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Minimum Viable Products

Minimum Viable Products

There was a time when I blogged regularly, and like so many others, I fell out of the habit. But I still wanted to share my knowledge, and so I tasked myself with figuring out the easiest way I can continue to contribute to the community.

As a result, I decided that short, 3 to 5 minutes video blogs are the best way for me to not only commit to weekly blogs, but also give the viewer something to easily digest. So here it is, my first video blog!

In this video, I talk about the concept of a Minimum Viable Products, and how important it is to be able to laser focus your prototypes so you can get to market quickly, and start validating your ideas.

Truth is, and I’m guilty of this too, it’s very easy to consider something you are working on to “not be ready for release,” or needing “one more feature.” This is a trap which will continually delay your launch, and sometimes even permanently stall out development.

The idea behind the Minimum Viable Product is quite straight forward. Figure out the fewest number of features your product can contain, while still being useful to your target audience. Limiting the scope to fewer features helps in a few ways

  1. Unnecessary development is prevented
  2. The user isn’t overwhelmed with new features
  3. Instead of spending time building what you think your customer wants, you can start iterating on your product based on the feedback the customer actually gives.

Another interesting note: The more time you spend developing certain features, the less likely you are to give up on them. The end result here, you may become reluctant to give up on certain features, even if none of your customers use it, only because of the time you spent developing it.

 

Take some time to watch the video and learn more!

 

Updates and new happenings

Updates and new happenings

Well now, welcome to the middle of June. I wanted to take a few minutes to update about what’s been going on lately, and why things got a little quiet on the blog. Though it’s been a few weeks since my last post, and I have a couple drafts not yet completed, there are some other updates which you may have missed

Site Updates

I finally spent some time updating the website for my consulting practice, Altify Software. With that, came some great SEO advice from Matt Baron, whom I am hoping to have a guest blog post about optimizing your site and blog soon. I’ve also written a few technical articles, with samples on my very fancy GitHub account!

The best part about GitHub was when I synced it the wrong way and lost all of my work…..

Check it out

My next goal is to go through every post on this blog, and make sure it is up to par on SEO.

Business Updates

The end of my runway (based on time and money) has come. After working for the past couple months on ReplyWire, there is significantly more work to be done, though I am cutting out features and simply trying to get it out there.

As such, per my agreement with myself, I’ve begun looking for new contract and business opportunities. ReplyWire will continue being developed, but is being moved to a side project for the time being, until I build up some momentum behind it again.

The second reason is, I’m tired of working at home, and it’s negatively affecting my enthusiasm, so my current goal is to get back in to a group and start collaborating on something great.

Personal Updates

I’m still working on renting out my house, and hoping to have a lease signed by this Friday, and starting on July 15th.

Once leased, I will be relocating to be closer to friends and people my age, more collaborative environments, and where there are more things to do in walking/biking distance. Bensalem is great, but I don’t have kids and could use some more entertainment without driving so far out of the way.

Also it’ll just change things up a bit, I really don’t need this much space.

So those are the updates for now. Keep going forward and have fun doing it!

Everything is about perpective

 

finish-line

Getting everything you want

I thought that I would have a little fun on my pre-weekend post. I wanted to share  my thoughts on getting everything you’ve ever wanted, always. There is a chance this might be the most pitchiest sounding post ever, but I have a plan, drag the reader in with something they obviously want, and then right hook them with reality!

How do you get everything you always wanted?

Figure out what you want

This might sound a little obvious, but it’s really not as easy as it sounds. Figuring out what you want, and what really fulfills you, is not a simple task. It takes years, and many mistakes and wrong turns to really nail it down, or you might be lucky and get it right the first time. Either way, don’t be afraid to pick something and then go for it.

Understand how it positively affects the world around you

You are more likely to succeed at getting what you want if your wants somehow improve the world around you. When you do positive things for those around you, they are more likely to help you on your mission to achieve your goals. Remember that saying, the best way to become rich is to make other people rich? Replace rich with X and it will still hold true.

