January 12th, 2021
I spent this morning writing down some thoughts on focus. This is just a 2-minute read. Hope you like it, and feedback appreciated.

In my opinion, focus is the single most important aspect of starting and growing a business. 

This goes for all companies, at all stages. It doesn’t matter if I’m one guy with a laptop in a coffee shop, or I’m running Apple… Being focused is still priority #1.

What do I mean by focus?

Focus means: Thinking about and executing on “one thing” only. 

During our best working hours, we should spend 90% of your mental and physical energy on this “one thing”.

If we have 10 different “one things”, then we’re not focused. It doesn’t mean we won’t be successful, but it does mean we can’t reach our full potential.

Why it’s so hard to focus on one thing

Focusing on one thing is the exact opposite advice we hear from everyone around you.

Everyone has new ideas and priorities for us: Friends, investors, books you read... they will all say:

“Try this thing. Do that thing. Hire this person. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

As a leader pushing a company forward, our objective is to politely disregard 95% of this. In one ear, and out the other.

But this is way easier said than done. Take it from the creators of the 3rd most valuable company in the world:


Our insane focus might look bad to others

When we have “a lot of things on your plate” or “a lot of priorities”, you appear busy, high level, and important. 

And most people (incorrectly) associate being busy and high level with being successful.

Therefore, our insane focus might actually look “bad” on the surface, especially to employees, investors, and customers.

This can lead to criticism. I believe this is why so many leaders lack focus:


Premature De-focusing

I believe many founders “de-focus” too early.

Often, we’ll reach some goal, and once it’s “conquered”, we’ll move on to the next thing, or the next priority.

But this is where we need to stop and think: 

“Can I go deeper? Can I focus more?”

We might actually just be scratching the surface of what’s possible.

Harry Dry, the creator of Marketing Examples, is a great example of this:

Harry’s only priority: write amazing content. Once he reached 10K subscribers, he didn’t stop or move on to different priorities, like a YouTube channel, hiring people, etc. 

He just focused harder, and deeper. He kept writing more, and better.

Now, he’s well on his way to 100K subscribers, and one day, 1M subscribers.

Successful vs. really successful

The most interesting part of all of this:

Being unfocused won’t lead to failure, it will just lead to less success with more work.

According to Warren Buffett, it’s the difference between successful and really successful:


January 11th, 2021
In 3 minutes, I’ll explain how all good businesses use urgency to drive a lot of sales.

What I mean by urgency:

Urgency means influencing people into buying something now, rather than later.

I think it might be the least talked about, yet most-effective marketing concept I can think of.

I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot over the past year... and I’ve been trying different things at Starter Story (and seeing great results).

Since internalizing this concept, I’ve also noticed how pretty much every good company does it, too. I’ll be showing a few examples below.

The Breakdown: (tl;dr)

(1) People will buy more of your stuff if it’s “scarce”
(2) All companies do this, to some degree (it must be Marketing 101, but I never took that class)
(3) It’s very easy to implement for your business

What you need

(1) An incentive (discount, upsell, future price increase), and
(2) An expiration date (today, tomorrow, this month)

Why does this work?

Human psychology. People prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains, otherwise called loss aversion.

So, in other words, your offer makes the buyer feel like they are losing money if they don’t take it. Crazy, huh?

This is why every company does Black Friday deals

Black Friday is the penultimate example of this tactic.

Black Friday has a limited time offer: 1 day only. If you buy no

(1) The incentive: Discounts on gifts that you were already going to buy anyway.
(2) The expiration date: 24 hours

And the last reason BF works so well is because of supply scarcity. If you don’t buy RIGHT NOW, the items will sell out.

But it’s not just Black Friday

Marketers can and will make up anything they want:

(1) October 13th - National No Bra Day
(2) September 29th - National Coffee Day
(3) August 26th - National Dog Day (Barkbox):

And it doesn’t really matter WHEN you run it

Most smark marketing teams are running the same deal, all year long.

