August 15th, 2020
Going on offense is so much better than defense.

Reach out more than you get reached to.

Make more plans with people than people make plans with you.

Ask people on dates more than you get asked.

Write more than you read.

Create more than you consume.

August 14th, 2020
Stop looking at the weather forecast.

Instead, make plans regardless of the weather. 

It’s better to make a plan, with an option to change it later, than to not make a plan at all.

And it’s even better to just do that thing in the rain and lightning and hail and snow.

The same goes for starting a business / getting in shape / following your dreams. The forecast often looks gloomy. Not gloomy in terms of rain clouds in the sky, but gloomy with your excuses and insecurities.

Don’t let the weatherman live in your head, fuck that guy.

August 13th, 2020
Missed a day of writing, supporting one of my favorite artists Louis Metric by buying some of his merch.

If you haven't checked out his music, you should, it's amazing.

Louis Metric


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August 12th, 2020
It took me 1.5 months, but I finally finished my long-ass book.

To be honest, the book wasn't all that great. I had higher expectations for it, and I kept thinking it was going to get better. It never really did.

Before this book, I was reading a ton and getting very excited about books. This definitely slowed me down.

I'm mostly glad that I finished it though. One of the harder things I've done in recent memory.

Ok, back to shorter books again for a while.

August 11th, 2020
We underestimate how much people do things for social media.

I remember a few years ago there was a girl that I really liked. We went on a couple of dates and followed each other on Instagram. To be honest, I probably liked her a lot more than she liked me (in hindsight).

I remember that I wanted to signal to her that I was cool and interesting, and what better way to do that than with Instagram Stories, amirite?

During this time that we were talking, anytime that I did something cool, I made sure to post it on my Instagram Story. And sometimes, I even went out of my way to do extra cool shit just so I could get it on the ‘Gram.

After posting, I secretly hoped she would watch, and send me a message. I would also often check the list of people who “viewed” my story feed to see if she had seen it or not.

This lasted for weeks, if not months. It was one of those relationships that fizzled out, but I probably wanted it more than she did, so I was still flexing on the 'Gram even after it was clearly over.

It’s so weird to admit this in writing, and it’s so cringy that I did this! But I did. And I think about this often.

While I took things to the extreme, this first-hand experience changed how I think about social media for the better.

Before this, when anything cool/funny/crazy happened in my life, my first reaction was to document it, in hopes of getting validation from others.

That is the opposite of being present, the opposite of living in the moment.

Since then, I’ve gotten better at identifying my “urge to post” and push those feelings away. It has helped me understand when I’m doing something for someone else or if I’m doing it for myself.

Nowadays, I don't even have Instagram on my phone, and haven't posted an Instagram story in months. But if I think back to the last one I posted, yep, it was because I wanted to show off ;)

99% of social media is actually just somebody trying to flex on somebody else.

Next time you go to post on social media, just think for a bit about why you’re posting it. Are you being actually genuine? Who do you want to see it?

August 10th, 2020
On most days, I experience a small moment of “awe” thinking about just how much opportunity there is to build a business on the internet.

I’ve been working on businesses for almost five years now, and as each day goes by, that moment of awe gets bigger and bigger.

2020 is only the beginning. We are barely scratching the surface.

All you need to do is pick a topic, hopefully something you’re passionate about, and get to work.

At first, you might feel like “everything has been done”. You google your idea and realize that 10 other companies are already doing it.

But you must look closer. Go deeper!

Within one idea, there are 100s of approaches, and 100s niches, and 100s of countries and languages. And within one idea, there are 100 more different ideas that branch off of it. 

If you look at it this way, there are literally thousands of opportunities that can stem from one idea.

Even if your exact idea has already been done before, chances are it has been done very poorly. You just need to look under the covers. Then you can make something better simply by caring.

This little internet community of makers is so small. Smaller than we think. It is going to explode. This is just the beginning.

As each day goes by, I get more and more excited that I’ll be along for the ride.

August 9th, 2020
I don’t care who to vote for. I don’t care about being current on the news. I don’t care what city I live in, or the car I drive, or having nice clothes, or what food I’m eating. 

I don’t care about impressing others. I don’t care about hiding my flaws. I don’t care about being right.

But there are two things I really do care about.

These things are:

  1. What I work on
  2. My family / friends / future wife

To me, these things are 100x more important than anything else.

Just as they are important, they are 100x harder to get right.

I care so much about these things that I’m constantly suffering over them. They occupy my mind so much that I can’t care about anything else.

I’ve spent 29 years figuring out what to work on, and I imagine I’ll think about this for the rest of my life. I switched careers 5 times, did a coding boot camp, started 5+ businesses - all to better understand what I should be working on.

Most people don’t like their career or what they work on. But they stay because of convenience. To me, that is unacceptable.

