July 15th, 2020
Have you ever experienced that small moment in time when everything feels perfect?

When you feel completely content with your life. When you feel that you could die right then and it would be fine. When you don’t want anything more, or anything less. Where you don’t feel lonely or anxious or self-conscious, just bliss.

It usually only lasts for a few minutes, sometimes an hour or two. Maybe after a great workout. Or after a successful business day. Or with someone you love.

Right now I’m having one of those moments. Life is good. I finished up my work for the day and walked to a small city park and read my new book.

Then I walked to the Hudson River and I’m watching the sunset. I’m just by myself, typing out this note on my phone on the Apple notes app.

My phone's in airplane mode and I’m just chilling and thinking and by myself.

These moments are quite rare for me, so I felt compelled to get it on paper as the moment is happening.

Lately, I’ve been having more of these moments. Maybe it’s because I’m finally back in New York, or because business has been good lately.

I never know how many more moments of these you’ll have. When they happen, I’d like to record them by writing them down, recording a voice memo, or talking about them with our friends and family.

.

July 14th, 2020
In every industry, there will always be “talkers”.

The people that are always talking a big game. They say things with a lot of conviction and sound really smart - and sometimes make you feel dumb.

If you ever get a chance to look under the hood, you’ll discover these people have nothing. They have no success, no money, and they’re really annoying to be around.

Their life is a constant cover-up. They can’t improve their business and/or life because all of their mental energy is spent on talking - and inflating their image.

It’s not their fault, though. When they grew up, they never got to learn the concept of hard work. They learned that they could use their words to get through most of life. They believe that how you’re perceived is more important than who you are, deep down.

For them, things “got done” because they lied and said they did, or “money was made” because they raised money from investors.

No, things only get done if you do them, and money only gets made if you sold your product to real customers with real money that is sitting in your real bank account.

If someone’s a talker, everyone around them already knows it, but they’re too scared to say it - or everyone gossips about them behind their back.

Regardless, nobody will ever trust them with their time/money/companionship - not even their closest "friends". It’s quite a sad life.

July 13th, 2020
Watch out! VCs just learned about “CoMmUnItIes”.

Example 1 & 2.

When VCs start blabbing about the “next big thing” like this, it’s a sign to run for the hills.

Chatbots, crypto, VR - they’ve all gone through this.

But this time, it’s about “communities” - which is not a new concept and there is no new technology.

We’ve been building communities for years already.

All businesses are already ‘communities’ - we just don’t call it that.

Barstool Sports? That’s a community of frat bros. Dribbble? A community for designers. Your local gym is a community for people who like to work out. Your workplace is a community. Your favorite YouTuber? That's a community.

If anyone tells you they are an “expert community builder”, also run for the hills.

Communities are not Slack groups and forums. Communities live across all platforms - Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, the mainstream media, and in real life.

Usually, the best communities are hard to define, don’t live in on any specific platform and are not owned by any corporation.

Can we stop Silicon Valley'ing the idea of community?

July 12th, 2020
Want to read more? Want to learn to code? 

Want to connect with people on a deeper level? Want to enjoy a movie?

Want to be happier? Want to be more present?

Make a plan and stick to it

Set a concrete plan to go to the library, the coffee shop, the bookstore, on a hike, on a date, play tennis, get drinks, meet with friends, and go to the park.

Stop being so wishy-washy. Stop saying “we should hang out” or “we’ll figure it out” - take the initiative and put the onus on yourself - don’t wait for someone else to make the move.

Make these plans ahead of time and only with the people you want to spend your time with. 

Stick to your plans as if your reputation depends on it.

Once you’ve made your plans, stop thinking about your other plans, or what else you might be missing out on.

While executing your plans, leave your phone at home. 

Leave it for 4 hours. Leave it for 8 hours. Leave it for the whole day.

Give the people you’re with your 100% undivided attention, even if they don’t always return the favor.

Don’t bring your phone as a ‘just in case’. What if someone needs to get a hold of me? Fuck that! Live in the present.

July 11th, 2020
Every choice in life has pros and cons.