Stop wanting unrealistic things

Going back to the SMART goals topic, some goals just are not realistic, and it is up to you to determine when something really isn’t going to happen. With the amount of attention we yield to super successful people and ideas, we can end up convinced we *need* that huge billion dollar win. This is a little bit insane, and is that what is really important to you?

Put yourself in a situation where you are likely to get what you want

Environment plays a great deal towards how far you get. If you are looking for a promotion, is it more likely to happen at a 10 person company where you are already wearing multiple hats and at the top of the group, or a bigger company with some room to grow? This is why engineers go to NYC and Silicon Valley, they don’t want to be in a place where the earning ceiling is $100K, they want to be in a place where they get stock options and large salaries with bonus. The point is, if your goal is to be bigger than what your pool can handle, then you’re not going to achieve it unless you get into a bigger pool.

Appreciate what you have

Understand the different skills, qualities, and positive forces you already have. You’ll need be able to leverage all of these aspects of your life in order to give you the momentum to move forward. Starting from nothing is very difficult, but most of us have more than we care to recognize. Harness your network, lean on your loved ones for support, and showcase your skills.

And the number one secret to getting what you want

Ask for it

You Will Not Get Anywhere Unless You Ask For It!

Ask the universe, ask other people, make it known what your goals are, how your are going to achieve it, and keep going. In the real world, most people won’t stand in your way while you’re moving forward. In fact, I’ve found that in many situations, you will actually get help from others towards achieving your goals. Remember to thanks the people in your life, and don’t forget them when you make it to the big leagues. No one does it alone, but it’s easy to forget that.

Well, I hope that you aren’t disappointed about the fact that it takes work and dedication to get to where you want to be, but take a moment to write down what you have, and how far you’ve come, and I guarantee ,you’ll have a better weekend for it.

Opportunity Luck

Opportunity luck

Do you ever notice how some people just seem to always fall in to the right situations, meet the right people, and win constantly? I know I notice it, and at first, this is pretty discouraging. How could it not be when we are always comparing ourselves to others?

Hearing about triumphs and successes of others is like going on Facebook, which has been found to increase social comparison, and actually foster depression and anxiety. The reason for this is simple, people crop out the bad parts of life and business. No one wants to read a book about losing all the time (and when you do hear stories about failure, it’s usually accompanied by found success).

But there is a dirty little secret going on here. When you knock on enough doors, eventually some of them will open, and once you start opening doors, these will lead to more doors. The trick is all about trial an error. As you work on you pitch, engage your customers, learn who your target market is, you become better at iterating on your approach tactics.

There is a saying, from approaching 100 people, you will get 10 leads, from 10 leads, you will get 1 customer. Meaning, for 100 customers, you need 1,000 leads from 10,000 people. This is a little bit misleading, because is assumes a linear grow curve, but for the first several customers, is holds true.

Keep trying until you find a model that fits

Part of growing and managing a business, or yourself, is figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. In order to do this, you need to try a lot of things that don’t work. Sometimes, we find it easy to believe that someone has “IT” and we don’t, and create excuses based on this belief. And why not make these excuses? It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling inside that our destiny is set, and we can’t do anything to change it, and let’s accept it and watch another episode of How I Venture to Parks in Portlandia.

 

 

Be yourself

Who’s expectations are you living up to anyways?

Are you living up to someone else’s expectations?

To change things up a little bit, I’m going to start with this quote from Richard Feynman
hYTOz

 

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Last week, I wrote about blocking out the noise, and made points about not being distracted while working towards your goals.

Richards quote touches on the importance of working towards your goals. Identifying what your specific goals are, is the first step to being able to block out irrelevant information. As humans, we find it easy to begin comparing out progress against our peers, friends, and people we read about. Comparing ourselves to others is a really bad thing, because unless you are targeting people you look down on, you’re going to have a bad time.

Figure out what your own goals are and write them down, ignore what other people think, and try not to compare your progress to other peoples progress. Instead, only look at your progress towards achieving what you want.

