November 6th, 2020
Another YC interview. Another rejection.

This time it was closer, I think. Better business idea. Better team. More experience.

In terms of rejection sting:

  • First YC rejection (2017): sad for a week
  • Second YC rejection (2019): sad for a few days
  • Third YC rejection (2020): sad for a few hours

I’ll always remember this quote from a YC applicant’s experience:

I’ve seen people who grew up in privileged families became super depressed and went to see therapists after getting tiny rejections (e.g., negative comments on their projects or people didn’t reply their emails)— those people hadn’t faced any difficulties growing up, so they didn’t get enough “rejection trainings” when they were young. It’s good to be rejected again and again.

Some people are so afraid of rejection that they can’t do anything, they’re paralyzed. I know a lot of people like this.

I’ve never been the greatest at rejection, but I’m working on it. In the last year, I’ve grown a lot here.

But I need to get rejected more. Why? Because my rejection last night is now giving me fuel. 

Today, I don't feel sad. Today, I'm motivated and inspired.
November 5th, 2020
I don’t believe in stock picking, but I like to make small bets on products that I use.

Upwork, a talent/freelancing platform, is a product I use every day. It’s a great product and it’s been huge for my business.

So, I invested some money into them a few weeks back. Today, their stock popped 40%.

I’m not trying to show off that I bought at the right time, as I plan to hold this stock for a very long time, regardless of price fluctuations.

The key here is that I had a little “insider information”: that I use it and love the product! I recommend it to everyone. I even wrote about it in some blog posts. 

Feel clueless about stocks? Just look around. Invest in what you know. Invest in what you use. 

Chances are, you have better intuition about some companies than Wall St does. I bet that I know more about Upwork than the average Upwork investor.

I’m investing in them because I believe in them as a company. I have a strong intuition they will only get bigger.
November 4th, 2020
Right now, I’m working really hard on something new. I can’t talk about it until next week, but it is challenging. It’s challenging in a good way. It’s also draining. But being drained means I’m pushing myself. Even if the outcome is not what I hope for, I always come out of these things as a better human. Right now, I’m so deep into it that I can’t even find the motivation to write, or anything decent to write about. Next week, I’ll be back at it.
November 3rd, 2020
Hey, it’s election day!

I came across an article today that projected Democrats have a 75% chance of flipping the Senate.

The specifics on that article are not important. More importantly, that article is a small reminder of how brilliantly designed our democracy is.

Parties and attitudes change. Every some-odd years, the tables get turned. For some years, Democrats run things, and for some years Conservatives run things. It wouldn’t be good if either ran things for too long.

Right now Democrats are the underdogs, and it’s given them a dog in the fight. They need to win. But just a few years ago, it was Conservatives who were underdogs. Eventually, the tables will turn again, and Conservatives will need to change some things to win it back again.

It was set up this way for a reason. Checks and balances. It doesn’t allow any group to have power and influence for too long. It forces change to be slow. That’s by design.

This is especially great because a regular citizen like me doesn’t have to be worried too much about what’s going on in Washington.

It’s why I don’t follow political news much. Most of the things covered in the news are inconsequential to my life, especially the hearsay and “scandals” that pollute the conversation.

But I also think “who our President is” isn’t all that important. Why? Because I know that in 4-8 years we’ll have a new one who will be the exact opposite of Trump, balancing it all out and bringing things back to ‘normal’.

I’m able to tune 95% of it out because I know over the long term things are generally balanced.

This outlook allows me to stay focused on my own life because I trust that this system works (it’s been proven for over 200+ years).

This is actually the same way a great business is built. Build systems. Understand incentives. Delegate. Leverage. Patience. And most importantly, trust the process.

If you get stuck in the day to day, you won’t make progress or be able to scale. And it will all break down.

In other words, Democracy has systems just like businesses do. 

In America, I think the right systems are in place. It’s not perfect. But it’s working.
November 2nd, 2020
I ran into an old friend at a party a few weeks ago. I told her I started a company. She asked:

“Oh wow, how big are you guys?”

This question can be interpreted in many ways. Funding? Revenue? Impact?

But I know better. To ‘normal’ people, this question usually means: 

“How many people work at your company?”

It’s nice to tell friends that I have a few employees (so I don’t sound like a complete shlub), however “number of employees” is not something I think about.

My goal is to actually keep that number as low as possible. I have a small team and I will keep it that way.

With fewer people, you can move faster because you can all stay in sync faster. Less meetings and more actual work.

If you have a team of 10, or 20, or 100+, imagine how much more time you’d spend to make sure everyone is on the same page?

With fewer people, you spend less. When COVID hit earlier this year, I didn’t have to fire people or change the business. We were able to keep our heads down and just keep doing our work. We weathered the “March & April storm” and came out of it bigger than before.

With fewer people, you are forced to leverage technology. Tech should always be the focus of the business. We automate everything we can. We focus on user-generated content. We focus on SEO.

