Do You Want a Bigger Audience?

I recently gave a talk on audience growth, and while I don’t have all the answers, I do know a few things. I’ve learned both from my own experience and that of the people I work with (some of whom have much larger audiences than mine).

The common thread between people who hire me to do websites, consulting, buy my books, listen to my podcast, or take my courses is this: they want a bigger audience. Hell, I too wouldn’t mind a bigger audience of rat people sometimes.

First things first, this information falls entirely short if you do not start with the audience you’ve already got.

“Your current audience — the people who are already listening, buying, engaging — these should be the most important people to you.”

Your current audience — the people who are already listening, buying, engaging — these should be the most important people to you. Far above anyone you wish you were reaching. If it’s 10 people, 100 people, or even 1,000 people — if you’re not doing right by them, right now, none of this will make a lick of difference (aside: do differences lick?). Make sure you’re listening, communicating, and helping the people who are already paying attention to you.

The next thing to think about is your message.

This isn’t what you’re selling or what you’re writing about. It’s not even who you are. Your message is what you stand for. It is bigger than any single thing you do or say. It’s not some fancy content marketing strategic plan. It’s like a rallying flag that you use to direct your forward motion. It’s what makes you stand out beyond anyone else who has similar skills as yours.

“Your message is what you stand for.”

Your message helps craft what makes your unique voice cut through the noise. It’s what draws people to you (even if many other people are talking about the same topic or building similar products).

Unless your message is interesting to both you and your audience, one of you will get bored and drop off.

You may think that developing your own unique voice is easy, since, hell, it’s your voice. Sadly, this is not the case, especially in writing. Finding your voice takes work. It’s part internalization, part confidence, and part a damn lot of practice. I’m not sure developing your voice as a creator is something you can ever completely win at — you have to continually check in with yourself to see if it consistently aligns.

Your current audience, your message, and your voice are the groundwork. Next, you need to consider why audiences grow. Why do some people build sizeable groups of people who pay attention to them, and some people aren’t able to?

Growth happens when your audience shares what you do with their own audience.

Think about it. In order for your numbers to grow, people need to first hear about you. How do they do that? By listening to people they already listen to. If those people they’re already listening to mention you, you’ve got a good chance of adding them to your audience ranks.

Growth hacking isn’t always fancy tests and cool gadgets: in order for someone to want to share you with their own people, think about why you would share someone else’s work. Chances are, they said something smart, interesting, entertaining, or useful. You feel good about learning from them, you align with their message, so you want to tell others (and you do). Now you’re helping them grow their audience.

At the heart of it, audience growth requires each of the following things to be present:

  • Value: if someone is not getting value from you, they’re not going to pay attention. So value must to be present in order for your audience to grow. How do you figure out what’s valuable to your audience? You listen to them.
  • Message: what makes what you have to say unique? What do you stand for? An audience needs to react with, “Yes! This!” or there’s no hope they’ll tell their own people.
  • Consistency: want to show your audience you give a damn about them? Show up for them. Regularly. This is why I write and share every Sunday. And it’s why other creators set schedules for sharing, because if it’s not a schedule somewhere, chances are it won’t happen.
  • Generosity: trust and gratitude are built when you do something nice for someone else, with no strings attached. Do enough genuinely nice and helpful things for people, and they’ll start talking. You should want to do good things for your audience, because they are your audience.
  • Evolution: one trick ponies never see audience growth because they’re one-trick ponies. It might be exciting to watch the trick the first time, but by the 1,547th time, it’s kind of boring. Unless there’s newness, change, and exploration on your end, there’ll never be growth in your numbers. Creators can’t sit on their past work and coast for every long. Especially not online where our attention spans barely eclipse that of goldfish.

Your audience is not made up of numbers or stats or metrics.

Your audience is a group of individuals who share a common idea, value, motivation, or pain. Each one is more unique than they are similar. It’s easy to overlook the humanity when staring at numbers on a screen, but there are people on the other end of each of those numbers. People, each with their own lives, struggles, and satisfactions.

“Your audience is a group of individuals who share a common idea, value, motivation, or pain. Each one is more unique than they are similar.”

