Monthly Archives

December 2016

2016 Retrospecitve

By | self-analysis | No Comments

2016 will be over in just a few short hours and for some parts of the world it’s over already…how is 2017 so far my Australian friends? When I was younger I would write up a long email recapping the year and writing up a top ten list of the movies I had seen. Simpler times, but I thought, as a closeout of the month and posting every single day in December as originally decreed a month ago, that it would be a nice way to close things out.

Favorite Things
These are things I experienced this year and may have been around long before.

My favorite apps:
Google Maps/Waze – I don’t know how people used to find their way around before GPS, but I’m glad I live in a world where I don’t have to think about it.

Spotify – It’s $9.99/mo. I don’t mind spending because I use it all the time, on my phone, my computer, my iPad and my PS4.

Podcast App – I listen to a lot of podcasts. It doesn’t have great UX, but it gets the job done.

Pocket – This is probably the app I use the most to catch up on stories I’ve saved for later while I’m…how you say…indisposed.

Instagram – I’m not a social media guru, but I do use Instagram, and I am a big fan of the improvements Instagram has made over the past year, including Stories (ala Snapchat), live Stories (ala Periscope) and the UI overhaul which tied everything nicely together.

Starbucks – I added this to the list because I feel they’ve made great improvements this year to the app. I use it every time I visit and it’s good to see they’re making it more user friendly and pushing the stars.

My favorite podcasts:
Joe Rogan Experience – Joe Rogan has been a positive influence in my life over the past year. I don’t agree with everything he says or enjoy every guest he has on, but my favorite ones focus on spirituality, health and doing the best with this life you can.  Favorites from this year: Donald Cerrone, Russell Brand, Dan Bilzerian. Favorite regulars: Tom Segura, Joey Diaz and Duncan Trussell.

Radiolab – I was introduced to Radiolab before I knew what a podcast was. 7 years later and it’s still one of the podcasts I listen to as soon as they release it. I love the way they break things down and tell the story. Favorites from this year: The Buried Bodies Case and One Vote.

This American Life – It’s one of the most popular podcasts and radio shows out there, and for a very good reason.  Ira Glass and team know how to spin a yarn, even when that yarn is made of real life stuff.  Favorites from this year: Anatomy of Doubt, Who Do We Think We Are?, Mind Games 2016.

Runner’s Up: Serial, Nerdist, WTF, The Tim Ferris Show, The Fighter and The Kid, Duncan Trussell Family Hour, Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast,

My favorite books:

Hooked (Nir Eyal) – A book about how to create habit forming looks (or Hooked loops) in products today. It was a fast read and well thought out, shining light on why people endlessly scroll through Facebook and Instagram or get pulled out of their seat when they hear their phone buzz across the room.

Influence (Robert B. Claidini) – A great book on the power of influence and how to use it to your advantage. He walks through the six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency and how they have been (and are being) applied.

A Man Called Ove – A grumpy old man that is fed up with how fast the world is moving meets a lot of people and changes his ways…is what the book is about, but how it’s written and how much you can connect with Ove makes this book special. I had no idea what it was about when I started, only that it was highly praiseed and I quickly became engrossed.

Born Standing Up – Steve Martin’s autobiography tale. It was funny and heartfelt and relatable. I wanted to read it again when I was done with it. This one I recommend listening to the audiobook as it’s read by Martin himself.

// Short story addition

The Jaunt (Stephen King) – A quick read at only 10 pages, but it was extremely well written and had me thinking about it for days afterwards.

My music:
Not necessarily my favorite, but what I listened to according to Spotify.

Intro – Jay Z, American Gangster
It’s Only Life – The Shins, Port of Morrow
Hold On – Angus & Julia Stone, Down The Way – one of my favorite albums of the year and bonus points having music in Life is Strange
Thank God for Girls – Weezer, White Album
Airbag – Radiohead, OK Computer – rediscovered this album this year and I listened to it for most of July. One of my favorite albums of all time.
The Wolf – Mumford and Sons, Wilder Mind – Inspired listening because of my mild obsession with Rock Band 4 // also could be included because of this = Fever, Black Keys and
One Chance – Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News – I referenced this in one of my earlier posts, one of my favorite albums of all time. Good shit from start to finish.
What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber, Purpose – Good memories from Kinglet office morning vibe starter.
Feathers – Coheed and Cambria, No World for Tomorrow
Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface – both of their albums are played around my house a lot, wife loves them, kids love them, I love them.
Lie, Cheat, Steal – Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – great album
Till It’s Gone – Yelawolf, Love Story – great song, reminds me of Sons of Anarchy
Intro – alt-J, This is All Yours

Started and ended the list with a song called intro…impressive.  Want to listen to the whole list on Spotify?

