Startup

Screw Excuses, Don’t Overthink, and Act — A Recipe to End Inaction

Photo by  Cristina Pop  on  Unsplash

An Important Lesson From Richard Branson

“Screw it, let’s do it” — Richard Branson

That attitude has led him to start, or help start, over 100 companies. He crossed the Atlantic ocean on a hot hair balloon, made the craziest product announcements the world has ever seen (look it up!), met and befriended Nelson Mandala, Barack Obama and other world leaders, and more.

Another interesting thing I highlighted from his latest book, Finding my Virginity, was:

I do almost everything on emotion” — Richard Branson

Now that interested me a lot because we’re always told to contain our emotions and act rationally. Truth be told, I believe in acting rationally, but where has this led us really?

Rationality oftentimes leads us to inaction.

We analyze something for too long and find a detail we think we can’t overcome, and then voila! we don’t even try. Gone was that good idea we had. We don’t even give it the chance to become a great idea.

I started having this go-getter attitude about 13 months ago when I left Canada to be a nomad.

 

How I Personally Apply This

Everything, with the exception of my game company, is a manifestation of Screw it, let’s do it.

My writing? I gave close to zero thought about writing before I started. I just wanted to improve it, so I wrote on Medium.

My first book? It was an idea I had in the shower, and I put it together, with help, in less than two weeks while working full-time on Soul Reaper and other projects. I did research on how to make this happen after the shower and acted on it right away.

My website? Someone asked me if I had one at the co-working space I was working from. I didn’t. He was right that I needed one though. So I put it together the next day and launched it the day after.

Viking Boutique? I saw a webinar on dropshipping and was intrigued. I put a Shopify store together that same night just to test it out. When I knew how things worked, after one or two more nights of playing around, I decided I would do something serious. That was the first version of Viking Boutique. I put it up in 4 hours.

My photography gigs? I volunteered to take photos for Sundara for a project of theirs in Uganda. I had no clue what I was doing. Back in April, I took photos of the opening of a new WeWork location in Bangalore. I simply asked if they needed professional shots.

This story? Just like 95% of the other stories I write, I have no clue what I’m going to write about when I wake up. Heck, I never even know until I start writing. And somehow, according to Medium, I’ve written more than 400 stories (includes replies).

You see my point?

I’ve left quite a few jobs in the past. Almost every time I thought about switching jobs, I did so at most two weeks after having the thought.

I remember some previous colleagues repeatedly mentioning they would quit; a thought that, at the time, had never occurred to me for myself. And he said it for at least a year. When I decided to quit, I quit. I was gone much before him, and I heard he left one or two years after me.

 

Conclusion

Whenever you catch yourself saying: “I will do <x>”, you should stop yourself and think: “why not now?”. Chances are, you’ll have a pitiful excuse (sorry).

If time is your excuse, I’d say that 95% of the time, it’s a case of bad time management. It’s not the point of this story to explain how to manage time, but reflect on that the next time not-having-time is your excuse. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are busier than you, yet they make things happen.

“If you don’t have time for small things, you won’t have time for big things.” — Richard Branson

So I give you this challenge:

Whatever idea you’ve been off-putting for a while, just put it in motion. Just dip your feet and see how it feels. Slowly, little by little, you’ll catch yourself being in the pool and acting on things you thought were impossible for you.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, clapping, sharing and following! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/screw-excuses-dont-overthink-and-act-a-recipe-to-end-inaction-364b9bf02e4

How Truly Understanding This Quote Turned Me Into a Successful Serial Entrepreneur

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on  Unsplash

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Top Skill-Learning Lessons Learned from One Year of Experimentation

For the sake of this article, we’ll define the word “Skill” as such: “the ability to do something well”. “Well”, doesn’t necessarily mean professionally.

The moment I read and understood the following quote is the moment I knew I had to turn my life around and become a more skilled individual:

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

Now imagine the scenario where you learn more than 35 skills in a year:

  • How much more “successful” do you think you could be?

  • How many ways can you combine those in creative ways?

A lot of times we can’t see how two or more skills may come together until we have acquired the knowledge.

And then one day you wake up and realize that by using a multitude of skills you’ve acquired over the years, you come up with a brilliant idea that could change your future forever.

Just 7 months ago, I didn’t really know how to write good stories. Writing was just one of the skills I wanted to learn over the course of the month of January.

During that month only, I:

  • got published by The Startup (after 5 days in fact!);

  • became a top writer in 7 categories on Medium.com;

  • learned to build mass and gained 5kg of pure muscles (and lost 2% body fat);

  • started a fitness group that grew from 2 people to 13 in just a few days;

  • became way more proficient at day-to-day Spanish conversations;

  • made a new partner for a side-business I was working on; and

  • built my personal brand website.

The next month, I learned how to do Social Media Marketing (with emphasis on Facebook), how to speak/write basic Tagalog and how to grow muscle mass in the legs for someone with chicken legs.

I also released my video game, launched my Viking store, read more books, attended toastmasters events, and grew my networks.

So how can I learn that many skills so quickly and accomplish more?