Looking merely for growth is not enough, and frankly, it’s a horrible goal. You can’t just wish it into being. You need to take lots and lots of small steps towards it: test ideas, analyze results, and adapt/change as necessary. Save the magic bullet for infomercials (they’re awful blenders at any rate).

Why do you even need growth?

When I was doing just web design, I only needed a few dozen clients a year. That was the perfect number of people paying attention for me to make a living.

For smaller products or services (like $5–10 ebooks), more are required. But, there’s also enough. Enough people where it still feels like a friendly small town and not a hostile city. Enough people where you can make a difference, and moreover, help them succeed. Because if you can help your audience truly succeed, they’ll reward you for it.

So when you’re thinking about what you can do to grow your own audience, consider these points we’ve just covered. I don’t have “5 easy tips to get the numbers you want, guaranteed,” but these ideas are worth thinking about if you want more people to pay attention to your work.

What is a 404 Page?

Okay, quick lesson. When you go to a link on the web, or visit a site on the web, you’re telling a server somewhere to send you a page. A server is basically the same thing as a site. For example, when you go to twitter.com you’re telling the Twitter server that you want to see their home page.

Every time you talk to a server, it’s called a request. The server then sends you back a page as a response. That whole system of communication is called HTTP (which is why the full URL is http://twitter.com). It’s like this:

  • You: I want the page at twitter.com
  • Twitter’s Server: OK! Got it for you.

or

  • You: I want the page at twitter.com/person-who-doesnt-exist
  • Twitter’s Server: Uhhhh, what? I don’t know who that is. Sorry there’s no page for you.

Each response is sent to you with a status code. Status codes are three numbers like 200, 404, 500, and 301. Normally you don’t see the status code, because it’s something your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer *shudder*, or whatever) hides from you.

404 — means not found. Basically, you’re looking for a page but the web application you’re talking to has no idea what you’re talking about. This is almost always what happens when you try to load some random page that doesn’t exist, like www.google.com/sdflkjasdflwjks

What are some other important status codes?

There are literally dozens of status codes, but only a handful of really important ones:

200 — means OK, you got your page and everything’s good. Like when you visit www.google.com.

301 — means permanent redirect. This happens a lot without you realizing it. For example, when you go to facebook.com, you’re actually redirected to www.facebook.com, so your first request gets a 301 response telling your browser to www.facebook.com, which then gives your browser a 200 OK Status.

401 — means unauthorized. That happens when you try to load a page that exists, but you’re not allowed to. Like if it’s an admin page that you shouldn’t be able to access.

500 — means internal server error. Basically the application itself fucked up somehow. This is usually code error somewhere. They often look the same to you as a user, but there’s a major difference from the developers perspective.

There’s tons of others, but the basic rule is:

  • 1xx means informational (I’ve never actually seen this though, so don’t worry about what it means)
  • 2xx means success
  • 3xx means redirection
  • 4xx means a browser error — like you’re trying to load a page that doesn’t exist or you shouldn’t access. Basically it’s your fault usually.
  • 5xx means a server error — like the developer fucked up somehow.

Don’t worry, you’re not expected to memorize any of them. There’s a whole list of them all and what they mean on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_status_codes) in case you’re interested. Again, don’t try to memorize them. Did all of this make sense? Ok, good. Otherwise, post a question below.

P.S. Want to see some awesome 404 pages? Here are some of our favorites:

What is your favorite 404 page? Leave an image or link down below in the comment.

What is WordPress?

Key Takeaways

WordPress makes it easy to create websites.

How easy? That depends on your skill level.

  • At its core, WordPress is really just an easy way for you to make updates to your website. You can update text and images, and create new pages without touching a line of code.
  • WordPress is actually two things: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
  • WordPress.com is for non-developers. It’s where you go to launch a cat blog or a portfolio site. You can’t do much customization over there.
  • WordPress.org is for developers. With WordPress.org, you’ll get complete customization over your site. WordPress.com is currently being used by CNN, Time, TED, and millions of other people.

Your Assignment

Decide if you want to learn WordPress.com or WordPress.org. Spend 10 minutes browsing the two sites to learn more.