The only one I really keep up with anymore is The Walking Dead and it has been consistently good all year long with a really shocking twist earlier that if brought to the show will rival the Season 7 premiere…in terms of heartache.

I also reread I Kill Giants this year and I still love it as much as I always have.  If you know someone who loves good stories, whether they’re a fan of comics or not, click that link and buy them a copy.

My favorite memories:
Meeting my kids at the airport – My kids went on a two week trip down to their grandparents in Florida. It’s the longest we’ve been apart. During that time I became very grateful for the technology we currently have and my ability to still connect through Facetime and photo updates throughout the days. I also enjoyed some time alone, but seeing them across the crowded airport and pulling them in for a big hug once we were reconnected tops any other memories from this very memorable year.

Cincinnati trip for Kinglet – We opened Cincinnati as our second major city for Kinglet this year and as a team we went out there and threw a launch party. I couldn’t have been more proud of the team or more proud of how hard we partied. It was a great trip that energized us in an amazing push for Cincinnati.

Time alone with my wife – While the kids were gone I got a week alone with my wife (before she went down to have a weeks vacation before bringing them back home). It’s very rare to get so much time alone with each other and it was incredible. We spent time doing things we haven’t done in years, like watch a movie before 7 at night, go out to dinner and then a movie without worrying about the time and going out on an all day hiking adventure.  Great stuff.

My birthday – My kids were so excited for my birthday this year and so it made it exciting like it used to be in a way. I spent the day cooking a brisket, relaxing, watching House of Cards, and having fancy beers. It was a great down day surrounded by my family and spiked with excitement from my little ones.

Starting this blog – Only a month old, but there’s been so much growth in stepping up to this challenge and I know it’s going to translate in the momentum I talked about going into the new year. I’m excited about beginning to polish it and tack on a podcast of my own or splitting it into the pieces to keep focus on the topics I think are most important. January will tell.

Runners Up: Warrior Dash, Atlantic City trip with the MM boys, Mancation with my boys, camping with the Denhams, UFC 200 meat extravaganza, all the kids soccer games, our big ass pool party, 4th of july, and all the great new people I’ve met.

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to the great things we’ll do together in 2017!


Reintroducing Yoga Into My Life

By | health, mindfulness, self-improvement | No Comments

I believe in disconnecting. I feel the world we currently live in is too connected and it can bog us down both mentally and physically. I like to take breaks from devices and screens, but it’s hard. A question jumps in my head and I have a super computer in my pocket that I can ask for the answer and get it immediately. In that same vein, I miss the days from high school and early college of sitting at a coffee shop or bar and having lively discussions over the answer to a stupid question and having no way to get the answer at hand. Now those lively discussions are ended before they even start. Who played the other robber in Home Alone, you know, not Joe Pesci? Just Google it.

In February of 2016 I started doing yoga. I got an app on the app store looking for part yoga part meditation and trying it out to unplug. I fell in love with it. I started the beginner sessions doing 30 minutes at a time and after 3 days in a row and showing up to work in a great mood (and a little sore), it dawned on me that it was the yoga. I ramped up to the intermediate hour long courses and at my peak in march completed 21 out of 31 days.  I was fitting it in wherever I could and jumping out of bed in the morning in excited to go through the program.

After March I needed to start training for a 5k obstacle course I had signed up for and so I started splitting time between yoga and running. Slowly I felt more invested in running and yoga was becoming less and less a priority.  I was focused on reaching my 5k time goals I had set for myself and a 1 mile goal time.

Throughout the year it became less about one of the things that had drawn me to it which was disconnecting for a while, letting my mind work through problems while my body struggled to stay in certain positions. It became a chore.

Then I hurt my knee running and I started incorporating kettlebell workouts into my routine (which I also now love), but I was still avoiding doing my yoga. I was doing 30 minute sessions from time to time but wasn’t getting that boost that I had once been drawn to.

