goals that will change my life and the life of the people around me.

The two (large goals) I am after:

  1. To be debt free in my personal and business life. This includes my mortgage. This creates a revenue goal for Simplifilm of around $60,000 per month. That’s a doable level for a solo guy.
  2. To have a 32” waist. This will require I lose about 75#, and it will require that I’m in good shape.

These are the overall goals that I’m chasing right now. I want to hit both of these this year.

These are public commitments then.

Of course, winners make systems. I admire my wife’s dedication to her fitness goal. So for me, I have to develop the habits to support these goals.

I’ve identified 4 “C”s to help with this:

  1. Commitments: What you’re going to do.
  2. Constraints Values you won’t sacrifice to meet your commitments.
  3. Course: The path you’ll take to get there.
  4. Challenges:. The main obstacles that you’ll have to overcome.

April’s Commitments:

I want to stretch to see what’s actually possible. I want to be better and more this month than I’ve been in a long time. I want to focus on what I can do, and swing hard, swing big.

Because I’ve been playing small. Playing just to take care of bills. Playing just to hang out and stay in the game. None of that is particularly compelling.

  1. I’ll lose 20# of fat this month. This supports the overall goal of earning a 32” waist
  2. I’ll contract $100,000 in new fee-based/service based work. This supports the goal of being debt free.

    A. I’ll deliver $60,000 in work. This is part of commitment #2

    B. I’ll collect $80,000 in revenue. Another part of commitment #2

  3. I’ll get 4 new clients for I Close Your Deals This creates income diversity for the 2nd time and first time in a while.

Some of this I’ve had to figure out. Naturally, right now we’re scheduled to deliver $55,000 in revenue without doing a lot, so adding $25,000 will be hard.

How I’m keeping score for deliveries (At Simplifilm). (The score matters once).

1/3 of the revenue is delivered on contract
1/3 is delivered on delivery of script
1/3 is delivered at Advance Version.

At ICYD, we’ll generate roughly $10,000 in fee income, and hopefully 10,000 in commission income.

April’s Course:

Commitment #1: 20# Fat Loss

For the first part, (20# fat), I’ll do the following:

  • Paleo (like) diet. I’ll afford myself a little more fruit and a little bit of dairy, but I will to stay on target with this. I’ll eat till I’m full and maybe a little bored.
    • 1LB of vegetables each day.
    • Beans, Greens & Proteins make 90% of my calories
  • Prep food every Saturday (mmm, love the Traeger) and Wednesday (when needed). Freezer = Friend.
  • Cheat day on Friday nights (let’s have some pizza!). But only Friday nights.
  • Cardio 3x weekly. (One HITT, one Tempo, one LISS)
  • Walking to and from Starbucks (if I go to Starbucks).
  • 10,000 steps a day.
  • Lifting 3x weekly on plan (all five muscle groups worked)
  • Racquetball 2x weekly (Oh, how I love Racquetball!)
  • Sleep 7 hours or more each day.

Load on my schedule: 90 minutes to meal prep, 60 minutes to shop, 3×90 minutes for cardio, 3×90 for lifting, 2 x 120 minutes for racquetball. = 930 minutes/week. This is 15 hours of my week (168 total hours) dedicated to fitness and diet. This is certainly doable.  I’m doing some of it anyway.

That’s the main plan, and I’ve got this week’s food prepped for launch.

I also have to write down my workouts. It’s only 12 weight workouts, as I know more or less what I’m supposed to do each day.

Commitment #2: 100k in new fee-based (not commission-based) work.

For the $100k in work, I’ll pursue the following path.

  • Prospect 3x weekly for 90 minutes via phone (2 Simplifilm, 1 ICYD)
  • Prospect 3x weekly via social media for 60 minutes.
  • Prospect 3x weekly via email & text: (2 Simplifilm, one ICYD)
  • Send at least 250,000 in proposals out, and get the next commitments.
  • Complete a basic funnel and email sequence for my list (write one good email/day)
  • Write & promote 2 blog posts per week at each site (Simplifilm and ICYD)
  • Re-do the front page of the site.

