Five Things I Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

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I made a commitment to myself sometime in November that I was going to start my blog on December 1st. I’d been thinking about it for months. I knew what it was going to be about and I knew what the URL was going to be and I was ready. I just needed to get everything set up to pull the trigger on December one.

As November creeped along I kept thinking about what I needed to do in order to launch and I kept not doing it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I found other priorities that were “more important”. Were they really? Probably not, but the mind is a devious trickster.

And then it was December 1st and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have WordPress set up, and now felt unsure about the topic and the URL, but I said I was going to launch, and so launch I did. I spent the first few hours of the morning trying to convince myself that the original URL and name I had was right even though I felt like it wasn’t.  Finally I settled on in order to let the blog grow and be whatever it was going to be, which in the past month it has.  

This brings me to the first thing I learned (or rather re-learned).

Learning #1: Start.

I’ve said it multiple times over the first 31 posts, but it’s crucial, so I’m repeating it again. If I hadn’t started I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d probably be playing Clash Royale or scrolling through Instagram.

By starting the ball rolling it created momentum just as I predicted it would. And by committing in writing to posting every day in December it jedi-mind-tricked me into feeling obligated to fulfill that promise.  In the book Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about an addicted smoker handing out cards to the people she respected most in order to give herself the push she needed to quit. This was my way of committing to the task.

Learning #2 – It was harder than I thought it was going to be.

It was hard to post every day. Or rather, it was hard to post something I felt good about every day. I care about what I’m putting out into the world. 

At the beginning I had planned to write a few posts a day and have a backlog ready so I could take a day off here or there. That didn’t happen. I had other work come in which became a priority and on the days I did have extra time I would perfect one post rather than write several.

I got sick twice and I had to create “filler” posts. From Boxy To Curvy and Rapid Prototyping were those posts. Not bad, but short and sweet. I had Rapid Prototyping in my back pocket from day 1, but From Boxy To Curvy was something I had read the day before and in my feverish haze threw it onto the page in order to get back into bed.

There were days where I didn’t know what I was going to write, I had worked all day, put the kids in bed, worked some more, and then it was 10 or 11 at night. “I don’t want to post today.” I would say to my wife and she would nod knowingly without a word. It’s the kind of torture I like to put myself through, the only person marking the scorecard was myself but fulfilling that promise of a post a day mattered and so I sat down and wrote.

Learning #3 – There are different types of posts.

My expectation at the onset was that I would write a lot of posts on building products, setting vision, strategizing, ideation, roadmaps, etc. And I wrote a few good posts on those topics and would reference back to them whenever fitting, but the majority of the posts ended up being about the process of writing the blog itself and personal challenges I was having on a given day or reflecting on a challenge of the past.

I also created three of my favorite posts from the month in a three day period: What Makes a Good Culture, Amazon Go, and Product Lessons from Mark Zukerberg’s Home AI Challenge. Two of them were unexpected pieces about technology that I felt compelled to write after they came up in my news feed. Moving forward I intend to do more of these types of posts. 

Learning #4 – I failed at promotion.

My goal was to get 100 subscribers in December. I got 10. I know I could have gotten more and applied more tactics in order to try to get them but I didn’t. I focused on the writing and I avoided promotion. I promoted 3 posts the entire month and I even forgot to include Google Analytics until about day 10. Moving into January I’ll start experimenting with different promotion techniques and include traffic goals as well as pushing my subscription of 100 users.  What I did learn here is that direct email outreach worked better than any other form thus far and sometimes I need to ask in person, “Hey, can I add you to my list?” and then just do it myself.

Learning #5 – Spillover.

Committing to working on this blog has engaged me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I dug into articles that I would only skim before and stopped audiobooks to take notes in order to reference it in a post. As hard as it was to post every day I’m very glad that I did.

An unexpected result was something I’ve called spillover. My commitment to doing the blog has triggered other positive habits to rise to the surface of my life. I’m getting up earlier, exercising more often, eating better and finding that I’m more focused. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits which when triggered create a domino effect towards other good habits. I believe the act of working on this, achieving something daily and stepping towards my larger goals have has made this a keystone habit in my life.

Minor Learnings

Along the way I discovered how to set up an Amazon Affiliates account, got MailChimp set up, posted on LinkedIn, posted on Twitter, created a content calendar, dug around in WordPress and more in order to get this all up and running. These are all things which took time and will pay dividends moving forward into January.

Bonus Learning

I did make progress on figuring out what this whole thing is all about and what I want to put out into the world. I’m not ready to lay it out in all it’s glory just yet, but I’m jazzed about where it’s going. It was always my intention to use this as a jumping off point to writing a book called “Reduce User Friction” so there will be posts centered around this concept from time to time, but there’s a bigger overarching theme as well which I’ve just started to outline. 