Last week, when my stress levels were at a peak while juggling many projects, Christmas prep and prioritizing time with the kids I stopped and took an hour to go through a yoga session. I didn’t have the time, but I knew I needed it. It felt great and the results weren’t immediate, but the world slowed down a little and I felt more centered. By the end of the day I felt great and the next day I was good and sore, which was surprising after the kettlebell workouts I had been doing.

I realized that these sessions are good for body and mind for me and it’s important to have the time away from the connectedness that is so ingrained in us today. I would like to get into meditation as well, but for now this is a good start.

Moving into 2017 I’ve made it a goal to not go more than 3 days between yoga sessions. And no more than 2 days between a workout of any kind.

It’s important to find your way to disconnect even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, being mindful of yourself and your surroundings. Get away from the screens and gadgets and take care of yourself and your mind.

The app I use is called Yoga Studio and is available for iOS. It has 65 pre-made yoga and meditation classes. It tracks when you do it which helped me with motivation for wanting to get the day on the calendar lit up when I completed a session.

That other robber = Daniel Stern, and fun fact number 2, he also starred in C.H.U.D. with the Dad in Home Alone, John Heard.

The Importance of Sleep

By | health, mindfulness | One Comment

This will be my shortest post yet.

Early in my career I wore it as a badge of honor if I pulled an all nighter.  Later in my career it annoyed me. I believe in a do what you need to do to get the job done mentality, but that one all-nighter could usually be avoided through better planning and transparancy.  Not only that but one all-nighter would wreck my team for days. That’s right, days, with an s. Sleep is so important to your health, your mental acuity and your ability to make key decisions that it needs to be a priority in your life.

I’m making this short so you can go take a nap instead of reading.

And when you’re done check out Arianna Huffington’s book on the subject- The Sleep Revolution

Or perhaps Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

Want me to write more on the topic? Email me or post in the comments below.

Your Future Life

By | strategy, vision | No Comments

I had the idea to treat my life as I would a product that I own. I have set my vision and started breaking down the steps I think I need to take to make that vision a reality, a little bit at a time, experimenting, testing and iterating through my learnings. A part of the grand vision includes working on this blog and putting these posts out into the world.

Just as you wouldn’t go on a grand expedition without a destination, you shouldn’t allow yourself to move through your life journey without setting a true north. I wrote about setting your true north in my post about how to set your product vision. Make it big, make it so big that it’s a little bit scary. It’s your life, so why not shoot for something that gets your heart racing? Do you want a big house or to retire in 10 years or to visit all 7 continents? What’s that life you’ve always wanted for yourself?

Now write it down at the top of a piece of paper (or Google doc). This is your personal vision statement. This is where you start. Make it specific and add depth. If you’re more of a visual person, consider making a vision board. Jen Sincero is a big fan of this and suggests making it as precise as possible. The exact house you want, how you want to dress, the job you want to have, gather images and stick them all up there. A Pinterest board is fine, but having an actual physical version that you have on your wall and you can look at every day is better.

My future life includes making a certain amount of money per year, taking 2 “big” vacations every year, competing in 3 physical events per year (like the Savage Race I have coming up in April), living more sustainably with a small farm (we already have the chickens), and continuing work on building this blog with the vision I shared in my previous post. There are several others which I am keeping to myself, focused on my wife and family.  The key is there is a balance between work and life, in fact it’s tipping more towards the life side of things.  As I wrote in my Christmas day post, that balance is very important.

It all has to start with a vision of your future life, just like building a product. Take all the ideas about how you can get there and start to make assumptions or hypotheses and write those down to. This blog has been an experiment and I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time. I had certain goals set out, some I achieved, and some which I didn’t. At the end of the month I’ll share a retrospective of 2016 and at the beginning of the New Year I’ll share a look back at this experiment and all the learnings that came along with it.  I also have some cool posts lined up for January and I’ll lay out my plan forward.

Want more clarity on how to take those visions and turn them into actionable strategies. Michael Hyatt, Ruth Soukup, and Seanwes all offer different perspectives. In future posts I’ll be sharing the experiments, iterations and pivots that I believe will help guide me as I move through the unknown, just like I do when I’m building a product.

What’s your vision? Share it with me in the comments.

My New Year’s Resolutions

By | self-improvement, starting, vision | No Comments

I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions anymore. I used to and like most everyone else a few weeks into the new year they would be forgotten and I’d be back to my old ways. So I’ve changed resolutions to goals.

