Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Careers

Focus, Discipline, and Consistency – my three goals for 2017

Happy New Year!

I didn’t make any resolutions for 2016, and I still won’t make any for 2017.

What I’m going to do is be as focused, disciplined, and consistent as I possibly can in everything that I do.

Let’s see what I mean.

Focus

I want to be more focused on both a macro and micro level.

On a macro level, I want to do fewer things, better.

That’s why I stopped producing my podcast. As much as I loved interviewing entrepreneurs every week, the podcast wasn’t getting me closer to my goal of launching and growing a successful startup.

So the time and mindshare that was spent on producing the podcast are now dedicated to working on my startup (more about my startup at a later time).

I’m still going to be involved with Startup Weekend, but I’ll limit my time on that as well.

On a micro level, I want to increase my focus on the task at hand, whether said task is for work or personal life.

When I’m working, I will minimize distractions from email, social media, and any other interruptions that come my way. I’ll dedicate specific times to check my email and limit my time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

On the personal side, I just want to be more present in everything I do. For example, if I’m hanging out with my daughter, I’ll truly focus my attention on her instead of checking my phone every 10 minutes. I’ll concentrate on the people I’m with and the task at hand. It sounds simple, but in today’s world of technology all around us, I need to make that conscious effort to stay focused.

Focus is so crucial, and I aim to be more intentional about it in everything that I do.

Discipline

I’m going to work hard at being disciplined with my time and energy.

To do so, I’m going to schedule everything. All of my work tasks will be inputted into my calendar and assigned a specific time allotment. This will help me avoid Parkinson’s Law – where work will expand to fill the time available for its completion.

I’m also going to be more disciplined in my diet and exercise regimen. Vicky and I are starting our ketosis diet again, and I aim to exercise at least a little bit every day, whether that’s an hour at the gym or 15 minutes of push-ups and sit-ups.

Consistency

Finally, I’ll work hard to create a consistent cadence in everything I do.

On the work front, I’ll do a little bit every day to achieve my long term goals.

This might mean writing every day to consistently create blog posts for my role at Thorn Technologies, working on small tasks each night on my startup, or perform targeted engagement every day on social media sites.

In my personal life, this might mean working on a home project each week or being consistent in cleaning up the house.

Consistency is critical if you want to constantly get better and improve.

Conclusion

Focus, discipline, and consistency are my three goals for 2017 and beyond.

They’re not mutually exclusive, either.

It takes lots of focus to be disciplined, and lots of discipline to be focused and consistent.

If I can increase my focus, discipline, and consistency, 2017 is going to be my most productive year yet. And I believe I’ll improve my skills and relationships as well.

Let’s see how this goes!

What are your resolutions for 2017? Do you have enough focus, discipline, and consistency in all you do?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

Are you patient enough?

I was going through the airport security checkpoint this morning and the man in front of me (I’ll call him “Dude”) looked really impatient.

The guy in front of him (I’ll call him “Guy”) wasn’t even moving that slowly. He was doing the typical things – taking off his shoes, putting his luggage on the conveyor, etc. – at a normal pace.

Dude was rolling his eyes, trying to move in front of Guy, and just being kind of pissy.

We walked through the metal detector and gathered our belongings. Dude was rushing and walked off while I grabbed my stuff.

When I looked up, I saw that Dude left his suitcase on the conveyor. I called to him and he had to walk back to grab his bag.

His impatience made him forget something really important and necessary.

(I thought about the fact that he might be late for his flight, but I found out he was on my flight, which wasn’t taking off for a while.)

This can happen to anyone. We’re all busy and have places to go, and we want to get there as fast as possible.

I admit I’ve been impatient when it comes to the startups I’ve been working on.

In the startup world, you’re supposed to “move fast and break things.”

You’re supposed to “fail fast”, “hire fast and fire fast”, talk fast, run fast, blah blah blah.

And I get impatient when progress isn’t made each and every day.

Maybe I need to better understand that things take time to develop.

For my first startup, I was impatient when things weren’t progressing. It failed for a number of reasons, but I think one of them was due to my impatience of things not moving fast enough. And I left some relationships behind.

I think moving fast is very important. In an ideal world, you’ll make quick decisions, build quickly, iterate, learn faster, and move forward.

But sometimes you need to understand that things take time, and some of the best products and companies take years and years to find success.

If you move too fast, you might leave things behind.