A recent choice I’ve made is quitting alcohol.

The con of quitting alcohol? Drinking with friends is no longer fun. 

As they get drunk, they release their inhibitions and have a good time. I don’t - I just stay in my normal state. 

The music gets turned up loud, conversations become less intelligible, and the party starts. And I just feel awkward as fuck - although I know it’s all in my head.

It sucks because I feel that I can’t "party" anymore.

The pros?

After I stopped drinking, I noticed just how much drinking depleted my energy, even hours or days after the act.

If I had a drink over lunch, I would feel tired for the rest of the afternoon.

Quitting alcohol has given me superhuman energy levels. Often, it feels like too much energy. 

Lately, I’ve been working out twice a day. I’m never tired.

The other main benefit? Less anxiety.

For me, drinking was a bandaid for my anxiety. Two drinks will bring it down from a 6/10 to a 2/10. But the hangover will bring it back to an 8/10.

Lately, my anxiety levels have been a 3/10, when they’re usually a 6/10.

Most people don’t think they have an alcohol problem - but sometimes our problems are just not noticeable because they have become so normal in our lives.

This is why I think it’s important to rip things out of our own lives like alcohol, caffeine, meat, food, nicotine, sex, material possessions, social media, our phones, the news, politics, etc.

It is what gives us a new perspective and makes us better humans. It is the spice of life.

July 10th, 2020
(this is an excerpt from my YC application last year)

Q: Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to work for Kanye West on a contract basis.

I'm a huge Kanye fan - so how could I turn down that opportunity?

I drove to his secret location to work with him and his team. I had expectations that it would be this life-changing experience, working with insanely talented A-players.

When I got there, I realized that it was just like any other company I've worked at before: poor communication, gossip, people complaining about their bosses, turnover, etc - there was nothing magical or special there.

This reminded me that my only path to fulfillment is by creating my own shit. I will never be happy working for someone else or following someone else's dream, even if that person happens to be the greatest artist of our generation.

I will never work for Kanye. I will collaborate with Kanye. Those are two very different ways of looking at life.

Kanye did not become Kanye by working for someone else. He created his own shit!

July 9th, 2020
I haven’t had much to write about over the last few days.

But I’d just like to say that instant coffee is really great.

You can buy a big jar that makes 200+ cups.

It’s really cheap and there’s no cleanup.

You don’t need a coffee maker, espresso machine, or french press, just hot water!

It’s also made of 100% pure coffee, no additives!

It’s not as good as drip coffee or a latte, but I don’t mind.



July 8th, 2020
Google Analytics is an amazing tool.

Right now I'm testing a scrolling progress bar feature.

I wanted to be able to see the effect on users who spend at least 10 seconds on my site.

This is where segments come in.

To create a segment, go to Admin > Segments > Create A Segment:

Create a segment


Now, you can toggle this segment on any reports you're looking at:

Now, you can add the segment up at the top


Now, I can filter out most of the users that bounced immediately and see how the A/B test is doing.

A/B test

July 7th, 2020
Employees work eight hours per day, five days per week.

Why? Because it’s the norm.

Does it make any sense? Not really.

Are 8 hours too much? Probably.

Are you a really efficient employee? It doesn’t matter. You still have to log on at 9 am and log off at 6 pm, every day of the week.

Whose fault is this? Your coworkers.

The other employees at your company are actually stealing your time - every day.

They slacked off, drank at the watercooler, gossiped, created stupid meetings, and called in sick.

All of this wasted time is what led to the 8-hour workday - it’s already built-in!

At its core, a business does not trust its employees. That’s why businesses mandate this across-the-board work schedule.

Everyone comes in at 9 and usually leaves around 6.”

Instead of rewarding great employees with time & freedom, businesses reward great employees with money. Why? Because (1) it’s a much simpler system and (2) employees value money greater than time.

When you start your own business, you don’t always get to reward yourself with money, but you’ll always get to reward yourself with time.

Time is infinitely more valuable than money, and it took me until I was 25 to figure that out.

I believe that all people should (at least once) experience what it's like to not have a 9 to 5 job.

