So I’ve been in experimental mode of late, since starting the $50 Research and Development Fund. I’m absorbing information where I can, trialling things I wouldn’t ordinarily engage with, and basically doing stuff with an open mind. There’s a number of things that I’ve been up to over the last 21 days, including:
- Completing four books:
- The Happiness of Pursuit
- The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful
- The 7 Day Startup
- Escaping the Price-Driven Sale: How World Class Sellers Create Extraordinary Profit
- Trialling two sets of online courses:
- AppSumo’s “How to Make a $1,000-a-month business”
- Joined Fizzle.co
- Taking on two projects:
- Started a no caffeine challenge
- Started a resume generation business on Fiverr
Books worthy of your time
There’s a quote I came across on Chris Guillebeau’s blog a year ago:
“Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.” -Chris Brogan
The quote was a bit of a switching-point for me, as I’d persevere through books I was told were good, in a vain effort to find meaning. The fact is, not every recommendation that comes through is going to land on the mark, and being able to hit the eject button on a bad book is really salient advice. I’ve had a good run lately, and have smashed through a few books of late that really resonated. I wrote a review of The 7 Day Startup last week, but here are the two other books I imbibed.
I’m a huge fan of Chris’s work (I just referenced his blog above) and have been waiting for his second book for a long time. The book takes a pleasantly whimsical journey across what it means to take on a quest, referencing the epic work of other people as well as his own experiences in travelling to all the countries in the world. Some of the stories include a man who didn’t talk for 17 years, a mother who cooked the national dishes of the world in alphabetical order, and an unrelenting Australian’s 30-year campaign to produce a particular orchestra in Brisbane. I really enjoyed the read and as someone searching for their own pursuit to pour themselves into (this blog is a case-in-point), found it to be a rewarding read.
I originally heard about this book by skimming an old Tim Ferriss article introducing a gentlemen named Michael Ellsberg. I’d been putting off reading the book as I was a bit put off by the article I read about overcoming Bipolar II. Knowing that I could always stop reading if I didn’t enjoy it, I gave it a whirl, and my spare moments were filled until it was finished. The book talked a lot about topics I’m interested in – such as sales, marketing, leadership, investing in yourself, and self-education. It felt like a more personalised version of The Personal MBA (which was referenced), and hit a chord. I ended up purchasing a couple of books recommended within it too, including a revised version of SPIN Selling (see below).
I’ve been actively looking for books on sales since taking on a new job and looking to expand my skill in this area. This book from the creators of SPIN Selling (a sales bible), takes the concept of SPIN (situational, problem, implication, need-payoff), and frames it around the need to create mutually beneficial value within customer exchanges. Distilled from a massive analysis of 23,000 sales calls, the book was an eye-opening read and one that I’ll be studying again and again. I highly recommend it for this in the sales game (and even if you’re not).
Two courses I tried and cancelled
For someone that likes learning, I’m really struggling to take to the world of online courses. I’ve tried a number of things over the years, ranging from an Open University Masters in Writing, through to coding on Codecamedy, and interactive courses on Skllshare. I’ve struggled to find things that stick. With that in mind, I trialled a couple of courses and learning tools of late.
I found this course to be a pain in the arse. Noah Kagan reads well, and the idea behind the course has its merits, but the actual delivery wasn’t fun at all. Activities included semi-enjoyable tasks like asking for your first dollar, down to ridiculous tasks like dropping down and doing 100 pushups to “experience failure”. There’s no doubt that this course appeals to some people, but I’m not one of them and I ended up cancelling for a refund.
Fizzle was a lot more refreshing, and I enjoyed the honest, feels-like-they care video delivery of the Fizzle team. I went through about 2 hours of content over a few sessions and poked around the forums as well. In the end, I didn’t really take to this site either. It definitely wasn’t the content, it was more the way the content is delivered – I think one thing I can take away from both these courses is that online video doesn’t suit me well. I much prefer absorbing articles and getting my hands dirty. I cancelled my trial.
Taking on two projects
I also took on two projects over the last 21 days. I’m having fun with both of them.
No caffeine challenge
A blogger I met at the World Domination Summit – CharlesNgo.com mentioned he was doing a No Caffeine challenge. After some thought I embarked on this challenge too and at time of writing I’ll be 22 days without coffee or any other caffeinated beverage. My ego decided that I would do this cold turkey, and boy – it was very noticeable by colleagues and friends. The first week was struggle-town with added headache – and the second week I didn’t fare much better. I still don’t think I’ve returned to optimum levels without it, but I have noticed a bit more natural energy in the last third of the day – which I traditionally felt a slump in due to my old no coffee after 3pm rule.
From what I’ve read coffee isn’t that bad for you, but I’ve noticed a lot of increased willpower lately and want to keep the self-discipline up in any way I can. I’m currently just seeing if I can make it to 30 days, but who knows what will happen after then.
This was an idea I’d been kicking around for a while. Rather than keep thinking about new ways to make money and pursue business ideas, I thought I’d simply have a go at the service and see how hard it it was to generate income. Fiverr is a site where you can do any task you can think of for $5, or have that task done for you. I jumped on there and went through the process of writing up a job description, generating some stills, and putting together a video pitching my services on the site.
The result? I got a customer! I fielded a request, answered some questions, and churned out a resume for another Australian gentleman. The whole experience cost much more time than the $4 I made, but it felt good to make money off the Internet from my own hustle.
The art of the side-project
One last thing I’d like to note is an essay I saw passed around last week by Paul Graham. I’d never heard of him, but he teaches at Stanford and used to run Y Combinator (hint: both are prestigious in different respects). He wrote an essay called Before the Startup which was a worthy read, and this idea anchored the whole thing for me:
The best startups almost have to start as side projects, because great ideas tend to be such outliers that your conscious mind would reject them as ideas for companies.
I’ve got a full-time job and not much spare time, but this quote provided some solace and made me feel like I’m in the right mindset with this stuff.
So a productive three weeks it was. I didn’t bank on all these things happening – but sometimes its nice to sit back and reflect on the flurry.