For example, The New York Times runs “limited time offers” on an ongoing basis.

Every time you visit their site, they have a “new” limited-time offer. While in reality, it’s always the same offer:




Urgency: Supply scarcity marketing

This also works well when you promote the scarcity of your supply of the product.

In other words, stating you have a limited quantity. And this is simple economics. The lower the supply, the higher the demand.

It is not relegated to physical products. This is done perfectly by @stephsmithio, who artificially limits the supply of her digital book:


Urgency: Using it with an upsell

This isn’t only for discounts. It can also work for an upsell.

This is what James Clear does for all new subscribers on his email list:

Instead of offering a discount, he sells his normal thing but gives the buyer an incentive to buy it now:

(1) Buy my book today and prove that you did
(2) If you do, you’ll get this extra thing that costs nothing to send you




This is age-old marketing advice

This “tactic” of driving urgency is not new, or revolutionary advice. You probably already know this.

However, what I love about this “tactic” is that it’s stood the test of time.

1888:

“Believed to be the first coupon ever, this ticket for a free glass of Coca-Cola was first distributed to help promote the drink.”

Just a few years later, Coca-Cola was sold and consumed in every territory of the United States


January 10th, 2021
One of my goals for 2021 is to get better at keeping receipts and tracking business expenses.

I wanted to find a better way to “automate” saving receipts. I started building something in Zapier for this:


Anytime I have a receipt, I email it as an attachment to this email address:


I set up a filter in Gmail to automatically skip the inbox if it’s coming TO this email:


The Zapier logic is set up to look under the Receipts folder for any emails WITH an attachment. If it finds one, it uploads it automatically to Google Drive:



After it uploads to Google drive, it also updates inside my expenses tracking spreadsheet with a link directly to the Google drive file. 

That way, I can easily attribute it to the expense from my credit card.



Picture Receipts

When I take a photo on my iPhone of a paper receipt, I can simply email it to that same email address, and it will also upload to the Google Drive.

Non-attachment receipts?

If you ever get an email with the receipt in the body of the email? Simply forward it to [email protected]. They’ll convert the email to a PDF and send it back to you, for free. I set up another filter to handle that:


January 9th, 2021
Harry Dry told me I should focus more on the newsletter for Starter Story. As it’s nearing 50K subscribers, it may be the most valuable thing I have.

I think he’s right, but now I need to figure out the "right" way to focus on the newsletter, what’s going to be on it, and what the vision for it is.

That’s why I’m writing this right now.

The hardest part about any newsletter is the insane amount of work that it takes to make it really, really great. It’s easy to slip into making it “just OK” over time.

A newsletter takes work, every week. So what I want to figure out is: How I can sustainably create a great newsletter…?

And I think the answer is to start leveraging my writing here on my daily blog. I already write every day.

But that also means the Starter Story newsletter would be more about “me”. That is a good and a bad thing.

Good, because it would be higher quality and more thoughtful.

Bad, because it ties the Starter Story brand to me. It maybe becomes a more personal brand. 

But over the last few months, I’ve become less afraid of that. I see lots of people doing really well with their personal brands, i.e. Joe Rogan, MrBeast, Anthony Pomp, etc.

I think the only thing I can do is test stuff out over the next few weeks. This week, I tried the first "different newsletter" and it did pretty well.


We generated $1,600 in memberships from that newsletter. That alone gives me the motivation to keep working harder on the newsletter, and it justifies the work.

If you have any ideas, let me know.

I also think it’s interesting to have a "style" of the newsletter. Like, James Clear has the "321 Newsletter", which is actually quite simple.

The lesson there is that longer is not better.

I also am going to look a bit deeper into Pomp’s newsletter. What I think is interesting about Pomp is that he writes every day, kind of like me, but then shares it with a paid audience. Once a week, he does a free one.

