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You know who you are. If you think back, you have always been avoiding the marshmallow. You eat it occasionally – but rarely. You likely live like a monk or abbess. You have some serious austerity to your life. You are pursuing some greater thing – you always have been. You don’t always know what it is, but out there, you know, there is some kind of future in which you get not one, but TWO, marshmallows.
I am one of you, so I know you.
I learned a long time ago that one of the things I am very sincerely good at, uniquely good at, is precisely this skill. Delaying gratification for an insanely long time. An unreasonable amount of time. It has had its uses, for sure.
If you are one of these people – this tribe, like me, I just want to present to you that perhaps, it’s time to consider whether one marshmallow actually is enough. Whether it has enough value for you. Whether you can get what you want out of that single one.
Because if you just eat the marshmallow, guess what, you can just leave the experiment. If you wait for the second marshmallow, once you get it, you have two, but you also waited a really really long time.
So the question is to ask yourself is really – hey, maybe the time is more valuable than the marshmallow.
Think about it.
That’s it. That’s the post.
Filed by Julien at 4:28 pm under random
Some things will change here shortly. No expectations as to what.
Comments will likely go off. The internet has changed and there are too many places for comments – too few for just pure writing.
There are too many places owned by others – so it’s important to own something yourself.
Less links, and less media, probably – there is already too much of that, too.
Less gimmicks. Etc. Although we’ll see. Gimmicks tend to take off (a few of mine have), which makes them hard to resist.
I’ve been asked to keep writing more times than I can count but there is a conflict between running a company (of a certain type) and writing plainly – because you are always in view. So you kind of have to design your way around that. I eventually figured it out, but it took several years.
You can see above a photo of me at the age of 40. If you look around, you’ll find photos of me at 30, as well, and probably 25, because that’s how long this blog has existed.
You’ll note that I am the same person – the same creases and lines and everything else. Everything has just deepened.
So I imagine that’s what will happen here. Things will deepen.
Whatever that means.
Filed by Julien at 12:59 pm under random
It’s very easy to become obsessed with the supposed glamour of running a company instead of actually doing the work – the unglamorous, tedious, hair-pulling fucking work.
Over the past few days, all over my Facebook stream, I can see pictures of entrepreneurs looking successful, when I know for a fact that they are not successful at all. It’s weird, and it creates a strange broken mirror effect. But of course, it’s inevitable.
In 2004, I had just started podcasting, and was lucky enough that I ended up being one of the first podcasters in the world. Good timing and a decent radio voice had given me my big break. Not bad.
But what happened after that is far more interesting. I ended up quitting my job, focusing on doing my podcast full-time, and failed. I had accumulated a ton of credit card debt over a few years, gone through some RRSPs (Canadian 401k’s), and was at a pretty bad place after a while of doing this – pretty deep in debt for a 24 year old. It was really hard, and then suddenly, I had gotten a break while working at a homeless shelter, of all places. I got an email from my podcast company saying I had made something like $10,000 in two months.
“Holy crap!” I thought. I had never seen that kind of money in my life before. Ever. Suddenly, my life had turned around. From one day to the next, I was no longer in debt, and I wouldn’t have to start over. I had crossed the dip.
But up until that time, I was basically faking it til I made it. The exact same thing I accused people of, above, when I posted that on my Facebook wall a few days ago.
As soon as I posted it, the deluge of comments was crazy. I got a bunch of private messages. “I’m faking it right now!!! I’m miserable!!!” And then I got a bunch of questions asking me if my startup was doing alright.
Lucky for me, it was. I couldn’t tell them then, but our numbers were great, and I was announcing in the next two days that Breather had raised $6mm in venture capital from RRE Ventures (this is public now). But the crazy part is, from the perspective of all the people on the internet, failure and success basically look the same until that final moment when you discover the truth. Nobody knows the difference. We’re all trying our best to be the duck – looking super cool above water while paddling like crazy underneath.
But ducks were born to swim. Most of us have no idea what we’re fucking doing.