The other equally important thing in my life is who I spend time with. And even moreso, who I’ll spend the rest of my life with. It’s why I’m still single at 29.

Most people settle in unhealthy relationships. They stay because of convenience. To me, again, that is unacceptable.

I’m willing to suffer for the rest of my life in hopes of getting these things right.

(These are just the things I care about, of course it's different for everyone. Shoutout Harry Dry for the inspiration.)

August 8th, 2020
me: “Why is only 10 people on my website right now?? Did google just de-index me from search results? I'm screwed!”

also me: “Oh, it’s Saturday night, right...”

August 7th, 2020
I want to live my life with more intention.

I try to make plans with people ahead of time, like playing tennis on Monday morning or planning a dinner on Wednesday evening.

Having a plan is awesome. It builds structure around your day and your life.

Sometimes, I don't want to do things with other people, and when that happens, I'll set aside time to do things with myself, like writing, or reading a book, or watching a movie.

But even with these solitary activities, I try to do them with intention. I set a plan to write for 2 hours, undistracted. Or I turn my phone off and watch a movie I've been meaning to watch.

The same goes for work. If I plan properly and work with intention, I can do the same work in half the time. So I can have a four-hour workday, instead of the usual 8 hours.

The opposite of this is being a reactive person. Letting other people make the plans, going with the flow, and not being present.

August 6th, 2020
Happiness happens after being present. Being present happens after taking action.

Taking action can be as simple as choosing to read a book for an hour, or meeting with a friend for coffee, or coding a new feature.

The key is that these actions are proactive, not passive.

Passive actions, like watching TV or scrolling Instagram, will not put you in the present, and therefore will not lead to feeling happy.

I try to follow this four-step process:

  1. Take action
  2. Be in the present
  3. Experience happiness
  4. Acknowledge this feeling and repeat Step 1

August 5th, 2020
Hypothesis

Showing the reader their progress in a table of contents on the right side of the article will increase time on site and decrease bounce rate.

Why do this? Because search engines care about dwell time. The more I can keep visitors on the page, the better.

Here's a GIF of what it looks like in action.

Since this table of contents only appears on desktop screens, I'll create a custom report in GA that cuts the data by the AB test, and also filters the results down to Device=Desktop:

Side note: Anybody have any idea how I can make a table of contents also work on mobile?

Google Analytics Custom Reporting


Once, I'm in the report, I'll put another dimension in called "Landing Page" because I want to look at the metrics at the page level and for users that landed on that page (usually from Google Search).

How to drill down to specific landing page.


Results

The table of contents performed significantly better than the control group in terms of time on site.

For this test I ran two control groups, control and control2, so only 33% of users saw the table of contents.

It's so obviously better that I don't even need to plug the data into an AB test calculator.

Here are the results for three popular pages on Starter Story:

2x time on site, more pages, lower bounce rate

1.5x time on site, no change in pages or bounce rate

4-5x increase in time on site, more pages, better bounce rate


As a whole, it also increased the likelihood to subscribe to the Starter Story email list, which was an unexpected benefit:

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August 4th, 2020
July 2020 was an all-time record month for revenue and content published. It was also a record for organic traffic. It was our second-best month of all time in terms of traffic and new email subscribers.

While June focused more on experimentation and change in vision, July was all about putting our heads down and working on these new ideas.

Over the weekend, a couple of friends asked me “so what’s the plan for Starter Story?”. It’s an interesting question because it kind of implies that what we’re doing now is not sustainable. Although the business model is unique, Starter Story is very sustainable and actually prime for a lot more growth. 

The “plan” for Starter Story is to keep building a media company. We will be Forbes meets Crunchbase, but niched down to small and online businesses.

We will be taking most of our profits and investing in this growth, mainly growth in content. There is still so much opportunity in growing our web traffic. We just had our best month of all time in organic traffic, and this was from some minimal SEO efforts. I believe we are just scratching the surface here.

Our advantage here is this custom CMS that we are building behind the scenes. It will allow us to scale content, and retain a very valuable database of case studies, businesses, business ideas, and thousands of more data points about starting a business. Think Crunchbase meets Forbes, for small and online businesses.

Gross bookings for the premium subscription hit $14K this month (not accrual), an all-time high and an 80% increase month over month!

We landed our first “enterprise” deal, an online school that was interested in a bulk subscription package for their students.

We are continuing to build out more diverse content types like business names posts, business ideas inspiration roundups, and more how-to guides.

Our new long-form style of the weekly newsletter is performing very well, driving 2-3x more clicks than the old ones, and also driving revenue for the business.

Last month, we tried some changes to the site to see if they would increase time on site and other metrics (one example). The results were not great. The learning here is that great, targeted content is the ultimate factor in user experience and retention.