It's not for everyone, but for some people, it's everything. For me it was.

July 6th, 2020
If you ever visit New York City, try to find Matthew Silver

Matthew typically wears a leotard and/or a diaper, has a giant beard, and entertains people by making farting noises with his mouth.

If you were in a rush to the subway, you might think he’s just some crazy homeless dude on PCP.

But if you looked closer, you'd realize he’s doing an act, and trying to change the world with peace, love, and humor.

This 5-minute video is worth a watch.

To some, Matthew is a crazy person. To me, he’s an artist.

Matthew Silver


July 5th, 2020
Fresh off of my think week, this June 2020 was the first full month of focus on Starter Story in a long time.

If you didn’t get a chance to read last month’s update, it’s important. (I didn’t send my monthly update last month because of the protests and craziness going on at the time)

But the tl;dr is that I’ll be moving most of my focus back to Starter Story.

Throughout June it’s become even more clear that this is the right move. 

The premium membership is performing very well. We did $8K+ gross revenue in June - that’s a 50% increase over May’s $5.4K, which was a 70% increase over April.

The growth here is promising but also shows why it’s so important to focus on just one thing - channeling all our energy purely into Starter Story is producing results. 

It also shows how much potential Starter Story has, and how under-monetized it is.

The main contributors to this growth? (1) more, diverse content (2) aggressive A/B testing (3) a metered paywall (4) switching to annual-only memberships and (5) taking advantage of email marketing automation (shoutout Klaviyo).

As far as content, we tested out a bunch of things with the ultimate goal of figuring out what our users want.

One experiment was to test if our readers want more “industry trends” (inspiration from Trends and trends.vc). We ran some experiments with content like this but it performed very poorly.

What worked? Our business ideas database - which further confirms our hypothesis that people want help finding a business idea.

To learn more about our users, we’ve started doing 1 on 1 video calls with them. We’ve been learning more about what our users are working on and where they’re struggling.

We also spent more time building out the backend CMS of Starter Story. It’s pretty damn cool what we’re building - as it allows us to take advantage of our growing database of case studies, tools, etc. 

Ultimately, this will allow us to be able to scale content in a way that other blogs cannot - because of the amount of data we collect on everything.

We also tested a new style of newsletter which is more long-form and opinionated. It is performing well so far.

Lastly, we spent much of June thinking about how we can approach decisions and ideas more experimentally - mostly building MVPs of new features and A/B testing everything - I wrote a bit about it here

June Numbers

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $11,921 (+30%)
- Traffic: 85k unique users (-4%)
- Content published: +109 (+17%)
- New email subscribers (net): +2,469 (+41.57%)
- Email collection rate: 3.4%

Plan for July

Our main focus for July is (1) more scalable content and (2) more optimization.

Our goal is to publish 150 pieces of content and roll out 2 new “types” of content as experiments.

We’ll also be building out a scalable system for our step-by-step “how-to” guides, as we believe there is a huge gap in this kind of content online.

This next month we will add time on site and pages per session as key metrics going forward - we want to keep people on the site longer. We will build and test features and optimize for that as we go.

A couple of other smaller things:

  • Test out selling a course for a fixed price
  • Run an ongoing survey with readers
  • Try out some social media ads

Goals for July

  1. Pieces of content published: 150
  2. Email collection rate: 5%
  3. Subscription impressions: 10%
  4. New customers: 2.5% (as % of subscription impressions)
  5. Time On Site: 3:00
  6. Average Pages Per Session: 2.2

July 4th, 2020
I wish I was more impulsive.

I think too much before I act - and I always regret it, after the fact.

Today, I met a girl with friends and we hung out for a while. At the end of the night, I didn’t ask for her number. I think I overheard she had a boyfriend and then I got in my own head.

What would it matter if I just asked? She would have just said she had a boyfriend and I would have gotten my answer. Instead, I was all in my head about it.

Moving back to NYC and being in more social situations has led to many little situations like this - where I got in my own head and then kicked myself for it later.

That's the bigger issue - me not being present. I’m working really hard on that.