The main concern isn’t playing the game – I guess it’s natural, although I’m sure it can be lonely at times. The problem is that the endorphin rush of fake success kind of feels the same as real success, for a while. It’s why you and I post selfies every little while. Feels good to look good! Oh man, am I great.
Well, not really. You’re like everybody else. So remember to actually get the work done, not just impress others with photos of what internet celebrities you’re hanging out with. That’s how you actually get to enjoy it later. Or at least, that’s what I see on my Facebook feed.
(Also on Medium here.)
Basic thesis: Everyoneâ€™s mind is crowded. Your idea needs space in the brain to survive. The right name enables this, and more.
Hereâ€™s how to find a great nameâ€” for your company, your project, or whatever else.
Why IÂ wrote this:Â Iâ€™m really good at naming things, for a few reasons.
One, I spent years looking at domain names around 2007-2008. I know the domain name industry inside and out. Iâ€™ve looked at and bought and sold thousands of names.
Two, for some ineffable reason, I am great at simplifying things down to their component parts.
Three, I am hyper picky about what makes a good name, both visually and verbally.
1. A good name is simple. But more than simple, a great name goes to the baseÂ of what the company does, both describing it and expanding on it.
Example: The process of naming Twitter by Noah Glass is described in Hatching Twitter, which was recently released. Regardless of how close to the truth it is, â€œtwitterâ€ describes it perfectly, as it is a short, irreverent/irrelevant sound. From this, the idea of birds emerge, making it even better (but honestly, it could have been anything).
2. A good name is a noun, and its use can be shortened to either make it into a verb or a noun.
Example:Â My startup Breather is a network of rooms for work or rest, which at one point were called â€œBreather rooms,â€ but which since have been shortened by users to simply be called â€œBreathers,â€ as in â€œI just rented a Breather.â€ This makes word-of-mouth infinitely easier.
3. A good (domain) name passes the phone test.
Example: Re:Â (Fiverr.com)
Person 1: â€œOh yeah I just used this service Fiverr.”
Person 2: â€œFiver, awesome.â€ (Types it into phone.) #FAIL
Oops. Your service better be damn good if people are willing to spell it out every time.
Funny story actually, a VC I was recently meeting with literally typed in Brether into his browser to search for us, because he had already assumed my company was spelled wrong.Â He was shocked we owned Breather.com. Another side note, some people (Iâ€™m looking at you Jason Calacanis) have rules around investing or not based on how good your name is.
4. (A corollary.) A good domain name is worth any price you are capable of paying.
Example: Breather.com cost me $7,500, which is a steal, and I bought it the very same dayÂ I thought of the word. Likewise, your companyâ€™s Twitter handle needs to be easy to obtain as well. I consider those to be the primary ones. FB, Google+, all the other stuff, donâ€™t worry about it.
5.Â Combinations of two words are ok, and can even be great (though Facebook is actually one real word). With word combos, it has to roll off the tongue, which means two or three syllables, but almost never four.
6. Now Iâ€™m looking at you, French people. If your company name soundsÂ like English to you, but sounds fucking weird to native speakers, choose something else for Godâ€™s sake.Â A random invented word is better than the stuff you made up.
7.Â Do not, I repeat, do not name your company very similarly to another startup, especially a successful one.Â
Example:Â â€¦ I have one. But theyâ€™re kind of friends, so Iâ€™m keeping it to myself. 😐
8.Â If you canâ€™t come up with anything, try changing one letter from something you really want, or something that sounds like a real thing.
Example: Mustbin. I havenâ€™t looked up what they do, but if itâ€™s not about wish lists, I retract my recommendation.
9. You can find a good name just by free writing, and doing so for an absurdly long time.
Just keep writing and writing. Seriously. Do it in a text file. Keep writing until you reach 10,000 words. The right name will come along, as long as you keep writing.
Example:Â Just trust me, this works.
10.Â Look, eventually, none of this will matter. But right now, it matters a lot. Your company name is your identity. Think about it for a LONG TIME.
Edit: I seem to have pretty good at predicting things accurately here. I may end up updating the post. Stay tuned.
Here are a few ideas about what the future could look like.
I wouldn’t consider these holy writ; more like provocations to think about.