Have you ever left something behind because you were too impatient? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Ever feel like you’re an impostor? That can be a good thing.

impostor girl in glasses

I had a conversation with my co-worker Rob yesterday and he was worried that he was an impostor. I said that in some scenarios, that’s actually a good thing.

Here’s the backstory.

Rob is a huge Pokemon Go fan and awesome iOS developer, and built an iPhone and Apple Watch companion app for the game called GoTypeChart.

The app helps you quickly figure out what type of Pokemon to use for Gym battles in Pokemon Go.

I don’t play the game, so I don’t know much, but apparently there isn’t always a right answer for which Pokemon to use in each scenario. And some other “experts” said that some of the recommendations in Rob’s app were wrong.

Due to the negative reactions to his app’s suggestions, he felt that he was just an amateur Pokemon Go player and didn’t deserve to have an app like this in the App Store.

Rob felt like an impostor.

I said that’s OK.

The word “impostor” has negative connotations that typically include fraud and trickery. It doesn’t always have to be viewed that way.

Everyone is an impostor at some point.

Any time you learn something new and try to apply what you learned to a problem you’ve never faced before, you’re an impostor. You don’t really know what you’re doing, but you’re giving it a shot.

If you pre-sell a product that doesn’t even exist yet, you’re an impostor. Kickstarter? Full of impostors. But that’s a damn good thing that you were able to do that.

If you build an app but aren’t really sure what you’re doing, you’re an impostor. But you’re building something and putting your skills out on display, and that’s brave.

Impostors may lie and say that they know what they are doing, when they really don’t. But if you give it a shot and learn along the way, being an impostor can be a good thing. It means that you’re trying new things and growing.

So go ahead and be an impostor (the good kind).

Have you ever felt like an impostor, and what did you do about it? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Image courtesy of Jason Eppink on Flickr

How important is alma mater when assessing job candidates?

graduation cap

Over the weekend, my buddies and I had a conversation about how much it matters where a candidate attended college when he or she is applying for a job. The context was that if I were to review a stack of resumes, how powerful of a signal is their alma mater?

One of my friends said that the university attended is a strong differentiator. He works in the pharmaceutical industry, and his argument is that many of the candidates have worked for other strong pharmaceutical companies, and that work experience is essentially equivalent. Thus, the college degree from a place like Stanford will trump the one from Rutgers. (Sorry, Rutgers.)

The other friend, who works in advertising and creative, argued that work experience trumps all, and that this experience will almost never be equivalent across candidates. Where the candidate went to college carries very little weight, and the companies where the person worked prior and the quality of work that he or she produced is a much stronger signal that can be defined.

I agree with both of them, because both situations are so different.

In the first scenario, I think where the candidate went to college is more important in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. These “hard” subjects are more clear-cut and objective, and the differences in formal training and education can be vast from college to college.

Also, it may be more difficult to differentiate the work each candidate has done in prior pharmaceutical and other scientific companies. Many times the work contains research that may not come to fruition or management of drugs that have been around for decades, so the impact of a single candidate can’t be determined accurately.

In the other scenario, I love the fact that employment can be based solely on the quality of worked that is produced – a pure meritocracy – and pedigree is a much less influential factor. A job really comes down to how you perform, so why shouldn’t your selection be based solely on your performance in prior jobs?

I do think this may be a bit easier to execute in “softer,” more creative jobs, those where you can actually produce an end product. If you’re a graphic or web designer, you can have a portfolio to display your work. If you’re an advertiser, you may have ad campaigns that you’ve worked on that can be seen, heard, and assessed, even if that assessment may be subjective.

Startups align more with the second scenario; if you are a co-founder, your success is judged solely by the performance of your company.

On the other hand, I think that some venture capitalists will look at the founders’ pedigree as a strong signal of whether to fund the company or not. A software engineer from Stanford or MIT may be more likely to be funded than a business major from the University of Central Florida. (Sorry, UCF.)

I can certainly see both sides. I have degrees from Lehigh, Georgia Tech, and NYU; nothing elite, but very respectable schools. So I can probably get by on my pedigree in certain situations, but chose the route where merit rules.

I just hope that I don’t ever have to apply for a job again. 🙂

Regardless, like many other things, the value of an alma mater comes down to the specific situation.

How important is alma mater when you’re assessing who to hire? And how important has your alma mater been in your career?

Tell me about it in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

How does other people’s success make you feel?

