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I'm a small business owner. Creative Coder. Dad.

What do you do? What’s your job? … What the …!

In the last several months I get these random comments like “What do you do?” …. “Are you going to get a job?”… “Why you home all day?” …

Check it out ladies and gents…

You live only 70 years. After that you basically dead (no offense to my old friends). I love you all, but you work for 40 years doing what already? And you worried about what everyone else is doing for a living?

I have one simple question. Not what is your job or what is your income or what I think about you. Here it is: Are you enjoying your life 24/7? If not, then every second taken from that 86,400 is a waste! Hello.

This goes for your job, your sleep, your food, your exercise, the people you hang with. Keep in mind always. You’re here and gone in an instant.

Look at yourself and stop:

1. Judging others.

2. Judging yourself.

And then:

Enjoy life. Make it happen and go for it.

This is not a license to be a fat lazy ass. Not even. It is a call to freedom to do what YOU do best and to reach your full potential. It starts now.

Engineer as Resource

Are you a resource?

Signs that you are seen as a resource.

1. The founder(s) smooth talk and tell you that you are a co-founder, but there is no legal paperwork signed by all parties to back this up.

2. You bill hourly but end up working more hours than you bill.

3. No one cares about your product (nevermind business) knowledge. Just build whatever you are told.

4. Non-engineers tell you (the engineer) that something they want done is “standard” and should only take X hours.

5. Non-engineers send you code snippets and tell you something is “easy to do”. (I’ve even seen “CTOs” do this).

6. You are told that fixing bugs is not billable time. Even though the contract doesn’t stipulate this (note that you should build this into your contract or estimate).

7. You hear from other engineers about the mistrust in your efforts by those who you work for. (i.e. non-engineers think the work is easier and you are billing extra or taking too long).

8. “Well we could go offshore for $5 an hour and get the same quality…”

9. You are questioned to be a lone-wolf even though you work 80 hours a week, there is no budget for anymore engineering, you aren’t getting paid on time, and you are the only one who setup a proper task list.

10. Nothing is ever done fast enough, but goals and priorities constantly change.

11. You are told that you are “re-inventing” the wheel when you are not.

Those are some that I’ve heard and seen. Got any of your own?

Lesson: These are red flags you should look for in interviewing for a job, finding partners, or deciding if you want to sign up as a consultant. In general you do not want to work with or for people who exhibit any of these characteristics.

30,000 Days

That’s about 82 years. Which is about what you have. Each day is possibly the last.

1. Bad Day. Minimize. Learn. Do not repeat the same bad day twice. On occasion you will have a stinker. Use it as an opportunity to grow.

2. Average Day. This where most go wrong. You also need to minimize average days. You want to push forward to #3.

3. Great Day. You should strive to have a great day every single day. This can be in terms of enjoyment, performance, contribution, excellence.

Ultimately you should strive to have a great day 85% of the time or more. But learn from bad and average days.

What defines the quality of a day is up to you, but remember you only have so many to use up.

Zero-Sum View

In general, zero-sum perspective is costly — even deadly. It is much better to view events in a positive light. Expansive.

For example, if you are turned down, see it as an opportunity to learn why. Adjust and move forward.

Your thoughts, actions, and words should almost always be in terms of positive-sum.

Celebrating 9 Months “full-time job” Free

The beginning of this month marked the 9th month that I have been without a full-time job. Previously in my career I did go for stints where I worked without a proper full-time job, but this time is different because I’ve managed to do it on my own to a larger degree.

Last October when I left the startup I was at (that is now gone), I decided to sit at home and study JAVA and look around Angel List for other startups. I was sort of burned out and not really sure what I wanted to do. That said, I did not want to go back to a full-time job at a corporation. I also was not really interested in the grind of another startup so soon.

What I learned from my startup experience is that they are a real pain to get going, easy to get burned out, and the stock is about as useful as toilet paper. And if you do manage to do anything good, then you’ll end up getting diluted by the VC, then the banker, then the IPO, and possibly the company will just flat out take some of your stock back or fire you. Then on top of that you may have to take a below market rate salary (I was fortunate enough to make a great salary).

So here I was studying JAVA and looking on Angel List. Well as it turns out I found some consulting work through old contacts of mine from prior years. Boom. That was it. I was in heaven (well sort of). I finally was charging my 3 figures per hour and doing well.

I learned that the secret to getting away from what I call “corporate welfare” or the “9 to 5 grind” is just hustle and a minor bit of risk taking.

You have to go out and find people to consult for. It could be thru your network, making new contacts at meetups and conferences. Cold calling is an option, but probably not for the feint of heart. But if your hungry (i.e. passionate), got a smile, good attitude, and skill, then you can do it!

Then there is the risk of forgoing your precious weekly paycheck in order to get off the ground. You have to be willing to suffer the minor “embarrassment” of people asking where you work. People like to ask “What do you do all day at home?” Being my playful self I told one guy that I watch movies.

And that my friends is it. It’s not magic, but it is a daily celebration.

Leaving Emotion Out of It

Many years ago when I was purchasing my first house my dad told me that I was getting emotionally involved in the purchase. This lesson has been learned several times since then. Often I’ll go into a business deal and get absorbed to the point that I forget that my emotional attachment is too strong. Emotional attachment in business is cause for alarm because it can lead to irrational thinking and that leads to irrational behavior (e.g. spending extra hours on a project that is not part of a business that you own).

Lesson: In business it is almost always a bad idea to allow emotion to enter the process. Stick to the facts. It is a simple notion, but often hard to follow.

Building a Car or Faster Horses?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

- Henry Ford

One of the things I’ve started to examine closer is what do users want and what do users need. So you get that they want to go faster. But how do you really determine what is the best way to do this? It takes a person who can look into technology and say “Ok, here is what we have available. And here is what we are going to build.” Then it takes someone who is willing to take risk. Rather than just incrementally building something, we’ll build something new and disruptive.

So stop to think about what your product is doing. Is it faster horses? Or is it really using the technology to transform the way the user can do what they need.

True visionaries can see what is going to be used in the future and marry that with emerging (or already existing) technology in a way that is elegant, vastly faster, vastly more useful and exciting to the user. And of course, the classic example is the horse to the car.

Building 1 Day, 1 Task

Grand vision is good. But building something comes down to simple tasks spread out over a period of hours, days, weeks, months, years. Focus on the smaller tasks that are necessary to get to where you want to go. Everything else is either leisure or useless.

Getting Stuff Done

Often I’ve found that work done by others is sub-par. Usually I have to go in there and fix it or redo the entire task/project. As a business person it’s a battle against TIME and RESOURCES. You have to pick and choose wisely. Then there is TALENT. Most people who are good charge a lot (or learn that they are good and then charge a lot).

Lesson: Balance your time wisely. Get rid of the losers very quickly. When you find a good player? Curate, season, and build the relationship for the long haul. 

Building a Business: The Long Haul

One of the hardest parts of building a business is staying with it. There are two failures in business:

1. Those that don’t have the skills to build what they want to build.

2. Have the basic skills, but don’t stick it out for whatever reason.

Most businesses do NOT flourish overnight. Most businesses are HARD to build. Most businesses take years to succeed. I’ve read that something like 80% of new businesses fail within the first year.

Lesson: Before you begin make sure you understand your domain to a basic level of competency (the more relevant people and knowledge the better). Then really decide if you want to stick with it.