A. Bitcoin becomes extremely popular, replaces gold as a stable currency because of its algorithmic, predictable, stable nature. Bitcoin ATMs on every block.
B. Home Depot becomes a giant room, 2% of its usual size, with 3D printers in the back that just print out whatever it is that you want. No more inventory.
C. Amazon does the opposite. Opens warehouses that become showcases for the few things you have trouble ordering onlineâ€¦ fridges, etc.
D. Your smartphone becomes your wallet, your ID card, your keys. Segments society into smartphone users (who have access to the best services), and non-smartphone users (who donâ€™t).
E. Social networks become generational, with each successive generation abandoning the previous one and software using more highly viral methods to reach the generation that is not yet captured. See: Snapchat, WeChat. Eventual boom/bust cycles cause great instability. OR…
F. Social networks obtain permanent place in the stage of life of the participant. i.e LinkedIn becomes the dominant circle when your work life starts to gain in importance, then declines once you retire. Etc.
G. Google Fiber threatens to put all other telecom providers out of business as a result of their intent to â€œorganize and make available all of the worldâ€™s information,â€ theorizing that slow internet prevents access to information. Anti-trust legislation follows. See Jason Calacanisâ€™ Launch list for more on this.
H. Wars develop for each location a piece of hardware can exist: the eye, the wrist, the hand, the desk, etc.Â Nike probably wins the wrist. The restâ€¦ I mean, hey, hard to bet on anything else but Google.
I. Increasingly peer-to-peer services replace everything, as they create efficiencies where middlemen are unnecessary. Offices (obviously), restaurants, tours, travel, flightsâ€¦ everything. And remember, the inevitable end result of all technology is omniscience and telepathy. Or extinction. (Only slightly kidding.)
I came across this paper the other week via Chris Dixonâ€™s Twitter accountÂ describing a possible phenomenon: Peak Advertising.
Who knows if itâ€™ll end up being true or not. But it makes some sense and itâ€™s worth discussing.
If youâ€™re familiar with Peak Oil, youâ€™ll inherently understand this too.
Hereâ€™s the theory.
Key indicators for online advertising effectiveness have declined since the launch of the first banner advertisement in 1994. These declines are increasingly placing pressure on even the most established businesses in the space.
These developments suggest important (and potentially painful) implications for market structure, privacy, and authenticity online.
Existing alternatives appear at present to be insufficient to replace lost revenue from near-future declines in the value of display, search, and mobile advertising.
Ultimately, the economics of the web will necessitate pivotal decisions about the financial underpinnings of the Internet in the decades to come.
Letâ€™s rephrase:Â Users are becoming more sophisticated and clicking on ads less than before. Ads are less effective, and are plagued by click fraud, driving prices downward. This will eventually becoming such a problem that it will threaten entire businesses (Twitter, FB, whatever else) we have come to take for granted.
These businesses will therefore have no choice but to begin invading usersâ€™ privacy further and further to help target their ads.
Due to the nature of math, companies will also create massive monopolies / oligarchies to create efficiencies, allowing them to remain profitable despite these problems.
Whether it turns out to be true, wellâ€¦ itâ€™s interesting either way, isnâ€™t it?
All the more reason to do things while they work. All the more reason to attempt new things to gain advantage now, while they work.
Hereâ€™s the full PDF in case you are curious.
Itâ€™s pretty much undisputed at this point there is a connection between successful venture capitalists & entrepreneurs, and listening to hip-hop music.
This is totally unscientific, of course. But it makes total sense to me now.
I donâ€™t know when it started, but these days, Iâ€™m seeing it everywhere.
And I know itâ€™s crazy, and I know Iâ€™m making something out of nothing here, but I sincerely believe that there is a correlation between ambition and listening to rap.
Hereâ€™s Ben Horowitz (of A16Z, investors in Instragram, Airbnb, etc.) talking about how Kanye Westâ€™s Stronger helped Ben process “11th-hour, late-night auditing mishaps that almost stymied the $1.6 billion sale of Opsware.â€
We also know that Horowitzâ€™ love of hip hop was a factor in the firmâ€™s $15M investment in Rap Genius, a rap lyrics site that is trying to be the meta-data layer above everything (actually a cool idea).