But you know what beats all of this? Leadership and vision. With great leadership, you can have 1 employee or 1,000 employees and both see amazing results.

Why? Because a leader learns how to grow from 1 employee to 1,000 in the best way for the company. A leader learns when to hire and when not to. A leader learns how to delegate their work and challenge & motivate their employees. A leader learns company morale.

It’s not about having a huge team, or one employee. It’s about having just the right amount.

“1 or 2 efficient people can do as much as 50 clueless people.” - Harry Dry
November 1st, 2020
I met up with a founder the other day for dinner. He doubled his business in six months.

His biggest takeaway: invest in yourself. 

  • He spends on gym, nice apartment, nice car
  • He spent $20K on an executive coach
  • He wanted a better chair for his workstation, so he bought the $800 chair

He didn't buy these things because he’s materialistic, he bought these things because spending money motivates him to make more money.

And having nice things makes him feel good, and give him the confidence to reach wild goals.
October 31st, 2020
People don’t do mean or disrespectful things because they are bad people, or have bad intentions.

They do them out of insecurity of themselves.

The man with road rage who flips you off is probably stressed about how he’s always late to things. He wants to fix his lateness in this moment, but there’s nothing he can do but get mad at you.

The Karen who needs to talk to the manager probably has a fucked up situation at home. Maybe she has no control or freedom, so she takes it out on the only thing she feels she can have control over.
October 30th, 2020
I will be buying the iPhone 12 Mini.

Nobody seems to be talking about it, but I want this one!

Why do our phones need to get bigger and bigger? 

I want a smaller phone, that does less things. I don’t want to watch movies on my phone. I just want it to text and make calls and listen to music and take some photos.

I think some people actually believe a bigger screen would allow them “to get more business done”, just like they believe having an external monitor will make them more productive.

When in reality, we get more done with less. Take Slack and email off of your phone for a week: you’ll be more productive and have far more peace of mind. Then, take Instagram, FB, LinkedIn, news apps, etc off. You'll achieve your dreams.

I’ll take a smaller phone. Less space in my pocket. 

I hope they’ll make an even smaller phone after this. Maybe other people feel this way, and the iPhone mini is a massive success? I will certainly be rocking my iPhone Mini with pride, showing everyone that less is more!


iPhone mini on the left.
October 29th, 2020
I realized that I “think” in terms of months.

Right now, I’m getting excited about November. And some changes in my life.

And then I look at December, and how that might play out with my business, and the holidays, and seeing my family.

And then January, how it will be the new year and a really big month for my business. And then February, how I will be preparing for the marathon. And then March, how I will run the marathon and be generally less busy and traveling more.

This is all subject to change, but I always have this "short term monthly plan” going on in the back of my mind.

Some people think in days, or weeks, or seasons, or years, or decades.

I’m not sure what is best. It depends on what you’re planning, and the circumstances.

For me, months feel like the “right” metric. It’s long enough to not worry about the little stuff, but short enough to be able to move fast and adapt.

Does anyone else feel like this?

October 29th, 2020
I know a lot of smart people that mistake politics for creative expression.

These people have original opinions and ideas, but they are too afraid to share them. They’re afraid of what people will say or think.

So, they put themselves behind a politician, or a party.

This immediately de-risks their statements or opinions. So they can say a lot of crazy things. They can scream and yell and feel “heard”. With no repercussions. All the blame can go to the boss (the politician).

To them, this feels like creative expression, but it is actually the opposite because it doesn’t involve thinking for yourself.

If you can’t think for yourself, you can’t create. You can’t be bold. You can’t be original.

These smart people would be much more fulfilled if they took that energy and created things. 

Created art. Created companies. Created new politicians. Created change.
October 27th, 2020
An email I got recently:

I saw that a lot of your videos were not on your Youtube channel anymore. Some of them I found really inspiring, such as one where you are in Vietnam and on your way to the co-working space and you go on a rant. There were more videos of these and maybe they are still there on youtube,  but I just didn't see them on your channel and thought this to be unfortunate.

A few months ago, I took all of my YouTube videos off my channel except one.

I was embarrassed by them. They didn’t get a lot of views and they revealed a lot of information about me.

I’ve also changed a lot since then, and don’t feel like they encompass who I am as a person. I said many things that I probably disagree with today (but this is not a good excuse to delete them).

I also filmed all of them in the span of one month, so there’s like 8-10 videos all from one month of my life. I wish I uploaded more regularly through my journey...

But mainly, I was embarrassed, especially by my IRL friends and family watching them or people finding them searching me on Google. 

I’m not sure I like the idea of vlogging and sharing my life by talking to a camera. There’s something a bit weird about it for me.

But it is nice to hear that it did inspire some people.

The only video I left on my channel is this one. I love that one because it is more timeless and feels more important than some vlogs.