Simple. In theory at least:

I learn 3 new skills every month.

Let my story above inspire you to try this approach.

Keep reading to learn how I choose the skills, when and how to practice them, why this approach works so well and some of the criticism I’ve received concerning this approach.

How I Choose My Skills

First off, I choose 3 skills that use completely different sections of the brain. I’m certainly no brain expert, but here are a few categories of skills that I’m almost 100% sure use different parts of the brain:

  • Logic/Science (Programming, Math, Physics, etc.)

  • Creative (Art, Music, Writing, Design, Movies, etc.)

  • Languages

  • Health (Nutrition, Body-building, Sports)

  • Speech (public speaking, speed, tone, etc.)

The first month I tried Logic, Creative and Languages, more specifically: Categorization using Machine Learning, Drawing using Photoshop, and Past and Future tenses in Spanish.

Be Specific and Realistic

As you can see, these are very specific subsets of skills.

Always be realistic.

What if I chose Programming, Drawing and Spanish? This is way too broad! Where do I start? What is it really? How the heck can I learn all that in one month! How do you track progress on that?

Being realistic and specific will help you focus and stay motivated, and ultimately help you stay consistent in your practice.

When And How To Practice Them

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Practice each skill 30 minutes per day

Thirty minutes for each skill is achievable. If it’s unreasonable for you, just reduce to 1–2 skills instead.

Sometimes I do 2 skills in a month, sometimes I do 4, but I do 3 on average.

And is 30 minutes each day enough to learn a skill? I say yes.

Remember our definition at the top: “the ability to do something well”.

In 15 hours (30 minutes X 30 days), you can learn A LOT.

Have a schedule

Be extreme in telling your brain that you HAVE TO do it or something bad will happen.

This is made easier if you do it consistently at the same time every day. I practice on weekends also. I don’t want to break the momentum.

Learning new skills requires energy, much more than doing things you know.

For that reason, I do them when I’ve got the highest amount of energy. For me, that’s 30 minutes each skill, starting at 5:00am every morning.

Passive Learning

Most skills can be practiced passively. That is, without you actually “spending” time practicing them.

During your day, you spend a lot of time doing passive things: Commuting to work, basic cooking, doing the dishing, health hygiene, etc. I bet for most people, that’s at least one hour of their day.

Use this time to learn passively. Most skills have good theoretical knowledge required. It’s not hard to find good articles online, podcasts and videos to teach you the theory required to learn a skill. Just put your headphones on and learn while doing those passive activities. Learn the jargon, the techniques, etc.

Of course, don’t spend all your time on theory! I spend at least 75% of my time on practice over the course of a month.

4 Reasons Why This Approach Works

Photo by  russn_fckr  on  Unsplash

Photo by russn_fckr on Unsplash

Learning 3 new skills every month completely changed my life for the better. I’m a much better person than I was a year ago. And trust me, it’s not as hard as you think it is. In fact, most of us do learn 3 new skills every month without knowing it. Being aware of it makes all the difference.

1. Because All Skills Are Useful

I will start by saying there are (almost) no useless skills.

Everything I aim to learn has a purpose. The first skills I chose were: classifying documents using Machine Learning, Drawing using Photoshop and Learning The Past and Future Tenses In Spanish.

In one of the current startups I’m working on right now requires my acquired ML skills.

When working on my game, I can now draw decent enough sketches/drafts for my artists to understand my vision.

I moved to Spain 2 months after learning the past and future tenses. I had no idea I would go to Spain at the time.

I use and improve these skills pretty much every day now. The progress has become organic.

2. Because I Build Stronger Connections

I work in co-working spaces. I work with people from all over the globe with different backgrounds. As such, it’s not always easy to have deep conversations if you have nothing in common.

By learning so many skills, there’s a much higher chance that I’m going to find something that unites me with another person.

I’ve connected with people I would never connect with normally, and these connections ended up being some of my strongest connections.

3. Because I Discover Hidden Talents Or Passions

I didn’t aim to write. I didn’t aim to take photos.

Yet I’m now getting paid to do both.

If I didn’t try them as new skills, I would never have known that 1. I’d be good enough at them, and 2. I’d really grow to like them.

4. Because The More You Know, The Faster You Learn

And for me, that is the best reason: learning constantly, at a faster pace.

There’s (almost) nothing I enjoy more in life than learning. It’s such a great feeling when you reach a level of mastery you never knew you could reach before.

“The person who can learn from everything will beat out the person who judges harshly who and what to learn from.” — James Altucher

2 Critics To This Approach

Photo by  Mark Daynes  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

1. I Don’t Have That Much Time!

Yes, you do.

In Analyze How You Spend Your Time, And You will Realize There Is Plenty Of Free Time, I talk about strategies to help you figure out where you can get more time.

One of the realizations I made for myself a few years ago is that I can’t do anything productive after work. I’m too drained mentally. Because of that, I had decided that I’d wake up earlier to work on side projects. It worked great.

Today, I wake up between 4am and 5am depending on the month and the schedule I make for it. I’m productive from 5am to 7pm.