July 3rd, 2020
I did the math… I’m now generating more revenue with my own business than I did as a software engineer.

It’s a nice milestone, but it doesn’t mean anything.

Making $1,000/month with your own business is more valuable than $5,000/month with a salaried job.

The difference with building your own business is that you’re building something that you can sell at the end.

If you build a business that profits $100k per year, you keep that money and you get to sell the business for an extra $1M.

As an employee, you get nothing at the end.

The other difference is that a business has unlimited growth potential

While you might make $50k/year in Year 1, what’s to say you won’t be making $100k in Year 2? And $200k in Year 3? And $400k in Year 5? $1M in Year 6?

As a salaried employee, you’re probably limited to about $250k/year.

Most salaried employees can’t even comprehend the idea of making $1M+/year because it can only be attained from many years of building businesses, and failing (a lot). 

That’s the difference between entrepreneurs and employees. It’s a complete change in mindset.

July 2nd, 2020
Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, called himself “uncancelable” in some recent news.

I don’t know what he said or did, and I don’t care to learn.

Regardless of his words/actions, he is right about one thing: You can’t cancel Dave Portnoy.

Why? Because he is an owner. He owns a media company. And an owner cannot be canceled because they cannot be fired.

Kanye West cannot be fired. Elon Musk cannot be fired. Mark Zuckerberg cannot be fired. Donald Trump cannot be fired. Dave Portnoy cannot be fired.

And therefore, they cannot be (successfully) canceled from our society.

I don’t always condone their words or actions, but I’ll always have a level of respect for people that are uncancelable.

Why? Because being uncancelable is actually what we all want - to be free, to be our own boss. It’s the American dream.

July 1st, 2020
Earlier this month, I read my first physical book in nearly 10 years.

Since then, I’ve been reading a lot more.

The books I read this month:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This is a classic and considered one of the best novels of all time. This was my favorite book of the month and favorite book in recent memory.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

I watched a great YouTube video about books. One of the messages from that video was that it doesn’t really matter what you read, but that you’re reading something. So I went to the book store and picked a random one off the shelf. Great book.

Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib

One thing that’s cool about reading more books is that you start noticing books everywhere. I found this book deep in some Reddit comments about A Tribe Called Quest. It was an awesome book and also helped me gain some new perspective on what it’s like to be black in America.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

An absolute classic must-read. It’s about a journey a man goes on to find truth. The main theme I got from the book is that wisdom can only come from the self and through our own experience. And how important it is to be present with nature.

June 30th, 2020
Everyone experiences anxiety differently.

For some people, it’s a general feeling of fear, your heart beating fast, or trouble breathing.

For me, it’s a very specific feeling.

What usually happens is time slows down a bit and my senses are crazily heightened.

It feels like my mind has turned into a video game that just had a major hit in frame rate.

My thoughts become less smooth and more choppy.

Another way I can sense a panic attack coming on is the heightened senses. For example, regular sounds around me will be clanky and jarring. The sun will be extra shiny. I’ll be extra hot.

And when I swallow, I can feel the saliva going down my throat. It’s super weird. 

For me, my panic attacks almost only happen in social situations - like at dinner with friends, in a meeting, telling a story, etc.

It never happens when I’m alone.

I think this is because if I’m in a social situation, I know that I have no way of getting out of it - I can’t just get up and leave, take a walk, or close my eyes.

In these social situations, it becomes a game of hiding my anxiety. But this usually makes it worse.

One way I’ve gotten around this is to just start talking. If I’m at dinner and feel a panic attack coming on, I’ll just start talking and ask someone a question to get my mind off of it..

Another tactic is to excuse myself and go to the bathroom. In these moments, I’m so deep in my own head that I have to lie about something as silly as going to the bathroom. (Nobody even notices)

This tactic usually never works though.

Another tactic is drinking alcohol. This is more of a gradual tactic, but it works pretty well. About two or three drinks and I can get myself back to normal.

But on the other hand, hangovers are also a trigger for panic attacks.

This is actually a big reason people become alcoholics.

Often we think of alcoholism as people that just want to get fucked up, but in reality, it’s people that have so much anxiety when they’re sober.

