Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: 30 days of blogging

The blogging streak ends on day 40

Dammit, I did not blog yesterday. The streak of consecutive days of blogging ends at 40.

I’m not surprised that the streak was broken during the weekend; it’s a the toughest time for me to sit down and write.

I’m going to continue to blog during the week. I might write posts every now and then during some weekends, but that won’t be very often.

I’m disappointed that the streak is over.

But I am actually a little relieved because the pressure to keep the streak going is off. I can now just blog because I want to. And I do want to.

I think this experiment has increase my love for writing and blogging.

I had a lot of fun keeping the streak going. I am pretty proud of the way I’ve stayed consistent, and I learned a lot during the process.

I hope you’ll stick around for my future posts, even though the streak is over!

Topic generation – the tough part of blogging for me

thinking

One of the reasons I’ve never been able to consistently blog in the past is because I’ve had trouble coming up with blog post topics.

I’m not really sure why this is.

I read a lot of articles. I listen to podcasts. I have many conversations with smart people. All of this should help me generate plenty of ideas for blog posts.

I know there are plenty of topics out there that I can write about, so maybe my problem is either with 1)  process, or 2) valuing the topics, or both.

RE: process – maybe my topic generation process is broken. I actually don’t have much of a process, and maybe I should.

At the moment, if I get inspired and think of an idea, I’ll jot it down and either write about it immediately or refer to it later. That’s pretty much the extent of my process.

I just came up with the topic for this blog post 10 minutes ago.

Maybe I should set time aside to concentrate on topic generation. I dunno, that just seems contrived to me.

RE: valuing a topic – when I do think of topics, sometimes I believe I don’t know enough about a topic to write about it. Other times I think that some topics either aren’t that interesting to me or won’t be interesting to readers.

I should probably log those topics for future use. Maybe I’ll get smarter about them, or maybe my interest in them will grow.

For the bloggers out there, do you have any tips on how you generate topics for your articles? I’d love to hear more about your process and how you value your topics. Please comment or reach out to me at mike@mikewchan.com. Thanks!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 39 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

“You either have it or you don’t” – that’s total BS

Nature vs. nurture. You’re either born with it, or you’re not. You either have it or you don’t.

Some think you’re born with skills like creativity, analytical thinking, and the ability to be an entrepreneur, and if you weren’t, well, too bad, you can’t learn them.

I completely disagree.

I think you can learn anything if you really want to.

I know people who were creative movie set designers who became analytical investment bankers. Once-timid software engineers who became outgoing sales people. Corporate lifers who became entrepreneurs.

I think the whole left brain / right brain phenomenon is BS.

I do believe that some people are more inclined toward creative or analytical roles. I think some have the personality that makes a better sales person or marketer. I think everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

But I also believe that anyone can learn any skill, and they’re only limited to whatever they limit themselves to.

Sure, the learning curve in acquiring a new skill might be steep.

Someone who has been an interior designer for years won’t have an easy time learning computer programming, and vice versa. The learning process will absolutely suck.

It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, and it doesn’t mean that your “brain doesn’t work that way” if you’re not good at it in the beginning.

There’s no doubt you’re going to suck at anything to start.

But keep at something, and you can learn anything.

I think the quote “You either have it, or you don’t” should be changed to “You either have it, or you need to work to have it.”

What do you think? Have you acquire skills that you didn’t think you could? I’d love to hear your story.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 38 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

The Need-Want Gap: What Companies or Industries Need, They May Not Want

mind the gap

Those on the outside might see things that companies or industries need to improve and innovate. Those on the inside may not know they need these things. If they do, they may not want them.

That’s what I call the “need-want gap.”

A great example of this is portrayed in the book and movie Moneyball.

Because the Oakland Athletics couldn’t compete with other big-budget baseball teams for top players, general manager Billy Beane had to change the way players were scouted for the team to be competitive.

So Beane eschewed “gut feel” when scouting players and looked past traditional statistics like batting average, runs batted in, and stolen bases.

Instead, Beane focused more on advanced metrics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage to scout and recruit players and find diamonds in the rough. He realized that these statistics were more important to winning than the traditional stats, which were more about vanity.