If you want to learn WordPress.com, start your first site for free today by registering at WordPress.com. If you’d like to learn WordPress.org, check out the resources below.

Additional Resources to Learn WordPress Today

Digging Into WordPress is a great book for getting started with WordPress.org

WordPress Step-by-Step is a free guide for building your first WordPress.com theme. Just click on the titles to get started with each lesson. Chris Castiglione made this (that’s me).

Does Your Startup Need A Growth Hacker

Does every startup need a growth hacker?

Most startups find themselves facing the same problem: they build a product that very few people end up using.

Let’s say that your startup, Startuply has an idea for a new photo-sharing app. You assemble a team and start building it.

At first it’s awful, it’s simply embarrassing. Your team encounters bugs and it takes much longer than you expected. Finally, six months later, you have a product you’re happy releasing.

In the days leading up to your launch, you get more and more excited. You figure that your app has all the features that the mainstream photo-sharing apps are missing — the ability to edit photos on the fly, more filters, Foursquare-integration, and the ability to easily curate and share other people’s photos.

This is going to change everything.

When that day finally comes, you launch and… nothing happens.

Okay that’s a slight understatement. You get a writeup in TechCrunch and several thousand users, but most of them stop using it after a few days. Nothing like the tremendous viral growth you were anticipating.

What do you do? Do you pivot? Do you keep releasing new features? Do you experiment with other marketing channels? Try to target a different demographic?

This is the problem most startups find themselves facing. It what Paul Graham calls the “Trough of Sorrow”:

You know you need to change something, but the question is what? This is a dangerous situation. It’s dangerous because the inclination most startups have is to keep developing and shipping new features.

There’s a feeling that something is missing and once that thing is added, your users really will start to come.

Continuing to ship new features is probably the worst thing you can do at this point.

Why? Because it just compounds what the real problem was in the first place, which is that you don’t know what’s wrong. Are people not interested in your product? Is your product good, but missing an important feature? Are people just not hearing about your product? Are you targeting the wrong audience?

Most startups that fail don’t know the answer to any of these questions because they were in too much of a rush to release their product in the first place.

A proper growth hacker looks at any decision that is being considered at a company and asks the following question: How will we know if it’s working?

Of all the improvements in technology over the last few decades, I would argue that the one that has had the biggest business impact is the ability to collect data in real-time and make decisions based on that data in real-time. As Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, said at the Mashable Media Summit, people are really bad at making predictions more than a few weeks out.

The ability to get data and respond to it quickly was what revolutionized the car industry when it came to lean manufacturing, and it’s now revolutionizing are products are developed. It baffles me that most companies waste so much time and money blindly releasing new products and features. They don’t know how to measure the impact of what they’re doing and how it affects customers.

Most people want to jump right in because they assume that they’re right and that measuring is a waste of time. The problem is that there are at least a few hundred potential failure points along the way to building a successful product. Maybe users like the way your product looks, but they don’t like the signup process, or the features listed on your homepage are unconvincing.

Let’s say that, at best, the decisions you make at your startup (in both product and marketing) are right 75% of the time — trust me, that’s incredibly optimistic and you’re probably not even close. The problem is that with no feedback system in place, you don’t know which 25% is wrong. (As the old advertising saying goes “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted… I just don’t know which half.”)

Growth hacking introduces a system for measuring the effect that startup business decisions have on product usage. Growth hacker can be a position at a startup, or it can be a mindset.

I think that even if you don’t want to hire a full-time growth hacker, you’ll want to train someone at your startup on growth hacking methodologies. This could be your head of engineering or your CEO. Your growth hacker helps ensure your company is actually making progress.

At the end of the day, it’s the only way to get out of the trough of sorrow besides pure luck.

How Olivia Munn’s Apple iCloud Account Got Hacked

Recently hundreds of celebrity’s private photos (including XXX photos) were leaked on the internet by unknown attackers from Apple’s iCloud. We’re interested in understanding how this happened and how we can help prevent it in the future. What weakness in Apple’s security allowed for this attack to take place?

Here is what we know:

How can we make sure our sites are not susceptible to the same types of attack?