When I think about it this way, it makes me really sad, because that’s such a tough way to live life.

If you’re having a panic attack, one of the best things you can do is just own it. Just tell people how you’re feeling, and that you need to step outside or take a walk. 

Once you own up to it and admit it, you’re no longer only in your own head, which makes everything much better.

June 29th, 2020
Lately, I’ve been experimenting and learning about AB testing!

In this post, I’ll walk through how simple it is to do AB testing with Google Analytics and a bit of custom code. I'll show you an example of a successful AB test and some things I learned.

I don’t use Google Optimize, Mixpanel, etc as I found them to be way too clunky and hard to figure out.

The original feature

The AB test here has to do with email collection.

Here’s the original feature, or the "A" in the AB test:


The new thing we want to try

Instead of just asking to join the newsletter, I wanted to test out a "content upgrade" where the user can get access to 1,000+ business ideas:

The new test, or bucket B

These changes were made to a few other pages/places, as well as some UI changes, which you can see here.

Getting set up with Google Analytics

The key here is to use Google Analytics' custom dimensions.

Go to Admin -> Custom Dimensions and create a dimension for every AB test you want to try:

Admin -> Custom Dimensions

Server-side code

For every request made to our server, I run a simple method that puts the user into the random AB test bucket.

Only two buckets for this ab test: 'control' (A) and 'upsell_widget' (B)

Pick a random bucket and assign a cookie (as long as it's not already there)

Client-side code

Now, on the client-side, you need to send this data over to Google Analytics for every pageview or event.

Keep in mind, you must send the mapping as well as the values. Took me forever to figure this out.

For me, it looks like something like this this:

Submitting pageview data to Google Analytics (this is for 5 different AB tests)

The last thing is to change your code based on the test that each user is in. This is as simple as looking at what cookie they have:

This is pseudocode

And that’s it!

Now, set an event in your calendar to review the results a few weeks later.


The Results

Now, let’s dive into the results of the AB test.

In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels.

Right above the grid, look for the dropdown of Secondary Dimension, and search for your AB test:


Now, you can see how your AB test performs and cut this data however you’d like.

For this AB test, I'll use Google Analytics goals because I'm tracking email collection conversion rate, but you might be testing something else such as time on site, pageviews, etc.

Since the AB test is a custom dimension inside GA, you can do pretty much anything!


I added all of these up inside Google Sheets and here are the results:

Bucket B wins!

Bucket B in the AB test wins!

Then I plugged this into Neil Patel’s AB test calculator, it shows we are statistically significant.


And that’s it!

Now that it’s confirmed to be statistically significant, I’ll remove the old code and think of the next AB test to run!

Thanks for reading!


June 28th, 2020
I’m back in New York City, for a good while.

I left NYC in October 2018 when I quit my job and went full time on my own business.

I didn’t leave New York because I didn’t like it - I left because I couldn’t afford it while starting a new business.

But I told myself I’d be able to come back here when I hit $10k/month in revenue, and here I am.

I love cities like New York because it feels like you don’t know anyone, and nobody knows you.

Every day, I feel like I can start something new, be somebody new, and do anything I want - and nobody would care.

Part of the reason I love that is because I grew up in a small town - where everybody is in each other’s business. I can’t stand that.

There’s a certain independence in living in NYC. It’s the best.

June 27th, 2020
My friend showed me HEY email today.

I’ve been following the hype and have huge respect for the Basecamp guys, but I still have no interest in the app.

No ‘app’ will fix email.

Email can only be “fixed” in the mind of the user. 

That's actually why HEY is doing so well - they’re helping people think differently about email, which may, at one point, help them 'fix' their inboxes.

But as I recently wrote, productivity apps have lost their luster.

I ‘fixed’ email a long time ago. The fix: doing 10x less of it.

Most problems can be solved by simply eliminating what is causing the problem in the first place.

In fact, these problems exist because we, at one point, made some sort of choice (or series of choices) that led to this problem.

If we just undo those choices, we solve the problem!