And hey, hereâ€™sÂ Shervin PishevarÂ (Uber, Tumblr, etc.) tweeting out Pusha T lyrics. Clearly Iâ€™m onto something.
“Ballers put numbers on the boards. How could you relate when you’ve neverâ€¦ â™« Numbers On the Boards by Pusha T â€” https://t.co/Wr0fdMFU3Q
â€” Shervin Pishevar (@shervin) October 16, 2013
Am I just seeing things? Maybe.
But Iâ€™ll tell you what listening to outrageous, sometimes super arrogant music does to you.
It pumps you the fuck up.Â It makes you feel capableâ€” like you can take on the world.
I think that either ambitious people listen to hip-hop, or, rap makes people ambitious. You decide. But check this.
A lot of rap actually is about business.
Letâ€™s take an easy one:Â 10 Crack Commandments by Notorious B.I.G.Sure itâ€™s about slinging crack-cocaine. But it also actually offers good advice.
[Rule] Number 2: Never let em know your next move
Number 4: Never get high on your own supply (never believe your own press)
Number 7 (this rule is so underrated): Keep your family and business completely separated
Other songs teach you about haters, about spending too much money, or focusing on yourself instead of others.
Now, a lot of people might say itâ€™s a bad idea to take advice from egomaniacs.
Nonsense! I think thereâ€™s something to learn from everyone, as long as you consider the source before deciding. (I also think this about crappy self-help booksÂ btw.) And hey, they did make money, they clearly know something.
Anyway if you wanna get yourself hyped-up, hereâ€™s my top 5 tracks to get me super enthusiastic.
And in case youâ€™re wondering about my credibility wellâ€¦ this was before your time, but although I am the whitest man alive, I did have a hip-hop radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. So. 🙂
Anyway, enjoy! Now go do something amazing.
I was mid-way through writing a post about this when I realized I had already written one in 2010.
Regardless, here is my take on the issue from 2013, since I wrote it already. 🙂
It will always happen that you meet nay-sayers, disbelievers, or just straight up rotten, arrogant people.
No matter how far up or down you are on the food chain, there is always someone who thinks they are better than you. It never ceases. Trust me.
And no matter what stage you’re at, it’s especially true when you’re starting a new project.
When you start something, no one cares.
They don’t understand your dream, they don’t care about it, and further, they are often too busy, too in their head and defending their position, to care. Evidence be damned.
So get used to it. It happens.
What I want to give you today is an attitude to take when you meet these people, one that helps you stay calm, respectful, and composed.
The attitude to take is – “We will meet again, and when we do, things will be different.”
Use it like a mantra. Here’s what this does.
One, it makes you feel like you’ll get your comeuppance. No matter how badly someone treats you, you’ll be in a position of higher power later. This is immediately calming / reassuring.
Two, it makes you think twice before being an asshole back. Because you’ll meet again, you’ll want to be graceful instead of defensive. (Usually people act worse when they know it’s a one-off.)
In effect, you are using your future position to secure your present state of mind.
Try it next time you’re confronted by rudeness. It works.
There is so much happening,Â so fast, in the world of marketing that I would never have guessed as a “social media guy.”
First, the rise of the growth hacker. This is a term familiar to basically all people who work at startups, but few outside of it, as of yet, yet it means that engineers are taking marketing jobs left and right and will continue to, basically forever, because they’re better at it.Â This post was over a year ago and still everybody acts like nothing has changed.
Also, there is the fact that marketing is largely becoming about algorithms, instead of catchy jingles. How it’s become about optimization instead of “grand openings” or “launch dates.” Data instead of instinct.
Third, there is the destruction of “influencer marketing,” and the realization of how destructive it can become to try and seek out attention when a product is, at the outset, broken and / or uninteresting.
There are so many more trends like this, all basically pointing to the fact that your marketing jobÂ is about to become obsolete.
You are about to be replaced with a junior engineer, 23 years old, maybe without a degree, who makes half of what you make and gets better results. It’s just going to happen.