Short post for today! Happy Wednesday.

Clarity

Friday moments of clarity

Welcome to another Friday, and today’s moment of clarity. This week went by really fast, and I wanted to sum up with some points.

Yesterday I met with Brett Topche, managing director over at MentorTech Ventures, and we discussed a wide rang of topics about upcoming start ups, the industry as a whole, tech company valuations, as well as the ticketing industry (Brett sits on the board of TicketLeap).

One topic we covered was lifestyle companies. With all the noise about billion dollar acquisitions and raising huge sums of capital, we are forgetting that simply building a business that supports your lifestyle is a huge accomplishment. It’s easy to think businesses have to be complicated, or need to have ungodly market potential to work, and because of that, we are quick to throw out legitimate ideas. Just because an idea isn’t worth a hundred million dollars does not mean it’s a bad one, and you are more likely to succeed at your hundred million dollar idea if you started small, and gained experience getting an idea to market, building a team, and seeing success.

As we get ready for out weekends, I wanted to throw up this great comic I came across.

Enjoy!

dktuk

 

Do more by doing less

Get more done by doing less

Ah, something everyone wants to know the secret to. How do I check more things off my to do list, how do I, do more.

The answer is easy. Shorten your to do list.

Hear that silence? I do to. I have a hard time swallowing this pill as well. But I’m afraid that the hard truth is, as humans, myself especially, we love getting things done, and every time a task is checked off, a little bit of dopamine is released in to our brains, and we feel warm and fuzzy inside (that’s called feeling accomplished.)

This is all fine and dandy, until we start adding on more and more to our to do list, trying to get our hits left and right.

Filling up your to do list is easy, prioritizing these items are hard. I can’t even begin to start referencing the number of articles you can find on google about the subject, but there are many of them, and they all boil down to a single point

If you want to really get the important things done, you need to stop filling your bucket list with less pressing items

A great way to do accomplish this is to create an Urgent &Important matrix for your tasks. Tackle the upper right quadrant first, and make sure these are the items getting the bulk of your attention, since these are usually tied to your personal goals and relationships. After that, focus on the important things, and some of the urgent tasks.

As for the non-urgent and non-important, throw them in the fire pit!

Always remember, spend time on yourself, this is the most important piece of the puzzle!

Blocking out the noise

Blocking out the noise

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Mike Krupit for two hours about his experiences and my project. Mike was the former CEO and COO of CDNow, which you may remember their building being right off the turnpike.

One of the biggest questions I had, was how do you deal with all the contradictory information that exists in the world. No matter what you are researching, there is always a place that says this way is better than that way (whether these claims are founded or not, for now we will assume we are looking and relevant, proven claims). This is especially apparent in technology and business, everyone has a proven method, and most times, these methods are the exact opposite of what the other guy said.

The discussion that proceeded was very insightful, and I wanted to throw a few pointers up

Not all information is relevant

The reason there are so many differing opinions about what the best strategy is, is because there is no single strategy that fits every scenario. It takes a significant amount of time to figure out what is working and what is not working before success can be achieved. And even after that, you probably will need to modify things in the future anyway.

Making progress means blocking out the noise

In order to continue moving forward confidently, one needs to learn to block out a lot of the noise coming at them. This does not mean ignoring the information, but instead, digest it, contemplate is, and move on. There is a great benefit in listening to how others have done things, but you need to figure out how that applies to you, and whether or not it is relevant.

Don’t get distracted

The biggest point is, with all the information and noise flying around, it is important not to get distracted from your objectives. At the end of the day, the only true marker of whether or not you are moving in the right direction is to look back and check up on your progress, and compare that with your short and long term objectives.

 

Of course, a lot more was talked about in the two hours we sat down together, and more of it will come up in later posts. But for now, it’s time to sign off, and get this prototype finished!

 

Falling asleep

Fighting through the end of the week

WOW! I’ve not had 1000 views on my blog, not bad for not really advertising it.