Strong defensive programming techniques and basic web application security knowledge would have prevented this type of attack. Let’s take a deeper look at how these “brute-force” attacks work.

So what is a brute force attack?

Most brute force attacks work by targeting a website, typically the login page, with millions of username and password combinations until a valid combination is found. The same concept can be applied to password reset secret question, promo or discount codes, or other “secret” information used to identify a user.

Let’s look at a real example to understand how this works. Getting past the login screen is often the first step to breaking into most websites. But without a username and password, how can you possibly get in?

Since a python proof of concept attack script was released on github, we can take a look through the code and get a better understanding of how this attack works. The code can be found here: https://github.com/hackappcom/ibrute

First, the code reads passwords and emails from two different files. For the type of targeted attacks that were performed against celebrities such as Olivia Munn, the attacker already knew their valid email address. Emails are loaded into a variable called “apple_ids”. Loading these values can be seen on line 79 and 83:

Next, for each apple_id (email address), the script tries each password and calls the “TryPass” method, shown below on line 98.

Take a minute to read over the following code snippet that actually sends the request:

On line 39, the target URL is constructed by placing the apple_id in the URL. Next, a user-agent header is added and a json object is constructed. Presumably this information was reverse-engineering the researchers sniffing the FindMyiPhone http traffic.

Finally, the email and password value are joined together and base64 encoded into an authorization header on line 64:

It’s interesting to note that the API is using “Basic” authentication, which has a number of known security weaknesses, including the inability to perform account lockouts.

Finally, the request is sent and based on the server response, one can tell if the email and password combination is valid. This is sent for each email address, going through each password, then moving to the next email address and repeating the process. Given a long enough password list, eventually the attacker will discover the right password.

After collecting valid passwords, the attacker was able to download the iCloud backup for the user.

Apple has since closed the security bug.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to find and fix these types of security holes in your own applications.

Have any of your accounts or websites ever been hacked? Let me know what happened in the comments below!

What are littleBits?

What are littleBits?

LittleBits are kind of like legos, but for circuits. Using littleBits, you can make a wide array of hardware projects straight out of the box. Want to connect a timer to another device (like a flashlight, a tool, a musicbox, or even a couch)? You can!

You don’t need to know how to code to get started with littleBits — all of the logic is pre-programmed.

Here are some of the things you can make:

  • A flashlight
  • A flashlight with a dimmer
  • Or even a flashlight with a dimmer and an alarm clock!
  • As you can see, you can begin to build upon each item and make more and more complex projects.

Other projects you can try with littleBits:

Where to get started:

  • Visit littleBits.cc for more information and inspiration.
  • “The bits may be little, but the possibilities are epic!”

How Bloomberg Exec Susan Kish Learned To Code

It was a normal Tuesday.

Susan Kish was sitting on the 29th floor of her building, looking over Manhattan, when she got mad. She was in a meeting with young man named Mattan Griffel (before he founded the company now called One Month), and they were talking about his experience in teaching himself how to code. He was building a class to teach other young entrepreneurs how to code, and something snapped.

“Why is it that everyone assumes young people are the only ones who want to learn to code?” she asked.

Kish is the Head of Cross Platform Initiatives at Bloomberg LP, and she manages a strategic portfolio of projects across new products, sales, finance, and media. Yet she found that she wasn’t able to have strategic conversations with the technology teams in terms of media and project scheduling. So, she challenged Mattan, our CEO, to teach her how to code.

“If you can teach me, you can teach anyone,” she explained in her 2013 TED main stage talk.

The last time she coded, however, it was in BASIC: with little green tapes, hand-held, when she was a young child. “I am the definition of a digital immigrant. I am also a mother, a super-commuter, a former banker, and an executive,” she said, “and my schedule does not allow me to sign up for biweekly classes downtown.”

So what did it take to get this busy executive to learn code?

She signed up for lessons with Mattan online, once a week. She said it was frustrating, at times — she threw her hands up in the air, sometimes stalled for a week or two.

After a few months, however, she started to get the hang of it. She learned that “coding” means having the command of at least 5 languages, no easy task. It also requires a problem-solving mentality, a keen sense of aesthetic, and a sharp eye for grammar and punctuation.

