Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

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What kind of work gets you in the zone?

I have friends who just love to write, and when they start writing, they just get into the zone and can’t be stopped.

I’ve worked with designers who get into his or her flow, and the creativity just keeps pouring out.

There are people who just love to cook, and they can spend all day in the kitchen.

Amazing things happen when someone just gets so comfortable with and loves the work they do.

Some things come very natural to people, and they’re so good at their work and enjoy it so much that it almost becomes second nature.

I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, after 38 years on this earth, I don’t think I’ve found the kind of work that gets me into a flow state. My resume and career tells that story pretty clearly.

I’m a people person, so part of me thinks my ideal work would be in sales and marketing of some sort, not dissimilar to what I’m doing now. I thought I had a dream job working in marketing for a sports franchise, but that job ran its course, just like all the ones prior.

I’m also pretty analytical, which is why I gravitated toward engineering for my undergrad and grad degrees. And I’m learning Python, which I’m enjoying as well (though it’s hard as shit).

I also like to build things. And I like to write sometimes.

I’m a man of many interests. And that might be holding me back from finding my ideal work.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll find the work that gets me into the zone. When I do, I’m sure it’ll be a beautiful thing, because it always is.

What about you? What kind of work gets you into the zone? Maybe it’s a specific aspect of your job. Or it might not be work at all; it can be a hobby that you can do all day.

Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about it.

How Chess and Business are Alike

chess board

Whenever we visit Vicky’s family in NJ, my nephew-in-law always asks me to play games, and sometimes we play chess.

This brings me back to the days when I used to play chess against my Mom when I was a kid. I remember enjoying it, but not so much when lost. :/

Anyway, the more I play chess, the more interesting the game becomes, and the more I draw parallels between the game and business.

First of all, if you don’t know how to play chess, you have to learn about all of the pieces and what they can and can’t do. There’s a lot to pick up in a short amount of time.

Then you have to have a strategy that translates to tactics. What’s your opening move strategy? How will you protect your King? Do you like to attack with your Queen early and often?

Of course, you have to understand your competition. What’s his or her strategy? Are they aggressive or defensive? How might they react to your moves?

Throughout the whole process, you have to be analytical. Scan the situation, manage your risk, analyze your options, and select the best one.

Similarly, if you’ve never run a business before, you have to learn about many subjects, and quickly. Depending on the company you’re building, you may have to pick up product development, marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, recruiting, legal, and so on.

Then you have to plot your strategy, tactics, and implementation plan. How will you go to market? What channels will you use to acquire customers? How will you recruit for the skills that you need?

Knowing your competition is very important. How do you differentiate from your competition? Is this differentiation sustainable?

And it’s imperative to be analytical in business as well. Even though creativity and other soft skills are important, you have to know your numbers inside and out. How much does it cost to acquire a customer, and how does that compare to their lifetime value? What’s your profit margin and growth? How can you drive more traffic to your website and increase conversion rates?

It’s no wonder that many successful executives were competitive chess players.

I recently bought a chess board so Vicky and I can play. We’ll eventually teach Maya how to play as well. Hopefully she’ll learn how to be analytical and strategic, discover the parallels between chess and business, and then grow up to be a successful executive. No pressure, though. :)

When little things become big deals – is this a good thing?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how little things become big deals when you’re a startup founder.

One of the questions that I thought about was whether this relatively small situation having such a major impact on my psyche is a good thing for me.

On one hand, it’s obviously not good at all.

There are a lot of “small” bad things that can happen that can stress out any startup founder or early employee. You might lose touch with a potential customer, like I almost did. Maybe you typed in a wrong number that made you spend a few hundred dollars more on advertising than you planned. Or maybe you inaccurately communicated something to your team that led to confusion about what tasks needed to be done.

These things can add up and really fuck with your mind if you don’t deal with them properly. The stress may lead to poor sleep, crappy work performance, and strained relationships.

Of course, that’s not good for you in the least.

On the other hand, if you put things into perspective, this stress can actually signify a good thing.

It could mean that you truly care about the job that you’re doing. Your reaction to these situations might show that you’re really passionate about your work and the mission you’re trying to accomplish. It might mean that you understand the big impact that these seemingly little things could have.

If you were buried in a large corporation, these little problems might sting a little, but in the long run, they’ll likely be a drop in the bucket and have minimal impact to the livelihood of the company. With layers upon layers in an org chart, these small issues can easily get buried and ignored with little consequence, so you might not care about them as much.

I’m not saying that a startup founder’s job is more important than any other corporate job; I’m saying that in the early stages in a company, little things have a much larger effect on the company.

So when these little things bother you, it can be a sign that you really care about what you’re doing, and are committed to making sure everything goes well for the good of the company.

And that’s a great thing.