Sounds difficult, right?

Here are key lessons I learned to make waking up early easier:

  1. Wake up at the end of a REM cycle. Experiment to see what it is for you, because it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s about 90 minutes. So I usually sleep between 10pm and 4am, which is 6 hours, or 4 full cycles.

  2. Take power naps (10–15 minutes rest) during the day. 6 hours is not enough. I take one power nap in the morning and one in the afternoon. Again, this takes practice. It’s hard to pull off initially. More tips in Pro Tips For Power Napping Like A King.

2. You Never Master Anything

This is not entirely true.

On the moment, it’s true that I just become good at the skill, without reaching for mastery.

But what’s the point in mastering something you don’t yet know is going to be useful for you?

The key here is that as the months go by, I practice complementary skills and eventually become great at it. Skills are a series of sub-skills. I learn sub-skills every month that add to a whole.

For example, I learn different aspects of a language over the course of a few months, and eventually I “master” it.

So even though the next month’s skills may be completely unrelated to the previous month, it doesn’t mean it will never be connected to a skill I’ve previously learned.

Eventually, the skills that matter will reach mastery.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve learned something and it will inspire you to become more skilled. It had an incredible impact on my life and I hope it will do the same for you too.

36 skills in a year is definitely attainable. Of course, it requires dedication, good planning, and execution.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, sharing and following! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/how-truly-understanding-this-quote-turned-me-into-a-successful-serial-entrepreneur-3b6b7e649e73

3 Alternatives to 10x Your Productivity Almost Instantly

Photo by  Raw Pixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Raw Pixel on Unsplash

Using a Simple, Yet Scientifically Proven Method

Are you like I was and would LOVE to work on side projects or start a business on the side while still working at your current job?

We all know that is a smarter decision than downright quitting. Trust me, I’ve been there.

You come back from work completely exhausted and can’t conjure the energy to make it happen.

I was like that too. And believe it or not, there are millions of people like us too.

Imagine all the wasted potential.

You could be working on your dream project and make an impact in this world, if only you could find it in you to just start, build some momentum and keep at it.

And it’s so freaking hard. Again, I know, I’ve been there.

But things changed when I changed this aspect of my life:

I became ACCOUNTABLE for the things I’m doing.

In the short span of six months, I was able to accomplish the following:

  • I learned 18 new skills, including fiction and non-fiction writing, drawing, NGO photography, storytelling, public speaking, day-to-day Spanish conversations, learning to learn, eComm management, and more;

  • I got involved in more than 7 projects, most of which I’ve started;

  • I met prolific writers and other personalities;

  • I gained 7kg of muscles;

  • I wrote and published 2 books;

  • I released a video game;

  • I opened up the world’s first and only story-driven online store;

  • I diversified my revenue sources, getting paid for 4+ different projects;

  • I got published by top Medium publications like The Startup;

  • I contributed to Entrepreneur Magazine, Thought Catalog, and Thrive Global;

  • I became a top writer in 15 categories on Medium;

  • and more!

Feeling inspired?

What Does Being Accountable Mean?

In its simplest form, it means you owe “something” to “someone”.

The most powerful “something” are:

  1. Money; and

  2. Results.

The most powerful “someone” are:

  1. People you love; and

  2. People you care about.

Think about your previous attempts at starting something. A side project for example.

  • Why did you (want to) do it?

  • Who did you do it for?

  • Was it necessary?

  • What/who forced you to do it?

  • What were the resources associated with doing it (money, people, etc)?

A powerful method to push you to action is what’s called the SUNK COST.

Think of any membership really. An easy example is a gym membership.

  • If you have a gym in your house or building, how frequently do you actually use it?

  • Now, if you spent money on your gym membership, are you going more frequently?

Very likely, right?

Back in January, I was in Málaga, Spain, and looked up the most expensive gym. I couldn’t really afford it. If I went there, it meant I had to cut other places I didn’t really want to.

But I decided to go there anyway. Getting up and going there was easy. I “sacrificed much” to have access to that gym. I HAD TO go, otherwise, I would have wasted precious money and time. After it became a habit to go, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Not working out had actually become harder than working out.

This is KEY: Not doing had become harder than doing!

THAT is the power of being accountable!

 

3 Ways to Become Accountable

1. Involve a Friend in Your Weekly Planning and Reflection

Average Effectiveness Rating: 2-3x

This is probably the cheapest and easiest option but is the least effective in my opinion.

Here’s how it works:

You find a partner/friend to participate with you. Every week, you meet and exchange on:

  • Your goals for the week;

  • What was — and was not — accomplished towards these goals;

  • How you can do better next week;

  • What your goals are for the next week; and

  • How you will accomplish these goals.

This method is less effective because there’s only one other person involved, and therefore you both have to be accountable to even have the meeting.

In day to day craziness, it’s easy to forget to do it or set it aside because of other “priorities”.

If you fail to achieve your goals, you make a fool of yourself to one person only, usually someone who won’t make you feel bad for it anyway.