God help you if you actually got a marketing degree.
Conclusion: We have no choice but to evolve.
“Community” is not enough.
“Influence” is not enough.
Nothing but quickly shipped, highly interesting product, rapidly iterated and tightened with viral loops will get you where you need to go.
Segue into a quick story.
I am on a marketing panel in Montreal a few months back that Ray Hiltz set up about content marketing, I think. Doing my thing, which is generally to push the envelope.
I start saying that people have to go further and do more, that their stuff is usually more boring than they think it is, and that they have to try harder.
Another panelist asks me why. And this is when I begin to channel Aaron Wall from back in my SEO days.
The answer as to whyÂ we should be doing everything harder, better, faster, stronger is because otherwise, your competition will.
So it’s not really about you, but about the ecosystem. You have to be the #1 player, because the #1 player gets all the spoils (80/20 rule works in SEO and everywhere else).
And you only become the #1 player by beating whatever would become #1 otherwise. Your competition is at your heels.
And here’s the thing. Being more hardcore doesn’t mean you’ll win. It just means you get a shot.
Back to my point, which is about engineers vs marketers.
The world is becoming increasingly directed by machines. Those machines are only partially comprehensible to non-technical people.
Non-technical people are realizing they can create viral products exclusively through tweaking and that is has little to nothing to do with or advertising awards or “viral videos.”
They realize that they can sell their companies by doing this and make more money than the next guy.
Two types of engineers begin to emerge: the highly technical, build-hard-stuff engineer, and then the half-engineer, half-marketer, whose job it is to build things like the first Craigslist hack that made Airbnb take off. (Note: It wasn’t a viral video that made them popular.)
And this is the guy that wants your job. AndÂ If you don’t believe me, you should believe Fred Wilson who just blogged about this today: If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical.
I don’t know about you, but I am personally regretting my “I’m too lazy to work at math, engineering, and science” attitude from high school. I was good at it, but I was lazy. Listen to your parents, kids.
Personally, on my team, I like it when people go to Codecademy, even if they are not technical, and especiallyÂ if they interface with engineers on a daily basis (hint: everyone interfaces with engineers). It not only gives them an impression of code as craftÂ but also lets them understand the whyÂ behind everything.
As a bonus, they can become vaguely technical, or about 5% technical, which as we all know is infinitely better than zero. P.S.: HTML does not count as technical.
For you, personally, the marketer reading this, just like the engineer, you have two options:
A. Become the half-marketer, half-engineer that the industry will shortly demand.
B. Do the opposite and become so high level that you only strategize. Think Mitch Joel, Seth Godin, and all those other guys. They are the soft skills guys, and they are good at it.
But here’s the thing: you can get to a high level of B, and you’re good– but only the 1% truly profit here. No one’s dying to give away options in companies where people are spouting truisms / truthiness on blogs. Only the A guys get that. They become Dave McClure.Â The B guys get to run agencies. Your choice.
Hope I made you think. Cheers.
God, what a link bait worthy title. I’m both disgusted and impressed with myself at the same time. 🙂
Anyway, I realized something recently.
I’ve only done a few presentations— about half a dozen– since I’ve launched Breather. Some have been big (Google, Le Web, etc.) but others have been tiny.
But as I got offstage the other week at #Inbound13 in Boston, I realized that my style of presenting has changed significantly since Le Web this past June. And it changed because I deliberately wanted to present my company the way Steve Jobs would do it.
Why would you want to present like Steve?
Well, as it turns out, if you want to present something you consider revolutionary, then that is exactlyÂ how you should be doing it. Why? Because Apple has a tendency to produce products that revolutionize their industries (at least in the public eye).
But here’s the thing. Presenting something that mightÂ be revolutionary, but isn’t yetÂ is extremely difficult. You have to create, and fulfill, a sense of anticipation at the same time. In case you’re wondering, this is super fucking hard.
It’s hard because, right at that moment where you’re watching it, you don’t know for sure whether the iPod, iPad, etc. is revolutionary or not. It’s just a gadget.
But by presenting in just the right way, you are able to create that sense of anticipation.