Ketogenic diet, coffee everyday, and meditation – new changes to my daily routine

 

I’m experimenting with some changes to my daily routine to see if they’ll impact my productivity and quality of life. I’ve changed my diet, am drinking coffee, and meditating.

Ketogenic diet

The first big change I’ve made is my diet, and I’m trying the ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps your body burn fat, instead of carbs, for fuel. It has shown to provide many health benefits, including weight loss, lower cholesterol, and increased energy.

Vicky and I just returned from a vacation in Taiwan. Before the trip, we knew we were going to stuff our faces, so we wanted to go on a diet upon our return. One of Vicky’s friends achieved amazing results with the diet, and hell, Joe Rogan does it. So we decided to give the ketogenic diet a shot.

We’re only on Day 2 and everything seems fine. The diet actually isn’t that much of a departure from what we normally eat. We usually eat a lot of noodles (we’re Asian, after all), and we’ll certainly miss bread, pasta, and pizza. And of course, I’ll miss beer.

But we get to eat lots of cheese, which we love. And this morning we ate real bacon, and eggs cooked with the bacon grease, which was absolutely glorious!

So far, so good!

Drink coffee everyday

The next thing that I’ve changed is drinking coffee everyday.

I’ve always loved coffee but I’ve never wanted to be dependent on it to get me through my day. I’ve known people who drank five cups of coffee each day and got headaches if they didn’t. I did not want to be that person.

So I made a conscious effort a long time ago to not drink coffee.

About a year ago, Vicky got a Nespresso and I started having a coffee once a week. And I found that I really looked forward to each Sunday where I can have that cup of joe.

And recently I’ve just noticed that on the days I drink coffee, I am much more awake and alert.

For instance, I had to drive from NJ to DC after returning from our Taiwan vacation. I was jet lagged and extremely tired, so I had a cup of coffee before the drive. I had absolutely no problem staying awake for the four hour trek and was very energetic throughout the day.

So I’ve decided to drink one cup of coffee every morning to see if it increases productivity and keeps me more alert and energetic throughout my day. Hopefully I won’t turn into an addict.

Meditation

I’ve never been a fan of all of that “ohhhhm” crap. But I’ve heard great things about meditation, so I’m giving it a shot.

Life can get pretty hectic as an entrepreneur and parent.

There’s a lot of worrying when you’re trying to launch and run a business. Things go wrong all the time, and you never make as much progress as you’d like. And your business is always top of mind.

Couple that with raising a kid, and stress levels go through the roof.

So I’ve been using an app called Headspace to meditate for 10 minutes before I go to sleep.

I’ve heard it’s helpful to meditate in the morning before starting your day, so maybe I’ll give that a shot.

I look forward to those 10 minutes where I can just breathe, space out, and disconnect from the world.

I never imagined that I would meditate, but I believe it has helped me clear my mind and put things into perspective.

Over to you

What do you think about these changes to my daily habits? Have you made any changes to your routine that have been impactful? Get at 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.

Announcing Sightpath, kinda

I didn’t blog yesterday because I was at a conference/workshop called CollabSpace Chicago: The Business of VR.

And I presented our new startup, Sightpath!

We are super early-stage but are excited about this product. Sightpath is an analytics platform for virtual reality app that allows app developers and product managers to truly understand the behavior of their users.

Virtual and augmented reality is the next computing platform and will change the way we connect with others, and we’re excited to build the underlying technology that will power user behavior insights.

I’ll fill you in soon on some things we’re working on.

The event was very interesting and valuable. It wasn’t your typical conference where you simply sat in front of speaker panels and hear people talk business.

I presented Sightpath to the crowd, we identified key challenges that we are facing, and talked through how to approach those challenges. And, of course, there was improv involved!

Most importantly, I met a lot of people in the industry and got their thoughts on how their using analytics for their virtual reality apps. Most if not all of them definitely see the need for something like Sightpath, and are excited to see our progress.

It was a great event and has gotten me very excited for our prospects. We’ll keep cranking away, and stay tuned for more information!

That’s not the way you debate! My thoughts on the Presidential debates

Old-School-Debate-Meme

Yes, I watched the presidential debate instead of watching Monday Night Football, even though I had 3 guys on my fantasy team playing in that game. My team wound up winning. :)

I’m no wonk, and I didn’t fact-check, but here are my thoughts on what went down during the debate.

Let’s start with Hillary.

She was pretty much what we all expected. Very factual, very calm, and not at all inspiring.

We know she has the experience, we know she can get the job done, but is anyone excited about her becoming president?

It might not be fair to compare her to President Obama, who did an amazing job in moving the nation during his campaign.

But does anyone believe that Hillary can energize this country? This debate didn’t change that.

Now, Trump.

As much as his supporters say that he’s a straight shooter, he did nothing of the sort last night.