2. Make Your Goals and Progress Public

Average Effectiveness Rating: 5x+

This is how it all started for me. I did not do it intentionally, but I did it nonetheless.

At the co-working space I was working from in Málaga, everyone knew my goals every month. They were displayed on my screen at all times, I’d talk about them with people, and they’d ask questions about the progress.

But also, I had started writing on Medium back in January. To make my stories more relatable, I often wrote about my goals and how I accomplished them.

By having everything public, I don’t want to look like a fool that’s all talk and no game. I had to show results. Since I was the top #5 writer in Inspiration for a bit, I also had to make sure that my achievements were indeed inspiring.

I strongly encourage you to try this method.

3. Join an Accountability Program

Average Effectiveness Rating: 10x+

An accountability program is a system that puts incentives for you to do things. Some try the gamification approach, some try punishment, some try community, some try the coaching approach, etc.

There’s no right or wrong here. It depends on your personality.

If you’re driven by gratification, the gamification approach may work for you. Some programs give you rewards in the form of digital currencies or goods, discount coupons, or more. You receive them when you accomplish a goal you set for yourself.

If you’re driven by fear of losing something, the punishment method may work for you. Some programs implement it by having you set a goal and putting a “bet” that you’ll accomplish your goal in time. If you don’t, the money is taken from your account and put somewhere else. Basically, it costs you money to not accomplish your goal.

If you’re driven by social recognition, the community method may work for you. Basically, it’s a paid membership to a group where people report weekly goals and activities for every member to see.

The coaching approach is the next level. It’s more similar to the friend/partner approach from above, but is paid and more importantly, gives the person expert feedback, tips and truly pushes the person. Think of it almost like a mentor-mentee relationship.

 

Conclusion

Not all accountability methods yield the same results, but one thing is for sure:

Being accountable for what you do does dramatically increase your productivity and motivation.

I’d suggest trying all three methods from above to see what works best for you. I included my personal effectiveness ratings above based on my own experience, but I think it’s important to try for yourself.

The important part is that you can start being accountable NOW, at no cost, and with minimal effort. I can’t promise you the results I’ve had for myself, because we’re all different, but I can promise you it will help your productivity and motivation.

So think about this now:

  • Who can I be accountable with?

  • Can I make my goals public?

  • Do I want to join a program?

  • Which program is right for me?

I’m hoping this reflection will bring clarity to you will push you to try to become accountable for what you’re doing.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, clapping, and sharing! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/3-alternatives-to-10x-your-productivity-almost-instantly-c507ca6c4c53

Learn More Skills, For Your Future’s Sake!

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

I personally love that quote! Truly understanding it was the first step in my journey to improve my future.

And I KNOW you can do the same!

Not that my future was necessarily bad, but I knew there had to be more to life than waking up at 8am, doing a 9–5 job, going back home, cooking, eating, playing video games, and sleeping.

Rinse and repeat.

Do you feel that way too?

Isn’t it missing some kind of “higher” purpose?

What does me doing this job bring to the world?

I don’t want to just “be” on earth. I want to “do” on earth. Or I guess maybe Mars too in the near future!

It’s not that my “9–5” job sucked. It was great actually. I was learning constantly and working with a deeply skilled bunch. I like to think that my performance was great and I was doing a good job, but there was something missing deep inside, but I didn’t know what it was.

When Things Started To Change

When I left Toronto to become a nomad 9 months ago, I had started focusing my full attention on my startup. It was great. I was accomplishing so much.

Yet there was still something missing: I was not learning much at all.

“Live life as if this will be your last day; Learn as if you will live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Learn, learnLEARN.

There’s no limit to what you can learn. I didn’t know that to be true until I started researching how to quickly learn new skills.

The only true way that I found to learn faster in my 5 months learning 3 new skills a month is by learning more diverse skills.

The more you learn, the more you learn.

Your brain remembers patterns and stores them in your memory. The more patterns you’ve “stored”, the faster it becomes to make new connections and quickly assimilate new patterns.

Now, I’m not brain expert, but that seems to align with the more scientific things I’ve been reading on the subject for the past year or so.

Isn’t this great news though?

To learn faster, you just gotta learn more!

Learning is a very enjoyable and painful process all at the same time. Your experiments will fail constantly. And it’s when you don’t give up on them that your learning improves. But once you’ve acquired the knowledge, there’s no limit to what you can do with it. Especially if you take into account the quote from above: “learn more skills and combine them in creative ways”.

The Future And Success

By most modern standards, I’m probably quite less successful than I was a year ago:

  • I don’t have a place to call home;

  • I don’t have a salary;

  • None of my startups have really taken off yet.

Yet somehow I feel more successful than I’ve ever been. You know why? Because I’m freaking happy, and I’m doing more impactful things!

And I’m freaking skilled.

I’m doing so many things I never knew I could. If I never tried, I would still be coding my life away, not knowing that I actually have other things I’m capable of doing.

That’s why I reject the idea of focusing on one thing only. Because, seriously, who really knows what their the best at until they even try other things. Many things. A buttload of things! Seriously!