Email prospecting is different than MailChimp prospecting. Vastly different.

The schedule load here is:

  • Prospecting: 90 x 30 = 270 minutes
  • Social Prospecting: 60 x 3 = 180 minutes
  • Email/Text Prospecting: 60 x 3 = 180 minutes
  • Email writing: 5x 60 = 300 minutes
  • Blog Writing & Promotion: 3 hours x 2 = 540 minutes/week.

Total load here = 1470 = 24.5 hours a week in prospecting related activities.

Constraint:. This work must be done by 1pm to free up my afternoons for both Fitness and ICYD. I’ve got to get up at 5am so I have to do this.

Challenge: There is some definite plumbing work needed on Simplifilm to make this work right and get some value.

Another thing I’ll do is post my results here. Appointments, proposals, etc.

I also think that in broad strokes, I’m going to batch my activities. In the mornings, I’ll write. At 8am I’ll help the kids for an hour, and from 9-12 I’ll prospect.

I also will need to create a schedule and have a lunatic commitment to it. Like I’m punching a clock and if I am not exactly where I need to be when the bell rings, it’s just too damned bad.

This will allow for some good work.

Commitment 3: Get 4 new paid clients for ICYD

We’re going to focus ICYD on 4 areas:

  • Freelancers/Designers
  • Coaches
  • SaaS businesses
  • Agencies

For April, it’s all about the freelancer. We’ll sign 10 up and work out all the systems so they are all booked for months.

Paid clients are defined as freelancers that advance us $2500 in future commissions (engagement guarantee) we charge for working together. This doesn’t count anyone trading a case study for work or anything similar (we have some of that happening).

This will be challenging, but I will need to have about 10 appointments to do this. It’s what my afternoons, largely, are for.

Here I’ll have to spend 10 hours a week developing the agreements, service descriptions and doing client research. We’re ready to take verbal agreements now, but we’re not ready to do the rest. This will require 2 hours (total) of project planning to begin. I’ll spend $150 building a list and the plumbing at ICYD.CO to make this work. This puts my “load” at 34.5 hours a week.

I have 15 hours to run meetings, do creative work and pitch clients. I can live with that.

April’s Constraints

Constraints put limits on things. I’m not a believer in the Cult of Hustle (though I like to hustle.). Endurance has diminishing returns. Work has diminishing returns. So we can’t do too much.

So I’m going to put some major constraints on these commitments. Because that’s what I need to make them work.

  1. I won’t work more than 50 hours a week, all in. Trading time for $ is not where I want to be. Trading time for $$$$ is more palatable. I won’t have a load of more than 1/2 that time.
  2. I won’t miss any family activities. I’m working hard to reconnect with my family .
  3. No projects under $10,000. Sometimes it’s fine and possible to take lower dollar projects on. We’ve had success with them in the past, and God knows, most of our projects have been in the category. But. They have been unsatisfactory on all accounts, and generally not profitable.
  4. Only 1 Rush Delivery: Our work has been injured by doing too many rush deliveries. That creates a pace that’s unpleasant, unsustainable, and a job I don’t want. We’ll fix that.
  5. Done At 1pmThis is the big one.. I want all of my Simplifilm work to be done by 1pm so I can focus on ICYD. Without this constraint I’m lost.
  6. I’ll Read for at least 10 hours each week. I have slipped some in this area, and reading is the soul of my successes.
  7. I’ll finish both the LinkedIn course as well as the SPTC courses that I paid for.

April’s Challenges:

We want to address what we have got to overcome. These are the possible roadblocks.