The biggest question, for me, is how can I really enjoy doing the Starter Story newsletter? That is what is the most important piece to growth and monetization in the long run.

I think that also means the content will change. I will probably lose some subscribers. But that’s all part of figuring things out.
January 8th, 2021
I got an email from a reader a few months ago. They had just quit their job and were about to start a coding bootcamp to learn to code.

I also did a coding bootcamp, years ago, and it is what set me off in this journey. 

I wished him good luck, and asked him to keep me updated.

A couple weeks later, he told me this:

As for the coding bootcamp, they kicked me out after I failed a test by one point on the theory of coding and took the 800euros admission fee I paid. I really liked that week of coding, so I am now pursuing that journey by myself.

When I saw this, my heart dropped. 

I remember how stressful those tests were. I almost failed them, too. I always wondered what I would have done if I got kicked out. Would I have given up? Gone back to corporate?

But then, he said this:

It will be more difficult and take more time, but I am determined to become a developer, get a dev job, and let my side business become my main business.

When I read this, I knew he would be successful.

It is this kind of determination that makes for a successful entrepreneur: Thriving with their back against the wall. Always finding a solution. Optimistic. Never backing down. And never taking no for an answer.

I just got an update from him today:

One final update since I got released from the bootcamp. I started my job search on the first of December and after approximately 180 applications and a handful of meetings, I received my contract last week Friday. Will be starting as a frontend developer on the fourth of January in the new year.
 
In that first week in October I also read Can’t hurt me by David Goggins and have been running more than 100km every month, since I see it more as a mental exercise than a physical one.
 
Nobody can hurt me or stop me! I am happy but also aware that this is just the first step in a new journey.
January 8th, 2021
This is an email response I wrote for someone who was in a similar situation as me last year, and wanted some advice.

Appreciate you reaching out. Man, I got so much to say about this...

I think the biggest learning for me was that I really only wanted SaaS because it's "SaaS". SaaS, in my head, seemed "better" than other businesses and business models because that's what the startup media had made me think.

But it's actually not "better". What's better is what's better for you. And by you, I mean bootstrapped founder. And by you, what unique qualities about YOU can you take advantage of to build the best business for YOU.

For me, that makes more sense. I'm not cut out to build a B2B SaaS app. I suck at sales, my code is sloppy, I'm too focused on features, and I think like a nerdy engineer... Starter Story is the way better business for ME because I can have way more fun, have a bit of sloppy code, and I don't have to do any sales or support.

There are lots of interesting business models that aren't SaaS. Like, for example, The New York Times. That's a media business that sells a subscription. They make money on ads + subscription. There's a lot of hype about building a media business and I have really bought into that hype train.

Everything is changing, too. Online communities, selling courses, all that's becoming way more mainstream (and more valuable) and I see so many people making 1M/year+ or even more NOT doing a SaaS.

So, I think there is HUGE opportunity for something like [REDACTED]. Because the market is quite big. Just some things that come to mind: [REDACTED] or like this [REDACTED].

I don't know too much about [REDACTED] but it sounds like you landed on something big!

If you enjoyed working on it, I'd explore more and at least try some more stuff. When I did that at Starter Story, I uncovered so much more.
January 7th, 2021
(1) All great businesses start from some embarrassingly simple idea
(2) Many startups fail because they compare their tiny idea to “big business”
(3) Great entrepreneurs gain confidence in being embarrassed

Avoid comparison, ignore big business!

When starting out, we often compare our tiny idea to big, established businesses. We go to their websites and assume we have to do all of the things they’re doing today.

This prevents so many people from even getting started, out of fear and paralysis. 

It stopped me from getting started for years. Why? Because I assumed I had to be an expert in design, coding, marketing, sales, etc etc to even get started.

But this is (obviously) wrong. 

You don’t need a fancy website. You don’t need an LLC. You don’t need to be able to code.

In fact, it’s actually better to ignore all of that when starting out. 