Several weeks ago, I began logging my time in excel. This served two purposes, one, I could look back and see what I did and what I accomplished, two, I could analyze my work and life habits, and make changes depending on how I felt things were going.

I noticed something that I didn’t like, and over time, it seems to be an increasing problem for me. Each week starts the same, Monday I’ll put in 8 to 10 hours of solid work, and finish a lot of things on my to do list. Tuesday, I’ll maybe get 6 to 8 hours, and add a second cup of coffee. By Wednesday, I’m barely pushing 6 hours, and there is no way I’m not having 2 big cups of coffee. Thursday? Almost useless. And Friday, forget about it, I’m not getting anything accomplished.

Over the week, I go from super star, to not so far.

I’ve tried to tackle this issue different ways, including

  • Going to sleep earlier during the week
  • Spreading my work hours out evenly over the week
  • Changing my work locations
  • Taking breaks
  • Taking naps
  • Caffeine
  • No caffeine

But, at the end of it, I still find myself burned out at the end of the week. So the question is, what can I do to keep myself going through the week, and be more productive at the end of it. And I’m seriously asking this to everyone.

Something else I could try is switching to a four day work week, which allows me to take myself offline and recharge without feeling guilty for taking a break. Spending energy fighting myself for not being able to keep going full speed only helps me use up more energy, and prevents me from the benefits of actually relaxing. But, I suppose I’ll keep trying different things until I find something that works.

How do you guys keep going through the end of the week?

Fake it until you make it

Fake it till you make it

This topic has been on my list for a while now, and one which I have done a great deal of looking in to. I challenge you to find anyone who hasn’t heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it,” and for good reason, it’s true. The premise of this popular catch phrase is to pretend as if you are holding all the cards, even if you don’t. To some, it may sound silly, definitely it may make one feel uncomfortable and out of their environment, which is expected since if they had “IT” they wouldn’t need to fake “IT.”

It all starts with positive thinking. Faking it, essentially forces us to believe in ourselves, believe that we can”Win,” believe that we can accomplish whatever task is before us. At the same time, we need to believe that the challenge wants to be won, i.e. will not actively try to prevent us from successfully achieving our goals. When dealing in a sales environment, this means we set in our minds that the other party wants to award success, and we are able to achieve this award. In social situations, such as approaching a member of the opposite sex, we need to understand that the other person wants to be approached, and that they will be interested in us. In an interview, the interviewer wants to hire someone, and we are the person who deserves to be hired. Get my point?

By thinking positive, we set in motion a self fulfilling prophecy in our favor. When we think negative, our world becomes negative, we have bad luck, nothing works out, life seems to uncontrollably act out against our will. On the other hand, thinking positive has the opposite affect, the world becomes brighter, things happen in our favor, we get the win, and we find ourselves  on lucky streaks. We are what we think.

This self fulfilling prophecy puts us in to a cycle called a positive feedback loop. Essentially, this is a recurring cycle of reinforcement to our behaviors, when we think good things, good things happen, causing us to think more good things, at which point, more good things happen!

But if this is so seemingly obvious, why aren’t we masters of faking it until we make it? Fear has a big part to play in preventing successful faking and making. Fear of failure, rejection, loss, these are big, real world interpersonal challenges which must be faced. Think about public speaking, the advice typically dished out is to imagine everybody in their underwear, bring them to your level. In this case, we need to remind ourselves that even the smartest person in the room had to start out with nothing.

 

My thoughts on why faking it works boils down to the fact that by faking something, we are forcing ourselves to expand on certain areas which we are trying to pitch. As we forceably expand these areas, we are inevitably put into situations where we put said areas in to use. Like a muscle, the more we use our skills, the better we become at them. So as we fake “it,” we flex our “it” muscles, making them stronger, and allowing us more faking power ™.

It comes down to believing in yourself, taking a chance, and knowing that the best will come out of it, because even if you end up with egg on your face, there is always tomorrow.