Taking coding classes improved her mental clarity, her ability to focus, and reminded her of just how precise and dedicated her technology teams are when designing new prototypes and building out projects.

She found that learning to code and the act of coding itself delivered an extreme joy of accomplishment. Coding is the future, and not learning to code was akin to taking a huge professional risk: “In the professional world of tomorrow,” she said, “you have to know two things: you have to know the basics of business, and the basics of coding. Without both, you are taking an enormous risk. And if you start with the technology side, you have a tremendous advantage.”

Learning to code helped her reboot her computer, it lets her understand the jokes and allusions in team work sessions, and she can walk into meetings with other senior execs and speak knowledgeably about timelines, costs, and prices. Knowing technology is a tremendous advantage in the business world of tomorrow, she says.

Learn the language of technology and build a better business.

We all need to learn to code. Watch her TED Talk here.

Content Marketing Isn’t The Dirty Word You Think It Is

People call me a “content marketer” often (not sure if it’s a compliment or insult), so let’s talk about how you can use the articles you write to sell the products or service you’ve got.

Too often, clients, friends, and confidants (i.e. people I talk to on Slack) tell me that they don’t have time to write articles that support their business. Then, in their next (digital) breath, they tell me how their business could be doing much better. When I mention to them that useful content could support and grow their business, and they could do a lot better if they made time for writing, they reply that they don’t have time to write.

This, my friends, is known as a total logic fail.

Let’s start with what content marketing isn’t.

It’s not simply blogging. Otherwise, there’d be thousands of teenagers on Tumblr who could put “content marketer” on their resume (although I’m sure some do, those pesky teens!). If you’re writing entirely for yourself, that’s a journal — there’s nothing wrong with that, but it won’t be effective for selling anything.

Content marketing is the intersection of where the writing you do serves the audience and you, the creator, equally.

Your audience wants value from timely, useful, and engaging information. You need your business to grow (whatever growth means to you), make money, and be continually exposed to new audiences.

With this type of writing, there’s always an intended next step. Buying something, signing up for a list, registering for a webinar, sharing something socially, ranking in a search engine for a term, etc. There’s some explicit action that happens after someone has consumed what they just read. Because they made it all the way to the end, they’re finishing reading now, and are looking for what to do next.

The reason I’m called a “content marketer” is because my weapon of choice for selling what I create is writing.

The reason I’m called a “content marketer” is because my weapon of choice for selling what I create is writing. I choose this weapon because it suits me the best, and aligns with what I like do and how I like to show up in the world.

As a writer, I know I can write. Whereas if I had to make cold calls or give speeches, I’d be a sweaty mess of “uh’s” and “hmm’s.” Writing has consistently and strategically grown my product business (books, courses, online events) to make up more than 50% of my income in less than three years.

So maybe you want to be a content marketer, too? Maybe it’s not such a dirty term after all. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not as much work as you think.

Here’s how you can maximize a small amount of time to use content to help both your audience and your business.

Start by always having a list of ideas for topics you want to write about. What do you add to this list? Questions your audience has asked you, related content to your most popular existing articles, using apps like BuzzSumo to analyze topics/competition, even articles you’ve read that you have a unique or opposite take on.

Have ready access to this list of ideas (either in a physical notebook or a text file that you can access from your computer or phone). Add to it constantly and be on the lookout for new ideas to add to the pile while reading, watching TV, scrolling on social media, walking in the park, or even eating breakfast.

Now, look at the list and pick the first idea that stands out to you. You’re going to write a content marketing article on this idea!

Write down the following items in a spreadsheet (and we’ll use this article as an example):