Bottom line: Avoid comparing yourself to businesses that have been established for years.

That’s why we focus on covering very young businesses at Starter Story. Here’s a link to all case studies that (1) have started in the last 2 years and (2) have over $50K in monthly revenue.

Imagine telling your family your new startup rents out air mattresses

You may have heard of Airbnb. Their original idea? To rent out air mattresses to sleep on...

They knew their idea was crazy/embarrassing and they were OK with that. In their first 6 months of starting the business, they often made less than $200/week.

Instead of comparing themselves to multi-million dollar hotel brands, they were over the moon to be making a few hundred bucks with a silly idea. Here’s their original landing page.

Imagine starting something today and making a few hundred bucks? Does that sound reasonable?

More “embarrassing” ideas

Many of the world’s biggest businesses can be traced back to an embarrassing idea:

  • Nike started as a reseller of non-Nike shoes (when running was what weirdos did).
  • Under Armour started by selling undershirts from the back of his car (sketchy)
  • Starter Story started by me calling founders and asking about their business (my friends asked me “how is this a business?”)
  • Whole Foods started as a health-conscious supermarket (very uncool in 1980): 


On confidence, and being like a kid

Think of that little enterprising kid who lives next door, he/she’s always starting new (and tiny) businesses.

Maybe today, he’s starting a business walking people’s dogs.

He doesn’t get embarrassed about his idea, he just walks over to his neighbor’s house, knocks on the door, and asks to walk their dog. And then he makes money.

“But walking dogs is not a real business!”

It actually is, especially in the pandemic:

  • Donald’s dog walking side hustle makes $5K/month
  • Melody’s dog walking business makes $54K/month.
  • My mom pays $200/week to have someone walk her dog...

Still not big enough? Rover makes $100M/year, and how did they get their start? They started in dog parks.

A better word for “embarrassing” is “simple”

Our ideas only seem embarrassing because they are so simple. 

Your family and friends likely won’t get it, because they are mostly exposed to “big business” - and big business feels complicated. And they associate complicated with successful.

So in their heads, your tiny little idea is a bit embarrassing because it doesn’t seem complicated enough…

But you know, everything grows from a simple idea.

Simple is special. Tiny is terrific.
January 6th, 2021
This is an internal planning document for marketing we wrote up at Starter Story. I figured some of you might find it interesting?

What is this?

This is an email campaign which is used by the New York Times, that we will try on Starter Story. They send simple update reminders weekly to nudge users into purchasing their subscriptions.

Goal

  • To increase awareness about our paid subscription: Often, users don’t even know we have a paid subscription. Even if they don’t convert here, we are letting them know, and they may buy in a future time.
  • Hard sell: Let’s stop beating around the bush. We should be upfront with customers
  • Setting constraints: To compel users into buying “right now”, to take advantage of a limited time offer.

Design

  • Rough draft of the design.
  • Here it is in Canva
  • Still needs a bit of work/cleanup
  • Still needs update to copy, and more images of faces, + perfect alignment of faces


Klaviyo

Here is the template in Klaviyo. I did a test send to myself and it seems like the images are not hidden.

Links

  • “Proceed to checkout” should go straight to checkout page for regular premium, with promo applied
  • “View offer” should go straight to checkout page for premium plus, with promo applied


Copy

  • Ditch the 9-5 grind.
  • Start your dream business today.
  • Let’s start a million-dollar business.
  • Find your next idea.
  • Learn from the best.
  • Become your own boss.

Subject lines

From: Pat @ Starter Story
Subject: “Ends [soon/today/tomorrow]: $1.71 a week. [Headline].


Flow

We should start these after the final email of the nurturing sequence . We can run as 50/50 AB test against the lifetime membership offer.

We can send each one of these every 7 days, and make sure it is a weekday.

We should stop sending these if the user didn’t open any emails in the last 14 days.


Fine Print

...
January 5th, 2021
This blog post is a work in progress.