He deflected and avoided every tough question that came his way. His answer to the Obama birth certificate issue was horrible, and his thoughts on race relations and “law and order” were barely thoughts. He basically admitted he has avoided taxes and doesn’t have as much money as we think he does by not answering those questions directly. He talked about not allowing companies to go overseas yet didn’t elaborate on how. He really didn’t speak his mind because he knew that he would get chastised for it.

He interrupted Hillary Clinton many times and failed to respect the time limits and debate process.

Overall, he continued to show why he isn’t fit to lead this country.

I would have loved to be able to say “That’s the way you debate!” like Will Ferrell in Old School, but unfortunately this debate didn’t warrant it.

Can we get Gary Johnson in the next debate?

What are your thoughts on the debate? Talk to me in the comments!

Why I started posting blog articles to Facebook again

Post to Facebook

I never used to post my blog articles to Facebook.

I thought that my Facebook friends wouldn’t care to read my blog posts and that I’d be clogging their news feeds with my business-y jibber jabber.

I’m sure many ignore my posts in their news feeds, and that’s to be expected. But some of the articles that I’ve posted to FB have been the source of great conversation and debate, at least compared to other distribution channels.FB alma mater blog post

And that totally makes sense.

My friends and I chat about similar topics in real life, so why not talk about these topics on FB?

Certainly some blog posts will resonate more than others. Some will be hits and others, misses.

Regardless, I’m glad I started posting to FB again. And I’ll continue to do so with hopes to have great conversations.

If you’re reading this and found this article on FB, help me out by submitting a comment there just to validate this post. :)

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 consistent is your brand?

I’m sitting in a Whole Foods having breakfast while my car is getting an oil change, and I’m in awe of how well this company brands its supermarkets.

The Whole Foods’ brand is based on being healthy, high quality, and sustainable.

And I can’t put my finger on just one thing, but once I walk into any Whole Foods, I just feel healthier. I still feel kind of healthy even after eating scrambled eggs, a couple of sausage links, and potatoes.

Maybe it’s the green signs. Or the wood accents everywhere. It’s not just the interior design, though. This brand extends to its products and employees, too.

The product packaging of its 365 brand exudes freshness. And the company’s employees typically look very happy and healthy.

Whole-Foods-365-basket2

Whole Foods 365 Products. Photo courtesy of KCRW.

The brand is consistent throughout all aspects of its operations.

Which begs the question, how consistent are the brands that you work with, whether it’s your company or personal brand?

Let’s take your company brand to start. Are you communicating a consistent set of values? Does your company’s personality shine through in the interactions with your customers? What is your company you known for?

Similar questions can be asked about your personal brand. If you don’t think you have one, you should listen to this episode of my podcast where Chris Dessi talks about how to build a personal brand.

Google yourself. What comes up? What is the online world’s perception of you? What do your friends and family think of when they hear your name, talk with you, and see you? Is it consistent?

“Brand” is such a nebulous term. It’s the collection of appearance, personality, culture, and anything else that can impact how you are viewed by others.

How consistent is your brand?

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!

Waking up before the alarm goes off

alarm clock

I hate when that happens.

Sometimes I wake up an hour before the alarm goes off, and other times it’s only a few minutes.

Either way, when this happens, I feel like I start the day off on the wrong foot. It’s like I’m already derailed, and the day hasn’t even started.

An analog of this happens all the time. For one reason or another, you might get thrown off course from your task, project, or goal.

Maybe a competitor swoops in with a great product just as you’re about to launch yours. This happened with the first version of Android, where Google basically started over after the iPhone launched.

Or maybe that one day that you skipped going to the gym turns into one week, then one month. And your goal of losing 5 pounds seems unattainable.

Or maybe there are just so many distractions that you can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand.

How you react to these situations says a lot about you.

Google redesigned Android, which turned out pretty good.

Getting your butt back in the gym will start the cycle of good habits again.

And shutting off the notifications on your phone and closing your email tool will take away those distractions.

But will you take the time to do those things? How will you rebound when you wake up before the alarm goes off and things get derailed?

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!

Appreciation of technology

I’m flying to a buddy’s wedding and didn’t bring my computer, so I’m blogging from my phone while on the flight.

Typing anything from your phone – an email, text message, Facebook post, a tweet – is an everyday occurrence and second nature for most.

But that doesn’t make it any less amazing to me.

Just a few years ago, I would never have been able to write this post, or anything,  on my phone.

I wonder how I will be writing my articles in a few years.

What kind of device will I use to write?

Will I even use a device, or will I be able to  just think of the words and they’ll be magically published?

Technology never ceases to amaze me, and it seems like what was only possible in our imagination is becoming reality.

Driving cars, artificial intelligence, virtual reality.

I have no idea what our world will look like on 5, 10, or 20 years. But I cant wait to see it.

And whatever the world will look like, I’ll appreciate the role technology plays then like I do now.