I still want to do something with YouTube, but probably not vlogging. Something different. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear.
October 27th, 2020
I am signing up for the LA Marathon today. I will not let uncertainty stop me from the amazing months-long experience of training and preparing for a marathon!

I have accepted that it may be canceled, but I will not train half-heartedly, and I’m still gunning for a 3:30 marathon.

If it’s canceled, I can find a smaller market race to run.

Let's go!!
October 27th, 2020
Back in 2017, I was eager to get my first real project out into the world and I was working HARD to prepare and launch Starter Story on Product Hunt.

I was also uncreative, and a noob, and I copied the layout nearly pixel for pixel of the site that inspired Starter Story (Indie Hackers).

I posted in WIP (maker community) the night before for feedback. Pieter Levels (my idol at the time) was in the chat and he SHIT ALL OVER MY WEBSITE. “This looks like Indie Hackers clone”. I explained it was the 'e-commerce indie hackers' and he says: “Well you should have called it 'Ecommerce Story'”.

I sat there in disbelief: "Fuck, Pieter Levels, of all people, has just shit on and all over my product. I thought people were just going to critique my CSS..."

But he was right.

I then spent the next 8 hours redesigning the entire site to be original. I stayed up til 4AM that night, drinking coffee and coding furiously until I got it done.

That late-night redesign is actually still what's on the site today! I still launched on PH next day.
October 26th, 2020
Uninstalling the Instagram app does not prevent me from still using it. I'll browse the web version on my computer.

And site blockers are not sufficient in blocking time-wasting sites. I'll open them in another browser (or just turn it off).

I found a new solution, blocking websites from through my hosts file.

You can do this with some leet hacker skills (not really), here's the steps.

It's annoying and tedious to do, but that's the point. If I need to undo it, I can, but the inconvenience is enough to stop me most times.

You can also do this on your iPhone.

The sites I block
October 25th, 2020
When I left NYC in 2018, I still felt like I had “unfinished business”. I didn’t want to leave, but I needed to (to go full time on my own business).

I knew I needed to come back to NYC. I wouldn’t have been content until I did.

After this summer in NYC, I feel like I finally got that closure.

New chapter :)
October 24th, 2020
Disclosure: I am not a Trump supporter.

It's so obvious he's going to win.

Trump is holding a rally right now and people are there in the freezing cold, bundled up, and it's packed with people. Thousands of people.

100k people are concurrently watching this on YouTube, right now:

Trump Rally

Meanwhile, Joe Biden had a "drive-in" rally and it was actually crashed by Trump supporters.

Apparently, that's Biden's only public appearance. A measly drive-in rally? Trump is rallying crowds in all the swing states. Who's got more skin in the game? Why isn't Biden and that entire team out there squeezing every last drop?

Why do the Democrats have the same hubris they had in 2016? They relied on their "pre-polls" and ran some fancy models, and thought "He can't win".

But when he did, we realized it was because of so many secret Trump supporters, and all of the rallies he did. Whether you like it or not, he has a very strong grassroots movement.

So wouldn't you think we'd change our playbook after what happened in 2016? And find someone who can actually go up against Trump?

Yet, it's Joe Biden, an even more uninteresting candidate. No fresh ideas. Not exciting.

"He's the best we got" or "he's better than Trump" is what most people say. I agree with those statements, but it's not enough to win an election.

I was talking to my friend from Ukraine. He couldn't remember the name of the guy running against Trump. That's another reason Trump wins.

To beat Trump, you need to fight fire with fire, you need someone like Obama. Or Bernie. Someone with conviction and a strong message.

4 more years of this garbage.
October 24th, 2020
When the Kanye x Joe Rogan podcast came out today, before even 10 minutes into watching, I emailed / chatted the link to at least 10 people.

Additionally, I had 4-5 people text or chat ME about it.

This is the power of word of mouth, and it's how things go viral and get millions of views.

If you're in the business of creating things, really really think about that...  There are no "marketing hacks" here. To go viral, create something so great that people feel the urge to share it with one another through texts, emails, in person, etc without any hesitation.

And it also helps to be as polarizing and truthful as Kanye & Joe, that everyone feels they must watch.
October 24th, 2020
Want to reliably track key metrics for your business? Catch yourself checking analytics too often? Want your employees/co-founders to feel involved in the performance of the business?

Here’s a tactic I learned from a startup I worked at:

Create an automated daily email to yourself (and your team) which tracks how you did in the previous day (as well as MTD, YTD, etc).

This email:

  • Sends every morning (with a cron job)
  • Sends to the entire team
  • Hacks together a bunch of APIs (Google Analytics, Stripe, etc)
  • Is a constant work in progress (always adding new metrics)
  • Enables a transparent culture
  • Allows the team to see their own progress (if they work on a specific function), as well as progress of the business as a whole
  • Exposes potential bugs or if something is going wrong
  • Exposes trends in the business

How it looks: