February 24th, 2021
The core of an entrepreneur: Someone who sees hard problems not as obstacles, but as opportunities.

An entrepreneur understands there is an opportunity in hard problems because of their hardness. He/she knows most people will not try to solve them, and therefore lies the challenge, and the potential payoff.
February 24th, 2021
Currently reading: Sam Walton: Made In America

Lots to unpack from this book, but one thing that I quite like...

In the super early days of his business, out of necessity, Sam bought a small airplane and became a pilot so he could save money and get things done faster. It allowed him to go wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. 

He credits much of the success of Wal-Mart to that airplane. It allowed them to expand to multiple regions in a time before computers, as he could be in many places at once.

When COVID is over, I want to get back to traveling within the US. Even if it's going somewhere for a day, why not?
February 24th, 2021
Some motivation: Business Insider was acquired by Axel Springer for $442M on Sep 29, 2015.
February 24th, 2021
Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus recalls:

“If you ask Sam how’s business, he’s never satisfied. He says, ‘Bernie, things are really lousy. Our lines are too long at the cash registers. Our people aren’t being helpful enough. I don’t know what we’re gonna do to get them motivated.’ 

Then you ask some of these CEOs from other retail organizations who you know are on the verge of going out of business, and they brag and tell you how great everything is. Really putting on airs. Not Sam. He is down to earth and knows who he is.”
February 23rd, 2021
Getting closer to getting my investments sorted. Been doing a lot of research and learning.

This whole thing was sparked by the following:

  • I want to spend less time checking stock prices and following the markets
  • I should be more diversified
  • My time and energy is better spent on my own business
  • I’m a business builder, not an investor. Pick one...
  • I think there will be a market correction/bubble soon. I don’t want that stress. And I’m happy with the gains I’ve had.

Ideal Allocation:

Here’s the ballpark allocation I’d like to have:

  • 67% in diversified ETFs
  • 33% in individual stocks & Bitcoin
  • +6 months emergency fund

Why still invest in individual stocks? I don’t want to sell my Bitcoin and I also like the idea of keeping a smaller amount invested into a couple of companies that I really believe in. 

I just finished the Amazon book and remembered why I want to hold my Amazon stock. Or, for example, when Stripe goes public. I want to own shares of their company.

Reallocation

The first step is the reallocation of funds. I have too much money in individual equities right now, and too little in ETFs. 

BUT I don’t want to transfer it all at once. 

The best thing (mainly for my sanity) is to DCA the money from the equities to the ETFs over the next year. 

I’ve set up an automated transfer to do this monthly until the end of the year, at which point I will be “rebalanced”.

ETFs

The other big question I had was “what ETFs do I invest in?” 

I couldn’t really find a good answer to that. My whole goal is to not have to spend time researching stocks, but wouldn’t I have to spend time researching and constantly analyzing ETFs?

Through ETFs, I wanted to invest in value stocks and emerging markets.

The answer was right in front of me: use the robo advisor! I already had one set up! 

This does a good job of investing in international stocks, value stocks, bonds, etc. It’s probably not 100% optimized, but historically it’s done a pretty good job against Vanguard

It also has tax-loss harvesting, something I could not really do on my own.

Going forward

What about future investments? I like to put away money on a set schedule. Been doing that since my business has had consistent profits.

I’ll invest $X/week, with 65% going into ETFs, 25% going into individual stocks, and 10% going into Bitcoin. It’s all set up, automatic.
February 22nd, 2021
Even though I’m on a social media hiatus, I still check the price of Bitcoin and some stock prices through Google search. I can’t help myself.

This prompts some articles that appear to be “newsworthy”. 

But looking closer, they are just headlines like:

  • Bitcoin drops 10%
  • Bitcoin drops after Elon Musk comment
  • Here’s what [insert_notable_investor] has to say about Bitcoin

These are not news. Zoom out a few months, and nothing. You’d never remember it! 

Just infotainment.

Something I’ve been thinking about: intentional learning. What do I want to learn about? What do I want to consume?

Instead of being fed things by an algorithm, it’s very powerful to say “I want to learn something” and go out and learn it in a deliberate manner.

I’m afraid that most people don’t really do this anymore.

This is why I blocked cookies on youtube.com. YouTube is a wonderful resource, but its recommendation algorithm is toxic.

It only recommends you stuff to watch that are in your “comfort zone”. You watch the same stuff over and over.

Last year I followed the Astros’ cheating scandal a lot. Partly because the YouTube algorithm would continuously recommend me videos on that topic. I was addicted to the content for weeks, if not months.

And most of that content was just forgettable “news”, like the Bitcoin news I mentioned above. Just some small new detail that emerged that could be spun into a news story.

I wasted so much time on those videos.

I think it’s better to “go looking” deliberately for things. I think that might be the key to success. Because, really, that’s just being curious, and curiosity is the best predictor for success.

A business idea won’t come to you. You must go looking.

Good friends and attractive members of the opposite sex won’t magically come to you. You must go looking.

Happiness won’t come to you. You must go searching.

We are not proactive enough anymore. We all scroll mindlessly through our feeds and hope that breakthroughs will appear. But they never do. 

When, really, the most interesting and fun parts of life come when you break out of the cycle and do something new and original.
February 20th, 2021
I started my social media hiatus a few days ago, something interesting I noticed: 

In 2019, I also quit social media for a month. It was May 2019. If I think back, May was actually the most memorable month of 2019.

And by “memorable”, I mean: I can actually remember it

I remember where I was, the books I read, the places I ran, the work I did, the restaurants I ate at, etc. 

I specifically remember listening to Ray Dalio’s Principles on Audible while walking around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hanoi Vietnam. I remember the cadence and sound of Ray’s voice. I remember it so well.

If I think about other months in 2019, they’re less memorable than May. Sure, I remember things, but I couldn’t describe June, August, or September with the same detail.

It’s good to change things up in my daily life. My months should be more memorable.
February 20th, 2021
Just finished the Bezos book, love this quote:

Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, 'Good job, great quarter,” he says.

“And I'll say, 'Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.' I'm working on a quarter that'll happen in 2021 right now.”

This book is an absolute must-read. It is no frills, no bullshit. Just great insights from building Amazon for 20+ years.
February 19th, 2021
A long time ago, I used Notion, Trello, etc etc etc.

All of that is bullshit. For the last year, I've used a .md file saved on my desktop.

A shortlist of today's todos + my favorite quote about productivity.

.
February 19th, 2021
There is a web of "influencers" in your social media bubble that make you believe they are successful and you need to be like them.

I always cringe when I hear people reference them as "experts".

Many of them are invested in each other, either with actual money or just mutual support. 

Beware of trusting their retweets, endorsements, reviews & testimonials because they're often not real. Just friends helping out friends.

These people aren't very good at the thing itself (e.g. business, music, whatever your bubble is), but rather they're great at marketing themselves and are obsessed with looking good.

Those that are the best at their craft do not "tweet". Go look at Bezos account. Kendrick. Kanye. Elon. 

If they do tweet, they're not "optimized euphemisms" or clickbait. Just rather being honest and engaging with their organic audiences.

These "influencers" remind me of Instagram models. The talent they have is not modeling itself. Their talent is in optimizing the Instagram algorithm and getting quasi-status for a short amount of time, but then being quickly forgotten about.
February 19th, 2021
I deactivated my Instagram account a few days ago, and nobody has even noticed or asked me about it.

I think this is a sign that Instagram is done, and will go the way of Facebook. There's nothing really there anymore.

Twitter is probably the future.
February 18th, 2021
Today, I started listening to the book Invent & Wander by Jeff Bezos.

The book is actually just a collection of his shareholder letters from the inception of Amazon.

His letters remind me of the monthly updates I do for Starter Story.

Sometimes, I think I’ll stop doing these updates. They are a bit boring and I don’t get all that much feedback. 

But I won’t stop. This book has reminded me to keep doing them.

In Bezos’ letters, he often says things like:

  • We are still “day 1” in e-commerce
  • We are barely scratching the surface with X

I love his energy, his optimism, his conviction, and his bold ambition.

This is the energy I try to channel in my updates, too. Here’s my latest one.

I’m on a smaller stage than Amazon, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have the same energy.

What I love about Starter Story, is that similar to Amazon, the sky’s the limit. Starter Story is a brand. We can expand to new markets, mediums, etc. 

Just like Amazon. They expanded to new markets and products.


I have a new respect for Bezos. It really makes sense why Amazon is the way it is. I’ll keep studying and report back.
February 17th, 2021
I did it in 2019, and it was amazing. I said I would do it in 2020, but didn’t follow through. Now, I’ll do it again.

No social media until April 1, 2021. Then, I’ll reassess.

Rules:

  • No Twitter. Remove cookies, block on phone. Block in hosts file
  • No YouTube. Block cookies. Only for research/learning if needed.
  • No Instagram. Account deactivated. Block on phone/computer.
  • No Reddit. Other than for research.
  • No other weird stuff like LinkedIn, Clubhouse.