Ok, so I have an idea. And since I can’t implement it all myself, it will be best to write about it to get my thoughts on paper since I will be having someone help me with this...

I think it would be cool if we built a Starter Story Contributor program. The goal of this program is not to have guest-written articles, but to have “contributors” out in the field helping us find more businesses to cover.

One of our team members, David, lives in Spain and has been working with me for years now. One thing I noticed is he helped us find and interview many brands from Spain. Even though Spain is half the size of Germany, we have 3x the amount of interviews of brands from Spain.

My theory is that David was a bit of an “evangelist” for Starter Story. I know that he works with a lot of startups in Spain and is well-established in the startup community.

If we can have more people “in the field” in different countries and communities, we could (1) expand brand recognition/traffic (2) interview more businesses & grow our datasets (3) see trending business ideas FIRST and (4) reach new international audiences.

This reminds me a bit of the Forbes Contributor network, which has been a huge driver for them.

As always, interviewing more people is a virtuous loop for Starter Story. We publish their interview, and it benefits us. It also benefits the business with recognition and press, and they share it on socials and tell their friends.

So whenever we publish an interview, we are opening more opportunities for more interviews in the future. If we can do this at scale, we grow all of the business, including traffic, memberships, and brand.

Why I think this works fundamentally (what are the incentives?)

Businesses want press, especially new businesses that are having a hard time getting press. At Starter Story we’ve built a model that can cover any business, even small side projects. I’ve always said that every business has a story to tell, and there is always something interesting, deep down.

For our contributors, having connections at Starter Story is an asset. If our contributor is speaking to a business owner, they can say “Hey, we can get you a nice press piece for your business, and it’s free”.

Once the article is published, we can link to that contributor’s LinkedIn, socials, etc. This helps build the contributor’s brand, and also incentivizes them to get us more interviews. For each interview they do, they’ll have their name, link (for backlinks) and photo slapped on there.

How to find contributors?

The first place we can start is on our mailing list. I’m sure there are some people that would like to help. We can send an email blast about the program.

The next place is Twitter.

The next place is on the website directly. We could have a CTA on each article to get some people interested.

The other thing we could do is go directly to startup networks. Coworking spaces, startup incubators, etc. The benefit for them is to help their companies, and also to incentivize other startups to join their programs.

Compensation?

We could incentivize people and pay them on a per-interview basis,  but I’m not convinced we need to do this. We do all the heavy lifting for the interviews...

If you're reading this and have some ideas/input, I'd love to hear.
January 4th, 2021
December 2020:

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $46.1K (+78%)
- Traffic: 640K visitors (+22%)
- Content published: +277 (+21%)
- New email subscribers (net): +7.1K (+31%)
- Email collection rate: 2.4% (+4%)

Instead of writing about December specifically, I spent a lot of time summing up 2020 in my year-end review.

In that post, I really dig into why Starter Story has grown in the way it has... I hope you find it useful!
January 3rd, 2021
I haven't written in a few days as it's the new year / holidays, so I'm donating a bulk amount to the Movember foundation.

Back to writing today!

December 30th, 2020
2020 marks the third year since quitting my full-time job, and with tradition, I’m doing a year-end blog post (2018, 2019).

It’s always mindblowing to look back at just 12 months and see how fast things changed. 2020 is no different, and it’s arguably my most life-changing year.

As far as the business, Starter Story grew to $30K/month in revenue and 500k monthly visitors.

But more impactful than the growth in my business was the growth in myself. I grew a lot as a person. 

Here’s the real story: The growth in my business is actually the result of the growth in myself. 

My biggest learning in 2020? That I am my own greatest obstacle.

In 2020, I experienced real burnout for the first time. And through that experience, I learned a lot about myself and made some hard decisions, which ultimately led to my business growing 200%.

Here’s the story:

January


I burst into 2020 with an intense drive and motivation to make two different businesses successful: 


I was living at home with my mom (yes, at 29) to save on expenses. 

I told myself I could make both businesses successful through (1) laser focus and (2) hard work. I was confident I could balance both of them as a solo founder.

Started writing daily


In 2020, I also started a daily writing habit.

Every morning, or night, I’d set aside a few minutes (or sometimes hours) to write something.

My goal? To get way better at writing.

My rule? To write and publish something on my blog every single day. 

If I miss a day? I have to donate $20.

Turns out, this daily writing habit would help me grow in ways that I never imagined, but we’ll get into that later :)

COVID-19


In March, COVID-19 happened.

In a matter of days, my investment portfolio halved, traffic dipped 40% for Starter Story, and dozens of customers cancelled their Pigeon accounts. 

It was a very scary time for me. There were many days with no new customers and no new sales…

I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the news. I knew something had to change:

On March 19th, I wrote this:

"Stop being fearful. You need to go all in. You don't want to look back at this and wish you did this or that. Just take what you were doing before - and go even harder. Stay focused, energetic, passionate - and avoid the news."

Figuring I would be quarantined for the next couple of months, I put my head down and got to work.

I worked nonstop on my businesses and adapted them quickly to COVID. Stuck inside all day, I worked 12 hour days and every single weekend for two months straight.

Burnout


But the hardcore hustle mindset couldn’t last forever...

In May, I hit a breaking point.

The truth is… I was working myself to the bone, but my businesses were just “staying afloat”. They weren’t growing or dying, just on the long, slow ramp of death.

And this is when the burnout started.

How did it feel?

I had so many projects and tasks I knew I should do, but at the same time, I felt unmotivated to start any of them.

On my blog, I wrote:

“I’m in this really weird spot right now. I don’t feel very motivated about work. Nothing feels “important” to work on. I don’t feel like tweeting or writing. I don’t want to read any books…”

The problem with burnout is that it’s hard to identify right in the moment. At the time, I just felt unmotivated and apathetic. It lasted for weeks (longer than usual). 

I started to look for solutions. I heard about Bill Gates’ Think Weeks. I asked my other entrepreneur friends for ideas. Harry Dry suggested I take some time off.

So I did.

The Think Week


I got in my car, in the middle of the pandemic, and just started driving. 

I had no destination. 

My goal? To drive until I felt re-energized and ready to go back to work.

As I drove across deserted highways, I just sat there, thinking, for hours. 

How could I fix it? 

My first solution: “I’ll just work harder.”

But that didn’t feel like enough. I kept driving.

As days passed, I kept driving and thinking and driving and thinking...

And it finally hit me:

“I’m neglecting the biggest business opportunity of my life: Starter Story!”

Starter Story could be huge if I gave it the time it deserved. 

I realized Starter Story is actually the far better business opportunity, for me. It’s way better suited to my skills.

I wouldn’t be successful if I kept splitting my time between two different businesses.

Pigeon was my “ego business”, the one that I wanted to work out so badly. The business that could get me into YC. The business that was “cooler”. It was always my dream to build a successful B2B SaaS.

But Pigeon was actually a really hard business to make work, as a solo founder. So much support. So many features. So much competition. So much churn.

The writing was always on the wall, but I just pushed through because I thought I could make it work through sheer willpower.

But that was my ego, clouding my judgment and preventing me from thinking rationally.

It seems so obvious in hindsight, but it was the Think Week that helped me take a step back, and reflect.

I ended up driving 3,000+ miles across 10 days, across the western side of the United States, through Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.


I’m not sure I would have come to this conclusion without it. At the end of my Think Week, I wrote:

“These 10 days off were the best thing I could have done, and I’m so happy I did it - it gave me time to think, reflect, and recharge.

Summer & A New Agenda


Fully recharged, I got straight to work. Motivated as hell. 

My sister lost her job in the pandemic, so I brought her on full time to help at Starter Story.