Finally, we are lucky to have Klaviyo on as our sponsor for another year! This added investment will allow us to keep our focus on growth, just like we’ve done over the last 2 years. 

July Numbers

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $12,367 (+4%)
- Traffic: 101k unique users (+19%)
- Content published: +116 (+6%)
- New email subscribers (net): +1,940 (-21%)
- Email collection rate: 3.12% (-8%)
- Avg time on site: 98 seconds (+2%)
- Avg pages per session: 1.75 (-5%)

Plans for August

August will be all about producing, scaling, and outsourcing new great content:

  • Produce 200 pieces of content in August
  • Hire new writers and content managers to enable more content.
  • Continue building out features of custom CMS to enable faster content production.
  • Add and curate more data points on businesses, business ideas, etc. Improve data scraping and automation features.
  • Training/outsourcing of how-to guides posts.
  • Training/outsourcing of business names posts, including business name generator widget and features.
  • Training/outsourcing of business ideas/roundup posts.
  • Increase outreach for new interviews.
  • Roll out new location-based roundup posts (best business ideas in Nashville, TN)
  • Roll out new content around creating an LLC, business plan, etc

August 3rd, 2020
In 2004, I got my first Apple product, a Mac Mini loaded with the industry-changing Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

When I turned on the computer, I fell in love.

I spent hours toggling every setting in System Preferences because I wanted to see and know EVERYTHING that I could do with it.

I became an Apple fanboy overnight. My Safari home page was set to apple.com. I watched all the product keynotes. I even worked at the Apple store.

Life was Apple, and Apple was life.

I was obsessed.

My obsession with Apple is not unique - my three decades on earth have been filled with hundreds of obsessions.

The word "obsession" may have a negative connotation, but I do not see it that way. For me, obsession is a very strong dose of curiosity and passion.

When I think back on these obsessions, I do not cringe. I'm actually nostalgic. I was living life to the fullest. I was learning, I was present, I was passionate, and I was doing exactly what the fuck I wanted to.

You might also be the type of person that obsesses over things. Maybe this doesn't sound all that crazy to you.

We are not crazy, but we're also not normal. Most people don't obsess over things to the level that we do.

Think hard about the people around you, your coworkers, friends, and your family. Sure, everybody has things that they enjoy, but are they crossing that line into obsession?

Many people say they love Kanye's music, but do they know every lyric from every song on every album? As well as the story and media behind how those songs came to be? I do.

You're not passionate about half the shit that you into.

- Earl Sweatshirt

Our affinity to obsess over things is not a learned skill. It is something we are born with. It is a gift (if you want to look at it that way).

The term "obsessed" has many negative connotations, for good reason. It can interfere with our mental health, as well as our relationships. Watch out for that.

But, how much would life suck if we didn't get obsessed? Life would be so dull.

Most great creatives, entrepreneurs, and leaders are obsessive.

As we get older, we can learn to channel these obsessions away from outside things (such as artists, brands & politics) and into becoming obsessed with our own creations.

Obsession is part of our default settings, we shouldn't ever fight it.

July 28th, 2020
Two years ago, right after I quit my full-time job, I discovered that a popular podcast was using Starter Story for leads.

I wouldn't usually have a problem with this, but this podcast was not interviewing founders - it just had a narrator who would tell stories about businesses.

An employee of this podcast company was reaching out to people I interviewed and told them they would just take the content from their Starter Story interview and repurpose it.

When I heard this, I was livid.

I sent them a super nasty email, and I included the both the founder and that employee on the email.

Have you ever heard of a nastygram? This was a nastygram. I was rude, aggressive, and mean.

I think about this often, and the more time goes on, the more I realize how out of line I was.

While the employee of this company probably was not going about things in the best way, they definitely didn't have malicious intentions towards me or my business.

That mean note I sent may have caused that employee to have a really bad day, or a bad week - maybe they even feared losing their job or something. It is unacceptable to ever make anyone feel that way.

I really regret how I acted. Being angry at other people/businesses is not worth it - running a business is already hard enough.

Today, I'm apologizing.

I think it's important to right our wrongs. I have experienced the other side of this, where someone apologized to me years later. When they did this, all my hatred for them vanished, and I still think of them fondly.

.

July 27th, 2020
Do you have friends?

If the answer is yes, then you are an interesting person.

Your friends want to be around you because you add some sort of value to their lives.

The same goes for being a mentor at work, a teacher, a manager, a father, and an employee. You add value.

If you want, you can also add that same value to the rest of the world.

You can blog, make videos, write books, make music, write code, make art, and so much more.

You will become rich and famous simply by being interesting, at scale.

And more importantly, you will have an impact on the world and inspire others, all it takes is being yourself.

The hardest part is channeling your true interestingness. 

It’s so hard to not focus on how everyone else is more interesting than you - but that's all in your head.