  1. Fat Loss: I’m not in phenomenal shape at the moment. I can’t do 2-a-days like my wife does. I have to be consistent with the cardio AND racquetball and have a planned day of rest. I’ve also entered with a tender back from doing too much racquetball too soon (hence me cutting it to 2 days).
  2. Meal Planning is tedious. My back-up lunch plan (if I’m not eating what I’ve prepped) is to go to Fiesta and get a Fiesta salad (no chips). That’s a steak salad with avocado. I have to do the prep/planning every day if this is going to work.
  3. Prospecting is always hard. It requires mental fortitude to do it daily. It’s always easy to make up excuses not to.
  4. The Shiny: It’s easy to get lost in the plumbing when writing/thinking/doing new things.
  5. Focus: I’ll have to switch gears a few times a week so I’ll have to build a schedule that will support this with a high degree of focus.
  6. Batching: Early rising is a linchpin. I can’t do this if I don’t get up, so I have to go to bed. Getting to sleep early has been tough lately.
  7. Goal Fatigue.  It feels a little bit like “I’ve heard it all before/sounds nice dear,” and we have to do better when it comes to this stuff.

What Winning Means

This is a big step for me and knocks the rust off. It creates long-term stability. I’ve been adrift since sometime in Fall 2015, (when I was living separated from my family) and I need to shake that off and play big again. I find that I had something like a midlife crisis.

I had a big win in Feb, and march looks good. I’m set for more wins.

Getting back to 2015 income levels – with dramatically less overhead – will be a godsend as well as I will be able to retire the very last of Simplifilm’s debts and pay myself $20k +/-. I don’t have the same “growth at any cost” mindset that I had then, so I’ll be grateful (I hope) for the revenue and journey.

Winning this will give me momentum that I’ll use to fuel everything else I do.

Looking forward to May’s goals (may change):

In May, I plan to hire an account manager so I can be at a remove from the deliverables. This will cut my hours worked by about 12 per week at Simplifilm. In June, then, I’d plan to hire a full-time sales guy.

Onward.  It’s opening day.

Creation and Consumption

My friend Jason Womack has influenced me a lot. He’s got two books: one is a snackable book called YOUR BEST JUST GOT BETTER. The other is more of a 5 course meal called Get Momentum. I recommend both.

I don’t recall if it was from a book or from one of our conversations. But he teaches a concept called the creation/consumption cycle. He advocates being in balance with both. Basically, you have to consume good material to create good material, and you have to know what you’re doing.

Since that conversation, I’ve read a little more deliberately, and I’ve had days (Fridays) where I don’t create anything but I read and take courses. I’ve also had weeks (one per month) where I don’t have to create. It’s worked for me, and I’ve had permission to consume.

Consumption Gone Awry

Even consuming smart, literate stuff that makes you think can be wrong.

Around election time, I was freaked out by the prospect of a Trump presidency. If not exactly freaked out, the spectacle was gobsmacking. Our presidential candidates were making dick jokes! Trump was vulgar! When will it end, can this really be happening? It was an astonishing experience for me. The whole thing made me nervous!

The blow-by-blow breathless coverage didn’t help much. Ryan Holiday talked about it a bit here. Still, I was reading “the good stuff.” Great stuff, the créme de la créme. Atlantic articles, New Yorker and FiveThirtyEight think pieces. I had to be well informed. The first to know. I had to have the nuanced rationale to be against Trump, and to dislike him for the right reasons.

But my own personal production slowed. I wasn’t right. I got anxious, twitchy and tense over the whole mess. I didn’t get done what needed to get done.

For me, productive consumption – trying to be informed – crossed a line to destructive consumption. A real thing. And some consumption for comfort, for nostalgia or for other reasons is probably beneficial in small doses.

But if it’s a retreat away from creation, a retreat away from duty, or an endless anxious loop. Being nervous about Trump, being obsessed with the Cubs (and going on sports betting sites – to learn their TRUE odds) was not a good use of my time.

My productivity – which had been increasing – ground to a halt over the election (which I was a spectator). And it was because of destructive consumption. I had to have the last word with the Internet. And I wasn’t playing video games, I was just seeking to resolve the unresolvable morass that was our election.

XKCD's most famous cartoon.
XKCD’s most famous cartoon.

The Solution

Sometimes – in life – you’ll fall off the wagon and get off the rails. Destructive consumption is a new issue. This happens. What’s important is that we recognize it more quickly.

The way I’m inoculating myself is:

  1. Habits. Single tasking and deep work.
  2. A curriculum: plan my consumption over a long period of time (and schedule it).
  3. Journal what you consumed & look at your browser history once a week. This will help identify crazy patterns.