But instead, we try to solve our problems with Bandaid solutions

Using HEY won’t fix the core issues of your inbox, it’ll just put a bandaid over it.

This goes for many other things in life.

Problem: We’re unhappy in our jobs. 
Bandaid solution: Indulge when we’re not working, live for the weekend. 
Real solution: Quit that job, find something you love.

Problem: Unhealthy/overweight. 
Bandaid solution: Fancy diet, expensive gym, diet pills, etc. 
Real solution: Stop eating unhealthy forever. 

Problem: Boredom.
Bandaid solution: Netflix.
Real solution: Do something with your life.

June 26th, 2020
People are born a certain way.

Privileged people go to college and become intellectuals and eventually get the blue check marks next to their usernames.

Unprivileged people become working-class simpletons - they work in factories and McDonald's.

These simpletons could become intellectuals, but what's the point?

Society has a plan for all of us, and it's better to just follow that.

Society and economics are super predictable at this point - we know what will happen if we don't have a lockdown, or if the president passes the PurpleParty's bill - did you read what the experts are saying?

The PurpleParty are literally the worst humans on the planet - how can they be so stupid!?

Did you hear what George Stanton, leader of the PurpleParty, said in that interview?

If we keep allowing everyone to speak their mind, it will lead us to war and disease.

It's so obvious that we need to follow exactly what the experts are saying - how can the PurpleParty be so out of line?

I don't know about you, but I don't to want bring to my children into this world.

There's too much that could go wrong for children these days. Our society is too fucked up.

Growing up is also a bit pointless because kids can learn everything they need through the Internet and YouTube.

I think you can learn everything you need to know by age 12. YouTube is so much more efficient than the current schooling system.

It's ridiculous that we spend so much money on a college education - when you can learn most of it on YouTube.

Soon, we'll be able to download curriculums, knowledge bases, and logic frameworks directly into the brain.

Seems like there's not much of a point of having kids anyways, right? It's an incredibly unproductive thing, having and raising kids. Technology will solve that soon.

What's the point of marriage, too? Nobody gets married anymore.

Instagram gives me access to everyone in the world. I haven't met up with anyone in a few months, though, because I haven't really felt a connection with anyone when I do.

If I can't feel a connection with anyone after two dates, I don't think I'll find someone to spend the rest of my life with.

I have been DMing with Amy Halster though for a couple months, have you seen her page?

Her page makes it look like she's always traveling, but she actually posts all of these from home.

Why do people love to travel so much anyways?

I've found that everyone talks about how great a place like London is, but when I got there I found it's just the same as anywhere else.

What I found more fun was actually booking my travel and telling people I was going/went there, and to get the photo at one of those bright red telephone booths.

By the way, what do you think of this caption for that photo? I need to post this soon.

Did you see that guy on Joe Rogan yesterday?

That dude was crazy. I honestly can't believe he lives his life like that - he is going to die. I could never do that.

I followed him on Instagram, though, and have been watching his stories ever since. I can't stop watching.

But anyway, can you believe what George Stanton said?

He's been canceled by pretty much everyone now - what an idiot.

You shouldn't offend people like that. I know he probably had good intentions, but the way he said it was wrong.

He made them feel uncomfortable, and feeling uncomfortable is the scariest thing ever.

I hate that feeling.

--

This essay is my 2020 translation of Aldous Huxley's 1931 book Brave New World - a novel about a dystopian, futuristic society where people are born out of test tubes and into specific societal classes.

People of a lower class have no ambition to become smarter, because their brains have been trained to not want anything better. Ignorance is bliss.

People don't grow up, and have their brains trained through sleep hypnosis by an early age.

Society has trained people's brains to love spending money on travel, but to not actual enjoy the act itself.

There is no intimacy, as everyone belongs to each other. There is no love, no marriage, and people don't have kids (because test tubes are more efficient).

People are obsessed with the "outcasts" of society, but mainly for entertainment purposes and to demonstrate their own status.

Whenever people feel discomfort or stress or abnormality, they chant truisms in their head. If that put them at ease, they take prescription drugs that are doled out by the government.

These are not my own thoughts.