I didn’t know I could draw until I tried back in October of last year. I didn’t know I could figure out how retailing works until November of last year. I didn’t know I could write until I tried back in January.

A Recent Manifestation Of Skill Combination

Now, I don’t want you to think that the whole point of this story is to advertise my latest business, but I just think it’s a great example of a way to combine skills in a creative way.

I opened up the Viking Boutique yesterday after some time thinking about the concept. To be honest, I actually hadn’t figured it out until yesterday.

On the surface, it may look like a regular store (I hope not), but it really isn’t.

I’ve combined my writing skills, my commerce skills and my drawing skills all together to make it happen.

The Viking Boutique is the story of Harald Goldskin, a Viking from the 8th century. Everything he sells has a story behind it. I wrote the stories. I drew the images. And every week, he sells new wares that he found during a recent raid. Every raid has a story. The Mead Hall is where the stories are told. It’s the store’s blog. It’s not all about selling cheap sh*t from China.

The Evolution Of Learning So Many Skills

If you had told me 9 months ago that I would:

I would have told you that you were crazy.

Yet I strongly believe that this all started with making the conscious decision of planning and working hard on learning 3 new skills a month.

Once you’re committed to your self-improvement and you’ve found a framework that works, there’s no stopping you!

Conclusion

“Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow.” — Zdravko Cvijetic

Remember that!

A surefire way to make that happen is to commit to constantly and consistently learn new skills.

You will change in ways you never expected. You will do and achieve so much more than you ever thought you could. You will accomplish your goals. You’ll do things that are impactful, for you, your surroundings, and beyond.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :) 

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/learn-more-skills-for-your-futures-sake-e816b09472fa

I Love You India.

Photo for  Sundara  from the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar

Photo for Sundara from the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar

(But please tone down the spice level on my food ;P)

On my 6th year anniversary with my wife, I flew from Toronto to Mumbai. A mere 14-hour flight… We left at 9:10pm and landed at 9:10pm. Let me tell you, that messes a brain real good!

Definitely not our most romantic one.

We did a similar thing 2 years ago when we took a 13-hour overnight train from Xian to Ba Da Ling, close to Beijing. We were cramped in a tiny section with 4 other people sitting on a flat hard bench.

So hey, compared to that one, it’s this one wasn’t that bad!

Our Airbnb host was nice enough to let us check in late in our Andheri West apartment. We had a nice chat with her and went to bed.

We were thinking of taking it slow for a few days, but Audrey ended doing a business meeting and I ran around doing some SIM card and food shopping.

Classic Danny and Audrey.

In Search Of A Co-Working Space

When we were done with our mini-vacation, I contacted WeWork Marol for a place to work. That place looks great! Unfortunately, they were full, and they had just opened 3 months ago. I inquired about the one in Koramangala in Bangalore, because I would be staying there. Full again. And same thing, it had been opened only 3 months ago.

Obviously, I was quite disappointed since I really needed a place to work from and WeWork seemed great.

But that made me realize one thing:

The Startup scene in India, and especially in Bangalore, is incredible!

I did a quick Google Maps search after hearing the Koramangala was full, because we had booked our lodging for the month there and wanted to walk to work.

Turns out there were about 20 co-working spaces there!

We didn’t settle on one until we arrived in Bangalore later.

We currently work from WeWork EGL. It’s awesome. The people working there, and from there, are great. They make my stay there very enjoyable.

I love you India.

Nice Landscapes And Smiles

5 days after we landed in Mumbai, we went to a very small village north of Mumbai called Ashte. It’s a quiet village with really nice landscapes. It’s where I got started with my photography assignment for Sundara.

It took me at least two days to get back to it. I was quite rusty.

But this all changed 3 days after when I went to shoot at the Z.P. Urdu school near Palghar.

The kids were the most amazing in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful smiles all at once.

They were genuinely happy. I don’t see that back at home. Kids in Canada are too concerned with getting toys. More toys. Always more toys. These kids played with each other and didn’t anything to have fun, smile and laugh.

It was the most fun I’ve had during a photo shoot.

I love you India.

Smily kids of the Z.P. Urdu school. Photo taken for  Sundara .

Smily kids of the Z.P. Urdu school. Photo taken for Sundara.

Brew Pubs

When we landed and arrived at our apartment in Bangalore, the first thing we did was look for a pub. We had heard Koramangala had a few.

We stumbled upon Brooks and Bonds, which had just opened recently.

It was nice!!

It had a really amazing 2-floor rooftop patio, and great pub food and beer.

The temperature in Bangalore is so nice. That pub night was one of the nicest we had in a while. That was a proper Danny-and-Audrey-style anniversary dinner!

Oh, and that was at least 3 times cheaper than Canada. So yea to that!

Yesterday we went to a place called Prost and had a delicious Red Ale and Steak. For $10 CAD. Beef is rare in India, so that was a real treat at a bargain!

I love you India.

There’s An App For That

India took Apple’s iPhone’s slogan very seriously. Especially in Bangalore. There’s an app for everything!