We put our heads down and went full time on Starter Story, making some big changes and improvements fast: 


These were all things I wanted to do before, but never found the time. I was too busy balancing multiple projects.

$10K/Month


And this new focus? It paid off, fast!

That same month, we hit $10k/month.

This is the power of working on just one thing. Channeling all of my energy into Starter Story produced results immediately.

I was in awe of how one small change in my mindset could change everything so much!

And this was the moment where Starter Story really started taking off.


I can't thank my sister enough + the rest of the Starter Story team for how much impact they had on Starter Story's growth this year. It was your advice and ideas that truly grew the business. I just had to listen.

New York City


If you don’t mind, I’ll take a bit of a detour into my personal life, but I assure you this ties back to the business.

In summer, it was time to go back to NYC. 

I still feel like I had something to finish there, as I left abruptly in 2018 when I quit my full-time job.

Unfortunately, this was in the middle of the pandemic, and everyone told me I was crazy to move there, as the city was hit so hard with COVID...

This might sound crazy, but NYC turned out to be the best place for a pandemic:

All restaurants moved into the streets like you’d see in some European city. There were no tourists. Everyone who didn’t want to be there, left. There were no packed bars or clubs.

And because NYC has great transit and is so walkable, so many people spent time outside, at parks, running, etc.

I spent 4-6 hours outside every day, walking and running along the west side Highway, reading books, going to coffee shops, writing, etc.

I spent more time active and outside than any summer of my life. Funny how that works with COVID, right?

I also learned how to play tennis. I discovered a small tennis community at some public courts and ended up playing every single day for 3 months straight, sometimes even twice a day.

Best. Summer. Ever.


I met a girl


Around this time, I met my (now) girlfriend Kristen.

We’d actually met a year before, we crossed paths while traveling, in Vietnam, but the timing was off.

She lives in Florida, and that is why I moved to Florida! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s right.

Typically I don’t blog much about romance, but I do have something meaningful to say:

I spent most of my life waiting for “the one”, the perfect person.

But my friend Pieter Levels told me this a few months ago: 

"There is no 'one'. A great relationship is really about compatibility and communication. Finding someone that you can chill with, have a great conversation with for hours, and someone who believes in you."

It’s the same in business and other parts of life. You can sit back and wait and hope for that perfect opportunity, but it will likely never be perfect enough. 

The perfect opportunity is actually right in front of us. We just need to open our eyes.

There is no 'one'. The only way to find 'the one' is to cultivate it yourself. That means we have to be proactive, commit to something, and work on it every day. And that has nothing to do with them, only with you!

That’s what makes a great relationship.


I Am My Own Greatest Obstacle


What I realized in 2020 is that I am my own greatest obstacle.

All my problems in business? They tie back to me.

My own ego was blocking my success. I wanted a SaaS to work so bad, and that was clouding my judgement. I couldn’t face the truth. And I was afraid to fail.

In other words, I was lying to myself. I imagine other founders have gone through this, too, which is why I’m writing about it.

How to solve it? 

The first (and the hardest) step, for me, was simply identifying the problem.

What worked for me in 2020? Writing every day.

Writing is how I identify my fears, ego, insecurities, etc. Writing is how I solve problems, business and personal. Writing is what drove me to doing the think week. 

Writing is how I solved my problems this year. Writing is how I grew as a person. And Starter Story grew as a direct result of writing every day.

Writing doesn’t have to be the answer, though. The key point is that writing helped me go internal, to look inside, and understand myself better.

Meditation, journaling, therapy, fitness, personal improvement, quality time spent with family & friends. I think these are actually the solutions to most of our problems.

I think that’s the silver lining of COVID: forced isolation helped me become more introspective, which led to serious personal growth.

And personal growth led to business growth. After the Think Week, Starter Story grew faster than I ever imagined.

By November, traffic was up to 500k/month and revenue $25k/month.