And rather than New Year’s day, I like setting the trigger for my year on my birthday. It’s my personal day and the start of my personal year.

I take off work. I start the day by exercising followed by breakfast with my family. I spent my last birthday cooking a brisket and I’ll probably do that again this year. It’s an all day affair, and while it’s cooking I relax with movies or binge watching a show. Before all this goodness I use the weeks leading up to it to set my goals for the year.

The day you start or reset your year doesn’t matter. If New Year’s day is a trigger for you, then go for it and leave all those people with unachieved resolutions in the dust. Start by thinking about them as goals, instead of resolutions, and not just for this year, but for the next 5-10 years and then break down from there.

I have a vision of where I’d like to be by the time I’m 40 (in two short years) and how the work I do now will help catapult me to where I want to be by the time I turn 45. Honestly, I’ve only started taking this seriously in the past 2 years. Before that I had grand visions of what I wanted my life to be like, but was moving towards them in a very haphazard way. I have an amazing life that I’m very grateful for and even though I’ve achieved a lot, it wasn’t until I started writing down my goals and tracking my progress that I started to see much more rapid growth. And more rapid growth is not necessarily fast…but it’s focused, and that’s the key. Creating focus and moving forward, a bit at a time.


Stream of Consciousness

By | design, self-analysis, starting | No Comments

Stream of consciousness writing is a technique I use to open my mind and allow my thoughts spill out on the paper. With fiction writing it’s often used to explore a character or a scene without worrying about grammar or punctuation. It’s about getting into a state of flow with writing and diving into your subconscious mind.

This practice of free writing has been extremely beneficial for me in a few different aspects of my life.

I use stream of consciousness writing for working through a problem and I’vd it is the best way to be able to organize my thoughts quickly. If I’m stuck on how to organize a team or an intricacy in a design I’m working on. I sit at my computer, open up Evernote and write out the problem. Then I start to break down the problem and write as many details around it that I can, then break those down even further. I keep going until I feel I’ve covered the topic fully or have an epiphany. Sometimes it happens after a few minutes and at other times it takes significantly longer.

I’ll then take these thoughts, get rid of the unimportant parts and organize the rest. Sometimes in bullet points, sometimes in a full outline or others just a plan of attack to move on immediately. It depends on the complexity of the problem.

I also use stream of consciousness writing to analyze my own personal thoughts. I wrote about my practice of writing what I’m grateful for every day. For that practice I set a timer for five minutes and start by choosing an event that happened during the day and expounding on why it was a positive part of my life.  Finding a unique event from the day helps make it part journal as well, rather than rehashing all of the standard things I’m grateful for, and by that I mean, my family, my home, my work, and my good fortune. It is more interesting for me to consider the fact that I met someone new that day and put my appreciation towards that event. Or, even more challenging is taking something bad and considering what, if anything, could be the positive part of that experience.

As far as the best way to approach stream of consciousness writing, some people say it’s better to put pen to paper rather than using a computer, but for me I can type a lot faster than I can write in my notebook and part of the process is getting my fingers moving without my brain guiding the words on the page. I’ve also read, be in a nice quiet place without distractions, but I’ve found some of my best episodes are at my local coffee shop listening to music. I say do whatever works for you, as long as you do it.

Happy Holidays

By | self-improvement | No Comments

Over the course of the next week I’ll be taking some much needed down time after a hectic year. In no way will that affect my goal of posting every day in December, but I thought it was important on Christmas day to point out the importance of work/life balance as well as taking time off.

I heard this quote earlier this year and it stuck with me:

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” – Bryan Dyson, President and CEO of Coca Cola, during a commencement speech at Georgia Tech.

Having a fulfilling career and following your passion is important, but you have to take care of all parts of your life. This all starts with taking care of you. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Make sure to take care of yourself and your health and spirit, they are the cornerstones of being there for your friends and family. In the upcoming year make sure as you plan out your goals in such a way that you are taking care of all aspects of your life.

Check out this article from Mollie Spillman on work/life balance if you want some more.

Happy Holidays to you and the important people in your life.