I haven’t cooked anything since I’m here. I’ve used Order by Zomato quite extensively, but there’s a bunch of other local apps. I have a list of 5 at least. It’s cheap, it’s good, it’s fast(ish), and there’s a lot of variety!

The PayTM app is accepted everywhere. Almost no one pays with cash. You scan the QR code and your payment is done. Simple and quick!

Ola and Uber greatly simplify transportation. I get picked up from my apartment and get dropped near my office for anywhere between $0.50 to $0.80. The return is more tricky because of traffic (which is quite insane…), but an Uber Pool costs me $0.80, door to door. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes.

Dunzo.in is something I really want to use. You have things you’d like to get done by someone else? Just pay them to do it for you for insanely cheap. It works for repairs, shipping, buying, home services, etc.

India, your use of technology is probably the best I’ve seen in the world. Your innovations never cease to amaze me.

I love you India.

Staying Long Term

Initially, I was thinking of staying about 3 months in India. I strongly considering changing my mind and staying longer.

I initially wanted to go to New York City after. I wanted a vibrant, hectic city where everything is fast-paced and everyone works hard.

And that’s what I found here in Bangalore.

Excellent startup vibe, great food, great prices, nice people, nice co-working spaces, perfect use of technology and innovation.

India, especially Bangalore, you’ve won my heart and beat NYC as the place I want to stay most currently.

So India, I love you!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

First published here: https://theascent.pub/i-love-you-india-582fb9fd2c96

Running A Company Remotely Is Possible But Not Easy — Here Are Some Tips To Make It Easier

Photo by  @headwayio  on  Unsplash

Photo by @headwayio on Unsplash

If you have tried it before, you know there are many obstacles to making remote work “feasible”: timezone differences, communication issues, spotty wifi, lack of proper schedule, environment distractions and more.

I have been running Power Level Studios “remotely” since it started having collaborators over a year ago. I say remotely in double-quotes because initially, it was all remote within the same city. Everyone worked from their own homes in Toronto.

Then in June of last year, I left Toronto to work from other places around the world, making me completely remote.

During that time, I grew the company from 4 people to 8.

As far as I know, we have not had any problems with me being away and still “running the show”.

So let’s address some of the problems associated with running a company remotely:

Communication Issues

This is likely the biggest issue of them all.

It’s already hard to have an effective communication system in place when everyone works from the same office, so of course it even harder when you can’t have face to face conversations.

At Power Level Studios, we have a simple but efficient system that has worked really well for us.

Have Everyone Remote

I have worked remotely for a company where pretty much everyone worked from the same office.

I was left out frequently. And it’s not that I wasn’t an important part of the team, it’s just that when everyone else is there, sometimes you just forget the “exception”.

And that sucked. I know I could have been way more productive if I felt like I was really part of the team.

By having everyone remote, everyone is on the same page. There aren’t many different ways to communicate. Everyone uses the same tool.

One of the previous companies I worked for removed their office and started working remotely. That didn’t stop them from making and releasing the successful Halcyon 6 game.

In Power Level Studio’s case, we’re releasing Soul Reaper: Unreap Commander on April 3rd. The game was built from December 2017 to March 2018.

Limit The Need To Communicate Verbally

We never communicate verbally at Power Level Studios. I don’t remember the last time it happened.

In fact, we rarely communicate at all. It’s all about our streamlined process.

We use the Kanban approach.

We have a series of steps a task needs to go through. When the person working on the task is done with the step, they move the card to the next step, where the next person in charge of the task will automatically be notified. In review steps, if it passes, the card moves forward, if it fails, it goes backward, where the person responsible for the work will automatically be notified.

It’s all about the automation and having a clear indicator of who needs to do what when.

Be Fully Transparent

With the Kanban approach mentioned above, we have different boards depending on the type of work. We have boards for Art, Design, Admin, Programming, etc.

Every board is public to everyone at the company.

I’ve got nothing to hide.

Everyone can see what I’m working on at any point. That is very important. People working with me need to know that I’m not just barking orders from the beach working on my sun-tan.

Trust Your Team

I rarely make decisions. I’m not sure if that throws my team off or not, but that’s my management style. I like to have everyone’s input on aspects I trust them on. I would not ask an artists’ opinion on programming, but I will definitely ask them about monster and loot design.

Everyone can submit their design ideas and we collaborate on it. I rarely get the ideas all by myself. We vote on design ideas, names of monsters, etc.

If my artist tells me A is better than B, I rarely argue. They’re the expert.

By trusting everyone, I know they trust and respect me more in return. They know we’re working towards the same goals.

Environment Issues

Spotty wifi, distractions, hard to follow schedule, loneliness — we’ve all been there. How do we overcome those things?

It’s all about making your environment productive and removing anything that goes against it.

Removing Distractions

I hate working from home. I’m way too distracted. I have games, books, and no one to judge me if I’m not working.

When I was working from home in Toronto, I would put console cables places where it would be so much work for me to get that I wouldn’t do the effort to get it.