As promised on day 1, the site improved throughout the month, there’s an about page and a contact page now, the theme is a little less obnoxious than the first one I used, there’s some custom colors. It still has a long way to go to fulfill my vision, but the writing has (and will continue to) take priority.

On December 1 I wrote, “The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be further than I am today.” It’s very true. 

For January I’ve set another goal, but given myself a little bit of leeway: 20 posts  // 100 subscribers.  That gives me 10 days off, which I have already eaten through 4 of.

Upcoming Posts in January:

  • Understanding the Finish Line for Your Product
  • Sleep Part 2
  • Elon Musk Implemented a Product Suggestion in 6 Days
  • The simple thing I do at the start and end of the day with my kids
  • Tracking your learnings
  • Breakdown of a usability study
  • Ordering Pizza Online

There’s a bunch more, but that’s a taste for you. What would you like to see me write about? Leave me a comment below.

2016 Retrospecitve

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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!


Stream of Consciousness

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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.


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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.

Halfway Through December

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Halfway through December!

Well, actually we’re almost 2/3rds the way through December. I intended to post this on the 16th, but between sickness and my awesome accomplishment from yesterday it got pushed to today.

It’s important to take time and look back at your progress (or lack there of) as you tackle your goals. In this case I’ve been very open along the way about the steps I’m taking towards evolving this site in bite-sized chunks, mostly at the end of other posts, but today is totally dedicated to looking back and evaluating the progress so far.

I have posted every day without fail. Feedback has been positive towards the style of sharing the building of the site and personal stories, so I plan to keep intermixing that with high-level direction.

Posting every day has been a challenge, but one that has been worthwhile even during an unexpectedly busy month. Not every post has been stellar but they are out in the world and allow for evaluation towards the evolution of the overall theme.

So far I have 10 sign-ups, which is 10% of the way to my goal of 100 by the end of December. Through the one push I did do last week I got a 16.75% sign up rate, which I was pretty psyched about. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so at the top of the page.

I thought I’d be further along in this area, but it’s definitely taken a back seat.

I have update the theme to something more flexible and while plain, will be easy to add some flair to. I also played with some CSS to make the text more readable and update the link colors to blue from yellow…why would you use yellow?

I don’t have an About page yet…but I do have a Contact page set up.  On Day 1 the About page was a priority for the first week and here, three weeks later it’s still on the back burner. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.

I did take the time to implement the signup collection through Sumome as well as throw in a favicon because that blank page in the tab kept shouting out like an eyesore to me.

My wife doesn’t like that the dates don’t show up on mobile so I’ll be tackling that at some point in the near future.

Outside of these key learnings is that my initial hypothesis of having more content will translate to increased confidence in the blog itself. I was on a call today with a friend who asked about product vision and I pointed him directly to what I wrote on Defining Product Vision as well as Rapid Prototyping. Instant value to the conversation.

Moving towards the end of the month I have some fun posts planned and hope to round this all out during the week of January 1st with a look back on the overall experience and share the full analysis.

Which post has been your favorite so far? Let me know in the comments.

My First Chin-Up

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Consistency, it’s a staple of this blog which I harp on over and over again…consistently even. Today that consistency paid off for me in a big personal win. Today I pulled my body from a full hang position to achieve my first ever chin-up.  And I mean…ever.  It’s just something I’ve never been able to do and never cared about doing.

About six weeks ago I agreed to participate in a Savage Race with two of my buddies. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a 10K run with obstacles throughout, 25 to be exact. You can see our race here. I’m excited but feel ill-prepared. I’ve done the Warrior Dash (5k version, less intense obstacles) 3 years in a row now, and it’s a great time. And there’s beer at the end so that’s a bonus!

In an effort to be prepared I had set some goals to help me feel I’d be better prepared.

  1. Run a 10k in 56 minutes.
  2. Do 20 pull-ups
  3. Do 20 chin-ups

And with that I was set.  I’d been setting and hitting 5k goals over the past 6 months, and just after I hit my goal of running a 5k in 28:30, I injured my knee. So I’ve been on the bench with the first goal, but in a way that’s been good to focus on the other two goals.  I did an internet search and found this program and have been following it for a regiment of close grip and wide grip pull-ups, as well as chin-ups and today after pulling myself up to my nose for a week now I was able to do a full chin-up.  And I felt like Captain America. It’s one tiny step toward my goal, but it happened after weeks of consistently following the program I set out for myself.

It’s hard not to be frustrated when week after week it seems as if little progress is actually occurring, but when I’m doing something and I hit that point where I just can’t do any more I hear a little Tony Horton in my ear saying:

“Don’t say ‘I can’t’, say ‘I presently struggle with.” – Tony Horton, P90X

From my stint of doing P90X there are a lot of these little sayings that still stick in my head but this one is the most powerful and can be applied to any task where you’re just starting out.

So, whether it’s an exercise program, starting a blog or hitting your first seven figure year, set your goal, make incremental progress, and celebrate your first chin-up, even if it’s just a big deal to you.