I will still write on this blog, hopefully more than usual :)

Inspired by this video:

February 17th, 2021
Woke up this morning to a TechCrunch article about my old hometown friend's company getting acquired.

I’m not really friends with them anymore, and this spurred some massive feeling of jealousy and envy, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I started my day.

What’s the best thing to do in this situation?

Instead of ruminating on it, just do the opposite. Reach out to them and talk to them. So that’s what I did. I sent them a DM congratulating them.

Everyone has their moment. And there's always someone doing better than you at a given time.

After sending that DM, I no longer have those feelings of jealousy.

Back to work now.
February 16th, 2021
I'm admitting it: I'm a market speculator and borderline day trader.

I spend too much time thinking about my investments in the stock market.

I worked for a company that went IPO a few years ago. This led to me owning a significant amount of stock in that company (through stock options) and seeing massive returns.

When you see massive returns like that, it’s almost euphoric. How could you sell?

Having a huge position in one company (that did very well) convinced me that maybe I had the “intuition” to be a great stock picker. Since that, I’ve invested in more individual stocks.

But WTF am I doing?? I am not a day trader. I’m doing the very thing I criticized others for, years ago.

A few years back, I was at lunch with a friend, and I asked:

“How much time do you spend looking at your Robinhood app?”

My guess? They spent a couple of hours per day. Add that up over a lifetime, and that’s YEARS of your life doing something very unproductive.

I’d also ask: 

  • “How often do you check your gains and losses?” 
  • “Does it affect your mood when it goes up / down?"
  • “Can you show me your actual gains over 3 years?”
  • “Did that beat index funds?”
  • “Do you really think you can time the market / are smarter than everyone else?”

And then I’d say things like:

  • “I’d rather work on my own business. It’s the only thing I can control”
  • “I don’t think I can (nor I want to) outsmart the markets” 
  • “The IPO? That was just luck. I’m lucky to have worked there and got that stock”

But here I am, in 2021, doing the same exact thing. I check market prices every day. I’ve become obsessed.

The problem: it has become unbelievably enticing to get into the markets. “How could you miss this opportunity?”

I think that is probably the sign of the bubble we are in. But I’m not here to speculate.

I realize that I could become "good" at investing in individual companies. But I don't want to be good at that! That's not where I want to spend my time. Because I know that I won't have the drive and motivation to be great at it.

I want to be great at being an entrepreneur. And I must sacrifice being a good "investor" for that. When I started my business a few years ago, I pledged I would do whatever I could to keep the focus on my business. Building a business that generates cash and that I one day can sell.

A couple years ago, I told myself I wouldn’t become "that guy". But here I am. The funny things is, I got here in a different way than I expected. I got lucky with that IPO, but then it crept up on me.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a lot of research on ETFs and slowly move my money over to them over the next 2 months.

I realize that I’ll likely lose out on some gains, but what I’ll gain back is my attention and my focus. I won’t check the price every hour. I’ll work more on my business. My time is worth so much more than some unrealized gains in the market.

I’ll allow for 10% of my portfolio to be in individual stocks, so I can still have a bit of fun, but won’t care much about the price. I will still own BTC.
February 15th, 2021
Life is quite boring for me every day. Sometimes I wish I had more exciting things to do.

I follow some people that seem to “do a lot”. And sometimes I FOMO about that.

Am I doing less than them? Or is that just my perspective?

I think my life is intentionally boring. I try to be a bit hard to reach. I stopped responding to every message that comes my way. I avoid doing many calls and having many meetings.

But that lifestyle leads to a lot of extra time during the day. And sometimes, that time feels wasted. 

It's a "guilt" thing for me. I feel pressure to capitalize on that time and do more things. Sometimes, I'm so pressured that I make myself busier, and then I hate how busy I am.

Being busy is scary. Busy is a trap. I see it in a lot of other people.

I need to embrace the boringness of my life more. And that's why I'm writing this.

A boring life == a consistent life.

I just need to focus on the small number of things I want to do, every day, which are: 

  • making progress on my business
  • writing
  • working out
  • spending time with family and friends, and
  • living frugally

Sometimes, I want to start a podcast, write a book, learn how to make music, start a whole new business, become a Clubhouse influencer, etc etc etc.

But those are shiny new objects. Everyone else is out there chasing the next thing. 

My whole goal is to focus on the "old things". The fundamentals. And the first principles.