10 Preventable Mistakes I Made This Week

There is never a shortage of mistakes that you can make when you’re running a business.

Here are a few things I did wrong (way wrong).

  1. Switched my site to WP Multisite: This was made because I had some vague notion of having a Wikipedia section up, and I was gung ho.  1/3 of my plugins (and I don’t use too many) worked differently and authentication busted.

  2. Didn’t buy groceries the day after I returned home: This led to fast food too much, and “justifiable” purchases.  Not all of it’s bad, but I wound up eating poorly, especially on Thursday.
  3. Let ShutterStock automatically renew.  For some reason we needed some stock on Shutterstock.  I let it auto renew instead of canceling it after a month.  There’s some good stuff on there, but it’s not worth the $200.
  4. Let PayPal debit from an old business account: At the start of the year, I switched accounts, and PayPal debited out of a closed account. It wound up causing the account to reopen and I could either pay $78 in fees or spend forever arguing about it.
  5. Underpriced a change order: We had a change order requested by a good client. I underpriced it because I figured they’d all be simple, and it wound up being something I paid for.
  6. Spent hours configuring WordPress: Instead of working with a stock theme, I tried to configure WordPress behind a set of standards that I never gave a shit about.
  7. Spent a day procrastinating the building of a new schedule: I needed to update my schedule so I could perform like a champion, but instead, I screwed around with it.  The work would have taken 1.5 hours, +/- but I never got to it, and that was the tough part.
  8. I drank a gallon of Coffee on Wednesday.  Couldn’t sleep, hit snooze on Thursday. This meant I was out of sorts on my whole schedule.  All of it would have been prevented by a 30 minute nap.
  9. Didn’t schedule any time to read: I’m at my best when I’m reading 1-2 hours a day. This week that got away from me, and the rest of my week suffered.
  10. Rolled out a cheap version of my product: I sell videos between $8,000 and $15,000.  I have a reliable offshore vendor that can do this for cheaper, and we decided to reduce some fees, and this meant that we undercut ourself like idiots.

All of this is on the business side (or largely so). I also picked did other dumb stuff, like picking a severe fight with my parents, and overreacted to a routine thing that my kids did. And I made this post that will make me look like a dope.

But, if we’re trying to cultivate transparency, why not.

When Sales Does Not Cure All

When Sales Does Not Cure All

Right now, what my business needs is sales.

Sweet sales. This wasn’t the case last year.

Here’s where we were:

Last year (fall 2015 to fall 2016), due to a number of crazy things (hint: mismanagement) we were behind on all of our projects. We entered the year with a glut of defensibly late deliveries. Over $100,000 worth in a fairly small business. This was unearned revenue.

Our process was broken, and overhead (and dumb stuff) had soaked up most of the money. We had to lay people off (or let them resign without protest), and a new sale? That would have made our problem worse because we’d have to staff it.

New customers were not having the impeccable experience I wanted them to have. We were reactive, not proactive. We didn’t deliver the experience I wanted, though the final product was good, the customers got a white-knuckled confusing ride that was beneath our standards.

A couple of key people – Vas and Steve were key in helping me get clear on the problems that our service level was causing. One got a nicely done video (a little late- because you can always find an excuse to blame the client). The other got a (deserved) refund.

But had we made more sales, we would have kicked an even bigger problem down the road. Simply put, our business had to get our process straight before we introduced new customers to us. We had to stop and build something that was good enough for our customers.

It was hard to do. My creative director and I spent the summer and fall perfecting scripts, getting clear on what our job was and what our values are. We did this while triaging deals that were hard to finish up, and retooling our creative department.

It sucked – for my ego – to deliberately turn down the volume of sales and turn away customers. I stopped engaging in daily sales activities for the time. But, we were able to deliver what customers started to rave about starting in about October.

And now, we have to do two things:

  1. More customers.
  2. Better work.

Sales will fuel this, again. We got by on talent in the old days. We had some supremely talented artists, but a lot of that work was wasted because we didn’t support them with an exemplary process.

Now? It’s time for sales.

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More