In my apartment in Toronto, we didn’t even buy furniture, except for a mattress and the desk to work from. The place really was only good for working and sleeping.

Whatever it is you find distracts you while you work, change your environment so that it’s harder to distract yourself as opposed to doing your productive activities.

If your distraction is in your physical location, hide stuff, or better yet, make someone else hide it.

If your distraction is on your computer, use software that blocks access to apps and websites during certain hours. Have someone you trust lock the schedule behind a password so you can’t easily disable it.

Finding Good Wifi

Depending on where you are in the world, wifi can be an issue. Especially public wifi.

I’ll give you my favourite trick straight up: co-working spaces.

I’ve never been to a co-working space (yet) that doesn’t have usable wifi. I’ve seen anywhere from 10 mbps (slow but usable) to 1,000mbps (very fast).

Check using speedtest.net.

Never trust your Airbnb host or hostels to tell you their wifi is fast. It rarely is. Below 5mbps for me is hardly usable. In some countries, they call that fast. My 4G/LTE is 3x faster than that.

Fighting Loneliness

Building on the co-working space idea from above, having other hard-working people around you is extremely motivating.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m 10x more productive when I work from a co-working space.

It’s always nice to meet other people who work on their own crazy ideas. Entrepreneurs care so much about what they do that it’s contagious. You want to work harder and share your ideas with the others around.

You build great personal and professional relationships just from being there. I even made myself a business partner by working at The Living Room in Spain.

Keeping A Schedule

This is key to build momentum. I’ve written about this extensively in the past.

By working remotely, it’s hard to stick to a schedule because you don’t have office hours.

But to be honest, I don’t like office hours. Not everyone works great from 9–5. In fact, I don’t think anyone at Power Level Studios work from 9–5.

I start my day at 4am, but start my actual work at 9am. I take two naps during the day, usually around 8:30am and 2:30pm. I’m always super tired in the afternoon. I don’t work well unless I do a power nap. I try to reply to my messages only between 1:30 and 2:30, after lunch. I then finish work around 7pm.

I’m much better at sticking to this schedule when I’m at the co-working space. I know no one is monitoring me, but I need to feel like someone could judge me for not following my schedule.

Conclusion

Running a company remotely is possible but not easy.

I’ve been doing it long enough now and have found strategies that work for my video game company, but I know could work for other types of businesses.

Having everyone remote and limiting the need to communicate makes project management more efficient. Be transparent and trust your team. Apply these principles and communication will not be an issue.

Remove distractions, find good wifi, fight loneliness and keep a schedule.

Make your environment work for you.

You can do this!

Let me know what you tried that worked or didn’t work for you in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/running-a-company-remotely-is-possible-but-not-easy-here-are-some-tips-to-make-it-easier-7bfa6e16a105

15 Things You Should Think About If You Want To Be Successful

Me at the summit of San Anton, Spain

Me at the summit of San Anton, Spain

As I was writing yesterday’s story, my wife sent me a link for inspiration for a future story.

It was an image that summarizes a lot of what myself and a lot of other writers here say about “success”.

When we think about high-profile successful people, we only see their current success, but not their struggle to get to where they are today.

EVERY successful person had to go through a lot of hardships to get to where they are today. And success is only a state, it changes. Successful people continually have to work hard to keep their “status”.

You may have seen a variation of that image before:

2.jpeg

I personally love this image. I’m not the most successful person out there, but I like to remind myself sometimes that when things are rough, maybe I’m just one step closer to “success”.

Let’s analyze each point in that image:

Disappointment

By going outside the norm, you’ll disappoint people you live a normal life. You will also disappoint yourself a lot along the way.

This month has been very disappointing for me. Because I was on the move almost on a daily basis, I didn’t manage to stick to my routine and completely lost my momentum.

What are you disappointed about?

Persistence

This is where most people fail. Persistence is about executing consistently and never giving up.

I am personally not very persistent, which is surprising to say for someone who has worked on the same game for 4 years. But outside Soul Reaper, I almost “give up” everything I do. I like to try new things all the time.

What are you persistent in and what are you not persistent in?

Hard Work

Conor McGregor said it best:

“There’s no talent here. This is hard work. This is obsession. Talent does not exist.” Conor McGregor

When I could follow my routine, I was working at least 50 hours per week on Soul Reaper. I was: writing one story a day (I still am), learning Norwegian, doing 100 pushups, squats and dips (I still am), journaling, meditating, recording podcasts, working on a text-to-speech startup, and more.

How do you work hard?

Huge Risks

Getting out of our comfort zone is a habit not many people dare to try. We are not programmed to make decisions that can break us. Successful people make huge bets that ultimately paid off.

Last June, I quit my job to become a nomad and work full-time on my game, which still hasn’t made a single dollar. I employ 8 people, all of which I pay. I have yet to make money for that business. I’m not aiming to get all the money I spent back, but I’m hoping some people will at least enjoy the work we’ve done on Soul Reaper.

What huge risks are you taking?

Late Nights

I’ll rephrase that one: working long hours.