This analytics-based methodology, called Sabermetrics, was absolutely scrutinized, and Beane was chastised by old-school scouts and managers.

This approach is still criticized to this day, even though the Athletics have been competitive with a tiny payroll for many years, and the Boston Red Sox won a World Series shortly after implementing the system.

Many middling teams knew they needed something stay competitive, but they didn’t want this kind of solution.

The need-want gap.

This happens many other industries as well.

Large businesses that have been around for many decades plod along with their traditional products and business models while startups disrupt them. Many deny the fact that they are being disrupted. Case in point here and here.

Ambitious job seekers may see that these companies need fresh thinking and innovation, but those jobs just aren’t available because these companies are satisfied with their position and don’t want to change.

The need-want gap.

Politics and government. Energy. Construction. Media. Music. All of these traditional industries have been slow to develop new business models as technology impacts them immensely.

If you’re seeking a career where you want to make change in these old-school industries, you might find that your services and ideas aren’t welcome.

But if you’re persistent and have a vision for the change you want to enact, keep going. Companies in these industries will come around when they have to.

If you can convince them that change is good and necessary, you can shrink that need-want gap and make your mark.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 37 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Asking the right questions vs. giving the right answer

I love when people answer a question with an inquisitive question. For the most part, I think it reflects on the person’s curiosity and ability to think critically.

Of course, there are straightforward questions where this isn’t applicable.

There’s no arguing “What’s 2+2?” The answer is 4.

“What is the most populous country on Earth?” has only one correct answer – China.

But even a simple question like “What color is the sky?” needs some analysis. You could ask:

  • What’s the weather like?
  • Are there clouds in the sky?
  • Is there fog rolling in?
  • Is it day or night?
  • Etc.

That’s kind of a lame example, but you get my point.

Many questions are situational, and answering these questions takes thinking through the scenario and analyzing the consequences of actions.

That’s why consulting firms use the case interview to assess their job candidates. The ability of candidates to analyze the problem, ask pertinent questions, and devise a solution in real time are extremely valuable skills.

This is similar in the startup world as well.

Of course, the ability to ask insightful questions is valuable for startup founders to determine the best candidate for the job.

But it’s also very important in assessing advisors, investors, partners, and others.

These people should be asking good questions to better understand your customers, market, business model, and other issues your business is facing.

Whenever I am asked questions by startup founders and entrepreneurs, whether the person is someone who is just launching their company at a Startup Weekend event or is the founder of the startup I’m advising, I always try to take a step back, think about what I’m being asked, and devise relevant follow-up questions to truly understand the issue at hand so I can add as much value as possible.

Some find it annoying when people answer a question with a question. I find that its usually the start of an interesting conversation with someone smart and intellectually curious.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 36 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Get your work out there

In one of the podcaster Facebook groups I’m a member of, someone posted the question “What makes a great podcast?”

One group member answered, “Make the podcast you’d want to listen to.” Talk about something you’re interested in and passionate about, and you’ll find others who have the same interest and build an audience.

A second group member disagreed, saying that amateur podcasters are diluting the quality pool by simply creating shows where they just talk about what they want to talk about, and are giving the medium a bad name for more “professional” podcasters.

I don’t know what makes a great podcast; I don’t think there is an exact formula, as beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

But I completely disagree with the second group member’s philosophy.

Technology has democratized content creation, giving everyone a platform to express their thoughts, whether it’s via written word on a blog, voice on a podcast, photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, or any other medium. That’s a good thing.

Sure, some of the work out there sucks but that’s OK; it’s up to consumers to decide what’s good or bad. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

If you want to get your thoughts out there, you certainly have all the tools to do so. You shouldn’t be afraid to do work simply because there are naysayers like that second group member out there.

If you don’t get your work out in the world, you’ll never know how good or bad you are at something, and you’ll never be able to improve.

If you wait until everything is perfect, you’ll never launch, because nothing will ever be perfect.

If you never get outside of your comfort zone, and only do things you know you’re good at, you’ll never grow and get better.

So go ahead and start that blog or podcast. If you have a business idea, talk to others about it instead of keeping it a secret. If you’re building a product, show it to others waaaaaaay before you launch.