  1. What’s your goal in writing about this idea? Ex. “I want to teach people that content marketing is easier than they think it is.”
  2. What’s the reward your audience gets for consuming an article about this topic? Ex. “They learn how to use content marketing to drive revenue and exposure in their own businesses.”
  3. What’s the main point of the story? Is there a secondary point? Ex. “PRIMARY: Content marketing is easier than most people think it is. SECONDARY: Writing consistent content takes less time than people think, too.”
  4. What makes those points valid? Is there data, a unique personal story, research that backs it up? Ex. “50%+ of my revenue is now coming from products — all because of content marketing.”
  5. What is the result a reader would see if they, too, acted on the main point you’re making? Ex. “Better/more business if they used content marketing correctly.”
  6. What are 5–10 headlines you could use for this post? Ex. “Content marketing isn’t the dirty word you think it is” “How I use content marketing to generate more than 50% of my product business revenue” “Why content marketing can work for you, in less time than you think” “If you’re too busy for content marketing, then you’re too busy to grow your business” “Get out of your own head about content marketing — it can help drive business”
  7. What’s the next action you want a reader to take after reading the post? Ex. “NEW READERS: Sign up for my mailing list. EXISTING SUBSCRIBERS: Download the XLS worksheet and actually use it.”

Guess what? In answering those simple questions, you’re now 80% (or so) of the way finished your article. No staring at a blank screen for hours or life hacks required, just asking yourself a few simple questions for each idea you’ve got. Let’s put the answers to those questions together a little better:

  • [A6 — Pick your best headline or A/B test the strongest ones.]
  • [A2 — Use the reward your audience gets to illustrate a pain point — what happens if they haven’t taken action.]
  • [A1 — Spell out what you are illustrating.]
  • [A3 — Clearly explain your point(s).]
  • [A4 — Back the points up with data or stories.]
  • [A5 — Describe what the outcome looks like if your reader acts on this.]
  • [A1+A2 — Reiterate your goal and why your audience cares.]
  • [A7 — Give a concrete next step now that they have the information. Bonus content, buying, signing up, sharing, etc.]

Without writing the article by staring at a blank screen, you’ve just written the entire outline, now all you need to do is make the sentences flow together in your own style. If you’re just starting out with writing, remember that writing is basically a muscle — it gets stronger the more you exercise it. So don’t be discouraged if things at first are slower than you expect. You’ll get faster the more consistent you are with your writing practice.

If you’re just starting out with writing, remember that writing is basically a muscle — it gets stronger the more you exercise it.

“Now Paul,” you might be thinking, “That sounds so formulaic and boring! And not at all like the creative person you are or — more importantly — that I am!” But here’s the thing. The formula may be … well … formulaic, but the key is all in how you apply it. How you take the information and make it into a flowing story for your readers. It’s like saying, “Oh, I don’t read fiction because they’re all stories of a character who starts out, goes through some things, and ends up in a different place.” The high level stuff IS formulaic — it’s what you do, what data that makes it interesting, and what makes it you.

With a bit of practice and consistency, there’s no reason you can’t spend an hour each week writing at least one of these articles. That way, you can get your words, ideas, and brand in front of your audience on a regular basis, and the more you write, the faster and easier it becomes. There’s no excuse not to carve out a bit of time each week if you have a business.

There’s no excuse not to carve out a bit of time each week if you have a business.

One extra thing I’ve figured out by doing this for a few years is that it’s easier to write a bunch of articles at once than it is to write just one, wait a week, then write another. Once you get into the rhythm and flow after writing one, you may be able to crank out another couple right after it. This helps you stay a few weeks ahead of your publishing schedule, which leads to less stress (also known as, “Oh shit! I have to release an article tomorrow?!”)

Staying ahead of your schedule can also help you commit to only publishing your best content. The formula above doesn’t guarantee greatness, it just helps frame content quickly. So you may find that some posts just aren’t that awesome. However, if you’re head of your publishing schedule by a few weeks, you can throw the bad ones away and keep the best for sharing.

I’ve used the above ideas to sell books, drive mailing list signups, sell courses, and keep my brand top-of-mind. It works for me because I get to share in a way I feel comfortable with: writing and teaching.

Using content to engage, teach, and inform your audience is a powerful sales tool.

Using content to engage, teach, and inform your audience is a powerful sales tool. It helps define you as an expert as well as a helpful person, which leads to trust, which then leads to sales. All done in a non-slimy, non-sales-pitchy, really honest way. You help the most important people to your business (your audience), and reciprocation from them helps your business. It’s a win-win.

For those of you paying attention (which I assume is everyone who has read this far), this post was written using the formula I just outlined. I took an idea from my list of topics and went through each question, then put the answers to those questions in a order that gave me an outline. From there it took a little while longer to turn it into the article you just read.

