I write a short post every day here on anything and everything that is on my mind. New posts are at the top.
On advice from others
MAY 9TH, 2017
I’m told regularly that you can’t trust somebody has something to gain from the advice they give you. This is probably true to some extent, but the assumption here is that people with nothing to gain give better advice, which is perhaps even more untrue.
The person who is completely indifferent to your success or failure following a given piece of advice has no reason to put much time or energy into the advice they give you. Since they can give their advice cheaply, you can expect often the advice itself to be cheap.
This is why I prefer advising relationships to be paid. The payment holds me accountable to following through on the advice and it holds the advisor accountable to making sure their advice justifies my payment. Beware the man who has no skin in the game, he cares not for you.
Turning your education into something valuable for others
MAY 8TH, 2017
Blake Masters provides the best example I’ve seen of this. He took detailed, essay form notes in Peter Thiel’s CS138 course at Stanford that he circulated and turned into a semi viral piece of content for others.
This in turn later led to an opportunity to publish a best selling book with Peter. A question I ask myself now is “what can I do to share what I’m learning with the world in a meaningful, valuable way?” It might be an eBook of my learnings on a topic, Amazon Reviews and recommendations, notes like Blake’s, or something else entirely. You could, for example, follow what Tim Ferriss did in Tools of Titans and create a book digest of a podcast you listen to. If I were to do it, I’d start with the Peikoff Podcast or the Isaac Morehouse Podcast.
How ideas speak to us at different times in different ways
MAY 7TH, 2017
I’ve been reading Zero to One (again) and the series Breaking Smart by Venkatash Rao this weekend. The first time I read Zero to One, it bored me. I tried reading Breaking Smart on the recommendation of a friend and it bored me as well.
Reading them both now, I find them so interesting that I can’t imagine why I felt the way I did the first time. But I did. And this is not the first time it has happened in my life. I tried reading Atlas Shrugged in middle school and I couldn’t get through it. Some of the essays of Nietzsche didn’t speak to me until the third reading.
More and more, I’m finding I can’t entirely mark something off upon the first reading, I can only set it aside to be read again at a later date. I also don’t put pressure on myself to find something valuable or interesting. It might come to me one day, it might not.
Our evaluations are often dependent more on time, place, and the degree to which we have skin in the game than we’d like to admit. This is why I rarely trust someone who recommends or marks off a book or article they have not read at least twice and at different times in their lives. And I hold myself to this same standard.
Over-optimization is death
MAY 6TH, 2017
I was introduced to the idea of over-optimization at a very early age. I asked my father if he saves money and he said “A bit, but I really just focus on making more.” As I got older, I realized how wise this is.
No matter how much of my income I saved, I’d never become rich from the savings. Not only that, but there was a certain point you reach where continued optimization has diminishing returns and it takes more time than it’s worth. We’ve all seen the lady at the grocery store stressing over which coupons she is going to use to save 50 cents. She’d be better off making a bit more money each month.
I could build systems into my work and businesses that create a ton of value and help me squeeze more time and money out of them, but there comes a point where this process is a distraction from driving more sales.
It’s like squeezing an orange for juice. You can devise all sorts of clever mechanisms to get an extra drop out of the orange (micro adjustments) or you could find more oranges (macro adjustments).
If you’re in a duel it’s better to shoot to hit anything (this should allow you to get an additional shot off before he can fire) than it is to get your aim exactly right in his center mass or head.
If you want to travel, it’s better to book a ticket at $800 and take the trip than to spend hours trying to find one for $750.
I don’t mean optimization has no role to play. Yesterday I wrote that you should focus on optimizing your marketing funnel instead of on driving more awareness. And if 90% of the orange juice you were squeezing was going down the drain, it would make more sense to fix that first than to find more oranges.
Just don’t let the high you get from optimizing a broken system take you down the rabbit hole of over-optimization. It’s death.
Awareness vs Activation
MAY 5TH, 2017
“Let’s do Facebook ads and a blog!” That’s the first thing every business I work with says.
My advice? “Hold off on new marketing efforts and let’s fix your funnel first.” Oftentimes the most promising “marketing” strategy is not to focus on growing awareness and traffic, but in making the most of the existing awareness and traffic you already have.
I like to use Praxis as an example. From mid-Q3 to the end of Q4 in 2016 we were able to grow our customers by 400% while cutting our spend and focus on traditional marketing efforts.
It started with analyzing our application process and our web traffic to see where the drop offs were. We found that the barrier to entry was too high for most people without some form of email or phone communication, so we created a two step application process to capture emails and phone numbers. Then we simplified our website to optimize for people giving us some form of contact info and created a simple followup sequence.
I can’t stress how basic this was at the time. You don’t need to be a marketing guru. Almost overnight we found we had hundreds of leads who we never knew existed. Customer conversions increased, sale cycle deceased, all without any corresponding increase in traffic or top of the funnel awareness.
Awareness is only useful insofar as you can convert that awareness. Traffic is useless without action. Good marketing starts by address this.