And even with Starter Story growing healthily, I was able to work so much less. I was able to focus on my personal life, on my physical and mental health, and spend time with family and friends and my girlfriend.

And that’s my 2020. I am my own greatest obstacle. I choose my own fate. I choose the values I want to live by. And I am the root of my failures and success. Only I can fix it.

Note: I hope this story serves as a bit of a cautionary tale for other founders, creators, and entrepreneurs. I wrote this from the perspective of me, but in reality, Starter Story is a team of people, and I do very little of the work. We are a team of 6 now, and it’s all thanks to Sammy, Gemma, David, Maribel, and Anjali for all of their hard work and that we were able to grow so much! Thank you!!

2021


Last year, I set a goal of hitting 500k monthly visitors and $30k/month in revenue.

At the time, those goals sounded crazy, but somehow we actually hit it!

Our goals for 2021: Grow Starter Story to 5M monthly visitors and $100K monthly revenue.

It won’t be easy, but I look forward to new challenges and working toward it every day.
December 28th, 2020
Starter Story: 5M monthly visitors and $100K monthly revenue by December 2021.
December 27th, 2020
Spoiler alert.

In the final scene of Pixar’s Soul, Joe gets a second chance at life.

When Joe is asked about how he is going to spend his second life, he says:

“I don’t know, but I’m going to live every minute of it.”

He smells the air, then smiles. Then the film ends.


It is the most powerful ending of any film I’ve ever seen. It’s not corny or preachy, either.

I watched Soul for the second time in two nightss, and this time I cried even harder. As the film closed out, I curled into a ball and wept.

There are so many messages to unpack from this film:

  • Finding our “purpose” in life is not what will bring us happiness
  • We become lost when we obsess over something that disconnects us from our lives, even if that something seems “good” (like music, business, etc)
  • We are lucky to have a purpose at all, many people don’t. But we are not ‘better’ than them for this.
  • Sometimes, all we need to do is just tell someone how we really feel (when Joe finally tells his mother why he loves music).
  • It’s not the destination, it’s the journey (when Joe realizes playing with Dorothea doesn’t feel any different)
  • Happiness comes from helping others (helping his student not quit)
  • Happiness comes from enjoying the small parts of life, like pizza, getting a haircut, and human interaction on the subway
  • We are so caught up in our ambitions that we forget to ask our barber about their ambitions. We forget to listen.

I’ll keep watching this film, and writing about it. I can’t think of another film that has impacted me more.
December 26th, 2020
The best movie I've seen in years. Pixar's best. It's one of those movies that leaves you thinking for days.







December 25th, 2020
It's funny how hard I work, yet I’ll probably make 10x more money on Bitcoin than I will on my own businesses.

With obv 100x or even 1000x less work.
December 25th, 2020
Today, on Christmas, my online businesses generated $1,355. 

No big sale. No promotion. And I didn't even work today.

Last year on Christmas, we generated $83 (which ain't bad btw!). 

But one year later, we're doing 10x. I also checked traffic, and email subs, and those have pretty much 10x'd as well!

I just think it's crazy that we can have a great day of business on Christmas, of all days, which is usually one of the slowest days of the year...

I'm not trying to say this to brag, but I just feel accomplished because this is the result of an insane amount of hard work and focus this year (and some serious changes we had to make to get here).

I'm putting together my year-end post right now, and I can't wait to talk more about all this. Coming soon!
December 24th, 2020
When an artist releases something that's highly anticipated, and everyone hates it right away, don't write it off.

It could be that the artist took risks and didn't create something that would just please critics and fans.

Just needs a bit of time.

For example, 808s & Heartbreak by Kanye West. When that came out, many of his "old fans" hated the album. But in hindsight, that album is revolutionary. It spawned a new generation of artists: Drake, Cudi, Weeknd, Lil Uzi Vert.

When I go back and listen to that album, it's timeless. It's amazing. Even though I hated it at the time.