Unless you’re Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or some other ridiculously wealthy person, there is always going to be someone who is more successful than you are, at least financially.

How does that make you feel?

I think other people’s success can bring out a spectrum of feelings.

Starting from the crappy end, you can be jealous and hateful.

You can complain that the 1%-ers get preferential treatment, claim that these people were raised with a silver spoon in their mouths, and say that they don’t deserve what they have. You can spew hate on social media or any other channel. That’s pure negativity.

Moving up the spectrum one step, you can be envious.

You don’t have what other successful people have, but you want it. There is definitely less outward hating going on, but inside you stew a little bit that others are further along than you are.

Next on the scale is indifference. Maybe you don’t really care about other people’s success and you’re cool with your current situation.

Finally, there is inspiration. Seeing others’ success motivates you to work harder, continue to learn, and achieve more. Witnessing how others have found their path in life makes you believe you can do the same and attain those levels of happiness, wealth, and satisfaction.

It doesn’t always have to be about the money, either. Success can be defined by your personal and social life, fitness and health, career, or some combination of those and other factors.

For me, in terms of my personal life, I’m indifferent and content. I have an amazing family, great friends, and a beautiful home in a great city. I’m healthy and happy.

Regarding my career, I feel a mixture of envy and inspiration.

I can’t help but be envious of other people’s career success, primarily because I haven’t quite found where I want to be and thus I haven’t gotten there yet. I haven’t made the impact that I’d like to as an entrepreneur, so I’m naturally envious of those who have.

But I do think it’s a healthy envy that inspires me to work harder, get smarter, and keep grinding. I want what others have, and I’m not talking about money. I want to launch and grow a company and have a positive impact on people’s lives, like many other entrepreneurs have done.

So how does other people’s success make you feel?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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!

Reflecting on my life and career paths on my 38th birthday

the thinker

It’s my 38th birthday today. Happy birthday to me.

38 isn’t a nice round age like 30 or 40, where most people reflect on and ponder about their lives. But I’ll do it anyway because I have a lot to reflect on.

15 years ago, I was a consultant in San Francisco. I traveled a lot for work, made some decent coin out of grad school, and lived a single guy’s life. I had a great group of friends, got drunk at least 3 times a week, and pretty much did whatever the hell I wanted to do at any time I wanted to do it.

10 years ago, I was in business school in NYC pursuing a career in sports marketing. I was learning a lot and making some great connections. I was also having a lot of fun with my b-school friends as well as my childhood buddies, whom I hadn’t lived close to in a long time.

My head was kind of fucked up though. I lost my Dad to cancer a few months prior, and wasn’t sure how to deal with that loss (I drank a lot). And I was pursuing a non-traditional, low-paying career while many of my friends expected to make loot pursuing their banking and consulting jobs. This was difficult to deal with and I many times doubted my choices.

5 years ago, I had my dream job in sports marketing, working for the Washington Capitals. It was right where I wanted to be and I was doing really well. I was fully settled in to DC (it took a while after living in San Francisco and NYC) and started to really dig the city and what it had to offer. I wasn’t quite married yet, but was well on my way.

Now, I’m married to my soulmate, have a wonderful daughter, and own a beautiful home. It’s a lot of fun seeing my daughter grow up, but it’s still odd to me that I’m responsible for this little person’s life. It’s really awesome and rewarding, though.

Career-wise, I’m kind of this hybrid employee / entrepreneur. I work for a software development firm, but the CEO is my co-founder in our startup ribl, which we’re barely working on nowadays. I host my own podcast. I volunteer my time organizing Startup Weekend DC events. I’m not exactly where I want to be, which is working on our startup (whatever the product may be) full-time, but we’ll get there. I think.

Except for my Dad’s passing, my life arc is going pretty much as planned, and I am exactly where I want to and should be.

What does my career arc tell me? It either tells me that 1) I like change, or 2) I have no idea what the fuck I am doing with my career, or 3) both.

I’ve been open to taking the road less traveled with my career; it keeps things fresh and exciting.

But there are still so many things that I want to do.

And there’s a lot of doubt about whether I’m making the right choices and going down the right path. One day I’m confident, other days less so.

I’ve had 38 years to figure it out, but I guess I need more time.

If making history was easy, why bother?

After the Golden State Warriors’ game 4 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kobe Bryant sent a text to Warriors power forward Draymond Green that said, “If making history was easy, why bother?”