By | self-analysis, self-improvement | No Comments

For a few months now I’ve been writing out what I’m grateful for almost every day. Even when I miss a day I think about it. While I’m driving or running or working on this blog.  I think about what I’m grateful for and it’s made my life better.  The days in which I take the time to write it down it could be a quick 3 minute word sketch or end up as a 20 minute stream of consciousness exercise about the things in my life that I’m thankful for.  Ultimately I’ve noticed that it directs my life in a more positive way. I feel better, more confident and happy. The reason I started was an effort at focusing on the good things in my life, rather than the negativity that is very easy to focus on if you let it.  For me this exercise has been a big change in my life and while it might not be for everyone, I recommend trying it out for a few weeks.  After the 13 day point was when I could notice the positive impact and the longer I do it, the easier it gets. Also, it’s a good exercise to find the good in bad situations.

Having a Content Calendar Made This Blog Better

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One thing I learned over the course of the past month is how important a content calendar is, or rather, more loosely, a list of ideas to write about.

At the beginning of the month I was winging it. I knew what I wanted to write. I had a long list of topics I wanted to write about, but they were all at a very high level.

I felt the first pain from this method on day 5 wanting to write about implementing vision, but unable to clearly articulate what I wanted to say so I shifted to writing about habits instead, and I hadn’t fully thought through that as well so it came out as one of the weaker posts to date.

For me laying out the posts I’m going to write aligned with the day has been extremely helpful. Personally it has allowed me to break down posts into smaller chunks which has led to more focused posts. Plus, I look at it every day and this allows my mind to start working through what I want to write for each one as well as schedule any research I feel I need to do prior to writing.

If you’re tackling starting a blog, take a day a week and write out ideas and then break those down into dates for as often as you want to write.  It’s been a huge help to me.

Product Lessons from Mark Zukerberg’s Home AI Challenge

By | product, starting, strategy | No Comments

A few days ago Mark Zukerberg posted to his Facebook page about his experience working on building a simple AI to run his home, which he aptly named Jarvis after Tony Stark’s AI from Iron Man. And the same day Fast Company wrote an article on it. You may have heard about it.  

I also discovered that Mark Zukerberg sets a yearly challenge for himself. So, in addition to being CEO of Facebook and having a family he makes it a priority to continue to learn and grow. 

Throughout his update, there were lessons on the right way to build products. He used creative problem solving, iteration and existing software rather than building from scratch to get to his vision as quickly as possible.

From the very onset of the project he faced challenges because there is currently no common API for the home appliances. As home automation AI becomes more prevalent (and it will happen quickly) this is gap that will need to be filled.

He had particular trouble finding a toaster that would allow you to push the bread down without having it turned on. “I ended up finding an old toaster from the 1950s and rigging it up with a connected switch.”

This is an example of taking a problem and turning it on it’s head. There were probably other more complicated solutions, like reengineering a present day toaster, but he took the problem and broke it down to its smallest parts and attacked it from a new angle. This type of creative problem solving is necessary as we navigate building products.

Another hurdle was allowing Jarvis to understand voice commands. As we should when building any new product he took an iterative approach by first communicating with Jarvis via text message and later using that as a springboard to allow for voice commands.

I was particularly interested by his discovery that he often prefers to communicate with Jarvis via text rather than using voice commands. And based on this observation he determined that as we build out AI, we need to recognize that they will also need messaging interfaces in addition to voice.

Building iteratively and real world experimentation and discovery at work.  

In order to create the messaging interface he could have built an app from scratch, but chose instead to build a Messenger bot.  Why? Because it was easier. There are open source APIs to build these bots, which allowed for a strong base to start with. When building towards MVP it’s important to move as quickly as possible and often that can be done through retrofitting your ideas into existing solutions, even if it’s not as sexy as you imagine it to be when you’re dreaming of the final version.  

Beyond his iterative approach, creative problem solving, and building on top of existing work it’s important to acknowledge the very fact that he challenged himself to do this. If he had never put pen to paper and challenged himself at the beginning of the year there’s little chance that he would now have a kick ass home AI, not to mention the knowledge gained, including learnings he wasn’t expecting at the beginning, which is common in taking on big challenges. You just don’t know what you don’t know yet.

As I’ve been saying from my very first post. Start. 

Then, make small iterative progress towards whatever it is you’re looking to do. Set a goal and break it down into bite sized chunks and then break it down some more.  Make it so easy that you’d be hard pressed not to make a little progress every day.  

From beginning to end it took Zuckerberg a little over 100 hours to get to the current version of Jarvis.  Think about what you could do in 100 hours over the course of this coming year.  

What challenge do you want to tackle in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.