Get your work out there and don’t worry about the haters. Do your work, get feedback, and improve.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 35 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Cool, calm, and collected

My wife was watching The Dog Whisperer on TV this morning. If you haven’t seen the show, dog trainer Cesar Millan finds cases of extreme dog behavior (aggression, fear, sadness, etc.) and trains the dog and the owner to improve that behavior.

The one thing that Cesar always stresses is how the owner approaches the dog, because the dog can sense feelings and emotions. If the owner is frantic, nervous, scared, or any other feeling, the dog will know and act accordingly. The owner’s poor state of mind will exacerbate the dog’s poor behavior.

Cesar always approaches the dogs with a cool confidence. He is always in control of the situation and addresses the dogs in the same manner regardless of whether the dog is barking with aggression or cowering with fear.

I think the same approach can apply to humans.

If you’re cool and calm, others can feel that state of mind and will be at ease. If you’re energetic and lively, others can feed off your energy.

On the other hand, if you’re always frantic, others may not feel comfortable around you. If you’re nervous in some situations, it may rub off on those around you.

I also believe that addressing different situations with a similar even-tempered attitude, like Cesar does, is helpful as well.

A meeting with your CEO is sure to conjure up more nerves than a lunch with your brother or sister. But if you approach the meeting with a similar confidence and calmness, you’re more likely to impress.

I understand that everyone has different personalities, and may have varying approaches to different situations. But if you are cognizant of your state of mind, keep your emotions in check, and stay cool, calm, collected, and confident, you can be the “whisperer” of any situation you face.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 34 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

One monitor or more for increased productivity?

Multiscreen computer setup

I work in an office a couple of days a week, where I have two big monitors. The rest of the week I work from home, where I have two big monitors.

Sometimes I work at coffee shops, co-working spaces, and on the road, where I only have my 13″ laptop monitor.

I’m not sure if I’m more productive using two monitors or one.

The easy answer is that productivity is increased when there is more screen real estate. More screen space equals more room to do more work, right?

Again, I’m not so sure.

I find sometimes that having one smaller screen keeps me more focused.

Having one screen keeps you zeroed in on that one task in front of you, with no where else to go.

When I have a second monitor, I typically place Slack, email, Skype, Hootsuite, and other similar tools on that screen. While those apps are important for me to to stay up-to-date with my team and other things that are going on, they are mostly distractions that get in the way of me doing real work.

Even having another Chrome browser tab open is sometimes enough to be a distraction.

When I’m writing a blog post where I need to refer to research that’s on another website, two screens certainly come in handy.

And of course, I’m in total control of what apps I put on the second screen.

But sometimes it’s better to not have options at all.

What do you think? Are you more productive with two screens or one? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 33 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is there still value in handwriting?

I recently listened to a Freakonomics podcast episode titled “Who Needs Handwriting?“, which was pretty fascinating.

In the episode, there was a debate about the value of handwriting.

Some argued that teaching handwriting in schools was unnecessary, since we have all of this technology with which to take notes.

Others argued that handwriting was a critical way for us humans to express ourselves and create.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about handwriting vs. using technology to take notes recently.

I use Evernote often to take notes. I can type much faster than writing by hand. My handwriting is absolutely atrocious, so bad sometimes that I can’t even read my own chicken scratch, and that’s not a problem with Evernote. And having my notes easily accessible on any device is a great convenience.

But I do find that I don’t often refer back to the notes I take in Evernote. There are probably some to-dos from a few years ago buried in some notes there.

And I certainly don’t have much recall of anything in those notes.

In the podcast episode, there was mention of a study done at Princeton that concluded that students who took notes by hand had a better understanding of the material when compared to those who took digital notes.

While I certainly see value in digital notes, I agree with the stance that there is certainly worth in handwriting.

I recently purchased a Moleskine notebook and have been logging my notes in there.

First of all, there are many situations where it’s easier or better to take notes by hand, especially compared to doing so on your smartphone.

Second, I do believe I recall handwritten notes more so than digital notes.

Finally, there’s just something about bringing pen to paper that makes me feel more empowered and creative.

If you typically take digital notes, the next time a thought comes to mind that you want to jot down, or if you’re taking notes in a meeting, give pen and paper a try. I think you’ll like it.