Here, if you’re really interested, watch Steve present the iPod. As you watch it, think about what it is that the iPod became– but more importantly, look at how Steve had to present, that day, for you to assume that to be true.
Sidenote, you’ll also notice here that Jobs is kind of presenting to an audience of stockholders also. He’s saying Don’t worry, this thing I’m doing isn’t risky. It’s a sure thing.Â But what else is he doing that you should do?
One thing that you’ll notice is that Steve doesn’t have a lot of talking he actually does. He has only a few points, and he goes deeply into them. That’s it.
If Steve is up there for an hour, he can literally present 3 things during that hour. He does it both by speaking slowly and by using the rest of the stuff, below.
1000 songs? Who gives a damn? What I need to know is that 1000 songs is my whole library.Â I mean, I already know this, but Steve tells me anywayÂ just in case.
He also tells me how fast Firewire is. An entire CD in 5-10 seconds. Man, that’s fast!
This is one trick I learned a long time ago, and I the first time I did an amazing presentation, it’s because of this one tip.
I had presented this super complicated wifi music box (called a HAL) at an event. Nobody cared about it, even though it was interesting, and I was really upset.
So me and my partner stayed up all night while other people were partying and figured it out.
What was amazing about this music box? Well, it connected people to new music.
So I spent 10 minutes onstage repeating the same thing.
We connect music to people.Â That’s all I ever said, in different ways.
At the end of the presentation, we got a standing ovation– and they bought a box. 🙂
It’s amazing how many times Jobs says the same thing.
1000 songs in your pocket.
1000 songs in your pocket.
Did I mention 1000 songs in your pocket?
1000 FUCKING SONGS IN YOUR FUCKING POCKET.
The other thing that’s amazing is that our guy at Apple is basically spoon-feeding the press as he is speaking. He is saying what’s amazing about the iPod because it needs to be explained.
It needs to be explained because lots of stuff isn’t clear until you’ve thought about it a lot. But once you’ve thought about it, you’re like WOW!Â So he wants to get you to understand the wow.
By doing that, Jobs actually magnifies his presentation. I guarantee you he has 3 talking pointsÂ he wants the press to mention, and he drills down on them again and again. And again.
Did I mention 1000 songs in your pocket?
Steve is very good at telling us just how shitty all the other music player alternatives are.
$75 CD player holds one CD? 15 songs on a CD? That’s $5 per song. That’s the baseline. And then he tells us just how good it is compared to the baseline.
$5 is crazy! We do $0.25 a song. Lol.
In my presentation at Le Web, I do this over and over again. We found a gap in the market and we exploited it. Private space sucks, the only alternative is Starbucks.Â Starbucks for meetings, Starbucks for phone calls, Starbucks to relax. I said this again and again, to point out exactly what the deficiency was.
The side tip to this particular one is– only enter a market if you can DEMOLISH the competition on their offering. It’s natural.
Oh, I did say five, but I meant moreâ€¦ another thing, you need to actually be in awe of what you’ve created.
This one is actually hard. When I was presenting Breather, I knew that we were presenting something incredible– but it’s something that is only incredible in retrospect. Problem being that revolutionary, when just presented quickly, seems boring.
So, when you are presenting, you actually need to almost be likeÂ Wow, I really think this is incredible,Â and be incredibly happy and almost scared of what you are doing.
If you can do this,Â man does it ever work.Â You can hear it when Jobs does it– in his voice, in his tone, everywhere.
Oh, andÂ side note, it helps if you are an egomaniac / in love with yourself too. 😉
In everything Steve does, the reveal is at the end. The whole time, you are being told about this great thing, but you haven’t even seen it!
All of Apple’s reveals are at the end of the launch. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even care!
This also helps you focus on the product features, and until you’ve seen it, you are even more open to the suggestion that this product is spectacular.
Here is my Le Web presentation. Regardless of how you feel about my company, take a look and rate me on how well I did. Then, when you present your cool project, you’ll be able to do even better. 🙂
I studied 5 of Jobs’ presentation days before I did mine, and mimicked his style as much as I could. I think I did alright.