Successful people don’t count the time. When they look at their clock, it’s not because they’re eager to stop working — they’re afraid that they won’t have time to finish what they started.

When you combine all the productive activities I do, I work around 100 hours per week. For reference, there are 168 hours in one week. I gladly do more as needed for important deadlines.

How many hours a week do you put towards your productive activities?

Struggles

Nobody is perfect. Everybody struggles to do things they’re not familiar with. It’s how you overcome your struggles that makes or breaks a champion. Arnold Schwarzenegger struggled to build mass in his calves. He analyzed competitors, worked long hard hours and overcame it.

I currently struggle to write one story per day. If I look at my Medium stats, I’ve written 141 stories. That includes the responses I write, but some of them are genuine answers. I’m a game developer, by trade. Writing is not something I can do that easily.

What do you struggle with?

Competition

We’re all competing against other people who have the same goals. Sometimes it’s an active act, but a lot of times it’s passive.

At heart, I’m far from a competitive guy. Indirectly, I’m competing for attention here on Medium. There are so many good writers out there, so when a reader chooses to read me, they chose to read me over other people. For Soul Reaper, I’m competing against other games of the same genre.

But I personally don’t think about that. I think about producing great content:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin

What do you compete in and where do you stand in that competition?

Discipline

I see discipline as an obsession. Do you obsess over your goals? Do you quantify and qualify everything?

When I had the goal of gaining 5kg of mass in one month (it’s extremely hard for an ectomorph), I needed discipline. I needed to eat a lot of good, healthy food, workout all body parts consistently and quantify gains in all aspects of my body. I ultimately succeeded thanks to the obsession.

Do you quantify and qualify your goals?

Courage

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens one. It’s about having strength in the face of pain or grief.

“What defines us is how we rise after falling.” — Conor McGregor

Going back to the 5kg of mass example, after 21 days, I was behind on my gains. I had gained half of what I wanted to gain, but there were only 5 days left of my workout. I was very close to losing hope that I could do it. It was already insanely hard, but I had the courage to step it up even more. On the last day, I had reached my goal, and lost 2% body fat along the way.

Do you strength in the face of pain?

Doubt

Everyone has doubts about themselves, about the things they’re doing. Doubt, when “used” properly, can lead to making better, more informed decisions.

I constantly doubt the success of Soul Reaper. The thing about video games is that the main criteria for a good game is the fun factor. Yet “fun” is very subjective. There’s no way to quantify it scientifically. But by doubting it, I constantly try to figure out new ways to make the game more fun.

Do you doubt yourself?

Do you doubt the things you’re doing?

Criticism

Not everyone will agree with what you are doing. There will come a point where people will criticize your work, your beliefs, etc.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my writing that as I’m writing this, I’ve only had 3 bad comments. But every time I get one, I’m happy. Criticism is a sign of success. When people take the time to write their opinion, good or bad, you’ve made an impact on them.

Do you get criticism for things you do?

Personal Failures

Outside of our productive activities, we’re all people. We have “a life”. As we reach a higher level of “success”, more personal failures will occur; broken relationships, staying healthy, staying motivated, etc.

I try so many things that I ultimately “fail” at 90% of what I do. Personally, I’ve lost friends along the way. I don’t live a conventional life and because of that, I tend to disconnect from people who live one.

Where have you failed in your personal life?

Adversity

We all face events that are outside of our control. Some people say they’ve got bad luck, or even go so far as to say they’re cursed. Successful people recognize that some things are out of their control, but still prepare for the eventuality that said misfortune could happen.

I’m such a positive person that it’s hard for me to find a personal example of adversity in my life. I find lessons in all “bad” experiences.

What adversity do you face?

Rejections

No. No. No! To become successful, you’ll get rejected many many times. Tim Ferriss reached out to over 18 publishers for The Four-Hour Workweek. They all said no. The 19th said yes. You will get many “no” until you get the “yes” you’re seeking. Be persistent.

I’ve been rejected for jobs I felt highly qualified for. But I take responsibility for it. I was just not prepared enough. In my outreach efforts for Soul Reaper, many have just ignored my requests, the others said no. That doesn’t stop me from trying.

How many times were your ideas rejected?

What’s your biggest rejection?

Sacrifices

Every successful person makes sacrifices — Money, relationships, time, etc. It is those who dare sacrifice what they cherish most that will reap the fruit of their labour.

I sacrificed the comfort of a stable home in order to save money. Life in Toronto is so much more expensive than life in Cambodia, Spain or India. With that money I’m saving by having lower standards, I can invest in my other ventures.

What sacrifices are you making?

Conclusion

On your road to success, you will face the above 15 things. It’s how you tackle them that will make you successful.

Ask yourself the questions above.

Are you doing what successful people do?

Are you struggling to answer the questions above?

Fight disappointment, be persistent, work hard, take huge risks, put in long hours, combat struggle, win over competition, be disciplined, have courage, remove doubts, accept criticism and personal failures, understand adversity, fuel off rejection and make sacrifices.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/15-things-you-should-think-about-if-you-want-to-be-successful-20239f6b6c41