I love that.

Why bother with doing anything that’s difficult? Why bother with pushing yourself to be better? Why bother with getting out of your comfort zone?

Because accomplishing something difficult feels good. Doing something that’s hard helps you improve. And learning a new skill or craft keeps things interesting.

If something comes really easy, it’s probably not worth doing.

There are instances where it’s OK to take the easy way out, as there may be better ways to spend your time.

Pay for that mechanic instead of learning how to change your oil. Buy that sprinkler system instead of watering your lawn by hand. Automate some processes and workflows to achieve scale and efficiency.

But for the things that matter, like making customers happy, forging strong relationships, and constantly improving, you have to bother with putting forth more effort. Because doing those things may be what you need to make history.

What are your thoughts about doing hard things? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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!

I wrote an e-book! Is a full-length book next?

Books

Yay! I wrote and launched my first e-book!

It’s called “10 Apps You Can Use to Maximize Your Productivity.” Click here to learn more and download it, I’d appreciate it! I hope it helps you become more productive.

While the e-book is pretty simple, it took a long time for me to write it and have it designed, so I’m pretty proud of it.

Writing that e-book got me thinking about whether I should write a full-length book.

I’ve blogged a lot and think often about my career, and careers in general. I actually have a few long essays about careers that I haven’t yet published, which might be the foundation of the book.

This wouldn’t be a “how to become a millionaire” book –  I don’t know sh*t about that.

Nor will this be a “find your dream job” book – I haven’t found mine, so I’m no expert there.

It might be something along the lines of “how not to f*ck up your career.”

I don’t really think I’ve (totally) f*cked up my career. But I’ve already had three or four careers in my life, so I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. And I think I could write both an entertaining and educational story based on my experiences.

What do you think? Should I write a book? And would you read it? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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 onTwitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

Why you should always work to build equity

equity

Equity is a word that has many meanings in different contexts.

In its truest form, equity means fairness and impartiality.

In startups, equity is how much of a company you own.

In finance and accounting, equity is the difference between the value of your assets and the cost of your liabilities.

In marketing, brand equity is the value of having a well-known brand name, which allows you to beat your lesser-known competitors.

In real estate, owning a home gives you equity, as opposed to renting.

Equity is an extremely important and beneficial thing to acquire, which is why you should always look to build equity regardless of the context.

Equity requires a longer-term mindset, rather than seeking short-term wins.

In your career, your salary isn’t likely going to make you rich. Ownership in a successful business will.

In marketing and business, companies who seek to maximize short-term profit instead of building long-term customer loyalty will always lose. If you take care of your customers, you will build brand equity with them, and they’ll become repeat buyers as well as advocates. Zappos is a great example of this.

On the personal side, being fair with family, friends, and other people in your life will help you have lasting, more fruitful relationships.

No matter what the situation, whether it’s your career or personal life, building equity will always leave you better off in the long run.

What do you think about building equity? In what ways have you sacrificed short-term wins for long-term gain?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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!

Photo courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery

 

Listening vs. hearing – what’s the difference and which is more important?

LIstening vs. hearing - White Men Can't Jump

While listening and hearing may seem similar, they are very different. And maybe in a way you may not expect.

You might hear in the background a song on the radio, a show on TV, or a friend speaking, and may not be actively listening. You should always listen to your friends, BTW.

By this definition, listening requires more attention and cognizance.

That’s true, but let’s take it a step further.

In the classic movie White Men Can’t Jump, Wesley Snipes says to Woody Harrelson, “There’s a difference between hearing and listening. White people, you can’t hear Jimi (Hendrix)!”

You can listen to someone, but it takes that much more attention, thought, and empathy to really hear someone.

That’s what Wesley Snipes was saying – that white people couldn’t understand where Jimi was coming from.

So while hearing does come before listening, it also comes after.

Hearing equals understanding and empathizing with what or whom you’re listening to.

In careers where you work with clients or sell to potential customers, you have to be a really good listener.

And when you hit the point where when you actually hear someone and understand them, it’s a beautiful thing. There’s this moment of clarity where you realize that you’re just on the same page with someone, and at that point you can deliver the most value.

Next time you’re listening to someone speak, or sing, or act, really try to hear them. I think the interaction will be much more valuable.

What do you think about the difference between listening and hearing?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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!

Photo courtesy of YouTube