Storytelling For Startups

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In light of our recent Storytelling for Business course announcement, this Founder Friday, I wanted to talk about storytelling for startups and how you can improve your ability to pitch your startup.

I have four basic pieces of advice:

  1. Set up a problem. Do this before you talk about your startup or what you do. Convince the listener that the problem your product is trying to solve is real and significant.
  2. Stop with the Jargon. Don’t talk about about “leveraging big data analytics and optimizing the social graph” because no one knows what that means. Really dumb down what you’re talking about to the level that a five year old could understand.
  3. Make it personal. Tap into people’s emotions by using language that relates to the five senses — show rather than tell. You ideally want to make it concrete and somehow relate to your listener. At the very least, you should be engaging your listener in a dialogue instead of just talking at them.
  4. Use common storytelling beats. Such as the 3 act structure (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax), the 5 story beats (Introduction, Incident, Stakes, Event, Resolution), or Dan Harmon’s Story Circle

Why I Do Startups (Plus Startups vs. MBAs)

Why do I do Startups?

When you’re running a startup you certainly don’t do it for the money. Paper valuations, even those worth millions, end up coming out to $0 most of the time (90% of startups fail).

And I certainly don’t do it for the stability (there is none).

So why do I do it?

It’s kind of selfish. I do it because I love what I’m doing at any given moment — all the stress, uncertainty, and anxiety around finding product market fit.

I get off on constantly having new problems to solve.

Maybe it’s because I’m trying to escape boredom. Boredom scares the shit out of me. Doing the same thing every day sounds like hell.

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.” — Thomas Carlyle

But I also think of the act of running a startup as building the life I really want to be living.

That means a life in which I’m constantly learning, facing new challenges, and then achieving and conquering those challenges. The feeling of going from being totally underwater and drowning, to occaisionally being able to come up for air, to swimming, and eventually surfing — that’s an amazing feeling and I’ve grown quite addicted to it.

The more experience you have trying new things and figuring it out, the more confidence you build in yourself and your ability to tackle bigger and greater problems.

Like in improv comedy, after you throw yourself on stage enough times without any lines, you learn to trust yourself in new and unexpected situations. There’s no way to put a value on that. It’s priceless.

It’s about trusting yourself. Knowing that you can be thrown into an uncertain situation and knowing that you’ll be alright.

Trusting that you have the ingenuity to figure it out. I believe everyone has that ingenuity but few people are willing to let themselves be scared enough to figure it out.

STRESS

People often talk about stress as something negative.

But stress can also perceived as something positive — a challenge, a new obstacle, something exciting. Weightlifters and runners talk about stress, but they perceive it differently. It’s a stress that makes you better, it’s a stress that makes you stronger.

Being at a startup is about constantly learning, and improving things like leadership, your ability working with people, and your ability to master yourself.

Developing new skills is never boring.

That’s why I do what I do.

Startups vs MBAs

Of course, some people go back to school to get an MBA. I considered it for a while.

When you get an MBA, you spend 2–3 years, pay $200k, and you get a degree. You read case studies, interview business leaders, and learn frameworks for tackling problems.

Harvard Business School relies heavily on case studies — business situations that are dissected as white papers. But these case studies are simplifications. They only show a small part of the whole picture. As Ben Horowitz would say, that’s not the hard thing about the hard thing.

If you only ever study case studies, then you’re missing out on the nuances of the situation — the people, your biases, the holistic picture — the things that are really hard that you can’t learn from a book.

To me, deciding between going to business school versus starting a business is a no-brainer. I think the best way to learn is to do something yourself. The problems you run into are the kind you never would have anticipated. The speed at which you learn those problems is so much faster.

And also you don’t end up with student loans. (Ideally, you get paid to learn.)

Plus, interestingly, entrepreneurs get paid more if they go back to the workforce (as long as they’ve been running their companies for at least 2 years). The set of experiences you get are so unique and valuable.

Starting a business is the future of education.

That’s it for today’s #FounderFriday. If you have questions, post them below or email founderfriday at onemonth.com.