That is one of my own biggest challenges - to kill the stupid voice in my head worrying that I’m not interesting enough.

July 26th, 2020

If you want to become an accountant, you need to go to university for at least 5 years.

This is wrong because the classroom doesn’t give students an accurate picture of what it’s like to really be an accountant.

Once these students get into the real world, they might actually hate everything about being an accountant.

This is actually the case for me - I majored in accounting. It was one of the most sought-after majors at my school, and I bought into all of the hype on campus. I worked my ass off to get good grades. Once I got a job offer from a top firm, I had visions of working there for 12+ years and becoming partner.

But that all changed on my first day on the job in 2013. It was blatantly obvious that accounting wasn’t the right career for me - I knew it right away.

I felt like I had been bait-and-switched. My professors and the recruiters painted a much different picture of what it was like to be an accountant...

At that point, I had to dig myself out. I had to move quickly. I didn’t know what my next career would be, but I knew I needed to move in a new direction.

After that fateful day in 2013, I started a series of pivots. Not startup pivots, but career pivots.

It took me 11 months just to get out of that first crappy job, and I found a job at a startup. At that startup, I learned how databases are structured and how to build apps with that startup’s no-code solution.

After 1.5 years there, I enrolled in a coding boot camp. After that, I became a software engineer. After 2 years of writing code at multiple companies, I finally started my own business.

During these 5+ years of pivoting, I wasn’t concerned with my title, my pay, or working at a name-brand company. I was focused on finding work that I truly enjoyed.

In 2017, I finally find something that I truly loved, building products and online businesses.

I think we should treat our careers as a series of pivots. 

For your career, what you study in college is the equivalent of spending 4 years building a product, never talking to customers, and never launching. Until you get into the real world, you'll have no idea if it actually works.

My dad studied marine biology in college. He runs hotels now. 

My mom studied journalism. She is now a therapist.

Advice

If you’re currently enrolled in school, try to get real-world experience as soon as possible. 

Think hard about what you really want to do in life, not what your parents or your professors want you to do.

Get advice and feedback from people outside the field, and avoid advice from people that are trying to hire you - they will always lie about what the job is actually like.

For anyone who hates their current career: do something. Don’t quit your job just because you hate it. Find a way to take your knowledge and apply it to something else, start a side project, or find a company that is a better culture fit for you.

July 25th, 2020
I’ve changed my mindset about COVID.

I’m no longer concerned about when it will end.

There will be no “end” to coronavirus. There will be a vaccine and things will get better, but much of our world will change going forward.

I’m not here to argue what will change specifically, but I am here to argue that change is and has always been inevitable.

Everything changes everywhere all the time, before and after COVID.

I was chatting with someone last night, and they said something along the lines of:

“It’s been really hard here lately for me. I can’t do X and I really miss doing Y. I’m so excited for coronavirus to be over so I can get back to my normal life”.

How long are you willing to wait for things to be like they used to be? 6 months? 2 years? Your whole life?

You might be waiting for your whole life.

In hip hop culture, there is a stereotypical character called the “old head”.

The old head reminisces on the days of 2Pac. When they hear the new music that’s popular, they will always compare it to the “good old days”, and they usually hate all new music for that reason.

These people live in the past.

What if we could accept that new and old music are the product of the change in our world, and that’s a good thing?

We put off accepting change because we are all very reactive. We say: “I’ll start my diet on Monday”.

I’m trying to be more proactive instead of reactive. Changing my life and my business today, instead of sitting around and waiting for it all to become “normal” again.

I don't wait for the world. The world waits for me.

July 24th, 2020
95% of people create nothing and have tons of opinions.

5% of people create everything and have very few opinions.

Why?

As a creator, I believe my impact comes from what I create, not from what I say.

I only believe this because I’ve been conditioned to - my creations have brought me money, status, respect, and personal fulfillment. What I create has an impact.

My opinions have brought me nothing more than agreement or argument.

Want to be really persuasive? Make cool shit.

July 23rd, 2020
Hypothesis:

Showing testimonials from users at checkout will increase conversion rate.

Here's the difference:


Results:

  • No testimonials: 0.875% conversion rate
  • With testimonials: 0.995% conversion rate

Statistical significance?

The test is not statistically significant, but it does perform better, and I think the testimonials are better anyways. The testimonials themselves need some work so that may improve things a bit.

July 23rd, 2020
I’m going to start tweeting again.

I will try to care less about the performance of my tweets.

I won’t tweet euphemisms, hot takes, or the outrage du jour.

I will share the real things I’m learning in business and in life - just like I used to.

Go against the grain.

Everyone is unique and interesting and has important things to say - the hardest part is getting the confidence to actually say it (& keeping that confidence).

We are all learning so much every day. Share it with the world - stop keeping it all bottled up!!

(see you on Twitter)