What is Usability Testing?

By | implementation, product, user testing | One Comment

Over the next five posts I’m going to be outlining usability testing, specifically in regards to building websites, web applications or mobile apps. I’ve been working with a few different clients and partners recently and found myself explaining the ins and outs of why, when and how to run usability tests, which inspired a deeper dive and in turn this series of posts.

Usability testing is a process which allows you to validate your product’s ease of use with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks to see how they expect the product to work and uncovers any areas where they experience confusion or frustration.

A few example tasks are:

  • Use the website to purchase a shirt for yourself (for an ecommerce site)
  • Log-in to the web application and identify your balance for checking and savings accounts (for a banking web app)
  • Download the app from the app store and take a picture (for a mobile photography app)

During these tests users are encouraged to think aloud, explaining what they see and the decisions they’re making as they are progressing through the task.

Usability tests can be moderated or unmoderated and there are benefits to both and times in which you should use one over the other.

Moderated testing allows you to lead the user through a series of situations and if they get off track you can gently guide them back to the end goal at hand.

For my first round of testing, I like to use moderated testing in order to meet some of the users in person and have a conversation which can lead to other insights beyond the task at hand.

Unmoderated testing is typically cheaper and can be done using existing online tools. Some of these tools can help you find users for your test, which can be a sticking point to usability testing in general.

Another benefit of unmoderated testing is removing bias that the moderator can unintentionally cause in the user. Known as observer effect (Hawthorn effect), individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.

Usability testing can (and should) be used in a variety of ways during the product lifecycle. In the next post I’ll go over what kind of products can improve through usability testing as well as when to run usability tests.

Understanding Where The Finish Line Really Is

By | product, vision | No Comments

I’ve worked on far too many projects that were treated as if the feature launch were the end of the project. Hooray, the feature is live and now we can get onto the next thing on our list. It’s the way it was done for a long time and truthfully it’s the way a lot of companies still build products today.

Just like many things, the first step towards fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem.

Over the next few days I’m going to be writing a series on usability testing, the what, when and how of it all, but as I was planning out those posts it got me to thinking about this issue that I know is still plaguing companies. Teams are agile and scrumming and running sprints, all towards this illusion of being done.  But when do you really know that you’re done?

The definition I use for done is when the customer is happy and the most important metric I’ve been tracking towards has been hit. Those two things tell me I’m done, not a feature release date. I like to think of the feature release date as a baton handoff in a relay race. If all has gone well this is the second such handoff. The first such handoff should happen after testing and experimenting during the design phase as I shift over to the development phase with the engineering team. That is not to say that all teams shouldn’t be involved during all phases of the process, in fact UX, design and engineering should be communicating all along the way, rather it’s just the phase of the project you’re in.

After the release of a feature you should be checking your data to make sure that it’s in line with the hypothesis you made prior to launch and allocating proper resources in order to make changes necessary in order to move the needle towards your goal. The resources used during this step should be greatly diminished from the major push which was just completed, but the problem is that many companies allocate no more time on the completed feature. That is why there is no true learning and features that are not contributing the way they should to the overall product.

It could take you months to drive the numbers in the way you need them to go, but keep making small tweaks and changes and follow the data. Once you feel like the feature is performing as expected and adding the value you originally intended, then it is time to move it over to maintenance mode.

Maintenance mode is a point at which further investment into improving your numbers will be a waste of resources, delivering diminishing returns, so at this point you set a goal (maintenance goal) in order to verify that the feature is staying the course and not dropping, but with little support.

Would you like to know more on how to have these conversations and begin to create a culture of learning? Let me know in the comments below.

How We Start and End Our Days

By | daily rituals, self-improvement | 2 Comments

I have two amazing little people that live in my house with me. My son, seven and daughter, five. For the past few years on the way to school or as I’m leaving for work I ask a simple question of them both:

What are you going to do today?

