Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Life

When the Guilt Creeps In

I’ve recently realized that I feel guilty more often now than I probably ever have.

It’s not that I feel guilty for doing things in the past that I regret, because I have very few regrets. It’s more like I feel guilty when I don’t do things that I know I should be doing.

For instance, I just was not motivated to work the other day. I was tired, hadn’t exercised in a while (which makes me feel like crap), and just couldn’t get myself to attack important tasks. I completed a few little tasks that took minimal brainpower, but just couldn’t get myself to get the bigger, more important things done.

And I felt completely guilty about it.

I have a ton of projects for work. I have a laundry list of tasks to do around the house (which many times includes laundry), there are everyday things to do to take care of Maya, and a bunch of other general life events going on. And I feel guilty when I’m not taking care of these tasks.

I feel guilty when I check social media instead of working on mockups for my startup. I feel guilty when I sit down to watch TV, which doesn’t happen all that often anymore, instead of searching for ceiling fans to buy for the house. I feel guilty when I read and respond to email when I should be writing that blog post or eBook. And I feel guilty when I read all of these blog posts from entrepreneurs about how productive they are EVERY…SINGLE…SECOND.

I didn’t feel this way in the past, at least not to this extent. Maya didn’t exist 22 months ago, so that was never an issue in the past. But I didn’t feel guilty checking my personal email during my prior jobs. I didn’t mind taking a long break to socialize with my coworkers. I didn’t feel sorry for going to the gym in the middle of the day.

Maybe becoming an entrepreneur changed all that. And getting married. And having a kid. Maybe I care more about these things that are part of my life now, than what was part of my life back then. I’m not sure.

A possible solution would be to not do the things I shouldn’t be doing, and do all of those things that I should be doing, all the time. Then I won’t feel guilty, right?

Yeah, I suppose. But eventually that will lead to burnout.

I think the problem for me is accepting that not all of my time needs to spent on getting things done. Taking some time to do something brainless every once in a while is OK. Actually, it’s probably a good thing.

It’s tough to disconnect from work when you’re trying to get a startup off the ground. But doing so every so often is much better in the long run, for your physical and mental health.  Still, it’s a difficult thing to do.

Do you feel guilty when you’re not being as productive as you can be? If so, how do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

When patience and perseverance can be bad traits to have

Patience and perseverance are excellent traits to have. But in certain situations, you don’t want to wait too long, or endure for too much time.

I wrote a post a while ago about how raising a kid is like running a startup, and I find that patience and perseverance can apply to both as well.

Being patient with your child is a virtue.

There will be times where your kid throws tantrums and just does things that she shouldn’t be doing. Over and over and over again. Or if you’re sleep training your kid and she just cries and cries and cries and sounds like she may never go to sleep.

And you might lose your cool.

Being patient, persevering, and teaching your child the right thing to do – over and over and over again – will make her better understand right from wrong. And letting her cry herself to sleep, even though it might be painful to hear, will be better for everyone in the long run.

Patience can help your startup and business succeed as well. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) investor and expert Jason Lemkin says it typically takes 7+ years to truly build a SaaS company. And many founders give up too soon.

It takes some time to learn what you need to learn and do the things you need to do in order to be successful. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

But when might too much patience and perseverance be a bad thing?

In the sleep training example, maybe your kid is crying for a different reason other than just not being soothed to sleep. She may have poo’d or pee’d, maybe you forgot to give her favorite sleeping toy to her, or it might be too cold in the room. If too much time has passed and she still isn’t sleeping, you should probably go in and check on her.

In the startup world, you have to realize when it’s time to jump ship. You might recognize that the founding team isn’t right for you, and it makes sense to split up. Maybe you see that no one really needs or wants your product, and it’s time to pivot to another idea.

In these cases, you might be wasting your time pursuing things that just aren’t going to work, and the best solution is to not persevere and just move on.

Overall, patience and perseverance are great characteristics to have. But the tough part is recognizing when they are detrimental to your particular situation.

How My Cognizance and Awareness Has Improved Over Time

I think one of the “skills” that has markedly improved over time is my cognizance.

I’m much more cognizant and aware of what I’m doing and saying, how I’m doing and saying these things, how what I do and say might affect others, and how those things, in turn, will affect me.

Maybe it’s a function of being older and more mature (my maturity is debatable, though). It might also be my exposure to different types of work, people, and experiences over time.

I believe that being an entrepreneur has truly humbled me and made me much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

When you work for a larger company, you can more easily cover up your shortcomings. When you work for yourself, a startup, or a small business, your weaknesses can become much more exposed if you fail to deliver, because your impact is much greater, for better or for worse.

I think producing my podcast really taught me to be concise, speak clearly, ask good questions, and be aware of how these questions might be interpreted. I’ve learned how to manage different personalities under specific constraints and get the most out of every minute of a short conversation.

And in my personal life, I believe having a child really puts things into perspective and forces me to think things through before making any major moves. It also compels me to be more productive and maximize the use of my free time, since there’s much less of it now.

I believe that the people I’ve met, the work that I’ve done, and the experiences that I’ve accrued have helped me better understand and be more aware of my surroundings and actions.

How about you? Do you believe that you’ve become more cognizant? If so, why?

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.

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 many people would listen to what you have to say?

say something

More than you think. Way more.

When I first started my blog, I really didn’t have much of a reason for doing so. I just wanted to get my thoughts out of my head and into the world.