P.S. I have the Moleskine Evernote notebook and take pictures of my handwritten notes to store digitally. I guess it’s kinda cheating? 🙂

What do you think? Do you believe there’s still value in handwriting? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

 

This is day 32 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

5 things I learned from 30 consecutive days of blogging

Yesterday was my 30th consecutive day of blogging! Yay! I did it!

Phew, that month went by really fast.

There were a couple of close calls where I just didn’t feel like blogging or forgot to write until late in the day. But I got over those hurdles and made it to the end.

So what did I learn over the last 30 days?

1) Objectives > Goals

Many people think the terms “goals” and “objectives” are interchangeable, but there is a very distinct and important difference.

When January 1st comes around each year, many people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. That’s a goal.

An objective would be to lose five pounds by the end of March.

See the difference?

A goal is kind of an overarching intention and is a bit more nebulous. An objective is specific, measurable, usually involves a timeline, and leads to the achievement of the goal.

If I had set a goal for this experiment, it would have been to blog more often.

Instead, I set an objective to blog for 30 days straight.

I learned that setting an objective is much more powerful and motivating than simply setting a goal.

2) Understand why you’re doing something

If you have a true understanding of why you’re doing something, you’re more likely to stick with it and attain your objective.

The main reason why I did this experiment is to try to develop a habit of blogging.

I knew there were parts of personal blogging that I didn’t like, such as writing a super-long posts, doing lots of research, and searching for images.

All of these aspects of blogging are very important to engage readers and increase page views, Likes, and shares.

But increasing page views, Likes, and shares wasn’t why I was running this experiment. I wanted to see if blogging could become a habit.

So I largely took those components out of the blogging process. If I had kept them in, it would have been much more difficult for me to blog for 30 consecutive days, and I may not have made it to the end.

Focusing on why you’re doing something can give you a lot of clarity and help you achieve your goals and objectives.

3) Pressure makes diamonds

The pressure that comes along with setting and working towards an objective can be high.

And the fact that I openly shared my objective of blogging for 30 consecutive days with the world made that pressure on me that much greater. I had friends, family, and colleagues rooting for me and motivating me to get it done, which was awesome.

I’m not saying that my blog posts were diamonds, not at all. More like Cubic Zirconias.

All I’m saying is that by openly stating your objectives to one person or many, you put a lot more pressure on yourself and hold yourself accountable to reach that objective.

And that’s a powerful thing.

4) It takes a while for something to become a habit

Fo realz.

After 30 days, blogging still isn’t a habit for me. It has definitely become a bigger part of my psyche, but it’s not something that I run to do everyday.

I’m not sure how long it will take to become a habit, or if it will ever become one at all.

5) Consistency is so important

For everything.

Consistency is the key to growth.

Doing something everyday makes you better at it.

Ensuring a task is part of your everyday process is crucial to improving.

The rewards will come if you stick to something for the long term.

Repetition and consistency is so, so important.

The metrics

Here is how my metrics improved over the last 30 days, compared to the prior 30 days, on the platforms on which I publish my posts:

  • mikewchan.com – unique visitors up 9%, visits up 20%, and page views up 36%
  • Medium – views up 1211%, reads up 867%, Recommends up 775%
  • LinkedIn – page vies up 11,587%, Likes (497) and Comments (136) up infinitely, since I didn’t get any from Jan 14-Feb 14. BTW, it’s frickin tedious getting these stats from LinkedIn.

Of course, these metrics improved because of the sheer volume of content I put out in the last 30 days compared to the prior period. But that’s part of the game, and it’s a good thing.

What’s next?

I’m going to keep on keeping on. I’m going to attempt to continue to blog everyday.

I’m not so concerned about keeping the streak alive, though. I just want to keep doing it, as I’ve enjoyed myself and the feedback that I’ve received over the past month.

To tell the truth, blogging on the weekends is very tough, so I might drop writing on Saturdays and Sunday and just blog during the week. We’ll see.

I’m also going to slowly incorporate some of the aspects that I didn’t like about blogging back into the process to see how that feels.

Bottom line is that I’ve enjoyed this experiment and I’ve learned a lot about myself during the process.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

This is day 31 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.