The first time I asked it was met with, I don’t know or go to school or overall disdain. I knelt down and said, “No, you’re going to be awesome.” As kids do, they’ve evolved it to a deep breath followed by shouting as loud as they can:


Sometimes my daughter takes it in the other direction and whispers it as quiet as she can and I have to ask, “What was that?” and she’ll get a little louder each time I ask until she bellows it out.  BE AWESOME!

Then a few months ago, after jumping into gratitude with both feet I started asking at the dinner table, “What are you grateful for today?” We go around the table three times and everybody has to say something different. Usually the answers from the kids are about family or our pets, but as it’s evolved they have picked up some of the other things to be grateful for that my wife and I list.

In December, we lost my brother-in-law to cancer and so that night I said I was grateful for the health of my family and the fact that we were all together at the table. My son has since said he’s grateful that he’s healthy a number of times. And kids being kids they’re grateful for Pokemon and Shopkins as well. As it should be.

I feel like starting the day with a declarative statement of awesomeness and ending the day with a reflection of what they’re grateful for is, on the surface, irrelevant to them, I mean, they’re kids. But in the years to come and through repetition and consistency these messages will start to become part of who they are. What are they going to do today? Duh, be awesome. What are they grateful for? This amazing life that they have and even in darkness there is light to be found.

Of course, these two small things are just bookends for the love and lessons that we share with them in-between, but they’re pretty AWESOME bookends.

What daily routines do you do for yourself or for your kids? Let me know in the comments below.

Five Things I Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

By | blog, mindfulness, self-analysis, vision | No Comments

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 mikespotten.com 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.

A Smattering of New Year Advice

By | self-improvement, suggested-reading, vision | No Comments

Happy New Year! It’s been a few days since my last post and the challenge of posting every day in December. I took a few days off because quite honestly it was harder than I thought it was going to be. On top of that, I took time to connect with my family and then had to catch up on all the work from the downtime.

But I’m back…and it’s a new year!

With a new year comes a lot of people telling us how you should reinvent yourself or “make it your year!”  There’s a lot of chatter out there on the old interwebs. Here’s some of the articles I enjoyed:

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs in 2017
This is good advice for everyone, not just entrepreneurs.

Take care of your physical health. Practice empathy. Take a vacation. Set firm time limits. Disconnect from work when away from the office.

These are valuable pieces of advice and will ultimately make you happier. Taking care of yourself first and making time for life outside of work are two big things that make for better employees. As I shared in the post on making solid teams, psychological safety and empathy are keys to being successful in the work place.

Why You Should be Planning for 2018, Not 2017
“Everything you do is positioning.” This mirrors what I wrote in my blog post Your Future Life. You want to set up for what’s next. This article does an excellent job of going deeper and focuses on your responsibility for the choices you make and how you react to events that happen in your life.  

10 Expert Tips To Make 2017 Your Most Productive Year Yet
They aren’t all home run suggestions but a few spoke to me.

Pick your most important thing and make a one item to do list every day. The book The One Thing was one of my favorite books of 2015 so in your day as well as in your products you should be focusing on one metric for success at a time.

Action triggers have helped me to get work done at times when I would normally be wasting time and or lounging about, like when I get the kids in bed I’m going to finish this blog post…yes this one that I’m writing right now.

And finally, and most importantly, say no to more things, what things are you not going to NOT do this year? Set hard fast rules about what you won’t do and it will add amazing clarity to what you will do.

And not a 2017 article, but it was sent to my email this week: 

Why You Need a Word for Your Year
I like this concept. I don’t agree with doing it before you set your annual goals, as I believe the word should be informed by your direction, but to each his/her own. I like the way that Mark Zuckerberg set every yearly challenge to a theme, 2016’s being invention. Treat the word as your theme for the year. My word for the year will be creation.

Tomorrow’s post will be a retrospective on December and the plan for January moving forward with a sneak peek at some of the topics I’m going to be writing about.  I’ve been working on the content calendar for the past few days and have a clear direction moving into the first six months of the year that I’m going to build upon. Stay tuned.

Got any articles from the first week of the year that you think I should read? Let me know in the comments.

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.