And I didn’t think anyone would read it.

Who was I to start a blog? What knowledge could I impart on the world that people would actually be interested in? Who was going to read what I write?

In the beginning, very few people read my blog. My family, a few friends, and some co-workers read my articles every once in a while.

Same deal with my podcast. Who the hell would want to listen to me? What value would my interviews add over the thousands of other entrepreneurship podcasts already in existence?

Turns out, there are a bunch of people who read my blog posts and listen to my podcast interviews. It’s not a huge number but it’s way more than I expected.

I realized that there is always someone out there who is willing to read what you have to write or listen to what you have to say.

Even if the topic has been covered through and through, you have a unique point of view that will resonate with more people than you think.

And even if you’re not a true expert on anything specific, there will be people out there who will connect with your experience and story.

There will always be someone in the world who might be going through a similar situation as you are and is seeking advice.

So if you think you have a story to tell, you should tell it. You might think that no one will consume what you produce, but I think you’re wrong.

I think way more people are interested in what you have to say. So say it.

Do you have something to say, but have been scared to say it because you think no one will listen? 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 do you deal with things out of your control?

I did not have a good day yesterday.

In the morning, I took our car in for an oil change and found out that two of the tires had nails in them and needed to be replaced. This cost a few hundred bucks and an extra two hours of time.

Then I got to work and it was all meetings, so I didn’t get any real work done.

I was pretty happy to get home and hang with my kid and wifey. But soon after I arrived, I got a text message from the tenants renting our condo that there was a puddle of water in the hallway and a sections of the carpet were wet.

Unbelievable. This is the second time in under six months that the unit above us caused a water issue. You can read about the first time here.

So I headed down to the condo, and on the way into the building, a resident’s dog bit me in the upper thigh. WTF? Maybe I should consider myself lucky it didn’t bite me in my twig and berries.

I went to the condo to check out the damage. It didn’t look too bad, but the water damage company had to do their analysis of the situation. And they didn’t show up until 11:30PM, over five hours later!

And their assessment was much worse than I expected. Basically, there is moisture in every wall in the affected section of the condo.

Ugh.

What to do?

There is nothing different that we could have done to avoid any of this, so we’ll just have to go through the process again, get our placed fix, and move on.

Nails in tires, flooded condos – there’s not much you can do about things that are out of your control, so it’s probably wasted energy to stress about this stuff.

Yeah, we can avoid driving through construction sites (not that we do that often) or other places where there may nails lying around, and maybe we can sell our condo to avoid any problems in the future.

But again, stressing about stuff we have no control over, like traffic and the weather, is just not helpful. It’s better to prepare for the things you can control.

How do you deal with things that are out of your control?

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 check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

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!

How more empathy can improve our f*cked up world

I haven’t blogged in a bit, and it’s sad that this is the type of post that I felt compelled to write. Regardless, I have something to get off my chest.

I want to talk about how fucked up our world is right now.

Terrorist attacks. Racist shootings. Mass shootingsCampus rapes. And so many other horrible things are going on this minute.

Discrimination, disagreement, dissent, and disharmony is all around us. There’s so much angst everywhere. The tension is palpable.

While it can’t be boiled down to a single factor, I think a lot of the hatred in our world stems from a lack of empathy.

A prime cause of terrorism is the fact that some people so radically believe in their religion that any other faith or way of life is unacceptable. So attacks are planned and executed. Then bombs are dropped to retaliate against terrorists organizations, and civilian casualties happen (oh well!). Then the terrorist reciprocate, and a vicious cycle starts and continues.

Racist people don’t understand what others go through day in, day out, simply for having different colored skin, and they don’t care. That person of a different ethnicity can be super educated, extremely friendly, and very helpful, but the racist person doesn’t give a shit.

The NRA can’t fathom how the families of victims of mass shootings feel and won’t do a damn thing about it. And the people who execute these mass shootings do it from a place of hatred for another way of life that’s different from their own.

While alcohol many times muddies the true story of campus sexual assault, there is a fundamental absence of empathy in many of the parties involved. Drunk students take advantage of other drunk students with little regard of how the victim may feel or the consequences of their actions. The victim may accuse someone of rape even though the story is unclear, not thinking about how a simple accusation can significantly alter that person’s life for the worse. And the parents of the accused or accuser many times don’t understand (or care to understand) what the other family is going through. I have a 14-month old daughter and I am terrified to send her to college 17 years from now. If I had a son, I’d still be extremely nervous about what can potentially happen on campus.

Truthfully, I don’t know if any protest we take part in, petition that we sign, or letter to our senator that we write will change anything.

I don’t think our government is capable of making things right.

But I think we can do our part everyday to better this world by being more empathetic.

It can be simple as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes when you’re in an argument to help see the other side of things.

Or you can be a little nicer to that person who isn’t like you.

And even when a terrorist or mass murderer performs a horrific act of violence, understanding why they did so and attempting to address the underlying problem, instead of simply calling for vengeance, can help avoid future catastrophes.

I believe that empathy is one of the most important characteristics that someone can have, and it is something that can be learned.

And I believe that if more people were more empathetic of others’ situations, we can avoid a lot of the conflict that is occurring today.

And I believe that we can all do our part to make the world a more empathetic place right now, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and for the rest of our lives.

Sorry for the rant.

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.